Our dysfunctional relationship with the earth

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Our dysfunctional relationship with the earthThe Sydney Morning Herald website's most viewed story last week concerned the fate of 35-year-old US technology journalist James Kim. He perished in the snowdrifts of the Oregon wilderness while trying to save his wife and two daughters.

The Herald explained that the cyber-savvy Kim's most likely mistake was that he had put his faith in electronic mapping: "Despite its impassable snowdrifts and single lane, Bear Camp Road is offered as the preferred route on some websites and on-board-directions software available on some new cars."

This is an error most of us make every day, at least on a more general scale. In the words of our Margaret Dooley Young Writers Award winner—25-year-old Jonathan Hill—we "replace nature with manifestations of [our] mind". We have lost the art of listening to the land. The Aboriginal tracker is regarded as a curious relic of the past, redundant in the age of GPS (global positioning) technology. But more broadly, we are transfixed by a virtual reality. Our relationship with the natural environment is dysfunctional.

Our dysfunctional relationship with the earthIn this issue of Eureka Street, we publish Hill's winning entry. He documents his life-changing visit to the remote Aboriginal community of Ngukurr, in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, earlier this year. More significantly, he describes his experience of Sydney when he returns home: "A barrage of artificial images [that] clogs my arteries and suffocates my soul."

He concludes: "It is fatally ignorant to assume that progress can be measured by the extent to which a group of people can destroy the land, but this is Sydney's reality and shame. For years upon years the senses of its citizens have been starved as they have been markedly disconnected from nature."

As we make the transition to the new year, it would do us no harm to let ourselves be haunted by the disarming "last laugh" of actor David Gulpillil, in Rolf De Heer's 2002 film The Tracker.



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Existing comments

I went to this article to read the detail of the American lost in the Oregon wilderness. What I got is a rehash of other articles in this issue. ????
Pat Hanrahan | 15 December 2006


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