Friday, 5 January 2018

A better place to live

After three weeks in Japan, I shuddered for days under the shock not of the new, but of the familiar. Landing at Tullamarine, this wide land announces itself first in the bossy, slightly sour attitude of airport terminal staff. We shrug our shoulders and bear it at as we are directed through immigration, luggage collection, customs.

In the city, I’m stuck by the dirty public places and the movement of so many different peoples. A score of races press themselves into the crowded tram, glued to their phones, kind of resenting having to put up with others. It’s that knockabout Australian attitude: “you do what you want and I’ll do what I want and let’s not get in each others’ way”. That has its strengths, but it can get tiring when no-one attends to the space between.

The Japanese have a different civility. People attend to the shared public space – it counts for a lot in Japanese life that you think about what the other person needs.   

Sweeper of fallen leaves, Tokyo

A city of 33 million is one reason to cooperate - this is the Tokyo Underground
Back in Australia, I got used to Australian culture pretty quickly, just because it is so familiar. And I can stand it because I live in Riddells Creek, where people stop for conversations in the supermarket and the post office people greet you with warmth and sharp commentary on this modern world. I stood in the lush green of the valley, imagining what the wonderful Japanese people I’d met might think of living here. The swallows had settled under the eaves at the back door, the grass was up, and the silver beet and kale had run to seed. It took me till Christmas to get on top of it.

Here at Riddells Landcare, we’re talking to the Shire’s weeds person about the options with Galenia, common name carpet weed, because it rolls like a carpet over everything. Regular readers will remember that last summer’s spraying program was stymied when our contractor’s preferred mix of chemicals was found to be “off-label”, that is, not registered for use with Galenia, despite being the only mix that had proved effective.

After consulting the expert in Agriculture Victoria, we applied this year to use a chemical registered for use with Galenia. Now we find this chemical isn’t acceptable in residential areas. What is to be done? The Shire officer suggested digging. Mature Galenia has a very long tap root, up to a metre, so summer wouldn’t suit. Perhaps in winter, when the ground is damp, a weed contractor might be tempted to forgo their spray rig and hop on the end of a crow bar and shovel.

In the meantime, we are having one last try for a licence for ‘off-label’ use of our original preferred chemicals. Such licences are only extended in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Is this an exceptional circumstance? Watch this space.

It takes time and emotional effort to dig around in the bowels of bureaucracy and negotiate these matters. Videos like these, about people in the City of Knox bringing wildlife back to their backyards, are an antidote at those moments when I feel myself slipping back into “You do what you want and I’ll do what I want and let’s not get in each others’ way”.  No, no, no. Wrong thinking! There’s a lot of us, and when we work together, we make the world a better place to live, right now!

Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare,

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