Volume 2, Issue 3 Editorial


The Great Barrier Reef, the most extensive system of coral reefs on Earth and one of the richest in terms of biological diversity, was granted World Heritage listing in 1981. At the time of listing it was described as ’an outstanding example of a major stage of the earth’s evolutionary history containing unique, rare and superlative natural phenomena, formations and features of exceptional natural beauty and providing habitats where populations of rare and endangered species of plants and animals still survive’.

As I write UNESCO officials are visiting Queensland to inspect what could be a major infringement of Australia’s promise, in accord with the listing, ‘to ensure that effective and active measures are taken for the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory’.

Ironically the impetus for this visit is based on the same issues as caused the fierce battles for the preservation of the Reef in the 1960’s and 70’s. The lead article in this edition celebrates the heroic work of Judith Wright and her colleagues to protect and preserve this precious ecosystem from the devastation of mining. Today, with the world’s demand for escalated supplies of gas, coal and oil, the Reef is again under threat of the same desecration.

A ‘spiritual revolution is vital for each of us’ claims Peter Cock in his article on Coevolutionary Spirituality. He understands spirituality to be the breath of life which is evolving and developing over time. Is it not a yearning of the spirit then that lures humans to the Great Barrier Reef with its iconic presence?  What else is it that attracts thousands of tourists in their glass bottomed boats and shoals of snorkelers and scuba divers drawn to underwater miracles such as the spectacular and rare spawning of the corals under moonlit skies ? Can we stand by and allow the spirit to be ebbed out of this place by fossil fuel extraction and polluting ports and with that spirit the hard won fruits of those who have lived in love with the Reef and fought for its health and well being?

Stories of Protest, Transformation and Change is the theme of the feature articles in this edition. The Occupy Movement that moved so quickly around the planet was criticised locally for being unfocussed, for not having a clear intent. This may be so but there is no doubt that it is symptomatic of a deep seated discontent that may not be clearly articulated but is stimulated by what Paul Hawken would describe as a deep desire to build up the planet’s ‘immune system’ to rid Earth of dis-ease. We humans and our demands can be the greatest curse on Earth or we can be the species that is able to transform destruction into reconstruction and allow the communities of life around the planet to flourish into the future.

There is much wisdom for us in the observation of how the more than human world engages in transformation and the knowledge that traditional peoples derived from such observation. Caroline Smith offers a valuable reflection on nature’s ways and the manner in which they adapt to change over time and take human intervention into account as part of their ongoing evolution. However she also alerts us to the limits of this ability particularly in terms of food security.

Actions small as well as large are needed and local groups defending the Whittlesea Gardens and the Dharrawal bear witness to this, as do six women in silent solidarity with endangered species. One young artist can transform forgotten or neglected places to bring a sense of wordless connection and meaning; the dreams of one man can revolutionize education and those of one woman can bring a vacant block of land to life and entice youngsters to a deep joy in sharing the fruits of the land. These and more stories fill the following pages.

Finally we might reflect on Gill Baker’s words that ‘humans are able to change their environments to suit their needs – not so animals and plants, they have to change themselves”!  It is precisely this difference that has allowed the human to run rampant over the life giving rhythms of our planet but it is also this difference that is the hope for the future. The image of fire exemplifies this paradox: as we deepen the awareness of our intrinsic dependence on this planet and her gifts can we, like the eucalypt, find within ourselves the power to respond to destruction with shoots of new life and dream visions of a mutually enhancing future.