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Byron Shire
July 7, 2022

Is there still a chance to ‘Unfuck the World’?

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On Friday evening the space that was home for the Trees Not Bombs recovery café stood empty of its tent, pots and pans, makeshift kitchen sink and cups of tea and cake, but the most noticeable absence was the smiles and support of the volunteers.

The HotSpots project that inspired the Water Protectors entry for the ‘Unfuck the World’ contest.

Five years ago, on 10 June 2017 the now defunct Ngara Institute hosted a friendly ‘competition’ in Mullumbimby to fund some community development as part of the new international Unfuck the World Day. On that day, Los Angeles-based hip hop singers launched the movement; still running in 2022. Mark Swivel hosted the event, which saw four groups share the prize money.

Back then, our group, Water Protectors, had run two community-based projects monitoring ‘hot spots’ – polluted water, blocked drains, dead fauna, algal blooms – on the waterways of Byron Bay. The work is publicly available. At the time, it was presented to Council.

The digital tools used for waterway analysis. Photo Mary Gardner

When Water Protectors won the $1,200 prize, we bought portable digital water monitoring equipment. The group ran several community-based workshops to teach participants to use the monitoring equipment, as well as to identify ‘water bugs’ so as to rate water quality. We wanted to start ‘unfucking’ the degraded water places in our area.

A matter of evolution

The Water Protectors group has since evolved and has been educating citizens to become protectors of our water places – working with Byron Community College, the course goes for six days.

Students learned from many local water activists and ecologists, Byron Council staff, and Delta Kay, who taught the group about Arakwal sea country. Recently this work has morphed into a new organisation, the Byron Coast and ICOLL Centre (BCIC). Contact them for the Byron HotSpots reports.

Water protectors participants. Photo Mary Gardner

In the spirit of resource- and knowledge-sharing, Positive Change for Marine Life has been using our digital monitoring equipment and worked with their Brunswick River Warriors, doing a community-based hotspot assessment of that waterway and its riparian zone. Last week, their results and future goals went online in the internationally famous StoryMap format.

The NSW Coastal Council Conference at Kingscliff last week was also good news for our coastal water places. BCIC delivered a presentation on the work they have been doing so far and their project plans to come. This attracted much interest and support from researchers and other groups in attendance.

In April, BCIC won a $56,000 grant from the NSW Environmental Trust. Look to the near future for what they describe as ‘a series of community workshops to engage citizen scientists in protecting and enhancing the Tallow Creek and Belongil Creek ICOLLS in Byron Bay.’

Five years ago, now nearly forgotten, local people took a few small steps, which were then taken up by others and still more. The inspiration of back then continues now in practical, useful ways that grow, bit by bit. All still aiming to, truly, unfuck the world.


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