We're not certain whether January is named for Janus (the two-faced Roman god who could see across time) or Juno (the fierce, vital goddess whose complex portfolio includes sovereignty, women, and war). I invoke both deities to inspire a powerful, sustainable 2017 driven by us mere mortals. For Janus: look back to sum up Fossil Fuels and build forward through the Rescope Project upcoming programs. For Juno: spend 16 minutes captivated by Dame Ellen Macarthur's TED talk, and learn from the Pacific Islands how to stand as a Climate Warrior. Wishing you all a happy, powerful and game-changing new year! ~April
Happy New Year from the EcoCentre staff team!
Walking into Life
This month we hear from our Committee Treasurer, Keith Badger on the nature-walk that changed his life: “Civilisation has always been a project of control, but you can’t win a war against the wild within yourself.” Paul Kingsnorth from Keeping the Wild – Island Press 2014
It still feels odd that I should be writing about my relationship with nature. I’m a city boy and never thought connection with country was in my veins. It certainly wasn’t in my mind growing up on a South London council estate. My life was more about a congestion of concrete and cars, with nervous nightly returns home through the hubbub of humanity. As a chartered accountant my profession took me even further into artifice, counting illusory riches rather than any reality of nature’s gifts. Suddenly I was in my late 50’s, a family reared, a supposedly successful career achieved, a wife lost to cancer, another loving partnership established, and then it happened. Bubbling up from somewhere deep inside arose a yearning for something more meaningful. I felt an urge to go further and engage more fully with life, “to come down off this featherbed of civilisation and find the globe granite underfoot” as Stevenson put it in ‘Travels with my Donkey’. And that’s when I asked my dear wife Debby to come for a walk.
We hiked 350kms in two weeks from coast to coast across England’s magical green and pleasant land. By the time it ended, something had happened. Cold soaking rain, bruising terrain and nightly exhaustion seemed to have inflated my spirits and made mere physical aches an irrelevance. I didn’t understand why, but I was smitten like a 16 year old, who just couldn’t get enough. Within a year, we had set up the logistics to take this passion to new heights.
It was a typically cold, wet summer Sunday, June 10th when we hoisted our backpacks to depart John O’Groats on Scotland’s remote northeast coast. It was the start of a unique marathon and we had no idea if we could reach our destination. By the time we stepped away from the circuitous route at Land’s End, in England’s far southwest, it was November 5th and we had walked every step of the 2,801kms. More important though, in avoiding much of what’s called civilisation, we had inhabited Mother Nature’s domain and there were to be unimagined ramifications.
We headed home and that should have been it. However, after finding my way for 139 days along all manner of obscure and sometimes nonexistent tracks, I arrived home and found myself utterly lost. That’s when the real adventure began. Not a tough physical challenge like the walk we’d completed, but something much more difficult to navigate. I didn’t know I had signed up for this second journey, but it had become inevitable when we set out from Scotland. Confronting me was a journey from the person I had been, to the person I was destined to become. If our great walk had embedded me in the outdoor environment, this was to be a journey within, exploring my belief system and calling to account my understanding of the world. If the physical walk had stirred me up, this journey was to be every bit as scary and emotional.
In those early days back home I was confronted by a wardrobe full of clothes I had worked hard to acquire but now knew I did not need. Our large family home echoed to an unnatural silence, filled with idle stuff that required cleaning and maintenance but had no purpose. News reports proffered a meaningless din designed to inflate passions without consequences, and confusion engulfed me. I sensed these were all distractions from the real world, but my head couldn’t make sense of it. I would walk out barefoot into the garden while the quiet of early morning lay around my shoulders. Sipping a cup of tea, I would stand with one of my favourite trees and sense the connection with life all around me. I didn’t know then one quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives in the soil, more microbes per gram than humans on the planet. Despite the confusion churning within my conscious brain, my body had sharper instincts. It had found a place of peace in nature and just as I could feel the earth through my bare feet so my body intuitively understood the earth was alive and feeling me.
In the weeks and months that followed, I read and researched extensively, desperate to reunite my head with my body. At first, I felt I’d had an out-of-world experience, but gradually realised it was quite the reverse. I had stepped into the actual physical world and seen through the human construct that shrouds society. I had been able to see things through fresh eyes, with the preconceptions we live by pulled back as morning curtains to reveal the sunlight. I strove to understand why our way of living was so disconnected from the flourishing web of life which brings meaning to our world. These were new avenues for a brain more used to the esoteric distractions of balance sheets and investment returns, but it was as if Mother Nature had taken the duster to the blackboard of my mind and wiped it clean.
While walking, the intrinsic intelligence of the billions of cells in my body had sensed the connection we humans have with nature. Although it sounded strange to many, I simply said I had reconnected with the natural world. My body’s receptors had plugged back into their natural home. As a result, I was now on a different path and couldn’t go back to living in the world I’d left behind. I had been enriched and fulfilled beyond any man-made confection and had an experience no amount of money could buy. I had become somehow more than I had been, and instinctively felt I wanted to share this with my fellow humans. The fact they were not ready for it and I was unable to explain it, made for a very difficult period in my life.
In nature, I’d experienced a simple life and been completely at peace. Cares brought on the trip heavier than any backpack, had gradually dissolved giving me time to hear the stories of my fellow humans and experience the exhilaration and joy of encountering other creatures that inhabit and rely on this planet for their wellbeing. A profound sense of contentment had settled on me as I found my place in the order of things. Later, I learned about the science of James Lovelock’s Gaia theory that the Earth is a self-regulating entity. This I realised was closely aligned with my earliest childhood teaching about Mother Nature. So, now I had Gaia and a scientific theory aligned with my core spirituality.
At times when the aching pain and sadness of life enveloped me, I had often sought solace in nature. In the final months of my first wife’s illness I had instinctively taken myself off to gulp down gusting winds, gazing out over the sea through moist eyes. And no day was complete without throwing myself into Melbourne’s bay to swim. I would soak up the vibrancy of immersion, oblivious of any understanding that the water and all it gave home to, was reweaving the web of life around me. It gave me succour and lifted spirits as nothing else could. It had become my meditation and kept me going.
I’ve been back six years now and am a lot clearer about what happened to me. The learning, of course will go on for the rest of my life, a journey without destination. I now know we cannot flourish when separate and disconnected from nature. As humans, our nature is to collaborate and, yet society urges us down the endless avenues of empty selfishness. Our challenge is to rediscover our true nature and “unearth” the unique talents we each have to help life. We are inextricably linked in a wonderful web of life and our ultimate happiness is derived by bringing love and care to all life’s rich diversity.
Keith is a company director, philanthropist, advisor, writer, speaker, and year-round ocean swimmer. He acquired a deep grounding into diverse cultural and business practice, living and working on four continents during 25 years with multinational corporations as Finance Director and Chief Executive Officer. He now assists various not for profit organisations shape a more sustainable world, and is currently writing a book about the walk that changed his life.
Summer by the Sea
Learn more about the beautiful coastal and marine environment on your doorstep while having lots of fun! Summer by the Sea is in its 21st year, and this January there are more than 300 FREE events. Coastcare Victoria Coordinator Evelyn Nicholson shared: “By showcasing the different elements of our fragile and precious coastline, Summer by the Sea activities develop understanding and appreciation for the landscape." The EcoCentre is proud to deliver a fun series of events via our experienced Educators:
Walk on the Wild Side Tues 10 Jan 8pm
Discover marine & coastal wildlife on an interactive walking tour with our Baykeeper, suitable for all ages. Yes, your feet will get wet! Explore beachcombing, sea grass, mud flats, catchment, dip netting, geocaching, fishing, and seashells. Oh my, what a walk on the wild side ... Bookings required.
Seashell Safari - Point GellibrandWed 11 Jan 10am
Join our Seashell Safari and discover the shells that call Point Gellibrand home. Our expert Baykeeper Neil will give you insights into their secret habits and habitats! Family Fun for all ages, including learning how to do Citizen Science. Bookings required.
Walk on the Wild Side Mon 16 Jan 8pm
Our Port Phillip Baykeeper Neil Blake will lead a guided Natural History walk. Explore from a St Kilda West beach stormwater drain all the way to the Little Penguins on the breakwater. There's so much to see and learn. This interactive favourite is a hit with all ages! Bookings required.
Shoreline Shell Survey - SeafordMon 16 Jan 10am
Join our Seashell Safari and discover the shells that call Seaford Beach home. Our Baykeeper will give you amazing insights into their habits and habitats! Family Fun for all ages. Bookings required.
ACS works to promote knowledge and understanding of the environmental, social and economic value of the Australian coast.
Provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and knowledge among people involved in the management, planning and development of the Australian coast.
Contribute to international, national, state and local debates on coastal issues so as to foster rational, open decision-making in order to achieve sustainable use of coastal resources and responsible stewardship of coastal assets.
Improve public, government and industry understanding of the value of the Australian coast for individual and social well being, the need to maintain and improve coastal ecosystems, and to ensure the use of ecologically sustainable development practices.
Promote the protection and conservation of sites of environmental and cultural significance on the coast and in coastal waters.
Facilitate increased knowledge and skills of people working and studying in coastal natural resource management, planning, development and other relevant industries along the Australian coast.
Serve as a link between various Australian organisations and individuals with interests in the Australian coast.
Support national, state and local coastal conferences.
Do all things necessary for and incidental to the advancement of those objects.
The EcoCentre acts as an 'umbrella group' providing support to like-minded organisations so that we all achieve more. Find more info on affiliate membership here.
Tues 10 Jan at St Kilda West Beach - Walk on the Wild Side: Guided natural history walk with our Baykeeper. Wed 11 Jan at Point Gellibrand - Shoreline Shell Survey: Join our Baykeeper on a beach walk to record shells and discuss their habits and habitats. Mon 16 Jan at Seaford Pier - Shoreline Shell Survey: Join our Baykeeper on a beach walk to record shells and discuss their habits and habitats. Mon 16 Jan at St Kilda West Beach - Walk on the Wild Side: Guided natural history walk with our Baykeeper. Free Workshop for our Volunteers only, valued at $60: Fri 20 Jan at EcoCentre - Eating for Healing: Learn the wisdom and practical methods to eat foods in tune with your body. Book with email@example.com. 2 - 26 Jan at the Coast - Summer by the Sea: Hundreds of FREE guided activities to learn the secrets of our coast, and explore our Bay. Program here or follow along on their facebook.
Sat 4 Feb at State Library - Beyond Growth as we know it by The Rescope Project: Globally recognised analyst and former financier Satyajit Das leads an incisive presentation on how we can stop consuming our future. Sun 5 Feb at Caulfield South - Build your Backyard Friends a Home: Build a nestbox or insect hotel for the native creatures living in your very own backyard. Sat 11 Feb at Federation Square - Redefining Progress by The Rescope Project: How do we redefine and measure progress beyond the consumer economy? Join a conversation with a prominent panel. Sun 12 Feb at Federation Square - Renewable Energy & Beyond by The Rescope Project: How do we transition to a renewable society? Hear from a prominent panel including global energy expert, Richard Heinberg.
Be a Vollie!
Every Friday at EcoCentre - Community Garden Group. Seeking green thumbs, propagation wizzes, waterers, and training black thumbs. Register now for Sun 5 Mar Clean Up Australia Day. Clean up your local area with friends and family!
Volunteer for the Sunflower Forest in Acland Street
The Sunflower Forest in Acland Street Plaza will engage visitors in nature, and promote the importance of pollinators through art, where children have fun in the process. There will be activities to paint plaster moulds and small pots containing butterfly and bee attracting plants. Gio Fitzpatrick will talk on pollination and insects and there will be a SKINC native plant talk. The event runs from 11am-5pm on February 26 at the plaza. We are after volunteers who are interested in supporting this event either for a half or full day. Volunteer roles include:
- setup from 9-11am
- activity assistance and general helpers: painting and potting from 11am-5pm
- packup 5-6pm
Working with Children Check required. Register your interest with Anthony or call 9534 0670.
Bring your foodscraps for the EcoCentre's Community Compost: Deposit them into the mini green compost bin on our veranda. Thanks to our generous volunteers we are up and running again. #BreakFreeFromPlastic is an international group of nongovermental organisations coming together to do something BIG: stop plastic pollution for good! Join the movement here. The Rescope Project empowers people to regenerate the systems & stories we live by, for life on Earth to flourish. Get empowered via their blog.