Maintaining the effort

March 24, 2006

In a letter to the editor of Tasmania’s Mercury newspaper this week, I wrote: It is said that a great society is known, not only for what it creates, but for what it refuses to destroy.

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In this letter I was making reference to the continual destruction in Tasmania of the precious old growth forests and diverse ecosystems that have remained relatively untouched for literally thousands of years. All for the sake of appeasing the appetite of a hugh woodchipping corporation, the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

Today, though, I would like to use this quote (source unknown) as the basis of a possible answer to the question: “How does one deal with loss?”

Specifically, how does the Green political party and its supporters pick themselves up from the loss incurred at last Saturday’s state election where, because of a well funded campaign against the Greens from the extreme religious right, the logging unions, vested business interests and both major political parties (Liberal and Labor), the Greens took a considerable hit on the chin. Inculcating fear in the populace seems to be the modus operandi of winning elections these days around the world and, Tasmania, it is now evident, is up there with the best of the spin merchants.

May I suggest that the greatness of the Greens is in their ethically, indomitable spirit and that the Greens should, therefore, steadfastly refuse to let the machinations of the dominate political culture, that attempts to “win” at all costs, subdue and destroy this spirit. There is no other way to go forward. Becoming more cynical and hard-nose is not the answer.

Maintain the faith. It is as simple and as difficult as that.

The photo at the top of this entry shows a field still fairly barren after 30 years. In 1976 the last of the sheep were taken off the land and the land has been struggling hard ever since to re-vegetate.

My role, and the role I see the Greens playing in the world, is not hoping to see the world flourish in our lifetime, but to nurture and plant seeds and seedlings for a more diverse and healthier world to come into being. To second guess when this will be can lead to disappointment.

Every year for the past 14 years I have been attempting to get trees and shrubs to grow along the cliff edge that faces south to Storm Bay and the Southern Ocean. It is one wild and difficult place, salt dry and barren and about as difficult to change as the mindset in the Tasmanian government. But I refuse to give up or admit that nothing will grow or that it is damaged beyond repair.

In the photo below, this area at the top of the cliff was planted out with 50 trees fourteen years ago and not one of those original seedlings has survived.

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But what has survived is my determination to arrest the loss of soil through erosion and previous mismanagement. Now, seedlings planted two years ago are putting down roots.

Over the years, I have learned that it is not enough to just plant the seeds and walk away from them thinking they will survive on their own. Now, I build circular, doughnut shape structures to help protect the young plants from the wind and salt and marauding, hungry wallabies. Made mostly from tea-tree branches and about three feet or a meter in diameter, these enclosures are the latest attempt to stop erosion and to bring back a more sustainable landscape.

In the last two weeks 20 truck loads of thinned tea-trees have created about half a kilometre of protective enclosure. And not just thrown down on the ground, I might add. But interwoven and “stitched” together to withstand the ferocity of what is thrown at them.

This takes one hell-of-a lot of work. (I’m sitting at the computer writing this article with a hot water bottle on my lower back.) And, yes, at times it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Yet, I refuse to let any set backs knock me back. I change tactics, rethink things and try again. Maybe not in my lifetime, but eventually, without a shadow of a doubt, a dogged, “honest” persistent effort will win out.

And, I deliberately write “honest” because in the natural world, spin and unethical behavior amount to nothing. Water, earth, sun and a consistency of purpose in front of a daunting task is what is required; is what in the long run will provide the opportunity for the new to emerge. 

From an unknown poet:

Where the morning sees the shadows
Of the orange grove, there was nothing twenty years ago.
Where the dry wind sowed the desert
We brought water, planted seedlings, now the oranges grow.

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