By Miranda Gibson, HoneyColony Original
My Treetop Perch
Lots of people have trees to look at from their bedrooms, but my perspective is different. I live 60 meters (almost 200 feet) above the forest floor on a platform suspended by ropes from the top of a towering old-growth eucalyptus. As I write this, I look out across the forest, a warm cup of black tea in my cold hands.
Stretching out below me is one of Tasmania’s last areas of ancient forest — some of the tallest trees in the world — in an area that was recommended for World Heritage protection,yet remains under the threat of industrial-scale logging. That is why, more than a year ago, I climbed up this tree in the Tyenna Valley in Tasmania and vowed to remain there until the southern forest was protected. I am still here now, more than 400 days later (and counting), without yet having set foot on solid ground.
Without efforts like mine, the industrial-scale destruction of these forests will continue. People don’t realize that more than half a million hectares of high conservation value forest is at risk to make veneer, sold across the globe with the misleading label “eco-ply.” However, from my treetop platform, and with the help of many grassroots campaigners, we have been able to expose the truth behind this veneer. We’re causing a ripple effect around the world, forcing this industry to take responsibility for their environmental destruction. But it’s not enough. Not yet. Not as long as the destruction continues.
A Room With A View
So each day, I look from my elevated home, not knowing how long I will remain here. Yet I am determined. My only connection to the outside world is my phone and computer, which I charge via solar panel. People often ask me what I do up here all day. It’s busier than you would imagine. Like an office job, but with a spectacular view!
I spend my days communicating about this forest and its urgent need for protection via my blog, media interviews, and Skype calls with community leaders and schools. And when I’m not on the computer, well, it’s easy to lose track of time by simply bearing witness to the incredible ecosystem around me. I listen to birds, learning their movements and habits, and watch skinks (lizards) and insects climb up the rough bark trunk toward me, winding their way through my maze of ropes.
One of the best aspects has been watching the forest change with the seasons. When I first came up in December 2011, it was hot and summery in Tasmania. Two days after my ascent, I watched as the bulldozers that had begun logging the area, packed up and left. My actions have temporarily stopped them, but still, this area and vast areas of equally spectacular old growth forest across Tasmania remained in danger. So I stayed… and stayed… and stayed.
I witnessed the mists roll in and the rain turn the forest a lush canopy green as the hot, dry summer wound down. I observed the snow build up on the peaks of mountains to the west until it coated the canopy in white and piled up on my little platform. With the coming of spring, I witnessed my tree flower. And when the bees arrived, I felt pretty special, like I had front row seats to a pollinating event that has occurred for the past hundreds of years.
I’m not the only one who wants to see these forests protected. So does the World Heritage Committee and an independent government-endorsed team of scientists. For decades, robust grassroots community campaigns have highlighted the values of these iconic forests. And finally on February 1, 2013, the Australian Government nominated 124,000 hectares of threatened forests for World Heritage. What a win for the forests — I even thought maybe I could climb down and celebrate.
But not so fast. Logging is continues relentlessly despite the nomination. At least three separate logging operations are right now ripping the heart out of one of Tasmania’s most significant tracts of wilderness forests, Butlers Gorge. Up to 12 logging coupes are planned in the next few months in these forests. To see these forests lost before their chance to be listed under World Heritage (scheduled for June) is a tragedy and an international outrage. Thousands have signed an online petition beckoning the Australian government to stop.
Encounters Of The Tree Kind
This encounter of the tree kind has become a life-changing experience. This past year of solitude in the treetops has taught me so much about the forest and about myself. One of the most challenging things has really been the isolation, and from this has come the biggest lesson. I’ve learned to rely on and trust myself, and I’ve discovered my own resilience.
This experience has also inspired me, in part because my perch in the tree was sometimes so overwhelming. For instance, during storms when the wind shook my platform and tore through my tarp with cold, rain, and sleet. Or when the loneliness became so unbearable that I wondered if I could endure it. No matter how challenging things got, there would always be a moment when I would be reminded of this forest’s unique beauty, and the real reason I am here. I would spot an owl quietly watching me from the branches above, a wedge-tail eagle soaring the skies, or a spectacular sunrise over the snowy range.
While the reasons for saving these forests go beyond their aesthetic beauty, it is still a rare privilege to witness these moments in this remote forest and to know that if I wasn’t here, this tree would be a stump and this forest would be a clear fell. That is what inspires me to continue, every day.
And of course, I am grateful for the people. I might not be able to sit and have a cup of tea with them, but that doesn’t mean I am alone. So many from around the world who support what I am doing and who have gone out of their way to show it. Just last month, on the day that Observer Tree campaign celebrated its one-year anniversary, people from around the globe took part in online celebrations. I received more than 300 photos of support from Columbia to France to Norway.
“We stand with Miranda” was the worldwide resounding call, illustrating that I am in good and passionate company in wanting to see these globally significant forests protected. As the whole world begins to take a stand, it is only a matter of time before I will be able to get down and put my feet on the ground in a forest that is no longer under threat — in a forest that will be safely guarded for future generations in Tasmania’s World Heritage.