The past few days have seen our media dominated with hateful words, blameful statements and dehumanising comments made about people and organisations I care for and support. At the Australian River Restoration Centre, we believe that rivers and people need each other to thrive, and the extremely dry conditions most of our country is experiencing is placing all of us, including our rivers, under pressure.
Blame isn’t the solution 🤷♂️
The current media focus on ‘canning the plan’ is because people are fearful, angry and frustrated, and are looking for something, or someone to blame. It is understandable, because when humans are put in stressful situations, one of the ways to discharge pain is to blame.
Blame is driven by emotion, so no amount of facts and figures will convince someone in pain to change their minds. We humans are creatures of emotion, not logic, and when we feel that we cannot trust what is going on around us, we construct stories to support how we feel. When we stand back and listen to some of the claims being made about, for example, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority causing drought, we know they are illogical.
Our history of over allocating water at the expense of our river’s health, our pursuit of economic wealth over our planet’s health, our failure to listen to traditional knowledge and ways of relating to our natural world, are all contributing factors to the situation we now find ourselves in. The recent fires in New South Wales, the floods experienced in northern Queensland earlier this year, and the drying up of our rivers, are all because we have placed our needs above our environment. Climate change cannot be laid at the door of one organisation, we have all had a role to play.
So what can we do?
We have to keep looking at new ways to respond to the changes we have made to our planet. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is to be supported because we need to do things differently. I acknowledge it is not perfect, but as a dynamic and adaptive plan, it can build on new knowledge, learn from experience, and be improved. Without it we need to understand what we will lose – our rivers, birds, fish, dragonflys, trees and grasses will disappear, and be replaced with water we cannot drink or use for agriculture, wetlands filled with carp, pigs and weeds, rural communities decimated, and the heartbeat of our country getting fainter and fainter.
So I encourage you, as someone who is reading this because you care, to take some time to reflect on what is going on around us. To question the dehumanising of ‘Canberra bureaucrats’ who, if we are to believe what is being said, are sitting back drinking lattes and watching, unfeeling, what is happening to our rivers. This could not be further from the truth. There are a lot of us hurting, feeling anxious, concerned, and desperately sad that we find ourselves in this situation.
For me, I find solace by returning to the values that underpin the Australian River Restoration Centre, and which guide our work:
We believe that when people are given the opportunity they want to make a difference by caring for the world around them.
We believe empathy and kindness are the foundations for shared problem solving, creativity and joy.
We believe that when people are connected to each other and to nature they are happier, more resilient and full of hope.
These three values enable me to look for opportunities to collaborate, to focus on strengths, to have faith in the ingenuity of our communities, and to keep on keeping on. I hope that in writing this you will feel supported in the work you do, and be able to stand up to those around you who demonise and unfairly blame their fellow Australians about our attempts to care for our rivers. If we continue to stay silent, then the voices of the few will dominate our media and be taken as truth.
Over to you
We believe that it’s time to stop blaming and think about what we as individuals can do. Facts don’t cut it, we need to be human, have conversations that matter, and do what we can to model behaviours and actions that respect our planet, our rivers and each other.
Let us know in the comments below what you do so that it can inspire and be shared with others.
Some of the things we’re doing…
The Australian River Restoration Centre has been around for the past 12 years, and over this time we’ve developed number of initiatives and supported others within our community. More recently, we are facilitating much needed conversations, taking action and sharing knowledge in these areas:
- Speaking at conferences about effective communication = connection and encouraging people to do the same – see our video at the NRM conference
- Managing an on-ground riparian (streamside) restoration program that works with farmers to fence out stock, plant trees and integrate river management into their overall farm plan – Rivers of Carbon
- Running a mentoring program to support waterway management professionals to share knowledge and build networks – Waterway Management Twinning Program
- Sharing river restoration resources in lots of different ways to empower people with the confidence to act – ARRC Resource Centre
- Engaging with scientists, water managers and local communities to share the best available science and practice of delivering water for the environment – Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research
- Writing a monthly email to share the work we are doing, and inspire and support people who care about our rivers – ARRC Newsletter
- Sharing stories about our efforts to bring back our native fish – Finterest
- Assisting a project that inspires, supports and rejuvenates the many individuals who invest so much of themselves helping native wildlife – Two Green Threads