My place. Sunday, 7.15pm:
Toads finally made it into my valley a few years ago. The coal seam gas miners are in the next valley. And barely 10 minutes drive from my shack under the cliffs, the bell miners have started their forest dieback.
My valley is under attack. Toads and miners. But what can you do?
I raise my glass to the setting sun and drain the last of the South Australian red. Not bad. I taste plum and strawberry, copper and uranium.
Last night I found a toad outside the door of my shack. A big fella. It was just sitting there, unperturbed by my presence, looking greedily into the frog pond, smug in its sense of inevitable dominance.
I cleaved it in two with my machete. Not so smug now...
I'm a toad killer. I don't enjoy it but I have goannas to protect.
Toads are the only animal I intentionally kill. (I used to kill march flies but now I use hippie magic: catch them, blow on them and set them free.)
I have a machete made from quality English steel sharpened by a stone I have been spitting on since before Chinese imports. I have a handmade brush hook sold to me by an old bloke with a long scar on his leg at the Lismore Car Boot Market. I have a homemade shanghai that can shoot a piece of blue metal with unlikely accurracy if you take into account the slight slice that the shanghai always imparts to its projectiles. And I have Morrison, a toad-killing machine made by Toyota.
I'm armed to the teeth; a toad's worst nightmare.
Yes, let a toad sit at my back door and will be history. I will creep up on it, in war sarong and headband, withdraw the machete from its sheath with only a 'shhhiiiiinnnnggg' sound disturbing the night silence and, with a flash of cold steel in the moonlight, I will end its life, setting its soul free to join its despatched brothers and sisters under that big street light in the sky.
Of course, not all the toads sit at my back door... Neither do coal seam gas miners. Or bell miners (bellbirds). So, what can you do?
The bell-like call of the bell miner is the death knell of the forest around it. Because of environmental disturbance, bell miner populations are out of control. Miners are aggressive and rid their patch of forest of other birds who eat the tree parasites. The parasites proliferate and trees die from the top down. Not far from here, where the bell miners toll, every flooded gum is dead or dying and even the ironbarks look like they're in trouble.
Through the bottom of my empty glass, my valley looks splendid dripping in the golden syrup of sunset. It has regenerated since its former days as an overgrazed cow paddock and is now wearing a thick forest coat (with gold trim). I listen to the final bird chorus and happily do not hear the miner's knell.
But they're getting closer, as are the coal seam gas miners.
What can you do? The weapons of a toad-killing samurai are useless against them. Maybe if I caught a miner and blew...
I fill my glass and raise it to the dying sun. It casts a red shadow over the cashews.
My valley is under attack.
The smugness of those who would compromise the health of this valley (or any valley) to line the pockets of shareholders is irritating. But understandable. They are supported by a system that gives money moral authority and by a government that has none.
What can you do?
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