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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Death of powerful eco feminist forest defender Val Plumwood
Mood:  special
Topic: ecology

[under construction] 

SAM's editor read the sad news by former local resident of Braidwood James Woodford in the Sydney Morning Herald. It felt like seeing the movie Into the Wild again.

8 March 2008 Philosopher as prey, a life of survival  Mauled by a crocodile, Val Plumwood lived to tell an amazing and intellectually challenging tale. James Woodford farewells a conservationist.
Not being much of a fan of James Woodford's hopeless embrace of 'limited' woodchipping of native forest, we wanted to check my own files and materials on Val and indeed found some precious material of hers, and some strong memories of her intervention in 1996 as Friends of Mongarlowe River when the blokes were going to stuff up her beloved Monga. None of this is in the Woodford piece, perhaps having married a PR operative for State Forests some years back now.


We had no idea this was posted on the SMH website last week
A google search brings these up but if not mistaken not in the press copies (?) because this writer would have remembered them. A curious omission from the press copy methinks, possibly the last patriarchical slight (?) of a seriously radical thinker:
She has her own signficant wikipedia entry here


SAM has some some materials evidencing Val's contribution to conservation in our Monga file, especially busy in 1995-1996 period which are original record of the timely contribution in an awkward political phase.






Having taken images of much of the file, we are posting a lengthy piece with links to follow soon to honour Val Plumwood and the forest she loved.


It's also by way of recording our own role from that time which was much more extensive than has been published before in the Sydney green movement around colour photocopy briefings to all the power players in Sydney (political and media). This will become clear from the materials.  We remember even showing the pictures to Waverley's Mayor Barbara Armitage at the time. Not least getting Colin Dorber for the industry to agree to concede at the 'DFA' negotiations at Hurstville NPWS in 1996 Monga was "rainforest" and bad PR for the industry to log, a lay down misere (so it seemed). Tony Hastings painted a picture to celebrate the moment that he witnessed in 96 in those sterile offices. Yep to visit Monga was to love the place and want to save it:


In summary Val's critical role at that time (and one expects other times we can't directly report on) goes like this and with all politics context is crucial:

Carr wins close state election March 1995 and in victory speech promises to save the forests, which tipped his win in close seats like Coogee. He wins by 3. He was himself surprised by that - very charming at the time. This was the culmination of 3 years of slog for this writer which began for us in 1402 in Coolangubra with giant 400 year old 'brown barrels also fund at Monga (see below):

In truth this fight had been going on since the woodchip mill was opened in the 1970ies.

The NSW Forestry Commission as it was still known started getting sneaky trying to subvert the state govt election platform, logging identified wilderness in Deua (mid 1995) and targetting Badja and then Monga in less well known areas. Their mode of operation was much like the RTA divide and rule approach in urban Sydney. Flatter and sleaze a few individuals over the real environmental impact, usually conservative otherwise ignorant locals who hardly understood the high impact integrated woodchipping intensity. Brand them as the symbolic moderate majority and sideline the ecologically minded in the local landholders then promote the compromise in the media and to the pollies.

This was tried but thankfully failed at Croobyar closer to the coast in late 1994, in no small part due to this writer stepping in and demanding a complete halt for The Wilderness Society, no deals in the lead up to the election. It was touch and go with police literally driving to the camp that fateful day Dec 94 forcing the NPWS to in turn step in to issue a stop work to avoid bad press for the state govt in an unwanted clash. Monga was re run of the same dynamic:


Hence this memo to self in 1995:

Based on such work as this from TWS Canberra:

At Monga late 95/96 on the range near Braidwood. Ian Barnes/Nick Cameron of Forestry had tame folks in a group called Tallaganda Community Action Association locked in to logging places like this:


Picture: Eucalyptus fastigata or Brown Barrel in compartment 836 of Monga taken summer 95-96, with from right Steve Taylor, Indra Esguerra, Andrew Wong and one other unknown.


Picture above: The famous plumwood/pinkwood rainforect species is picture here with Andrew Wong of The Wilderness Society still an ANU student at this stage 1995.


Val Plumwood intervened with a new Friends of Mongarlowe River group as early 1995 and certainly by January 1996 in combo with such as Cath Moore prominent in the Local Green Party. She wasn't having any of that compromise rubbish by these men in TCAA. I have the materials for the showdown called for 22 Feb Braidwood RSL.








This writer treked down from Sydney FoE office myself just like Croobyar in late 94: At a certain point in the politiking you have to actually be there to fortify the local folks. I met Val for the first time. Andrew Wong represented The Wilderness Society and being fairly new to public speaking rambled too much. Val was furious and seemed to blame me as a 'senior organiser'. But FoE as a group had little profile compared to TWS, my ex group so it wasn't up to me. In a way the incident says everything good and scary about Val. She was sick of men stuffing things up, even on the same green side of things, but mainly the industrial loggers and spineless local landholders.

Val Plumwood (surname taken after the rather feminine 'pinkwood' local rainforest species) was the foot in the door for Monga stopping the loggers sleazy politics on the local scene around Braidwood in 1996, no doubt about it. By sheer force of character and intellect. As Woodford reports she put her land where her mouth was too dedicating it to a conservation agreement with the government.

There is a federal election newsletter called Earthright February 1996 with a two page article by Val. It's important to get this on the public record and the internet.


She signs off with this

"Note: This is not an Aboriginal story, (although I have tried to follow some of their explanatory conventions), but the word "Monga" is said to mean "place of many ferns" in the relevant Aboriginal language. Val Plumwood"

She loved that place and no doubt the forest loved her.

Interestingly the word Monga has provenance all across the world. Just as Val Plumwood's intellect has travelled the world too at various universities in the United States and here in Australia.  There is a very high quality Monga Bay website based in Madagascar from memory, website all about conservation and global leading science that is often cross reference on ezine crikey.com.au. Val would definitely approve of this mission:

It's also a term used in Bangladesh referring to a time of hunger in the seasonal cycle. I understand there is a river Honduras too. A style of salsa. A word in Zambia (Congo?).  A location in Japan, and Mozambique.


How intriguing, very much like the mysterious and ferocious intellect of Val Plumwood herself.
Of course as we now know the loggers came back for Monga in 2001 causing serious damage, and a substantial if not all of the area has been included in National Park by late 2004 linking Deua and Budawang, as a sop in some ways for the ongoing devastation by the Eden Chipmill especially in East Gippsland.
Most of the materials in this post are dated for the period 95-96, and I expect most likely are not included in this book I notice just now for the first time: 
Monga intacta After over a decade of campaigning, the whole of Monga Forest is now protected and gazetted as Monga National Park. Many of the people gathered knew the ins ...
It looks like a good book, and maybe could have benefited from some of the original materials at the post above. The SAm editor was never invited to contribute or interviewed and I didn't know about that book launch by TWS. That's how things play in the green movement.
It's been instructive to spend some time to get some of our history on record on the web for this period. It's actually very educational about real politik of winning forest campaigns against the forces of darkness which our expertise, and probably distinct from academic skills or artistic merit.
Vale Val Plumwood, dedicated forest defender. RIP sister of the forest. Condolences to her friends and family and professional colleagues at this time. There appears to be a growing determination to hold a memorial event for her "next month" which seems like an excellent plan.

My feeling is many from Sydney will be interested to support such an event. Not least the feminist movement.


Posted by editor at 9:01 PM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 9 March 2008 10:50 AM NZT

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