After Deductions: an interventionist play for Julimar Forest
by John Kinsella for open and free use
Three figures: two protesters and a reporter who lifts a mask (one side Tragedy and one side Comedy) to his/her/their face as he/she/they speak/s.
Reporter: Only two of you? Where are the rest of you?
Protester 1: Out of sight out of mind.
Protester 2: The town has been bought with water slides and the promise of jobs.
Protester 1: Not all of the town... not all of the district.
Protester 2: No... and more will join us in time... it just needs a seed... a nucleus for the protest to form around.
Reporter: And you’re it... looks like you’re setting up and in for the long haul.
Protester 1: Yes. We stand with you, forest.
Reporter: Why do you address the forest as if it’s a person?
Protester 1: It is an entity, an organism. It lives and breathes and is full of the living and the breathing...
Protester 2: and the transpiring... The CEO suggests the forest’s death will be a ‘net positive’ for the environment.
Protester 1: All those rare earths down below the root systems...
Protester 2: ...to be unearthed.
Reporter: The paper will say that it’s good for jobs good for the state good for business and an act of...
Protester 2: ...decarbonisation.
Protester 1: As easy as that... forest gone and more machines more consumables all weighed up...
Reporter: ... you means the feather against the heart...
Protester 1: No, that’s a ritual from ancient Egypt and this is Noongar boodjar and if you don’t listen and learn, if you don’t understand the stories of this country you’ll never find the language of care...
Protester 2: ...or loss.
Protester 1: The language of country the languages of an ecosystem are not fiscal are not profit and loss are not the triumph of capital as the biosphere collapses...
Protester 2: ... it is of the life you would erase would excavate would convert into batteries so the consuming can be eked out a little longer.
Reporter: So, you are saying what? That we should give up phones and cars?
Protester 2: We could... at least give up some of them cut back make do with a local life more and more...
Protester 1: I am for changing how we live entirely... minimising impact on what’s left of the world’s ecosystems... reducing the hypocrisies of our lives.
Reporter: Seems easy to say out here, with the cockatoos calling across the treetops, and the wattlebirds making comments.
Protester 1: Which is the point, really, isn’t it?
Reporter: The police will remove you when the time comes.
Protester 1: They will come and they will do the state’s bidding which is in the company’s interest. It’s always the same.
Reporter: You’ve done this before?
Protester 2: We have to... some of us have to be witnesses... people will come when there’s media attention and get roused up and then drift back to their phone-screens, the pressures and pleasures of their own lives... only a few of us will stay and then no one will see the last patch of forest vanish other than the miners themselves.
Protester 1: Who witnesses Alcoa eating the jarrah forests at an horrendous rate...? The bauxite craving... it’s as if even the most committed of us give in, fatigued. And the company recruits zoologists and ‘environmentalists’ [the protester exaggerates scare quotes in the air...] to exonerate them, to make it all okay, to let governments and their departments pretend they care... while those apologists convince themselves they are making the best of things... that if it weren’t for them, it’d be worse...
Protester 2: Worse being such a flexible word....
Protester 1: ...and then no one is there to see us witnessing... we become vulnerable... we are disposable. We have been shot at by logger and miners. Fact.
Reporter: That would have made a story... something to latch on to. You should have recorded...
Protester 1: There were no mobile phones when that happened... and we wouldn’t have been carrying them anyway.
Reporter: Which goes to show how vital technology can be in bringing attention to environmental issues. But this story needs that kind of human interest... otherwise it just sounds like a rant.
Protester 1: And easy to dismiss because it’s ‘just a rant’. But it’s all chicken and the egg...
Reporter: What do you mean?
Protester 1: The tech is why the forests vanish, why the mines are made in the first place.
Reporter: But you’ve got to get your story out there.
Protester 2: We have to stop the mine. The forest is an organism made up of innumerable organisms. It is part of the lungs of the earth. It is the home of so many creatures... and it has its own spirit as well.
Protester 1: And we destroy ourselves by destroying it.
Reporter: The CEO of Chalice Mining would disagree.
Protester 1: Well, as someone once said, ‘He would, wouldn’t he.’
Reporter: You mean Mandy Rice-Davies regarding Lord Astor, that seems a bit inappropriate.
Protester 1: No, I mean Tree Climber, a protester from the Hawke Block protest decades ago who was referring to a logger who said that a felled old growth tree served people better through what it provided than a standing one. These trees are entire ecosystems within ecosystems... they support much more than the human... and people can’t quite accept that they’re also essential to the human wherever and however that human might be living.
Reporter: Seems like a bit of a long-term profession, this protesting... I mean, it’s just opinion, really... it’s not an exact science...
Protester 2: ...unlike, say, journalism, mining, making weapons, being a politician, running a business, playing footy? And when we do present the ‘facts and figures’, they’re dismissed or manipulated... money and power control the science, control the data and how it’s used. Many of the people we oppose weren’t so long ago denying there was even such a thing as human-induced climate change.
Protester 1: They are opportunists...
Reporter: Who? Name names?
Protester 1: Speaking in general... about the mining lobby... especially the coal miners, but not exclusively.... their arguments... their declarations adapt to fit market circumstances and the ‘sensitivities’ [again, those exaggerated scare quotes in the air] of investors. You’re not dragging us into that trap... you do the research... isn’t that your job?
Reporter: Really, what bring the attention of mums and dads and families is people speaking they can identify with...
Protester 2: ...I am not sure what that means... no mum or dad is the same as any other and whatever anyone’s identity or beliefs or ethnicity the well-being of the biosphere is their right and their concern... we are not trying to appeal to a particular demographic, we are trying to save the forest.
Protester 1: ...we’re only speaking for the forest because there’s no one else to speak for it... we do not possess it, we don’t want to recolonise it... we want it to have rights and we want the traditional owners to have a say over country they know how to live with and preserve and respect. We learn respect from their respect.
Reporter: Sounds like someone’s shooting in there.
Protesters [together]: We hear it all the time... we see the four-wheel drives with spotlights... the shooters threaten us, yell abuse.
Reporter: You’re both poets, I am told.
Protesters: We are.
Reporter: Maybe you could read a poem about chuditches? I am told this is the healthiest and most robust population — or repopulation programme — of these carnivorous marsupials?
Protesters: That’s true, and they are incredible animals... but the forest is full of so many incredible animals and plants.
Reporter: Well, will you read something for me to share with our listeners?
Protester 1: There are so many ironies and contradictions in doing this.
Protester 2: But we’ve got to speak, haven’t we?
Protester 1: Yes... this is the season Makuru... the wet and cold months... and we would like the seasons to stay as close to what they were as possible... for the damage done to the biosphere means a breakdown of the seasons... only the nights remain as they were... and days as long as they were.
Protester 2: And the argument that the destruction of this 28 000-hectare conservation park or any section of it will be for the benefit of the environment is specious. Every miner of rare earths makes this argument to suit their balance sheet and their hope of wealth.
Protester 1: They pat themselves on the back that they’re doing it for the good of humanity when they greatly benefit from it personally.
Protester 2: Accruing wealth...
Protester 1: ...and power.
Protester 2: After deductions, they will live their lives in a denuded world quite well. They will meet their goals.
Reporter: The wind is lifting... it’s quite biting...
Protester 2: But the days have been much warmer and there’s been little rain this ‘winter’. The forest is stressed and the miners have been diamond-drilling deep, working their colonial patches: Hartog...
Protester 1: Janz, Dampier...
Protester 2: Baudin... not that they give a toss for Baudin’s cockatoo... that little bit of colonial renaming isn’t going to stress them...
Reporter: Anyway, poem, and I will leave you to it... I have another assignment to get to down in the city... gee, it really sounds like the sea, doesn’t it... I mean the wind through the wandoo and marri trees...
Protesters: ...through the forest... it does, doesn’t it... an inland sea full of life... and right now they are drilling to ascertain the boundlessness of their claim... of their gift to the planet... their climate coup de grace...
Silently into the sea of the forest
‘soft’-tracked vehicles will creep,
no wheels to crush undergrowth
they hope in future to delete.
Silently into the sea of the forest,
gently gently off-track — no tyres
pressing their case, just metal expecting
what’s flattened to shoot back into place.
Silently into the sea of the forest
those drilling rigs are determined to go —
to reach down further than roots
and mirror the hollow of sky.