The Styx Valley of Tasmania boasts some of the oldest trees alive in the world, and is currently threatened by logging. That the logging is actually for making woodchips seems a brutal and clumsy use of technology. Much nimbler was the treetop camp set-up by the Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, complete with satellite phone and internet connection to let the world know what’s going down. Treesitter Vica Bayley describes what it was like.
Why’d you go to the Styx valley and sit up in a tree?
To create a focus on the Styx Valley and attract the attention styx.jpgof News and current affairs media around Australia and the world. The Styx is a perfect example of the out of control logging for woodchips that happens statewide in Tasmania. It has immense potential for tourism and overwhelming Australia-wide support for its protection. The tree sit, which we called ‘Global Rescue Station’, was developed by The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace.
How long were you in the treesit for, and what aspects of it were the hardest to endure?
We maintained the Global Rescue Station for over five months. The most difficult thing to endure was the continuing destruction and desecration of other parts of the Styx Valley and Tasmania. By this I mean the logging of ancient forest, burning of the remains, additional roading into untouched areas and poisoning of native wildlife. We had to live with the knowledge that industrial scale logging was continuing in other areas despite our stand.
What tech_gear did you have up there, and what were you doing with it?
Solar panels, closed cell battery, sat phone, digital video and stills cameras, laptop computer, radios and generator. These were all used to post diary entries and images on a website, record life in the tree and push out information to Australia and the world about what is happening in the Tasmanias forests and raise awareness amongst the global population.
Did you have any unusual conversations / feelings being up there, communicating from afar?
The international activists (Japan, Germany, Canada, Belgium, USA) were the furthest from home but having the experience of their lives. Communication was limited vis satelite technology but thousands of visitors came to see the GRS and provided the opportunity to directly communicate and raise awareness of the issue on a one on one grass roots level. The two spheres of communication, one high tech and remote the other very personal and face to face provided a broad experience to all the activists.
What were you afraid of while up there?
By far the greatest fear was the knowledge that the forest we were in is threatened and planned to be cut down in 2004. We were prepared for the police to be asked to come in and try to move us on, clearing the way for the clearfelling of the very tree we were in. Of course, we were most hopeful of securing protection of that area of forest and indeed the Styx and Tasmanian Ancient Forests that we are campaigning for.
How well do treesitters sleep? ( & what’s the nightlife like? )
Once used to the confines of the GRS, sleeping up the tree was a spectacular experience. Early mornings when the fog blanketed the valley and 80 metre tall trees poked up through the fog was particularly special. Activists wore a harness and two attachments to the tree at all times, even when inside a sleeping bag so the harness and umbilical cord safety lines would take a bit of getting used to. Nightlife was inspiring. There was room to sleep 5 in the GRS so conversation was always vibrant, especially under a full sky of stars. Night time animals rarely visited but early morning saw scores of birds living and playing in the treetops.
Where is the middle ground for the loggers & eco-campaigners?
The middle ground is full protection of designated ancient and high conservation value forests. When you consider that the woodchip industry has had few access restrictions to these forests for over 25 years, and woodchip exports have soared to record (over 5 million tonnes) in the last decade, to even try to find a balance for this open slather industrial logging we need to protect some of the remaining areas now.
Where can people find out more about the campaign?
Visit www.wilderness.org.au and follow the prompts to Tas forests and the Styx, or visit Tasmania and see for yourself.