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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Our coastline’s history is a cinema epic

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Rain over Byron Bay. Photo Mary Gardner
Rain over Byron Bay. ‘The magnificent Sea… has its way every time. Photo Mary Gardner

Mary Gardner

Sometimes, when I look across the Bay, I glimpse the global cinema epic. I see us all as bit players in the crowd scene. The lead characters are outrageous. The magnificent Sea, whatever the turn of plot, has its way every time. The nervous Coasts, as lands and islands, appear and disappear again and again. Climate sets the scenes and uses Weather to evoke different moods. Today’s extended shoot is about power. Weather created every cliché from the start of time so no surprise that it features this storm.

All of us walk-on characters – you, me, the six billion — we don’t get to see the script. We’re not even told the meaning of any particular scene. But over millennia, we’ve picked up some clues.

First clue. The crowd scene here is part of one extending right around the rim of the Pacific and across all the islands of Oceania. It started about five or six thousand years ago, when the coastal lands and different islands mostly steadied themselves and took on their present forms.

These places take many shapes but they are all due to the interplay of undersea plates of rock and their positions over different hot spots of magma. The result is chains of volcanoes. One series, now extinct, was in Australia. Others, in Japan, Hawaii, off New Zealand, in South America are still active right up to the past year. At the Galapagos, one was active last week.

Back when, from Taiwan and Southern Asia, Austronesian people voyaged throughout the Pacific. They went along coasts up to Japan and over to the Americas. In Australia, the population living on the East Coast steadily grew. But the Sea changed its ways and rose. People everywhere were forced back inland.

Another clue. From about three hundred years ago, the crowd scene here was enlarged with extras from all over the world. As always, the Sea ignores all this and swipes at the jittery Coasts, who erode and let in the Sea. Climate sides with the Sea in slow motion dance scenes called Oscillations. They do this in both hemispheres. Coasts all around the Pacific are visited with Weather who trends to either droughts or floods. The extent plays out differently place by place.

Now is a mystery. Crowd scenes are being whipped up. We fracture into power blocks, from nations down to local governments. From global corporations down to sole traders and employees. From super-rich to poor. We pick some friends and choose other allies.

No one knows how we put up for so long with fossil fuel technologies. From drilling and mining to combustion and exhaust, its pollution sickens and kills many of us.

In an unexpected response to fossil fuel crowd scenes, the Sea is warming and rising. Climate ramps up its Oscillation dance. Coast is nervous again, giving way, losing out.

Since Darwin’s time, we’re clear we have a common ancestry. We share in one humanity. As the epic continues, helping each other through the catastrophes is a given.

We all have different names for helping, but here we call it ‘being mates’. All us walk-ons are being primed to be mates to a new level. We must do better. Helping refugees from conflicts is just the start. Refugees from other eroding coastal lands and islands are also in need.

The twisted epic being what it is, we find ourselves potential refugees. Here, it’s about Belongil, New Brighton, South Golden, Suffolk Park, Ballina – the list goes on. We know Coast always gives way to the Sea, so that’s our advance notice.

We could transform the crowd scene. Budget our own planned retreats in stages over regional coastal strips. Make way now before tragedy strikes. Prepare new edges as community assets, able to be abundant with marine life. Whatever the big script, this subplot we can surely do better as mates instead of factions.


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