31st October 2012

Hurricane Sandy is still pounding the East Coast of America and Australians are sending prayers and well wishes to those that are suffering at the hands of Mother Nature.   Both our continents know the full force of what Nature can throw at our landscapes, and yesterday Matthew sent me the following images of what Hurricane Sandy looks like in relation to 3 other equal events both in Australia and the United States.

 
 
 
In my world over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity of going “bush” and I mean really bush.  Hours and hours of driving into Western New South Wales to meet communities interested in protecting their Koalas.    I stayed with a wheat farmer and as I washed up in the kitchen I looked out of the window, there was wheat growing, an orphaned baby kangaroo waiting for his bottle of milk (his Mum had been shot), and a Red Heeler dog tied up because she wanted to chase all of the snakes away from the house.  It was paradise, and it took me back to my childhood when I wanted to be a farmer reading books about Outback Australia.   In the garden there was a rose bush, with a yellow rose that was absolutely covered in blooms, hundreds of them, and I actually couldn’t believe that something so delicate could grow in this harsh landscape.  There were Koalas in the bush just behind the house, and since I left, an orphaned Koala is now in residence (I will get his photo in due course).
 
The farmers are getting older and they want their land to be protected as I do with my property.  Who will buy it?  Will it be sold to a new young couple?  Will it be gobbled up by a bigger farm which is the current trend in our world? The economists say that is more efficient, but is it? In my world I would prefer a young couple to be able to buy this small farm and have a wonderful family life. We all know that monocultures are not good for the environment and perhaps not for communities either.  As I flew in, I saw hundreds of single men’s dwellings for the fly in and fly out mining operations in the district.  In each and every pub there were notices in the women’s toilets about violence against women which is on the rise in the community.  What is happening to our local towns?  Is this good for us and do these people care about the Koalas in this district?  They probably don’t even know they are there.  While sitting in milk bars (like a soda fountain), people came up to me telling me of the things they felt were “wrong” in their communities.   Hot harsh winds, dying trees, landscapes that may never recover and large corporations that want to see the end of family farming.  I also got to see some Koala habitats, a large portion of which has just been cleared.  Yesterday I also saw 4 beautiful Koala trees cut down, one of which would have to be 200 or more years old.     The landholder, and the people cutting it down were not Australians by birth and as I watched them destroy our beautiful landscape I realised they don’t love it like I do.   Because they come from another country, gumtrees can actually look like messy, dangerous things, and they are also afraid of an untamed landscape; Snakes, “bugs”, and limbs that may fall on the house. The man told me “nothing lives in those trees”.   That is not true.   Hundreds of native insects, birds, sugar gliders, possums and of course Koalas (and the closest one is about 500 metres away) fed on these trees and they are now gone.
 
It was also a full moon when I had to watch the empty space, and deep in my heart I know that felling these trees was, in part, a contribution to the ferocity of Hurricane Sandy. 
 
Our politicians are deaf to the fury of Mother Nature as she grows more and more angry about what we are doing to the planet. 
They are so caught up in making money and struggling for power that they forget that there are now 7 billion people on this fragile world.  That many of these people are starving to death and that the farm I stayed on is part of the solution to feeding those people.  It behoves everyone for it to be a safe and enduring landscape.
At our Board meeting last week, I told my fellow long term members, including our Founder, that the Koala is caught up in a huge jigsaw puzzle that feels overwhelming to solve.   I also told them that unless our politicians and us, the everyday humans on this huge world grapples with how to protect our biodiversity and landscape, the Koala will slowly go to extinction as will other landscapes and animals.
 
As I slowly percolate on where to next, and there is a where to next I can assure you, I know that one simple thing is missing.    And this is a fundamental respect for  the environment that has kept us safe and fed and clothed for millennia. I also know that Mother Nature is not going to let us forget that lack of respect.