A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

One Very Literate Bird

Kea are beautiful, naughty, playful birds; the clowns of the New Zealand crop. Their under feathers are a myriad of red and blue and their backs a jade green which flickers in the light.

They are entertainers too, this one typically so, which I found picking the notice off the post.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The View Offerings

The Land of New Zeal

The New Zealand landscape has already been dosed in superlatives, and I could easily dip it in some more, but I’ll spare you that. Instead I am going to share two poems which I have come across between my beach and hill wanderings, which, at least for me, capture something which the superlatives don’t.


Once in a while
You may come across a place
where everything
seems as close to perfection
as you will ever need.
And striving to be faultless
the air on its knees
hold the trees apart,
yet nothing is categorically
thus, or that, and before the dusk
mellows and fails
the light is like honey
on the stems of tussock grass,
and the shadows
are mauve birthmarks
on the hills.

- Brian Turner

Deep in the Hills

Once I thought the land I had loved and known
Lay curled in my inmost self; musing alone
In the quiet room I unfolded the folded sea,
Unlocked the forest and the lonely tree,
Hill and mountain valley beach and stone,
All these, I said, are here and exist in me.

But now I know it is I who exist in the land;
My inmost self is blown like a grain of sand
Along the windy beach, and is only free
To wander among the mountains, enter the tree,
To turn again a sea-worn stone in the hand,
Because these things exist outside of me.

O far from the quiet room my spirit fills,
The familiar valleys, is folded deep in the hills.

- Ruth Dallas

I’ve had interviews of a different kind over the last few weeks. Interviews with nature. It is hard not to in New Zealand. In awe. In wonder. But while the beauty of the place uproots, there are also manifold questions about the fragility of the landscape and wildlife which inhabit it. I have heard some crazy statistics lately about the endangered birds of the world- of the top 50, about 30 are in New Zealand. It includes the Fairy Penguin, the Yellow Eyed Penguin, the Sea Albatross- populations of which are slightly stabilising due to rigorous conservation efforts, but which are nowhere near safe levels.

Then I look at the landscape, knowing the fjords and valleys are about 40 million years in the making, and ask myself, who really has a right to this place?

I have only been here a short while, but in that time I think I am developing a new perspective on time or an altered twist on significance; a longitudinal one. I am here for an eyeblink, lucky for the sight of it, privileged to walk it.

New Zealand. Land of New Zeal. More wanderings to do. More questions to ask.

In Oz, and Green

“Demand for freshwater will exceed supply by the year 2030. Australians have the highest per capita water consumption in the western world. By the year 2025, two out of every three persons will live in moderate to high water stress conditions”

Heavy reading, delivered to my on a water bottle by Sue and Colin Lennox, co-founders of Oz Green.

Sue and Colin are passionate about clean water. They are also passionate about the belief that something can be done to reverse this trend. Specifically, they believe in the potential of young people to catalyse this trend, and so, ten years ago they set up Oz Green, an organisation which harnesses the leadership of young people into environmental projects. One of their programmes is ‘Youth Lead’, a programme designed to give 15- 25 year olds the opportunity to examine their role in the world, and look at ways in which they can build the skills required to live sustainably.

“We recognise that the challenges we face on the planet now are not going to be easily addressed’, Sue explained, ‘and the key characteristics that we will need are things like resistance, resilience and tenacity’. The Youth Lead programme is designed to build these skills, and enable current ‘young leaders’ to change both themselves and their communities. They also work with schools to care for rivers in their local environment.. plus they have a team of young people in India at the moment, working alongside local communities to help clean up the Ganges and attending the 5th International Youth River Congress. You can read their blog here

Thanks for that bottle of clean water Sue and Colin, and for future bottles...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Inspire Inspiring

Inspire aim to do exactly what it says on the tin. Inspire.

Started up over ten years ago by Jack Heath, a former speech writer for the Prime Minister, the organisation has expanded to three core programme areas and a growing, vibrant team. I met up with Kelly Betts who runs ActNow, one of those three initiatives, while passing through Sydney. ActNow is an online web service which links volunteering or community involvement activities with young people. It also hosts stories from people who have got involved, each recounting what impact action has had on their lives. Its young people writing and supporting other young people, and ultimately about positive social change.

Kelly knows first hand what impact volunteering had on her. While doing a general economics degree in university she started to question whether she was ‘on the right track’. A stint as a volunteer in the Cook Islands after graduating shifted her thinking about her future, one which has led to the Inspire Foundation. To Kelly and Inspire, positive action can be captured in so many ways. It can be about environmental responsibility, asking difficult questions, raising issues among peers, even the act of voting.

Lauched in May 2006, ActNow has about 4000 new people checking out the site each day. Her vision is to make ActNow the first point of call for young people looking to find out more about social action.

ActNow are going big for 2007. With a huge music events marketing campaign planned, that vision may not be far off!

Calling All Lawn Lovers

A wander in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney granted the following permission.

‘Please walk on the grass. We also invite you to smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds, and picnic on the lawns’.

My kind of place really!

Around and About Down Under

I have been gallivanting around Australia for the last month; or rather a very small section of Australia. It is such a vast continent distance seems to get redefined. I spent a few days in Melbourne, then drove along the great ocean road from Melbourne to Adelaide, twisting and winding across spectacular sea views, plus managing to get in a couple of cold dips in the sea.

From Adelaide, my mother (who I am travelling with for this leg of the journey) and I, took a flight to Hobart in Tasmania. A wild, rugged island, not dissimilar to Ireland in parts. Quite a remarkable place, where about 1/5th of the land mass is designated ‘wilderness territory’. No roads. No cars. No disturbance. There are a few overland walking tracks, and the odd boat is allowed up the rivers. This is land at its true and beautiful best. A large section of the remaining of the island is State forest or National Park. Which makes for a lot of trees. Green bliss.

From Tasmania it was back to the big island. Canberra specifically, where I got to catch up with some people who I met while living in China a few years back; Robyn Keech, Tony Marx and their daughter, Sam Keech- Marx. They are a fantastic family; conscious of their impact on the planet and living life according to those principles. Tony runs quite the organic garden out the back of the house, and it was a delight to sample the produce.

From Canberra it was to Sydney. In time for the New Year celebrations, along with a couple of million others. With a view of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was a ‘hairs raising on the back on my head’ moment as the fireworks lit up the skies- twice. Once at 9pm, then again to ring in the New Year. 2007 is off to a bang, literally.

Here is a little photo diary from the last few weeks. I have posted additional ones to my flickr site.