The first session commenced with Kate Auty talking about ‘Community ENERGY’, starting with the technical side – a photo of a wind turbine tower and the good news that in Victoria new construction is underway again. Kate is now Commissioner for Environment & Sustainability for the ACT and there the news is even better – they’ve signed up for 100% renewable energy by 2020. The rest of Kate’s talk was about the ENERGY of communities; how from starting small a movement can grow and larger projects can be tackled. We wish the Euroa community well with their investigations into pumped hydro, utilizing the existing water storages.
The film ‘Polyfaces’ followed which documents the methods and the history and the social life at Polyface Farm in Virginia, USA. It was produced by an Australian crew including the co-director Isaebella Doherty and her partner Andreas Øverdahl who came to Swanpool and answered questions following the screening. The questioning continued on over afternoon tea.
Dr Kerryn Higgs was the next speaker and she gave a stunning talk titled ‘Collision Course: The Growth Delusion’. Many of the audience gave her a standing ovation at it’s conclusion. Amongst the graphs and statistics presented were some from Will Steffen from the Australian Climate Council. By chance (not prearranged) Will Steffen featured prominently in the film ‘Anthropocene’ which followed. We thank Flaxmoor Productions in the UK for making this available to us free of charge. It was an excellent film and asks the question not so much whether humans have caused a new geological epoch but what type of future will we shape for ourselves?
We’re rapidly approaching the ‘Limits to Growth’ spelt out by the Club of Rome of which Kerryn is now an International Fellow. Copies of her book ‘Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet’ were quickly sold out and additional orders taken.
After dinner the final session commenced with some of Professor Michael Clarke’s own team photos set to music. Mike is Head of Life Sciences at Latrobe University. He gave a very personable talk, starting with his own life growing up with nature and his own teenage explorations, especially of ‘The Prom’. The talk included a degree of audience participation, identifying some ‘common’ bird and plant species. But are they so common today? His talk title was ‘Ecological Literacy, ambivalence and inspiration’ and explored our connections with wildlife around us. Unfortunately we’re losing that connection and losing the species. To quote Jodi Mitchell, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone ..”. Mike went on to tell us about four of his own local heroes including his own father-in-law who over his lifetime cleared trees, changed his farming practices to more sustainable methods and then fenced off and planted along the creeks. Data from a Ph.D. student was presented on the effects on vegetation of different periodic fire regimes and questions on this subject were prominent in question time. It’s good to hear that Victoria is finally moving away from percentage based targets to asset focussed prescribed burning.
The final film for the evening was ‘Tarkine in Motion’ – 72 artists visited the pristine Tarkine region in Tasmania in the Easter of 2015. This film had breathtaking vision and haunting music. It sent a very strong message that we need to protect such remaining wilderness regions from the pressures of development. The film was provided to us without charge by the Bob Brown Foundation and we’ll send them a donation to help them continue the fight. The Foundation is hoping to get it declared a National Park and World Heritage Area and to open a hiking track through this beautiful place similar to the Overland Track.
The evening concluded with heartfelt thanks to our speakers, the film producers and our sponsors – GBCAM, the Gecko CLaN, Granite Creeks Landcare Network and a community grant from Benalla Rural City. Thanks were also extended to all the wonderful Swanpool volunteers.
It’s difficult to summarise a whole day of information, contemplation and inspiration in just a few short words. There was also time for socialising and sharing the food provided by the Swanpool Catering Team. All we can really say is that if you missed out this year, please book early next year.
Ian Herbert, Event Organiser, on behalf of Swanpool Landcare and Benalla Sustainable Future Group