Solastalgia by Jan Parker

Solastalgia by Jan Parker

Westernport Bay is a beautiful, wise, unsung quiet achiever; gentle beach coves, surf beaches, nature walking trails, unparalleled bird watching, unique coastal scrub and freshwater lakes.
Westernport Bay has a natural integrity that is precious and irreplaceable. That is evident in its listing as an internationally recognised, significant Ramsar Wetland site since 1982. It is well known as one of the three most important areas for migratory shorebirds in south-east Australia.
The Bay was also declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 (one of only nine in Australia).

I have been a visitor to many parts of the bay consistently over the past 20 years. To walk, observe, regenerate and to take photographs for my art practice. When I alight on any part of Westernport’s shores, she is instantly recognisable as being a very important and unique natural environment with a great deal to offer. The bay’s wetland areas are so fascinating to me. I particularly love mangroves and am so in awe of their quiet strength in stabilising coastal systems, nutrient cycling and the wildlife habitat they provide.

I gain much inspiration from their resilience and subtle complexities.

Westernport Bay is an understated beauty, a jewel in Victoria’s crown, a surviving example of other precious environments that are now just a memory…. a memory of ones that heavy industry has smashed down before for short term financial gains.

My love is for the mud, marshy swampland that is hard to traverse, tangled roots of mangrove, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes. It doesn’t seem like much is going on there………but underneath the water, inside the mud and marsh, skittering along the shoreline around the mangrove roots and in the scrubby trees is a complex, fragile, incredibly rich diversity of fauna, flora and marine life, the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

It is a bay with extraordinary, ecological values. The wetland flora diversity creates the food chains that sustain marine life and provide food for the 36 species of migratory shorebirds that land there for a sustained time every single year coming from within the Arctic Circle. It provides for thousands of local avian lives every day.

It is very quiet there, lapping water a constant companion, major tidal swings always bringing a different view and places to explore. It is a place for meandering, observing, sitting, contemplating, regenerating and somewhere just to be with an unsung hero…nature.

As I said, Westernport Bay is a quiet achiever.

AGL I believe you are being dishonest with Australians. Claiming that Victoria needs a gas terminal in Westernport Bay for its domestic needs and not owning up to the facts that the huge sell off in 2015 to GLNG and then selling your entire free gas portfolio to the LNG plants as the real reason for the shortfall.

That the plant will drive gas prices down is blatantly untrue. The LNG will be imported at raised international prices. AGL, you are a gas company, how could you not have been acutely aware of the decline in Bass Strait and stepped up sooner in moving to renewables?

AGL you do not have social approval to go ahead with this project. There is overwhelming community protest.

AGL your risk assessments merely contain regurgitated publicly known facts but contain no real, scientific investigations into the specific impacts of the plant on Westernport Bays environment.

AGL if you go ahead with your proposed re-gasification plant and the subsequent, inevitable and irreversible major degradation of the fragile ecosystems of Westernport Bay you will be responsible for creating a cultural malaise amongst the millions of local and visiting people who love unique Westernport Bay for what she is, a rare opportunity to experience a sense of wilderness less than 2 hours from Melbourne.

My message to our politicians is, ‘How could you even consider agreeing to the senseless pollution and despoiling of such a precious environment and be prepared to lose Victoria’s premier tourism destination worth billions of dollars?’

Personally, I will feel an incredible environmental grief if this Bay is pulled asunder by AGL’s dirty gas plan.

Will there never be an end to our desecration of nature?

Westernport Bay – BR Sallmann

Westernport Bay – BR Sallmann

My relationship with Westernport bay is that it has functioned as a compass since moving to the peninsula with my family when I was eight years old. It started at its southern entrance – Flinders ocean beach – where one day I found myself crunched up in the shallows in winter, starting to question my conviction that moving to the beach from the city meant I absolutely needed to swim in the ocean every single day.

My addiction to the coast has since softened as I have moved further north along the bay, however I am becoming increasingly aware that if I found myself living inland in the future, tucked away from the coast, something would be missing. I am too well-adjusted to that salty taste, and the crisp southern air, and the grits of sand that constantly pepper my carpet and stick to my toes. Yet amidst the ongoing refusal by myself and likeminded others to allow AGL’s commoditisation of the bay, I find myself wondering if I could even stand to see the waterline at all, polluted with the money-man’s toys.

Running along the bay at sunrise has been a consistent habit of mine for years and knowing how easily I’d give that up if the proposal went ahead shows me how deeply disturbing AGL’s idealised reality would be. Even for those with a merely superficial connection to the bay – those who overlook it from wealthy clifftops and see the bay primarily as an asset – stand to lose their money to the pockets of the powerful.

Every ship would represent a failure – for us, for the wildlife, for the future of energy production and power division – to win a fight that should never have taken place at all. I refuse to lose to an opponent who fights in blatantly corrupt and manipulative ways. I refuse to lose upon a land rich in the potential for sustainable energy production to an archaic and toxic exploitation of finite resources. I refuse to accept the decisions of those who favour the whip of fast cash over what is ethical, and healthy, and compassionate, and sustainable. And those inside and outside of the community who choose inaction, whose failure to become angry and question what they are told represents the easiest form of compliance.

I am only twenty-five, I do not own land here nor pay rates. I do not feel any sense of ownership over the bay or feel pulled to the cause by any sense of personal affront that I could lose my beach, as it is not mine, nor yours, nor (and especially), business dealers and money makers. I do, however, feel a responsibility to speak up for it. Like all other natural environments, Westernport bay is a collective space that deserves respect. It gives life and takes nothing from us in return. It serves as a lesson to us that greed does not perpetuate infinite resources, but that the bay too, can suffer and become weak if we take too much.

We need to learn to tread lightly and protect our generous environment from those who do not.

Sacha’s Story

Sacha’s Story

Westernport has a particularly special spot in my heart. It’s been my playground since I was a teenager. It’s my saltwater therapy. A safe, reef-lined bay full of surf breaks, tree lined shores and peaceful beaches. Westernport has given me space, healing, time to be myself, play, be free, feel wild and human. I owe this wilderness for keeping me true to myself and on my best path in life. Priceless. Such is the roll of wilderness that is disappearing around the world. Ancient cultures often used time alone away from villages and in nature as a right of passage. The value of this has been lost to most in our modern culture, but in our heart of hearts, not forgotten.

As we become more familiar with wild spaces, we begin to relate to them as more than ecosystems. To me Westernport is a living, breathing entity. Her mangroves and seagrass beds are lungs drawing down 4 times the amount of carbon than terrestrial forests. They’re also kidneys filtering toxins from storm water, keeping our oceans clean and fish stocks healthy. Her breath is the tides, each one regenerating and reinvigorating the system and exchanging nutrients with the ocean. Her blood and flesh are the mudflats, offering up nutrients to the birds that migrate from around the world to feed on. Her bones are the reefs creating waves we can surf and have fun on. Her shallow waters are her arms, a nursery for fish, sharks and rays, seahorses, crays and crabs. Her deep channels are home to the Burrunan dolphins, and an appreciated quiet pitstop for larger whales along their migration paths.

The value of Westernport surpasses economic value that could be put on her. She effortlessly maintains the systems we need to protect us from climate change, unfunded and unaided. She provides us with healthy aquaculture, delivers us fun and happiness in the forms of waves, fishing, diving, and simple ocean gazing. She homes, feeds and protects all the species that form an integral part of the health of her overall system and the ones linked to her. And she cleans our air by replenishing life giving oxygen and mood boosting ozone. Did you know two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton?

So take in 3 breaths and thank the oceans for 2 of them.