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Koalas and caring......

Koalas are an iconic Australian animal and they are in trouble. We’re aware we haven’t seen any of our koalas for a while, although we recently heard one.


I’ve also noticed that when there is a koala image in the blog there are more views, but, I am going to avoid the temptation to add a photo of a koala no matter what the topic.


Max and I (along with a few neighbours and friends) recently went to a workshop run by Hunter Local Land Services, ‘Reconnecting Koala habitat across farm landscapes project’. They outlined things the government is doing to help save and support koalas, some through helping people keep koala-preferred, feed trees in the area.  So I can put a photo of a koala in!



Recently Phillip Adams interviewed Jane Goodall, ethologist and conservationist. Jane is best known for her work with wild chimpanzees and was in Australia for a tour “Reasons for Hope.” Phillip mentioned her spiritual values and referred to the destructive Jewish/Christian concept of dominion over nature, which has been a very damaging concept in the modern world. Jane quickly countered with “That’s a very poor translation of the Hebrew word, it should be stewardship.”


Being fans of St Francis of Assisi rather than western protestant ‘domination’ feeding into capitalist, we are very aware that along with the work and privilege of having 100 acres, it is our responsibility to care for the plants, soil, water and animals. This is stewardship.


Now, stewardship is something I have looked into (a little) over the last few years and I both interested, and encouraged by research into this idea.


Generally, stewardship is taking care of something. For us there’s the deeper level of the commitment to use assets at our disposal with the good of others in mind, (human or otherwise), present and future.


It can be found in a number of religious worldviews and has been used for a long time regarding the environment, or nature and using these resources. Lately, it includes the idea of less technological methods when planning and managing the environment, with participation of a variety of people and disciplines sharing similar values. The term Stewardship is now used in policies and some formal organisations, e.g.: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the international not-for-profit which certifies timber coming from responsibly managed forests across the world.


A whole range of ‘types’ of environmental stewardship have been developed, each with a slightly different emphases and agreed commitments: ecosystem stewardship, landscape stewardship, biosphere stewardship, planetary stewardship, and earth stewardship.


Max and my question is: “How do we be good stewards at Fosterton Retreat?”


Years ago, at a conference Ray Minniecon, an Aboriginal Pastor involved in community and the Sorry Day committee, spoke about an Indigenous concept where leadership decisions consider the wisdom of the past 7 generations, plus the possible impact on the following 7 generations. This struck me powerfully at the time and has continued to be an important value as we are caretakers of this earth, piece of land, and relationships, now as well as for future generations.


Someone recently wrote to me that we didn’t need to be caretakers for future generations because within the next 100 years AI will take over the world and we will be wiped out. Max and I have decided that even if that is true, we would like to care for our land with future generations in mind. If they’re right, we haven’t lost anything but if they’re wrong it has been well cared for. We don’t want to just “rearrange the deckchairs on the [sinking] Titanic.”


We want to be accountable for this and some of the actions we have taken so far:

  • we spent the first 12 months learning how the land worked,

  • clearing lantana from several areas (although it is an aggressive plant),

  • cut walks through different zones, following wallaby runs, so people can immerse themselves in nature,

  • each year we have planted half a dozen red cedar trees- originally this area would have been thick with old red cedars and I’m aware my grandfather helped carry them out of the bush with his bullock team,

  • planting other shelter, wind break and attractive trees indigenous to this region,

  • clearing fireweed (pretty but not indigenous and invasive),

  • taking wire out of internal fences that are no longer needed for cattle.


Another friend suggested we could ask people in our network to help us on the land at Fosterton retreat. This was a new idea, because it is our business not a community project. It is quite a change for us to be trying to work in this business space, especially after so many years of community and not-for-profit work. Although we have (as mentioned before) a few amazing friends who come and help grabble with lantana and fireweed.


But in case anyone is interested helping us in our stewardship, we just planted another 6 koala feed trees, and Local Land Services have hundreds more koala food trees for us and our neighbours to plant. We’re looking at our own land but also how corridors can function for koalas as they roam over their feeding areas, as we are not an island but part of the wider environment.


Wherever we live in a city or in the country, an apartment or a block of land, we believe stewardship is a matter for all of us. We have put together some reflection questions/exercises on stewardship. You might want to do this alone, or because it relates to our relationship with others, with someone else, or a group. Find the reflection exercises here.


And if you’d like to help us in our stewardship, maybe as an offset for travel, come and join us for planting or taking out lantana/ fireweed (less strenuous) then let us know. We can make a time, working side by side, feeding you on the day. Maybe you’d like to stay overnight? Then we can finish the day with our sunset ritual of reflecting on the Fosterton House verandah.


Sources:

Enquist, Johan P. Simon West, Vanessa Materson, L. Jamila Haider, Uno Sevedin, Maria Tengo. “Stewardship as a boundary object for sustainability research: Linking care, knowledge and agency.” Landscape and Urban Planning 179 (2018): 17–37.

Pastor Ray Minniecon, has roots in the Kabikabi and Gurang-Gurang tribes of Queensland,  https://servingcountry.com.au/portfolio/pastor-ray-minniecon/

Forest Stewardship Council. https://fsc.org/en/about-us

Phillip Adams. Jane Goodall’s Reason for Hope. May 2024, Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/latenightlive/jane-goodall-s-reasons-for-hope/103907858

Marie Haley. “Introducing The Seventh Generation Principle – to Promote True Sustainability,” 2021, https://theseventhgeneration.org/blog-the-seventh-generation-principle/

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