17 February 2009

A Medley of Reflections

My last post in this blog was on 7 February, a day when roaring fires swept across the eucalypt forests of southern Australia. As you may know, eucalyptus leaves contain a volatile oil. I use it as a cleaning product in my house.


Eucalyptus oil is a flammable liquid. It is volatile because it evaporates readily. I have a couple of eucalyptus trees in my garden (including a lovely eucalyptus ficifolia) though I do not live anywhere near a forest.

Some of the leaves drop off our eucalypts in warm weather, leaving a wonderfully refreshing smell underfoot. In the summer, the ficifolia blossoms are especially lovely and the lorikeets like them too.

Living in a forest of volatile, flammable oil is not a particularly sensible or sustainable way to live, especially when those forests also provide the water catchment areas for large human settlements.

Visiting forests is wonderful in cool, calm weather. I enjoyed exploring some quite recently, in fact, with a trip to the Otways and along the Great Ocean Road in November last year.


Sustainable living

In the early 1990s, I was both a student and teacher of permaculture, the scientific design of sustainable human settlements. Unfortunately, many of my fellow students and teachers often gave insufficient emphasis to the scientific, interdisciplinary aspects of the study, particularly the essential perspectives that can be gained through the social sciences.

Admittedly, science is often studied in a narrow way, without putting the findings in a broader context. You will find throughout my blogs that context is one of my favourite words.

From my permaculture experiences, I concluded that many students were more interested in escaping into their own imagined view of nature rather than living in harmony with its factual basis, and within the realities of a diversified society.


Rugged individualism - or ignorance?

European colonial history, and human migrations in general, have treated nature as something to be tamed and dominated, rather than understood. It often takes several centuries to truly understand and respect a landscape, as many indigenous people have wisely known.

We often demand too much of nature, fulfilling our own desires and ignoring its laws. Often, we are unaware of the consequences of our own actions, especially when we follow the unenlightened habits of those around us.

The town of Dorothea was once a forest. Its surrounding hills - its main water catchment - are still covered with trees in many places.


Quiet traffic

Why is it that some people like to drive cars with loud engines? Would a motorcyclist enjoy riding a bike so much if it sounded like an electric wheelchair? Why are some people happy to use a lawn mower, chainsaw or power drill but avoid vacuum cleaners, washing machines and even cloth dusters?

Why do some people think that music is only enjoyable if it is deafening? What is the relationship between being noisy and feeling powerful? Do let me have your comments.

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