Miranda Gibson sits in the old gum tree

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gum tree

The spirit of Freeman Lowell sits in the canopy of an old Tasmanian gumtree.

It must be a sign of the times.

I recently wrote about Freeman Lowell, a character from the 1972 science fiction movie Silent Running, after a visit to Lord Howe Island, a World Heritage-listed paradise off Australia’s East coast

Lowell (played by actor Bruce Dern) is an ecologist who cares for Earth’s last forests on six giant greenhouse domes attached to the Valley Forge–a spaceship orbiting Saturn. He and his crew manage this complex ecosystem until Earth’s degraded environment stabilises and its vegetation can be restored. However, funding for the project stops and they are ordered to destroy the domes and return home.

Appalled at the implications for Earth’s future, Lowell rebels and saves one of the greenhouses, although he is fatally injured in the process. The dome is then left to drift in space, its prospects bleak– although not entirely hopeless.

In 1972, Silent Running appeared dark, depressing and overwrought.  Now it looks like a documentary. So it’s just as well we have Miranda Gibson — a real-life warrior-woman who is taking drastic action to preserve what’s left of our biosphere in the environmental horror show currently screening near you.

I don’t know if Miranda’s seen Silent Running, but she sure reminds me of Mr Lowell.

In December 2011, she climbed a 400-year-old, 60 metre-high gum tree deep in the Tasmanian wilderness and she promises to stay there until the logging stops. Actually, it has stopped, but only because of her and she knows the moment she leaves it will all start again.

She lives with storms, spiders (lots of them), uncertainty, isolation and the fury of the logging industry. Her occasional human guests say it’s a frightening place to be.

We all have our stories about people. To the loggers, she is an infuriating pest. To environmental activists, she is an inspiration. To others, she is a remnant of the hippie-era and thus easily dismissed.

To me, she embodies the spirit of Freeman Lowell.

Like him, she is taking extreme action.  It’s too late for anything else.  Street marches and letters to politicians are better than nothing, but we can do better than that. What’s called for now is a reinvention of environmental activism.

As our species shuffles onto the casting couch of Silent Running’s nauseating, real-life sequel, please spare a thought for Miranda.  She’s there now, in her tree, with storms and spiders and an uncertain future.

Thanks Miranda. Your courage is as majestic as the forest you protect.

I’m sure if Freeman Lowell existed he would be in the tree right next to you.

Related articles:
Lord Howe Island: Silent running on Earth’s Valley Forge

Sue Bell

Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

One thought on “Miranda Gibson sits in the old gum tree

  • December 23, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I can’t imagine spending one night up in that tree without being completely terrified by the height, wind, spiders and isolation. Incredible, courageous dedication – thank you Miranda.


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