Ragtag Daily PromptSanctuary and WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge  —  Place in the World

For this week’s photo challenge, WordPress has asked us to explore what it means to find your place in the world.  Where’s your safe space?  Where do you go when you need to feel inspired or cheered up?  Do you prefer the city over a small town?  I have to admit I find this an incredibly difficult challenge because I feel very ambivalent about my place in the world.  I don’t feel safe, or comforted, or any of the things that WordPress has asked us to explore.  I feel that I am possibly too much, that we are too much.  However, I am here.  I live in a wonderful place and I’m grateful for that.  The issue of whether I, and we, can live sustainably is a complex one.

I am just one person.  I feel small and vulnerable like this insect on a billy button.


But I am part of a family of four.  We live in a small inland city of over 400,000 people.  If our city grows too large and we consume too many resources, am I just like one of these small mosquito fish, of which there are many, that eats the eggs of our native fish and upsets the delicate ecological balance of our creeks and rivers?  It is out of place.  I don’t know how many is too many for our small city.  Perhaps I am out of place too?  It is a discomforting thought.


I am one of 24.9 million residents of Australia.  Most of us (about 90%) live in urban areas.  Australia’s population is 0.3% of the 7.6 billion global population.  The UN forecasts our population will grow to over 31 million by 2050, but I have also heard that it could grow to as much as 50 million.  Can we co-exist with nature, when more and more of our resources are being devoted to food, shelter and other essentials of life, and increasingly to non-essential items too?  As a developed country with abundant coal resources used primarily for electricity generation, we also have one of the highest carbon footprints per head of population in the world.  When is enough enough?

Is it fair that we Aussies should sacrifice our standard of living so that people in other countries have the opportunity to have some of the things we take for granted?  These questions make me feel uncomfortable about my place in the world.


I am not self-sustainable.  I consume a range of products and services from domestic and overseas suppliers.  Some small population centres in regional Australia have done well out of supplying my needs, and perhaps your needs as well.  Many of these resources are very energy-intensive to produce.  Exploiting these resources often entails a significant environmental cost.  The place I want to live is one that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.  But what if it is not possible to achieve both?  What if we are not possible if we don’t achieve both?  What if someone must make a sacrifice?  Who should make that sacrifice?

The regional town of Gladstone (Queensland), which sits on the southern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, perfectly illustrates this conundrum.  It is my extended family’s town.  It is a town based on big, energy-intensive industries.  Coal-seam gas from inland central Queensland is piped to Gladstone, and then exported to global markets.  Alumina, aluminium, concrete, and toxic chemicals for the mining industry, are also produced in Gladstone.  Coal trains travel from inland to the Gladstone export terminal, and the coal is loaded into ever bigger bulk carriers to be shipped around the world.  There is a large coal-fired power station in the town to power those industries.

My family’s town will be hurt if these industries close.  It is not my place to tell them that these industries are environmentally unsustainable.  Is it fair that the good people of Gladstone be asked to sacrifice their livelihood for the sake of the public good?  If it is not my place, or the place of other concerned citizens to advocate for change, then whose place is it?  Is it enough to let the market decide?  Australia is a free-market economy.  But, if we are too much, then isn’t it an inevitable conclusion that the market will decide its place is to match supply and demand?  This is an uncomfortable place for me, if not the people of Gladstone.

Curtis Island LNG Train under construction

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33 thoughts on “When Am I Too Much For This Place?

  1. These are all good questions. I don’t feel at home or safe anywhere completely, either. My valley is good, my house is good. Before my surgery I did a guided imagery recording that wanted me to find my “safe place.” I was surprised at what that turned out to be. 🙂

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  2. Living in one of the largest world polluting countries, I definitely agree with you. Your perspective makes me think about my own wasteful acts and is inspiring. Unfortunately the powers that be don’t think the same way which makes our place even more difficult to consider.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I really appreciate it. I’m thrilled that I’ve inspired one person. That is good. Maybe you could inspire one person too. 🙂 I’ve also inspired one of my personal friends as well. It all adds up. If we want our governments to listen to us, we have to make an effort, even if that means voting out the government that won’t listen. I know it’s a bit idealistic, but I have to cling to that. But it is a very difficult issue, especially for those people working in those big polluting industries.

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  3. These are thought-provoking questions that you’re asking. I feel very angry with our government for not doing a lot more about sustainable energy, and I don’t often think about the people who work in environmentally unsustainable ones, so your post has made me give them some thought. I think we all have to try harder, and we all have to make some sacrifices in order to protect our environment and keep it safe. The questions you’re asking are ones that could provoke endless discussion!

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    1. Yes, endless discussion, Jane. Everybody doing their fair share would certainly help. I might do a post on energy intensity because I don’t think that is a concept that most people understand well. Some do,, but a lot don’t.


  4. This is a thought provoking post. The impact we have on each other and the environment is an undeniable truth. It is an uncomfortable truth for me that I have raised my children to young adulthood focusing on what I thought were important values but I failed to teach them about the far reaching impact of policies and how to make their vote count. World events helped generate conversations and discussions around this. I feel hopeful the next generation will be less greedy and more thoughtful.

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    1. I’m in awe of some of the young people today who I have heard speak on youth matters. I wish I had my shit together that well when I was that age. On the other hand, there are the Kardashians and their ilk. Did you see the show on the War of Waste that was devoted to clothing? There were young girls on the show that only wore each piece once! I must confess that I probably have enough shoes now to last a life time.

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  5. Lots to think about indeed Tracy. Living out of urban areas makes you sustainable to a certain extent. I am responsible for my water and sewerage. I am responsible for what goes in the earth. I am responsible for what grows and is not part of this environment. Growth is wrong on so many levels and we have a government who doesn’t give a shit about the earths future just the capital greed that helps destroy what we have

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    1. Political parties could do more to improve the transparency of where they get their money. Personally, I think political donations should be banned. And then there are always marginal electorates…. Yep, don’t get me started on growth. Well at least not yet. No one will read my blog. 🙂

      By the way, I love Gloucester, which is near you. I have thought about retiring there, but one of the coal miners wants to put a coal mine right up to the edge of town. No wonder regional shires can’t attract people to live in regional areas. There is always the threat of some exploration licence being granted on people’s personal property. Unbelievable.

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  6. You always give us a thought provoking post Tracy. Very hard to know the answers. For me I think if all individuals were to try and do the right thing within their capabilities, be considerate. People power can help change the world around them. But I do think Australia is one of the best places to live in

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  7. You ask some very pertinent questions, and by asking them I think you are answering yourself in the same breath. You are where you were destined to be, and making a positive change to the world around you through your attitude and the awareness you create – a pebble in a pond causing ripples that eventually spreads all over. For the good!

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  8. A very thought-provoking post, Tracy. I have to say I like these the most. There are over 80 million people in Germany and as much as I would love being able to live sustainable I don’t think it would be actually possible for all of us given the others would like to join me. Industry is a difficult topic, we need it to sustain our lifestyles and yet in the end it will very likely destroy us all. If asked if I felt safe I would have to say that less so with all those conflicts around the world and especially with those idiots in possesion of power…

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  9. A lot of very hard and very good questions here. None of them are easy to answer — I live in the city and the desert so it’s doubly hard here. If I try to grow something I know how to eat like tomatoes, I use water — water is a scarce resource here. If I buy a tomato from some place with more rainfall using less resources than here, gas is used to get the tomato to me. Gas is becoming more scarce. If I stay home all the time, I use less gas. But being a hermit isn’t a good answer either.

    I think the only thing to do is to choose one small area to make a change in and then grow it out from there. So this year, I didn’t weed. I let the weeds grow and some of them were flowers and cactus that can deal with the heat. That is the start of my new garden. Even got some african daisies and sunflowers coming up from seeds dropped by flowers in prior years. So after I could see what the plants were growing into, I pulled the tumbleweeds. I left some weeds to hold down the topsoil. It’s not a planned garden but it’s becoming a different kind of garden that doesn’t need as much water — not like the irises, roses and other pretty things that have such a hard time here. It’s a step in the right direction, I hope.

    And this year, I haven’t turned on the swamp cooler which uses water. I find because I live in a brick house and if I leave the sliding backdoor open at night (we have an iron lattice door in front of that), it lets the cool air in and the whole house cools inside and out to 70sF. Close the door around 6am and trap the cool air inside and the house stays cool rising to the 90sF which is tolerable. Ironically 90F is not tolerable with the swamp cooler on because it adds humidity so 90 feels hotter. With the swamp cooler on, comfort levels is around 75F. Now if temps go over 110F, I might turn it on. We’ll see how it goes. It’s the first year I’ve tried it and it’s been eaiser than I thought. At least I am using less water than last year. But it might not make any difference if other people are using more. Problem isn’t the individual — it’s the aggregate. But I do think on the aggregate level, more people are thinking about these things and changes are being made.

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    1. We have instituted the same conservation measures with our cooler. I feel like I live in a little cave during Summer. In the evening, if the temperature drops sufficiently, we just use the cooler on the fan setting. And yep, I leave weeds in my garden too. They help retain the moisture in the soil.

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  10. Thought provoking indeed! I live in a province that is dependent on agriculture and the oil industry. Agriculture can also be very harsh on the environment. Our government that has put most of its eggs in one basket so to speak, the oil industry. Our province did not fall in line with the Federal carbon tax, as it felt it would have a terrible impact on the economy. Such short sightedness. I must admit I tread lightly in my beliefs that we need to look for alternative sources of energy, as many of my colleagues, and neighbours are dependent on oil for a living. But, I like what De Wets Wild said about one small pebble and the effects rippling out. I may tread lightly with my voice, but I hope my actions are making a difference in whatever small way I can.
    And I did hear on the news this morning that the world population is expected to decline over the coming years. It was just a quick blip, so something I’ll have to look into. That alone could have an impact on our world.

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    1. I heard David Attenborough say the other day that we were too many. I doubt that global population will decline. I must look into that too. When I had my children, I still thought naively that we could limit our emissions. I no longer think that. I hope never to have grand children, and I am anxious for those about the world we are leaving children born today.

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