Elder Noel Nannup loves Wireless Hill. On any given day you can find him there, strolling, looking after the place, in the same way Noongar people have for 80,000 years. A softly spoken, gentle man, Noel has spent his life piecing together his culture and sharing that culture through talks, and fireside chats. A welcome to country is an initiation ceremony for people who have come from overseas, who were not born in Australia. For those of us who were born here, Noel tells me, as we walked through Wireless Hill, we have a spirit child, a responsibility to look after the land.
“My people have known this land, this place, for 80,000 years,” Noel says. “In the old way you knew exactly why you were here, you knew exactly why you were born; you carried on a role that someone else lived before you. you also carried on the knowledge and totems, and when you start to learn that and understand that, and it sits in your psyche, you’re well and truly on your way to knowing why you’re here.”
We walk. We walk and stop, and Noel points.
“You see that tree there? It’s a jarrah. Our placenta is buried under jarrah trees, so our DNA is in that tree; the same DNA that’s in me is in that tree, via the placenta; when you tell the same story from the side of science; that’s when people start to understand. We never knew that was science, we knew that the same thing that nurtured us, nurtured us in the womb, when you learn these thing early in life, these teachings become innate.”
We are facing one another, and he looks me in the eyes. Noel is a natural story teller, and he quickly gathers a sense of where you’re at, what he thinks you can understand.
“The word ‘jarrah’ means to spread out, the canopy is spread out, but also the root system under the ground is spread out; any word that has that sound jar-rah, means spreading out; the Canning River comes out of the hills and runs onto the coastal plain, but it spreads right across; the local name, the aboriginal word is Jarulah, and the last thing you learn about is that the jarrah, you can sit under that tree on a full moon, and you can talk to someone else who is the same kinship as yours, they could be 200k’s away; you can’t mistake a full moon, the tree becomes a transmitter and a receiver, like an antenna, and that’s called mental telepathy in science, that’s the power of the mind spreading out across the land, because you can have multiples of people at different locations all on the same wave length, and this went on for 80,000 years, and when you know that and when you’ve got that down pat, you get some incredible understandings; and we didn’t have a mortgage on that because other cultures had it as well, and they wrote about it, and it says that when you understand those things it produces people who can perform what we call miracles; our people performed those miracles all of the time, because we were so close, and when the tall ships came our people knew what was coming and they sang, and they sang the spirit into the ground, and the spirit is in the land, and we all know the crow, they’re never far away, they’re always watching, wondering what’s going on, or the cockatoo, big billed, strong beaks like vices crunch the nuts and use their tongues to take the seed out; it’s innate; those plant sense you’re here, we eat it, we sleep it, and we drink it, it doesn’t own us, and we don’t own it, and that’s what I’m hoping to get across in a few fleeting moments during a Ted talk.”
James Eggelston, a Fremantle boy, flies around the world about twice a month. That’s a big carbon footprint. A footprint he’s aware of, but one he hopes to make up for.
James is on a mission to de-carbonise the world. He speaks quickly and excitedly about a decentralised renewable energy future. He’ll chew the ear off anyone who’ll listen, from the Prime Minister of Thailand to diehard coal power plant enthusiasts.
He wants everyone to become what he calls ‘prosumers’ of electricity. That’s a hybrid producer and consumer. But unlike the current process of selling your excess power back to a big centralised company like Synergy, James and his friends at Power Ledger believe people will want to use a digital wallet on their phone or computer and make money from the grid.
“Traditionally the way we monitor our electricity use is through a centralised database, born out of a physical meter reading system. Even now your meter is read by someone who physically reads the meter, and they enter that into a centralised list,” says James.
“Based on those readings invoices are sent out and payments are chased up. The problem with that approach is you’re bringing more problems to the person with solar panels and a battery because you’re paying for that service.”
The Power Ledger software takes a reading from your meter, calculates your surplus power, and then sells that power instantaneously to other people on your network. The network can be ten or ten million people, depending on the size of grid.
The trick is not merely decentralised electricity itself, but the ledger that automates the payments is decentralised and digital as well, by using a public blockchain.
“The promise of blockchain is an automated digitised system in the same way telephone calls were once run through an operator, but now they’re run through a digital protocol,” James tells me. “Blockchain allows us to send value digitally without a go-between like bank or a broker.”
With a more efficient network, the savings go to the prosumers. It’s this aspect that motivates James the most, because the implications are monumental.
“If you are one of the one and half billion people in the world without electricity, already we are seeing single solar panels on houses, and most people have a mobile phone,” James tells me, checking his phone for a message.
“By slinging an extension cable between the panels, Power Ledger’s software can automatically manage those transactions.”
It’s here that the democratisation of Power Ledger’s vision becomes apparent. People can chip in ten dollars each to set up a micro-grid.
In W.A., the software is being used in a Lifestyle Village in Busselton, the new development in White Gum Valley and is soon to rolled out in the centre of Fremantle as part of the Smart Cities project.
James will interrupt his hectic flight schedule to be one of the key speakers at this years inaugural Tedx Fremantle, to be held on the 16th of September at the Drill Hall Notre Dame.
Was lucky enough to have two poems (Little River, and Ode to C.Y. O’Connor) included in The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry.
The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry is a comprehensive survey of the state’s poets from the 19th century to today.
Featuring work from 134 poets, and including the work of many WA Indigenous poets, this watershed anthology brings together the poems that have contributed to and defined the ways that Western Australians see themselves.
John Kinsella and I have written a book of poems in non-violent protest against the 100 hectares of bulldozing happening at the Beeliar Wetlands. Please feel free to share this as widely as possible. About 5 hectares has been cleared already. Clearing is set to resume any day now. Please click on the image below to read/download the poems.
In June of 2014, I took two buses and a train from my home in Fremantle to the trail head of the Bibbulmun Track in Kalamunda. In rain and a leaky jacket I walked for three hours to Hewitt’s Hut, arriving in the dark. Already at the hut was my friend, his brother and two friends of theirs I had never met before. My friend was walking the entire track. His mates had driven in as close they could to the hut. They had brought eskys full of alcohol, meat for the bbq and mobile phones to watch AFL on.