The other night I watched a movie called Main Street. I picked it at random because the blurb made it sound interesting and it had Colin Firth in it.
The blurb said that it was about a town that had fallen on to hard times and a stranger who had arrived in town with a proposition that could change everything.
Well, the proposition turned out to be the storage of hazardous waste and while the characters in the film all had happy endings it was not certain if the town would take this route to prosperity.
That was the real story for me. Is the risk of bringing hazardous waste into your town worth the financial gain?
I can see both sides of the arguement. On the one hand nobody wants to see their town die, their shops closed and their young people move away to look for work elsewhere. The people in my area where have lived through this. Apples, farming and timber were the industries that the Huon Valley depended on for many years but gradually they have all declined. Locals tell me that in the early 1990s so many people were leaving that houses were almost being given away. There are towns like ours all over Australia and it’s understandable that when a large company wants to build, say a pulp mill, there are many people who think it’s a good thing for the district even if it’s environmentally questionable.
I know that I would have no problem in saying no to a hazardous waste dump in my town no matter how much money it would bring I just feel that it would not be worth the risk.However, the issues we have here in Tasmania are more difficult.
When I first came here over ten years ago I realised that forestry was something that people were very passionate about. I worked with women whose husbands income depended directly or indirectly on it. I saw cars with stickers that said “Greens Tell Lies” which I found very disturbing. It is very much a personal matter to many people. The very strong dislike that many people here have for green politics has probably pushed me in that direction out of sheer contrariness.
I’m a moderate myself, I hate confrontation and always look for compromise. I wouldn’t want to ban all logging but in my heart of hearts I feel that cutting down old growth forests to make woodchips is just wrong. If we must do this I’d prefer to see the timber used for something that people can appreciate like some of the lovely timber furniture that is made here. I know that forests that are logged are replanted but will they be allowed to live to over a hundred years without being disturbed.? I’m not sure. Once you cut down an old tree it’s gone forever. You can put another tree there but it won’t be the same. I know there are a lot of people like me and others more extreme who will go to any lengths to stop timber processing. I don’t always agree with their methods.It’s not a problem we’re going to solve very easily.
So if a town decides to take the moral high ground and say no to industry there has to be something else. I like the idea of making communities more self sufficient with things such as community gardens and co-ops to help people feed themselves and survive the hard times. I like the idea of farmers diversifying to other products and manufactureres finding niche markets, maybe a lot of little things are better for the community than one big one.
I have also read of many rural towns in Australia who have encouraged new residents to move there by offering cheap rents. It seems to work well for some.
Thinking about all this led me to discover the website of Renew Australia, This is an organisation that works with communities and property owners to take otherwise empty shops, offices, commercial and public buildings and make them available to incubate short term use by artists, creative projects and community initiatives.
I think these sorts of ideas can work. Recently I went to a meeting about the demolition of buildings at the local school. It was reassuring to see that the hall was full of a diverse group of people, from elderly residents who had gone to the school themselves, former teachers, young parents and people like myself who have come here in past few years and care about the community as a whole.I do believe that if communities can come together things can change for the better and we won’t need to compromise our ideals.
Links to organisations and businesses in Geeveston.