The Daily Prompt, Two Weeks Late – Please Sir Can I Explain?

“Think Global, Act Local” But What If It Feels Like Too Little Too Late?

I’ve been MIA from WordPress for over two weeks now so this Daily Prompt is well and truly old hat already; the dog did not eat my homework but a power outage did fry our modem on the 27 January and we only obtained a replacement yesterday.  Not a good enough excuse? But Sir, Sir!! I’m too incompetent to do a whole post from my phone even though the WordPress helper monkey’s have made lots of reader friendly improvements recently!  Please Sir, can I just explain by taking you way back to the original daily prompt and hand in my essay post, just a little late? You see, for many parts of the Eastern Coast of Australia the issue of Global Warming has been fairly pertinent lately, and I’m going to argue, quite possibly weakly and with way too much padding, that thinking and acting locally will usually take precedent over any spurious global connections that environmental crusaders would have us believe.

I’ll hold my hands up now and say that I’m a bit of a GW sceptic and not entirely convinced yet that rising sea levels and melting icebergs are not merely a predictable part of an ancient cosmic cycle that our tiny little blips on the time line have no relevance or impact on at all.  However, if you’re a sugar cane farmer in the North who’s just lost your fourth or fifth crop in the space of two years you might find that locally that hits home harder than a Sea Shepherd ramming a Japanese whaling ship.

We try to ‘do our bit’ by composting our veggie scraps; I don’t eat  meat anymore because it is very water intensive to rear and you never know which animal you’re eating nowadays (would you like horsemeat in your beef lasagne Sir? non? how about scrag end of ferret?), and we recklessly throw anything vaguely plastic looking into the recycle bin.  The latter is often done without checking whether it’s actually recyclable or not and apparently Nespresso pods have to go to a ‘special’ collection centre (unless of course you’re George Clooney who sickeningly probably has an alternative ‘I’m such a spesh customer’ arrangement) so some poor sod in China sorting through the last three months of our caffeine leavings will perhaps not appreciate the carless abandon we approach our local enviro actions with.   Australia as a country is allegedly (Al Gore is a fan, does he count as an alleger?) leading the way as one of the world’s biggest polluters who have introduced a spurious Carbon Tax to ‘curb emissions’.

  • Feel free to lambast me with Eco statistics and put me right, but I just can’t see how keeping the river outside my door rubbish free stops a non taxed polluter from dumping stuff further upstream, ……metaphorically speaking that is. 

Isn’t it all too little too late?

So why is this a key issue right now, right here? Well these are some of the events in my locality that would never register globally but landed on our own doorstep so to speak and are my response to the WordPress daily prompt.

Kai’s first Australia Day

Australia Day

Boy, Boat and Beer

Australians are well known globally for their “she’ll be right” no worries attitude to life, and in part it’s true, but for a very good reason.  After seven years of living here what I’ve learnt is that Australians, generally, can clearly distinguish between what’s worth worrying about and what’s not.  Inevitably that can come across as a devil may care attitude, a mocking and often dark humour, and perhaps may even seem a little foolish at times.  The words may change and the local nuances differ but surely they can’t be the only nationality to be so light hearted and stoic….maybe it’s just the Queenslanders that excel at it?  I’ve never met an American who lives in Tornado Alley but I’d bet our almost parity bottom dollar that they probably have a similar attitude to life, and don’t sweat the small stuff either.  When you live in a country of huge and unfortunately very regular weather events you learn to tell the difference very quickly between what you can laugh off and what you can’t.  Right now there’s probably a few folks over in Boston in the middle of a historic snow storm who are more concerned with keeping warm and safe in their own neighbourhoods than with polar ice caps that might be melting somewhere else on the planet.

Australia Day this year was a washout weather wise on Saturday 26th January.  We all had a bit of a moan about it; no barbies at the beach, cancelled lunch dates with friends, and even a bit too wild for a swim in the pool.  Camping trips were being rained out and it seemed like a bit of a waste of the long weekend but at least we had all stocked up our appliances with plenty of grub and grog.  By Sunday though it wasn’t nearly as trivial and the weekend got a whole lot more serious for hundreds of thousands of people from that point onwards.

Ex Cyclone Oswald made himself well and truly felt and immortalised all along the Eastern coast of Australia and beyond.  At one point there was Fire, Flood and Tornados in the State of Queensland; and startlingly that can often be just a normal day at the office for the thousands of volunteers who form the SES (State Emergency Services) out here.

We’d ventured out on Sunday morning for Yum Cha at the Bamboo Basket, in what was a torrential and gusty, yet typical summer storm here in the South Eastern corner.  The staff struggled valiantly to open the door as the wind howled down Grey Street, the rain lashed the windows and a few branches dropped off into the tree lined road, but nice and cosy inside we indulged in hot green tea and steamed dumplings and chatted away as if the outside world through a mere pane of glass no longer mattered.  On the way home though I began to get a little nervous listening to ABC radio.  The far north (and it really is FAR away North so not usually on our awareness radar) was being issued with evacuation orders for flooding, and this slow moving weather system was steadily creeping down the coast towards us with high winds reported in our home suburb and a local pontoon upended.  It began to feel pretty foolish to be out on the roads at all and many of the swollen creeks we passed bubbled and broiled maliciously close to the verges and causeways as if to underline the point.  Still, we’ve experienced severe weather here before, and generally the really nasty stuff sweeps right around us in our little corner of Moreton Bay leaving a unique and forecast-defying mini eco system.

By 5pm, Facebook was alerting me to some ominous status updates.  One friend who had joked about the crappy camping conditions her husband was forcing her to endure for the long weekend was stranded on North Stradbroke Island as the ferries could no longer cross, campsites had been evacuated and an emergency centre set up on the island.  Straddie is visible from our house on the mainland just on the Bay and we often see some really squally conditions over there even when the sun is still shining down on our roof, sometimes even mockingly painting a rainbow right across the divide.

There was though, no smug look of contented safety from us across the water that night.  The 125km per hour winds took the TV Arial out first, no big deal because I managed to watch some of the Melbourne Tennis Open’s men’s final on my i-phone.   4G dropped out next and I was reduced to listening to tennis on the radio – more to talk about at startlingly high speed chit chat but still as ineffective as listening to cricket by this medium.  Thankfully even that dropped out eventually so I didn’t have to listen to Murray getting his ass whooped.

Despite the howling gale and the strange and disturbing noises of patio furniture sliding around the balcony in the dark I still felt pretty secure; dry and safe with a cuppa and feeling like one of the untouchables as per usual. Then the power failed.  Okay, we’ve had power cuts before here, not that unusual and we all have candles and torches to hand and barbeques and camping stoves so out came the Billy Can  and on went the candles with, and I hate to admit this, a little frisson of excitement, because it sounds like fun right? A break to the normal routine, catch up on some reading, actually have some family conversations and save some money on the electricity bill? Just like Earth Hour………..but not if you have to times it by a hundred.

I only really switched to high alert when my daughter texted to say that not only had they lost power but a tree had just brought the cable down with it in their yard, along with the telephone wire AND the house next door was losing part of their tin roof.  They live about 100 yards from the low lying Bay and it was also an unusually high tide.  Then I felt sick, panicky, worried, and nervous of every noise in the dark.  Because although she and my beautiful little Grandson only live a five minute drive away, the conditions were too bad that night for anyone to leave their houses.  Trees down and still falling, branches and debris flying about and flooded roads meant a few hasty text messages and phone calls was all we could manage with the mild assurance that the three of them were sleeping downstairs in the safest room they could find (I say sleeping, just laying down wide awake is nearer the description because none of us really slept).

We settled in and made the best of it; the shed doors blew clean off, the dog hid under the bed, the phones went dead, the wind made noises as if it was going to reduce the roof to smithereens, shaking my house to its foundations whilst the fridge and freezer quietly and stealthily leaked their contents throughout the night and into the darkness.

Monday afternoon, 28/1/13. 

Our daughter relocated safely to friends with power North of Brisbane, approximately 230,000 homes and businesses across the South East were cut off.   In the Redlands we lost fences, boats, trees, and food; I lost my opportunity to contribute to this month’s discussion at the Tipsy Lit bookclub on Goodreads – just the peripheral stuff of life, but not actual loss of life, and after a night like that we have everything to be grateful for  because there have been those who haven’t been as lucky and my deepest sympathies go out to their friends and families.

Bundaberg in Northern Queensland suffered greatly with people stranded on the roofs of cars and houses as a massive flood deluged the town and instigated mandatory evacuations.  Now it is a tent city whilst they get up and running again with the help of the army, a bunk bed and a regular meal for those who have lost everything.  The Bundaberg Rum may not all be gone which will be a relief to the Captain Sparrows of the world, but a lot of the sugar cane that goes into it has.  Would anyone in Boston know where Bundaberg is I wonder? Is it just too local an issue to ever be globally relevant?  Is it this sort of tragedy that brings it home to people?: The Global necessarily has to wait because Local is absolutely where action is always needed first.

Brisbane itself experienced a replay of the nightmare that was the 2010/2011 floods with a wall of water heading towards Lockyear Valley again, there was  a landslide on Tamborine mountain, and New South Wales copped a gut full of what was left of the storm as it passed over the border.  All the while Victoria and Tasmania were still losing hundreds of thousands of acres to bush fires.

Bear Grylls

Australia is a vast and sometimes terrifying country to live in, and I ain’t no Bear Grylls if you haven’t already noticed.  In the dark on the first night of the power cut I was actually still automatically reaching for light switches even though I was holding a torch in the other hand.  I ate partially defrosted Magnum Caramel Choc Ices for breakfast because whether it makes good dietary sense or not I was not letting them go to waste, and I put together some highly unusual and interesting food combinations that will never win me a place on Masterchef, in an effort to fuel up whilst we could. But I am never eating dead snakes Mr Grylls, I will always have some dry cereal to go at before I get anywhere near extreme survival methods, and anyways it’s the year of the snake and that would just be wrong: Chow Yun-Fat!!!.

My daughter’s power was off for four days in total and with a baby and 33 degree temperatures she had no choice but to spend some time with us and friends… day two of our power outage I was thoroughly bored of board games, suffering internet withdrawal and miserable.  And we didn’t have a house full of mud or the catastrophic scenes in Bundaberg to deal with.

When our power came back on at 2am Tuesday morning it fried the modem and it’s taken this long to get a new one.  We’ve hated wasting so much food, but with high temperatures and humidity bags of ice can only do so much: not exactly making big leaps globally with any of that are we?.  I’d had the mad idea at New Year that I’d try living without social media for Lent this year but as the i-phones went flat and we resorted to charging them off the car battery I realised very quickly that I just can’t live without it.  My blog has been the biggest casualty and I feel like I’ve neglected it badly and lost valuable time keeping up with the round of posts, prompts, comments and, worst of all, Spam management!  As it turns out, living ‘ye olde style’ gets pretty boring after 24 hours; there is only so much reading by torchlight, knitting and card games that a modern family (even one that includes grandparents) can stand nowadays.

As usual I’ve been a bit flippant about all of this, though probably not quite as light-hearted as my other blog posts.  I’m just sharing my last two weeks with you, the news that I have not been blown or washed away whilst absent from the internet, and that I have been doing a lot of the simple things in life like reading, thinking, complaining, worrying, listening…..and I mean REALLY listening to the world being thrown around outside my windows, instead of just navel gazing through my computer for a change.

Life is back to our local normal, large cranes are salvaging the array of broken boats along the foreshore, council crews are working their way through clearing paths of fallen trees and green waste pickups are being scheduled for the area.

Photos taken by my daughter of her local area.

Photos taken by my daughter of her local area.

It’s been a chain saw massacre locally as fallen, and still falling, trees are gradually cleared away from parks, gardens, verges and waterways, but can any of us imagine this on a scale a hundred times over with destroyed roads and bridges, homes and business’s in other parts of the state and beyond?

Storm Damage

You Shall Not Pass!!!

If we are indeed warming up globally and due to see more flooding, El Ninos and El Ninas, and catastrophes worldwide I’m not sure I have the capacity or energy to ever think further than the experience of the local affects to motivate myself to do anything other than act locally, regardless of it’s global impact.  I really do feel just like one person who can’t make much of a difference; being without power only made me conservative with the electricity useage for the first couple of hours when it was returned to us; does that make me a selfish person? Just one more of the millions who doesn’t realise often enough just how very lucky we are in comparison to all the millions of others?

On a personal note then I’m supremely grateful to have the internet back, it doesn’t feel like I’m being spoilt rotten, it feels like my ‘normal’ state of being at my local level, whether that’s selfish or not,  and, besides, I have some serious catching up to do with the global blogs I follow through this essential medium, so please Sir can I be dismissed/excused now?.