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Global Ideas Reporter | Ideas

For what we risk biodiversity (2): Toilet paper

Author: Kerstin Schnatz

The tallest hardwood trees on earth are towering 90 meters and more in height in Tasmania. The island state 240 km South of the Australian mainland is not just famous with hikers and nature lovers  – it also has a very strong timber industry. Now the Australian government wants to open more forest sites  for potential logging.

Picture from February 2012: A  logging site close to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  (Photo credit: CC BY NC SA 2.0: Ta Ann Truths)

Picture from February 2012: A logging site close to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
(Photo credit: CC BY NC SA 2.0: Ta Ann Truths)

Almost 50% of Tasmania’s land area is protected for a good reason: The ancient forests give a habitat to many threatened species such as the almost extinct Tasmanian devil or the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.

Now the worst nightmare of Australian environmental activists has come true: Their government has put in a pledge to the United Nations to remove 74.000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from world heritage listing. The very land had only been protected in 2012 within a larger area of 174,000 hectares, ending a decades long conflict between the timber industry and environmental groups. The reason? The relativele new Australian government that had been elected in 2013 finds the area not so special after all. Government speakers reckon that much of the area had been logged already anyway and should not have been considered for protection in the first place.

Naturally, environmental groups think of this otherwise stating that almost 93% of the area in question consists of precious old growth forests. They fear, that their government wants to open the doors for the Tasmanian timber industry – one of the most thriving branches of the tiny state’s economy.

Large  international companies such as Malaysian owned veneer manufacturer Ta Ann have wood manufacturing mills  in Tasmania. Many of those mills produce woodchips used for making writing paper, tissues or even toilet paper.

To proof how precious and needy of protection Tasmania’s forest are, the Wilderness Society released pictures of the area in question.

Harsher images paints the Tasmanian Leader of the Green party with his words stating in a television report by the national TV channel ABC : “Logging in a world heritage area is akin to the Taliban dynamiting millenia old religious statues.”

(Photo credit:  CC BY SA 3.0: HK Colin)

(Photo credit:
CC BY SA 3.0: HK Colin)

We all agree, that nature’s richness is precious and needs to be protected. But at the same time it sometimes “just happens” that this precious biodiversity is set at risk.  To raise awareness for this contradiction, we started this little blog series, featuring examples of this phenomenon. See part 1 here. If you know similar examples, that fit into this series, please drop us a line in the comment box below.


February 7, 2014



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