Sole Sister

Cruising in the single lane


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Talking to trees

Apart from slowing down and smelling the roses apparently we would do ourselves a favour if we walked in the woods a lot more. In Japan, it’s already a “thing”. It’s called “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku – shin meaning forest and yoku to bathe.

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Japanese scientists have researched the reasons why “forest bathing” makes us humans feel so good. The university website The Conversation reports the Japanese investigations identified three major inhaled factors making “bathers” feel healthier in diverse forest ecosystems –  beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions.

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After reading German forester Peter Wohllben’s fascinating The Hidden Life of Trees, a gift from my thoughtful elder daughter, I know why I instinctively feel so upset by the sight of a felled forest giant, or upended tracts of massacred trunks, roots and branches. Wohllben sets out how trees are much like human families, living in communities, bringing up their children, parenting them as they mature, sharing nutrients, helping those who are ailing, communicating, and warning them when danger is approaching. Like human towns forests go through cycles of life, death and regeneration , only on a much longer timescale.

Wohllben talks about how trees isolated from their forest environment struggle to survive, just like abandoned children. And those specimens singled out to beautify our cities, planted individually along suburban streets and city boulevards, are just like street kids, left to fend for themselves. He also described the “pain” caused to a tree by cutting into its bark, rather like cutting into someone’s skin. And we should think of sap as the tree’s blood.

Dr Qing Li is the world’s foremost expert in forest medicine. A medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School and a visiting fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine, he’s a staunch advocate of what forests do for us.  “Forests are an amazing resource,” he says. “They give us everything we rely on in order to exist. They produce oxygen, cleanse the air we breathe and purify our water. They stop flooding rivers and streams and the erosion of mountains and hills. They provide us with food, clothing, and shelter, and with the materials we need for furniture and tools. In addition to this, forests have always helped us to heal our wounds and to cure our diseases.” Now his research is proving how “bathing” in the forest boosts the immune system, increases energy, decreases anxiety, depression, anger and stress and brings about a state of relaxation.

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Dr Qing believes if people were encouraged to visit forests for their health, they would be more likely to want to protect and look after them. Which no doubt would make Peter Wohllben – and the forests – very happy.

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The beauty of a Japanese forest in autumn. 


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Whadda we want? Our ABC!

This week’s Four Corners report on the Thai cave rescue garnered rightful praise from many quarters, ABC-TV’s investigative stalwart scoring yet more kudos for hard-hitting, non-sensational reporting. In this era of “fake news” thank goodness for shows like Four Corners. It reminds that sometimes one needs to get out into the public square to make one’s voice heard on matters that matter. Most recently I was called to Southbank Parklands, to the ABC headquarters, where Aunty loyalists young and old gathered to do their bit to protect the old girl . It’s common knowledge that this national treasure is suffering from the common current malaise of “fiscal squeeze”. Some even suggest she should be sold off to the highest bidder, God Forbid!

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Speakers Tony Koch, a former Walkley Award winning journalist, and Janine Walker, a former ABC presenter, unionist and academic, both fondly recalled childhoods in regional Queensland in which the ABC played an important community and entertainment role. Others stressed the need in this time of the 24-hour news cycle, diminishing printed media and under-funded long-form journalism of the importance to the democratic political system of maintaining quality, informed media. Such as that provided by the ABC.

I fear for the future of brilliant concepts such as Australian Story, which is currently on a mysterious “mid-year break” and Foreign Correspondent, and regret the demise of Lateline. And where would we be without Four  Corners, the show that spotlighted the Moonlight State, their brilliant 1987 expose of political and police corruption in Queensland; the nail-biting documentary recreation of the disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart which claimed six lives and five yachts; or more recent exposes of corrupt banking and insurance practices; inhumane practices at the Don Dale youth detention centre in the Northern Territory; and in the live animal export trade? Then there is the incomparable Leigh Sales who puts the hard questions to dissembling politicians. And let’s not get started on what’s happening to RN!

 

My introduction to protests was as a reporter in the early 1970s when Brisbane was in turmoil over the proposed Springbok Rugby Tour and Premier Bjelke-Petersen pulled punches like States of Emergency. Then in November 1975 I joined the shocked throngs following the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. I marched in the 2000 Brisbane Bridgewalk for Reconciliation, and again in 2003 as one of the 100,000 who took to Brisbane’s city streets to (unsuccessfully) convince the Howard Government not to join in the Iraq war, And again when the missiles actually went up. I’m partial to an environmental protest, especially those that look to protect the Barrier Reef.

I regard the right to protest as fundamental to democracy, and the duty of those who believe in this system of government. So, Whadda ya want? – the ABC! When do ya want it? – Forever!