We walk for the trees

FOX, or Sam Entwistle as he’s otherwise known, recently returned from a huge walk through the forest, and while there were amazing sights, he says there’s a lot to worry about as well.

LAST month, a week before Christmas, I was among a group of stalwart walkers who achieved the final part of an amazing 1000-kilometre journey.

In the sunrise hours of what was to be a 39 degree day, we marched towards Perth from our final campsite. By 9am it was already scorching, and we took relief with regular swims in the Swan River – wetting our clothes to cool us down.

This final day of marching, our banners and painted umbrellas held strong, along highways and busy roads, against smog and noise, was a dire contrast to the previous 10 weeks of walking, which saw us navigate stunning coastline, enjoy pristine lakes and rivers, witness trees with vast girth and magnificence, forests tall, elegant, majestic, birds daintily singing, and the sound of the wind.

The Great Walk of Peace had grandiose aims; to raise awareness of the forestry industry, to bring people into the bush, to encourage and allow people to foster a relationship and reverence for the forest, whilst also showing people the destructive consequences of the forestry industry’s practises.

Dynamic energy

Yet the fundamental goal of the walk was to create a strong, forward-thinking, safe, supportive and peaceful community which values and cares for its people. The hope being that in doing so, a strong, dynamic energy would be created, and that we could affect long term change in the forestry industry.

Along the path we encountered hail storms and heat waves.

Whilst the stunning beauty and magnificence of the old growth forests really took our breaths away, what really hit home was just how much had been logged, re-logged, clear felled, burnt to cinders, mined, turned into agricultural land, or replanted with plantation timber.

The amount of sick and struggling forest we witnessed was a harsh contrast to what was left of the strong, healthy vibrant forests.

Less than 20 per cent of WA’s forest remains since settlers arrived, and the industry is still out chopping old growth trees down from forests across the South West.

Since the redefining of the term ‘old growth’ (see the website below for info on that shameful sleight of hand) forests with examples of trees 200-600 years old are on the chopping block, and without the work of groups such as the WA Forest Alliance blockading and making a stand, we could lose these forests – few people would even know.

The message was clear from the get go; with diminishing rainfall and the increasing incidence of disease, as well as most rivers in the SW being saline, the logging of native forests has to stop.

It also became clear from witnessing the state of a number of prescribed burns at different stages, that the current burn regime for the forests of the SW is flawed.

But much like the complexities of the forest ecosystems, the answers to preserving the health of our forests are vastly complex. There are no simple answers, nor simple truths.

From what we know of the indigenous cultures who lived in the land, they moved through and managed the land without big machines, and were able to maintain a healthy vibrant and vital forest eco system, which has been largely decimated in less than 200 years.

Yet we walked through great swathes of forest which were decimated, deserted, and closed off from the outside world. No one but those from the industry are even technically allowed in many of these forests … and you are required to pay if you wish to enjoy our national parks. No one is allowed to live peacefully in the forests.

The forests need people walking softly upon the earth, without big machines, without saws, without a desire to harvest and profit from the life that lives and serves us unconditionally.

Only footsteps, seedlings, patience, a desire to learn, love, and ready hands to help.

The walk may for now have come to an end, but the journey to permanent protection, has only just begun.

See thegreatwalkofpeace.org.au or the great walk of peace on Facebook for more information.

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