Before I return to my normal posts on Linguistics and Speech research, I have one more thought on my post-ICPhS trip to Cairns. After the dive, I went to the edge of the rain-forest on a half-day 4×4 tour. It was more sitting and less walking than I would normally go for, but the views were pleasant.
The trip showed us the amazing strangler fig, which is essentially an immortal tree that has serious ill-intent with the trees it grows next to. If you are dumb enough to grow near one of these monsters, within 100 years you are dead, dead, dead!
And the waterfall we went to at the end of the trip was stunning.
But there was one long part where the guide had us standing still for 30 minutes listening to a discussion of local wildlife mixed with the usual guilt-trip about ecological destruction. In one sense, that is fair enough. Humans have an enormous impact on this planet, and plenty of it is negative. But in another sense, I just wanted to crawl out of my skin. Not because I felt guilty for what I’ve done, but because I have absolutely no idea how this approach can help make the world a better place.
I can appreciate that the Australian government is not letting Cairns reuse brown-space for a new boat launch but instead is forcing them to tear down a valuable mangrove. But I can’t do anything about it. I am not Australian, I don’t vote in Australia, and I can’t force the Australian government to save the mangroves. Even though I would LOVE to because I want the Great Barrier Reef to keep growing spectacular fish! There was also a lot about how tourists should support family businesses over large-scale tourism businesses.
But it went to long. We had old people on this trip, and one of them had lost circulation in her legs listening to the over-long presentation. She fell trying to walk back to the vehicle after the talk. She wasn’t badly hurt, but that is the kind of thing that can break a hip, greatly shortening the life of the elderly person in question!
The guide also complained about the large influx of population into Cairns, who then demand a quieter place that involved cutting trees bats live in, and otherwise reducing the wonders of nature in the area to make the place more like the big cities they came from. Fair enough, but I heard no solutions. And I thought “stronger insulation and noise-control laws, or education about good construction standards, would end that nonsense.” I though “there are really effective solutions that we can implement ourselves, so tell everyone about them!” And as a result, I was frustrated because of the missed opportunity.
I compare this approach to that of Reef Encounters. They brought us to a beautiful place full of natural wonders. When we complimented them on their good job, they made it clear it was *nature* that did the good job, and we all benefit from what nature does. When we went diving, the guides always picked up any trash they saw on the ocean floor, and taught us to do the same. When the great food was served and the good times were had, they thanked us for supporting a local family business instead of one of the large-scale tourism businesses.
And there it is. They let nature speak for itself. They embodied solutions. They did a great job and thanked us for supporting local businesses *after* they did that great job. People who experience such things will appreciate nature, know how and engage in good ecological behaviour, and continue to make better choices for local communities.
So here is to all those who embody good ecological behaviour, cleaning up after themselves and others. Here’s to the people who build improved technologies that waste less and are more efficient. Here’s to those who keep track of nature – and trade – exposing it to the light where it can be made as good as possible, a little better every day. And yes, here’s to those who vote to preserve mangroves and re-use brown space for boat-docks.