Sunday, January 25, 2009

Totem based Education for Biodiversity in Darling River (Murray Darling System)

The current Issue of the Darling River has it's roots in ignorance, lack of continuity of focus and understanding plus run amok ego and greed. The Darling River is one of the main arteries of the Australian continental BODY. All along and within the River System lives an amazingly complex interconnected section of the Australian BIOSPHERE. There are also key components of that Biosphere that are helpful indicators to the health of the system.
I have my own ideas as to how to fix this main artery:
1. Continuity of understanding and respect by creating a comprehensive long term vision of education. Base this education on a)teaching within every single school (and associated community network) within the Catchment System and b) teaching via mass media.
2. Use the concept of "totems" to carry this understanding and respect into future generations' life styles. Create a comprehensive "TOTEM" based educational framework, that is fully coordinated and on equal footing with economic educational components of current mainstream educational policies.
3. Find the "TOTEMS" (eg Koala, dragonfly, ant, goanna, crayfish, habitat, river red gum, wallaby etc- the list could be refined by proper consultation with the traditional land owners also ). Pool current ecological wisdom to isolate key indicator species. Imprint these "TOTEM" qualities and understandings onto every future student generation - Thus safeguarding their survival in their HABITATS via full integration of the "TOTEMS" system within the environmental and economic educational frameworks of the Australian Schooling network.
A simple start here:-
  • Create the school "house" system as the "TOTEM" base for a particular location/section of Catchment.
  • Fully integrate the learning of that TOTEM within each individual school.
  • Involve the local knowledge, science community, businesses and core catchment authorities to mentor the knowledge.
  • Ensure that each student leaving the education system has a deep and thorough understanding and care for at least ONE TOTEM.
  • Make this a hundred year plan.
4. Implement a wide scale revegetation program of monumental proportion.
Creating industry in organic nurseries, provincial species seed distribution, habitat restoration networks and other industry incentives based around the current and future utilities & transport corridors and other public & crown land. This RESOURCE MANAGEMENT approach, that caters for seed stock plants, education, sustainability and habitat "demonstration" can fill a massive niche, that is missing in Australia - that of sustainable "organic" nursery and revegetation networks, seed networks and local habitat restoration industries.
5. Ensure that CARBON TRADING and CARBON OFFSET PROGRAMS are based on only the soundest of biodiversity principles - instead of the quick fix approach taken by many of industry and the market place opportunists, when initiatives such as these are let loose in the public market place and supported by government sectors and funding support.

Aboriginal Economy and Society - Educational link & Sociological Remarks from Australian National University - Darling River
Platypus by Ann Moyal - a preview page
Report to the Murray Darling Basin Commission (2003) - Indigenous response to the Living Murray Initiative (google HTML version)
The Salt that Ate Australia - note on BBC Costing the Earth program 1/04/04 BBC Radio 4 (google HTML version)
Aboriginal Studies Press, Library, Research, Audiovisual Library, Weblinks, News at Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bluesfest - East Coast Blues and Roots Music Festival 2009 - bluecray perception

The Byron Bay Bluesfest 2009 shall soon be in the Byron Shire area of the Mt Warning Caldera Region, NE NSW.

shop till you drop bop till you pop
the Bluesfest of Byron is near
the Belongil site's ready
and Tyagarah looks steady
to take on the bluesfest next year
so come drink your fill
load your notes in their till
and party the environment away
your conscience is yours till eternity's here
are your sure that you want it THAT WAY??????

The Byron Bay Bluesfest 2009 clearly illustrates that the  dichotomy of human rational, ignorance and self-gratuitous environmental belief systems is alive and well in Byron Bay, 2009. The Byron Bay Bluesfest has a long history within the Mt Warning Caldera Region and beyond.

And the slow subtle degradation of habitats and environmental health in the Byron Shire also has a long history.  Players in this field (Belongil Fields and beyond) can pat themselves on the back, preen their egos and shuffle their heads back into the sand. I just wonder how many cigarette butts, bottle tops and pieces of plastic they will find there, after the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2009 is gone and the animals that have survived the trauma of forced relocation come back to their homes to continue their lives.

I love music, I love the land, I love the animals and the human spirits that live in this beautiful Mt Warning Caldera Region.  I pray with all my might that some mass consciousness shift occurs at the Byron Bay Bluesfest at Belongil Fields (or is it tyagarah?) this year (2009), so that the coming years of Bluesfest "mania" (Tyagarah ?)become directly, immediately and thoroughly accountable to the authentic spiritual land guardians of the Mt Warning Caldera Region.

I say this, because it is clear to me that the Byron Shire is incapable of taking care of this beautiful part of the world - one only has to walk along the shoreline at Byron and through the parklands to see just how much plastic, rubbish, cigarette butts, bottle tops, batteries and god know's how much unseen waste and toxins have infiltrated the habitats that they proclaim to protect.

The Arakwal people are the historical custodians of the land in this area. Their land stewardship preserved a unique and diverse environmental heritage, much of which has now been swallowed up by inappropriate 19th, 20th and now 21st century development.  Today, more and more people have an increasing  impact on this area and region, and from what I can see, the heritage and rights for the native animals that live in the Habitats of the Byron Shire has been severely compromised.

Words like "precautionary principal", "environmental sustainability", "caring for country" and "global crisis" mean nothing, when the current dichotomy of human words and actions are let loose on the planet. Please don't let the "vision fade".

Bluecray Darling River (Murray Darling Catchment) Links

Benoit  - the young Crow  (Burringbar,NSW)
The Darling River is a long way from the Mt Warning Caldera Region. If you look at this catchments MAP for the Catchments of NSW and this Qld catchments MAP, you will see that the catchments of the Darling River do not conveniently fit within state borders  of  NSW  and  QLD  .  Eventually, these catchments flow intoVictoria and South Australia. This is the Murray-Darling System spanning 4 Australian States and finally flowing into the ocean in South Australia . To further compound the complexity, governments continually change the historical reference points for understanding this vaste system of waterways.
MoneyScientific Research , Reform processes , Government Initiatives and Community effort  : the LIST is endless when it comes to the response to the management of the Darling River Catchment System. It is decades since the  problems of water loss and farmland sustainability were identified by the Australian Government.
 The history of these initiatives have all but been forgotten as the various personalities of politics and powerplay continually introduce new reforms, create new public agendas and frameworks, find another cause or cure to the issue, waste valuable community effort, time and resources in changing benchmarks and project support and sell off public assets to "fix" the issues.
Oh, now you might say - well what about Carbon Credits and Carbon Trading ?  LANDCARE?  Caring for Country?   Catchment Management Programs?  Greening Australia? Australian Conservation Volunteers?RotaryScouts?  There is a huge list of already participating community volunteers and paid environmental advisors out there.
And I might say back to you - well it has been years since the National Landcare and Catchment Management grew from the need to address vital LAND and WATER issues within the Murray-Darling System, and other prominent Catchment Systems in Western Australia, Qld and Victoria. The previous Government sold chunks of government telecommunications to FIX this issue. YET still, the precious WATER of the Murray- Darling undergoes "stream stealing" by channel altering, land reshaping and other catchment interference such as Dams, developments, clearing, innapropriate land use and  waste by monoculture industries that are fully supported by other government incentives and the PUBLIC.
Australian Commonwealth Water Act 2007  - at ComLaw, Attorney-General's Department, Australian Government 
Below is a not conclusive all encompassing list of Catchment links to the Darling and the Murray-Darling system. It is more a list to encourage a starting point to understanding the depth and breadth of this great system that once supported a fantastic number of living flora and fauna, while the original land Custodians of Australia lived and walked the land, ( before the European invasion of Australia in the 18th century and subsequent decline in water quality, species, habitats and adequate land stewardship)

Bluecray Frog Links Mt Warning Caldera Region NE NSW SE QLD Australia

Information about Frogs, Frog Educational Links and Resources can be found in this article. The Mt Warning Caldera Region of NE NSW and SE QLD is home to many different species of FROGS. Frogs and their Habitats in the Mt Warning Caldera Region can be understood more by reading "Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs" (ISBN 0 642 54656 8) edited by Alastair Campbell, Environment Australia 1999.

Australian Frog Links

  • Fleay's barred-frog (Mixophyes fleayi)
  • Giant barred-frog (Mixophyes iteratus)
  • Southern gastric-brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silius)
  • Southern dayfrog (Taudactylus diumus)
  • Kroombit tinkerfrog (Taudactylus pleione)
  • Cascade treefrog (Litoria pearsoniana)
  • New England treefrog (Litoria subglandulosa)

These FROGS have been given listed either nationally (under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) or by the Qld Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994. The listings range from vulnerable, endangered to very near extinction, in either SE Queensland or NE NSW or both Australian States. READ the National Recovery Plan and learn how you can help! The Queensland Environmental Protection Agency Publications or the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts Threatened Species Publications has the National Recovery Plan for download.

Currently (May 2008), if you look at the Australian National Threatened Species Listings for FROGS, there are 4 extinct frogs, 2 critically endangered, 14 endangered, and 12 vulnerable Frogs listed. The following Frog links will help you take action locally and regionally.

Some examples of endangered FROGS in Australia, their status and Conservation Strategies

Global Frog Links


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nature, Reflection and Learning - from

"It is good for man
To try all changes, progress and corruption, powers, peace and
anguish, not to go down the dinosaur's way
Until all his capacities have been explored: and it is good for him
To know that his needs and nature are no more changed,in fact,
in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles" Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) from "The Beaks of Eagles"

Reflecting and learning through nature can lead to increased understanding and awareness of the nature of humans and our relationship with our world.Masanobu Fukuoka, is one such iconic 20th century example of how this can be achieved through his writings on sustainable farming in Japan.

Human history abounds with oral and written stories concerning human interaction with animals, plants, places and natural events. Australia, including the Mt Warning Caldera Region , is rich in such written and oral history.

Over the years, it has become scientifically recognised that in Australia (and the rest of the world), the presence and activity of birds and other animalswithin any given environment reflects the state of that environment and its ecological components. Environmental status, health, wellbeing and resilience can be reflected by the bird activity within any given environment.

This is not a new idea. Cultures of past and present ages throughout the world have practiced closely intertwined rituals and nature based ideologies. This has been as a matter for survivalcultural education and environmental wellbeing. New concepts and practices forming around nature and learning are crystallising and modernising age old practices, bringing ancient concepts to a modern scientific understanding. Janin Benyus, author of "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature" (1997 William Morrow, NY), is just one of many recent advocates of a natural approach to environmental management and education. ( Nature's 100 best)

Meanwhile, I would like to talk more about birds. Take for example, the expression "a little bird told me" .

The Phrase Finder website gives a possible reference to the expression as "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter" from Ecclesiastes 10:20 King James Version

Think carefully at all times where your mind leads you. Should a "little bird" take that thought far on the wind, and spread it beyond your life, into the world. Daily practice of loving thoughts have a widespread healing implication, nearby and far. Creating a prayer, for yourself, that a bird may carry, can set it free, on the winds of time.

The vision of a future where birds are happily living on this planet, and prayer to go with this vision, may be a good starting point to healing this planet with love. Furthermore, understanding nature and reflection on birds may be as simple learning to birdwatch.

Bird watching can be a simple, relaxing past-time, relatively cost free and extremely rewarding. There are many Bird websites on the internet to explore. Bird identification, information and resources can also be found in most libraries and second hand bookstores.

Bird Links at

Al's CROW links 


Wisdom in the Land - a life goal

About 28 years ago, when I was studying at Gatton Agricultural College, I realised that to have a goal in life, something that I could work on, that would give me meaning to life, may be a good thing.

I meditated upon this, and decided that, to keep it simple, it was best to give my goal as few a words as possible. Discovering a life goal, and putting it into a few simple words may sound somewhat difficult. However, suprisingly, as soon as I asked this question of myself, the answer came immediately.

And the word were few. 'Wisdom in the Land'. Very simple. Yet, full of complexity.

This life goal of Wisdom in the Land has led me to many beautiful places, inspiring people, and amazing experiences. The search for wisdom may seem a rather pretentious journey, and yet to me, it implied an innocent stance - one of student to nature.

The journey for me is far from over. And by the end of my journey I will still be the student.

What the goal of Wisdom in the Land has taught me so far, is that the teachings are everywhere.

The world, the land is an awesome place of learning. Wherever I go I learn more and more. It is a never ending goal for me, and one that I will never reach. But the journey that the goal is taking me on is worth it! So far, this is what I have learnt

If you sit quietly, and listen with your spirit, the Land will talk with you.
The Land, and all its natural wonder, is a great teacher.
The Land, and all its resources, belongs not to us. We belong to it.
With vision, we lead ourselves forward.

Choose your vision wisely, with your heart.

The rush for owning and possessing Land can lead us to run frantically upon the same spot, eating up the very resources that we aspire to own, till eventually we eat ourselves. Nothing is left.
Relax and be part of the wonder that nature provides in the Land.

Meditate within the Land
Retreat to the hidden spaces within time that the Land holds for us.
It is there, that the Land will speak to us.

The Land is a receptive vehicle, though which our creative energy and desire can be focused. Use this creative energy and desire wisely, for our human knowledge and consciousness has evolved great power. And greater power requires greater Wisdom.

Ask yourself - is it better to run upon the spot, and eat yourself up?
Ask yourself - is it better to relax and let the Land be your friend and guide, teaching you Wisdom...

Wisdom in the Land does not need a degree from university or great scientific learning, it can be practiced daily, anywhere, anytime. It can be shared with others and it will probably take a lifetime to become just a little wiser!

Alison Polistchuk

(I dedicate this page to two people who have inspired me to journey on this path. One is a neighbour of my childhood, who inspired me to follow the path of nature and simplicity - Rosemary Payet. The other person is Len Webb, who grew up with my father, Roy, and who sent me such a beautiful letter when I graduated from college, wishing me well, that his wishes have stayed with me, in my heart, to this day.)

A Balance of Faeries

View from Upper Burringbar

 Mt Warning Caldera, NE NSW, Australia

Faerie tales are stories of imagination, folklore and historical heresay. Many faerie stories can have deeper meanings behind their outer words. Now perhaps you do not believe in faeries . You may think that faeries are merely symbolic adornments in childhood books, movies and from cultures of a bygone age.

Now that you are grown up, you may be quite sure that faeries, santa clause and the easter bunny are not real. Or, you may have your own ideas about faeries, that no one else seems to have at all.

Well, all that aside, if you have some time to spare, have a read of my story below. It is a true story, and it has no faeries in it at all. Well... there is just one reference to faeries - right near the end.

My story takes place on the Marburg Range, some 35 kms west of Brisbane on the east coast of Australia. The year is 1989.....

Part One: The Afternoon

The afternoon was peaceful, broken only by the sounds of cicadas , and scrub birds , as they settled into their nesting trees for the evening ahead. A bulldozer came slowly up the dusty road. Grinding noisily, its metal tracks, and steel chains broke the quiet of the afternoon. The bulldozer stopped outside my little farmhouse, high up on the ridge.

Then the unthinkable happened.

The first large tree to go creaked mournfully, its roots loosening eerily from the soil, in passive opposition to the bulldozer's strength.

The second large tree gave even less opposition, and the native bushes, herbs and grasses beneath were pushed into a tangled pile, flattening the unseen creatures that inhabited the narrow road verge. Birds' nests fell. Thekoalas' food and roadside refuge was gone. Lizards, marsupials and baby birds of the understorey had little hope of survival.
The living wonder of the road verge was to be destroyed in 30 minutes, by over a million years honed into the diesal powered steel of the bulldozer.

My heart ached for the bush creatures and their homes.
Their lives, so cruelly flattened and trashed.

At first, my screaming thoughts wanted me to yell at the bulldozer driver "STOP!!! STOP!!- you are killing so many defenseless beautiful creatures and plants!!"
Instead, I stood transfixed in disbelief, watching the dozer fell the third tree then the fourth, fifth, sixth - on and on, up the road verge, heading to the top of the ridge.
Those brief moments of hearing that bulldozer do its work, they would change my life forever.

Spirit reeling, I tried to conceive how such a thing could be happening! No one else was watching - just me and the bulldozer driver. So much destruction of so much life taking place.

No one cared. No one cared at all. And if they did, well, what could they do?

This was not a large forest, protected by vigilant activists, prepared to chain themselves to trees. My heart began to ache, beyond this mindless act, to all the other places on earth that were silently witnessing the same destruction.
As a powerless observer, my anger and helplessness grew, and I did not know where to channel it.

The bulldozer driver did not realise. It was his job, and he had a family to feed. I could not be angry at him. But still my anger grew, threatening to consume me.

I needed a quick respite, a quick solution, to temper this anger - turning it into love.

Then a thought came suddenly to me. I could store this anger, transforming it with love, to hold deep in the base of my body, deep below my stomach. I could store this energy and use it, lovingly, thoughtfully, creatively, in future days, months, years and decades, as a power source. A power source dedicated to generating compassion and love, for nature's bounties, gifted to humanity. What a big ask of myself! But then again, I could not deny this event.
I would remember this day for eternity. The day the grey boxes fell before the bulldozer.

As the bulldozer driver stopped to reconnect some chains, I went over to him, and asked of him " Why do you clear this stretch of land? Do you realise that this soil is highly dispersive - it washes away so easily with rain that the land here is riddled with deep sub terranean holes? The apect is so harsh, that without adjoining vegetation ( I pointed to the adjacent overgrazed paddock ) this road verge will not recover for many decades".
He replied " The owner of the property up the road wishes to put in electricity. Power lines are coming through. He is connecting power to that little quarter acre block, at the top of the ridge, so that he may sell it more easily". And that was that. Legally ok!! Socially sanctioned.

After years of living on this range, I had grown to deeply respect the earth, and the natural balances that permeated through it. The harshness of the climate, at times, sent alternating flash flooding, and merciless drought. Fire could spring up quickly, within the badly managed vegetation and the lower valleys had became choked with salted soils and slow running creek water that resemble the sea in it's saltiness.

The Eucalypts, with their long roots sunk deep into the earth, drew the water that lay in the rocky aquifers beneath. This was third generation regenerated bushland (from the clearing of the past 150 years) giving homes to many native animals. Beneath the box and red gums, grew all manner of remnantdry vine scrub plants, interspersed with the wildy spreading, naturalised weeds, that had arrived with agrarian settlement.
Silvereyes and double-barred finches nested in the hoop pines, blue wrens frequented the scrubby understoreys, koalas clamboured lazily tree to tree, goannas and snakes made frequent appearances, and after the rains, thefrogs sounded in the dams and gullies along the side of the ridge.

Part Two: The evening

That evening, I suffered a disquiet that I had never known before. Falling asleep, my tears for the defenceless roadside homes turned into a dream. This dream eventually woke me. Such forces in a dream I had never experienced before.

I dreamt that I was in my little farm house, with my family. Suddenly a great wind tore through the house, ripping doors from hinges, hurling furniture to the walls. Our lives were in peril. The house was being destroyed by something so great, and invisible, that in the dream, my husband called to me, "Get the children, we must escape - we shall be killed!!".

Now, in our dreams, we can be a hero, that in waking life, seems absurd.

Holding my husband back with one arm, I cried "NO! I can see what is happening - it is all coming from the bookcase" . I ran to our bookcase, which spanned the length of the living room wall, high to the ceiling, crammed with books, all tightly packed together, against the entire wall.

The wind was now of tornadic proportions, as I fought desperately to get near the bookshelf. I searched frantically for the source of the wind. There it was! Funneling through a small gap, on the bottom shelf. This was the only gap in the bookshelf that lined the wall and the wind was howling out of it, tearing past me and ripping my home apart.

"I know what to do" I cried, and kneeling down, desperately searched the floor for the missing book, that had fallen from the bookshelf, to stop this gap , and block the fierce wind.

The gap was so small, and the wind coming through it seemed to have no end. My hands felt about, on the floor. THERE it was, the book!!

I held it in my right hand, and pushed it back into the hole in the bookshelf. The strain was enormous, the wind so strong. I summoned all my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength to push that book back in, and suddenly there it was, back in place.

The wind stopped. But I was utterly spent - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The effort woke me from the nightmare, worn and exhausted. As I awoke, I knew that the name of this book must be remembered, this little book that held so much force at bay. In my waking, lucid moments, I frantically tried to decipher the tiny print on the cover. Oh, it was so hard to read, and I was waking fast. But YES, there it was! I could see it written on the cover - "A Balance of Faeries".

I woke up, exhausted.

Part Three: The morning

There is not much more to say now. The dream has been recorded.

This dream has had a profound influence on how I view the world and share my view with others.

My place, within the natural processes that the world has gifted me, seems very small, insignificant. But, like that tiny book, in that great big bookshelf of my dream, small, seemingly insignificant parts of a much greater collective can have far reaching consequences.

The tiny, "non- significant" parcels within our delicately balanced environment can have an critical part to play in survival of all living things on earth.

The collective knowledge of mankind (the bookshelf) holds such power behind it, that should the knowledge not be complete, the power that is held can escape, creating havoc and untold destruction.

Part four: The return

I have since returned to visit the Marburg Range, some months back, before the 2008 summer rains drenched it once again, and after many years of drought, harsh winds and relentless sun. The road verge leading to the top of the ridge is bare, no trees have grown back yet, and no koalas, birds or marsupials could be seen on the narrow strip that was cleared so suddenly, 20 years ago.

With biodiversity comes the ability for our ecological systems to withstand the greater forces of nature - wind, sun, rain, fire, cold, heat. With knowledge and understanding of the smaller, delicate portions of nature, comes an ability to hold back the greater forces that great knowledge exposes us to.

It is time to wake up.


  • Australian Government Biodiversity: Toolbox

Queensland State of the Environment 2007 download at the Qld Government Environmental Protection Agency website

New South Wales State of the Environment Report 2006 download at the NSW Department of Environment & Climate Change website

  • Download the Soil Conservation Act 1986 - This Queensland Act for Soil Conservation has been in place since 1986 - yet the SE Queensland Region is still undergoing landclearing, ecological degradation and water pollution at unsustainable levels for the future population's well being.

Roadsides, Powerlines & Stock Routes:

a few more interesting links:

  • North East Rainforest Alliance NEFA - homepage -

Some historical reading about Forests in NE NSW: