[30 May 2006 update: sixth paragraph, extra link added and spelling corrected]
I’ve been back almost two weeks now and think it’s time to write a little about Tasmania.
- The sun is so strong here! Tasmania is closer than most places to the hole in the ozone layer that’s over the Antarctic. It’s very easy to get sunburnt here, my nose is still peeling from my sunburns. In the local weather forecasts there is a prediction for expected UV levels. This – and worse – is what’s in store for the rest of the world if we continue doing this sort of damage to the environment.
- Speaking of the environment, for at least the last 30 years there has been a chasm in Tasmanian society between those people who would like to protect Tasmania’s unique environment and those who would prefer to chop it down (the forestry industry), flood it (hydroelectric power) or dig it up and poison it (the mining industry) for very small numbers of jobs and dollars. It’s probably obvious that I tend to be a Greenie (the colloquial, sometimes derogatory expression for supporters of the Green movement in Australia). Just tonight, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 4 Corners programme investigated Tasmania's on-going forestry debate.
- It is a very isolated place. After living in the USA for six years, even Mainland Australia seems very remote from anywhere else. Tasmania is a further degree of remoteness from the Mainland (as we call the rest of Australia). We are on the edge of most world maps, sometimes left off the map altogether. Tasmania is not on the way to anywhere except Antarctica. There is no doubt that Tasmania is on the periphery of the world affairs. Sometimes people here get a complex about this. Some people long for nothing but to leave and live somewhere that’s more in the middle of things – like Melbourne or Sydney. Other people think that Tasmania must become more like the Mainland and the rest of the world. McDonalds didn’t open in Tasmania until 1990 and you wouldn’t believe how ecstatic some people were about this. I’m not talking about the food either, but because it was some form of recognition by the rest of the world (even if it was a nasty soulless multi-national). Then there are a few who just get defensive about the whole thing.
- I have a different view of this. Although I did leave the place, I did so very reluctantly for a reason which had nothing to do with not liking Tasmania or that Minnesota had better job opportunities (even though this is very true). I know now that there is nothing wrong with the periphery or edge as compared with the centre. Sometimes there are different sorts of issues and priorities, for example, the dominance of the environmental debate in Tasmania. But I realize now that the centre needs the edge as much as the edge needs the centre. The edge is just as important as the centre, but in a different kind of way. One example of this is the role of tourism in Tasmania - which I may write more about later.
- Minnesotans, you may be interested to know that Tasmania is the place where Jon Grunseth disappeared to. WCCO Channel 4 did a story about this a few years ago. He’s done very well here in telecommunications and most recently, exporting Tasmania’s lovely cherries back to Minnesota. I just hope that this former conservative Republican and 1990 Gubernatorial candidate doesn’t get involved in politics here! If he does, I for one will make sure that his political viewpoints and indiscretions from Minnesota are not forgotten over here.