Thursday, 10 January 2019

Living Large

I’m driving home on one of those glorious summer mornings that start out cool and misty, then by mid-morning, clear away to radiant sunshine. I’ve been for a swim in Gisborne, and returned the back way, past Barringo Creek and down Gap Road and Sandy Creek. 

There’s Robert and Margaret up ahead, out walking, and I pull up. They came down for dinner earlier in the week, and it is good to see them again. We exchange small talk, and it’s good to stop in the middle of the morning routine, at the side of a dirt road, with the sun streaming down through the trees, catching up with warm-hearted people.

Living large, I’d call it, with people who know that care itself is important—that our social world isn’t a given, but is made anew each day. 

When I get home, a friend staying with us has a blog post from Nora Bateson, daughter of Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist and systems thinker from the middle of the 20thC. We read the piece out loud, on the veranda.

“The work of the coming decades is not the work of manufacturing, of software development, or of retail seduction, it is the work of caring. Caring for each other and the biosphere. In that care there is the hope of finding new ways of making sense of our own vitality.  The ‘my’ in my health is not mine; rather it is a consequence of my microbiome, my family, my community, and the biosphere being cared for.”

How do we conduct ourselves at this moment, when so much is at risk and so much in need of radical change? Bateson’s solution is to stay deep in the difficulty we’re in, and turn to those with whom we live, to learn our way through to more viable systems. “Business as usual is a swift endgame,” says Bateson.

Let’s take sewerage for instance. Western Water’s plant east of Riddell needs more capacity. You’ll catch it flashing past as you head to Melbourne on the train, but for most of us, it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But it is kind of our problem–more houses, more people, more poo, more grey water. There aren’t agricultural businesses near Riddell to use the treated water, and land for dispersing the flow is very expensive, so, heave ho, it’s into Jacksons Creek. That means more nutrient into the system, and that requires a licence from the Environment Protection Authority.

Western Water are looking at the options. We know that fencing and revegetating along creeks up-stream can improve water quality and quantity, and this might offset a higher nutrient load from the treatment works. But it’s a complicated equation. At Riddells Creek Landcare, we’re asking Western Water to work with us to create a learning program on the science, economics and best practices involved.

Sewerage and healthy creeks—how to put the two together? We want to give an informed opinion when the options come through, and be part of generating the options. Drop a note to and I’ll put you on a mailing list if you want to keep track of this project. Expect to learn a lot. Expect close conversations with other people in and around Riddell who live large, and who care what happens here.

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