Skip to main content

Why I live 60 meters up a tree

By Miranda Gibson, Special to CNN
October 30, 2012 -- Updated 0351 GMT (1151 HKT)
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
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
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.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
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.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
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.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
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.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
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.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
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.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
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
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
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
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT