In a historic alliance, the Gumbaynggirr custodians and environmentalists have come together to halt the logging taking place in Nambucca State Forest. This forest coup on the mid-north coast, led by the Gumbaynggirr people, is to protect their sacred sites and songlines within the forest, as well as safeguarding precious, unburnt, native forest with its resident endangered species.
There is a strong legal team working on the campaign, and a blockade camp has been set up on site, welcoming visitors and local supporters. There are usually at least ten people at camp at all times, sometimes up to 100, with social distancing practices in place, for various events including music, artivism, language and weaving workshops with local Gumbaynggirr elders, mass walk-ons, and visits from MPs and the media.
Over the years, I’ve come across varied reactions to environmental activism – from friends, family and random strangers. So I thought I’d respond to the most typical accusations.
The first and most familiar is that old one we hear daily at campaigns, the yelling from the passing ute: ‘Fucken hippies! Where do your dole payments come from? Get a job!’ Or then there are the accusations of hypocrisy – ‘If you use timber, or drive a car, how dare you protest against logging and mining!’
Most of the people on the frontlines of campaigns are employed. The Bentley blockade’s successful anti-fracking campaign was coordinated by an amazing cross-section of local community members: from biologists to botanists, chefs to film makers, teachers to dentists, artists to conservationists, musicians, and so many more. The Nambucca Forest Action is similar.
The fight for rights
Regardless of any activist’s employment status, I feel that anyone willing to sit in a tree for up to a year (as visiting activist Miranda Gibson did) to raise awareness of the need to protect precious old growth forest, is doing vital work absolutely worth paying for. The kind of work that’s far more necessary in this current climate we live in than serving drinks in a bar, or doing publicity for new cars, or a myriad other jobs.
Activism has helped, and continues to shape, human evolution. So many of the ‘human rights’ we take for granted were hard-won through gritty and determined protest actions. If we want a healthy, habitable planet for future generations, of all species, the Earth’s rights need fighting for too.
As for hypocrisy, a good friend recently pointed out to me; one can only be a hypocrite in this case if one has good ethics. Those of us willing to challenge the dinosaurs of destructive industries, and encourage a movement towards human sustainability, are doing our best with what we’ve got. Maybe if we all shake off apathy, invest in some direct action, and reduce our hypocrisy by 50 per cent, we might avoid the race over the cliff.
The other response I come across regularly is that fighting ‘against’ something is negative, draining and futile. That we should be suffusing the world with ‘love and light’, that we should be saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ and engaging with proactive regenerative ‘positive’ actions instead.
I fully support regenerative action, but I also see protective (or protestive) direct action as a vital part of a healthy, collective, ‘immune response’ in the organism of human society that’s totally out of balance.
When you or I get sick we respond in multiple ways: our white blood cells attack the infection, we rest, figure out what’s making us sick, support our immune systems and do something about it.
I see direct action as a frontline immune response.
As for the relative powers of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – as every small child discovers, saying ‘no’ is a fundamental part in claiming autonomy, and of declaring one’s safe boundaries. We need bring balance back to humanity’s relationship with the Earth and with each other.
As for ‘love and light’? Well, love can be fierce – ever seen a mother protecting her children? Old defunct systems need challenging, recalibrating, and sometimes dismantling to let the light in!
More info at #ProtectNambuccaStateForest or Facebook.com/GumbaynggirrConservationGroup.