Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Last Valley

On Thursday night we went to a screening of an excellent documentary called 'The Last Valley'. It was a stirring story that documented protests against the immoral and legally dubious practice of logging old growth rain forest in East Gippsland. Although the film was definitely biased against the logging it actually presented a human view of the loggers and the difficult relationship between them and protesters involved in the conflict. There was a fairly good representation of the real people who were caught up in a situation that is the result the phenomenal mismanagement of our natural resources brought about by corporate greed and bureaucratic malice and incompetence of our Governments.
(Unfortunately by 15 minutes into the film a certain child had become too disruptive and Sam had to take her home early. This was probably not a bad thing, as there was quite a bit of uncensored swearing in the film and a few confrontational episodes that may have frightened her, if she happened to stop running around the theatre and actually look at the screen.)

All I could think of while watching this film was how brave those people are! Going into a situation where they would be perceived to be threatening the livelihood of some very determined and desperate people (the loggers). While once again the word sustainable was bandied around, as if the word itself is some kind of universal stamp of approval requiring no logical proof, the film made it quite obvious that this was nothing more than an exercise in environmental plundering.

The saddest thing about the story told in this film is the opinion amongst loggers that environmentalists are their enemies! This couldn't be further from the truth! Surely the true enemy of logging towns would have to be the very companies that employ them! The Forest is their greatest asset but the logging industry is based on profit maximization which requires maximum profit for minimal effort. These are the principals that allow the clear-felling of forests and strip the communities of their future asset! There are examples elsewhere in the world where communities have continued to log the same patch of forest for many years, in some cases 100's. By selectively logging forests they are able to maintain a living Forest that will continue to regenerate indefinitely into the future.These forests provide employment for the community, and guarantee the same for future generations. What happens in Australia's forests is nothing more than environmental vandalism and social and economic suicide! It is so unfortunate that the people who live in these communities are unable to see who their real enemy is. (Of course, once again this is my unqualified opinion but isn't there some sense in it?)

Maybe what would be helpful is a well researched education program or a documentary film that can help identify logging practices that are beneficial and those that are destructive to forestry dependent communities. It might be possible to offer those communities a better long term alternative. Maybe then they would demand a change in the industry and lock out the companies that have so little regard for the long term survival of their communities!

It's amazing that this stuff is still going on. It is so barbaric, and we have so little of these habitats left in Australia how can regular Australians sit back and allow it to happen at all!

I'd like to thank the couple who presented this film. You have done us all a great service and hopefully the logging communities you have lived in will one day appreciate what was going on back when the battle for Goolengook was raging.

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