The EDO’s Sue Higginson: solastalgia, subplots and lawfare

Trials and tribulations: Sue Higginson spoke of her work with the Environmental Defenders Office
Trials and tribulations: Sue Higginson spoke of her work with the Environmental Defenders Office at Il Passaggio in February.

NSW Environmental Defenders Office CEO Sue Higginson paints a picture of EDO lawyers, haggard and caffeinated, racing between their office on Clarence Street and the Land and Environment Court on Macquarie Street, chasing “mining companies with the deepest pockets you can imagine” and “lawyers who lodge Notices of Motion at 1 am”.

It’s comical until you realise the gravity of the work. The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) concentrates its resources on the cases that other lawyers don’t take on. Important public interest cases. Cases where there’ll be a lasting or permanent impact on the environment, where governments haven’t followed the law. Blowing the whistle, holding governments to account.

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A club you don’t want to join

roadsideShrineI was at a meeting in Cobargo one Monday afternoon in August last year. A committee member was running late. Eventually she arrived, grim-faced; there’d been an accident at the stock crossing on the Bermagui-Cobargo Road. A little boy had been hit by a car after getting off the school bus.

The next day I heard that the boy, ten-year-old Noa Jessop, had died of his injuries. And soon it filtered through that another of my friends, Rosemary, had been one of the first at the scene, and that she’d performed CPR on the child while waiting for the ambulance.

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Quaama Express

dogs

You’d laugh to see us on the street
The scooter, me, my doggies dear
The small one, Wookie, leads the way
The big one, Rudy, in the rear.

They’re both tied up, I’m sad to say,
Can’t trust either not to stray,
Rudy cos he hunts down chooks.
That’s cost me dearly. As for Wook,

Abandoned in Kiama town,
He learned to live upon his wits,
And feasted daily on remains
Of battered fish and salty chips.

And now when winds of freedom stir
His shaggy coat, this ratbag cur,
Don’t bother chasing. If you do,
He’ll grin, ‘Oh, good, you’re coming too!’

But as for Rudy, ridgeback hound,
Sixty kilos go to ground.
Unless his sights are on a chook,
He’ll plod and give the lead to Wook.

‘You hardly need a battery!’
Some wit will call, reliably.
I muster up a laugh. I’m sure
I’ve heard it ninety times or more.

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On to Plan B: adapting for a radically changing planet

towersIt was pretty clear to scientists in the 1990s that man-made carbon emissions were causing climate change—it had started with the Industrial Revolution. Two plans of action were mooted. Plan A: reduce emissions (mitigation). Plan B: adapt to the changes. But we weren’t going to need Plan B, were we? The fix was clear, and there was plenty of time …

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Something to lean on

wheelchairI was listening to a podcast of Richard Fidler interviewing Tim Ferguson the other day. You may remember Ferguson as one of the Doug Anthony Allstars. Long and lanky with a sweep of black hair across his brow, he was often referred to as ‘the good-looking one’—so he says, anyway. Fidler was an Allstar too, and that moody, misanthropic genius Paul McDermott was the third.

I’ve been watching Ferguson’s career a lot more closely since I learned he had MS. I bought his memoir, Carry a Big Stick (2013), and it was good to read about someone just getting on with it, despite. Lately he’s written and directed a movie.

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To: Tim Winton. Re: Island Home

island-homeTim, I live in Yuin country on the East coast. The black and white communities here keep to themselves, in the main, and my contact with the locals is fleeting and superficial—a nod exchanged with the group who drink at a picnic table beside the carpark in Bega; a closer yet single-themed half hour a week I used to spend with kids in the literacy program at the school.

My strongest awakening, till now, was reading Kate Grenville’s The Secret River then stepping outside into an altered light, wondering for the first time what bloody events of dispossession may have occurred on my own half acre.

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An open letter to author Sara Baume

BOOKS_Baume_05_web-ex_COVER_July-AugDear Sara Baume,

When I heard about Spill Simmer Falter Wither I thought, lovely, a book I’ll enjoy, then lend to all my dog-loving friends.

It’s not a long book. I finished it, breathed for a while, and went to scratch the heads of my own two dogs—both reprobates. The larger one has gained notoriety as the local chook killer and must now be kept on the lead at all times when off the property. Lucky it was only chooks, I guess. The other one, a terrier of some sort, once returned exhilarated from a run in the bush, snout and bib drenched in blood. We had to rinse him off at the tap in the cemetery before we could walk him back through the village.

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A sprinkle of charged glitter

The Scream, Edvard Munch
The Scream, Edvard Munch

Neuralgia again. Or is it? I’ve written about neuralgia—nerve pain—before, but this time it’s different. In the past it has started slowly—the occasional subtle ping, gaining in intensity and frequency, rising to a crescendo of penetrating stabs, seconds apart, with little relief between. Then subsiding again over hours, or a few days at most.

But this one has a different personality altogether. It strikes at random, speeds up and slows down at will. It can disappear for minutes on end, but as soon as I dare hope it’s gone, it’s back—tricked you! Conversely, it can cease just when I place attention on it. It can feel like a perverse, extended game of hide-and-seek with a toddler.

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Scandi-voir

tmp_6474-IMG_0559-39646798We’re on the ferry from Puttgarden, Germany, to Copenhagen. Bleak skies, choppy, grey water, the mournful cries of gulls. Grim Scandinavians frown into their shot glasses around me while I sit in the bar, reading. Then, from somewhere unseen, Wallander’s ringtone. I know it’s not Sweden—not quite—but my stomach drops. It always portends some alarming development when Wallander’s phone rings.

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