Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Protecting Old-growth Trees on the York-Merredin Road and Bush at Beeliar

We were out under the magnificent sammies (salmon gums) over the weekend with our friend Lindsay (the views expressed below are mine — John's — though Lindsay is also committed to saving these trees).

The poem below is a reaction to the Main Roads compulsion to destroy a supreme 'architectural' achievement of nature — trees that are complete ecosystems in themselves. Below the poem are photos taken to show the girth of these trees, their ancientness. In doing this I acknowledge Noongar elders and country. 

It is a disgrace that some (all?) conservative politicians are actually trying to attack the trees as dangerous and redundant. Why not lower the speed limits to 80ks an hour through 'Cathedral Avenue', just to start with? 

The destruction of ecosystems in W.A. is happening so rapidly that many people are largely unaware. The so-called Royalties for Regions money is too often funnelled from mining (in relatively small portions compared to miners' profits); it often supports an ethos of road-widening (habitat destruction that serves mining infrastructure in so many ways) and environmental destruction elsewhere.

Further, the expansion of leisure facilities in nature reserves and national parks is part of the manipulation of all natural spaces to suit human exploitation. Nature just can't exist in its own right in the minds of these exploiters. (Of course, I am not including traditional/cultural uses by indigenous peoples in this critique. Indigenous land usage for traditional/cultural reasons is of an entirely different provenance and is to be respected.)

The disgrace that is the assault on the Beeliar bushlands, with hundreds of police deployed to ensure the destruction, is the overt side of a police state — the conservative government deploying the troops.

And as the Beeliar/Coolbellup (anti-Roe 8) tree-sitters give their all to save something, the bulldozers work in the spaces below them.

But there's a covert side as well, and that's what's happening with the clearing of old trees along the York-Merredin Road.

Blue hazmat suits have been seen in the bush around Coolbellup down in Perth before it is cleared, and (previously dumped) asbestos is something the neighbourhood is possibly being exposed to without recourse, fibres sent airborne.

In future years the young police themselves may wonder how they developed asbestos-related diseases — they have been deployed without care for their health. Some are willing executors of policy; others do it because they are ordered to do so. All of them — and we the people — will suffer the same from dust clouds sent high and far by the bulldozers and mulchers.

Some of us have memories of the old Charles Court government days and similar use of police. It could be brutal at times. Liberty, fraternity and equality are alien terms here — rather, it's bullying, destroying and profit-making.

Sammies (Salmon Gums)

for Lindsay, Tim, Tracy and Kim

East of where I write but not too far east
the great sammies arch over the road
to hold movement in, work to keep a grip
on the land as they knew it two hundred
or three hundred years ago, ringing
the changes of timeline owned and owning,
knowing patterns of seasons from voices
rising beneath them always, and so wide
in the trunk that two of us can only just
touch hands, a difficulty the plastic ribbons
of the clearers, sashed around, don’t have —
not ‘welcome back’ from war but declarations
of war. Strips of dried bark crunching
reminders underfoot, getting close.

If you’ve never seen a sammie in its home
place, never been haunted and rejuvenated
by the way it works dawn or evening light,
then you probably can’t know how much
its deletion diminishes you, never mind
country itself. You’ll have equivalents,
sure, of course, but there’s no analogy
to be drawn that won’t dilute the agency of light,
of that orange-pink-white-brown bark negotiating
temporal and spatial variables. Hands reaching
to touch, a nest high above makes glyphs.
Sammies, poured into their columns,
ribbed vaults, horizons of canopy
through which land and sky parley.

You know, near those magnificent sammies...
You know, those sammies umbrella-ing
near the corner with Station Road, you know,
you know. In the hot wind scouring
stale, bleached paddocks, embrace
their cool forms. A heart stretched
out, an anatomy of transfiguration.
We acknowledge the elders, who know
the name of all the creatures who dwell
in their inner and outer worlds, cross over.
We acknowledge the poverty we make
in taking them away, these sammies.
Where the cropping went, the sammies fell.
Their characters are inflections of soil.

Those personal anecdotes hived out of sammies.
Riding beneath, rewritten by the spirals of shadow.
Leaning against the base of a thick trunk to shelter
from a sun that would hallucinate you to walk
straight into flames. Slowly, cautiously, drinking
from the waterbag, you scry a future bare of the present.
Picnics, gatherings, knowledges of healing and origins,
all learning cut to the base, grubbed out. And so
the ancient salmon gums are killed off — death-wish
where roads are widened to ‘prevent deaths’? Always
these paradoxes like cigarettes ashed out of car
windows at the height of summer, flickers
of holocaust in such a casual gesture. Sammies
see us looking out for ourselves, grabbing our slices.

East of where I write but not too far east
the great sammies arch over the road
to hold movement in, as in our mind’s eye
we wander though the ambulatory, cars
rushing past. We are three generations
of onlookers enraptured by ancient trees
that make settlement look as tenuous
as it is. Knowing this, we listen to the pink
& greys, the Port Lincoln parrots, the honeyeaters,
the black-faced wood swallows, the willy wagtails,
the array of insect species, the Wurak, the Wurak, the Wurak,
which we borrow from a language which will keep these
trees in the constellations and won’t let go of the roots deeper
than light, as far as we understand it, wanting to learn, to respect.

            John Kinsella


Eco-Poet said...

Very moving, thankyou, John... in solidarity from NE Scotland. Helen Moore

Unknown said...

John, I know how beautiful those salmon gums are, especially as they grow beside the roads. Thanks for the poem, but the incomprehensible Main Roads actions ...??