Tag: Tamar Valley Pulp Mill

Setting writing goals

So this is the plan, and as I’ve now articulated it several times – most recently at the resurrected Write Here meeting last weekend – there’s a lot more incentive to stick to the timeline I’ve set myself, and actually achieve it. Or else be shamed into having to confess I failed.

My 2021 calendar and dairy therefore now show the first three days of each week are to be devoted to writing. Notwithstanding life’s unexpected spanners occasionally. And not just writing The Book, since the bread and butter article writing cannot be ignored, but my aim is to be considerably more disciplined about the whole task ahead, and considerably less available to distractions – however pleasurable or tempting invitations to do this or meet for that may be.

So far so good, (but let’s not get too excited; it’s only early February after all) and I feel on track to meet the first milestone in my year-long pact with myself to have the first draft of this book completed by the end of December. But long before that moment arrives my mentor will give initial – and probably brutal – feedback when I’ve completed the first 20,000 words. Goal number one therefore is to reach this target by the end of the month.

Two, or perhaps three months after that I’ll present her with the next 20,000 words. And so on. How many words do I envisage this book will be? How long is a piece of string: I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure I’ll know when I’ve reached The End.

I had a light bulb moment a week or so back while racking my brain to remember when certain actions and events occurred. Eventually I established a clippings archive and so can check these things in the boxes of pulp mill-related news items, letters and articles. But in the early days it never occurred to me to keep such things. Bad move, but then again, who knew in the beginning how important it might be to hang on to them.

But while I might not have the newsprint, I had copies of letters and emails written to my Mum, and to UK- and WA-based friends. I cannot really explain why I chose to keep copies of my weekly letters home, but since writing these missives on the computer, rather than by hand, I had done so. They were the equivalent of a journal, or diary I suppose, and documented our day-to-day activities and life’s ups and downs on the flower farm, at school, and – increasingly during the years of the campaign – opposing the pulp mill.

Pulling these files down from the cupboard and flipping through them has certainly stirred some memories, as well as confirmed a few key dates. These letters have also made achieving that target a lot easier; why reinvent the wheel when the description has already been written, and with an immediacy and a freshness it would be hard to replicate so many years on.

There was certainly no expectation that decision to keep copies – a decision I would have been hard-pressed to explain to myself even then – would ever prove to be so invaluable for the years that spanned the pulp mill campaign. But I’m certainly now thanking my younger self for doing so.

Photo credit: Garry Stannus

Memories of Buck

Of those who campaigned long and hard to ensure the pulp mill would never pollute the Tamar Valley, there were many who didn’t live to see it through to the end. Some of these people I knew only from reputation, some I didn’t know at all, and one or two I knew quite well. Several others have died in the years since. The most recent of these was a man who during, and afterwards, became a good friend, and who – together with his wife Joan – is among my interviewees for the book.

The magnificent Buck Emberg left the world on the last day of November, after a life that truly was well-lived. He’d been a teacher, writer, philosopher, and restaurateur among other occupations. He was also a wonderful teller of tales about his colourful and varied life.

This being Launceston, although I didn’t get to know Buck properly until the campaign, I’d actually met him briefly years before, during the florist shop days when he ordered flowers for Joan – perhaps for her birthday or their anniversary. Being Buck, he wanted to swap stories about our respective non-Tasmanian backgrounds and how we came to be living here. Buck was American, with Swedish ancestry. His name stuck in my memory too because of occasional articles in the paper that mentioned the Embergs, and their belief the thylacine wasn’t extinct at all. Buck was convinced they’d seen one, and he and Joan were making plans to follow some strong leads and prove these elusive animals were still around. It didn’t happen of course.

A decade or so later I met them both again at the meetings of Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill, or TAP, a group I only attended infrequently, but which they went to regularly. Buck and Joan were the architects of the amazingly successful Voters Block initiative, designed to make the state’s politicians sit up and take notice that the mill issue crossed party lines, and people were prepared to vote for those candidates who opposed the mill. It remains the largest petition ever to be presented to Tasmania’s parliament, and it threatened the cosy Liberal and Labor duopoly. It also indicated a significant increase in support for the Greens in the lead up to the 2010 state election – indicative of community opposition to the pulp mill.

A newspaper that focused on the facts about the mill, challenging the spin that had become a regular feature of Gunns’ ‘mouthpiece’, The Examiner, was another of Buck’s clever and creative campaign ideas. Only one issue was ever produced, but it served its purpose, and was subsequently used as a referenced authority on many aspects relating to the mill, and the negative impacts it would have on the region’s economy, environment, and the health of all those living in Launceston and the Tamar Valley.

No surprise then that the wake held in December was an opportunity for Buck’s many friends from those campaign days to reminisce and remind ourselves and others of what a determined and committed community can achieve. It was also a sharp reminder for me to be much more focused in the coming year, and ensure the first draft of this book is completed.

Photo credit: Susie Clarke