As Australian Conservative Politicians Laugh about COALPHOBIA the rest of us quietly install our cheap and effective Solar Systems.

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Whether or not you believe in global warming is irrelevant.

The sun is free and if you are lucky enough to live in Australialand we get a lot of it.

In fact, we sometimes get too much – it helps to make us the skin cancer capital of the world, wreaks havoc with the paintwork on our red cars, breaks down our washing pegs, turns our hair to straw and our washing to cardboard but we still love it because it’s FREE energy.  Yay!

The other week, with Sydney just about to experience its hottest days on record Scott Morrison indulged himself in a little show-and-tell, bringing a lump of coal into parliament, declaring that ‘coal is our future’ and laughing heartily at the Lefties, accusing them of Coalophobia for wanting to move away from this black gold.

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You can’t blame them on one hand. It would be fair to say that Australia was built on Rock and Coal and it is equally fair to say that thousands of Australians still rely on our coal industry for their weekly wage packets but are they reason enough to keep us locked into a technology that is running out of steam?

I think not, especially given that these days many of us are employed in industries that didn’t exist 50 or even 20 years ago – there are plenty of opportunities out there for jobs and growth building but coal ‘ain’t one of them. Surely with a bit of fore-thought and planning we can create a clean energy jobs market, I mean the solar panels don’t make themselves, they have to be installed, maintained and improved.  Then there’s other clean energy engineering problems to be solved, improvements to be invested in and minds to be engaged.

Australia is in danger of falling behind.

Actually Australia already is behind in terms of government leadership because while the coal is being passed around the parliament a quiet solar revolution is unfolding in and around suburbia and nobody gives a shit about what the pollies think or whether they or anyone else believes in global warming, climate change or coalophobia. People are just doing it because it is cheap.

Two years ago we purchased our property out west and a rough estimate for installing enough solar and battery storage for a family of four was $40-$50,000.  Last week I was quoted around $15,000.  Amazing!

We are not yet fully ready to install solar out west as we are yet to build our house but it is coming.  Talking to our suburban friends and neighbours they are already ahead of us. After taking advantage of government subsidies and rebates a few years back now that the rebate has all but run out the next logical step is storage and unplugging from the grid.  Again I’m not talking here about a colony of greenies living in a woodland forest far, far away from reality. I’m talking engineers, doctors, nurses,  teachers,  builders,  architects, therapists and shop assistants.  People who just got a calculator and worked out that they will be better off going it alone.

And that worries me a bit.

My lefty side comes out right about now and says that’s all very well for those of us that can fork out the $15K or whatever, those of us that own their own house and can make a long-term investment but what about the renters, the elderly, the young and the broke?  Aren’t they the people who the government should be looking after?

Sadly it looks like these guys are left with coal and coal-fired power stations that are old and suffering from under-investment because their rich investors are taking advice from their insurance people and waiting to see what new and sustainable energy policies are coming into law.  As more and more people take themselves off the grid the cost of supplying those left increases.  Lose, lose for the government.  Oh dear.

Now I get why Australian politicians are doing what they are doing but it won’t wash for too much longer because people need power and no matter how much money the government pushes into clean coal advertising, clean coal is going to reach a point where it is just too dear when compared to the ever decreasing costs of solar. Sure you can throw in the diversion of ‘base load power’ and ‘jobs’ and whatever but that won’t wash for long either as soon everyone will know someone who lives a life of luxury off-the-grid with no power bills and anyway, solar is only one possible future solution, it just happens to be quite an obvious one for this sunburned country to excel at.
On that note, Australia has so much to offer the world in terms of alternative energy sources, so much so in fact that only a dinosaur would stick to coal.  And look, a dinosaur is exactly the meme good old progressive politician Cory Bernardi chose to make his point earlier this week.  He’s clearly a man to watch……

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High Speed Rail – It’s not all good but I want it anyway.

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I’ve been reading the letters section of our local newspaper with interest since the argument for High Speed Rail vs the Airport was proposed then countered a few weeks ago.  I don’t want to chime in on that particular argument as the people involved are more than capable enough to fight their own battles without me confusing things but what I do want to do is share the thoughts that were triggered within me.

The idea of a super fast train making its way through some of the most densely populated parts of Australialand fills me with joy if I’m completely honest. I am a train lover and have lived very close to railway lines twice in my life – now and between the ages of 5 and 8 (I actually lived in that same house until I was 14 but the railway track was ripped out when I was about 8 leaving a lovely long stretch of cycle way but no trains….).

What my own personal experience has shown me is that trains are not quiet.  Occasionally the creaking and screeching of breaks and engine wakes me from my sleep as the coal wagons chug past at an ungodly hour.  Living in the Blue Mountains this is par for the course with many homes hugging either the train line or the highway or both (often both as the lines do run parallel mainly).  As a consequence it can sometimes be noisier at my house than in the leafy streets of Sydney’s Chippendale, Glebe or Annandale.

Noise is one of the reasons people don’t want an airport out west but it isn’t the only one.  The exchange of letters above included comment along the lines of  ‘ you do know that high-speed rail is noisy don’t you?’ or words to that effect.  I want to shout ‘the idea that trains travelling at super high-speed would be somehow eerily silent never crossed my probing mind’…..

The next big truth bomb that detractors sometimes throw like a hand grenade into a glitter rainbow party is one that highlights the amount of land that will need to be reclaimed and dug up for this project.  Again I’m left wondering why this completely obvious state of affairs is worth pointing out and I am left feeling slightly sad by the reality that some people might indeed hold the view that high-speed rail greenies are imagining the train to either hover like a butterfly or shrink to fit the space already given over to road or rail.   Of course it will take up space and so it should!  It’s a key piece of infrastructure that deserves all the space it needs to get done.

And so we go on.

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I think it is fair to say that plonking a high-speed rail line between Brisvegas -Sydney – Canberra and Melbourne is going to churn up some of the brown stuff and may even have to cut through some ecologically sensitive areas.  Hopefully these risks will be mitigated with the usual level of care and attention (Ahem) but nevertheless it will indeed be a case of ‘you can’t please everybody all the time’.

But for a greeny type (I’m not even sure I am a greeny type but let’s just go with it) like me this project is different.

All of my life I’ve had to watch as fields get churned up and replaced by crappo eco-inconsiderate housing estates and by-passes that solve nothing much.  Sat in road cone restricted motorways as they widen and expand further and further.  Had to concede defeat as the second and third runways get built to take more and more people on CO2 guzzling trips ‘for their convenience’ and in the name of progress when real progress would have been a conference via SKYPE or a once-in-a-lifetime long tour rather than an 8 hour shopping spree in Paris before coming home for Corrie and dinner (something that would happen when I lived in England). High speed rail is not like that, high-speed rail is visionary.

The prospect of being able to travel up and down this huge land by train is, for me, one of the most exciting prospects ever to have entered my consciousness.  It would allow me to take my bike out into those little country areas, to shop in Melbourne or go see my friends in Brissie or take an international flight out of Canberra while leaving the car at home!  It would also allow for people living in rural areas such as Shepparton or Grafton to get into a capital city and work if they wanted to.  Australia can finally spread out and enjoy its self instead of cramming everyone into the kitchen sink we call Sydney! What’s more it COULD allow me to do all of this without expending a CO2 cent thanks to technology that exists today – ZERO emissions trains run from solar power thanks to advances in solar technology.  Sure the reality might be a little less idealistic and it is also possible that at least in the first few years the power might come from a mix of solar and coal but the exciting thing is that this could, with the right will and enthusiasm, happen now and be something amazing!

As for the money and people side, the ‘we can’t afford it’ and ‘we don’t have the population for it’ then I would finish on this.  Value capture is a concept that could work and is one that has been touted by the very people who are all for Badgery’s Creek.  The government could raise money that way.   In terms of population if the current government gets its way we are set to swell in numbers at a rapid rate so planning this on current population is all a bit silly and anyway, it’s not just about population numbers it is about the travelling population, where they are going and what they are doing and little old Australia has proved her worth in that regard with the Sydney to Melbourne air commute coming in at number 4 in the WORLD!!!!  Sydney to Brisbane is number 10!

The last thing I’m going to say on this is if I was Kerry Mather (MD and CEO of Sydney Airport) and co I’d be looking at how I can get my investment dollars into this high-speed rail thing as that’s the future – not another airport. Sure planes are becoming lighter, more fuel efficient, bigger and even quieter but they are a long way away from being able to run on zero emissions and fuel security in terms of future stocks and prices is a very real issue.

So yes,  high speed rail may well be noisy and will probably run right through some rare flower and bird habitat and might even take my house but I still want it because to have it would make me really, really proud to be Australian.

Amanda

PS: just coming back to the noise issue once again, while the noise from a train line can reverberate through a valley it is usually concentrated along and around the area surrounding the tracks.  The trouble with planes is their intrusiveness into wilderness areas. Wilderness is a valuable asset for Australia and will become an even bigger draw card for tourists looking to escape and explore ‘the middle of nowhere’.  A fast rail could secure our airspace and thus ensure our wilderness hikes are not rudely interrupted by a Boeing 747….

PPS: Here is a government report into HSR completed in 2011. It looks like they thought it was a pretty good idea too!

We should all just accept that there will be an airport at Badgerys Creek.

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As 2016 came to an end the Australian Government ticked the last in a series of boxes that are required to make the building of Badgerys Creek airport legally possible.  With that final tick came the end of a long and drawn out process of on-again-off-again process and debate.  The only thing missing now, as we hit our 2017 stride is the cash.

Who will pay?

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But that small, insignificant job of raising the several billion needed to make this thing fly so to speak is outside of our (layman’s) control.  What we can control is how we feel about the whole thing and what we do next.

Predictably, what ‘we’ feel at this moment is becoming increasingly interesting.

This is cranking up to be a shit fight.

So for the last year the major voices we’ve heard on this issue have been as follows:

  • Australian Liberal Government.  Love it, can’t get enough of it, do it and do it 24/7 over Blaxlands house.
  • Australian Labor Government (the opposition).  HQ loves it, can’t get enough of it but then they remember they are labor and labor is the people’s party and decide that they are all for it as long as it’s not all over Blaxlands house.
  • Australian Labor Party, Western Sydney Division AKA those lucky buggers who will be living with it 24/7 and especially those who just got elected to the job or received an increase in support.  OK so not all hate it but the cheerleading is more ‘groan’ than ‘yippee’.  Why can’t we have a curfew?  Why not high speed rail? What do you mean we have to cop the pollution?  Why not throw in a massive F**K me incinerator too!  Show me the detail?  Excuse me for being more than a little suspicious over the fact that a bunch of Mosman and Beach living city slickers know what’s best for us.  Do you even know where Badgerys Creek is people?
  • Australian Liberal Party Representatives Blue Mountains pre-election – Not really liking the idea that the current EIS promotes thank you very much. Mucho concerning and not 100% convinced on the ‘what’s in it for us’ package on offer. Post election – OK so two have now decided that we should just embrace the awesomeness that is the BC airport much to the bemusement of the rest of council (allegedly).
  • Local residents group RAWSA.  A heady mix between NO AIRPORT,  NO 24/7 Airport,  NOT THIS AIRPORT and NO IDEA WHY WE CAN’T HAVE HIGH SPEED RAIL INSTEAD?
  • Interested local residents against the airport.  Read, think about it, act then get on with life.
  • Interested local residents for the airport.  Get with the program people, this is an amazing opportunity and I want it written in as many places as possible.

It’s fair to say that the majority of residents local to me here in the Blue Mountains have taken a somewhat less active interest in the whole debacle over the last 14 months and I can’t really blame them – there is only so much any one of us can do. But now, as I said things have changed.

The anti has been upped.

And some of the people who were quiet before, including elected councillors have decided to speak up and what they are saying is that this airport is going to be GREAT.

I wonder if this is a bit like the Trump victory where lots of people want to say ‘I’m voting for HIM’ but felt somehow unable to do so.  On the other hand I wonder if, like the Trump victory the supporters are still in a minority when it comes to the popular vote but that again like Trump they might win anyway (as the Government is on their side after all….).  Whatever way this plays out the ‘for it’ camp are starting to sing out and I for one feel that is a good thing.  We have to air it and share it is my motto (well, one of them).

So what are they saying?

Well one thing that is coming across loud and clear is the notion that we should just accept this airport as a done deal and make the best of it.

While this risks making me come over all over-reactive and hysterical I do find that attitude most perplexing given this is an entirely man-made project that can ONLY go ahead with popular support and money (potentially OUR money) and that we live in a democratic country where (supposedly) our voices and opinions all count.   I mean sure I can understand that ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude when some other country just invaded you and will kill you if you try to resist but this isn’t a siege, it’s a minor domestic economic situation.

Also in my head I liken that attitude to the mindset of someone who has been groomed for something against their wishes. Be it a hostage or a victim of domestic violence or abuse the air of surrender just leaves me cold.  As my blog says the only choice we have is how to respond so why not respond with your whole heart be that for or against?

From where I’m sitting I would say this, Goliath doesn’t need the extra support thank you.  He seems to be bigger, better resourced and has the power of the law (he makes them), the media (he controls them) and the people (both major parties officially support this) on his side.  To turn now just because apparently ‘it’s happening anyway and we might miss out if we keep sulking’  would be the ultimate sheeple thing to do unless of course we had ‘seen the same light’ that the other true supporters have.

But let’s pretend we did do that, we did just go with it.

What would the Blue Mountains Council do next?

Well I for one would want answers to the following questions based on the following assumptions upon which our support is now resting:

The Future is Rosy Scenario.

The Badgerys Creek airport will drive more tourists to the district, increase house prices, make the place more desirable to live in, give local businesses more customers and generally make the area more prosperous.

BUT:

  • How are the thousands of tourists who fly into Badgerys Creek planning to get up to the Blue Mountains being as though there is no direct train link planned between the airport and Penrith and that the current line servicing the mountains is practically fully utilised?
  • If there is no train link between the new airport and the mountains how are the roads going to cope with what would have to be a dramatic increase in traffic to produce enough income to deliver these benefits and off-set the costs (peace, potential change to UNESCO status etc)?
  • As the area becomes more desirable and the population of Western Sydney grows how will the Blue Mountains balance the increased pressure to provide for a growing population with bush fire risk and the desire to maintain the Unique ambience of mountain living (why people come here)?
  • How can we best promote the Blue Mountains as a destination for longer term stays and environmental appreciation and protection rather than as a one-day drive through that takes from the mountains more than it gives back?  Do we really want to encourage thousands of day trippers over weekenders and honeymooners?
  • Why do people come here anyway?  If it has anything to do with wilderness, nature, peace, clean air, space, quaint village life and independent retailers and cafes how are we going to protect that?

That’s enough for starters.

So we have a pretty much believable and credible scenario of an opportunity for growth and prosperity if only we just get on board. But most people can see that while building an airport might create some opportunities, fully realising and integrating those into our Blue Mountains community requires further investment and work.

This is where the psychology gets interesting.

I wonder if the people urging us to support this are worried that we might miss out if we don’t get on board?  If we’ll be punished, given the cold shoulder for not playing ball.

Interesting thought.

In addition there are murmurings that we are at risk of missing out on our chair at the negotiating table by being like this.

That may be true I guess but if we are just going along with it because we are scared of missing out and can only go if we agree to swallow our opposition and sit on our hands  I’m not sure its at all worth it.

What would happen if we just continue to oppose this (if that’s what we collectively believe)?

I really do think that there is a FEAR brewing that we really will be punished by being starved of funds, infrastructure and attention if we pursue with this obstinance of airport opposition but it makes no sense for the government to even do that and in any case, it won’t be just the government invested in this.

Why cut off your nose to spite your face?

There is just too much money, time and political energy at stake here to risk that type of behaviour – if the airport is going to be built, and the rhetoric about jobs and growth and tourism is true the Blue Mountains just HAS to receive attention regardless of whether we voted yes or no for the airport thing.  The pressure from the Australian Tourism Board, the airport operators and the international market would be much more powerful than that of a few hundred angry or enthusiastic residents shouting yes or no into cyberspace.

Just imagine the global embarrassment that is an airport 70km from the iconic and heavily publicised Three Sisters that is IMPOSSIBLE to get to in under two hours due to the slowness of the train, the congestion on the roads and the cost of the Uber driver.  It only takes 2 hours from Sydney by train now AND it only costs $5.81 each way.  You can even drive it in 90 minutes which is only 30 minutes more than the current BC-K Town estimates.  Better for tourists?  I’m not so sure…..

In some ways I see this airport as a Trogan horse that bashes the door down to allow for mass immigration, population growth, high-density living and the commodification of nature.  Think this is too far-fetched?  Then look at the predicted usage figures that justify Badgers Crack and also look at all the housing development that’s going in around the base of the mountains already!  Anyone would think we’re looking to re-house the whole of Syria out here and then invite each family to have 10 children each!

But I digress.

The questions that I’ve got in my head are just as relevant for me to have answers to (as a no airport supporter) as I believe they are for people who are all for it.  It makes no sense financially to spend billions on a project that won’t actually deliver on what it claims to promise and if the new airport isn’t promising greater wealth opportunities for the Blue Mountains and beyond and more convenient travel then why do it?  Overseas visitors don’t give a shit if this thing has been on again and off again for 50 or more years, they only care if it makes sense and makes their holiday or business trip easier and comfortable.

Anyway….

I do accept that in any situation where there are conflicting points of view that one side will lose out and that there does come a time when one does have to make a decision to either get on with it or leave but that time and that decision is not for now. This thing isn’t built and open yet.

For now I think it is pertinent for all sides to acknowledge that there are big, important questions yet to be answered and a shit fight of name calling, shutting down, bullying and shaming is not helpful.

The worst that can happen at the moment is that neither side likes, trusts or respects each others point of view.  I do feel that is starting to happen and one place that can’t happen is with our leaders on council (thankfully it hasn’t yet).

This airport has the power and support to go ahead whether the Blue Mountains support it or not.

This airport deal also has the potential to be shelved whether the Blue Mountains supports it or not.

At the end of the day it is, and always has been outside of our jurisdiction and budgetary control.

What matters is that the Blue Mountains City Council create space for each and every person interested in getting involved to do so.  That all residents and councillors are listened to and that their views are acknowledged, addressed and represented moving forward.

If we don’t manage to do that we have wasted our time and achieved nothing.

And as for the amount of money spent then I say this. What is spent is spent and has been spent with council approval.  Going forward it is important we re-evaluate our position and what we are prepared to spend to back that up.  I believe that is exactly what the council proposes to do at the next meeting which is to be held on 31st January. I will be there.


My final thought for today on this is as follows,  I believe it is time that our collective argument against this airport moves beyond just NO.

I also believe that it is time that our collective support moves deeper than just ‘yes’.

It’s time to talk and more importantly, it is time for everyone to listen, really listen.

Let’s sit back and listen to the terminator.

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Who would have thought that the man we called the Terminator through the 80s and 90s would be making so much sense about global warming today?   Arnie says it as it is and makes a powerful argument for us to act and act NOW.

Over the years I’ve tried various times to come up with a position that suits my exact personality type when it comes to actions to mitigate global warming and our insatiable appetite for fossil fuel use. While I’m a bit of a ‘green’ heart I’m not really enough to be down with the in-crowed who walk everywhere barefoot,  grow their own sweet potatoes before turning them into chips in their own solar ovens,  tie-dying their own clothes and living in an eco-friendly mud hut.   I’m also not the type to just go out and buy everything just because it’s ‘green’ and I have to admit that I do find it hard to give up my love of the automobile in favour of public transport or my bike.  I can’t even manage to remember by re-usable shopping bags or water bottle every trip in spite of having several that spew out all over the kitchen floor every morning when I go to find a lid for my Tupperware.

Personally I disappoint myself in that regard.

But that’s why I am loving what Arnie has to say!

He’s focusing on the big, common sense stuff in a way that makes sense to those of us who pretty much want to just keep on living, making money and being fabulous.

OK, that sounds a bit conceited and not entirely true.  I am prepared to modify my behaviour in order to help save the planet and have been doing so in a variety of ways but I acknowledge that it is hard and that we (individuals like me) need help from the top down. We need to set up, run and invest in businesses that are doing it right and providing us lazy mortals with solutions that don’t cost the earth. That are good for our economy and our planet.  That allow us to breathe easy into the future!

My own personal philosophy has boiled down to this:

Just because you can afford a maid it doesn’t make it right to live like a pig. 

Ok so it’s not elegant or particularly meme worthy but my point is clear enough to me.

We know better, we can do better so let’s get on with it because it is the right thing to do.

That’s pretty much the approach that Arnie has taken and proved WORKS which makes it all the more exciting!

Why wouldn’t you invest in or at least cheerlead something that is clean, economically sound and innovative?

What’s stopping you?

I do sometimes wonder why people are still tying themselves up in knots about the science when at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter as the benefits of renewable technology are there for all to see as are the issues with coal.

Maybe it’s a money thing…..

Or maybe it’s them that are the lazy ones.

Be a good citizen and pick up your own shit and if you can’t bend down, at least praise the shit picker upper for helping keep your world peachy.

The intimate layers of a forest

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First I saw just greens and greys

and then I saw the trees.

Then flowers showed their colours bright

but the pollen made me sneeze.

It took a while for me to learn

my place upon this soil.

But now I’m home

and comfortable

There’s no more need to toil.

The forest opens up to me

One layer then another.

She loves me like a daughter

and I trust her

She’s my mother.dragonfly

This is a Swamp Tiger Tail (Synthemis Eustalacta) Dragon Fly found in my garden in the Blue Mountains.

 

Blue Mountains: What is our unique lifestyle anyway?

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I hear this said a lot lately.  Especially in circles objecting to the Western Sydney Airport, a cause that has absorbed a huge chunk of the last 12 months of my life.  The shout is that we must ‘protect our unique lifestyle’.  Playing devils advocate I want to say ‘and what is that exactly?’

Lifestyle: The way in which a person lives.

How do we live up here?

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I have my own thing going on as I’m sure you do too, a ‘thing’ that isn’t always mirrored by my local friends and neighbours – people who have gravitated up here for what seems to me to be a myriad of reasons.  I personally came up here because I loved it from the time I first visited as a backpacker in the 1990’s. By the time we emigrated the mountains offered us somewhere that was still close enough to family but far enough from the city to give us the ready access to mountain bike trails, big gardens and walks we desired. We really did come here for fun! My relationship with the mountain has deepened and matured somewhat over the last 13 years.

I observe that some of my friends have come from what I call the ‘flatlands’ of Riverstone, St Mary’s, Penrith and Emu Plains.   I know that for some of these it was the bigger lot size of houses and gardens paired with affordable price-tags, the family friendly atmosphere, good schools and safe community feel that attracted them.  For others who have come from the city it was the lure of fresh air, bush walks and a slower pace of life – somewhere to bring up the kids!  Others have been sort-of pushed up here (and most are OK with that) after suburb after suburb became either more and more expensive or less and less desirable. The Blue Mountains have often seemed like a drive-too-far for most suburban Sydneysider’s, too close to flammable bushland, snake-infested and lacking in Westfield shopping centres to boot until now.  Now  we have the Greater Sydney Commission ramming down our throats a mantra of ‘high density housing, shopping centres and gardens replaced by green open community spaces for all’. Everything we are not, thank you. As a consequence, we are now starting to attract more people looking for that sort of thing, the airport proposal even seems to be encouraging it. Also, we are no longer seeming so far, far away, the city and more than that, that city mentality,  is coming to us.

That makes me feel uneasy on many fronts.

But why?

I’ll ask again, what is this lifestyle we talk about?

What is MY lifestyle?

Why did I feel physically sick when I saw the way a block of new low-rise apartments was being advertised in my local paper,  apartments in an area of Springwood town centre that I’m actually OK with being developed in this way.  It wasn’t the development I convulsed against, it was the language used to pitch them.  The values being projected, values that just don’t resonate with me.

It was while I was out bushwalking this morning that it came to me.  I bush walk as often as I can, it’s my oxygen, my sanity.  I need the smells as much as the sights, the sound as much as the crispness of the air I taste.  I am it and it is me.

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The connection I felt with the mountains today epitomised what my lifestyle is – a great respect and a maternal love for this place, a place at the centre of all I do and am. I don’t want to use the word ‘environment’ to describe the mountains here even though that clearly and technically is what it is because I feel that word has become tainted with politics and what I feel is beyond political stripes, beyond the ‘it’ and ‘me’.

The Blue Mountains pulls people like me (I think) because of this powerful longing for connection, for family, for one-ness.  Again, conscious of becoming too ‘hippy trippy’ (although I feel there is nothing inherently wrong with that)  it’s as if we have come home and just like when we are in our worldly homes we have our responsibilities and duty of care. We must remain vigilant and care for this place, we can’t just switch off or brazenly try to capitalise off it in a one-way transactional relationship. It would feel like selling our mother!

So to answer my own question I have come to the belief (at least for now) that the Blue Mountains lifestyle that I talk about (and I understand that not everyone will share the same view)  is centred on the philosophy of connection to land in a way that is deep and emotional.  I see this as a monoculture of sorts, one that, wherever we travelled from, whatever other worldly beliefs we hold pulls us together in our love and respect for the mountains and its role in our life.

And this isn’t just some romantic fling that we indulge ourselves in on high days and holidays. This is serious, this is us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

We are reminded of our environment every spring when the magpies come out and defend themselves from our bike culture.

Are alert to the bush-fire danger that each hot windy, dry day brings and yes, our houses do burn down and many of us have smelt the fear while hosing down our gutters.

Struggle to hear the radio over the clicking of cicada or the ribbit of frogs after a downfall.

Manage our wild, sloped and wooded blocks from wild winds, rain and termites.

Take care to shake out our shoes for Blue Mountains funnel-web.

Shoo lizards out of our lounge rooms

Watch water-butts for snakes

And stand in awe at each and every perfect sunrise and sunset over hectares and hectares of trees and bush and wilderness, longing for the next free weekend that we can get out there and camp.

But when I hear mention of ‘our unique lifestyle’ I want to say no, our lifestyle is not unique, Australia’s first people have been trying to model this way to us for as long as ‘we’ set foot in this country well, at least as far as I can gather not being an expert in these things.

However,  unique or not we are distinct. We are not like Penrith or St Mary’s or Blacktown or Castle Hill or Newtown or Marrickville or Glebe or Windsor.  These places have their own cultural identity, their own brand if you like!  Why try to mould us, make us something we are not?

People don’t just come here to live IN the Blue Mountains, they live here and BECOME the Blue Mountains and to let the Blue Mountains run through their veins. That feeling is contagious and is part of what draws in tourists from all over the world.  Tourists that take a bit of that connection and identity home with them in the art, music, photography and hand-made products they invest their dollars in.

To put it in neoliberal terms our lifestyle is valuable, has value and should be invested in, protected,  developed, marketed.  And it is but in a world obsessed by sound-bites and instant-gratification we simply cannot sell this enough.

So that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

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Yes we do have a lifestyle.

Yes that lifestyle is unique in terms of the Sydney and surrounds suburbs.

But that lifestyle is rooted in a deep human calling of the wild.

What we feel up here is timeless.

Infinite.

And sadly that feeling is becoming quite rare.

And time is running out.

If A Tree Falls in the Forest & doesn’t end up on an accountants balance sheet as ‘timber’ was its life worth anything?

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Think about it.

That is how we account for nature.

There is nowhere on our current balance sheets to reflect the value of a living tree.

But would giving a living tree a value make it any more precious?

Or would we just fight over who owns it?

And then boast about how many trees we own?

Would we covet them to death?

Would they go in and out of fashion?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I dream about a future where the trees can just be trees

and where people like me can breathe

Slowly

and

Deeply.

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