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  • rosscolliver

How to keep going in a grim world

The more tuned into nature you are, the more weeds there are.

On recent trips to the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland, I had a hard time seeing anything other than the weeds. Pittosporum, blackberry, gorse and broom invade every roadside, crowding out the local ecosystems. I was shocked.

What a mess we have made of this planet! We in this case means the colonisers: the people who lived here when we arrived used fire to give each ecosystem and species the space it needed to thrive. So... we, in our ignorance and greed, break up what works and impose what we want on each and every place we inhabit. We never show restraint. We expect the world to serve us. We don't clean up after ourselves.

It's very sad, and maddening, and trying to change any of it seems a fools’ errand. Greenies have been suffering this for decades, but now the general population is sliding towards eco-anxiety, “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one's future and that of next generations” (American Psychology Association). Sounds about right. The symptoms run all the way from occasional worry, to sleeplessness, to full blown despair, depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

Blackberry and pittosporum show up anywhere there's a niche.

This is Murnong Creek, at Somerville Lane, Riddells Creek

Staying clear eyed about what’s happening in the world and staying happy at the same time requires building a deliberate practice into our lives. Leunig’s advice comes to mind:


Go the end of the path until you get to the gate. Go through the gate and head straight out towards the horizon. Keep going towards the horizon. Sit down and have a rest every now and again. But keep on going. Just keep on with it. Keep on going as far as you can. That's how you get there.

Or you can consult your licensed mental health professional. They will listen and help you to live with the pain.

Right here in Barrm Birrm we have developed our own method to counter despair and keep our hearts light. It’s called ‘walking and weeding.’ On our monthly 'Wildflowers and Weeds' walk, we head out to find what’s happening on the slopes and in the hollows of this bushland at Riddell’s backdoor. Along the way, we clear some weeds. We learn what is a weed and what is a local plant. We learn how to take out each weed while leaving the surrounding habitat intact. We balance wonder with work, and it feels good.

For those of us that like to see a result from our efforts, after my travels to eastern Victoria I can say unequivocally that in Barrm Birrm, you can make a difference! There's not that much weed, and persistent collective effort will clear it. Sometimes that means putting a circle around a patch of weed, dropping to your knees, and clearing till that patch is gone. Sometimes it means mobile weeding, pulling up a feral acacia here and there, as you walk.

The bush here is relatively intact. With just a little care, it will keep living the way it has over millennia, slowly adjusting to changes. To be able to walk through it, every now and then pulling out a weed to help it along, well that is a privilege and a blessing.

Come to 'Wildflowers and Weeds'. Through summer, we will meet 5-7pm, 4th Wednesday of each month through summer. Our next session is 25th October. Meet at 288 Gap Road.

Ross Colliver

Riddells Creek Landcare

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