This week’s theme for the Lens Artists Photo Challenge is Sanctuary.  I’m not sure what more can be said about this topic that I haven’t said already, so I’ve decided to re-post my earlier discussion/photos on this subject.  At that time, I said that I didn’t feel safe anywhere.  That is not quite true.  I do feel safe with my family.  Thank goodness for that because in these days of Covid and being confined to home (provided you are lucky enough to have one of those), there are many people fearful of the ones they should be able to trust the most.

WordPress (and now the Lens-Artists Challenge) 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.

billybutton2

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.

mosquito2

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 Australia’s 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.

gymealilly

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.  However 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 what will happen to our place if, inevitably, the market decides its place is to match supply and demand?  This is an uncomfortable place for me, if not the people of Gladstone.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

References:

Ragtag Daily PromptSanctuary and WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge  —  Place in the World2018

69 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. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  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.

    Liked by 2 people

    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.

      Liked by 2 people

  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!

    Liked by 2 people

  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

    Liked by 1 person

    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.

      Liked by 1 person

  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

    Liked by 3 people

  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!

    Liked by 4 people

  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…

    Liked by 2 people

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

    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.

      Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

    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.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A very thoughtful and thought-provoking post Tracy and thank you for linking it to the Sanctuary challenge this week. Politically and economically we see an increasing conflict arising between rural communities and those who want to exploit the area for profit that will flow elsewhere. Each of us making conscious choices and working together can add up to a better future and a safer place to be 💜 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As so many have already said Tracy, your post is thought-provoking and insightful. Unfortunately there are no easy answers. The current crisis has clearly shown how nature can recover if some of our human excesses are reduced. Hopefully seeing the evidence will help to support efforts to reduce our carbon footprint but you are so right that those who depend on the biggest offenders would be impacted negatively by the changes. It’s a difficult problem exacerbated by how very spoiled we have all become.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is a huge challenge, Tina, and one that depresses me greatly. If people must object to a small thing like wearing a face mask, then how on earth can we expect people to give up their coal and other fossil fuel jobs without a huge fight. It makes me wonder whether those in the fossil fuel industry might be behind this misinformation campaign on the corona virus as way of building a base that will protect their long term interests. People that live in industrial towns certainly wield much electoral power when elections are tight, which they regularly seem to be these days given how divided many countries are. It would be interesting to chart whether protests against public health measures are highest in countries with big resource sectors. Anyway, just thinking out loud here. Either way, we, and particularly those on high incomes, all have to give up some discretionary spending for the sake of the planet even if we do make greener choices.

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      1. All true unfortunately. Very few are willing to forego creature comforts for the sake of our planet and its future. Many wonder how much impact they can truly have if others are unwilling to sacrifice

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Tracy many of the issues you mention are common in Canada. Our population is about thirty-seven million persons. Each of our provinces and territories are responsible for dealing with COVID-19. Some provinces have not yet flattened the curve. The virus continues to be very challenging. I live in the province of British Columbia population five million. Thanks to the skill of Dr Bonnie Henry and her team BC has flattened curve of the virus’ spread. I feel safe from the virus but continue to follow all of the recommendations of Dr Bonnie Henry to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But not all persons are listening and they claim that they do not need to comply. Sadly we in BC have lost 200 persons to the virus many of whom lived in care facilities for the elderly. BC has had citizens protesting their right not to take any precautions again the spread of the virus. Dr Bonnie Henry no doubt hopes this line of thinking evolves. People with Covid-19 symptoms are required to be self-isolating but some do not. Dr Bonnie Henry was written up in glowing terms in the “New York Times”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sid. Dr Henry seems like a marvellous communicator with a consistent straightforward message. Everyone across the Australian health system has been working hard here to contain the rise in cases. Our national government seems to have finally got with that program. There are some people who cannot or will not comply with the health recommendations, but hopefully these numbers will start to fall with the carrot and stick measures that have been introduced.

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      1. The message Is to “Be kind, be calm and be safe” is resonating it seems because people are invited to be part of the fight against COVID-19.
        The message to please co-operate is delivered in ‘cookie voice’1
        No threats of fines just a request for co-operation. Threats communicate the wrong message. Other provinces are taking a punitive approach and their numbers continue to rise. The exercise of authority works best when citizens co-operate.

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  14. Great questions.

    I read an article about how West Virginia (formally a big coal producer) has been taking matters in their own hands to re-educate their miners into farmers and use the devastated landscapes to grow all kinds of things from wildflowers to pigs. It was an inspiring article which mimics what I feel the environmental movement can bring to the working masses – new jobs and opportunities. We need only be creative and innovative because I don’t think we need to sacrifice our way of life, but we probably have to adapt, adjust and be flexible moving forward.

    For me, becoming vegan has been my biggest way to help reverse climate change and my environmental footprint, but I realize for big meat eating countries like Australia and America, that’s a real hard sell. I’m hoping though as more and more meat alternative products get closer to the ‘real thing’ that more will move away from mass farming practices.

    So I believe there are solutions. I don’t believe in taking away from everyday people for the sake of x, y, or z. But the ultra-wealthy could stand to let go of millions they cannot possibly spend in hundreds of lifetimes. There’s plenty, but the unequal distribution of wealth is what I feel we need to address. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It greatly reassures me when I come across optimistic people like you, Lani. ❤

      The people of Gladstone, and towns like them, are certainly very hard working and innovative already. I wouldn't be game to suggest otherwise. 🙂 Beef is big in that area too. In Australia, there is quite a bit of territory that is used for cattle grazing that is unsuitable for intensive agriculture.
      The environmental movement can bring many new types of jobs, but "greenies" are not greatly admired in some sections of the Australian community. In fact, there have been a lot of knockers on both sides, and these divisions have been exploited and exacerbated by vested interests. There are also strongly held views that environmental damage and climate change emergencies are exaggerated (as opposed to outright denial).
      I was a vegetarian for a while, but then I fell off the wagon! I think because I ate so unhealthily, cheezels to be specific. 😮 Being a vegan does have the potential to substantially lower one's carbon footprint if food is grown locally and freshly prepared. I wonder if vegans are big on processed food? I suppose it goes against the veganism philosophy? Because I'm pessimistic, I think that those of us who are lucky enough to earn more than a subsistence living, all have to give up some discretionary spending for the sake of the planet even if we do make greener choices.

      Yep, and definitely need to do away with special deals for the ultra wealthy and tax loopholes that allow them to shirk paying their share of taxes..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely can appreciate the battle between environmentalist and non. I feel like whoever has been in charge of PR needs to be fired 😛 because I think going more green can create jobs and help us to live more harmoniously. Everyone should be able to agree upon that.

        As far as the problems being exaggerated, it essentially comes down to the skeptics have to be okay with being wrong. Personally, I wouldn’t want that to be on my watch esp if we want to leave something good behind for our children, etc. But it’s hard to think of ‘what ifs’ and the future when we care about what’s happening right now.

        Many hardcore vegan types like to say ‘plant based whole foods’ because you can get into processed stuff and be vegan. I’m too lazy to say all that, and I’m totally okay with being the butt of vegan jokes. It works for us but I’m not trying to actively convert anyone else even though I do believe in it.

        I wonder if Cheezels are like Cheez-its? 😛 I love that kind of stuff, but I can’t over do it!

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    1. I think the Covid crisis has given the earth a nice break and apart from the more recent madness of Covid deniers and civil unrest, the first lockdown was a time to ask ourselves what else we can do besides our usual lifestyle. People stayed at home, baked bread, played with their kids and pets and the skies were clear for the first time in years. There are lots of positives amidst the Corona madness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the perspective, Amanda. It certainly was refreshing to see the possibilities of a more simple life (minus the complications of Covid). Still many people exhausted themselves trying to keep us in flour, good spirits and healthy, and many were abused for that privilege. If Covid leads to better pay and conditions for people in these essential roles that would be a very good thing.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I worry that the opposite of better pay and conditions may result from the pandemic, due to the economic downturn many countries are suffering or might suffer.
        You mentioned flour – that is something that was very very hard to find during the intensive period of lockdown. Folks were baking bread, biscuits and cakes, so flour along with toilet paper, paper towel and sanitizer was hard to find. We can only hope that Governments appreciate that and do the right thing, while we the public are trying to do the right thing in our own little village.

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      3. The irony for me is that I have myriad creative things I would rather be doing but had to work, initially at home but then gradually back in the lab from mid April. Whereas my furloughed wife was bored at home and went to work anyway as a volunteer!
        I hope that at least some of the positives stick with us.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. It is a strange phenomenon. For the first four weeks it seems like a holiday when you cannot work, and there are postives and negatives for those who can. Then the rot sets in and we worry about how long will this last. When will it end. Things start to ease off and then the second wave hits…. here we go again. But – people are fatigued with having to be careful and many ( not me), become lackadaisical about hand washing and social distancing. My husband shook hands with someone today out of habit! We have to create a new normal and for many that is difficult and will take adjustment. Focusing on the positives is definitely the way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. We are still as careful as ever but then our area has had high levels of cases throughout. We are only just outside the area if recent local second lockdown. My colleague and friend Helen shared a hug last week after our colleague died suddenly – but, partners aside, this was first contact with anyone since March.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yes that is another aspect that may be severely impacted by the pandemic as well as quality of education. Not only that graduations, muck up days and social valedictory dinners are all cancelled! Sad as these are rites of passage are that make lasting memories throughout life.

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  15. I hear you questioning society and where we are headed in Australia. It is a good question. I feel comforted by the fact that each of us can make a difference in our own little sphere. Governments and planners need to think how big and gas-guzzling do we want our country to be, and how can we balance that with all the needs for jobs and society, as in your Gladstone example?
    It would be a monumental shift to change from reliance on fossil fuels, but many countries are showing us how this can be done, bit by bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think governments are thinking about those things all the time, together with what is going to get them re-elected. How they might frame that response depends on what their measure of success is and where the marginal seats are. From a short term economic perspective, when demand and prices for minerals and energy are booming, and that demand brings investment, jobs and spending, then GDP numbers can look very good. When the rest of the economy is tanking, then those mineral based exports, combined with high levels of immigration and visitor numbers boost economic activity making it look like everything is sweet in the economy even if it is not. Then that allows for boasts about getting the budget back into the black, even if that is at the expense of the most vulnerable.

      As for Gladstone, the peak of the LNG party is over there now and employment has fallen off and many businesses are struggling with the new normal. So of course, governments want the remaining industry to thrive, which it will if prices can be kept low enough to remain globally competitive. Energy is not cheap anymore though and those industries use a lot of energy. (Apparently a new coal-fired power station can fix that problem). They also employ a lot of people and it is not easy to see where jobs might come from in the absence of those industries.

      I agree it would be a monumental shift. If we as a country decide we want to retain those industries, then we need to make sure they have cheap energy on tap. The challenge is whether renewables can be scaled up enough and reliable enough to do that. Other countries can be models but they have more diversified economies, so the challenges are great indeed.
      That’s just my opinion though.

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  16. Tracy, I read your post the day you reposted it and then went away because I couldn’t frame a cogent response. Since then I have read it and the comments by fellow readers and I am still not sure how to respond. You know I come from a densely populated country. Our resources are stretched beyond their limits and yet so many still remain hungry and homeless. In such conditions, environmental issues take a back seat, which is so ironic. We need visionary leadership, we need mindful citizens, we need changed mindsets. Till then individual efforts must continue for we can’t leave it to the governments.

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  17. Read and re-read, Tracy. Again read. I find some comfort in the comments – despite everything, I see people wanting to do things, people wanting change. I want change too – always wanted. Hopelessnes often fills my day – where are all the good things happening? People commenting your raised questions and doubts…that is positive.

    I fall apart when I read about the Mars flights – all that money…How is it possible to even think of sending “things” out in space, wasting money that could have saved so many people and so much of our own planet? When I think about it, I think we, mankind, should not be here. We are too stupid for the planet. Unintelligent or too intelligent? Unintelligent I would say. Unable to analyse what went wrong and learn to benefit from the outcome.

    In southern Sweden, where I live, I have an example to show some of the difficulties:
    We want to be self sustainable, we want to drive our electrical energy cars and stop using fossil energy. Making those car batteries need certain minerals for the process. Those minerals have been found in the ground here in Skåne, in the most fertile area with the best soil in Sweden. Prospecting. They want to dig this out from the ground, a process destroying our most fertile land. And the batteries don’t last for long, and the minerals are not everlasting. Moment 22.

    Thank you for being out there, Tracy, you are much needed.
    Hugs and kisses to you and your family – puffs to the doggies. ♥♥♥♥

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