An unsettling sighting in the landscape

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I think Mr Badger must have got inside my mind. I’m guessing it must have been my furry, field-loving namesake calling to me, because this week for no sane reason I’m aware of, Debby and I with a dear friend bought a piece of the countryside a couple of hours from Melbourne.

So here I am on our first weekend in the little cabin sitting scratching my head. It’s not the tranquil relaxing experience I had imagined though. No, I’m perplexed as I caught a glimpse of something unsettling in the landscape…….

This property has been used for some time to rear cattle and that of course raises all the issues around the sustainability of our meat eating appetites. Seeing the film Cowspiracy during the week highlighted again the real cost of eating a steak versus a vegetarian diet and how impossible meat eating will be for all 7 billion of us. The costs in water consumption, land clearing, soil and ocean degradation and global warming are enormous, and together form the single biggest threat to humanity.

And then there’s the damage our industrial scale agriculture does to the so called wildlife we share this beautiful planet with. We seem to have adopted the mindset that nature is fundamentally flawed and must be exterminated or at least highly controlled, and replaced by manmade “goodness”. That’s why 98% of animals are apparently now either domesticated or farmed.

But I knew all this before coming here today and I already realised just how conflicted this land purchase has made me. No matter that I hope through this property to better understand some alternative ways farm food can be produced. Yet, sitting looking out at that scene in the photo above, as nervous rabbits scurried away and brightly plumed birds hopped through the tree above me, I suddenly caught sight of something even more elusive – the flawed concept of ownership.

We humans seem to relish and strive to acquire things and perhaps nothing is more coveted than land. Somehow looking out at this evocative piece of landscape this morning I realised how ridiculous this concept is. I felt humbled by the land around me. I could feel something of its great age. I sensed its lineage, providing nourishment for countless humans and the multitude of other than human life.

The tree under which I sat has seen the likes of me come and go. It knows this land and what is freely offered better than I ever could. Arguably even the trillions of microbes working the soil under my feet have a greater call on this land. So, what am I more than a fleeting passer through? I now vaguely comprehend this land can never be owned by any human other than in our small-minded legally constructed world. I’ve heard many indigenous people across the world talk of thinking of the impact of their actions seven generations ahead. I guess what I glimpsed this morning was any perceived selfish property rights morphing into a duty of stewardship for this land and all its teeming life. I’m at a loss what rights my title deed actually confers. Fortunately the furry Mr Badger has no such worries scurrying into his burrow.

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