Wednesday, January 20, 2016

From Sand Mines to Good Times

I love this time of the year when the whole country, more or less, knocks off - the holidays. The holy break - rest - interlude. The Japanese have this concept of the yoyoe - it is a break between things, a space of nothing-in-particular. The idea is to space intense activity with  ‘yoyoe time’. In our connected 24 / 7 culture now, doing nothing is seen as a sign that you’re a hopeless incompetent. But I digress.

We went camping, as we often do, at the beach. We took ourselves up north, to a National Park. We set up our campsite in a beautiful spacious area dotted about with Banksia integrifolia

B. integ. - stunted headland version - with visitor

In the evening we toured the beach - rough and wild - the carpark - dotted with kangaroos feeding on the grass - and the amenities block.

the moon rising
in a haze of sea-mist
crickets idly zizz

 As this is a National Parks and Wildlife Service camp, there was a large interpretive sign there. I was gobsmacked to see that this place had been a sand-mine until 1982. We had noticed on our way back from the beach that the sand dune vegetation looked rather compromised. Now we knew why. The object of the extractivist enterprise was to gather rutile, which is the raw material for making titanium. I remembered back to the eighties, when I was a volunteer for Greenpeace. At that time environmental activists  were campaigning against the sand-mining - particularly at Middle Head. Names like John Seed, Ian Cohen spring to mind but I’m sure plenty of other people were involved.

The next day a large goanna came out near the middle of the day, to scrounge around for food. 

shower passes
the trees rustle
their wet feathers

We met one of our camp neighbours who came over to warn us that he would be using a chainsaw to chop up his firewood : “This is one of the few camps you can have a fire in summer!“. He was from Forster, said that he and his mates would remove the invasive bitou bush whenever they got the chance. (He was a nice bloke though why he felt he had to bring a leaf-blower to camp, goodness knows.)

campground neighbours
zip and unzip their zips
laughter far away

As the days went by, we noticed that birds abounded:  butcher birds, magpies, black cockatoos, olive-backed oriole, black-faced cuckoo shrike, little wattle birds and a fig bird.   The little miner, an invasive native bird, was kept in check by the variety of other birds there. I saw a large soaring white bird of prey land on a dead branch high above the beach - an osprey. Cormorants, oyster catchers, pelicans,  yellow-finned bream, green ants, crazy jumping ants, a resin bee, paper wasps, native bees, little black cicadas and light greeny-yellow ones. 

distant crash of surf
outside my nylon walls
cricket’s lullaby

 Gradually the camp-ground filled up to make a ‘camp village’, especially after Christmas Day. The tone of the village was friendly, most people greeting you as you made your way to and fro the  rough and wild beach. Kids rode their bikes around, or chucked footy balls.

We swam; read; ate Christmas cake; walked; drew; rode boogie boards in the surf; had visitors.
surf  drags us
like human tinsel
lightly thrown away

Saw dolphins and when we went kayaking, stingrays. Other people fished, drove their four-wheel drives up the beach, had barbeques, did whatever they did. And were generally quiet and had slightly mad fires. I felt such gratitude for the campaigners who had made all this R and R possible.
Large Tongue Orchid - Cryptostylis subulata 

the southeasterly
blasts the headland -
floral white-caps

Christmas bells
 I was telling  a friend who was an environmentalist back in the day, about all this. He said that the bitou bush, which is now one of the worst pest plants up and down the NSW coast, was used to stabilise the dunes after sand-mining. “ That’s what I heard”. It was brought into NSW in 1903 by a ship which dumped its ballast off at Newcastle. Then from 1946 to 1968 it was planted by the Soil Conservation Service of NSW. Perhaps this arm of government served industry in the same way that Forestry Tasmania fell into line over every plan that Gunns, the now disgraced timber company, had.

We owe a great debt to these warriors for the environment. Lest we forget. Isn’t it time that the extractivists were paid off, written down, written out, seen off, given their marching orders, divested from, chewed up and spat out?

grey sky and rough sea
a plucky boat makes
a white line outwards