I am on a ship. I am not sure what it is called. I can find out. But what I know so far is that it is named after a famous Russian Oceanographer who has died; Gregory something-or-other. I can’t remember his name. But I can find out. One thing I am sure of. Gregory something-or-other is dead.
I live a life where I need not be sure about anything except what I am told I need be sure of. I needn’t know where my food comes from, just that it’s delivered. What I didn’t know is that while paying for things to be done I forfeit the will to know. And If I don’t know then I don’t have to consider the consequences of much of what I do. Freedom.
I can fill this don’t need to know attitude with my life. Art is my religion. But all religious texts use the environment and climate change to tell their story. A plague of locusts here a parting of the red sea there. A couple of weeks ago I travelled to the interior of Eritrea a country on the coast of the red sea. It’s East Africa next to Ethiopia. That I am sure of because that is where my parents are from. The trees in the villages or Eritrea, I did not know what they were, nor the names of the main crops that make the country what it is. The rock formations that make Eritrea, I don’t know what they are nor why they are. But the landscape is what makes the people what they are, and therefore me.
Understand the Australian landscape and you can understand both the Aborigines and their relatively recent settlers, same with America. Understand it’s landscape and understand it’s peoples. It was never more important in my lifetime. Understand England as an Island and you can understand the people so much better. I understood when I was too hot in Eritrea but I did not know how hot it was nor why. I saw that the rivers had run dry but did not understand why?
So here I am in the Arctic which I mistakenly called the Antarctic, up until weeks before the journey. What do I not know and why? I do not know the names of the flowers in my own garden and yet we spent thousands having it redesigned and planted. I do not know what kind of grass is in the garden. I do know the name of two of the trees – one is a laburnum and one Eucalyptus. I do not know what type of laburnum nor what type of Eucalyptus. I do not know when the leaves of the laburnum will grow nor fall. I do not really know the significance of this, not really – stuff happens right.
What is it about me that does not know the name of the majestic trees that line the park outside our apartment or where the canal a little walk away, the canal that I use everyday to take me to and from where it is that I apparently must to get to, where does it go to and why? This is my world – from the flowers in the garden to the sea - and I don’t know it. What are the consequences of that?