Farewell, sounds of silence

By Tracy Sorensen

Last Saturday I watched as a group of residents from Napoleon Reef tied strips of red, white, blue, black and yellow fabric to old gum trees. It was an exquisite sunny winter day that brought out the colours lifting in the gentle breeze.

 They were there to say goodbye to the mature trees that were in line to be axed to make way for a new road that will carry quarry trucks to and from the site. The residents had put up a long and heart-felt fight against the road, but they'd lost, and now it was time to simply honour what was about to be lost.

 I know it's all about business and jobs and the rights of private property owners to maximise returns on their land, but if we look at it in purely environmental terms, we're exchanging rich biodiversity for landscaping gravel. In terms of the material reality of this bit of the planet, that's what we've decided to do, for good or ill.

 Last Saturday was also National Tree Day. As the Napoleon Reef residents were mourning old, established trees, hundreds of Bathurst residents were out and about planting new trees. This is, of course, a wonderful thing.

 But it is no small thing to lose old trees. Old trees are grand addresses for animals that need hollows to live and breed in. Old trees are cities of biodiversity, harbouring the biological networks that keep an ecosystem rich and resilient.

 At Napoleon Reef, on a spot to be cleared for the road, there was a tree with a hollow about six feet off the ground. There were scratchings around it that showed it was being used. No doubt the animal using it had to struggle for this piece of prime real estate.

 The ground around the tree was veritably thrumming in the warmth of the day, with bees and other insects making the most of all the light yellow wattle and other winter-flowering plants. It's a quiet noise, this thrumming. It comes to the fore during pauses in conversation; when you stop crunching through the bush and listen for a moment.

 It's this bush-quiet that attracted many of the residents of Napoleon Reef in the first place. It's a silence about to be lost as the dusty quarry trucks thunder through.

Tracy Sorensen is the Secretary of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au.

This piece was first published in the Western Advocate, Bathurst, NSW, Australia on Saturday, August 6, 2016.