The decade’s long struggle between environmentalists, the logging industry and the Tasmanian State Government is in the public eye once again. The latest chapter in this battle to protect Tasmania’s native forests is the implementation of a new deal known as the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.
This deal will see over $270 million allocated to funding a ‘transition’ away from the logging of native Tasmanian forests. This includes $148 million which will go directly to the forestry industry. On the surface the deal appears to have some positive features in that it aims to preserve over 430,000 hectares of native forest. However, experts have agreed that the commitment made to the forestry industry will likely mean that already protected forest will be logged to make up for the shortfall.
The Gillard government has tried to present the deal as a historic agreement between loggers and environmentalists, and has said that this agreement will likely end the conflict between the two groups. While Environment Tasmania, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation have supported the deal, a coalition of environmental groups known as the Australian Forest and Climate Alliance opposes the deal.
This coalition has described the deal as a “sham” and “just another waste of taxpayer’s money”. They say the deal will not prevent the construction of the Gunns pulp mill, will not stop the logging of old growth forests, and will merely be a hand over of public money to the logging industry.
But the political wheeling and dealing over the fate of the forests is merely a distraction from the core issue. At the heart of this problem is capitalism – a system which constantly drives to increase profits at the expense of people and the planet. Under this system the short term benefits of pulping thousands of hectares of native forest is seen as more important than the future survival of the planet.
Given the context of devastating climate change and resource shortfalls predicted to occur during the next century, the fact that the destruction of native forests is even being debated gives an indication of how backwards the nation’s political and industrial leaders are when it comes to environmental sustainability.
Native forests are a critical part of the planet’s eco-systems. These forests capture and store immense amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, reversing much of the damage done by the burning of fossil fuels and acting as the last line of defense against carbon pollution. Deforestation not only reduces the planet’s total carbon absorption, but also releases huge amounts of carbon as the foliage left over from felled trees and smaller trees and shrubs beneath the canopy are burnt or left to rot.
An important aspect of addressing climate change needs to be protecting and restoring forests such as these. Instead the logging industry is turning this vital ecological system into low grade pulp.
The Socialist Party opposes the wanton destruction of Australia’s forests for the benefits of a small elite and instead stands for the public ownership and democratic control of natural resources. We demand an end to the logging of old growth forests, alongside guaranteed employment for displaced workers.
A publicly owned and controlled forest industry would shift quickly towards 100% plantation timber and invest in new sustainable technologies. These initiatives would be part of an integrated, democratic plan of sustainable production where human wellbeing and the natural environment would be put before profits.
By Andrew Grant