A couple of states away, thirteen brave climate activists are fighting a massive corporate claim themselves, this time from Tasmania’s biggest company, Gunns Ltd. They’ve written us a letter of support:
The members of the Gunns 13 wish to express our strongest support and solidarity with the Rising Tide 7. It is unconscionable for some of our country’s most profitable and powerful corporations to misuse Victim’s of Crime compensation to pursue activists. The real victims are not these corporations but the millions of disadvantaged people across the globe who face despair and dislocation because of the impacts of climate change.
In taking the brave step of highlighting Australia’s complicity in the heating of our planet, through massive exports of coal, the Rising Tide 7 are performing a vital service to communities around the globe. They should be applauded for this action rather than threatened with fines and bankruptcy.
In December 2008 13 Tasmanian forest activists conducted a peaceful action at Gunns’ Triabunna Woodchip Mill, on the island’s East Coast. The action generated media and debate about the climate change impact of logging native forests, the threats arising from a proposed pulp mill in the Tamar Valley and the loss of natural habitat for iconic endangered species. The thirteen activists were exercising their right as citizens to protest against the degradation of native forests, clean air and healthy waterways; natural assets shared by all Tasmanians. In the following months, activists who had attended the protest were served writs by lawyers acting for Gunns Ltd. The writs claimed damages for lost business and exemplary damages for trespass. Activists faced the prospect of lengthy court proceedings, hefty legal bills and possible bankruptcy.
In late 2010, Gunns Limited announced that it planned to make a strategic move away from the logging of native forests, to pursue Forest Stewardship Council certification and to close several of its native forest woodchip facilities. The news coincided with the signing of a statement of principles by major logging industry and environmental groups. The principles chart a path towards protection of all native forests and a sustainable plantation based future for the forestry industry.
The Gunns 13 hope that this new acceptance of change will open up possibilities for the resolution of social conflict over forest management.
We believe that activists and communities around Australia will be incensed and inspired by the attack on free speech and public participation that this case represents.