Thursday, March 27, 2014

Townsville - stingers and turtles


 The Strand just after cyclone Yasi, 2011

I love the Strand at Townsville. It is a long stretch of shoreline at the waterfront which has the Rockpool at the northern end. It’s the best of outdoor city living, offering a variety of alfresco experiences with the facilities that rates can provide. I especially loved the Rockpool last year, when I was a broken-kneed cripple who needed a handrail to walk into the seawater.

Rockpool - Magnetic island in the distance

All sorts of people  are at the Strand in the evening, taking in the cool air, reputable, disreputable, large family groups fishing (from a little promontory designed to extend beyond the Rockpool), skateboarding, walking dogs, jogging, inline skating, strolling, putting something delicious on the barbie, sitting on the ingeniously designed seats, looking out to sea, looking at women, looking at men, riding a bike, sea kayaking...and swimming.

I sink into
the warm brown water,
swim the full moon path

It reminds me of evenings in the villages of Western Samoa, where I travelled when I was twenty-one years old. The young people like myself strolled around the village in small groups, talking and socializing. In a tropical climate the evening is the time to be sociable, the middle of the day, the time to be alone and snooze.
 Koala on Magnetic Island having a midday snooze - see his black foot in the middle?

And the moon was full. It trailed its silver scarf across the water, tipping the wavelets which fell onto the beach. After my first full day, we went to the stinger net enclosure. I was the only person having a night swim, and yet, what could happen inside a net?


Small hospital tank
for Noah the sick turtle -
he clanks a flipper

Green turtles are common in tropical Australia. So are small boats powered by outboard motors. Not every boatie is alert to these shell-covered reptiles and it’s not a problem to them when they run over a turtle - but the turtle suffers. And as for plastic bags - so convenient! - they are global. Turtles adore to eat jellyfish, they are the  chocolate, or the potato chips of the turtle world. And floating around in the ocean - lets not get numerical over how many - are plastic bags that look like jellyfish to this reptile. Yum! But we now know that plastic doesn’t break down easily. In a turtle’s gut they act like a plug to the turtle’s bottom end. Nothing passes through like it used to. The poor creature gradually fills up with waste, which then begins to ferment and produce gas. He or she floats to the surface and then, because they can’t sink down to feed, they starve. I had that ‘stuck at the top’ feeling myself when I had my first scuba lesson on Magnetic island, and my BCD filled up with air till I was like a balloon bobbing around helplessly on the surface. 

looking from the Fort on Magnetic Island, out to the reef - before scuba lesson

At Reef HQ, which is a coral reef aquarium in Townsville,  there were three turtles in the hospital, each in their own tank.  Two of them were girls with deep gashes on their shells, made by propellers of outboards. The shell of one of them had suffered damage right across it, but she was growing it back. Noah though, had been brought in with a lung infection. Each of these turtles require thirty squid a day, and fresh water pumped into their tank. He hadn’t been fed recently and he was cranky.

I am told that the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, NZ, where I spent much holiday time as a child, is somewhat barren of fish these days. The bottom of it is as smooth as a turtle’s shell. We used to trawl for fish and catch trevally or terakihi, which we’d eat for dinner. You’ve heard this story in its many variations, so many times before.   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dharma Gaia - forum Friday Mar 28

The trees, mountains and rivers are my true face.
New eras produce new challenges which require new responses and initiatives. The Dharma Gaia Fellowship is one of these initiatives.
As practitioners of the Buddha Way we understand that all life is sacred — we practise to protect, care for and save the multitudinous beings, sentient and non-sentient, dissolving the three human poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance.
The motto and the credo “Greed is Good” has now come to dominate much of human activity on the planet, producing disastrous and tragic effects on our environment and climate. The insatiable, greedy pushing for endless growth without limit has been like a cancer, out of control. It has created chaos and havoc in human populations, our beloved plants and animals and indeed the entire ecosystem we call Earth. Economics has more than ever become a moral and a survival issue.
Over 90% of world climate scientists are now convinced that the prevailing climate crisis is the result of human activity. Much of this activity is propelled by ignorance and greed. Ignorance usually precedes greed and hatred. We know that the power of mindful awareness can dissolve ignorance and therefore greed.
Innumerable historical examples show that when groups of like-minded people meet for a common purpose great changes can happen.
The first aim of the Dharma Gaia Fellowship is to meet, share and discuss these issues together  — dispelling ignorance around our relationship to our environment, our Earth and the current climate crisis. To enhance and empower our discussion we shall include periods of mindfulness practice as part of our meetings.
The second aim is to encourage, share and discuss skilful means and knowledge which may facilitate our meeting the lifestyle, food, energy and building challenges which now confront us as a society. How can we most readily and practically make the survival changes which are required?
In our meetings we shall aim to share knowledge, skills and creativity about these matters.
The Dharma Gaia Fellowship brings together two of the most important threads of our lives: our cherished Dharma spiritual practice concerning the Great Matter of birth and death, and the need to return to our mother Earth — giving up ignorant, greedy and destructive pathways by learning and adopting life-sustaining, creative solutions.

Peter Thompson

May All Beings Be Happy