Monday, June 25, 2007

River Flowing, Sea Moving, Explain

This post is inspired by the video that goes with the Sarah Blasko's magical song
from the album
'What the Sea wants, the Sea will have'. It shows nature in trouble while the animals and birds watch on. Sometimes I think that writing a blog in the midst of such an ecological imperative adds to my sense of bewilderment at why, as Blasko sings, 'there is a heavy cloud hanging over us'.

It rained all night again. The water. Flowing. Down. Running. Along.

When I was small I used to love going swimming in the rain in the bay, being totally immersed in a mix of fresh and salt waters, and feeling at once the warmer and cooler water as the sea's water often seemed warmer than the rain.

And going riverswimming as a child, the water, warmish on the surface, but deeper down, the cold grabs you - tugging at your toes as you wonder what creatures are lying in wait in the muddy bottom.

Riverswimming these days in the Brisbane River seems to be non-existent at least in the inner city area. People I've spoken to say they would not consider it. The river is too polluted. Too dirty. And yet in the mid 1800s the river was a haven for bathing and shark proofed bathing pools were erected along the river which lasted for 70 years.

A friend who has lived on the river most of his adult life tells me that many Brisbane residents view the river in a utilitarian way - the view, the ferry, a place to row - or as an inconvenience when they have to cross the river with insufficient bridges and often hideous traffic.

Can the river have an instrinisic value of its own? A value not connected wih human use? When we (humans) think of water as a resource, of the river as just a view, or a ferry ride, what happens to the river? When we pay for water use, and the authorities increase the amount we pay, does that make us more ecologically sensitive, or aqua-logically sensitive?

Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth changed the green - and blue - consciousness in Australia. Instead of the media questioning global warming, the launch of the film, coupled with the effect of the drought especially in inland rural areas, shifted the focus to water resources, to water scarcity, and now to desalination plants. Use less water. Harness the rain. Swim in the river. Treat it with sacredness. Watch the 'environmental flows' and bring a balance not only to water resource use, but to the ecosystem as a whole and create a condition where the river has an intrinsic right to its own water. Celebrate the river.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines environmental flows as: 'the water regime provided within a river, wetland or coastal zone to maintain ecosystems and their benefits where there are competing water uses and where flows are regulated'. A water regime?

In September this year, in Brisbane, there will be a whole conference devoted to 'Environmental Flows' aimed at managing water and conserving ecosystem health. The conference is part of the great Brisbane River Festival devoted to the celebration of this sacred waterway that snakes through the city.