Saturday, January 23, 2016

Relationships - part 3

One thing I have realised, as I write this series on relationships, is that it started to be about me, and the family I came from. But then it evolved into something else. It inevitably became the story of others too. The story of how a nation was formed, as it comes to terms with its identity. We don't really get to experience the fullness of a relationship, when we experience them alone. So, its important to recognise the other players on the scene with us.

Beyond our immediate family, is our community - beyond that is our State, and the last tier is our nation. Because we see ourselves through all those perspectives, its important to recognise them all. They are each a facet of how we experience the world around us. If you're a religious person, there's another influence to fashion perspective from also.


I posed the question, in part 2, how do we reverse the process of plundering the landscape, and start telling a different story of our relationship with it? Well, the very first step is to recognise its another player in our perspective. I had the advantage of learning of my indigenous heritage, so the stories they were telling for thousands of years, about the landscape being part of who they are - became my story too. But if I were to draw a long bow, I suspect we ALL have this understanding tucked away in our DNA.

Its why taking annual holidays abroad, is so popular. It's why so many yearn to escape the city and take a long, drive in the countryside, or go camping with family and friends. It's the biological knowledge we are to experience the landscape together, as part of who we are. Unfortunately, our modern conveniences (and some of them are sensible advances) have separated us, from the conversation and acknowledgement of our environment. Not just in how it looks, but how we see ourselves in it, and how we respond to it.


We cannot really do that from the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, house and office buildings, most of the time. That important association to landscape, doesn't get acknowledged as we go about our days, keeping the industrial complex, operational. Nature barely gets a look-in, while we put our heads down, bums up and keep moving forwards. We are missing a very important piece in our daily lives however, and it shouldn't only be relegated to domain of gardeners as a hobby.

I sometimes imagine what it would have been like, if the Australian government forming at the start, decided to give the Indigenous Australians some autonomy, and asked them to contribute to how the nation was formed. For example, if they were to keep a portion of their native lands, what would be the sacred places which must not be desecrated. Giving them territory around those sacred places.

 Devil's Marbles Northern Territory
sacred site for local Aboriginal people

Perhaps, we may not have seen the destruction of habitat which so quickly followed the boats of colonisation, and progress along wit it. Maybe the droughts, farmers experienced in the 19th and 20th century, wouldn't have hit so hard and caused such large stock losses? We already know if settlers had listened to the aboriginal advice, not to build a community on the floodplains of the Murrumbidgee River, the original township of Gundagai, would not have been flooded. With 89 people loosing their lives. It was local knowledge of how flood waters moved, and the very simple technology of bark canoes, which saved 69 lives from the floods, that same event. Thanks to two aboriginal men, Yarri and Jacky Jacky.

The way we treat the environment however, is not so different from how we used to treat indigenous cultures, or those with a different background to English.  They weren't given rights, they were perceived as an abomination, rather than an enhancement to society, and they were actively targeted as the recipients of "policy" to dilute their influence on progress. We have developed new ways to treat people (to the betterment and richness of our communities) so its only a natural step to address how we treat other living things around us, better too.

 Where to start?

This is where I'd like to thank Bill Mollison and David Holgrem, for introducing the concept of permaculture to our society. It demonstrated a teaching model of how living things connect and relate to each other. More importantly though, how we should be connecting and relating within that model also. Its the first teaching model we have from a Western perspective, which is not designed to destroy living cycles, but to enhance them (and us) in our culture instead. It breaks from that singular narrative, we are so used to learning from.

Another person I'd like to thank is, Peter Andrews, for helping to create the Natural Sequence Farming, land management techniques, for our country in particular. Which helped address farming the landscape, in a completely different way, than simply scraping or burning everything from the surface, and expecting the rain or irrigation pipes, to keep things alive. It's specifically tailored for farming, which addresses the issues of food security in a much broader context, than the corporate models would have us believe is our only option.

And Joel Salatin of Polyface Inc, introduced the idea of mass production of food, while maintaining the natural cycles of the land also. How is this different to Peter Andrews and the permaculture principles? Two things. Firstly, its designed to maximise production, so the model can feed more people. As an extension (because its connected) it can also benefit the land regeneration process, quicker too. Secondly however, Salatin pushes the model as a business to make a living from and sustain communities with. Its not just the farmer out in the field, but the farmer connecting to their customer base, for local supply. That's why its called Polyface "Inc". It's a model that works, and teaches others how to feed local communities, to the betterment of the land and animals. Something corporations don't want us to believe is possible, anywhere but through their advertising of what is meant to be good for us.

 Where shall I purchase my connection today?

These new ways of discussing how the landscape SHOULD work, are the conversations we need to be having as individuals, communities, States and Nations. And we are having them, which is great. But it hasn't really shifted government policy on "progress" and the means by which, we assume prosperity for all.

The only way we can really make that shift as a nation, is to connect our communities, States and even our religious communities, to a food supply which honours the model of nature's autonomy. I was tempted to say, a "sustainable" model, but its a kitch word adopted by corporations and government nowadays, to mean anything but nature's autonomy. What it should address however, is respecting the right of the land to exist as it has for thousands of years. Even if we tweak it to increase production, it should always "keep" nature's cycles in tact.  Not destroy them. But we have to appreciate and observe the cycles, for that to take place.

Animals need the land, like we need the animals

Change doesn't have to be an aggressive shift to more natural models of food production, but we do have to make a choice to shift in great numbers if we are to have an impact. We cannot expect immediate results, if we're working at nature's speed. It will take a season or more for things to start linking up again. So we have to be patient, and keep building momentum in the direction we want to go, as a culture anyway.

The land is "our" story after all. And its time to allow it a place of respect, on our mantle.

How do we make that shift though? More to share in part 4.


  1. John Trudell passed away in December. He was an Native American rights activist and an artist. In one interview, he said about how he felt when white hippies in the 60's took on the Native identity that everybody is indigenous. Every culture has has been colonized at some time in history so that the European hippies were just trying to remember so it was understandable and infact, positive. I see alot of that type of discovery where I live now on more spiritual levels.

    My area is also unique in that local food systems are hugely important to the majority of the population and both permaculture and biodynamics are practiced. I think that its no coincidence that this has taken place alongside a nature based spiritual boom. The two go hand in hand to a large degree. Even our food pantries benefit from the surplus. Our area is small enough that it can be served by a multiple of small farms rather than bigger operations like Polyface. Infact, I might film this soon...if I feel up to it- we have a great model and its expanding constantly without losing that respect for the earth along the way.

    1. That's a really interesting way Trudell put it. I wonder if the earth beckons to every generation to remember, exactly where their feet and civilisations stand?

      If you're up to it, I'd love to see a document of your local food network. I don't want to oblige you, but if it becomes doable, its very worthwhile to document. People can then see its a functioning model, and possible to duplicate. It will also serve as something your community can reflect upon, because I'm sure they're busy with life and sometimes forget how beautiful, what they're doing, is. :)


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