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I can’t recall the last time I attended a concert in the great outdoors, but it has been quite a number of years since I stood among a throng of people listening to live music. The concert last Friday night was so meaningful to me that I abandoned the comfort of home and whatever was on TV to venture into the City, to get up close and personal with thousands of strangers on a Spring evening. I’m very glad I did.

Concertphoto

The concert was completely free, but the intention behind it was to solicit funds to protect the Kimberley region of western Australia. For those with good memories who have been following this blog for awhile, it will be obvious why I felt the need to be at the concert. The Kimberley is a spectacularly beautiful part of this country with very few people. I went on an eight-day tour of the area three years ago, in addition to spending a couple days in Broome and going up to the Dampier Peninsula, where they want to build the plant. It is hard to spend any time there and not feel, as I did, that the land is truly sacred.

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Naturally, a consortium of companies wants to build a huge gas plant along a pristine part of the coastline, directly across the largest dinosaur footprints in Australia, adjacent to the world’s largest calving area of humpback whales.

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As the proposed gas hub is one of the largest industrial projects in Australia’s history and will become the largest gas hub in the world, one would expect the environmental impact assessment to be well considered, comprehensive, robust and based on sound science. Unfortunately the EPA’s assessment fell far below these expectations. It was, essentially, made by one man. All the other members of the committee had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

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The area is so ecologically and culturally rich that it was recommended for National Park protection by the Australian Academy of Sciences and the National Parks Board of Western Australia in 1962; the WA Environmental Protection Authority in 1977 and 1993; the WA Department of Conservation and Land Management in 1991; the Broome Shire, Department of Land Administration and WA State Cabinet in 2000; and the Broome Planning Steering Committee in 2005. (Malcolm Lindsay, PHD candidate at the University of Melbourne)

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This is all at odds with the state premier Colin Barnett’s description of the area as an “unremarkable” piece of coastline. The prevailing attitude of those in power in Western Australia is identical to that of the premiers and governors in the Western United States and Canada, it is our right and duty to ravage the land. Animals and natural landforms and archeological sites simply get in the way. The excuse is inevitably that the region needs jobs, money and development. What else could possibly matter?

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I would be very surprised if any more than one in twenty of those attending had actually been to the Kimberley. Australians don’t travel all that much in their own country, since it is a lot cheaper to fly to Bali or Thailand than see the Kimberley or the Ningaloo Reef. But as one of the spokesmen at the concert pointed out, Aussies don’t send postcards of giant holes in the ground or great gas plants to their friends and relatives overseas. Even if they were attending for the free music, they knew their country had to be protected.

Enough damage has been done. It is time to protect the beauty and the wildlife that remain. Check out my Kimberley set of pics on Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/jhalbrook/sets/?&page=2. See if you don’t agree it deserves a chance to stay just the way it is.


Unfortunately, we are still here– directly across the street from ear splitting music and 50,000 fans. Cally came down with some intestinal bug and now I am feeling ill. So, we bailed out of our journey down to the National Park. Cally spent the day in bed and I took care of her as best I could, considering all she wanted was a large bottle of coke. This afternoon I went down to see an exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the National Gallery. I was very impressed with both the buildings and the art.

Unfortunately, the music is going to be going on for another four hours and then it will be another hour at least before things are quiet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they don’t decide to deconstruct the stage and all the metal fencing after the concert. This, too, shall pass.


The wings that brought us here were made of steel, but the fuel that drove the engines came from the decomposed remains of plants and animals millions of years old. I dreaded the long flight, since it followed on the heels of a long drive from Gainesville, Florida to Nova Scotia, then two flights from Halifax that took us to San Francisco. The flight from DC to San Francisco seemed particularly long. Fortunately, my son, Dolan was there to meet us and we were able to spend two days doting on my grandson, Lucas Alexander.

We boarded the flight about 11 PM, and finally took off an hour later. I was well prepared, with a very long novel by William Boyd called “Any Human Heart” and several books on an MP3 player. The one I listened to on the way over was called “Holy Cow!” I hadn’t really taken notice when I downloaded it that the author was a woman journalist from Melbourne. It was a fascinating account of a year she spent in India. It was a trip she made for love. The first time she went through India she hated it, but her boyfriend (soon to become her fiancee) was stationed in New Delhi as a reporter in the region. Thanks to Dolan, I had an excellent set of noise reduction headphones that helped reduce the engine throb considerably. In addition to what I had with me, Quantas was pretty generous with it’s media selection. I watched most of “The Illusionist” and an intense Aussie psychological thriller called “The Last Train to Freo.” Stephanie and I slept and watched movies and time passed remarkably quickly. Even eighteen hours.

We landed in Sydney and changed planes for Melbourne without having to go through customs or immigration. I was very grateful for that, since it meant we didn’t have to manhandle our luggage twice. Fortunately, we were met at the airport by a hired driver who brought us to where we are staying now– at University College, one of eleven colleges on the campus at the University of Melbourne. Cally has stayed here before, and thought it would be a good transitional home for us. We have an apartment to ourselves with a kitchen, but all three meals are available in the dining hall. These apartments are generally used by visiting professors. Since Cally is an incoming professor, it was considered appropriate. Until last night, we were very comfortable here. That is when the road work began.

The road work, which started just as we were going to bed and apparently went on all night, was on Cemetery Road, which is just across from the gravel parking lot directly outside our window. We are situated at the top of the University campus, at the very bottom of a large, irregular oval favored by runners and soccer players and dog owners–Princes Park. This coming weekend the park is going to be the site of one of the largest musical events in the country– The Big Day Out. That seems to be the reason they are repairing the road. Lucky us. Rumor has it that ticket prices are somewhere around $100 Australian. I have no doubt that we are going to be able to hear if for free. Unless we make a break for it.

So far, our excursions have been limited. Stephanie and I went to the zoo, which is walking distance from where we are staying. Stephanie has been to St. Kilda beach (twice), and we have been out to an animal preserve about an hour from here called Healesville Sanctuary. It was not much different from the zoo, really, but all the animals there are from Australia and the setting is pretty. It is located in a hilly region to the Southwest of Melbourne called the Dandenongs. The area was formed by volcanic activity, originally, but it looks very tame and mellow now. There are some excellent vineyards in the area that we are planning to explore later.

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