On a plane from Adelaide to Alice Springs we met Pru. She is a middle aged, knowledgeable woman, passionate about her country. Alice Springs is the closest town to Uluru (or "Ayers" red rock), in the center of Australia, hundreds of miles from another major city. A spirited conversation ensued about Australia, Aboriginals, and "Person of the Planet". By the time we landed, all my pre-conceived notions of Aboriginals were altered.
For me, Aboriginals were the "original" persons of the planet. They were one with the environment, built no houses, possessed no livestock or owned no material things, and wore no clothing. Yet, they had the longest surviving culture in the world, fossils dating back to 70,000 years old. To the Europeans who first discovered them, they possessed a dignity and presence that was mystifying. They consumed less than their part of the planet was capable of generating.
Bursting my Image, Pru said "No" the Aboriginalsare a big problem here in Alice Springs, doing all the crimes, setting fires for no reason, trashing their government houses, and spending their money on alcohol and drugs. Apparently each person gets $800.00 every 2 weeks and a lump sum of $20,000 more every year. To prove it, she brought us to see the housing areas that were trashed with burnt out cars, broken furniture and windows. They hang out in the parks where they hang out together in unhappy looking groups, kids not in school. They are not liked by the community.
All their centuries of harmony with the land changed once Captain Cook "discovered" them in 1770. The White mans' ways of altering landscapes and bringing "civilization" ended what was working for them. They were thought to be little more than animals and a nuisance. This is why the government of Australia didn't even declare them human until 1967. Fortunately, now days many Aboriginals are doing well and have successful jobs.
All of this got me thinking about the earth's limited resources and how we take more than we give back or share. I asked myself "How many of the earth's resources do I PERSONALLY require to feel satisfied?” Clothes, houses, cars, devices, appliances and on and on, stuff and more stuff. It's never enough. I know there are populations that live on much less.
No, I am not going to give away all I own and put on a sack cloth, but rather look around and really see what's not important or necessary to my life. In other words, to be a better Person of the Planet, Less is best - use no more than your share of what the planet can sustainably produce.
- Shanti Moorjani