The last in my series of three travel adventures took us on a road trip from my home in northern New South Wales, up the Queensland coast to the twin, coastal towns of Agnes Waters and 1770 (also written as Seventeen Seventy), in the Gladstone Region of Queensland, Australia. Seventeen Seventy is built on the site of the second landing in Australia by Captain James Cook and the crew of HM Bark Endeavour in May 1770. (ref)
I marvelled at the different flora as we travelled further north. Landscape morphology shifted and changed, and with it, the trees and under-storey plants, sometimes lush and sometimes scrubby. I wondered what stories were embedded in that changing landscape? How much had it changed since Cook first landed there? Indeed, over the thousands of years the aboriginal people were here before Cook?
It must be acknowledged that the land is always in flux – always changing – perhaps due to climate, geology; often due to the impact of humans. Although controversial, the latest epoch proposed by scientists, the anthropocene, attests to this. There are many influencing factors in the process of change.
The thought stayed with me as we continued up the coast to Cannonvale in the Whitsunday region. A family of Bush-stone Curlews were in residence under the house when we arrived. The parents were wary, their baby just new, but so well equipped with camouflage and the ability for stillness, to be almost invisible even at close quarters. These birds are endangered where I live, but in this region they’ve adapted and live in an urban area cheek by jowl with humans and other domesticated animals (irony intended). Although, listening to people blundering their way home in the wee hours of Sunday morning challenges the idea of ‘domesticated’.
I was keen to try the new restaurant that had opened since I was there last. Situated right on the water in a less populated area of the bay, I noted the deep drainage channels, the landscaped gardens, the new buildings and wondered about native animal and flora displacement. I make no judgements, simply observations. I enjoyed the whole dining experience as much as the next person.
While we savoured the delicious fare and gazed over the water to the emerald islands, a resort groundsman, hammered in a sign on the beach in front. In four languages it proclaimed ‘recent crocodile sighting’. The manager assured us the sign was simply required by law but there was no danger because the sighting wasn’t in the immediate area. Really? Don’t they swim? And did anybody bother to warn the crocodiles about the most dangerous species?
I was keen to explore my impact notion further. The town of Airlie Beach is a tourist town, catering largely for ‘boaties’ and back-packers. Despite the impact of hundreds of boats in the man-made harbour, it’s common to spot turtles foraging for food. Although I’ve not seen one, sightings of dugongs have also been made.
The beachfront market has the usual ubiquitous assortment of junk for sale, but it’s the fresh produce that I was most interested in.
On offer were varieties of locally grown tropical fruit and vegetables originating from South East Asia, the Americas and other far flung places, such is the variety of food choices that came with the diffusion of cultures. We were grateful for the Asian Australian seller advising on how to use the grated paw paw for best effect.
Some might label these changes ‘progress’. But what does that mean? Some define progress as ‘change in increments’. Others claim progress is ‘change for the better’.
I think it depends on context and perspective. Not in question, is the impact of change – for better or worse – and even on whom.
What do you think?
There’s no greater gift than thinking that you had some impact on the world, for the better. Gloria Steinem
If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito. Anita Roddick