Redrafted from an email sent to friends and family, written from a plane in the air and a bungalow in Johannesburg.
I’m around 11,800 feet in the air on a flight from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg. It’s Thursday, 2nd of July and it’s a beautiful morning up here above cloud cover. It’s pink and a kind of soft, golden orange in places – like fairy floss (I’m sure that’s been said a good many times before) and I regret not having a window seat.
By the time I get to Anriette’s house I will have slept on no less than 75 surfaces in two years. That includes couches, floors, tatami mats, bare ground and many, many beds. I don’t count planes as I rarely sleep on them.
Anriette is Executive Director of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). We’ve just had an APC Board meeting in Argentina where I’d spent two weeks. We’d accomplished a great deal at this, our first face to face meeting in well over a year.
Over the next few days I’ll work with Anriette to finalise post-meeting matters. This is my second term on APC’s Board and the first as its Secretary. I’m enjoying the challenge, putting systems into place ensuring the next to take up this position eases into their responsibilities with a suite of templates and accessible procedures at the ready.
Don’t think we’re so well cashed up that APC can fly its Secretary around the world just to finish up minutes of our meetings. I’m taking the opportunity with my return ticket to stop over in Johannesburg to not only attend to my Board responsibilities, it affords me the opportunity to spend more time with friends and the chance, finally, to take one of the great train journeys – the Premier Classe, Johannesburg to Cape Town.
I wasn’t able to make this journey last year. So, as each trip I now take feels like the last, I make the effort to stretch my budget and time to immerse further, deeper into the opera of life, from the comic to the tragic, the latter of which is staggeringly relentless…
Day after day, year after year, and there seems no end to it, humans continue to terrorise each other and blue planet Earth with increasing voracity and disregard.
Seed for optimism or alarm?
Thankfully there are seeds for optimism, but frankly, I doubt there are enough at this time to address the most urgent of concerns.
There are many and they are inter-twined, so much so that I cannot see climate change being addressed without the fundamental protections and rights issues of our time dealt with in a just and equitable manner. These include access to land, freedom of expression and association, sustained culture and biodiversity.
And yet with more information at our disposal, more wealth and opportunity than at any time in human history, knowledge and wisdom is surely counted on the low end of the scale.
We are becoming the product of our own cleverness and avarice – something new, defined by the coercions of the Market and the worrying lust for instant gratification.
I got to tell you, pretty soon I’ll need to spend some time around tangible, wholesome down on the ground stuff of encouraging change – real change!
Please, someone take me to a working Transition Towns program, a successful permaculture community, any where where forest people live on fully protected custom native title land, or to an ample supply of GM-free farms and farmers markets… even a few episodes of Australia’s Landline, perhaps one of the most compelling programs on TV, will do.
I’m telling you how it is through my eyes. You may see a different world. But I can assure you, I don’t seek these hazards out. They’re real. And they’re bad!
If you saw the amount of wastage, unfettered consumption of diminishing resources, the war on indigenous cultures and the forests they live in and do protect, largely unknowingly, for all of us, you’d think we were still in the dark ages.
The enlightenment never happened.
It’s well overdue!
We’ve all heard of the islands of plastic and debris floating in the oceans, countless reports and statistics on diminishing fish stocks and the melting of the Andean water reservoirs.
People – there is cause for alarm!
Anyone looking at what we’re doing from the outside would think we’re insane, hell bent on suicide, taking all life down with us as blue planet Earth goes about its extraterrestrial business regardless.
It’s this thought and the deeply profound experiences I’ve had of late that keep me going, that motivate me to write, film and walk this planet. But sometimes, honestly folks, I’m so overwhelmed by the extent of the damage I don’t know what to do…
Reflections on the road
By Monday afternoon I’ll be back in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, for a once in a life-time opportunity to perform with South Africa’s free improvisation trio, Benguela. Early August I’ll head back to Malaysia where I’d spent a month in Sarawak working on a micro-documentary series prior to my brief stay in Buenos Aires.
September will see me back in Australia. It’s Ma’s 80th and I’m so looking forward to seeing my family and friends again. I have an increasing urge to go home, but I’ve no idea where that is! Some where warmer, closer to family, some where leafy with panoramic skies would do nicely. Idealistic? Why not?
At Buenos Aires international airport I wondered how much longer it would be before there’s a perceived difference between those that do and those that don’t wear face-masks. Are those that do protecting me from them, or do they believe they’re being protected from me?
The flight stopped at Cape Town and picked up many more passengers. Most of them school boys all jammed around me sneezing, sniffling and coughing. I’m immunised to the max for just about everything, I just hope I get through this flight without picking up anything I can’t shake off. Since I’d left Melbourne, prior to it’s swine flu invasion, I’ve been so very fortunate to remain free of ailments. At times it does feel as if this H1N1 virus is chasing me.
I’d not seen as much of Buenos Aires as I’d wanted. In fact, I was so tired from the Board meeting and with my companion, insomnia, so very demanding, I filled in the spaces with walking, a variety of different cafes and writing. I’m making a point to write as much as I can from those places I draw profound influence from as soon as I can. Much has been lost over the years.
For example, the very few days I spent in Barcelona three years ago were so intense I had expected to write for days having planned out the exercise with street names, photographs, cafes of import and sites tremulous with wonder, art works, stone works and markers for further reading. It remains to this day an unfinished work, much of it contained in copious notes in my journal.
On a positive note, in Sarawak I purchased an Acer Aspire One D250 netbook. With nearly 6hrs of battery life, the size of my journals and packed with open source apps, my writing has increased significantly. Transcribing notes from my journals has become easier… mostly due to being able to do so from any where!
And so it was that my week in the Ulu Baram would see lucidity empty me of the banal and ready me for that which I have yet to find words for… the forest! Uncut, virgin forest deep in Sarawak, vulnrable to the unshakable appetite for timber, home to the Penan who have struggled for near on 30 years to protect their lands and livelihood. The forest, it speaks… and it moved me.