Some writing and media from our protest over wetland and tree clearing on Bibra Drive 16th to 29th of November 2018.
Death Row, Bibra Drive
Camped beneath the ‘eastern states’ tree,
a snake and Doug and Fox and Jan and me.
Camped under a tree that we know will be bulldozed,
the red bleeds as the arms are severed, the fingers
there’s bastardry in those white dongas
and the State Security sniffed at the air with forked tongues
duplicitous, but uncompromised,
and as the Mueller investigation comes to a head,
and the Extinction Rebellion grows in the UK
there is the sound of motorbike frogs
awkwardly reversing, retreating, as the bobcat
prepares the pavement for landing.
At 4am I cannot sleep, soon our shelter will sleep forever.
Sarah’s tree will sleep forever. Main Roads are waiting.
We know their tricks. The dozers will mobilise
as soon as we move on to protect the other wetlands.
Some of the drivers can’t wait. Some aren’t so sure, now.
A little film by Natasha:
Fumes and sand flick
between the temp fence grid,
across Bibra Dr, and over the wetlands,
over our tents, into our faces.
I know now, as the sand,
from a mine further south,
where banksia once grew,
is piled high, and the dump truck
reverses in with that reaper-like gasp
hurh Hurh hurh, I can feel the loss,
because I can clearly see
what will happen, the temp fence
will be removed, Bibra Dr
will be closed and the great Cats,
yellow, like the sand, like bile,
will gasp their way across the threshold
and expand into the wetland,
going the wrong way, in reverse,
as always, as we know the wetlands
must be reclaiming the roads,
that the loss must be replaced with gain,
that the drift into adjectives
will be permissible for a while,
that celebrate and relax
might be used in our lexicon.
Until then I’ll sit in the grey dirt,
where someone has inserted
a love heart out of flower pods,
and watch for the fencing
contractors to open the access gate.
I wish I had better news.
The Ways Part – Bibra Drive Widens
High in the rushes, deep in the swamp
the reeds scatter, breeze bends,
eight wolf spider eyes glow and glisten
they reflect like Vic’s jacket,
as he brings the dawn and a song
and we duck behind bushes
as the tyres and headlights approach
as the perpendicular floodlight
lights up the Lilly Pilly
and Nicole, black, from head to toe
does a child pose, her nose sniffs the soil
and she closes her eyelids
and I see that her desire to ‘fuck shit up’,
is her voice not being heard,
her dreams undreamt
her scars revealed, her tattoos fading
in the dying days of Beeliar wetlands.
We weren’t reflective like wolf spider eyes
or Vic’s jacket, we shook the space
around the steel, we shook off
our traumas to prevent future traumas.
That’s our truth; we know the quendas
are watching, Corina said the tiger snakes
will share the swamp with us, and Amanda
works within that reptilian charm,
and when Dougie whips out his eight inch …
lens, he zooms in on the greenheaded gum hopper;
what he sees is clues,
what he has found in this neglected nook
is a place to turn to, to make sense
of what’s beyond our comprehension
to transfigure the fabric into a tent
to capture the insects before extinction.
The tree sitter, Sarah, who knows
the jiddy jiddy twist, ohh jiddy jiddy proud and puffed
who smile with grasshoppers in their beaks
their black burns holes in our chests,
damsels and dragonflies grow in our stomachs
for now the Main Roads fauna fence is up
lacking support we lost the wetland;
we’re as hollow as a fuel tank,
as if we could’ve done more
as if our chats and attitudes
and arguments and lost lighters
could have lit a path, could’ve been refueled,
that the arrestables were replaceable.
We were born in mud, as our lungs grew
we knew we weren’t born Olympians
or politicians, in darkness we held this space,
we stretched the fibres, we felt the leaves
shield skin from burning rays,
and as the distance from trunk to trunk widened,
the road widened the seasons widened –
our lungs had to widen to take deeper breathes.
But now you’re about to go
you’ll turn your sun burnt face and take your medicine,
and make jokes about your bucket of poo
and reminisce about how the bucket snagged
on branch and the piss nearly exploded on Doug’s head,
or you’ll return, gradually, to a non-frazzled brain,
to quiet hours where your brain is a unified page,
not sticky notes, but we can sense,
as the wolf spider eyes glow, that soon the shit will hit the fan,
that craziness, spacelessness
and fractures will be the new norm.
The Bibra Drive Declaration
For too long we have lived in hope.
In primary school we were warned about global warming.
We were told about the importance of pollution.
We were told that trees turn carbon into oxygen.
For too long we have listened attentively for tiny glimpses of the truth, for signs that our politicians ‘get it’ – that they understand the ecological crisis Western Australia faces.
We have held our breath hoping for the signs that change is upon us, that the environment and the place where we live is valued, and that what climate science is telling us is to be taken seriously, and discussed out in the open.
We have held our breathe that the government with all of its powers and contacts will utilise their own institutions to tell the people, to tell us, that the problem is real, that the graphs are not fake, and that, indeed, the planet is warming beyond our control, and the gases are increasing beyond our control, and the oceans are rising beyond our control, and that we humans will have done irreversible damage to our atmosphere and that soon our ecosystems will collapse.
We have listened to the elders who have been silenced since the first tall ship arrived.
We see, day after day, our brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunties depressed and detached and suicidal, hopeless and worried.
We no longer see migratory honey eaters return year after year to nest where Main Roads have chainsawed and mulched native bush for tarmac.
We have heard the cries of the dying cockatoo.
We have seen the tiger snake and the bobtail lizard flattened on car tyres.
We still see attacks on the wonderful great white shark.
We have smelt the smells of our forests lit up in flames as the fires they have lit drift over our homes.
We have seen the bones of the kangaroo, who tried to run from the fires lit by our government departments, and had a choice of jumping off a cliff and into the ocean, or face the flames that burnt their home.
We have stood by as the executive have been used like pawns to stop us from trying to stop the bulldozers destroying the existence of one wetland after another, one woodland after another, one forest after another.
We have listened to the judiciary claim that their hands are tied. That until the laws are changed they are powerless to prevent more destruction. That environmental offsets do not replace the habitats that are lost. Habitats that we depend on for food and water.
We have listened to the judges and lawyers who agree with us that ten cricket ovals a week cleared along the Swan Coastal plain is unacceptable.
It is not inconceivable to imagine suburbs stretch from Albany to Geraldton. For almost all of the heath land and banksia woodland to be bulldozed. The master plan handed down from our planners anticipates a scorched earth policy such as this. But this will not happen. There is not enough time. The environmental crisis it to urgent. The situation is too deadly. Our premier knows this. Our prime minister knows this.
We have seen continued attacks on the Great Western Woodlands.
Today we have heard that fracking will be allowed in the Kimberley, and that the Browse Basin will be mined for gas.
We have seen EPA approvals rushed through parliament to allow uranium mining up in the Kimberley and in the great Yilgarn block.
We have heard our representatives say they want more defence funding to build more warships and tanks in Henderson, south of Fremantle.
We have heard our representatives say that they are ready for war and to fight injustice wherever they see injustice across the globe.
But we have not seen our representatives use those same resources, and that same money to fight a bigger war, and a bigger problem that effects every person on this planet, the problem of the climate crisis and species extinction.
We have been blind to their language that invites a rhetoric of conflict and division.
A language that leads us away from peaceful protest and pacifism.
They make us believe that we should lose the ‘battle’ to win the ‘war’.
But everyday there is a new battle that we are told we should let go.
We are told we should let Bibra Drive be built, and that there are more precious places to preserve.
We are told we should let the wetlands on Armadale Road be smashed.
We are told that Great Northern Hwy should be widened and that the frogs and snakes that live there were an unfortunate casualty.
We are told that the ‘battle’ of Brixton Street Wetlands is one we should let go, there is a more important war to win.
But we don’t agree.
We do not agree that we have time to deliberate about how deadly our situation is.
For too long we have believed that our representatives will make the right deals and put people before profit.
But from now on we will not just defend ourselves from the rapacious machines and unwieldy planners who seek to destroy our wetlands, our lungs.
We demand that our governments place a moratorium on clearing any more land.
We demand that our government do no deals with those who value profit over clean air.
We demand a cultural change within the intuitions, organisations, and companies whose operations impact the natural environment.
We understand that you can’t go around what you cannot see.
We know that Main Roads do not see trees.
Main Roads do not see wetlands.
Main Roads do not see forests.
Main Roads can not change until they apologise for the wrongs they have done to the ancient land that is Western Australia.
A land that is unique and diverse and awe inspiring.
But Western Australia is not infinite. Western Australia is not ‘hardy’ and invincible.
For too long our governments have preyed on our defensiveness and our infighting, and cut down the trees when we were at work, or when we are asleep.
For too long our politicians have been more concerned with the security of their seats, rather than the security of the trees in the soil.
For too long our politicians have resigned to a culture that enables more and more trees to be cut down.
We know that salinity is too great a problem to be tackled.
Climate change is too great a problem to be tackled.
Main Roads is too big a problem to be tackled.
We say we have no choice.
We say that Bibra Drive is the line that cannot be crossed.
We no longer live in hope.
We will put our bodies on the line.
We will protect the wetlands at all costs.
25 Nov 2018
Thought I’d upload my dissertation. Please download A Tour of Ashfield Flats here
In John Dixon Hunts’ book Greater Perfections in the chapter ‘Word and Image in the Garden’ he discusses the role of the word and narrative and experience in landscape architecture. In context of narrative, he argues:
“[N]arratives that recount times past do so in the present, which with landscape architecture is intimately linked to the configurations of the site that functions both as setting and presumably as prompt for the narrative to be recounted. Further, the “reader” is thrust into prominence; the narrative of a place relies on the verbal skills of its visitor, who has to infer or “translate” from the given materials, which can never (qua narrative) be as complete as they would be, for instance, on the pages of a novel.”
Thus, the verbal skills of a viewer, reader or visitor in a didactic, narrative designed landscape can never as complete as the reader of a novel. This is because of the “translation” from the abstraction of the inscriptions on the materials of the site, and the site itself. Therefore, for example, a plaque by the ocean may describe the anchorage of a ship in a port two hundred years earlier. The visitor reads the plaque, looks over to the position of anchorage, and is imagines a ship there. The argument put forward by Hunt is that this scenario is not as complete a narrative on the pages of a novel. However, I think there are grounds for a contrary argument. A visitor with verbal skills may have their experienced enhanced by looking out to where the boats set anchor. A purely fictionalised novel has no landscape equivalent to compare the given materials.
Unless of course, Hunt means that a plaque can never be as long or as big as a novel. In which case he is correct. He concludes: “in short, the site qua site may play a greater or lesser role.” When, I think what he means to say is: the abstract site (narrative) within a real landscape may play a greater or lesser role.
Sites within sites, narratives within narratives; the way our minds work and our body moves through a site is immensely complex. There are an infinite amount of impressions, senses, ideas and events that coalesce to complete our understanding of a landscape or site. While historical narratives within sites seek to represent a true interpretation of a sites past, what of the fictional impressions we gain from a site? How does a shift in scale, an imagined people of the past, an animated artefact, the re evaluation of the ugly change the way we read landscapes? Can, or do we reach neutrality by championing the fake and the ugly when best practise seeks to promote the good and feel good?
Im conducting a site analysis of the Ashfield Flats; a wetland near where I grew up. On the 19th of March I walked through the flats with a video camera. You can watch the video here:
And first poem analysis:
Site Visit Ashfield Flats
Part of the river begins here, car carcasses
Filter run-off, houses fenced off
Red tap on top of fire extinguisher.
Buffalo grass covers a culvert
Large concrete block monuments
Pine bollards and a steel gate.
‘No unauthorised vehicles passed this point’
The sign, twenty metres beyond the fence;
Galahs cackle overhead.
As if in distrust of the drain
Houses a but the 100 year flood line
Stink from the drainage block.
A two foot foam toy stealth bomber
Discarded in the buffalo – ‘the F27C
Striker Brushless’ neglected, ignored.
Broken, landlocked like concrete islands
Bark shards and a dying tomato plant
Part of the river begins here.
My body moves expectantly
Barefoot, aware of tiger snakes
A stick wrapped around my ankle.
MWB infrastructure tagged with ‘SK’
As alien as the stand of tapping bamboo
Within phone range, without credit.
Sweet mud smell, the hill you slide down
On tin, the old man keen to shoot to shoo
You away, his property as far as his scope.
To kill the grass they kill the liquid amber
Yellow bamboo pole matresses
The ‘clean fill’ sand will absorb it eventually.
Salt bush tagged pink, ready for pruning
Fifty yards from a fence, ‘our home’
Our ten metre limestone retaining wall.
More graffiti on blocks thick with melaleucas
A safe place to practise, DK in red texta
On paperbarks, more practise.
Rows are rows of planted tulips: a concerted
Effort to pretty the place up, beside long lines
Of blackberry bush, an air conditioner hums.
Water collects here; lentic. Overflowing rubbish
Bins on the driveway, a baby crying
Her life begins here, mosquito coils.
I become impatient, lustful and lacking narrative
I pause on the authorised vehicle track
Parrots squawk, a German Sheppard barks.
Then, evidence of machinery; mown lawn
Drainage swales, designed drains,
Another Main Water Board Block: Stourhead Grotto?
Dead gums, kids playing cricket
Adopting famous players names
Recreating classic moments: the pathetic fallacy?
A netball ring attached to fence
Bark crunching, parrots munching
A train a truck an aeroplane.
A fences, a concrete path
A stream sidled by casuarinas
Hesitate to use the word weed.
A small stand of xanthorrhoeas, cleared
Drain fenced off for important revegetation
Dog shit on the side of the path
A few days old
Clear blue sky overhead, hazy at the horizon.
I imagine walking straight the swamp
With a video camera, a document,
Not now – not the right time, never the right time.
Go right, I go left, through the thicket
To much of a sissy I stick to the path
The birds becoming louder.
In imagining the future I left the present
And missed the approach to the foreshore
A flat pyramid of arrow, ground cover.
Velvet pillows jammed in amongst the limestone
Banks – a fisherman’s forgotten seat
Long neck turtles, high tide tomorrow.
A kelpie freaking out over rollerblades
Fallen trees, their rotten roots
Suspended in floating mud. Not a sculpture.
Nor is this paradise, the river, in pieces
Has kept clear, held back proper light
Part of the river begins here.
The DC266 Evenrude outboard dingy
Its fishermen, shiners of the torch
Throw cigarette butts in the water: 18:35pm.
The bridge monument – maximum load limit
Three hundred kilograms
Hugs the bank like Michelangelo’s staircase
The last of the sunlight, duck tracks,
Great Egrets picking at the rushes
Mistook them for a chip wrapper.
Still as salty as the day purchased
At the supermarket:
The Great Egret Supermarket.
I jump off the bridge – heading home
Find a toy walkie talkie, possibly from the stealth bomber:
You used to be able to see the bottom, over.
‘Surprised by the amount of water in here
At this time of year, over.’ No frog noises
So silence. Still, plenty of mossies and guppies, over
‘Copy, over.’ Walk around puddles.
Now it dawns on me —the camps—
We used to see as kids, the piles of rubbish
Buckets, blankets, remnants of small fires
Were aboriginal camps, a midden under my nose.
‘Fucking Hell’ sprayed blue on a she oak, a totem.
Car wrecks half way up the drain
When the water’s high become tip islands
Rusting ruins: they dont make ‘em like they used to.
Clay sediments and oxidise metal mixing:
Follies of the future,
Slowly leaking into the creek.
You can see the wet line on the side
of the drain, the high water water mark
A white horizontal line of phosphate
Part of the river begins here, car carcasses.
Solitude is like Bali:
Vacant and full of Aussie tourists.
I snuggle up to SBS
Daytime is a corner in soccer.
My coffee is enough to entice you.
Here at the rally
The dust lets me forget
About my holiday in Hyden.
Playing golf on the red sand
And sheep dogs…
A kangaroo zooming
Above the Spinifex,
A 20 000 watt globe
Listening to the Dirty Three
Gravity wrapped around me.
I apologise for the full moon, Holden’s
Just beneath my skin
I am, my summer solstice
Streaking across the sky like an F-111
The joy of a laser guided slideshow
And a simulation of any situation you want.
Which one do you like best?
Im still tweaking it, making it heavier, new software.
From the bus, the Swan enters
Me like glass, limestone lapping as a dog runs
The coincidental beauty
Of bumping into a friend
who has to go. Your tear drop
in my hand and the hills ablaze
with sickness that could be love
or a new haircut
when you put on your favourite C.D.
and pick up that tamborine
it’s lonely drinking Solo.