If you are of a certain age, the title of this piece will ring a bell and you’ll automatically complete the line. The song, A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall’, the title of Bob Dylan’s epic ballad of 1962, is perhaps his best known song. Those who recall it will remember the question and answer form, apocalyptic message and length. I feel like I’ve known this song all my life though it’s not a song I care to play these days. But now that old earworm has been firmly replanted, after watching Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story on Netflix recently. The previously unseen footage of Dylan’s performances during this concert tour is riveting. There are many annoying and fake aspects of the film: I was gullible enough to believe I was watching an actual documentary. In a world where fake news dominates the media and lying politicians are believed, you might say, so what, it’s only a film. What stays with me most is the strong performance of Dylan, appearing in that 1975 road tour face painted as a rock star/clown/kabuki performer, as he energetically belts out a stunning and ominous performance of Hard Rain. No more spoilers, except this small film clip.
In the meantime, I’m wondering how we might rejig this foreboding Dylan ballad, which was adapted from traditional troubadour folk ballads with the same question and answer format, in particular the English- Scottish lyrical song, Lord Randall.¹ Perhaps my new version could go along these lines:
And what did you see, my brown eyed girl,
And what did you see when you opened that URL?
I saw one thousand dead fish, in a dried up old river,
A mountain of plastic, afloat on an ocean,
The ice covered mountains, were crying from melting
I saw ancient green forests, bulldozed for more profit
The skies turned red, the houses were burning
Coal was dug up, the planet was dying
Men who were lying, the people believing
Wise men were writing but no one was reading
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard rain’s a gonna fall. Add some more verses of your own, at least another 6 minutes worth. The choice is endless and you don’t even need to lie. Time to bring back the protest song.
¹ For those interested in musicology, follow this link to a version of Lord Randall, with lyrics.
It may be a sign of maturity, wisdom and age, or perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but lately I’ve been observing some wonderful changes along the foreshore down by the bay. Where once the sea grasses in the shallow water and the native grasses along the coast were gouged by tractors to create white sandy banks for sunbathers and swimmers, now the native flora is slowly returning. It’s a gradual but discernible march as the native grasses thicken, slowly forming seed beds for the indigenous Coastal Banksia to germinate and creep closer to the tide line. Thick brackets of Casuarina compete with purple Melaleuca along shady pathways to the sand. An early morning walk in and out of the fringing bush is a rewarding pastime.
I’ve spent most of my life ignoring the beauty of the coastal Banksia. An irregular shaped woody tree better known for its yellow or lime candle flowers than beauty, shade or shape, I am so thrilled to find new saplings emerging along the small human track forged between the soft headed coastal grass.
In the past, I’ve been more fascinated with the busy shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay or the brilliant sunsets of late Autumn. This year is less technicoloured, as a pastel view of this beautiful bay plays with my soul. I like this change. It’s a sign of hope for the delicate ecology of the Bay’s coastal precinct. And it’s a sign of hope for the future generally.
The Life Cycle of a Coastal Banksia Flower in Images.
Ohi ohi ohi ohi, I’m in love with your body, blasts from of the car radio. The windows are down, the chorus line repeats as the kids burst into harmony. I raise the volume, the crescendo builds and I join in.Come on be my baby come on. The energy of the kids is infectious on this glorious autumn day.
We’re off to Melbourne Zoo. I’m keen to keep the costs down as school holiday activities can often blow the budget, especially given that Melbourne is such an expensive city. Children receive free admission to the Melbourne Zoo ( as well as at Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee open range zoo) on weekends, public holidays and Victorian School holidays. It’s a good time to go but expect it to be more crowded than usual. Tickets for adults cost between $25- 30. Adult tickets can be purchased online, saving the need to queue at the gate.
First stop is early lunch in Brunswick. The kidlets love Lebanese Haloumi cheese pies from the A1 Bakery. Patrons help themselves to large bottles of chilled water and glasses. The children know that any request for sugar drinks will be met with a stern glare. They carry their water bottles when out on a trip: most venues in Melbourne offer water bottle refilling stations, including the zoo.
The Upfield line, graffiti land.
Station group hug
We park in Brunswick close to the Upfield train line. A few stops down the track is Royal Park Station, a dedicated zoo station and the best way to go. Kids find the train journey as fascinating as the zoo itself. The ever-changing graffiti along the route keeps them amused. If travelling with kids, make sure to purchase a children’s concession MYKI travel card at a staffed station before your trip. Most un- staffed stations have machines to top up your cards, but don’t issue new passes for children, seniors or anyone eligible for a concession.
On the train, we plan our adventure together. Each child nominates one enclosure they would like to see. Melbourne Zoo is huge and as we usually go there once a year, it’s important to make a plan before you go. They agreed on the following: baboons and orangutans, seals and penguins, elephants, butterflies, and tigers. Of course, en route, a few extra characters caught our attention.
The 8-year-old was put in charge of the map and leadership for the day. They take turns with this task each year.
One of the more impressive features of Melbourne zoo is the dense jungle planting near the elephant and tiger park. Over the years it has developed its own micro climate. The area has recreated an Indonesian village, with signs above shaded picnic tables in Bahasa Indonesian, Indonesian artifacts and dense forest planting.
Dense jungle planting helps to create a sympathetic habitat
Travelling with my own monkeys
Jungle at the zoo
Indonesian village within the zoo
Indonesian village, Royal Melbourne Zoo
The Butterfly enclosure is enormously popular. I managed to grab a seat inside and while the butterflies were lovely, I was more interested in the human reaction to them. People noticeably changed as they entered. Smiling, serene faces filled the space as old men, babies and children gazed upwards, all delighted. I enjoyed observing a three-month old baby almost leaping out of her pram- her eyes amazed and bewildered by the butterflies above. It’s very humid and close inside, but no one is in a rush and the atmosphere is hushed.
The zoo staff are active in promoting environmental messages about changing shopping behaviours to conserve habitat. The kids signed a petition to ban balloons from their birthday parties and received a fridge magnet to remind them.
‘Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to take in any more nutrients. It slowly starves to death. The animals can also become entangled in the balloon and its ribbon making the animal unable to move or eat.’¹
The other strong message concerned the massive increase in the use of palm oil and its effect on habitat. A display of common supermarket items, ranging from Lindt chocolate to chips, biscuits, soaps and shampoos, made it clear to kids what products contain palm oil.
‘To make room for palm crops, huge areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems where conservation is important are being stripped bare. Critical habitat for orangutans and many endangered species – including rhinos, elephants and tigers – has been destroyed. Forest-dwelling people lose their land, local communities are negatively affected.’²
Many products containing palm oil are disguised with labels such as vegetable oil, sodium laurel sulphate, glyceryl, to name a few.
This display had a profound affect on me and the older children eventually got the connection.
Costs per child: Melbourne Zoo, free. Haloumi pies, $3 pp, icypole $3pp. Train fare $2.10 pp. Total per child, AU$9.10 plus adult costs.
The tropical Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia is one of the most complex on Earth. Its plant diversity and structural complexity is unrivalled on the Australian continent. Descendants of plant life can be found today with many of their ancestors’ primitive characteristics, some dating back 110 million years. Carefully designed walkways through the forest enable the visitor to enjoy this diversity, to see plant life transmogrify, evolve, die, smother, climb, submerge, compete, rot, and re-emerge within this unique UNESCO world Heritage site.
Notice the rooftops of these apartment buildings in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. They are covered in solar hot water units.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the ways in which the Chinese are embracing change: in fact, Kunming’s initiatives in the solar industry field made a huge impact on me. It removed all those stereotypical views one might hold about China, overcrowding and pollution. They are working on change at a rapid rate.
Australia is a land of plentiful sunshine whose political leaders are backward in accepting change. This happens at the Federal, State and local government level. All have their heads in the sand, even those who purport to be Green. Our local councils could be leaders in change, by insisting that all new inner city developments and apartment blocks include solar features.
In the photo below, the dedicated motorbike and bike lane is sectioned off from the other traffic. I wandered down these wide boulevards and was not aware of the any motorbike noise or pollution: I then observed that they were all electric.
Worth quoting from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunming#Solar_energy
In July 2008, Kunming began to implement a program to transform the city’s solar energy industry into a US$8.8 billion industrial base in China by 2013. Kunming receives an annual average sunshine of more than 2,400 hours. Each 1 kW PV system has the potential to generate 1500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year from solar energy.
The government plans to put in place policies (low-interest loans, tax exemption and other concessions or subsidies) and a fund to encourage private sector participation in the city’s solar energy-based infrastructure development. The fund, which will be included in the municipal government’s annual budget, will particularly finance LED for public lighting, solar projects, and the propagation of energy saving projects.
As of 2007, the Kunming Economic Committee listed about 130 solar energy enterprises in the city. Of these, 118 enterprises produce solar lamps and solar water heaters, with a combined total production value of about US$43.8 million, and 10 enterprises are engaged in solar photovoltaic cells manufacturing, with a total production value of about US$51.2 million.
Under the sea, grass sways like a hula skirt around a giant clam. The underwater gardens of the Mackay Reef, off Cape Tribulation, in Far North Queensland, Australia are a natural wonderland. Global warming, the crown of thorns star fish invasion and coal mining, with its associated dredging and dumping off the coast, are the main threats to their survival.
The Great Barrier Reef risks being downgraded to a ‘World Heritage Site in danger’, thanks to the short sightedness of the current Australian Government. Despite warnings from UNESCO, a mega port development has been approved for dredging to create three shipping terminals as part of the construction of a coal port. The process will create around 3 million cubic metres of dredged seabed that will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area.¹
Butterflies have come to symbolise deafness in Australia, as butterflies can’t hear, are silent, but feel through vibrations. The Deafness Foundation and other organisations associated with the Deaf adopt a butterfly badge as their logo.
There are 385 species of butterfly in Australia, with 70% living in the rainforests of the wet tropics. The largest threat to the butterflies is loss of habitat.
Narrow bush tracks meander through the dense rainforest on Magnetic Island, North Queensland, Australia. Colourful butterflies flock to patches of light, blue and iridescent green wings lighting the way.
Captain Cook, navigator and explorer, came up with some atrocious names for the spots he ‘discovered’ and mapped along the east coast of Australia. Many were named after jumped up lords, earls, and the odd prince, many of whom were dissolute and pompous members of the British aristocracy of the day.¹ Cook, the son of a farmer and once shopkeeper, was a self-made man and capitano, so was probably in awe of this lot, or was currying favour.
Other spots on the map were given sad, desolate names reflecting the way James felt at the time. Cape Tribulation and the nearby Mt Sorrow are two of these. As his ship, the Endeavour, ran aground on a coral reef midst this dazzling wonderland, the Great Barrier Reef, he was stuck for 46 days as repairs were carried out in nearby Cooktown. After he cursed and cussed, he named the area Cape Tribulation “because here began all our Troubles”.
Those of you who have visited the rainforest area around Cape Tribulation would not have experienced much sorrow, unless confronted by an ominous crocodile, or pestered by the incessant sand flies and mosquitoes. Dense rainforest fringes the ocean, the climate in the dry months is warm and the sea and its reefs offer an underworld garden of delight.
I’m sure that while Captain Cook was stressing about his boat repairs and writing his journal, the crew may have gone fishing and caught large prawns, coral trout and Barramundi, all abundant in these coral seas. Some of the crew may have gone beneath the sea to view the enchanting gardens of the reef.
Joseph Banks, naturalist and botanist, stole the show as he busied himself with documenting the exotic plants and flowers of the rainforest. Most of these plants and ancient trees can be seen today in the Daintree National Park, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
In his later and final voyage, Captain Cook was killed by Hawaiians, his body boiled up and stripped of flesh. Another rather bad day for this captain. He was known for treating the local inhabitants badly.
¹ Some place names in Australia named by Captain Cook after 18th century aristocrats include: Temple, Cockburn, Moreton, Keppel, Palmerston, Hillsborough, Townshead, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hervey, Hawke, Stephens, Howe, Cumberland, Gloucester, Grafton, Bedford, Weymouth, York, Rockingham and Dunk.
The original aboriginal name of Dunk Island was Coonanglebah meaning ‘ the island of Peace andPlenty.’ What a lovely name indeed!
Many tourists come to Bali and notice the problem of rubbish, particularly plastic. Not many of us are ready to admit that we are part of the problem. Up to the 1970s, the Balinese used banana leaves and other natural products as plates, containers, and wrapping. Most discarded waste was biodegradable, such as palm leaves, coconut shells and other fibrous matter which were composted or burnt. Mass tourism, rapid urbanisation, the rise of the plastic industry and consumerism have seen the rubbish problem explode. Tourists demand drinking water in plastic bottles: most don’t carry their own shopping bags but readily accept plastic to carry their ‘bounty’ back to guest houses, little realising that plastic litter from hotel waste bins will be burnt, exuding noxious gasses into the environment or will be dumped illegally as 75% of rubbish is not collected by any service.
You could complain or you could become part of the solution. Sitting down over lunch today, I saw a vision of loveliness as a beautiful young Dutch woman began to clean plastic debris from the sea. She asked the owners of the warung why they only cleaned the area in front of their own business and not the sea. Like most Indonesians, they only see what is theirs, which they maintain very well through cleaning and raking daily. Anything beyond the perimeter of their own house or business is someone else’s problem.
Rather than sun baking all day on her sun lounge, she took matters into her own hands and, with found plastic bags, collected debris from the sea. Imagine if every tourist could fill two plastic bags a day? Leading by example is a much better teacher than pointing the finger.