G’day from Western Australia,
The magnificent Karri and Jarrah forests in south-west WA have been here for a very long time. When the Europeans arrived in the nineteenth century, they brought axes and bibles. Even though we’ve had nearly 200 years to knock them all down, mostly the trees are still standing. Who do we thank?
“Fill the earth and subdue it.”
Albany was first settled in 1826 and Perth three years later. The new settlers saw the forests as obstacles and set about clearing them. They had read their bibles in which Genesis exhorts them to “be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. “ God said – according to Genesis – “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth”. The new settlers knew what they had to do to subdue this little section of the earth.
Much of the forest was cleared for agricultural land. Today, the wheat belt is badly ulcerated and measurably drier but still supports a farming community (and spawned three recent test cricketers). It’s nice to discover – as a tourist – that large tracts of the mighty forests have survived the clearing regime.
Today the remaining forests are a tourist attraction and generally accepted as worthy of protection, and not only for that reason. What’s changed is our attitude to the trees. Consider these two quotes, written about a century apart. Both talk about feelings but they portray completely different attitudes towards the old-growth forests.
“If only you could see the pastures you would realise with me the pleasure one gets from conquering nature; the self-confidence one gets and a sense of power as a keen axe bites deep into an immense karri to bring them crashing to earth, robbed of their majesty.”
“Swarbrick at the height of the protest was highly organised . . . and there was a great feeling of camaraderie amongst all of the people that were there. We were all keen to see the end of old-growth logging. This was the culmination of the efforts of thousands of people. We were all privileged to be on the ground at this time.”
There has been a demonstrable shift in one hundred years. It’s our greater sense of humanity that we can thank for the retention of most of these magnificent forests. We’re losing our religion and it’s not before time.
Cheerio from Western Australia