I am so grateful that I am spending my semester in New South Wales, Australia, through SIT’s Environmental Action and Sustainability study abroad program. During my time here, I have learned from leading environmentalists, listened to impactful activists, been exposed to the indigenous Aboriginal culture, and experienced indescribable moments of connection with Earth. It is not an exaggeration to say that I am inspired and humbled every day by the places I travel to. There is no doubt that this opportunity has enhanced my studies and pointed me down the right career path of advocating for the natural world through law and policy.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege to experience the wilderness of Tasmania. A place that has profoundly deepened my appreciation and love I hold for Earth. I had the honor to hear from Miranda Gibson, a woman who played a significant role in the blockade of the Upper Florentine Valley. During this protective movement that lasted six years, individuals came together and “locked-on” to defend the precious Old Growth Eucalyptus Regnans. This blockade prevented logging trucks from coming in and destroying these beautiful giants. Not all of the trees could be saved, but if it wasn’t for brave environmentalists the entire area of the Upper Florentine Valley would’ve been stumps of what was.
To walk in a forest that was going to be destroyed was one of the most powerful and profound experiences of my life. The beauty that one forest, one island, one planet, can hold is absolutely extraordinary. The protection of places like the forests of Tasmania is unbelievably important. Humans do not have domain over nature, Earth is our home and we as a species are pushing her beyond her limits.
Hanna Malzenski is a journalism major pursuing a certificate in sustainability at the University of Iowa. She will be spending her semester in Byron Bay, Australia, on the SIT Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action program.