April 12th, 2007
This photo is by Geoff Cuningham (published in The Best of Australian Geographic Photography). It is of a velvet gecko pausing on some Aboriginal rock art, and to me it is the perfect symbol of the intimate connection between Aboriginal culture and the natural world on this continent. I consider this to be one of the most memorable Australian nature photographs.
The Aboriginals weren’t saints when it came to environmental sustainability, but they were a lot more attuned to the textures, patterns and forms native to Australia than the Europeans who arrived after them. Part of this came from hunting native animals: the hunter perforce has a deep knowledge of the animals he hunts. Aboriginals also kept Australian animals as pets.
But white Australians can bring Australian life into their homes as well. Michael Archer, author of Going Native, has kept a quoll from infancy in his house, and reports that it makes a better pet than a cat or a dog. The Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia has, over the last few years, legalised the keeping of lizards, so that you can now have even a big monitor lizard. In the next few years they will hopefully get around to legalising the keeping of marsupials such as quolls. If a native pet industry grew up then conservation would have another ally. But more than this we would have little Australians in our houses, bringing us white people closer to having a bioregional consciousness.
With knowledge could come love.
April 11th, 2007
This is the south-east of France, in the hills north-west of Lyon that drain into the Soane River. At the start of 2001 I stood on a hill here, near the tiny village of St. Cyr le Chatoux. I was alone and I sat down on a grassy bank beside the road, and looked out into the valley before me. This is what I saw. The pastoral quiet and gentle sunshine still rise clearly from my memory.
Monet’s Poppies is a painting familiar to many. Take a look at this new take on that old painting. I saw this image recently and it made me think anew about the concept of pastoral in the rural landscape. The machine in the garden marks a turn for the pastoral idyll of literature past, and this painting is a kind of anti-pastoral spoof of Monet’s pastoral scene.
April 9th, 2007
This is one of the most memorable photographs in the history of the Australian conservation movement (thanks to the Terania Action Network). The year is 1979 and one of the last pockets of the subtropical rainforest of the central eastern Australian coast is about to be logged at Terania Creek. A hundred or so long haired hippy types arrive, and for the first time Australians see images in the media of direct confrontations between conservationists and police and loggers. This photo stand out though.
Here we see the power of physical affection to break down barriers. Authority is humanised through love, not further strengthened through the expression of hate. In this one moment caught on film, we see how the ‘pig’ in black and white can become the man with the beating heart. I think in contemplating the issue of climate change today we need to remember this image. Instead of become frustrated with the majority of our fellow citizens lethargy when it comes to becoming carbon neutral, we need to take a deep breath and talk to somebody about the issue you might not normally talk to. Instead of ‘shouting at the idiots for not doing enough’, remember that everybody is, as W. H. Auden said, ‘jealous of their privacy and easily hurt’. Everybody is human. Approach with the sentiment of brotherhood and unity and you’ll get more traction. The best tool in the skill kit of the active conservationist is to find something to love in that man or woman who doesn’t seem to care. And then to draw them forward with gentle prods and hints.
Ok all you young dudes, the hippies who are now in their fifties were right…