Skip to main content

Why I live 60 meters up a tree

By Miranda Gibson, Special to CNN
updated 11:51 PM EDT, Mon October 29, 2012
Miranda Gibson lives on a 60-meter high platform in a 400-year-old tree in Tasmania, Australia
Miranda Gibson lives on a 60-meter high platform in a 400-year-old tree in Tasmania, Australia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activist Miranda Gibson wants to protect 572,000 hectares of old-growth forest
  • Talks between environmentalists and loggers have broken down
  • Vows to live in the 400-year-old tree until a deal is reached

Editor's note: For 10 months, Australian environmental activist Miranda Gibson has been living on a platform in a Eucalyptus tree 60 meters above the ground in Tasmania's southern forest. She's vowing to stay there until the forests receive greater state protection from logging. Gibson writes a blog from her Observertree.

Tyenna Valley, Tasmania (CNN) -- Like many I have been anxiously waiting the outcome of the Tasmanian "forest peace talks."

But unlike most, I have done so 200 feet (60 meters) above the ground, perched at the top of an old growth tree whose fate depends upon them. A tree I climbed 10 months ago and vowed not to leave until the forests were protected.

And then on Saturday the news hit -- the talks had collapsed.

The two years of talks between environment groups, unions and industry representatives failed to find the resolution to bring the industry out of crisis and protect Tasmania's high conservation value forests. No deal means clear-felling of old growth forests is set to continue.

The tree that has been my home since December 14 last year is a part of 572,000 hectares at the center of the debate. Verified by scientific experts to be of world heritage value, it should have have been on its way to formal protection. And I should have been on my way out of this tree and into a long hot bath!

Environmental activist Miranda Gibson
Environmental activist Miranda Gibson

Unfortunately the forestry industry had other ideas, digging in its heels when it came to final crunch.

Neither the science nor the economics seem to have won out. The Tasmanian forestry industry is in crisis and being propped up by tax payer funds. There are some who may want to put their heads in the sand, but we cannot go on ignoring today's market realities of a worldwide trend towards environmentally friendly products.

From my tree top platform, I have Skyped my way around the globe, speaking to thousands of people. And the message is clear, people don't want to buy furniture and flooring made from the destruction of endangered species habitat, community water catchments or globally significant carbon sinks.

The failure of the talks has created uncertainty for the future of the forests here. And with it, uncertainty for me. With no end in sight, who knows how long it will be before I set foot on the ground again?

I have already become the Australian record holder for the longest time spent in a tree, after I reached 209 days back in July this year. I hope, for the sake of the forests, that I will not need to break the world record held by Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat for two years in a Californian Redwood.

'Himalayan Viagra' takes its toll on Nepal's environment

In the upper branches of this 400-year-old tree I have endured high wind, snow, hail and extreme conditions. It's been a tough winter, that's for sure. And the weather isn't the only challenge.

Living on a three meter platform suspended in the tree tops adds difficulty to every daily task that I once took for granted. No turning on the tap for hot water or going to the shops if you run out of milk! I have to bathe in a small bucket. And I haul up everything I need on a long rope, relying on support from the community for donations of food and supplies.

Luckily support has flooded in, from all walks of life, locally and internationally. The many people who visit the base of the tree to say thank you have been overwhelmingly inspirational. And it has helped me get through what is the hardest part of this experience -- the loneliness of being separated from my loved ones.

Yet, no matter how challenging, there are constantly moments when I am awe-struck by the beauty of this forest. The coating of snow across the forest in winter, the star speckled skies of summer nights or watching endangered wedge-tailed eagles soar in the skies above.

I have watched the seasons come and go. And with it, new life in the forest. Conservationists placed hidden cameras in the forest below, capturing footage of a mother Tasmanian Devil, the day before logging began. This iconic Australian species is listed as endangered in both federal and state legislation.

Luckily, the media spotlight from my action had the loggers packing up and leaving after a week, giving these young devils a chance of survival. In February 2012, to our delight, footage was taken of the juvenile devils exploring the world. Sadly, with the collapse of the talks, logging of their habitat could begin again any day now.

Autumn color around the world

Many people ask my why I am willing to sacrifice everything in my life, give up my chance to spend time with family and friends, and put my career as a high school teacher on hold, in order to sit in a tree.

But when I look around me at this unique and irreplaceable ecosystem the answer is simple: I sit in this tree because from here I believe it is possible to save this forest once and for all.

Of course, it takes more than one woman perched 60 meters above the ground; it takes an international community. And I have been able to share my story with the world, powered by solar panels and blogging about my tree top life.

I hope my action will be a catalyst, inspiring others to say no to wood products that come from unsustainable forestry practices. And say yes to the protection of the world's globally significant forests.

Despite the cloud of uncertainty that now looms over the future of these forests, I am one hundred percent committed to staying in this tree for as long as it takes to see this forest receive the protection it deserves.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Miranda Gibson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT