I thought I'd begin 2012 with something different - an interview with poet, activist, ecologist, Bundanoon local and mate, Peter Lach-Newinsky. Here Peter talks about many things including coal seam gas extraction, Peak Oil, the origins of apples, an out-of-control fire on his property and his dog, Billy.
What's kept you in Bundanoon for so long?
Bundanoon itself. Bundy is a biodiversity hotspot and still pleasant small village. Perhaps the question can also be read to imply moving often is a natural thing to do. It's not popular to say so but I think hyper-mobility and mass tourism will just be a historical blip due to the historically short era of cheap oil. Although I've had to move about a fair bit in my life, I don't like or believe in the wisdom of frequent moving. Too stressful for self and planet. Maybe it's time we all stuck around long enough somewhere to really care for it - ie. grow some roots in a place, know its ecology and culture intimately rather than just be temporary visitors passing through - 'permanent transients' in Edward Albee's phrase. Peak Oil will do that for us anyway.
A nature lover from overseas arrives on your property for the first time. What do you show them straight away and why?
First, the five over 200 year-old messmates for a sense of perspective. Then, for an even wider perspective, the 120 heirloom varieties of apple tree in the orchard, including the weird and tough-as-boots Court Pendu Plat brought to Northern Europe by the Romans. Because apple trees are propagated not from seed but by grafting, our tree will have come directly from that original Roman(?) tree from two thousand years ago, passed on like a flaming torch through the centuries by apple tree grafters and growers. This fact still amazes me.
Tell me something else I don't know about apples.
Wild apple forests originated five million years ago in the Tan Shan mountains on the borders of Kazakhstan and China, where they still exist. Each neighbouring tree a different variety. The sweetness we like about apples was first selected by our mammal cousins like bears and pigs. Then we added about 10,000 varieties over the centuries. Now, due to industrial food growing, we have very few left.
What creature living on your property appeals to you most and why?
Our border collie, Billy, because he has a large and gentle soul.
How does your property enhance your poetic voice?
Perhaps a poem written on site might be an answer to that question...
The way reeds succumb to gravity's wind,
sky force propelling them water-wards,
soul-wards till all is grace & light
or a water lily open-handed
to the sun, flat paddle-leaved,
still as an emblem
over the brown murk of water
flicked, tensing like the dun ripple
on a stallion's silk rump
marsh frogs clicking their pebbles
of territorial air, a cabbage white
jinking & reeling low, drunk
with shimmer, two dragonflies
reed-locked & pumping
their violent U, distant screeching
cockatoos planning their next blitz
on wattle seeds, apples, equanimity,
nature romantic to the urban mind.
Has global warming affected your property in any way?
The effects of global warming are of course regional and becoming apparent over time. We are already experiencing decreased average rainfall, more and longer droughts, milder winters. All this impacts on our property in terms of planning for changes in water availability, soil moisture retention and growing different plant species and varieties more adapted to the changed conditions.
What's your position on coal seam gas/fracking (I think I can guess!)?
In my view it's a criminal, last ditch attempt by the energy corporations and governments to extract the harder-to-get fossil fuels that have now become more economically viable because of rising energy prices due to diminishing supplies in the age of Peak Oil. To poison or deplete aquifers, especially in the age of increasing water scarcity and thus food insecurity - both due to climate chaos - should be a capital crime.
What part of Morton National Park do you most love?
The walk to Erith Coal Mine for its rich and shifting biodiversity and altitudinal changes in vegetation and vibe. Good for the cardiovascular system.
Share with me a story from life on your property.
Mid-nineties, I was trying to reduce some blackberry patches by burning off. The fire became a grass fire that very quickly got out of control. There was no house on the property then. This was also before mobiles. I had to drive to a neighbour's to phone the bush fire brigade. When I drove back, I could see huge billowing clouds of smoke rising from our property and my heart sank through my boots as I thought that the fire might now have spread to the big trees and our neighbour's property. Luckily, it hadn't, although it had spread up the grass slope and was licking the big trees. After a long and nervous wait, the bush fire brigade finally arrived in totally laid-back fashion, and to my surprise considered it an insignificant kind of fire, even complimenting me on trying to burn off blackberry. They put it out in no time and even politely declined my offer of money or at least a couple of beers. Long live our bush fire fighters.
Will you stay in Bundanoon for many years to come?
If possible, I'd like to only leave this place inside a coffin.
LJ, January 16 2012.