In “the land down under” our focus was on capturing on camera the thoughts of some of the world’s experts who spend their lives working on bettering the health of rivers.
We spent the first part of our trip in Melbourne at the World Rivers Conference and gathered together some of the brightest and passionate minds from around the globe. Great insights were offered and all were concerned that if we (the global citizens) didn’t alter the path we were on, we would lose one of our planet’s most valuable resources – the world’s rivers. They told us that while much of the Earth is covered with water, as seen in the famous shot of our blue planet from space, they feel that it is a deceiving image in that far less than 1 % of that water is fresh, clean and accessible. Properly caring for that limited amount of available fresh water is our planet’s most pressing environmental challenge, they said.
From the World Rivers Conference we headed up north to Cooktown, to get an aboriginal perspective on the state of the rivers in Australia. When asked about one of the most pressing problems facing Australia, Chief Willie, an aboriginal elder we went to meet, told Mark, “water shortage, that’s one of the most pressing concerns for us here in Australia.” “We live in a country where the shortage of water has been a major concern. There is a finite amount of water on Earth and a growing demand for it.
Each year Australians use as much fresh water as it would take to fill Sydney Harbour approximately 48 times.”
“In the old days, you took only what you needed to survive on … water was a precious resource … all the indigenous tribes knew this … and yet, today, many Australians forget that fact.” “Urban sprawl … huge agricultural demands … whole coastal areas are being more developed which has resulted in pollutants being produced, leading to the destruction of wetlands, rivers that run through this country.” “Pollution was not a big problem when our tribes hunted and fished this land. But even as it has now become a problem, we can’t just sit back and put the blame on someone else. We have to play a part in helping to heal our land.” These are the words Chief Willie told to Mark.
From Cooktown, we traveled southwest to Adelaide, where we spent time with another aboriginal character – Uncle Moogie. A member of Ngarrindjeri Nation, he told us the story of the Murray-Darling River. “When people got sick, they brought them down to the river,” he says. “It had healing powers. That river was, until 200 years ago, looked after. For years, I’ve watched my part of the country … it was dying.” “When you see things like that, it disturbs you. And makes you want to do something about it.”
“We grew up on the river … and on the lakes, he told Mark, “and everything was good for many years, but everything today is out of balance … until we can restore that balance, we’re going to have problems. If you ask how important the river is to us, it’s like taking our spirit away from us. You’re dead, you’re nothing … you have no feeling. That’s how important the river is to me, to my children … to my grandchildren.”
As the sun set at the mouth of the Murray-Darling, Uncle Moogie applied red and white stripes over his body. He was one of a small group of dancers who were all getting painted in aboriginal style. As the sun set, they danced the spirit back into the river.
“There is a need to dance the spirit back into the river. To do something healing for the river.” “For many years we’ve gotten together to tell stories about the river … it’s birth and how it’s helped us.” “It’s time that we try to dance now for the river.”