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Rivers

I’ve just been swimming in a chemically-treated, lightly-perfumed, over-lit indoor pool in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain. I loved it. On my way to the pool I pass this fountain.

Oviedo fountain fireworks – waterworks doesn’t quite describe the uplift and spray, does it?

It’s the centre piece of a roundabout which illustrates the cycle of water showering through it every minute. Round and round we go. Up and down, through the pipes, over and over again. Humans have used water, in more or less elaborate ways, to enhance our lives as long as we’ve been drinking liquid to survive. You do know you’re soaking in it? In my time in Spain I’ve seen fountains in plazas, roundabouts and parks. I’ve also seen viaducts.

Segovia viaduct built with no mortar

As I’ve said before, imagine having to work in a frock and sandals to make this big old drain run from mountain to castle for your Roman leaders.

There’s plenty of sculptures too, like this one in the city of Valencia, remembering the river that used to run through it.

Valencia remembers their river with a colossus striding over water

One of the most amazing things about Valencia is that for the last thousand years a group of Spanish farmers, or their representatives, meet, every week, on the steps of the Valencia Cathedral; the tribunal de las aguas. They’re there to debate water; who gets how much, when. You can see them on a Thursday. They don’t keep records and their decisions are final.

Tour guide in Valencia explains the democratic nature of water decisions on the steps of the Cathedral

Compare that to negotiations around the Murray Darling basin in Australia. Irrigation is the largest user of water from the Murray/Darling rivers. Admittedly white farmers haven’t been there for a thousand years yet but they are certainly having trouble working out equitable ways to share the water and keep a healthy river. Couple of Aussie blokes made a tv series about it, if you’re inclined to view a cruise down a river?

The farmers downstream in South Australia do not stand a chance against the farmers upstream in New South Wales and Victoria. There are regular scandals on the border of Queensland and NSW.

Cubbie Station, a Japanese and Chinese owned cotton empire, has a dam described as the same size as Sydney Harbour. Down the other end of the river in SA, Goolwa’s water sometimes slows to a trickle. There’s no regular meeting to solve this ongoing crisis. Just earnest attempts, bitter blaming and ecological desperation.

Back in Spain, Valencia went so far as to move their river away from the city.

Old Valencia river bed is now a running track

Now a lovely park featuring running tracks, modern architecture and playgrounds, the river bed flooded too often and the civic powers showed the flow who was boss and shoved it out the back somewhere.

Valencia tamed their river beds and turned their minds to the future

The same thing happened in Seville. The Gualdaquiver, once a bustling shipping artery, was split to control potential flooding.

Seville’s quiet backwaters

I suppose in Spain climate change may be working for humans because there’s been less rain than normal for many years.

El Torre de Oro – The Tower of Gold – built in the 13th Century – across the river Gualdaquiver

 

The public face of the river in Seville

On the other side of the Iberian Peninsula, I lived last year on the border of two provinces, Barcelona and Girona, in Catalunya. The border was a river, La Tordera.

Standing on the bridge looking out to the sea and the railway bridge on one side and up to the township of Tordera on the other

In the summer La Tordera dried up. You could walk across it. In the winter it was a full, flowing river. I used to take a photo every time I walked home. There’s no sound track on the following slide show. Do you want to listen to Al Green while you check out the pretty Spanish river?

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In the beginning of my little compilation, you can see the mouth of the river at Blanes beach. In the summer, the mouth is closed. As the waters build up through the cooler months, they breach the sand. Water will find a way.

With my back to Blanes beach, here’s the mouth of La Tordera in cooler days.

Also, the nearby city of Girona features a river bed dry and bare in the summer. The winter rains and their outpourings created marvellous reflections for tourist photos.

Girona quiet waters in autumn – not a marvellous tourist photo

This year I work in the Valle de Nalón in Asturias. When I arrived, El Rio Nalón was a mere trickle.

Tiny little Nalón in autumn

Nalón in the Winter

Now spring is here and the snows are melting in the nearby mountains.

Nalón in spring

Churning white waters fleck the brown flood that chunders down the river bed.

Rivers come and go as seen in two stories in the Guardian today. When Nature’s had enough https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/01/argentina-new-river-soya-beans and farmers have taken all the deep-rooted trees away from the water table, is it surprising that nature will take her own course?

But more achingly important is this story about giving nature a right to exist; https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/01/its-only-natural-the-push-to-give-rivers-mountains-and-forests-legal-rights

The idea of giving a river legal personhood is pleasantly close to finding Naiad or a River God swimming along the Yarra, or the Thames or the Seine. But remember, “No river, no people, no life.”

They know that in Cape Town, they know it in Los Angeles. Around the world it’s estimated 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean water.

I don’t have to tell you, do I, that we’re all part of nature!

There’s a lot of charities about clean water; the tap project, charity; water, lifewater, water.com

The Source of the river Aube, one of the tributaries of the Seine, in the Haute-Marne region of France

When I stayed near Auberive, Champagne-Ardenne, France, I was fortunate to visit the Source of the river Aube, set in mysterious forest and retaining an atmosphere of magic. For about twenty metres around this area, the ground is wet and the steady seepage from below begins a flow that ends up joining the Seine. Here was a place it was easy to imagine a Naiad living.

Would we be more interested in protecting water if we returned to the days of worshipping? Would that be enough for us to form a human shield against the likes of Nestlé and Coca Cola? Remembering corporations already carry their own personhood, like Deities!

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, hydro-electricity is looking a lot greener these days. And rivers are so beautiful that Don McGlashan wrote a song about them. Made famous by singer Hollie Smith, here’s a version featuring the composer, a casual rehearsal to swim in.

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Thanks for getting into this river of thought. What, and where, are your favourite rivers? Have you been involved in any water charities? Let me know in the comments section below!

Like the sunshine …

When I remarked upon the Pope’s encyclical, I had not seen George Monbiot’s passionate piece about love for nature. He’s right that economical arguments around the cost of environmental damage do not appear to be successful. Time to try something else. Like our emotional response to nature.

http://top10for.com/top-10-best-health-benefits-of-sunlight/

http://top10for.com/top-10-best-health-benefits-of-sunlight/

I have also commented upon the increased interest in getting children outdoors in order to increase that love for nature. And now we have an added incentive. Chinese children are increasingly myopic. It’s not just Asian kids. How to fix that short sighted crowd? Get them outside.

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/1858791/if-you-dont-want-fat-and-short-sighted-kids-let-them-out-more

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/1858791/if-you-dont-want-fat-and-short-sighted-kids-let-them-out-more

Give the young long sight – a vision. How else will they learn to love nature and protect it?

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/sunliught-reduce-high-blood-pressure-study-article-1.1586791

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/sunliught-reduce-high-blood-pressure-study-article-1.1586791

I’ve been diagnosed with low levels of Vitamin D – and I walk the dog every day. You need Vitamin D for strong bones and teeth. And skin conditions. To heal infections. And possibly to prevent diabetes and obesity. And ricketts. And lower your blood pressure!

http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/dietary-chlorophyll-helps-us-captureuse-sunlight-energy-groundbreaking-study-reveals/

http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/dietary-chlorophyll-helps-us-captureuse-sunlight-energy-groundbreaking-study-reveals/

Remember the tv show Northern Exposure? There were numerous references to SAD and the need for sunlight in Alaska.

Chris builds the Northern Lights in Northern Exposure http://alaskanriviera.com/2014/12/09/4-18-northern-lights/

Chris builds the Northern Lights in Northern Exposure http://alaskanriviera.com/2014/12/09/4-18-northern-lights/

There’s no debate about the need to get outside to help depression. Sunlight triggers serotonin. Even the World Health Organisation says so. When you are outside you feel better, you love nature, you will protect it. It’s common sense. How strange that our response to nature swings to extremes – sun burn – cancer – sun screen – indoors – deficiency – short sightedness …

Is this guy lighting a cigarette? Tevs. http://top10for.com/top-10-best-health-benefits-of-sunlight/

Is this guy lighting a cigarette? Tevs. http://top10for.com/top-10-best-health-benefits-of-sunlight/

Clearly everything in moderation – where I live – 15 mins three times a week is fine. Between eleven and three get under a tree or wear sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.

The reason for Facebook friends? They post things like this:

BY WENDELL BERRY

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Even in the dark we can still love nature!

And I apologise in advance for this dodgy footage. But …

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How do you feel about that?

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/03/red-cadeauxs-melbourne-cup-injury-not-life-threatening-but-horse-retires

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/03/red-cadeauxs-melbourne-cup-injury-not-life-threatening-but-horse-retires

Recently there have been many news items of interest to those of us who consider ourselves animals. The Melbourne Cup racing day, of course, injured at least one and killed a couple of horses – one assumes Red Cadeaux’s days are numbered.

http://theconversation.com/trans-pacific-partnerships-toothless-environment-chapter-gets-the-wikileaks-treatment-22135

http://theconversation.com/trans-pacific-partnerships-toothless-environment-chapter-gets-the-wikileaks-treatment-22135

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been unveiled and is regarded as dangerous territory for those wishing to protect the environment.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bill-shorten-refuses-to-back-pacific-island-calls-for-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines-20151104-gkqy5e.html

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bill-shorten-refuses-to-back-pacific-island-calls-for-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines-20151104-gkqy5e.html

In Australia, the Leader of the Opposition refuses to support Islanders’ plea to assist with climate concerns by lessening support for coal.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/11961010/EU-cuts-subsidies-that-support-Spanish-bullfighting.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/11961010/EU-cuts-subsidies-that-support-Spanish-bullfighting.html

And the European Parliament voted to cut subsidies from Spanish bullfights. Well, that is good news. But humans still eat, factory farm and slaughter millions, nay, billions of cows without thinking about it. As you know, I believe at least the bullfight means humans have to face their actions. Let us be conscious of what we do.

In casual conversation with a woman waiting for a meeting the other day, an acquaintance, no more, we covered some of these topics. She sighed and looked out of the window, ‘Oh, I just can’t go there’.

What did she mean? This is a highly educated psychologist explaining that thinking about environmental news of the day is too much for her. She finds considering our relationship to nature too depressing to even contemplate. She feels overwhelmed. She feels hopeless.

This is one of my preoccupations. I even tried writing a short story about it once. I fear that the great beneficiary to human destruction of the environment is what they call ‘Big Pharma’.

http://www.davidicke.com/headlines/tag/big-pharma-criminals/page/3/

http://www.davidicke.com/headlines/tag/big-pharma-criminals/page/3/

There are a great number of cynical pharmaceutical companies who are laughing all the way to their annual company meetings, patting their shareholders on their drugged shoulders. We are talking billions of dollars. Clearly many folk are assisted by taking antidepressants. But for those who are concerned about our life on Earth? The more depressed people become about the environment, disappearing species, cruelty to exported livestock and mining companies dredging The Great Barrier Reef (UNBELIEVABLE!) the greater the drug companies profit.

http://theconversation.com/calls-for-climate-action-as-great-barrier-reef-suffers-major-coral-loss-9922

http://theconversation.com/calls-for-climate-action-as-great-barrier-reef-suffers-major-coral-loss-9922

Instead of getting angry, taking to the streets, writing/phoning their representatives; DOING SOMETHING, ANYTHING, people take the meds, click on Change.org or thepetitionsite.com, or Aavaz.org and feel their protests have to be enough to assuage their enormous hopelessness before they look away.

I wish we could all wake up, start feeling and take action but I fully comprehend those overwhelming feelings of belittlement and weakness we all face. That said, perhaps it is time to examine the big picture and follow the money. Who is making money from your emotional well-being? What would make you feel better?

Perhaps we can trust in the angels.

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http://climacts.org.au/tag/climate-angels/

http://climacts.org.au/tag/climate-angels/

 

It’s not all about talent

Chatting to my sister on the phone over the weekend, we talked about the Bowie exhibition and the film about Amy Winehouse. Her remarks about talent gave me pause. Is it all about the talent? But what is talent? Or is it something else?

http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3139096/dark-set-to-climb-new-mountain/

http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3139096/dark-set-to-climb-new-mountain/

Opera singer Jacqui Dark in her blog ‘My advice to my younger self’:

I love the Calvin Coolidge quote: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

The most talented people do not always win. Many of them are deeply, DEEPLY insecure (in fact, the MOST talented people I know are also the most full of self-doubt) and fall by the wayside at the first or second rejection. If you really want this career, you are going to have a million little rejections along the way: not getting roles you desperately want, working with difficult colleagues or bosses/conductors/directors who bully you or belittle you, being slammed in reviews. If you can’t cope with rejection, get out now.

Amy. The product. The film about the product. The film about bear-baiting. The film about prodding a little caged bird with a stick, ‘Sing! Sing!’ Amy the person lost, abandoned, crushed. She said at the outset she felt lucky to be able to sing. It was something she enjoyed doing, wanted to do well and was glad she could do it. But it wasn’t about being famous. Or rich. She just wanted to do her own thing.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jan/08/amy-winehouse-alcohol-poisoning-inquest

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jan/08/amy-winehouse-alcohol-poisoning-inquest

Her final concert; the treatment by her record label representatives, fellow musicians on stage and audience made me consider that human beings, together as a species, have bulimia. We don’t know when to stop stuffing ourselves with the good things, things we like, like pretty singers and booze and fish and fossil fuels and porn. Maybe we’re all looking for someone to tell us what to do. To be a friend. To bring us into line. To manage us. Amy portrays a desperately sad story of management gone seriously, badly, wrong.

Is this human nature?

On the other side of the talent coin, Bowie on exhibition, shows all the stuff out of his shed (admittedly it’s a way cool shed). He was allowed to grow up, possibly he was a physically stronger person to start with and he survived. The man was a dancer, trained with Lindsay Kemp. Incredibly disciplined, focused and energetic.

https://www.pinterest.com/nemer12/arts-i-love/

https://www.pinterest.com/nemer12/arts-i-love/

It’s obvious when you watch the clip of Bowie as a mime artist struggling with a mask, he is extremely fit and muscular; must have been taking all sorts of classes as well as conniving amazing frocks and sets and writing songs and finding new people to work with. Remembering that ‘collaboration’ means ‘working with the enemy’, Bowie sought input and inspiration from a wide assortment of recently graduated stars. Determined, ambitious and curious, Bowie kept seeking new things, including drugs.

Tony Bennett said about Amy, that he would have told her to slow down, that life teaches you how to live, eventually. If you live that long.

The arts are tough. There are many talented folk who want a go in the limelight and the people who spin the golden wheels need only a few to put through the grinder at any one time. And how do the ingenues come through the grind? Some survive and go on to a happy relaxed retirement, the odd brilliant cameo and wonderfully photogenic grandchildren. Really?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2220403/The-real-hate-crime-persecuting-decent-man-beliefs.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2220403/The-real-hate-crime-persecuting-decent-man-beliefs.html

All we want is an audience, and I’m speaking for myself here, just some helpful souls to recognise the work and listen/absorb/contemplate the ideas. I don’t know about creating demand for more. That’s not factored in to my story. But for those who can, who know how to take a cut, who want to be friends so they can benefit? (Lucky I don’t know anyone like that!)

At an arts forum the other night, an empresario encouraged the ‘artists’ present to think of themselves as somehow different, as the ones with ideas, the creative ones. But I think he’s wrong. I think everyone is creative, more or less, everyone has ideas, it’s human nature. You’ve just got to be allowed (by yourself as much as anyone else) to shape them and share them. So do. Make that thing! Sing that song!

Just beware human nature.

And remember Amy.

Dear MasterChef – What is it with you and PROTEIN!?!?!

Dear MasterChef,

MasterChef judges and food

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/masterchef-recap-laura-the-queen-of-italian-cuisine-steps-up-to-the-plate-as-front-runner-20140723-zvv2m.html

Look, I love a reality tv show as much as anyone else. Remember Bollywood Star Australia where Australian performers had a chance to travel to India and become a Bollywood Star? Fantastic show.

Audition

http://www.rogersmedia.com/programming-omni/bollywood-star-australia/

Or if you prefer your reality online, Penny Arcade produced a lovely, fun and genuine search for a new cartoonist called Strip Search. This series is notable because the contestants were super nice to each other and the judges were positive, constructive and just plain generous.

Strip Search picture

http://www.penny-arcade.com/strip-search

We’ve all watched a few, haven’t we, but in Australia, at least, the biggest of all must be MasterChef. When we had a Brazilian student from Rio stay with us for far too long, our family all sat down to watch MasterChef because it combined sport (Brazilian kid’s love) and food (my family’s love).

But I can never go back to MasterChef. But I’m sorry, MasterChef. I’m so over you.

http://www.realityravings.com/2009/07/10/masterchef-australia-the-judges-talk-about-how-they-got-into-the-food-industry/

http://www.realityravings.com/2009/07/10/masterchef-australia-the-judges-talk-about-how-they-got-into-the-food-industry/

It’s finished between us

BECAUSE

What is it, MasterChef, with the PROTEIN?!??

To listen to you bang on EVERY SHOW, beef or lamb is a protein. Eels are protein. Little helpless milk-fed baby cows are protein. As if protein was only available in animals.

Do you not know that protein is in EVERY living thing? Proteins are the building blocks of life!!

Well, MasterChef. It’s true. Think about it for just one moment. You really need to eat dead animals to grow big and strong? Like horses? Cows? Camels? Elephants? When you think of big boofy creatures, like bulls, for instance, what do they eat? AND did you know, thinking of big and boofy, that gladiators were vegan? Why, even bodybuilders today can be vegan!

Gladiator mosaic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladiator_Mosaic

In the old days everyone read Diet for a Small Planet. That’s where I learned the facts of life and many, many other people did too.

cover of Diet for a Small Planet

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/199107.Diet_for_a_Small_Planet

Apparently, so Frances said, proteins are made up of twenty amino acids and nine of those are essential – that’s what we have to eat every day. If you kill your food, it’s easy. Just take an axe to the cow or strangle your chicken for your amino acids. Or you could eat vegetables – you just have to mix it up. Complement your proteins. Beans on toast is a complete protein meal. Lentils and rice. Dahl and bread. It’s not rocket science.

BUT

HANG ON THERE

JUST A MINUTE!!!

SHE WAS WRONG!!

A few years later that same author of Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé admitted in the 10th anniversary 1981 version of the book that sufficient protein was easier to get than she had thought at first:

“In 1971 I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein … was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the impression that in order to get enough protein without meat, considerable care was needed in choosing foods. Actually, it is much easier than I thought.

“With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on [1] fruit or on [2] some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on [3] junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein.”[3]

In 1981, this is. Over thirty years ago!! Award winning and Foundation founding Ms Lappé recognised she’d made a mistake and she apologised and put the facts straight.

But the complementary protein myth still exists. Not only that vegetables don’t have enough protein but that it’s necessary to mix it up. When it’s not!!! It’s worth repeating that about eating enough protein, ‘ … it is much easier than I thought.’ In fact, you just have to eat food!

All food contains protein!! Wake up MasterChef!! You are so far behind the eightball you haven’t even debunked the first myth! Or are you so far enamoured of the meat industry that you can’t even see the truth for the steak?

And, finally, MasterChef, here’s where the television star meets the meat: did you hear about the hunter who thought that the locals would like to eat a tough old giraffe when they could have had some tofu and rice? Go, Gervais. Just get ’em!!

I wish you well, MasterChef, but mainly I wish you’d get your facts straight.

Lots of love,

Victoria

Project Wild Thing – a fun film with a serious heart

During the Sustainable Living Festival we called in to see a film called Project Wild Thing. The documentary follows a Dad, David Bond, frustrated his two small children only seemed to like television, as he tries to promote Nature as a viable alternative.

Marketing Manager for Nature

He begins a marketing campaign promoting Nature to children. He interviews experts, including his own mother, about the fact we’ve lost the ability to ramble through wilderness because there’s less places for kids to play, kids are overprotected and there’s computers to keep them absorbed. There are scientists who rate children’s health concerns and advertising gurus wonder what the benefits of nature might be.

Apparently the project began because of a growing interest in what’s been termed the nature deficit disorder. Richard Louv coined that term and was also here for the festival but one can’t be everywhere. Here’s a link to a video about his book, Last Child in the Woods, instead and here’s a picture of his latest book. I think I shall read this one!

Cover of The Nature Principle.

Richard Louv’s most recent book.

Research and analysis around the world has proved that people, more importantly, children, are spending much more time inside and hardly any time outside. When David Bond interviewed teenagers they said that wildness was boring. One girl said she never goes to the park near her because lots of people walk their dogs there and dogs can maul you to death. Mind you, when he took a few of them on a walk in the local park they became animated, interested and quickly made a daisy chain.

In a delightful animation, made by the same film makers, a young voice explains we were better off before there were things with buttons to push (at 1:15) ‘They didn’t have the virtual quests, they had, like, the world was their quest.’

The Project Wild campaign really ramps up when the filmmakers hook up with Good For Nothing, a group of advertisers and marketers who donate their time and expertise to workshop ideas. As a result there’s an amazing spread of activity from billboards to flyers and an app giving kids ideas about what to do in Nature. It’s all super!

Trailer for Project Wild Thing movie

When I was searching Project Wild Thing for this blog I found an American group called Project Wild. Apparently there’s been many groups formed as a result of Richard Louv’s work. There’s even been attempts at legislation with the No Child Left Inside movement.

What will happen to future generations if kids don’t get outside?

picture of creek with the slogan 'Original Playstation'