Environment Magazine

Global Action June 13-15th: Stand in Solidarity to Defend World Heritage

Posted on the 13 June 2014 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal

from Observer Tree


This year something unprecedented is happening and the decision could have drastic consequences for the natural and cultural heritage of the world.

After decades of grassroots forest actions in Tasmania, Australia, last year finally saw a major goal of the environment movement accomplished, with protection for 170,000 hectares being listed as World Heritage. Yet, less than a year latter, the Australian Government has applied to the World Heritage Committee to have 74,000 hectares removed from the list in order to open these globally significant forests up for logging. In just a few weeks, the Committee will meet and decide the fate of these forests.

We are calling on all of you, where-ever you are in the world, to take a moment to stand in solidarity with us and help defend our irreplaceable forests. On June 13- 15th, we will have a Global Action to Defend World Heritage. This action will take place to stand up for our forests, as well as another significant and iconic environment of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, the fate of which will also be decided at this year’s World Heritage meeting.

It’s easy for anyone to take part in the action. Invite your friends around for dinner or organize a small event at your university or community space, or simply join us online. The idea is for people to watch a few short films (30 mins in total), get together for a photo with a sign about why we should defend our World Heritage, and send that pic out through social media and to us, so we can send the message on to the World Heritage Committee. We hope this action will help to inform and inspire people around the world, spread the message globally, and bring international pressure to ensure these forests do not lose their World Heritage protection. Register your interest at defendworldheritage.eventbrite.com

One of these forests is the Upper Florentine Valley. It was the site of Camp Florentine – Tasmania’s longest running forest blockade that continuously occupied and defended the forest for six and a half years. It was the end of 2007 when Forestry Tasmania, the state-owned corporation in charge of ‘managing’ forests, announced plans to log 15 logging coupes and push 10.5km of road into the pristine valley. From the moment the community found out the plans, the fight was on to save the Florentine from destruction. The blockade was established on a 300 meter long strip of dirt road that had been pushed into the forest. Forestry wanted that road to be just the beginning of opening up the entire valley to destruction. But tree-sits, lock-ons, dragons and tunnels formed strong lines of defence, backed up by the support and solidarity of people across Tasmania and right around the world, and as a result the vast majority of the valley remains an intact World Heritage value ecosystem.

The battle continued in the Florentine and in other forest around the state. In August 2011, a conservation agreement was announced by the Australian and Tasmanian Governments, that was meant to place a moratorium on logging in 430,000 hectares of forest. It was never properly implemented. And so, in December 2011, when an area of forest in the nearby Tyenna Valley was set to be logged, I climbed a tree and made a commitment to stay until the forest was protected. Known as the Observer Tree, the campaign quickly developed world-wide attention. I stayed in the tree for 449 days, eventually forced down by a bush fire in March 2013. Just a few months later, the forests around the Observer Tree and the Upper Florentine, as part of 170,000 hectares, were officially declared World Heritage listed.

This success only came after a strong grassroots forest defence campaign that persisted for decades. The Observer Tree and Camp Florentine are just the tip of the iceberg of this struggle that has been building ever since the 1980s when the original World Heritage boundaries were drawn up so as to exclude the valleys of giant trees leaving them open to logging. Over those decades so many people have fought to ensure the survival of our forests and our wildlife. And of course, over those decades we have also lost a lot of forest to the insatiable destruction of the government subsided industrial scale logging industry. We simply cannot afford to lose any more forests. We cannot afford to be going backwards and losing the hard-won gains we have made, let alone considering the battle ahead for the rest of the one and a half million hectares of native forest still open for logging in this state.

There is too much at stake to let these forests be removed from their place as World Heritage. And in fact, what is at risk goes beyond the forests in Tasmania. This unprecedented move by the Australian Government has international ramifications. When sites are listed as World Heritage, they are meant to be protected forever. The whole purpose of such an international body is to have a process that goes above and beyond the whim of the government of the day in any given country. No World Heritage site has ever been removed from the list in this way. Previous removals have been made only when a site has been destroyed, such as sites that were damaged during war. If Australia gets away with this, it threatens to undermine the integrity of World Heritage sites around the globe.

Taking part in the Global Action on June 13-15th is about not only standing in solidarity with Australia’s precious World Heritage ecosystems, but also about standing up for ecosystems world-wide. Please join us, host a gathering – no matter how big or small, or simply take part online.

For more information check out: www.observertree.org

Contact us: [email protected]

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