Anthropocene graffiti

So, here we are, you and me… in this little Anthropocene line of bleak geological strata currently being graffitied onto the future cliff face of the planet…


Before reading my little essay to the end, perhaps you had better make yourself a mindful cup of tea, and take a seat.

This essay is prompted by two things; the first being the Tasmanian government’s proposal to change their Wilderness Zones to become “REMOTE RECREATION AREAS,” and also open them up to LOGGING and MINING.

Don’t stop reading… you haven’t heard half of it. What I am about to tell you is much bigger that the Tasmania Wilderness. I will reveal the second element that prompted this essay soon.

The Tasmanian Wilderness zone is listed as a WORLD HERITAGE AREA (WHA). In addition to allowing it to be chopped into by roads for logging and mining… the government proposes:

• Making remote lakes open to float-planes, helicopters and jet-skis
• And allowing hotels and private huts to be built in the “Wilderness”

According to World Heritage standards, the Tasmanian Wilderness satisfies 7 of the 10 criteria for OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE, one of only 2 sites on Earth to do so!!! One of only TWO sites on the whole planet… digest that for a moment.

I have walked through Cradle Mountain National Park in central Tasmania twice, once when I was 18 and once when I was 32. My first 10-day trek carrying tent, food and cooking gear on my back was life changing. To experience the indescribable beauty and peace found in the midst of beech forests, still lakes, rugged mountains, and open alpine terrain dotted with tarns of fresh water in granite depressions, spongy moorlands with cushion plants and small wildflowers … was breathtakingly magic. I didn’t see or hear a car (or electronic sounds) for more than a week. The difference in the amount of duck-boarding, huts, number of hikers and general access was phenomenal between my two trips.

I am now 53, I hate to think how much more the Overland Trek has been developed, but the current proposed changes are to places that include inaccessible World Heritage listed WILDERNESS areas, NOT crisscrossed by duckboards and the boots of young folk keen to engage with nature; places where the flora and fauna are able to continue undisturbed…

This brings me to the second impetus to write this little essay:

I have just finished reading “The 6th Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert.
We are now in the midst of the BIGGEST EXTINCTION EVENT ever.

Two of the main causes (apart from our chemical assault on soil, air, rivers, sea and the resultant global warming) are habitat destruction (“development”) and the continual crisscrossing of our planet by humans who carry fungi on their boots, tyres, boat bilge and plane luggage from one wilderness to another, delivering disease from one community of creatures (immune to that particular fungus) to a zone where it literally wipes out the local frogs, ferns or bats etc in a space of a few years. And the knock on effect to species dependent on those in decline continues for a few more years…

The subdivision of wilderness areas by roads and clearings immediately begins the slow demise of the inhabitants of that area. The range of their habitat is altered, and the interactions of plants, insects, animals, fungi, bacteria and birds changes. And so begins the decline of species. Bring in hurtling cars, jet skis, chainsaws and fire to that mix (let alone travelling bugs), and untold and irreversible loss results.

Colonies of a few highly tolerant, hardy organisms are now in the process of becoming established globally, replacing the hugely diverse, endemic locals, as we humans have joined up all the isolated continents by our intentional relocation of plants and animals and our unintentional trafficking in viruses and fungi and bacteria. It is predicted that by the end of this century the bio-non-diversity of our planet will be down to a very low percentage of the species that were here before the arrival of humans on this planet. Most of this human-caused devastation of species has happened in the last few centuries, and most dramatically, in the last few decades. And the extinctions continue exponentially…

“Welcome to the Anthropocene” says Kolbert, echoing what scientists are now calling it. This term is likely to be officially written into our charts of geological epochs very soon… as we are indisputably the cause of this current extinction event which is larger than any of the five preceding mass extinctions known to us from examining fossil and geological records; bigger than those caused by the shift of continents, volcanic eruptions, meteoric collisions, ice ages… the death of the dinosaurs has nothing on this.

So, here we are in this little Anthropocene line of bleak geological strata currently being graffitied onto the future cliff face of the planet…

Are you still with me? Let me know if you are. And more importantly, let the government and all your friends know. Anything we can do to slow down this extinction event, and give more species the opportunity to survive it, the better it is for all of us.

There are many things we can do to help slow down these trends. Many.
One of the big ones is to protect our few remaining wilderness areas.

The Wilderness Society is asking us to make submissions to the Tasmanian Government’s new proposed Management Plan for the World Heritage Area. It is now out for public comment, and WE HAVE UNTIL 5pm, 22nd MARCH 2015 to make a submission. Please get onto it now, no matter where on the planet you live.

We need to protect the WHA from tourist development, intrusive mechanized access, logging, mining and basically… the LOSS of WILDERNESS.

Check out this document for guidelines and information and contacts:

You’d better swallow the rest of that cup of cold tea sitting there… you’ll need the strength gifted to you by the increasingly scarce supply of healthy (unfracked) water and the leaves of that beautiful, abundant plant, camellia sinensis, that now occupies vast monocultural tracts of what were once diverse forests… gulp

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About anne norman

musician, shakuhachi player, author, poet, tea lover...
This entry was posted in Environmental essays and poems, my meanderings and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anthropocene graffiti

  1. peter micic says:

    Thank you Anne for this beautiful essay. I am back in Melbourne. Hope to see you soon:-) Peter


  2. Willi Grimm says:

    As Swiss I spent two hollidays in Tasmania. The first in 1970, the second in 2014. Apparently there have been some good environmental conservation work done in the years between. I cant imagine this shall be thrown all in the trash????


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