The love and loss of Granite Mountain Forest
This article was originally published in Chain Reaction #132.
I arrived at the Granite Mountain Blockade in so-called East Gippsland (Bidwell, Monaro, and Gunai-Kurnai Country) after logging had already been stopped several days. A tripod was blocking the access road into the area of forest to be logged (the “coupe”). [photo]. During the course of the blockade, which lasted 10 days in total, I was able to experience this magnificent of forests in a multitude of ways. This piece is about the love and loss of Granite Mountain forest.
I’m drowning in moss, subsumed in forest sounds, feeling the pull of my soul to dwell in these trees forever. I am human, but an animal human. I look at the forest with human eyes, but with animal human eyes. I cannot seperate what I am from this forest around me, from the pulse of life, the beating heart of immeasurable living things that surround me, that are, in this moment, giving me life, sustaining me, enabling me to be a human. I am visitor to this place, and as a visitor I have fallen in love.
We’re sitting on the mossy log listening to bird calls, seeing how many different sounds we can pick up on. I lose count. According to the Emerald Link Report (2017), there are 327 bird species within so-called East Gippsland’s forest. I can’t remember all of their names, but after a while I make friends with one which has a high, trilling, call. The bird and I are having a conversation, a musical call and response. About what, I’m not quite sure, but there’s something magical in sharing sounds with a being perched high above you.
Mists travel though these forests, seeping into tree hollows, hiding the call of the masked owl and the path of the black wallaby. Come dawn the first rays of sunlight illuminate my surrounds through the mist with an emanating glow. The leaves are crisp beneath my touch, as I smell the dew drops of the new day. Thank you forest, I think. This moment I am alive because of you, just as you are alive this moment because of our ten day blockade.
This forest no longer exists.
Our blockade was dispersed by the aptly named “Forest Cops” and Search and Rescue (though who are they rescuing?): the Victorian Labor Government’s police. With no tripod in the way the forest was murdered, destroyed by alien monsters. Big, clawing bulldozer machines, unforgiving war vehicles. Their destruction is absolute. As I wander in its aftermath I see a giant old hollowed tree lying on the ground, marked with spray paint as a pulp log - possibly the home of the (masked?) owl we heard last night. I know my friend the bird-singer has lost its home. How many others with it? How many others were caught unawares beneath the jaws of the aliens? Perhaps it knew that solitary bird now flying around distressed on the edges of the war zone. Has this bird lost a family as well as a home? These dozer monsters have gouged out the heart of life in this forest. The land is empty now.
Seeing these bulldozer monsters reminds me of Avatar (the blue alien movie version) and the walking death robots controlled by minute humans inside them. It makes me realise that it’s not possible to destroy a forest without becoming something more/other-than-human. When we’re fully human, when we surrender to our bodies, our emotions, our mind, we cannot help but realise the destruction of the forest is the destruction of ourselves too, and that “me” is also an ecological community. To murder a forest through clear fell logging we must forfeit “ourselves” to become “alien”: part-human, part-bulldozer, part hyper-rational technological avatars stored in the “cloud”. It is this alien which allows us to look at the forest in an abstract sort of way, economically analysing its current value on the global stock exchange. It is this alien which protects a logger from the screams of the dying. It is this alien which murdered the Granite Mountain forest.
The forest is gone. I am back in Naarm (Melbourne), and am overwhelmed by grief. I mourn the stupid, senseless loss of this ancient forest I fell in love with. I cry for the loss of humanity, the loss of humans as intrinsically animal, intrinsically ecological. For a while my grief is all encompassing. I am paralysed by guilt, and every morning I wake up thinking of that beautiful forest that no longer is.
Allowing myself to feel these emotions is hard. I am surrounded by a society which considers despair, sadness, anger, and rage as negative and disproportionate to reality. Apparently, these are emotions to be carefully boxed away with airtight lids.
But it is only in creating time and space for these emotions that I was able to look around my community, both human and ecological, and feel hope. I realised that I am always surrounded by beings recognising what it means to be ecological. The magpie interrupting the tram noise, the moisture turning the dozer to rust, the human constructing a tree sit. The relentlessness of nature’s forms gives me faith that we are not helpless in the face of the monsters.
In fact, the amount of ways we can tie these monsters up is limited only by our imaginations. We can climb trees to save trees, crafting tree sits and tripods, tying the monsters to ourselves. The Granite Mountain “coup” is not yet completely logged, and so for the remaining forest there is still yet time. We can tie the formal political system in knots, as the current FoE Forests Collective and the Emerald Link campaign for a National Park are doing, showing there can be no “Government” decision without recognising humans are ecological and ecology is human.We can create space for the voices of the forest, listening to the bird calls outside our window, projecting videos of the Leadbeater’s Possum at busy intersections, and performing the citizen science that GECO does so wonderfully. And in doing all of this, we can allow ourselves and those around us to be ecological beings, transforming our very existence into a blockade for the meaning of humanity.
 I recognise that loggers are humans too, and they are mostly the foot soldiers in an epic global capitalist marketplace which requires people to sell their labour performing devastating tasks in order to eat and sleep in safety.
I live, work, and play on the stolen lands of the muwinina/palawa/pakana peoples in nipaluna, lutruwita/truwanna (so-called Hobart, Tasmania). I acknowledge that genocide is ongoing, and sovereignty has never been ceded. I acknowledge the sacredness of this land, and pay deepest respects to the past, present, and emerging custodians of these lands and waters. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.
0407 262 399
0407 262 399