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Ways of seeing

Life on land

“In western society we have lost that capacity of connection to the Earth as described in the landscapes destroyed, in the land lost, in species lost, in knowledge lost, in care lost, in purpose lost and in future lost” Peter Hylands

Peter Hylands, Andrea Hylands

July 28, 2023

Some of the most precious moments in our lives are those spent with other animals. Learning about the diversity of animal life and filming and photographing animals is one of the most enthralling and enjoyable and creative things we can do. Images are from the Creative cowboy films archive and are chosen at random. We will leave it to you to identify the species.

Kenya

“Changes in climate have a direct and powerful impact on the Maasai, drought means the death of the animals that are so central to Maasai culture. Drought brings severe food shortages, starvation, loss of educational opportunity and has a powerful impact on the ability to maintain cultural traditions”.

Queensland

“We stand at the edge of a small remnant stretch of Queensland forest. An Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly drifts in the soft warm air and then flutters down into the lower branches of a Crows Ash. There is a symbiosis here, the butterfly and the tree, a delicate balance in our immensely complex web of life.
LATER - So what about our butterfly, long blown away by the heavy winds and the turbulent rain of climate change? Nothing can be the same and so we now sit in a different land. In this place there is no rain, there is only drought. Another in a succession of droughts. Did I see a butterfly drift by? No that was in a dream”.

Corfu

"The welcome pauses at tavernas, one such Zepheros Taverna, where Marina sits at the horta table, sorting the wild greens collected earlier that morning from the groves and meadows. The wine and food here is exquisite.There is the dead turtle on the beach nearby, its shell pierced by a speed boat or jet ski, its death no doubt long and painful.
The evenings watching the sunset over the Albanian hills, the glass of wine on the patio, the walks through shady forests, the sunlight breaking through the woodland canopy to illuminate a carpet of wild flowers in the dappling light”.

Canada

“Policy-makers have ignored the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous peoples hold about Caribou and ecosystems for too long. It’s time for Indigenous peoples to share their stories of the land at decision-making tables and to play a leadership role in planning and implementing Caribou habitat restoration efforts and other land- and water-management issues, with adequate resources to support them. That would be a big “win” all around — for the Caribou, for Indigenous communities, for reconciliation efforts and for all of us who depend on nature for our wellbeing and survival”. David Suzuki, Vancouver

South West Queensland

“How we think about the land that we live on, what we know about the ecosystems we live in, which are as important in sustaining us as they are all other species, tells us about how well we belong in a place. If the old Aboriginal people were able to come back to this land, the land they once called sacred and named, there would be nothing left for them, no bush food, plant or animal, no shelter, the waterholes drained or trampled".

Palm Island

"We were nature, we are the true children of the earth. The land is everything, it is a language, it is a song, it is a dance" Billy Doolan, Bwgcolman elder, Palm Island

Billy Doolan

Gunbalanya

“In a few days the slowly flowing river will become a powerful and deep body of water, strong enough to take with it even the largest road train that dares to cross it. The river is about to cut off Arnhem Land for yet another wet season, protecting it from the outside world”.

Maasai Mara

“It had all happened within moments. Our problem was now getting across those rapidly rising rivers. The rain was so hard that it was impossible to see the track ahead now lost in the flooding rain. We had three rivers to cross to get back to the camp, we arrived at the last river just in time, a few moments later would have meant spending several days here, then we were through.
This was to be a night of luxury away from the tent. Soon we were sitting at the bar, whiskey in hand, watching the rain pouring from the roof and filling the river next to us. The animals were happy that night. When the rains come a remarkable change takes place. What was dust coloured landscape yesterday now has a tinge of green, the first growth of the wet”.

Melanesia

“In the ten years to 2008 well over 1,000 new species were discovered in Papua New Guinea, again like so many species in the region, many of these newly discovered species are at grave risk from exploitation of the natural environment”. 

Alick Tipoti, Mawa Mask, Badu Island

Natural History Museum, London

“There have been many estimates so let us pick a likely number, say around nine million eukaryotic species (that is living things made up of cells with complex structures). Of these less than 2 million species have been described, so conservatively that is likely to be a little above 20 percent of what lives around us. Even our most visible companions, birds, are not faring well, of around 10,000 species of birds some 2,200 are in some sort of trouble, from vulnerable to highly endangered”.

Charles Darwin, NHM staircase

Victoria, Australia

“Ducks and other birds shot (killed and injured) in the last three Victorian Duck hunting seasons (2018) have the equivalent body weight of 298 Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus)”.

Cape York

“A great deal of the marine debris in Northern Australian waters originates from the fishing industry and much of this comes from South East Asia. Ghost nets tend to arrive in the Gulf of Carpentaria during the Monsoon season but also during the dry season when the south east trade winds bring in yet more nets. Once in the Gulf the nets are drawn into a circular current that has a particularly damaging impact on the regions environment and this is a matter of great concern to the indigenous communities that live there”.

Hokkaido

“The Shiretoko Peninsular has also been home to human populations over a long period dating back at least 8,000 years to the early Jomon Period. The Ainu were also present on the peninsular and most place names are from the Ainu. Their culture had its close relationship with the natural world and that cultural ability to co-exist with nature is one that we should all think about very carefully”.

Victoria, Australia

“In Australia, Possums, like species of Kangaroo, are disliked. There are 69 possum species extant to Australia, Papua New Guinea and Sulawesi. Possums (super family PHALANGEROIDEA) comprise the Brushtail Possums, the Ringtail Possums and the Pygmy Possums. Gliding Possums are related to Ringtail Possums. The Honey Possum is a distinct species in its own superfamily TARSIPEDOIDEA.
In Victoria the latest Possum scandal takes in the Greater Glider and the intensified logging in its remaining habitats inVictoria in the state’s Central Highlands with minimal concern for the fate of the species".

Eastern Australia

“In 2017 waterbirds in eastern Australia were concentrated in two areas, that is 64 per cent of total waterbirds including high species diversity. The killing continues”.

West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory

“These dry places, which somehow capture us, are the remote places where the diversity of nature once thrived. The animals and plants here have told their story of resilience, adaptability and evolution across the millions of years of the Earth’s knowledge once stored so perfectly before us”. 

Oxford

“The drive to destroy Badgers in England, comes in large part, from its farmer’s union, the NFU. Farmers in the UK currently face enormous pressures, Brexit being just another new problem for the sector, with its union in denial of the serious consequences of departing the single market. This at a time when farm debt is at an all time high, a core issue here is the screwing down of food prices as supermarkets dominate the food supply chain. All these things put extreme pressure on the environment (as well as farm animals) at a time when EU farming subsidies are to be removed and the fate of EU environmental regulations are uncertain”.

Canberra

“Intentional or not, in most landscapes Australia’s native fauna is being replaced by animals from somewhere else. Soft feet have been replaced by hard hoof. The loss of topsoil on agricultural and other lands and the damage done by growing areas of salinity, troubled river systems and dying ecosystems are all a direct result of poor policies over long periods of time. Animals do not survive these conditions. Most landscapes have been changed beyond recognition from what they once were and many landscapes, even if they retain some degree of native vegetation, are missing the species that once thrived in them.
Fauna needs flora as flora needs fauna. Australia’s plants and animals are adapted over a long period of evolution to survive in very distinctive conditions. Even where flora has survived, fauna may no longer be present”.

The killing begins

The destructive relationship with Kangaroos started early in the colonial period as the journal of Joseph Banks (Endeavour) 14 July 1770 describes:

“Our second lieutenant who was a shooting today had the good fortune to kill the animal that had so long been the subject of our speculations. To compare it to any European animal would be impossible, as it has not the least resemblance of any one I have seen. Its forelegs are extremely short and of no use to it in walking, its hind again as disproportionately long; with these it hops seven or eight feet at each hop in the same manner as the Gerbua, to which animal indeed it bears much resemblance except in size, this being in weight 38 lb and the Gerbua no larger than a common rat".

By the late 19th century every Australian territory had enacted legislation to exterminate the Kangaroo. So the cultural relationship is clear.

LAND SONG

Red light
Early night
Land sings
Empty rings
Recent past
Didn’t last
Stone tape
Land rape
Knowledge lost
Great cost
Wrong turn
No learn
Burn soon
Dark moon
Heat wave
No save
Bettong missing
None listening
What's wrong
Not long
Early light
Long night
Water gone
Last song
Land sings
Empty rings

Peter Hylands, Victoria

TO THE WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE

Soaring high
Eagle eye down
Unaware of the obscenity below
Then gunfire
Bullet explodes in the eagle’s breast
And then the long spiral down to death
Some life left
Strung on the fence to die in the midday sun
Wings ripped on the barbed wire
This is not the way to die

Peter Hylands, Australia

Gifu, our home in Japan

"The rain has stopped for now but central Honshu is hot indeed. This is not like the heat of a central Australian desert, here the humidity is so intense, everything is wet and wetter still. It sucks up your energy even if you are used to these things. A couple of degrees hotter makes a vast difference. A few hundred meters down the road the Nagara River surface boils in angry flood. Nature is powerful".

Karnataka

“Environmental concerns about the Tibetan Plateau include the rapid increase in average temperatures on the plateau that is speeding up the glacial melt. The great river systems of the region including, the Yangtze, the Indus, the Ganges and the Mekong owe much to the stability of these glaciers over centuries past. Everything about the Tibetan Plateau is impressive, its extremes, in parts it is one of the least inhabited places on earth, the beauty of its mountainous terrain and escarpments, its rivers, wetlands and grasslands, its weather and its scale at nearly a million square miles”.

Arnhem Land

There is a connection to land with the deepest of roots. There is a joy in the abundance of the seasons, people coming together to celebrate a certain harvest. Human beings interact, the living and the spirit world work together to maximise access to resources and to ensure successful collection of these resources. This is not only a co-operative thing, it is a protocol thing. This is what you have to do to get it right. There are forces in the world that are unseen and you have to communicate with them and continue an ongoing relationship with them. They have a responsibility and so do you. There is a total network of interconnectedness. Human beings with objects and human beings with spirit figures who interact with people and sing out to people to tell them this is the right time to harvest this thing, a calendar marker of the seasons. Also people interacting with places in the country like the scared sites to set certain seasonal processes into action. This happens around the same time each year for a given event and type of harvest and it is about people interacting with the metaphysical world to make the order of the universe continue in a balanced way.

Where one is too many

"When conduct by governments, industry propaganda and poorly researched reporting from the media combine, this equals a catastrophe for Australia’s unique and wonderful wildlife".