Emboldened by the Bentley Blockade

 

It’s been ten days since the text arrived announcing the suspension of Metgasco’s license to drill for oil at Bentley.

 

Only ten days — and life has changed dramatically for many of us.

 

I search for a word for this new feeling and find an old one:

 

Embolden: “To give someone the courage or confidence to do something.”


What really happened at Bentley?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I did not camp there and visited on only a few occasions, so I can’t say for sure.

 

What I do sense is the aftermath–the spin-offs, the unintended effects.

 

At the final Bentley dawn service on Tuesday 20th May, Ruth Rosenhek begged several hundred cheering Protectors and supporters to go gently after the close of the Bentley Blockade, to keep up the warm hugs and looking into people’s eyes when she’d meet them in the street in Lismore.

 

Everyone was nodding agreement. We must not let this fade; we must keep this connection.

 

See:

https://freefall23.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/go-forth-gently-the-aftermath-of-bentley/


Most local people I speak with confess to having had a good long cry after the victory. I certainly did.

 

Some are in a shocked and fragile state.

 

Most are simply astonished.

 

And even those known as being “the voice of reason” admit the need to celebrate such a magnificent triumph.

 

Whatever happens next — here and elsewhere – the Bentley Blockade was a massive victory that Australia will never forget.

 

The ham-fisted tactics of a cowboy mining operation have brought forth the most sophisticated social action this country has seen in decades.

 

Metgasco has done us all a great favour.

 

We are emboldened. Our courage and confidence have been strengthened.

 

The Bentley Blockade is a powerful symbol for those who believe in freedom. Everything about the operation communicated care, love and concern.

 

What could be more heart-warming than the Camp’s beautifully tended vegetable garden?

The Bentley Vegetable Garden
The Bentley Blockade Vegetable Garden

 



“We who believe in freedom cannot rest”

 

When I was younger, I listened to Holly Near and Sweet Honey in the Rock sing Ella’s Song:

 

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

 

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

 

So many people – and so many older people – putting their lives on hold to camp in harsh conditions powerfully affected the rest of us. We cannot rest now.

 

All of my communications with local people begin and end with Bentley. “Go, Bentley” is a salute to all who showed they cared.

 

Consecration

 

I remember — in 1992 — when I discovered that I was consecrated in the service of the Earth.

 

See: Wendy Sarkissian Consecration story 2012

 

My heart softened and opened. I ached with love. I’d wake to the shock that I loved the Earth. My heart vibrated with the power of that knowledge.

 

It’s that way now with Bentley. Waking with a yearning heart, soft and open.

 

I yearn to return and place bouquets at the Bentley gates.

 

In gratitude to the Protectors who gave us so much more than social action.

 

I bless them – all of them, that motley crew – for renewing my courage and confidence.

 

Emboldened, I turn my face to the morning sun.

 

I believe in freedom.

 

I cannot rest.

 

I am ready for more.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

Emboldened by the Bentley Blockade



 

Metgasco’s “Community Consultative”: a Moment of Hilarity for the Bentley Blockade

I am old enough to have studied Latin in high school. It helps make me a good speller.

 

A moment of hilarity

 

And today, Latin provided a moment of hilarity in battle to bring Metgasco to see reason about gas mining in the Northern Rivers.

 

The goss now is that Metgasco is encouraging its shareholders to write to the Minister Anthony Roberts and the Office of Coal Seam Gas and say – wait for it – that the community consultation they undertook for the Bentley tight sands gas site was excellent.

 

I gagged when I heard it.

 

So I thought I’d better have a look online at Metgasco’s community consultation policies – to give me something to assess them by.

 

Well, that’s where the Latin came in!

 

Here is the website at 10:35 am on Thursday 22 May 2014. For posterity.

 

Metgasco website Thursday 22 May 2014 at 10:35 am

Metgasco website Thursday 22 May 2014 at 10:35 am

 

 

 



I can easily imagine the desperate in-house conversation in the Metgasco office, which would have gone something like this:

 



Fred, we gotta get some sort of consultation policy online while we’re negotiating with the Minster and the Office of Coal Seam Gas.

You know that stuff. It’s easy to write. Just a few bullet points. Any sort of placeholder will do, Fred.

Just get something up and get it up quickly and make sure it’s got all the usual buzzwords in it. Got that, Fred?

 

And Fred (or Freda), bless their heart, did not realise that on a website and a blog you have an option to go public. (Or stay private.)

 

Metgasco is public with their ungrammatical “Community Consultative” Latin page.

 

Here’s what is says in Latin.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Community Consultative

Sed odio nisi, lacinia eu interdum in, varius sit amet arcu? Maecenas aliquam sapien in ipsum dapibus bibendum. Quisque ac justo nunc. Quisque vulputate sem vel est adipiscing pharetra! Praesent interdum magna in quam dapibus sit amet ornare augue euismod.

Suspendisse facilisis condimentum lacus eu suscipit. Pellentesque eu enim lorem, vehicula iaculis nibh.

Quisque egestas leo a purus feugiat et mattis augue mattis. Nullam sagittis tempus enim ut laoreet.

Nulla mollis, est vel accumsan dictum, ante tortor ultricies enim, eu fermentum purus est at augue. Praesent scelerisque erat vel ante tempus tempor. Nunc imperdiet auctor eros nec mattis.Phasellus interdum varius tellus id bibendum. Mauris elementum mauris auctor magna venenatis vitae luctus libero imperdiet.

Nam euismod, arcu a accumsan malesuada, sem mauris vestibulum libero, sed rutrum mi eros vel augue.

Duis scelerisque, massa eu mattis dapibus, mi nisi elementum lorem, quis hendrerit justo nisl sit amet augue. Maecenas congue varius justo, et placerat est auctor ut. Curabitur pharetra justo non magna ullamcorper fermentum. Praesent imperdiet aliquet erat sed molestie. Maecenas orci justo, pellentesque id tempor ut, facilisis a ligula.

 

And here’s what an on-line translation yielded. My favourite line is this:

 

I’m a great quiver just, do not worry yeast.

 ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Translation:

 

But the hatred unless, on the fringe of EU is at times in the is various cancer cells? Learn some Tips for the same protein drink. Each and just now. Korea’s beef, whether the scenario is immigration processing! So sometimes it’s the tips on how to decorate the likelihood of protein is an important investment.

 

Americans spent to improve the park fun and exciting. Technology that your kids for their vehicle, the vehicles targeted options.

 

Anyone want a lot of research and a lot of travel attitude. Here’s arrows, for the time is to be proud of.

 

No soft or scientific sense, window glass for computer troubleshooting is free at the company. It’s a crime, either at the time. Now the financing of the United States or mattis. Phasellus sometimes variable region this dynamic. Important source of data elements to create the magic of free software financing.

 

For more, player-oriented styling, a lot of drugs manufacturing department, but to help my team or organization.

 

It’s chocolate, the mass of the football a lot of protein, my dear, unless the element of the Internet, which of the players Bureau to the righteous, It’s OK. Developers across the various equity and real estate is the seller. I’m a great quiver just, do not worry yeast. It’s modern, but it was effective employee. It’s the United States, the just, the kids that time had been when, easy of a bonus.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

If this is what Metgasco want us to read about their community consultation policy, that’s fine with me because it accords perfectly with that we’ve experienced in this region. That it’s incomprehensible.

 

I live only 40 kilometres from the proposed Bentley gas well.

 

I am here, on my half-acre property — just up the road. Waiting.

 

Nobody knocked on my door, nobody rang, emailed or asked my opinion in any form.

 

And I get lots of mail and the local post office is very reliable.

 

I get lots of phone calls and emails.

 

All my communication systems are working fine. Metgasco: the problem of non-communication must be at your end.

Or:

 

  • Am I not a “stakeholder?”

  • Not living close enough?

  • Not likely to be affected?

  • Not seeking influence?

  • Not caring about my health and that of my community?

  • Not one of the “usual suspects”?

 

Until this morning, I thought Metgasco’s community consultation policy did not exist.

 

Now I know it does exist.

 

But it’s in Latin.

 

I think I’ll keep my gate locked, just in case.

 

While I wait for the English version of Metgasco’s “Community Consultative”, whatever that is….

 

And while I wait for the phone to ring.


UPDATE 5:14 pm May 22nd:

Fred or Freda are on the job at Metgasco.

 

A neighbour emails that “Community Consultative” (in Latin) has been removed from the Metgasco website.

 

In its place, a long, self justifying letter from the Chair about how great the community consultation has been and how it’s

even better than the State Government’s community consultation. Eek!

 

I searched for the Metgasco Community Relations Policy while I was at it. It’s half a page of bullet points!

 

These folks need help!

 

Meanwhile, the rest of us must go gently.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 







 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun also Rises

 

 

The sun also arises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to its place where it arose.

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.

 

I’m not much for reading the Bible but I love the odd aphorism. And lately, Ecclesiastes’ “the sun also rises” and Psalm 19 have been ringing in my head.


So I thought I’d better unpack what it meant to me.


Recently, the Beloved and I sold our rural property.


What? I hear you gasp? After all these years of struggle as owner builders?


Yes, that’s true. After all those years of struggle. Being a niche, green, feminist, left-wing, activist consultant was a difficult balancing act – especially throughout the Global Financial Crisis.


I blogged about that in January 2014:


https://sarkissian.com.au/activism-planning-australia-delicate-balancing-act/


Work was hard to find and debts mounted as the house was still not finished. All our savings and super went into the building project.

 


We love it. But professional work did not come as expected.


A loving friend has bought the house and we stay on as renters.


Now we are engaged in another project: renovating the shed as a secondary dwelling. Living on a building site again. Muddy boots in the hall. Again.



Many friends and family were aghast to hear that we’d sold the farm.


But what else could we do? It was either a loving friend or the bank. And we did not want to lose everything we had worked for.

 


So I say back to my incredulous friends, “The sun also rises.”

 


What I mean is – through the same trees  – with the same birds singing – the same sun still rises and sets– whether your name is on the title or not.

 


If you do not own a property and are a renter, the same breeze blows, the same kookaburra arrives for a peek at life around dinner time. His or her same family members laugh in unison from the neighbouring tree. The same rainbow lorikeet dreams in the same bottle brush.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




The same joey suckles with his same wallaby mother.


I am not saying that housing security is not important. It’s everything to everyone and a constant worry to anyone who is a renter. It’s everything to us, which is why we bless our generous friend.


I am simply saying that life goes on.


The Earth continues to flourish – offering hope and opportunity in response to our caring (Go, Bentley!).


The same sun rises and sets.


Our human dramas are but a small and ephemeral part of a much larger world.


We come and go and the Earth remains.


Capitalism, finance, banks, mortgages, investments, interest, valuations and property – they are all made up – and they can’t hold a candle to the same sun.


The same sun that also rises.

 

sunset nimbin

 

 

 

 



Update 23 July 2015: The sun is still rising over the hills and melting the fog in the valley.   And we have experienced even more love and care with a new friend taking over when the old friend could not continue.

 

And other generous folk helping out in numerous ways. We have learned more about generosity, caring, home, attachment, territory, resilience and fear than we bargained for.

 

And a bit about betrayal along the way, as well, just to keep the mix interesting!

 

 

 

Bentley CSG Blockade: You Can’t Just Take My Dreams Away

 

Nimbin, 28 April 2014

 

gate-c-in-the-rain-20414_lo

It was bucketing rain at dawn at the Bentley Blockade this morning. The blockade against unconventional gas mining. No guitars or drums because of the rain. There were lots of people there but not a lot were singing.

 

Then, magically, about 5 am, a woman with a strong, melodic voice began a song that only a few of the older women followed. I was among them.

 



It’s a song by my hero, Holly Near. One of my favourites: “Mountain Song”.

 

Mountain Song

I was delighted to hear Holly’s song in our blockade. Hers is a powerful voice for change. After 30 years of work in social change movements, Near’s historical perspective, as well as her contemporary activism, continue to challenge and inspire.  I last heard her perform a year ago in Berkeley. She made me cry.

 

This morning, the woman’s song resonated deeply within me as I stood on the hill and watched the darkness fade and a new day begin:

 

I have dreamed on this mountain
Since first I was my mother’s daughter
And you can’t just take my dreams away ­– not with me watching
You may drive a big machine
But I was born a great big woman
And

you can’t just take my dreams away ­– not with me fighting



This old mountain raised my many daughters

Some died young – some are still living
But if you come here to take our mountain
Well we ain’t come here to give it



I have dreamed on this mountain

Since first I was my mother’s daughter
And you can’t just take my dreams away ­– not with me watching
No you can’t just take my dreams away ­– without me fighting
No you can’t just take my dreams away

 

 

https://www.songlyrics.com/holly-near/mountain-song-lyrics/

 

 

My dreams

I have been visiting the Northern Rivers since the early 1980s and have lived in Nimbin since 2001. My husband and I shelter our dreams here and, truly, Metgasco, wherever you are and whoever you are, you may drive a big machine, but “you can’t just take my dreams away – not with me watching.”

 

With many of my neighbours, I am watching. I am bearing witness. Like many principled and concerned people in this region, I am on high alert.

 

This mountain is not for taking.

 

Metgasco, hear me! You have no social license to mine and destroy our land, our water, our health and the health of future generations of all species.

 

Not only are we watching, we’re also fighting. We’re fighting for our lives here in the Northern Rivers.

 

Please, neighbours, if you possibly can, join us. Join us now.

 

We need you now – before it’s too late.

 

bentley-dreams-280414_low

 





Before the big machines take our dreams away.




 

 

 

 

Lessons from a deaf brown chook

It’s always interesting living in the bush!

 

Our enterprising neighbours have turned their half an acre into a hive of activity. WWOOFERS are everywhere (see https://wwoofinternational.org/). After decades of inaction, the community agriculture lot is thriving.

 

Karl is preparing his garden for viewing next weekend in a Nimbin House and Garden Tour fundraiser for the sustainable living project at Sibley Street (https://nnic.org.au/) sponsored by the Nimbin Neighbourhood

and Information Centre where he volunteers.

 

Meanwhile, the neighbours’ chooks are destroying things as fast as he can plant and mulch them. It’s a battle of wills, as Karl’s flower garden looks prettier without a fence.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both of us have undergraduate minors in psychology so we are trying to use classical behavioural psychology on the chooks.

When we chase them and yell at them, we loudly ring my workshop bell.


Classical conditioning for chooks

We’re hoping that — as in the case of using classical conditioning with Pavlov’s salivating dog (see https://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html) — eventually the mere sound of the bell will make them scurry away.

 

We really dislike throwing stones at Ben’s chooks.

 

All of this is working pretty well — from our anthropocentric points of view.

 

However, we’ve noticed that the brown chook is immune to our manipulative efforts at social control.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Further, she appears to be immune to the rooster.

 

She’s not part of the harem.

 

AND (even more interesting), she forages for insects and worms in other places– not Karl’s garden. She’s always alone and apparently doing fine — on the eastern boundary of our property under the trees whose fallen leaves have formed a thick mulch.

The brown chook is an independent actor in our garden.


She seems to be getting enough to eat, lack of sex does not seem to worry her, she makes no sounds (none of this monstrous clucking all the time) and she walks her own path.

 

Maybe she’s a lesbian chook? A feminist chook?

 

Certainly, an independent chook.

And we think she might be deaf — and certainly deaf to the rooster’s haranguing   importations. (Deaf to the dominant paradigm?)

I already have a kookaburra for a logo.

 

But watch out, Guy!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



The deaf brown chook is nipping at your heels (oops, claws…)

 

 

 

STOP PRESS!!!

 

Sunday: Karl (legendary dog whisperer) has apparently fallen in love with the brown chook.

 

Apparently it’s mutual.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Planner’s Distress Call: The NBN Information Session in Nimbin

 

Promise: Yes Delivery: Nada!

Promise: Yes
Delivery: Nada!





A vibrant community event!

A vibrant community event!

 




The inappropriate dress and exposed breasts of the woman from Ericsson were the best (or the worst, depending on your perspective) features of the NBN Information Session in Nimbin Town Hall today.

 

Oh dear.

 

Social Planner’s Distress Call.

 

Again.

 

It’s been a hard week and it’s only Monday.

 

I’ve already had a massive rainbow chuckle as the Queensland Government wheeled out an American consultant who’s supposedly an expert in “community visioning” to say how great their State Government community engagement has been.

Visiting Overseas Experts

These Visiting Overseas Experts (VOEs) are swarming all over the offices of right-wing governments in Australia at the moment. It’s a min-plague! We have Canadian planners from Vancouver crawling all over NSW and Melbourne.

And now the boy from Portland is in Brisbane. Offering his ‘testimonials’ for Campbell Newman. (I wish they’d keep their testimonials to themselves. They have NO IDEA of ow much damage they are doing to our fragile democratic fabric here.)

 

I am thoroughly sick of it.

 

But as a local and a businessperson who needs good Internet connection, I thought I’d better wander down to the Nimbin Town Hall and see how things were going with the ABN.

 

Oh dear.

 

Again.

 

My visit to the Town hall reminded me of a recent visit to Telstra in Lismore. When I complained, I was told that they weren’t actually Telstra at all – they were just a shop that sold Telstra things.

 

Something’s gone wrong in sales and service in recent times (if ever it was good). In Myers in Adelaide last year, when I spoke to the woman behind the greeting cards counter (in my distinctive Canadian accent-that-has-been-here-45-years), her first reply was “Well, you’re definitely not one of us, are you?”

 

Unreadable text

Today, in the Town Hall, when I asked the woman with the exposed breasts if she thought that the large blocks of dense text on the displayed AO panels were easy to read, do you know what she said to me?

 

Charts and tables -- designed to bewilder

She said, first, that she did not actually work for NBN, but rather for Ericsson, so she was not responsible. (That always comes first.)

 

And second (this always

comes second), she claimed that I was the first person to complain.

 

I am always “the first person to complain”.

 

Good thing I live in an anarchist community where complaining is always on the agenda.

 

The woman in the silly dress said that what was displayed on the easels was also in the handouts (nearly clipped together and sitting in tidy piles on the table).

 

I explained (oh, sigh, how many times have I explained this”¦?) that what you read in the comfort of your own tepee on an A4 sheet is different from what you read standing up in a group of people.

 

Easy-to-read and accessible information for all ages

Easy-to-read and accessible information for all ages

Dense text and complex graphics just do not do the job.

 

I asked if anyone had designed the panels and she told me that they were standard ABN templates.

 

I wandered out and had an ice cream across the road.

 

Too much for one day.

 



So why am I banging on about this, you might ask?

 

It’s because the panels – with their charts and tables and statistics and government disclaimers about EMR and so forth (just like Alice’s Restaurant) – are inscrutable.

 

And I expect that’s exactly how they want them to be.

 

To obfuscate.

 

No bugger can understand them (well, maybe that’s not true – there are some smart cookies in Nimbin who probably can”¦).

 

But they are far, far from user-friendly.

 

If I can't read -- or can't read fast -- a friendly facilitator will explain it all to me!

If I can’t read — or can’t read fast — a friendly facilitator will explain it all to me!

Far from it.

 

What we need in community engagement is an engaged citizenry. To get there, we need to come to public judgement. Not just atomised public opinion – with charts and tables and statistics you could shoot a cannon through. We need genuine opportunities to build and strengthen our literacy, knowledgeability and capacities, learn what we need to learn and have grown-up and authentic conversations about what’s proposed.

 

I want good Internet, don’t get me wrong.

 

And I’m frightened at where the technology seems to be going − very near my house.

 



But what I really want is a CONVERSATION.

 

Not to stand   bewildered and increasingly   dismayed– in front of sheet after sheet full of dense text and charts and tables.

 

I want to talk about things – not with a woman from Ericsson who’s not really responsible, in any case (and who is not even holding a piece of paper to record my comments).

 

I want to talk with my neighbours. And to people whose views I respect — about technology.

 

How about a few panels on the easels from the Nimbin Environment Centre?

 

I’d trust THEM.

 

But when you come right down to it, this is a political matter. Not a technical one.

 

I want a meeting.

 

A political meeting.

 

In the Town Hall.

 

And if we can’t have another of those, how about a properly designed and facilitated “Information Session”?

 

I know just how to do it.

It’s called a SpeakOut.

SpeakOut_Visuals_4cover



We have books, checklists, models and training available about this effective and innovative community engagement model.

 

And it never obfuscates.

 

See: https://sarkissian.com.au/publications/inspired-books/speakout-the-ultimate-workshop-guide/

 

 

I’m from Nimbin and I’m here to help you.

 

And Marnee has some nice, modest dresses in her Nimbin shop.

 

+++++

 

Finer professional process point:

In community engagement practice, we always make the point that dress is important.

 

It’s important to blend in with the local community. Don’t wear a suit in Woop Wooop, etc…

THIS IS MERELY A VERBATIM REPORT (not my words):

 

A member of the non-distaff side, reading the above, commented wryly, Well, if you’re going to let yer tits hang out, it might as well be in Nimbin.

Maybe this is company policy? A subtle attempt at fitting in with the locals?

My Logo: Why a Kookaburra?

 

Main Banner

 

Why a kookaburra in my logo?

Kookaburra energy is strong, bold energy. Living a solitary life in a harsh tropical bush location while I was researching for my PhD, I encountered a kookaburra who made a strong impression. It was March 1992. A male kookaburra flew in close to my shack in the forest. He settled on a tree branch about five metres away and called out–laughing and screeching. It seemed like an announcement, a `bulletin’ or some sort of `instruction’. Following his visit, my life changed dramatically. Difficult situations and relationships resolved.

I bring this catalytic energy to my professional work as a trainer, speaker, facilitator, planner and community engagement professional, often embodying kookaburra energy.

When we work with kookaburra energy, we pay close attention to opportunities. Believing that `listening is the social policy of everyday life’, I guide my clients to listen carefully – to themselves, their colleagues and to their communities. Messages from our inner kookaburra can help us decide which path to follow. As we find ourselves questioning our roles within both our communities and professional spheres, we can receive guidance about connections and relationships from kookaburra energy. Kookaburra advises us to respect other and seek respect in our work. Kookaburra’s positive energy supports professional insight, commitment and growth. Evoking kookaburra energy can create a ripple effect that invites positive changes.

Those who choose to work in this way may discover that a difficult professional journey is ending. New professional and community growth may already be flourishing. Kookaburra advises us to end old patterns that are no longer helpful by asking why we developed them in the first place.


Our workplaces are often sparse and barren places that are inhospitable to creativity and positive working relationships. When reflect that barrenness in our work with communities, the results can be disastrous. Working with kookaburra energy as professionals, we can learn to conquer fears and in turn, farewell ineffective, old patterns. Then we can be more open to suggestions from others, including community members.

The home-focused and deeply loyal kookaburra helps us hear challenging `home’ truths, as well as recognising our own capacities and strengths. In turn, we can aid others in recognising and acting on their truths. Community engagement, based on “deep listening” is kookaburra work. Working with kookaburra energy, we may find ourselves listening to others and teaching them by sharing our passions and beliefs.


While one of its lessons is to `lighten up’, look on the bright side and laugh at our foibles, kookaburra energy can be highly confrontational, teaching harsh lessons. This provocative work challenges our assumptions about how professionals should think and act – particularly in community engagement contexts. Always remember to be respectful. That is the most powerful message of the kookaburra’s proud energy.


I live in the bush and these marvellous birds live all around me – or rather, I live within and among them.

For me, kookaburra is the wise, loyal one, the remover of obstacles, who cuts through confusion and uncertainty and helps us find our way. Complexity and bafflement can melt away following the strong `announcement’ of a laughing bird. You simply cannot ignore that sort of commotion.  Once she’s here, on our side, so to speak, things are bound to improve.

She’s many things to me, kookaburra. She’s a mirror of my self.

As a wise and experienced professional, I could be many things to you.

 

 

Source: Partly adapted from: www.wildspeak.com/animalenergies/kookaburra.htm

Karl feeding Guy, 2011

Karl feeding Guy, 2011

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trouble in Paradise: Dual Occupancy at Jarlanbah

March 15, 2010 – 9:59 pm

 

Trouble in Paradise

 

Tomorrow evening my neighbours are meeting to decide whether or not to try to ban dual occupancy (commonly called accessory dwelling units: https://www.mass.gov/envir/smart_growth_toolkit/pages/mod-adu.html ) in this eco-village of 43 dwellings on 22 hectares.

 

The whole process has me mightily confused.

 

Imagine the contradictions

 

Imagine the contradictions. Here we are living on half an acre in a Permaculture community committed to self-sufficiency and sustainability principles.

 

We live in a low-income community (Nimbin, population 350) with a desperate shortage of housing, especially for lower income residents. And most of us do not grow much food – if any – on our properties. I think every lot has at least one car. We’re highly automobile-dependent and we’re certainly not secure in terms of food production.

 

Designed by Robyn Francis

 

But we’re trying. The Jarlanbah community, designed by formidable Permaculture designer, Robyn Francis, who lives down the road at the Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Education Centre (see: https://www.earthwise.org.au/), was established in 1993 and the first residents moved in in 1994. We’ve been here since 2001, actually living here since early 2006.

 

Now many of us are ageing and looking for opportunities to age in place and to have the possibility of a caregiver living on our house block.

 

Or to have an income stream from renting a small dwelling on our land.

 

Recently, the Jarlanbah Review Sub-committee rejected a proposal by one of our neighbours for a dual occupancy arrangement on his block. In North America, this is generally called an “accessory dwelling unit”.

 

His house is very stylish and modern in its design and I wondered what role “aesthetics” played in the decision.

 

Arguments in favour of dual occupancy

 

In any case, this case, which is likely to go to a formal mediation session, has caused a huge amount of discussion in our community. Some of us, citing global sustainability principles, Peak Oil, automobile dependence and the needs of an ageing, rural population, want to be able to have two dwellings on a lot. We can’t see how this would differ – in planning terms – from, say, a house with four or more bedrooms for a large family or shared household. We don’t see that the impacts on our road infrastructure would be that dramatic.

 

Not everyone would want to have another dwelling on their lot (perhaps half might – eventually) and those who did could pay extra to reflect the wear and tear that another vehicle might cause (assuming that vehicles would not be shared).

 

“It will open the floodgates”

 

But not all residents feel this way. Others are afraid that having a few more dwellings will open the floodgates. “It’ll turn Jarlanbah into a slum and a ghetto,” remarked one of the long-term residents, while another claimed that she did not move to Nimbin “to live in cluster housing.” “This is not inner city Redfern,” claimed another.

 

NIMBY and BANANA

 

As a Jarlanbah resident who has spent a whole career (since 1967) working in housing and planning, I am curious to understand what this really means.

 

Where would these road-wrecking new slum-dwellers come from?

 

How could a ghetto emerge as a result of density increase?

 

I can’t help but think of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) or better still, BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (or Anyone).

 

Nevertheless, this small village community on 43 lots is about to embark on an open, democratic, community discussion on this matter. In the Jarlanbah community centre, subject of an equally acrimonious debate that featured bullying and recrimination, broke hearts, shattered trust, offended aesthetic sensibilities and still rankles”¦

 

The Jarlanbah Community Centre

 

Watch this space!

 

Wednesay morning update:

 

Shocking meeting with no facilitation process to help us.

 

People jumping up and threatening, screaming and swearing at each other, unable to be controlled by the Chair.

 

I’m now branded as a consultant who’s the same as a dot-com operator – in the pay of the developers, plotting the extinction of all the wallabies, echnidnas and antechinus.

 

Pretty soon we will have blocks of flats at the bottom of the gully!

 

More soon!

 

Wednesday, after the mediation session

 

This matter has been taken to a formal mediation session through the State Department of Fair Trading. As a trained mediator myself, I know that what goes on inside the room stays insidethe room.

 

I will post my later thoughts on dual occupancy policy in this blog but for now, I cannot report on the latest events at Jarlanbah.

 

Except to say that we had a lovely pancake breakfast this morning (responding to advice from American planning theorist, John Forester, that we spend more time together socially and eating together).

 

So this morning before the mediation, I served pancakes for breakfast in the community centre (after Shirley and I scrubbed it within an inch of its life last night).

 

And tonight it’s pizza on our deck.

 

It’s raining softly in Paradise this afternoon. It’s very peaceful.

 

After a four-hour+ mediation, the local residents have gone home to their families and their gardens.

 

I hear Gaia, the living Earth, breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Is she thinking: Hopefully, those pesky humans will relax and simply love what they love.

 

The blessings of a composting toilet

March 11, 2010 – 6:51 pm

 

After four years living on our half-acre block and over eight years in total including time visiting on weekends, we have a toilet.

 

We christened it a few weeks ago with great delight and considerable relief (pun not intended).

 

Neighbours and friends wonder why this basic amenity has taken so long.

 

I sometimes wonder, too.

 

But with the wettest two years since European settlement delaying construction of our large roof, we had to work quickly on other projects when we finally did get the roof on.

 

That required several alterations (dismantling, cutting and re-welding) to the massive box gutter which was splashing all over the interior house timbers.

 

Now it’s all working.

 

We have a roof and insulated exterior walls and a box gutter that handles great floods of water.

 

So we could finally turn out minds – and our resources – to the toilet.

 

A Farallones Institute Composting Privy

 

I was surprised to find out what the design for a composting toilet which the local Council approves was first published by the world-famous Farallones Insitute in Berkeley, California in 1976.

 

I was living in Berkeley in the late seventies and much admired the Farallones Institute and the Integral Urban House (see: www.newsociety.com/bookid/4032).

 

The Farallones Institute was an independent association of scientists, designers, horticulturists and technicians which served for several decades as a pioneering centre for teaching and research in appropriate technology and sustainable design. Integrating architecture, agriculture, waste recycling, water conservation, and renewable energy, the Institute has been widely recognized as a model for ecological design. The Farallones’ resource conserving systems, solar dwellings, and organic gardens have been used extensively as a teaching tool.

 

That famous place. And now I was about to have one of their two-chamber composting toilets.

 

The toilet turned out to be much more work that I expected (though I did not build it.) Because it does not get direct sunlight, it has two chambers. After six or nine months, one is decommissioned and the other one is used for a similar period of time. The compost is put on the fruit trees.

 

Seems fine to me, though having two separate toilets in the bathroom is a rather quaint touch. We did not have toilets like that in North Vancouver.

 

So now we do not have to trudge 50 metres in the rain down to the community toilet. That was sometimes challenging when we were sick, it was raining heavily or the grass on the slope to the community building had not been cut. More than once I’ve slid down the hill to the community toilet on my bottom.

 

Gratitude to the Jarlanbah community and goodbye community toilet

 

Karl’s so happy not to have (in his words) to “push s**t uphill” any longer, as it was his job to clean out the community toilet while we (and many others) were using it. He had to haul the compost in a wheelbarrow up the hill 50 metres to bury it on our lot. That was a hard job, which he did uncomplainingly. But as he says, it’s good to know that it’s your stuff if you’re carting it.

 

He has great tales about what he found buried in the Jarlanbah community composting toilet! And it certainly wasn’t “our stuff”!

 

Good riddance to the Jarlanbah community toilet

 

 

Toilet Heaven

But now, rain or shine, we are in “toilet heaven”.

 

 

The kitchen is next.

 

Then we can benefit from Karl’s bountiful kitchen garden, currently fallow, but ready for reviving once he has a break from the seemingly endless task of house building. (I know he’d gladlygive up the ladder and welder for a spade and trowel!)

 

We’ve been at this house-building job for three years now. And now that my three books are published, I have more time to help.

 

We’re hoping to christen our new home before the end of this year. In the meantime, when we think of people who are so much less fortunate than we are, we’re reminded that we’re blessed with two huge tanks full of water, a cozy, dry place to sleep and a spacious deck for entertaining.

 

The world ice hockey champions

 

On which deck, to the great delight of our dear Canadian friend, Marnee and her Irish (but pro-Canadian) husband, Ollie, we watched the Olympic television coverage last month for sixteen exhausting nights.

 

A passionate, newly demonstrative nationalistic Canada reminded us that Canadians are (and must always be) the world ice hockey champions!

 

Right on!

 

Eh?

 

 

The Radio Hashbrown Blog

Radio Hashbrown Blog copy

 

Community pressure resulted in the closure of the antecedent of the Radio Hashbrown Blog.

 

However, the archives remain.

 

To read them, click here:

 

https://radiohaajblarnblog.wordpress.com