Badgery’s Creek felt like it was a million miles away as I stood,completely surrounded by the beauty that is the Upper Blue Mountains Escarpment. I was asked by a passer by who, on noticing my T-Shirt asked ‘Where is Badgery’s Creek in relation to here?’ and as I answered my inner voice reminded me that it is not just a matter of miles that separates the two spaces. I answer with ‘oh it’s at the bottom of the mountain, out towards Liverpool really but even though the airport will be a way away from here, the airport boundary is only around 8km from this World Heritage Listed National Park’. I stop to let that sink in for a moment, all the while wondering if I should push the difference in air miles vs road miles before deciding against it.
I was hit by the realisation that the upper mountains feel like a safer and more secure environment than my home town down the road. The protection that the rugged cliffs, steep side streets and miles of bush offer is comfort as is the very real fact that this stuff IS valued by tourists, this IS marketable. My home village feels vulnerable and not because of any physical lack of beauty. It’s more that it is closer to the ‘Big Smoke’, in the ‘commuter belt’ and lacks those ‘instant gratification’ look-out’s that so dominate the towns up here. To many, we are just another suburb that could be bigger.
I love living in the Blue Mountains but can’t shake the feeling that we are on the cusp of being swallowed up amongst the ‘couldn’t care less’ and the ‘she’ll be right’s’ and the ‘What’s the problem, there are thousands of trees’. I want to kick myself for sounding like a NIMBY or someone clinging onto an ideal but I don’t follow through because I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that I am wrong to want to protect this, to feel a part of this. I don’t believe I’m wrong to feel that it is ridiculous to plan an airport the size of Dubai at the foot of such beauty in a country renown for its vast open spaces. I feel like I’m in a real-life version of the Emperors New Clothes only no matter how loud I cry ‘but I can see his willy’ nobody want’s to know.
We took up our positions in the parade and began our march along with all the others. Some looking for recognition, some wanting to celebrate and others just happy to be able to be themselves in public. Me? I felt sombre, I felt the weight of responsibility in my arms as I tried to walk, sing, smile and hold up my sign. I felt awkward at times – ‘we need a second airport’, ‘I don’t agree with you’, ‘sorry but you are too late’ – and hopeful in others <claps from the crowed, nods of approval, pats on the back> . I was struck, like always by an awareness that we are marching AGAINST something and that for many people that is all they will see. More negativity in a world that is already full of hate. But then I remember again to smile and wave, to engage with my audience, to let them have a glimpse at the world beyond the ‘No airport’ banner, the world where ‘hope’ is motivating.
The singing stops as we round the final corner and after a minute the group has dispersed into the crowds, smatters of bright yellow mingled amongst pink stilettoed pride, furry animal suited men and Hari Krishna devotees. I look up to see the mist rolling over the mountains in the background and take a picture trying to capture the vastness of the scene, the impending darkness, the coming change, but the shot didn’t turn out. I realise the camera can’t capture the entirety of what I can see, feel and taste.
I re-play my earlier conversation and find myself wanting to shout out ‘Ideologically Badgery’s Creek is about as far away from here as you could possibly get’ but realise that up here I’m preaching to the converted and down there nobody gives a damn because to them I’m just another lefty dreamer with no fucking idea.
Only I don’t buy that for one minute.