We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children
(Native American proverb).

Monday, January 18, 2010

To be an Earth Keeper...

As early as I can remember I have been passionate about the planet; sometimes overtly when marching in protest of a development or logging old growth forests; sometimes just in my belief that a slower pace of life and old fashioned foods and lifestyles are not only better for you personally, but collectively. I've written passionately about conservation in university papers, been a member of several environmental groups at one time or another and even voted Australian Greens. I loved Midnight Oil, took Geography at school, then studied it again at university. Taught teenagers in high school how to be aware, take care, and share information that would create a better future than the one they inherited from their parents.

Then I forgot! I forgot to care; forgot to be an agent of change for sustainable living or social justice. I became intent on making it (whatever "it" was); of making my fortune and then living on my estate enjoying my due rewards. Seduced by the all powerful, all important dollar. Lured by the promise of a full and extravagant life of parties and travel and cars and real estate, fine wines, fine foods, classy hotels and fame.

I'm not exactly sure what the tipping point was, but 2009 was a watershed year for me. I had been teaching Business Studies and running a small business with my wife for years, and I was ready for a change; seeking a shift to the country to find myself and give my beautiful wife and boys a slower paced and more peaceful life. I thought we could live off the land and leave our lives behind. It was all about me, and even though my motives were better, they were still inward looking.

We have always had a passion for cooking, good food and wine, enjoyed the search for quality produce and farmers markets, and were looking for the perfect region for our resettlement program, all the while watching family and friends slowly accumulate more and more while having less and less time for those they loved. It finally came down to 3 things:
  1. My wife and I went to the USA for a friends wedding, and while we had an amazing experience, we saw American capitalism at work first hand with its strip malls, huge fuel guzzling cars (and trucks!) food servings to feed a small village, and cities (New York in particular with it's bitter-sweet lifestyle) which had life but no ecology, and while we would love to return, were also acutely aware of what we didn't want our planet to resemble in 100 years time;
  2. A good friend and colleague invited me to help her fulfill a dream of creating a school garden which we could use to encourage our students and their families to be actively involved in growing food for themselves and their families, as well as being a practical application of theories we were teaching every day. Instantly I saw it as a way of achieving my self sufficiency goals in an environment where food prices going through the stratosphere, fuel prices at historically high levels, economic uncertainty and one of the worst droughts in Australia's history;
  3. Whilst researching markets for my wife to sell her hand crafted wares, we came across a kitchen garden project being run by CarriageWorks performance space in Sydney. We attended the launch in which they played the documentary "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil", among other speakers relating their experiences in their goal of achieving a more sustainable future for themselves and our wider community. At this point something inside me turned on, like a culmination of all previous learning, beliefs, experiences and goals had been leading to this point. I applied to be involved in the workshop and was selected. What I have learned since will be the point of future blogs.

Today, I write as one who treasures life, in all it's intricacies, forms and relationships. I am an environmentalist, and as such I believe that life is is intricate web of systems, both biophysical and human, and to disregard one would be to the peril of others. I am about living sustainably, so that everyone from my grandchildren through to their great grandchildren and beyond will live in a world which allows them to have a quality of life as good as our own, and not, as Ron Laura suggests, living in a way which inadvertently sacrifices our quality of life for our standard of living. I am about community and our collective responses to the challenges which face us. Through collective action we can, as Paul Hawken calls it, be a part of the earth's immune response system to ecological decay, economic disease, political corruption and social dysfunction. These are the aims and duties of an earth keeper; a steward of an earth we have borrowed from our children, rather than an earth we have inherited from our ancestors. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and hearing yours.


  1. You're so insightful... keep up the great work, I look forward to reading more.

  2. Actually... I think the turning point was the new found passion for country music... LOL!!!