Global Perspective: The War of the Camphor Laurels | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Global Perspective

Global Perspective: The War of the Camphor Laurels

Play associated audio
Bellingen, cocooned by a million camphor laurels. Copyright - photographer Gethin Coles.
Bellingen, cocooned by a million camphor laurels. Copyright - photographer Gethin Coles.


Stand at the Bellingen look-out, high above one of the many river valleys on the north coast of Australia’s New South Wales, and waves of camphor laurel trees spread out beneath you. Camphors and more camphors as far as the eye can see… Huge exotic invaders planted by British colonists, now turning the land bright green. They’re undeniably pretty - but there isn’t much diversity. Nothing grows under a camphor laurel—or not a lot.

A million camphor laurel trees have spread throughout the Bellinger valley. It’s only taken them a hundred years to dominate the land. Once it was huge figs, brush box, Australian red cedar and rosewood – today it’s a sea of camphor laurels. As one local says, “To a tree-lover they look magnificent, but to a lover of native forests they look like giant weeds.” 

Bellingen is a picturesque and eccentric little Australian country town, utopian, unusually community minded and wildly divergent in its population's views on the nature of Bellingen itself, a once farming, then hippy, now barista-culture town that still prides itself on its individualism. 

Right now the town’s at war over whether the 100 year camphor laurels shading the café strip – should be chopped down. Greens want them gone while the local conservative Councilor – a retired logger - has declared he’ll fight them all the way. Everybody has an opinion; sometimes several. 

“The war of the camphor laurels” was produced and presented for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation by Nicole Steinke. The sound engineer was Timothy Nicastri. Photos courtesy of Gethin Coles and Pip Wilson.


Former Basketball Player Scores As A Filmmaker

While Deon Taylor was playing professional basketball in Germany, he had an epiphany: he wanted to make movies. The self-taught director's latest film, Supremacy, was released this Friday.

Surströmming Revisited: Eating Sweden's Famously Stinky Fish

Sweden has the distinction of producing surströmming, one of the foulest-smelling foods in the world. More than a decade ago, NPR's Ari Shapiro tried eating it and failed. It's time for a rematch.

What Romney's Retreat Means For GOP Hopefuls

NPR's Scott Simon speaks with senior Washington editor Ron Elving about the narrowing Republican presidential field for 2016 and what we've seen so far in the first month of the new Congress.

The Infinite Whiteness Of Public Radio Voices

The hashtag #publicradiovoices, about the "whiteness" of public radio, trended on Twitter this week. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch team about the conversation.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.