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Dirk Flinthart's totally unsustainable whimsies

By Dirk Flinthart - posted Friday, 15 March 2002


Can development be environmentally sustainable?

(Check out the "note from the trees" received after Sonny Bono went crr-RUNCH-ah!)

Is that a trick question, or what? I mean, suppose you ask the CEO of BHP Billiton that question. He's going to say: "Yes, of course." But when he thinks "environment" he's thinking pretty much about golf fairways and nature strips down the middle of the Autobahn, and maybe the back yard of his summer retreat in the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand. Sure, development is environmentally sustainable. All of HIS environments are looking pretty good, aren't they?

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(Damn. That wasn't funny at all.)

On the other hand, if you ask the same question of Mahatma Rainbow Whaleseeker, he'll raise his skinny arms above his dreadlocks and intone a mantra of cleansing to lift the curse you have brought upon him with the word "development." For Mahatma, it's not an environment at all if there are human beings in it. Anywhere.

(Okay. That was funnier.)

Really, it does come down to what you call an environment, doesn't it? I grew up in an area of Far North Queensland, well north of Cairns. Back when I grew up, we didn't have ecosystems or environments. We just sorta had "nature", a catch-all phrase that meant you could drink the water, the trees were nice, the sea was clean and you could eat the fish that came out of it. Of course, that was some time ago. I'm not saying just how long...

(Hey! That's a good one!)

In the interim, though, there's been some development. Oh yes. A lot of money has flowed under the bridge in Far North Queensland since the days when we had "nature". The place where I grew up has got electricity now, and I believe they've even got a reticulated water supply. And of course, with the arrival of such benefits, the new residents were officially issued with an "ecosystem" and an "environment" all their own, very shiny. By and large, of course, the old residents were long gone. I think they were attached to their "nature", which seemed to be rife with exciting mushrooms and certain hemp-related plant species. However, the new residents seem to be pretty pleased with the "environment" they were given when they bought their new houses.

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(Is that meant to be funny?)

(This is definitely not funny. But it's kind of neat.)

Last time I was up that way, I drove through my old neighbourhood and took a look around. The houses are nice, I suppose, but someone seems to have mislaid all those trees that used to look so nice. And the road up the range is still dumping red clay silt into the creek, so I don't suppose you'd want to drink the water unless you were prepared to shit bricks for real. Also, it seems that the silty run-off has messed up the little reefs that were just a couple-hundred metres offshore, so you don't get much in the way of fish along my beach any more, but other than that, the "environment" there looks pretty nice, I guess. If you like "environments". Me? I think I know why the old residents left when they had to turn in their "nature."

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About the Author

Dirk Flinthart is a writer and student who lives in Tasmania.

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