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high water

Watching this week’s massive continental flushing, I’ve been shocked, and guiltily entertained, and come away appreciating a few things. Twitter, for great updates and a readiness to bust rumour and assure us of sources. The excellent emergency services and volunteers and sense of people working together in a crisis. And the creative rush that comes from great destruction, even when it’s weather which rises up and strikes at us, reminding us of our stature here in Australia, our unsettling impermanence.

Whatever coma we’re in about climate change, it can’t last forever. I know extreme weather events are a part of life – hell, i live in a desert – but i can’t help but see as hypocritical Anna Bligh’s heroic galoshing when matched with her full backing of the expanding coal industry in QLD. Our cities and towns need rethinking not just in terms of flood management but in terms of energy usage and environmental impact. Brisbane could react with leadership here. But I can more easily see real estate vultures circling over the wreckage looking to make a quick buck, as happened after the tsunami.

My cynicism is circumstantial as well as in character: the rising cost of real estate in Alice is just now forcing us out of the house we’ve called home for more than a year. The housing crisis is all the more depressing because it was so preventable – had someone released more land, had the Intervention not clogged up private rentals, had everyone not felt the need to cash in – a lack of foresight in governments tied to the short-term thinking of profit. Those who own property benefit, but the town as a whole suffers. The rising gulf between rich and poor in Alice is quite visible and deeply worrying. No gaps seem to be closing around here.

I’m not actually that bothered for myself; moving has come at a good time for us, and leaving is always enlightening. In some ways it feels more natural to me to be in a state of flux about my street address – which is kind of shithouse, but there you go. Moving is a good time to flush out the accumulated past. It is interesting to go through old piles of paperwork, letters, unfinished projects and materials, and decide what to keep and what to jettison. I am choosing to reduce my load, not just of furniture and personal archives, but of unfinished work. Although they don’t take up any space, I am even kicking out some of my old ideas. It’s part of my good fortune to be published that i am able to draw a line under certain periods of work and let go of them. I get to throw out the first draft. As I rummage through old archives, zines and notebooks, I can see myself shedding a little more of my youthful earnestness. QLD’s inspired me to let go.

I think it is interesting how people come together in a crisis, but can happen to be quite belligerently selfish the rest of the time. It’s like there is no room for the right thing in our lives until circumstances become suddenly catastrophic, at which point we scrabble for what little heroism we have within reach. Human beings become good in a crisis. Admirable? Sure. But why not good always? Why can’t we deal with the fucking future? I would like people to be different than they are, myself included, but since that is not really an option, I will settle for taking them all less seriously – myself foremost. You must admit it is ridiculous, to build a world that poisons itself, and then cry hero when we tidy up the spills.

On a work-related note, a shoutout to book bloggers and online reviewers (old media should already be on the list): send me your details if you’d like to read Gone, as review copies should be going out in the next week or so. That’s if my books aren’t floating down the Brisbane river, being read aloud by bespectacled snakes to the much-becalmed tree frogs sailing upon them.


  1. wrote:

    Sorry to hear you have to move. I thought it was bad when I couldn’t find accommodation for at risk clients and when imported government workers on 70 thousand plus were sleeping in tents.

    Monday, January 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  2. jenjen wrote:

    that sounds about right. word around here is govt workers are forbidden by hotels to take up rooms – our precious tourist industry must prevail.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  3. wrote:

    Mind you, we benefited from the housing crisis when we sold. Had the house on the market for 3 days. Now living in semi-retirement 20 minutes from the sea in a refurbished farm house.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink