Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pale, interesting and in peril

No trip to this region would be complete without a visit to some pale, interesting locals in their sublime home.  Drive about 20 minutes south of here (nobody talks kilometres here; journeys are all measured in time), park a few minutes off the main road, walk down this path,

around the corner,

a wee bit further, to here. This is Lake Clifton in the Ramsar protected Yalgorup Lakes System.

I love it here. Not only is it peaceful (no swimming, no fishing, no boating and especially no jet skis) but when I'm here I feel like I've travelled back millions of years in time.

Those pale, interesting, creatures you see in the water are Thrombolites which are sometimes described as 'living rocks'.  They are built by micro-organisms and are one of the earliest known life forms on earth. Lake Clifton is one of the few places in the world where you can see living Thrombolites.  Over millions of years these creatures have seen many other species evolve then disappear, while their species stayed the same. ("Evolution: overrated!" I hear them say). A by-product of their life-cycle is oxygen; it was through their efforts over millions of years that earth's atmosphere became suitable for many other species to evolve -  including ours.

One of the reasons that I love this place is that it always makes me think.

When I come here after days spent immersed in the administrivia and drudgery of modern life, I think about how attractive a life spent lying about being pale and interesting and doing one thing would be (OK, for a day).

After looking at the local built environment - much of which I find tacky, poorly designed and aesthetically displeasing - I come here and think about subtlety, limited palettes, restraint and natural beauty.

But most often when I come here I think about how Thrombolites and so many other creatures are in peril because of the actions of my species.  I think about how carelessly we have mismanaged the inheritance they took millions of years to create. "Sustainability" may be an overused word but it has never been more in my thoughts than since moving here. Of all the many places I've lived in my life, this is the one where the differences between the sustainability "cares" and "care-nots" is most glaringly, and sometimes depressingly, obvious.

A sector of this community is obviously hugely aware of sustainability issues. I have never lived anywhere where it has been so easy to get information, advice and even financial assistance to support a more sustainable way of life. With very little effort I can find excellent information about how to create a water-wise garden, install a greywater system, renovate an existing house to improve its energy-efficiency or build a new sustainable home. After years of saying "I wish there was a magazine about building homes that are both sustainable and dishy" I come here and easily find two.

But another sector of this community lives big and fast and loud and dirty.  They build massive energy-inefficient new homes, get about in enormously overpowered vehicles, call for those in power to "pipe water from the Ord" rather than make better use of available water or live lives revolving around consumerism, materialism and the unquenchable quest for growth. In these circles my stance on issues of sustainability is derided, foreign, perplexing, annoying or just deeply unfashionable. 

Well I'm certainly not scared of being unfashionable but I am scared of irreparably stuffing up the planet for future generations.  I wonder, had they ever got around to evolving powers of communication, what the Thrombolites would say.

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