On the wind over the mountains


Blue Mountains lookout

The Blue Mountains, part of the geological formation which stretch from north to south on the east coast of Australia.
The Blue Mountains are the one just west of Sydney, the first big natural impediment for the colonizers of the continent in early 19th Century.
It took British sanctioned explorer about 25 years to find a way through, although there is evidence that earlier settlers succeeded before with the aid of Aboriginal australians, who were living and crossing the mountains for millennia. The Red Hands Cave, near today’s Glenbrook and the Kings Tableland Aboriginal Site testimony over 20,000 years of custodianship.

Custodianship. Aboriginal australians were living on this continent as hunter-gatherer for more than 40,000 years (some evidence dates even earlier).
They had an understanding of the environment unparalleled by any technologically advanced settler.

You have been reading Collapse, by Jared Diamond.
The chapter about Australia (Mining Australia, pg 378) is a fast-paced attempt at depicting the continent as a modern-day example of unsustainable occupancy: erosion, top soil depletion, rising salinity, overgrazing, unrestrained mining of natural and geological resources.

Diamond is right, Australia is an extremely old continent, one were last tectonic activity was so long ago that by now the wind and the water managed to level down most of it.

This image says a lot. No picks, just slow erosion of anything standing on the way of the wind.
The wind that famously brought a striking dust storm all the way to Sydney City.
That dust is what is happening to Australia’s top soil, blowing away.
Diamond writes ‘Australia has been and still is “mining” its renewable resources as if they were mining minerals. That is, they are being over exploited at rates faster than their renewal rates, with the result that they are declining. At present rates, Australia’s forests and fisheries will disappear long before its coal and iron reserves, which is ironic in view of fact that the former are renewable but the latter aren’t.’

This is an extremely successful book, from a rather remarkable man. The level of success exerted Jennifer Marohasy, Director, Environment Unit, Institute of Public Affairs, to come out with an official-sounding response.
In her report Australia’s Environment Undergoing Renewal, Not Collapse, she argue against Diamond’s assertions as being formulated using second-hands accounts from (bitterly stated) environmental activists. She writes: ‘Sadly, the chapter concerning Australia is full of factually incorrect information. His general philosophical approach and disregard for the evidence is an affront to his profession and to science’.
Marohasy writes a graph-filled report addressing one by one the claims of Diamonds, presenting a progressive, thoughtful and effective use of resources by farmers, fisherman and governing bodies of Australia.

Now then, we all are concerned about the environment, the future of our children and are driven to make sure there is a tomorrow for them.
We also know that statistics can be read in different ways.
Jennifer Marohasy has been a popular academic in the Howard’s years, presenting paper and reports from the director’s chair of a privately subsidized lobbying group, the Australian Environment Foundation. She’s widely recognized as a Global-warming sceptic.

You saw on the other hand another propaganda exercise recently, The power of community:how Cuba survived Peak Oil, a documentary about the inspiring solutions Cubans had to resort to face the collapse of their economy following the withdraw of the Soviet Union as the major supporter and economic partner of the little republic.
The Cuban had to rethink they’re whole production system, started to turn their lawns into vegetable patches and diverted their effort into micro-economies.
Now, I met plenty of ex-cuban who are not that happy to go down the streets flag in hands to herald a totalitarian system as the answer to world complexities, yet, read through the lines.

This guys saw that the way to a sustainable future is via self-sufficiency, not from oranges from Brazil or rice from China or apples from Israel.

You also went to see 2012. Sorry, you usually don’t take part in cheap Hollywood-style sensationalism (and cash-in consequences). You saw it and you can happily go back to your life as an outsider from main-culture movers. Thanks, but no thanks. Great computer generated imagery, but you your mind kept going back to a man you met recently, a past as an astrophysicist for one of the major agency in Europe who quietly and coldly stated: ‘I’ve seen the calculations, 2012 is coming and is just gonna be disastrous‘.
Ok, you replied, ‘but all I can do as a man is affect what is closest to me. I wouldn’t be able to stop the planets to align, all I can do is affect what is in reach on my hands. That’s where my effort is going’

An interview is coming up, on ABC Radio’s Bush Telegraph, you will talk with John Thorpe about foraging.
Interesting how Greg, the interviewer, really tried to get some controversy happening, at some point asking: ‘so Diego, tell me, would there be some Noxious Weeds you would forage? Dont worry, John is not listening‘ (?!)

Let’s be more clever about the issues, should we?

About info

Diego Bonetto is a multimedia artist living and practicing in Sydney, Australia, and is a key member of artists' collectives SquatSpace and the BigFAGPress. -The SquatSpace collective has been producing ground-breaking events and projects since 2000. The group has been curated in a number of shows both in Australia and overseas. The current initiatives, the Redfern-Waterloo Tour of beauty (www.squatspace.com/redfern) tackle issues of social representation and the politics of space generated by gentrification. -The BigFagPress (BFP) is a publishing facility housed in Wooloomooloo, Sydney. The BFP is a salvaged 4-tonnes Off-set proof press. The press allows for the creation of countless artworks by keen printmakers and self-started publishers. www.bigfagpress.org Diego has also been working with WeedyConnection, an environmental art campaign. The project involves an online resource (www.weedyconnection.com), short documentary films, cooking shows, blogs, installations, prints, facebook interventions and various site-specific installations in the form of self-guided tours. WeedyConnection tackle the anthropocentric view of what environment should look like. Based on research and data provided by disciplines as far apart as biology, anthropology, paloenthology, social ecology and ethno botany it formulates ethical questions about cultural representation in times of environmental urgency.
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One Response to On the wind over the mountains

  1. marga says:

    hmmm, i saw that film a couple of weeks ago in india, all i’m saying is i want those 3 hours of my life back. re climate change, its all kicked off over here as the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (a world-renowned centre focused on the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change) have had emails leaked that imply that they were trying to falsify figures to exaggerate human involvement in climate change, so now every climate change denier is coming out the closet to a resounding chorus of “i told you so”. Go to this guardian on line article if you want to read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/20/climate-sceptics-hackers-leaked-emails
    When i was in india, even people with little education seemed to know the phrase “global warming” they all know the weather is changing and they all assume it to be man made. Here in scotland, it just rains, as usual…

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