Outdoor clothing label Patagonia have long been campaigners for environmental issues. For more than 30 years, their ‘1% For The Planet program’ has supported grassroots campaigns, raising almost $90 million to preserve the natural world. Now Patagonia has turned its attention towards securing World Heritage protection for Tasmania’s ancient and unique Tarkine/takayna rainforest – with the help of a trail-running doctor.
“Tarkine is more than one million acres of wild county, including the biggest temperate rainforest in Australia. River systems largely unsullied by humanity, a wild coastline across which blows the cleanest air on the planet. There is no other place like it in the world” – Former Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown
If you’ve ever caught the running bug then you’ll know – the best way to explore a new place, or even get to know your own city is on foot. Hitting the road, maybe early in the morning, and always with a mind opened by that calming, meditative endorphin rush that distance running brings is a tonic for the soul.
But what if this ability humans have to run great distances can also be deployed in the fight to save one of the world’s wildest regions – the Tarkine of north-west Tasmania?
That’s the question explored in a new film by Patagonia, which follows local doctor – and trail runner – Nicole Anderson, and her work with the Bob Brown Foundation’s campaign to secure World Heritage protection for the region.
Patagonia’s Environmental & Social Initiatives Manager Shannon Bourke says the Tarkine is an area of outstanding natural and cultural significance, that is under direct threat from the resources industries. “The takayna/Tarkine…is home to one of the last undisturbed tracts of Gondwanan rainforest in the world, and one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal archaeology in the hemisphere,” Shannon says. “This place is currently at the mercy of destructive extractive industries, including logging and mining.
“The Tarkine campaign has been running for more than four decades now and so Patagonia has joined the fight, calling for the Tasmanian State Premier, Will Hodgman, to nominate takayna / Tarkine for World Heritage protection.”
The Tarkine region is vast and, despite being on public land, the logging areas are hidden away behind locked gates, making it difficult to access and see what’s going on. Covering as much as 50km on a run through the forestry operations area, Nicole Anderson acts as a scout and reports back to activists. “Nicole uses her running to assess pockets of the Tarkine’s rainforest that have been logged by the forestry industry and reports back to the foundation’s campaigners,” Shannon Bourke says.
In the Patagonia film we see the doctor visit areas that have been clear-fellled and then burned to ensure no native plants or trees survive. Nicole is there to document the destruction with images and film, reporting back on access points and providing evidence that the Tasmanian Government’s claims that they are harvesting timber responsibly is just spin.
Takayna is the Aboriginal name for the Tarkine and Patagonia’s film also explores the historical and cultural significance of the coastline with Heritage Officer Sharnie Read from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
“Aboriginal voices are at the centre of the Tarkine campaign,” Shannon Bourke says “The Aboriginal community’s connection to the Tarkine isn’t one from their past. It is an ongoing connection that has continued for 60,000 years until the present day. The cultural heritage values of the Tarkine coastline are also globally significant as they are representative of one of the oldest living cultures on Earth.”
In October 2017, a significant part of the Tarkine was returned to traditional ownership thanks to a partnership between the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), the Bob Brown Foundation, the Tasmania Land Conservancy and philanthropist Graeme Wood.
The takayna film is inspiring on many levels. The dedication of the Traditional Owners and activists in protecting this amazing corner of wilderness is extraordinary, while the film’s appreciation of the landscape will make you want to get outside and explore the natural world. Shannon Bourke says people have really got on board with the campaign since it was launched in June.
“The response to our takayna film and petition calling for World Heritage protection has exceeded our expectations” Shannon says. “After just 6 weeks we’ve had over 63,000 people, from Australia and all around the world, sign and send a clear message to Premier Hodgman calling for action. It’s one of the biggest responses we’ve had to an Australian campaign at Patagonia, and we’re still going.”
You can watch the film and sign the petition to nominate takayna / Tarkine for World Heritage protection on the Patagonia Australia website.
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Feature Image by Krystle Wright. All images by Krystle Wright and Mikey Schaefer, courtesy of Patagonia.