Restore: to bring back to a state of health, soundness or vigour. Restoration is to bring back to a former, original, or normal condition. It is much more than an act of nostalgia, of bringing things back to the ‘good old days’. Restoration is needed more than ever for our health, our life, our planet.
The importance of restoration dawned on me in the past few weeks. I have had pressing deadlines on projects. This has meant regular late nights and weekend stints to meet them. What I began to understand is that this practice of pushing myself to the limits with stress wasn’t sustainable long-term. The mind and body needs time to rest, recover, recuperate. Without time out to restore one’s vitality I have noticed that my health and well-being not to mention productivity declines.
I have approached deadlines as getting things done ‘at all costs’.
Yet, as I inch my way to the half century of living on this planet I am realising that deadlines are best achieved through sustainable practices, through self care and maintenance, through proper eating, exercise, and time to wonder and wander in nature.
The only deadline that I will reach through the way I have always approached deadlines is one step closer to flatlining.
Last Sunday morning I took time out to rest my brain after an early morning start and late finish on Saturday. I went for a walk up on Mt Tamborine through a subtropical forest at Witches Falls.
These nature walks always have a restorative affect on my mind, body and soul.
Every step my senses come alive – a rustle in the undergrowth, a flittering bird, a lyrebird’s call echoing through the forest.
I can smell the forest now as I pen these few words, and the feeling of awe as I stood beneath a giant majestic strangler fig and peer upwards, comes back to me now.
Just like my working habits of pushing myself to the limits aren’t sustainable, so too aren’t Western ways of living on this planet.
The holy grail of continuous growth and expansion like a virus is destroying the planet and its vital systems that till now have sustained us.
Just because doing things the way we have been doing things have worked to a certain extent till now is not a reason to continue of this path of self-destruction. We are only now beginning to see the global environmental effects of our ways. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.
Walking through one stretch of the forest I encountered a stand of cycads.
These ancient plants were around even before the time of the dinosaurs and have managed to hold on. They were formerly more abundant and diverse than they are today. They are gymnosperms, meaning that their seeds are not encased by seed coverings or fruit like flowering plants are.
The indigenous people of the area used to eat the cones. They would first leach the poisons for a few days in a running stream. Sago palms are in fact a species of conifer not a palm.
As I stopped and stood to admire these amazing ancient plants I thought how many people would have just walked past and wouldn’t have even given them a second glance. Or maybe just thought seeing their palm-like leaves they would have mistaken them for palms.
In fact the word ‘cycad’ is thought to come from the Greek kukas, a kind of palm of Egyptian origin.
Knowledge Is Power
Knowledge can be bliss.
Standing there I wondered how old these cycads were. There was one cycad that was about three metres tall. Knowing that they take a long time to grow I guessed that it could easily be a few hundred years old.
Here was I standing in a grove of eleven trees whose combined age could easily have been 2000 years old.
I wondered how the first one came to be in this spot in the forest, and how the conditions must have been perfect enough to be able to provide habitat for other cycads.
Knowledge Brings Responsibility
Just like Adam who ate from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, we too can begin to realise just how naked we really are. As weather patterns begin to change, with more frequent and intense droughts and floods, we begin to understand that this is our doing and can easily become our undoing.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
For so long our cloak of ignorance has been our shield from self-awareness. Yet as our awareness grows it becomes obvious that we need to change. Radically.
Further along the walk I stopped at Witches Falls. Standing at the lookout overlooking Witches Falls as it free falls off the escarpment and into the lush subtropical rainforest below I wondered how the name of the falls came about.
I saw an information board which tells how a local Syd Curtis recalled how his mother Mrs Hilda Curtis, as an eight year old girl named the falls while rounding up the cows after the school.
The cows would sometimes wonder down the mountain and by the time Hilda got them back it was dark. On a cloudy night it was pitch black in the rainforest as she made her way up. She would hold onto the tail of the last cow as she negotiated the slippery creek because of the darkness.
She was brought up on Grims Fairy Tales filled with stories of witches and giants, and to an eight year old’s imagination she called them Witches Falls and the name stuck, recounted Syd.
In the past ignorance and the fear brought on by that, saw women accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Ignorance also saw the destruction of forests. Humans made stories that fed our fear and ignorance of dark forests. Forests were associated with danger and destroying the forests was ‘taming the land’, and the misplaced belief that humans could dominate nature.
Luckily, both being called Witches Falls and being a dark forest didn’t see the area’s beauty destroyed.
Conservation – A Radical New Idea
Robert Martin Collins, a local pastoralist, was inspired during an overseas trip to America in 1878, by accounts of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park established in the United States of America in 1872.
For almost 30 years he passionately campaigned for the creation of national parks in Queensland. In 1896 Collins was elected to Queensland Parliament where his campaigning continued. He persisted with the support of others and in 1906 State Government finally passed ‘The State Forests and National Parks Act’.
The Mt Tamborine area is incredibly biodiverse. It contains 350 vertebrates, or 85% of the biodiversity of the Gold Coast. Robert Collins had great foresight at a time when biodiversity and nature were often seen as resources to be exploited.
In fact, Witches Falls became the first national park in Queensland and was declared on the 28th March 1908.
Radical changes in the way we live because of our past actions means that we need to re-look just how smart we really think we are. We may need to begin to take radical action even if we don’t totally understand the ‘science’ behind things.
One of those radical actions is to not wait till the full brunt of climatic conditions take hold before we begin large scale environmental restoration work. We can admit and embrace ignorance while we work towards restoration. We need also to resist the dangerous human trait where we destroy what we don’t understand.
Restore also means to make stand again. With knowledge and understanding we can make a stand to restand our lost forests and environments.
On the mountain there were two two forests I visited that were under restoration. On the Witches Falls walk I saw little seedlings planted along the path where past walkers had taken short cuts down embankments causing erosion.
At John Dickson Conservation Park I walked through a once degraded area that has been transformed into a green forested corridor of ‘peace and beauty’ as a dedication plaque so aptly describes.
Restoration of forest also restores water cycles. At John Dickson Conservation Park local people had planted trees in the area, stopping erosion and stopping invasive weeds from taking over again.
Through restoration comes appreciation. Along this walk I learned about the tree species in this forest through the name plaques on the trees. It is through this action that ignorance is dispelled and a real appreciation for nature develops.
Restoration however, is ongoing. It needs to be continual – not a one off. When an area of forest is cleared of weeds and re-planted with natives, all the seeds in the soil, including weeds will begin to grow. Restoration involves regular weeding, and local people do working bees where they join in weeding this area, and planting again, weeding again till the health of the forest is restored.
When a forest is brought back to health it can resist invasive species better as do humans who have had their health restored.
Restoration isn’t a one off action. It is a continual process and can be a long one depending on how degraded or depleted an individual or environment has become. Just like going to the gym for an hour won’t restore many years of unhealthy eating and lack of exercise, so too, restoration takes time, and if we want to see radical change, radical action is required.
Land conservation is much more than just ‘conserving nature’.
It is about seeing holistically. It is about understanding that everything is connected. Land conservation is about restoring the natural systems and cycles that provide us with clean water and fresh air.
Along the Witches Falls walk I came across an area that is a seasonal lagoon deep in the middle of the rainforest. It was a magical feeling to come across this open area – a pool of light fringed with bungalow palms and sprawling rainforest giants.
The lagoon was dry, yet during times of heavy rains it fills with water and miraculously springs to life. During that time you can hear the breeding call of at least 6 frog species.
You may be able to hear the high pitched ‘bonk’ of the Scarlet-sided Pobblebonk, the ‘wark-wark-wark’ of the Great Barred Frog, or the slow repeated ‘aocuk’ of the Tusked Frog.
It becomes a race against time as the tadpoles need to metamorphose before the waters dissipate.
This seasonal lagoon creates a yearly opportunity to ‘re-store’ or build up the store, of the amphibious biodiversity in the forest.
Knowledge Is Bliss
That ‘magical feeling’ that I felt was one of discovery and appreciation brought about by knowledge.
I could have walked past this forest glade without really understanding its significance had it not been for the National Parks & Wildlife sign at the lagoon’s edge. I could have been as oblivious as bushwalkers who would walk past the grove of cycads and who would haven’t even given them a second look.
Being oblivious is the way to oblivion.
With Knowledge Comes Responsibility
Through dispelling ignorance, and embracing knowledge and responsibility that comes with that knowledge we have the power to restore our planet. It will be this knowledge and respect for all living things and of the earth’s systems that will help bring us back into balance. It is this apple of knowledge and the seeds we plant with it that will take us back to the garden of Eden.
Rest and Restoration
We as a society and culture need a new paradigm. We need to take a break from our continuous incessant expansion. To find new ways to prosper beyond spiralling growth and destruction. We need to take time to rest and find new ways to sustain and thrive.
Restitution or Destitution
We may not be able to give full restitution to the damage we have caused the Earth. We will never restore damaged habitats to their pristine state. Yet with radical action we can begin to make good on creating a future not filled with doom and gloom and catastrophic weather events, but one where we find a new balance.
A New World Balance
Just as our extreme actions has caused extreme consequences, we need to address this by taking radical change in the opposite positive direction. It is going to be the cumulative effect of individuals and grassroots local communities around the world that brings about radical change. By counteracting force with equal force we may be able to neutralise what damage we have done over the past few thousand years.
We can’t keep living in denial and ignorance, but need to take quick decisive action. The oblivious mindset will sink us into oblivion.
Increase Legislated Natural Areas
One bold initiative that can make a big difference is to create more National Parks in Queensland.
Only 5% of Queensland territory is currently National Parks.
By increasing the area under National Parks control together with creating stronger and enforceable land clearing laws we can begin to see change.
If we are able to take things seriously and step out for a moment away from our consumer lifestyle, to take rest and see what we are doing to this Earth, maybe the next step would be a massive restoration project.
An environmental restoration and reforestation project that involves every Australian and is akin to the energy and effort that it took to mobilise a nation to war as witnessed in WWI and WWII.
Imagine we took radical action, where every man, woman and child helped to restore our environments. This would create a massive change in how we see our natural world. This awareness and action could be just what takes us off the path to oblivion.
Make A Stand
Our future is in the ‘palm of our hands’. We can make a stand for change in little ways from joining your local Landcare or tree planting group to even reading up on the unique and natural wildlife around us.
The definition of madness is said to be doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. It is time to remove ourselves from our veil of ignorance and take a bite of the apple of knowledge. The world is filled with enough psychotic leaders, whom like the cycads are holding on in a world that is changing.
Knowledge is a powerful thing. It is what we do with it that determines our future. Happiness is about finding balance. It is about knowing when to work hard and when to rest. Our happiness and health are in the palm of our hands. It is the choices we make daily that will determine the heath of ourselves and the planet.
Eden isn’t a magical place in our distant past. It is now and here. We all have the apple of knowledge. We all know instinctively what is good for us.
Unlike Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge, it is this knowledge that will help us let go of our apparent blissful ignorance and take us back to Eden.
This Eden isn’t the Eden of the past but of the now. It is the place where we find peace and rest. It is the place within us and without where we go to feel restored. Natural places provide us with restoration. These aren’t places that we want, but deep down that we need. You see Eden is an anagram of need…