Sunday, June 26, 2011

Running South: Updated schedule for the run!

Running South: Updated schedule for the run!: "Day 1 (Sun): Slept at Mittagong Day 2 (Mon): Slept at Goulburn Day 3 (Tues): Slept at Yass Day 4 (Wed): Slept at Jugiong Day 5 (Thurs): ..."

Marathon men sow seeds of history

Aaron Cook and Rachel Browne
June 26, 2011
    Chris Turnbull and Len Gervay will be running from Sydney to Melbourne to raise money for the Rate and Threatened Species Garden at the Sydney Botanic Gardens.

    Chris Turnbull and Len Gervay will be running from Sydney to Melbourne to raise money for the Rate and Threatened Species Garden at the Sydney Botanic Gardens. Photo: Janie Barrett

    SOME people sponsor a tree, others pull up weeds but when Chris Turnbull and Len Gervay wanted to do something for endangered plants they decided to run 900 kilometres.

    The two men set off from Sydney a week ago, following the Hume Highway to Melbourne, raising thousands of dollars for the NSW Seedbank on the way.

    The seedbank is part of the Millennium Seed Bank, a global effort to protect the world's plants from extinction by collecting and studying their seeds.

    Mr Turnbull, 27, and Mr Gervay, 30, are both engineers who are passionate about the environment. It costs about $2000 to save one species and they have already raised more than $4000 .

    That is enough to save the Wee Jasper Grevillea, also known asGrevillea iaspicula, a flowering shrub found near Lake Burrinjuck.

    The plant has become critically endangered through grazing and blackberry invasion, the acting executive director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Brett Summerell, said.

    ''It is particularly important for the local honey-eater birds because it is one of the few winter flowering plants in the area,'' he said.

    Other endangered plants along the route include the Crimson Spider Orchid, Caladenia concolor, which bears large flowers said to smell like a hot motor; the Yass Daisy, Ammobium craspedioides, which puts out small bright yellow flowers on a tall stem; and the Button Wrinklewort, a shrub which grows in NSW and Victoria.

    All the species the men are helping to save grow close to the route they will take down the Hume Highway.

    Speaking from Gundagai last Thursday, Mr Turnbull, of Paddington, said they had encountered strong head winds, sleet and the constant roar of big rigs.

    Mr Gervay, of Surry Hills, agreed the conditions had been more challenging than they expected.

    ''I've been struggling a bit, to tell you the truth,'' he said. ''I'm very sore and fatigued.''

    The men have been running day and night, sleeping in tents on the way. They expect to reach Melbourne by Thursday.

    Supporters can follow their progress online with the help of a GPS tracking device. ''If we stop for too long people can give us a call and tell us to get moving, or if we're doing 110 [km/h] we're probably on the front of a truck,'' Mr Turnbull said.

    About 10 per cent of NSW's 6000 plant species are now considered endangered or vulnerable. Land clearing and invasive weeds are threatening many species, and climate change could play a big role in future, said Peter Cuneo, the manager of natural heritage at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

    The seedbank provides insurance if the plants ever go extinct in the wild and gives scientists the chance to do research into the best conditions for germinating the seed and estimating just how long they will last in storage.

    To follow the runners' progress or to make a donation see

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    Read more:

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    An evolving project...

    up-coming workshops - see below

    "Homage to the Seed" is keeping me very focused as the various layers of this engrossing project collect fresh energy and new thinking, energised by plans for the proposed trip to the UK later this year.

    I've just about signed off on the second e-newsletter ready to send out tonight after the wonderful response I received to the first one in May. See the sidebar if you'd like to sign-up to receive it.

    e-newsletter header

    In early April I attended a very worthwhile business seminar over two days that was delivered by the energetic entrepreneurial Dale Beaumont  - "New Rules of Business" who totally surprised many of his audience by having all kinds of tricks up his sleeves to offer over two (free) days. Perspectives - based on solid experience - on social media, websites/blogs, video, e-newletters and much more was well-delivered and comprehensive - made for highly engaged listening, and later, much activity as I worked with material I decided to use for my own purposes. It was an "A to X" experience for me ... it always helps to understand 'how' things work and 'why' to employ them.

    Luckily  my brother visited at Easter right when figuring out Mail-chimp's e-news format and his coaching made all the difference for the tricky bits... so I appreciated the positive responses from one and all... behind the scenes it was a lot harder than setting up a blog I must say! But how great it is to have news all in one place - words and images... links to click away on... and a system of reaching people all at once.

    The "opt-out" button is easy so no-one is stuck getting mail they don't want (critical yes!) ...and it can be read in any number of languages by clicking at the top... so what's not to like!

    This week I start a series of workshops at Percolator Gallery in the Brisbane Suburb of Paddington. Some of you will remember I was installed in a wonderful studio at Percolator for the 2nd half of the residency last year at Mt Coot-tha ...  and due to its close proximity it was a  brilliant solution to the challenge of painting for a residency without provision of a studio.

    Once again Helena Lloyd has stepped forward to make space available for this workshop series... and when I popped in on Sunday the places was filled with light and I was very excited to have this chance to be back there for the workshops.

    There are events in the planning between now and the proposed trip to the UK... but more on that soon!
    Invitations to present my project have been turning up and generally this is proving a very dense period for activities of all kinds.

    Millennium Seed Bank building
    Wakehurst Place, Millennium Seed Bank

    Early May I wrote the post on Kew Gardens and the Millennium Seed Bank Project just as I was just developing a strategy to enable me to take up the offer to stay on-site later in the year... to carry out research in an informal kind of residency.
    Plans are slowly taking shape with the encouragement and support of excellent people... some I've not even met in person have been extremely generous with information. Ive had so much happening on the ground at times though that this planning has had to be put aside temporarily. I'm delighted with the level of interest and support forthcoming and do hope to be bringing further news before too long!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Up the road from where I live - the story continued...

    This story is an update of an earlier one from a month ago... which you can read here.

    I then posted this question "would you lock the gate if they came for your town?" here two weeks ago.

    And then last weekend - which was the annual June long weekend - I drove up the road west of my home in the city on the coast to visit for a couple of days staying on the farm below and attending a special Art Exhibition in a nearby town.

    Hakea species

    Bracychiton bidwillii or Little Kurrajong

    the garden at the entrance of the house - just a small part of extensive gardens

    Rustic fence panel made by Sean Lloyd.

    The Sugarloaf. There are a lot of Sugarloafs on the Downs, which are volcanic plugs.
    This is near Kingsthorpe and did have an underground colliery there once.
    I stayed at this Farm on the Darling Downs - home to Nicki and Glen Laws. This was the view from the garden at the front of their house. The views at different times of the day were spectacular ... but my camera and I could certainly not do justice to that. I really should have asked Nicki to send some of her favourite photos.

    I'm going to tell this story backwards.

    On the Monday when family and friends had dispersed in many directions to return home - the day after the celebrations - Nicki took me driving across country to the town which was the subject for her Textile Art Exhibition. This is coming into the outlying area of that town ... Acland. If your look closely you can see Open Cut Mines ... and the signage points out the fact of what's ahead!

    The road to Acland
    Glen Beutel

    Yesterday this photo above was included with a feature story in the Australian Newspaper this weekend. All the other photos in this post is mine... this I have added along with this story   
    "Coal meets the last man standing" Glen Beutel is the only resident left in the Acland township on Queensland's Darling Downs.   Picture: Jack Tran  Source: The Australian  
    GLEN Beutel's story is almost a parable of modern Australia.

    As the last man standing in the Darling Downs town of Acland, where mining company New Hope has been buying its 50 houses in a bid to expand a coalmine, Beutel is one of the forgotten faces of the two-speed economy. Mining may have enriched the nation as a whole, but individuals such as Beutel are feeling impoverished and frustrated.
    Beutel's former neighbours have taken New Hope's money and moved to nearby towns, leaving the 58-year-old the sole landowner in a town situated squarely in the middle of a planned 7km-wide open-cut coalmine. And yet Beutel, who grew up in Acland, would never live anywhere else.
    "I've travelled a lot, but this will always be home," he said. "I've got an attachment to the town that I feel I'd regret if I abandoned it." Read more here.

    The town of Acland... what's left of it! These are not playing fields... rather they are the blocks where houses once stood. One can see an abandoned school, a couple of churches a few odd buildings here and there like the one above ... and the house where Glen Beutel lives is actually surrounded by garden and is a kind of sanctuary of normality from the street.

    I collected these species shown below as I looked around the town with Nicki and she explained the various landmarks, the public gardens still being tended... the War memorial, the old mining buildings (below) from the past when there was once underground mining taking place.

    Acacia species... sorry I dont have the name.

    the pods form species above... opened with seeds dispersed.

    Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon)- great hardwood, termite resistant - in flower

    blossoms a day later

    Bracychiton bidwillii or Little Kurrajong

    Bracychiton bidwillii or Little Kurrajong

    The photos from here down are from Sunday at the Rosalie Gallery in Coombungee where the Textile Art work of Nicki Laws told the story of this town .... from fossil finds dating back millennia to the present. Nicki gathered local stories and researched far and wide when necessary to gain the back ground information which she stitched into this work. 

    Consequently the impact of this show is many-layered. 

    For locals it touches deeply on what has been lost... giving cause to both celebration and  mourning. For someone visiting from away it brings back instantly the myriad memories I hold of growing up in a country community... experiences born of such closer connections, and why it goes so against the grain for these people to lose the place at the centre of their lives. So much in a  community such as this is created out of the effort of its people... the communal fund-raising, joint endeavours... pulling together in tough times. In fact the locals were out in force at this show... a sumptuous display of baked treats laid out on tables to accompany the serving of tea and coffee was a feast for the eyes after the speeches.

    Then, onto all this, is the story of the Mining Companies sweeping into hill and dale in this region... the "food bowl"of the nation as it was always known. Notices being slapped on towns, farms, everywhere in fact it would seem! When a notice went on Nicki's farm early this year she decided to call on an ex-Acland local ... moved to the big smoke years back... but one who'd not forgotten his roots.

    Where others had ignored, politicians played deaf and the city was aloof .... he heard her out and said yes to opening her show last weekend. So... this man - infamous for upsetting people via his radio shows -and not known for taking conservations stands - came on board. 

    He said things the locals were afraid to say.... he asked questions and pushed the dialogue that had been suppressed or set aside again and again. I'm talking about Alan Jones ... who did give this community a sense of optimism at this recent opening... certainly the message that one deserves a voice at times like this. Hear his interview with Glen Beutel on Tuesday, 14th June.

    NB: Nicki has told me that attendance of her show is extremely high as people make their way from all over to view and read the works, discuss and learn more. Last I heard there were still $15 books available on the show. I hope Nicki reprints them ... they are a great resource for community and artists who might want to read more about this example of a poignant topic brought to the public through Art.

    From:  The TOOWOOMBA ‘CHRONICLE’ Saturday 18 June 2011

         Review:   Around the Galleries with Sandy Pottinger Saturday 18 June 2011:

    The Rosalie Art Gallery in Goombungee is presenting a textile exhibition of local significance by Nicki Laws. However, “Acland: Fragments and Memories from a township undermined” does not offer the usual expectations of a textile show. This body of work, despite the tonal delicacy and the understated sameness of its colouration, packs a vigorous punch, albeit couched in the nostalgic glove of memory. The illustrative panels are stitched, painted, and printed with love, respect, and sympathy. They tell the story of Acland, a small coal mining town on the Downs, now a ghostly vestige of itself as it waits to be claimed by the encroaching open-cut mining machines. Broadcaster Allan Jones, who grew up in Acland, gave the opening address. His eloquent and emotive rhetoric was well received, but his message, and that of Nicki Laws, must extend beyond the already-converted. It is a story, all too common today, of the little people, the Aussie battlers trying to eke a living from land which is over-shadowed by the threatening advances of the mining industry. Their stories and sacrifices are a part of the history and the very framework of this country. Laws has created a moving document, often from actual fragments of clothing and found objects, which is both a homage and an acknowledgement. The exhibition, in its entirety, should become part of a national collection, but before that it should be seen by people in the capital cities as well as regional Australia. The exhibition continues until 19 July.  

    Review reprinted with kind permission of Sandy Pottinger and The Chronicle.

    Nicki and Glen Laws

    The Old Acland Mine Series 2011-05-1

    Sections of a work titled "Qld's first Tidy Town" - a celebration of the gardens in the town.

    I'll finish with this image of the nearby tunnel .... which is now part of a reserve. It was awfully dark looking the other way... lets hope that this is a fitting symbol for the future of this regions. Not only the light at the end of the tunnel... but the vision of preservation of habitat and care for the land and all living systems on this land. We can only hope for and work towards a future where the land is not simply seen as something to be exploited but a place to find workable solutions to meet all kinds of presently conflicting needs.

    Its pointless us denying the fact we need to produce energy... we are all so keen to be plugged in! But we all need to become smarter to lobby for things to evolve. Mining companies come if permission is granted. Perhaps we are all "landlords" in a sense... and instead of complaining about bad tenants we need to demand better answers and far better systems be put in place. We let our Govts make these decisions ... what are we doing to ensure the best decisions are made for the greater good? We get what we deserve if we are complacent and leave it to the few to take care of!

    We are extremely reliant on Mining in this state... we can't simply say no to mining... but we have to be clear about what, when, where, how and why.  The Acland story happened with little attention to highlight the consequences. It stands as a reminder that we must sit up and take part in shaping the future we want to see... that we actually need to lobby for the industries we want to see and the land stewardship models we desire to have in place. 

    Bravo to Nicki for not only gathering a dispersed community together again... and providing such rich material for reflection .... but also having the foresight to bring life to a much needed dialogue by bringing someone into the centre who is more than capable of sparking issues along.

    The Darling Downs is seeing bridge-building between farmers and environmentalists grow in direct response to Govt sanctioned mining development that seems, thus far, to be largely without any community consultation of any kind. The agricultural sector is responding to all kinds of challenges thrown at them.... extremes of weather and climate, demands for better, more sustainable practices and on the other hand critical cost rises and pricing demands from monopolies like Australia's two supermarket companies. To top all that off ...the Govt in this state persists in asking for minimal accountability pre or post mining re sustainability ... and do let me know if I'm wrong on that account!! 

    My weekend in this region however brought me face to face with calm, hospitable and gracious people ... Sunday night dinner for around 20 was relaxed, friendly and full of conversation... with people who know the cost of every step they take ...  are politically alert and NOT taking anything for granted.

    Read More at:

    The Chronicle - Toowoomba's regional Newspaper 

    ACLAND: PORTRAIT OF A GHOST TOWN - About Nicki Law's show

    EVERYTHING TAKEN BY THE MINES - related story from a former Acland resident


    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Seeds are our Mothers and other thoughts on Biocultural Heritage

    This graphic is an elegant representation of our global biocultural heritage of systems ... utterly interlinked ... everything connected.

    biocultural heritage diagram
    Biocultural heritage - Protecting interlinked systems

    Today I was sent the link to this remarkable website - here is the text from "about" direct from the website. Thank you Heather!

    About Biocultural Heritage

    India: Kalimpong
    Biocultural heritage is a complex system of interdependent parts centred on the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their natural environment. Its components include biological resources, from the genetic to the landscape level; and long standing traditions, practices and knowledge for adaptation to environmental change and sustainable use of biodiversity.
    Biocultural heritage is held collectively, sustains local economies and is transmitted from one generation to the next. It includes thousands of traditional crop and livestock varieties, medicinal plants, wild foods and wild crop relatives. These precious resources have been conserved, domesticated and improved by communities over generations — and sometimes millennia.
    We all rely on biocultural heritage for food and health security, particularly in the face of climate change risk and uncertainty. For some 370 million indigenous people who depend directly on natural resources and are vulnerable to climate change, this heritage is vital for survival. It is also closely linked to their cultural identity and religious beliefs.
    and from the Home page:
    You'll find guidance and resources for grassroots organisations, researchers, practitioners and policymakers.
    This website draws on action research by and with indigenous and local communities, including the project 'Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: Implications of customary laws and practices' (2005–2009). This was a collaboration involving IIED and research partners and indigenous communities in Peru, Panama, Kenya, India and China - See Case Studies and Partners.
    Last year I attended an excellent lecture that covered this topic below.
    28 April 2011: UN food treaty on plant genetic resources must protect farmers’ rights press release.  This is very much a concern around seeds as "plant genetic resources".
    More from this page.

    Evidence of Inter-Linkages

    Peru: Potato Park The IIED and partners’ project involved 11 different indigenous groups and over 60 communities. It provides clear evidence of the very close linkages and inter-dependence between traditional knowledge (TK) and the other components of biocultural heritage:
    • Traditional knowledge is maintained, transmitted and renewed through the use of diverse biological resources, both wild and domesticated. It is embodied in traditional varieties domesticated and improved by indigenous communities. In the indigenous worldview, intangible traditional knowledge is inextricably linked to the more tangible ‘biodiversity’ it draws on — and cannot be separated from it.
    • Traditional knowledge and innovations are driven and sustained by cultural values, spiritual beliefs and customary laws, which are in turn sustained by ancestral landscapes and the sacred sites they contain.
    • There is also a direct link between traditional knowledge and landscapes. For example, Quechua people believe that the mountain gods teach knowledge. Research also shows that traditional knowledge is lost when the link to ancestral lands is broken.
    When traditional varieties are lost, associated TK is also lost; and when they are restored so too are the associated knowledge, practices and cultural values (as evident in the Peru and China cases). Hence cultural information is embedded in seeds.
    Hence cultural information is embedded in seeds.

    Read more here:
    Publications to be found through this website:

    ujumama - Mother Seed

    IIED code:
    Jun 2010 - Qolla Aymara, IIED 
    DVD film (disc plays in any region) 

    The seeds are our mothers because they nurture us. Sometimes they become our babies, and they need our protection, care and warmth. In other moments they are our sisters, with whom we enjoy, sing and dance. That's how we are all family in our Andean world.

    Now thats a thought to leave you with...

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