The light is cool and green – I could almost be under water.
Water - I can hear it.
The stream in the valley below me is chattering. Looking down between massive trunks festooned with epiphytes, lichen and fungi, I can glimpse foam bubbling against slick stone and fallen trees. The understorey is ferns and logs furred with moss, sheltering and supporting new growth. I can hear a grey fantail twittering its intricate song. Black cockatoos cry plaintively overhead. For a long moment, a pink robin perches on a twig nearby. Then it is gone into the shadows.
I feel incredibly privileged to spend time alone in the embrace of this forest, to soak it in undistracted. It is new to me, but familiar as an ancient memory lodged somewhere in my subconscious. I have walked in on the trail from the Sumac Blockade Camp. I could sit here for hours, still, soaking in the air and the sounds and the myriad plant life around me.
It feels untouched, though of course it is touched already by our impact on the air and water and climate. And just up the hill, it is not just touched but violently assaulted – the camp is on the edge of a section of clearfell, with churned soil, piles of unwanted timber, patchily burned, and massive stumps like the dismembered limbs of giants. The contrast is shocking. And the forest I have just bathed in is also at risk.
There are three of us in camp on my first day and it is pretty relaxed. A few more people arrive the next day, and when I leave on Friday a big group is expected for a weekend of action – tree sits, photography, media campaigning. The energy is building. I am humbled to meet some of the people who manage the camp – Scott, Lisa, Erik and Jenny. They dedicate their lives to this and related causes. Their commitment and skill and knowledge give me hope. And I feel buoyed meeting some of the others who come from across Tasmania to work in the camp, to call attention to the beauty and fragility of this environment, and support and grow the community.
So little of our planet is still relatively undamaged by post-agricultural and post-industrial settlement. I can’t see that we can afford to lose any more. The appropriate use of timber and good forestry management can play a part in sustainability and reducing carbon emissions, but surely this should be restricted to land that has already been significantly disturbed and degraded? We need to protect these rare caches of biodiversity and beauty, among the last reminders of what the earth once was and can still contain - if we care for it.