Saturday, June 21, 2008

Solstice Light

Intense solstice light spreads across the river valley. It’s a sleepy kind of day in what Brisbane residents call mid-winter. Coming from southern climes, this seems like a warm spring day. There is a hint of coolness in the delicate breeze; but the heat is pervasive, especially out of the shade. In Brisbane there is very little respite from the daunting summer sun. Happily that is still a few weeks away.

Last night a large orange not-quite-full-moon rose slowly above the hill. It looked magnificent as it heralded in the longest night. I watched as stars began to sprinkle the darkening canopy with bursts of lumino-esssence until the sky was sponged all over with lustrous clusters. What stood out were the two white pointers of the Southern Cross, alpha and beta Centauri, shining even more prominently than those of its emblematic cousin. While high in the sky flowed the dazzling river of stars, the Milky Way.

American poet and global justice activist Drew Dellinger writes in one of his magical poems the laws of earth and objects of feeling the 'strange music' of the heart of this dazzling skyway.

'at the core of the Milky Way there's a black hole with a ring of blue
stars around it
at the core of the Milky Way there's a black hole with a ring of blue
stars around it

does anyone else feel this strange music?'
(Drew Dellinger)

Dellinger's poetry talks about the ineffable, the spiritual quest and the necessity of merging environmental activism with social justice. He believes that the terms cosmos and justice are synonymous with beauty and uses his beautiful words and his commitment to action to move the hearts of those who feel the 'strange music', where his voice intermingles with the voice of the cosmos.

A performance poet, as well as a reflective activist, Dellinger features on several online sites. In one titled The Poetry of Gratefulness 08, I find his breathtaking and passionate Love Letter to the Milky Way and these words explode off the screen: 'I inherit the voice of the Milky Way in dreams.' It touches me deeply.

So I search among other sites and find a copy of this most powerful poem whose lines ripple with the flow of the Brisbane River as I walk along its edge on this shortest day. It is indeed a homage to the starlight, to the cosmos, to the intimate confluence of human and nature, and to his passion for the planet.

Love Letter the the Milky Way

'I want to tell you about love
There are approximately 1 trillion galaxies
I want to tell you about
In the Milky Way there are about 100 billion stars
I want to tell you
Love is the breath of the cosmos
I want to write a love letter to the Milky Way
Everything is an expression of the galaxy
My 30 trillion cells
The four noble truths
The eight - fold path
The five precepts
The seven energy centers of the body
Everything is the Milky Way
Including my lover,
and every kiss
of every lover that’s ever

Your skin
the texture of the cosmos
the religion beyond religion
I want to know you like the wind knows the canyon
or the rain knows the rivulets
Lightening is continuously striking in 100 places every moment
The universe spills through our dreams
The future belongs to the most compelling story
Even the word "love"
is not adequate to define
the force that wove
the fabric of
If we could sense everything at once
like Krishna entering with all the memory of his past
then I could tell you about love.'
(Drew Dellinger)

Friday, June 20, 2008

River Health Auditing

Just this week the federal government released its River Health Audit. Out of the 23 river valleys listed, only one is gets a positive tick. The quality of other major rivers in Australia is deemed 'poor' and 'very poor' - 13 river systems are described as 'very poor'.

The government's first solution is to blame the previous government while allocating $3.1 billion to buy back water towards restoring the health of the waterways. Buy back water?

The bigger issue of combatting climate change is also part of the restoration program - but there was no discussion of how this is to be achieved. With less rain, reduced water flow, lowered water quality, and a demand for irrigation, what is the future for these wild rivers?

River water is valuable - so valuable in fact that it is sold off. This means that for the river itself, and the ecosystem services that depend on a health water flow, are under threat from severe degradation.

River revival projects are underway all over the country. What is crucial about these projects is support from local residents and water users. Ecological and scientific experts are working with the community, first gauging knowledges the community holds about the riverine ecosystem, their attitudes towards the stakeholder engagement process, and the values held about the river and river environment quality.

Important in this process is an understanding of community values on issues such as aesthetics, water quality, recreational amenity, pollution, riverbank health, native vegetation and wildlife. For example, a study of river attitudes about restoration on the Cooks River in NSW by Andrews and Smith (2006) found that the community was generally aware of the link between the presence of vegetation and river health and most understood the connection between dense vegetation and river quality when compared to more open space river surroundings.

The study also showed that residents thought that native vegetation along the river added to the river's beauty in comparison to their attitudes about 'enhancing the ecology of the place'. And of interest to Brisbane River environs, the study found that while most residents held a positive attitude towards the recolonisation of mangroves along the river, others were 'displeased' about loss of view and river access due to the dense growth.

Andrews V and L Smith, 2006, A community-based survey: the knowledge and attitudes towards urban biodiversity
of the residents and users of the Cooks River Corridor, Final report for an Urban Ecology Project at the University of Technology Sydney, October 2006