Tuesday, January 13, 2009
My wife, my son and I spent the last 5 days in Far North Queensland. Wonderful country up there.
Spent time in the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation where I almost entangled myself in the largest spider web, complete with the largest spider - larger than my hand - that I'd EVER seen in the wild. Waded through crocodile infested creeks, swam in stinger-infested waters, snorkelled on the reef where I saw a huge sea turtle (the largest I'd seen in the wild - EVER), toured the Atherton Tablelands (named after England's finest test captain) and drank copious amounts of beer while sitting by a pool/in a bar/on the beach. Further it rained 400mm in 24 hours on our last day there. Amazing, amazing rain*. Had a lovely time, thanks very much.
While exploring the Daintree it occurred to me that it would be a hell of a shame if the average clown couldn't access Australia's (and the world's) very best national parks and finest scenery. And yet that's what the Daintree protesters were effectively campaigning against in 1983.
They had some great points. The rainforest absolutely should be protected from logging, mining, excessive tourism and associated infrastructure. But what if nobody could actually see the rainforest? Yes it's great to know it's there and that the ecology is being protected by national park and world heritage status but if the average citizen could never gain access, how could we possibly appreciate its beauty, significance and need for preservation? People need to see these pristine, virtually untouched slabs of nature so they can go back home, tell their friends about it and agree that they should be protected from destruction.
As it happened, some of the hippies' fears did rear their ugly heads. Some dodgy development has unfortunately occurred. That's why there needs to be a balance. There's nothing wrong with roads accessing national parks (yes, some forest must be cleared of course). There's nothing wrong with controlled 4WD tracks (by controlled I mean limited tracks, no 'off-track' driving, no camping, no fires etc) and nor is there anything wrong with tourists visiting these parks, as long as the road isn't lined with resorts, ice-cream shops and souvenir stands.
If Joe the Plumber sits at home in Craigieburn in front of his widescreen tv and never sees such environmental beauty, it's much easier for him to vote for chopping it down.
*Melbourne's average annual rainfall is 650mm.