One of my favourite things about sailing is the people you meet along the way. Whether it be gentle islanders in remote locations, expats in established ports, down and out rascals on the side of the road, or fellow sea-worn yachties, I get a real buzz by chatting to them all and listening to their stories.
A lot of these interactions affect me in different ways, fitting in as I digest them to become part of my jigsaw, part of me. Some make me laugh and fill lonely gaps inside me with joy. Some make me yawn. Some make me crazy. Some make me think and look at life, values, needs and troubles in a different way. Some make a drastic click, creating feelings of affinity, empathy and kinship.
When my friend Louise sailed through the Solomon Islands this year, she came across an island where the locals were celebrating as the first of the logging equipment was being unloaded from an enormous, greasy Malaysian ship. They had been promised riches – about AU$15 for each of the massive trees that have been standing proudly for hundreds of years, straight and strong and true. Their peers in neighbouring islands have new outboard motors, fibreglass boats, cell phone tower and a brand new church towering above the village landscaped in a great torn patch of red dirt where once stood ancient vine-covered forests, all paid for through the sale of their trees. They want this too.
The strip logging commences; within months thousands of cubic metres of timber have been chopped, culled, dragged and loaded onto Asian-bound boats leaving nothing but bare eroded earth dripping precious topsoil into the once clear as crystal lagoon.
Bark, branches and broken machinery litter the shores alongside rotting smelly wood piles and leaking drums of diesel.The hillside behind is striped with red scars from logging trucks. It’s slowly being denuded; lush green petticoats of forests slashed into a short skirted whore with grazed knees. She’s all used up; the logs are loaded and the locals are left with cash to build their church and feed their guilty conscience.
What follows is Louise’s response. She mentions the increasing problem of strip logging native trees that are replaced by Palm Oil Trees, a monoculture that destroys local eco-systems. I like what she has to say. We showed a copy to local chiefs and peace keeping forces whenever we could, printing a copy if they wanted one. You can’t change the world, but you can make a dent. Awareness and communication is the key. Keep talking, sharing, laughing and crying, this is how we learn. These big industries stifle our heritage, dreams, environment, it is not sustainable. Just one more thing while I am preaching; USE PAPER WISELY!
Oh when did you people stop talking with the trees and the birds and the nature spirits? Was it that long ago that you no longer value their counsel?
What will you say to the trees when they cry out to you as they fall? What will you say to the birds, who, for so long have blessed you and the land with their song? And what will you say to all the other creatures – the small animals and the insects who have maintained the soil so that it may sustain you? I weep!
And what of your children and your grandchildren and their grandchildren? Can they eat palm oil or money?
The “Destroyers” care not for you, or the trees, or the land. They care not for what happens after they have taken your heritage – your forest and her creatures!
In return for your trees you will receive a little money, a lot of work and an uncertain future.
Please, look past the instant money to the value of the land and the forest and the creatures for they give you everything you need and are happy in their service.
Please, listen to the counsel of the trees for they are your wise elders. They carry the spirit of your ancestors. They are you! Please, remember how to be one with the forest.
Yes, there is a money value in logs but living trees are priceless treasures.
When the money is all gone and you can’t buy petrol for your expensive long boats don’t bother asking a palm oil tree for a canoe. He is an intruder who cares not for the needs of your people.
Don’t expect the “Destroyers” to help you. They only want to make money from your trees. As soon as they have what they want they will vanish! They cannot be trusted. They have lost the wisdom of the trees and care not for the whole.
What makes a land? What shapes the people who inhabit the land? Your environment! What you love about yourself, your pride in who you are. Your cultural heritage – shaped and moulded by countless centuries of inhabiting and co-inhabiting with this land. If you change the land you change the people. Will the people, as a people be better for the change?
If you destroy the trees that formed the land that formed you a part of you (or all of you) will be destroyed also!
DESTROY = KILLEM DED FINIS!!!
You need your trees – not the trees from a foreign land! And your trees need you, as do the birds and the creatures need you.
WHO WILL SPEAK FOR THE TREES?
Only you can speak for the trees as they are as much a part of you as you are a part of them. Only you speak their language. People from other places cannot know them like you do.
Cut out the trees and you disembowel yourself!
Why do they want your trees? Because they are still there! So long as they are still standing you will have something that they or others want. This is a position of power.
Who will sign the paper that will destroy a heritage – the birthright of everyone, not just himself?