I am at home, recovering from my recent total knee replacement surgery. For those who’ve travelled this path, you know how painful this particular procedure is, but we also know that slowly, ever so slowly, if we persist with rehab things get better, pain recedes and we regain our mobility.

The following is taken from the May 2024 Buran Nalgarra newsletter – the senior eco-curriculum being offered by Kindlehill School.  The approach being pursued at Kindlehill is so close to my heart and it fills me with optimism that there are leaders like Lyn Daniel and her team who are forging this pathway in education for our young people.

I understand why the Labor Party talks about a vision of Australia as a ‘renewable energy superpower’ with its ‘future made in Australia’, ticking all the old boxes of productivity, growth and prosperity.  They are trying to stay in government and win the next election. They have to pitch to Qld, WA and the regions—offering the possibility of jobs and growth as folk everywhere grapple with the ticking time bombs that threaten life as we have come to expect it:

  1. Rising wealth inequality, fundamentally linked to the housing crisis by which housing has been financialised as an asset, rather than a shelter. Yes, it is about supply but it is about so much more. Politicians, along with so many others, all have their vested interest in their individual property portfolios underpinned by tax concessions.  So this tax concession to those who can accumulate such property wealth now divides the nation and the smell of unfairness gets stronger and stronger. And the cost is greater than all the money being pumped into supply. So this whole system is a festering sore in the national psyche
  2. Over Consumption, the never-ending pressure to spend and acquire goods to keep the whole ‘show on the road’, linked into the corruption of our souls through advertising, social media influencing, ‘fashion’, identity signifiers like clothes, cars, overseas holidays, electronic gadgets. So that we are awash with waste, jealousy, envy, anger, frustration and corruption. 
  3. Spiritual Integrity, as we succumb to the loss of trust in ourselves, our neighbours, our political, religious and community leaders, our business sector, and especially in the media which has become a ‘click-bait’ algorithmic machine that is driving greed, division and rage. And underlying this our alienation from the natural world, which we have so long reduced to a resource for human consumption subject to all the economic measures of efficiency and productivity—in agribusiness, mining, and tourism, and of course the greatest betrayal – global warming through our profligate and related insatiable energy demands.

Here, through Buran Nalgarra, Kindlehill School in the Blue Mountains are showing a very different way of thinking about how to find a new pathway through this morass of our own making.

Buran Nalgarra Newsletter—Transdisciplinary Studies

MAY 21, 2024 – Lyn Daniel

In Sand Talk, Yunkaporta exhorts us to “be like your place”.

At School most mornings, regardless of what is happening around and within us, songs of currawong, magpie and kookaburra loop, dip, and swell. Beneath Black Cockatoo’s flight path, the trees are steady. The low growing shrubs leaf new growth and what they shed becomes life for another. Beneath it all, is common ground.

According to Yunkaporta, in any dynamic, self-organising system, which includes our School, there is complexity. He identifies connectedness, diversity, interaction, and adaptation as key elements for health.

Social Tipping Points

As we face the crises of our times, unpredictability is predictable! What will ground us? What will be our common ground? We have examined a teaspoon of soil to find it teeming with life. We have dug up a clump of bush soil to find it moist and thick with roots and tiny organisms. Can we wriggle our toe-roots into the soil and soul of place and community? Can our very sense of who we are be shaped and vitalised by place? Can we enact locally what we want globally?

The ecological tipping points and the consequences are sobering.

Can we imagine social tipping points as part of the restorying and restoration needed?

Could the mycelium of connection, interaction, diversity, and adaptation as described by Yunkaporta, be a model for building social movements powered by friendship and respect, that transform the consumptive and exploitative patterns that drag us into mires of complicity and passivity?

We have explored Place as an influencer of Identity. The Blue Mountains is layered with stories as a place of gathering, a place of celebration and ceremony. It is a place where spiritual presences stir your own spirit, a place of beauty and where the gratitude it evokes, leads to conservation and care for place and community. We might from time to time fall out of connection, but we never really are if we can feel in and around us, the tree that invites us, the companion birds, the social critters that are out teachers in social reciprocity.

Connectedness: how do we look out for one another in difficult times, how do we come together in celebration around the life passages of our children, the seasons of nature, also in our worries and our grief?

Interaction: how do we as a community interact with each other, with other communities, and with the wider society and its rules, protocols, and belief systems? How complex it is to live in a society where there are many things that we are pulled into complicity with, that we would choose otherwise if we could find our way to.

Diversity; a healthy ecosystem including a community needs diversity. It is another sobering lesson of our time that we have massive declines in biodiversity and ongoing discrimination toward those identified as “other”. Each community needs to find its sustainability in managing the complexities of individuals and groupings; of tall tree and ferny villages, of sheltered places for nesting; and of the bees and birds who go between communities, bringing messages, refreshment, and challenges to our system from the wider one in which we are also embedded.

Adaptation: this is about the capacity to transform while remaining a “community”, our hearts cherishing common ground and open to difference and to discomfort. The swamp at Wentworth Falls Lake has been massively altered, transformed. Yet in this time, it keeps the waters sweet, clean, and healthy, for the critters and plants to which it is home and community, and for the families of swimmers.

The ever-generous sun warms my back as I write this. It reminds me that we are at our best when we strive to warm each other’s backs, and that we keep being generous even when ominous clouds are building.

Lyn Daniel. Assistant Principal and High School Coordinator
Kindlehill School