In 2011, Miranda Gibson climbed a tree and stayed up there there for 449 days to raise international awareness about the urgent need to protect old growth forests in Tasmania. Her story was just captured in an inspiring short film, Still Falling, that explores her journey and the battle to protect trees still to come.
Gibson spent her time on a platform close to the top of an ancient eucalyptus tree believed to be around 400-years-old, which was dubbed the Observer Tree. Four months before she ventured up the tree, the Australian government announced that it would conserve 430,000 hectares of forest and put a moratorium on logging, but never officially put protections in place.
She wanted to show people who believed forests were safe that the trees were still falling, in addition to helping to expose unsustainable logging practices and misleading eco-friendly claims being made about the wood that was being taken and sold on international markets.
She says her idea came out of her experiences living at the blockade at the Upper Florentine Valley Ė Tasmania’s longest running forest blockade. Even before her tree sit, she and thousands of others have fought to stop the destruction of Tasmania’s old growth forests and to get them World Heritage protection. Gibson vowed not to come down until the forests were safe, but was eventually forced to evacuate due to a deliberately lit fire nearby.
The battle to extend World Heritage protection in old growth forests has been going on for years. Gibson and others believe that if they’d waited for the formal process to take place, by the time they got it, it would have been too late for many areas, including the Upper Florentine.
Last June they won a victory when the World Heritage Committee unanimously voted for an extension to add 170,000 hectares to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Yet, despite the success of the activists who stood up to stop the destruction, the fight to keep old growth forests protected in Tasmania is far from over. Earlier this year, the Australian government applied to the World Heritage Committee to remove 74,000 hectares, or roughly 286 square miles, of newly protected forests from site and open them up to logging once again.
The move has been criticized by environmentalists, politicians and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which advised against removing land. At the end of April, nearly 2,000 people came out to the Rally for World Heritage in the Upper Florentine Valley to show their support for forest protection.
Gibson says she hopes the world will understand the value of these forests and join Tasmanian activists in an effort to keep them from disappearing. The World Heritage Committee is expected to announce a decision in June.
You can stand with Miranda and others who are fighting to keep World Heritage protection by visiting globalvoicesforworldheritage.org and learn more about her efforts at The Observer Tree and Still Wild Still Threatened.
Photo credit: Jeff Wirth/Burning Hearts Media
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