I am a ‘wombat.’
I am lying comfortably inside ‘the dragon,’ a mini van also dubbed ‘the Lady-bird’.
It doesn’t have any wheels, because it is meant to stay put. I am meant to stay put as well.
I am shackled through the floor of the van to a steel pipe embedded in a block of concrete underneath the van. There is also a ‘possum’ up a tree. So high up he looks like an ant.
I hear rumours there are ‘black wallabies’ lurking about in the forest. As well as a host of other forest dwellers that cannot be spoken of to the uninitiated.
We blockaders number but a handful at this present moment in time. The numbers fluctuate wildly according to whim. We are a mixed bag of misfits, it has to be said. With but one common thread, the will to put our bodies on the line and risk our freedom to save a forest that cannot save itself. We live on a road, which is uncomfortable for us, but extremely inconvenient for such fools that might attempt to travel on this road.
Our mere presence is an act of defiance. We are passive activists. By sitting here doing nothing, we make sure the bad guys are doing nothing too.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all” – Lao Tzu
Actually, when I say we are doing nothing, that is not strictly true. We are being, and it is the sheer fact of our being that is of vital importance. For if we were not human beings being here, the machines would just bulldoze all the non-human beings and keep going. But as the bulldozer drivers are also human beings, our common bond means they cannot harm us, lest they risk banishment from the community of human beings….plus it’s illegal to kill people.
Our being is our greatest leverage. It’s our only leverage. It’s our ‘sin-qua-non!’
This is all part of an endless on-going battle that is going on…and on, endlessly to save the Tarkine wilderness from imminent desecration. A nefarious Chinese government company that goes by the innocuous name of MMG, is mining gold and silver and copper and zinc and anything else they think they can sell to those shameless rogues who would turn a blind eye to its nefarious provenance. The epi-centre of MMG operations (I think it stands for More Mining Good!) is located just over the the Pieman river from us, near Rosebury, at the southern end of the Tarkine wilderness, on the remote west coast of Tasmania – a little island at the end of the world. MMG have a toxic waste dump which they euphemistically call a ‘tailings dam.’ The toxic waste dump contains sulphur. When the dump breaches its containment wall, as it does from time to time, the sulphur pours into the pristine Pieman river, where it combines with water to become sulphuric acid. You can imagine what happens next. Naturally CMM does not want the knowledge of these leaks to leak out to the outside world. The words ‘pristine’ and ‘sulphuric acid’ in the same sentence is bad for business, obviously.
Of course there are other more ethical up-to-date methods of disposing of toxic waste, like making it into paste and pumping it back into the redundant sections of the mine, where it sets like concrete and stabilizes the strata. This method is used all over the world, even right here in Tasmania, but it is slightly more expensive, so the investors have chosen, as they do time and again – More profit/less wilderness, rather than – More wilderness/less profit!
So rather than go to all the fuss of deploying the latest state-of-the-art, environmentally and ethically sound methods, they opt for the slightly cheaper, potentially disastrous option of a second, much bigger toxic waste dump, and they want to put it right here where we are staying…put. The very reason I am put here is to stay put, so stay put I will. I shall not budge!
After clambering over endless legal hurdles that the Bob Brown Foundation has erected in their path, the only thing in the way of MMG now is the illegal impediments we, The Tarkine Resistance Brigade, (not our official title) have constructed in their path.
This latest version of the blockade has been uninterrupted for 45 days now.
This is the third iteration. This game of cat and mouse has been going on for over a year now.
Whenever the fit ceases them, the constabulary march in (literally) and throw everyone out, holus-bolus. They then mount a futile attempt to bring in large brutal machines, designed explicitly for the purpose of removing ancient rainforest and replacing it with large holes in the ground. All their feeble attempts are thwarted by our brave activists lurking in the forests, who leap out and attach themselves like limpets to the gruesome machinery, thereby rendering it incapacitated.
… and so it goes on, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. A blitzkrieg becomes trench warfare. Autumn inexorable turns to winter, and it becomes like the Somme.
This is what happens when a hapless bunch of greedy fortune seekers come up against the implacable obstacle of ‘The Tarkine Resistance Brigade!’
So how does a bunch of random individuals with little to no skills, no SAS training, no cooking ability what-so-ever, who have never heard of Lao Tzu, let alone read his instruction booklet…..how do these innocents take on the might of The Chinese Communist Party apparatus and their implacable desire to extract every single ounce of minerals from the entire globe, including the mineral water!
Well, we have constructed an ingenious and elaborate system of ropes and what-not, connecting human beings to obstacles in such a way that they cannot be disconnected without a lot of fuss. As well as the aforementioned wombat in the Lady Bug, (that’s me tonight) we also have a ‘possum’ up a tree, and not just any old tree. It is a magnificent forest giant, maybe 80 metres tall. In that majestic icon a hammock is hanging. Inside that hammock lies a human soul, dangling precariously 47 metres above the forest floor. (don’t worry, the forest floor is soft and bouncy)
So here we sit ‘doing nothing’ day after day, month after month, year after year, just to make sure MMG does nothing here as well. Just like the forest that has been sitting here ‘doing nothing’ for millions of years.
Ben Boyang 19/2/22
Cover image – ‘The Weld Angel’ Photo by Mathew Newton
If you would like to join ‘The Tarkine Resistance Brigade’
To find out more about the blockade go HERE
or go to the Bob Brown Foundation Facebook page.
It only takes 6 hours from Castlemaine – Tulla – Launceston – Rosebury (4 hour drive)
You could go for the weekend!
Food is provided (vegan) You can’t bring food into Tazzy anyway.
All you need is a tent, a raincoat and galoshes.