Zing Stories

Rainforest Wars

Review of a non-fiction book, Terania Creek: Rainforest Wars, which remains an excellent example of nature writing and history

I came across this book straight after my first trek through Nightcap National Park in northern New South Wales. I read it in a day, and - absurd as it sounds - it had me gasping with excitement. Not bad for a book about trees, eh?

But, as Turvey tells, the trees of this region are far from ordinary. They're the Gondwana rainforest ancestors of the Eucalyptus and Acacia forests that now define Australia - and they very nearly came to grief.

In 1979, Australia's first forest protest broke out on the southern rim of the Tweed caldera (north of Nimbin, west of Byron, in the traditional lands of the Bundjalung people). Turvey was then a young forester employed in Victoria. It was with this professional interest that he and colleagues contemplated the unfolding conflict between the ‘rainbow' alternatives and the Forestry Commission of NSW. The so-called ‘hippies' saw the forests as unique and sacred not as a resource to be ‘managed' and exploited. They demanded that logging stop.

For three years the rainforest wars waged. Neville Wran, then premier of NSW, ended the conflict when he changed administration of the forests from the Forestry Commission to National Parks. They're now World Heritage listed. Turvey takes the reader on that thrilling - and globally significant - journey.

He begins with describing the origin and evolution of this ‘green, lovely world predating the arrival of humans on this planet by about 85 million years'. Then, with uncompromising fairness, Turvey recreates the story of its preservation, adding maps and photographs to his diverse sources. (My favourite is the image of a female protestor implementing the Buddhist-inspired strategy of equanimity by giving a cop a head massage.) The hardships and perspectives of the political ‘losers'- the forest workers and saw-millers - are included but Turvey probably agrees with Wran, that ‘when we are all dead and buried ... [the end of logging will be seen as] the best thing the ... Government did in the twentieth century'.

Dr Turvey has deliberately chosen to write for the general reader - for the sake of story he feels should be told - and there's humour and pathos in Terania Creek, a refreshing change from the stodge and density of much academic writing.

On closing its appropriately green and ‘foresty' covers, feeling moved and better informed, I pronounced it the best non-fiction book I'd read all year. This was the verdict of local publisher IP, because Terania Creek is IP's Best Creative Non-Fiction Award Winner 2006. If you weren't there in 1979, if you can't easily experience Gondwana for yourself, this book is the next best thing.

Writing Queensland published my review of Terania Creek: Rainforest Wars by Nigel Turvey in March 2007.

 

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