Saturday, August 16, 2014

Coastal Heathlands – Cooloola
John Riminton

The Coastal Heathlands - or “Wallum” bush -run inland from the Cooloola coast, the dominant vegetation for the Great Sandy National Park in Queensland. The word “Wallum” is the Aboriginal name for the Banksia trees, aka Ti-trees, that are a common tree throughout this bush.
I am standing well away from the walking tracks that occasionally snake through the area and the sense of timelessness is over-whelming for here time is measured by the rustle of a falling palm frond or the decades-long decay of some fallen giant. The immediate things are the chittering of a cat-bird or the sound of the wind in the canopy.
This is the place of the First People, slowly expanding after the tribulations of the Ice Age that interrupted their 40,000 year occupancy of the land, forcing them into the tiny areas of Australia where water was still available until, maybe 15,000 years ago, the thaw enabled them to come back to these places. Here they watched and shared the land with the evolving trees, insects and birds, developing a unique understanding from which they drew their sustenance, an understanding that they transformed into dream-time myths, rituals and dance. A Gaia concept.
Then, some 250 years ago, a blink, Europeans started their analyses with Joseph Banks giving a scientific name to the Wallum. Later scientists determined the bacteria and mycorrihza that caused the dead plants to decay, noting the features that distinguish “dry” from “wet” wallum, charting the various evolutions, noting the geology, writing reports on the Ecology for the journals. A technical comprehension of the Wallum, possibly opening the way for “development”.
Can ever one mind encompass these two realities? It seems unlikely, rather like a self-taught rapper understanding the complex potentialities of a symphonic score by reading the printed pages of that score.
How should we look at the world we live in? As Gaia, a miraculous orb of inter-related natural processes with man a recent factor in the equations of adaptation to changes – the heat and ice, impact and eruptions that have occurred over a measurable but incomprehensible three billion years? Or through the eyes of modern man as the only source of food, minerals, energy and the basis of employment. Do we have a choice?
Again this is the dichotomy of understanding so seldom encompassed in one mind; for the scientist in the Wallum all can be explained but how often seen as an independent reality sufficient to itself?
Over the coming spans of time whose adaptations will prevail – Gaia's or human society's?

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