The EcoGrrl Interview: Dan

Dan

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Dan is an Australian writer, a thinker, a gardener, and one hell of an amazing man. He works in social services managing a home for adults with severe mental and physical disabilities, and loves the advocacy work that comes with it.  Oh yes, and he also happens to be my sweetheart who I’ve mentioned a thousand or two times in past posts.  🙂

What or who inspires you most?
Words or specifically language; it is the net we use to capture our experience, roll it around in our heads for a while and then present it to the world. I love those who take delight in language, like those who take delight in music or art and am inspired by those who express themselves with clarity and originality.

Kindness, yes the random acts of them that I see done unto others or to myself, give me a glimmer of hope when I sometimes feel that we as a species become increasingly isolated from each other.

What do you turn to when you need strength?
If I may rephrase the question I would say who would I turn to? Quick answer: others. Longer answer: those who would turn to me when they need strength or support. I think there is a symmetry in seeking and receiving and offering strength…each compliments the other.

There is one person in my life who has recently recognized my fallibility even when I myself did not. She caught me when I fell and hope that she knows that I will catch her whenever things turn tough for her. I trust that she will know that I will be there beside her holding her hand as we move forward along the same path…

My constant companions through life have been people I have never met and they have given me great strength and stability over the years…I’m talking writers, poets, thinkers, filmmakers and musicians

How can women best support and/or empower other women?
OK I’m a bloke but believe through my observations, particularly in the workplace I can share some of the things, both good and bad that I’ve witnessed.  When I was working at one of the head offices I would often overhear toxic conversations between women workers aimed at other women workers and it kinda shocked me. They were creating a further divide by weakening the efforts of others to further their careers via sabotage tactics.  My thinking is that women, not only in the workplace, need to band together and discuss/support/coach/skill-share others in a non-threatening environment.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday?
I love to tend to my orchids, those sexy, almost wanton plants who by adapting to their surrounds mimic in their flowers a bee, a moth, a wasp or a butterfly and say ‘come on in, I got something sweet for you.’ I would like to learn how to cultivate them especially the rare ones using tissue culture one day…that kinda goes for all rare plants though, for obvious reasons.

I’m learning to love watching myself grow as well…finding areas of my life that require tending, fertilizing and cultivating. I often reflect at the end of the day what I have learnt about myself and what needs more.

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t?
Writing until recently gives me great pleasure…let’s just say that is on hold for a while whilst I explore other parts of my life…but I will be back with a vengeance…it is hard fucking work but it does pay off in so many ways as it forces oneself to slow down ones thinking processes and carefully think of each thought and how it can be captured in a succinct and clear way.

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element?
In the middle of a warm temperate rainforest in SE Australia at night listening to koalas chat, wombats grumble, snakes hiss and insects buzz. Walking through the local botanic gardens and reading the Latin names of the plants. Discovering a beautiful piece of poetry/prose and feeling my heart jump a beat as I lap it up

Spending time by myself and with myself, though I do love my job it can sometimes feel my inner self is being sucked out, so I do need me time. Holding the hand of the woman whom I adore…and knowing she is holding mine.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  • VALID is an advocacy league for some of the most disenfranchised members of society, the intellectually disabled. Though I work in the field I see that as they don’t have a voice in the mainstream it is important to either speak up or provide them with tools to speak up for themselves. Inclusivity is my thing.
  • Sacred Heart Mission and the St. Kilda Gatehouse are both meaningful because they cater to the marginalised, disenfranchised and forgotten members of the St Kilda community where I live.

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next?
I’ve discovered soap nuts! Yep they are they seed pods of plants from the Sapindus genus of plants (part of the Lychee family). I’ve gone a bit overboard with them but they clean stuff just as well as all those icky commercial detergents.

Next is an ongoing project and that is to further clean out some of my bookshelves and CD/DVD racks of things past their use-by date…they can all go to charity. All my music is on a separate drive so I don’t really need doubles. The books have been read and if I really need to read them again I can get them from the library. That said though my Raymond Carver books stay with me til the day I die.

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why?  
The fern gully at the Melbourne Botanic gardens. I spent one of the saddest days in my life there but recently spent one of the happiest. Running a close second would be especially in winter, rugged up in my place (which I scrimped and saved for) reading a good book.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Quite a few things: Listen to your elders…they carry with them a lifetime of knowledge. Stop trying to grow up so fast…take your time and absorb what is going on around you…live in the moment. Work on developing good critical thinking skills…they will serve you well to assist you in separating the wheat from the chaff. Don’t be so serious about life…there is time to sit back and laugh at it for it is a comedy.

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?
Not relying on governments to change things via legislation…believe me, I work for them and they take forever to get things moving. Actively seek out products (that you really need, not just want) that have the smallest eco-footprint as possible. Harness (or at least make use of) the power already inherent in nature. I’m talking renewables like wind, waves, solar and even geothermal energy (though this needs some tinkering with, it is a helluva lot less impactful than fossil fuels). Think before we buy, consume, use, start, do…is it necessary? Do I really need that?

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?   What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did?
Bill Mollison, one of the founding fathers of the whole permaculture movement, looked at micro-environments around the house and garden and came up with some great ideas to live as far off the grid as possible within and urban environment. He linked together ecosystems in a way that made sense. I think I took interest in him as a poor student rather than an eco thinker initially but as I delved deeper into his ideas I realized that the way we consume things has an impact upon the earth.

One of the first ‘eco’ things I did was to create a no dig garden many years ago. The rule was to buy nothing except some seeds…myself and housemates managed to scrounge coffee sacks and newspapers to cover up the dreadful couch-grass, drag old railway sleepers from the local railway station using a shopping trolley I think (bastard of a job), take a drive out to the country (well we had to spend fuel money so…hmm) to fill up a trailer full of cow and chicken shit and hen-house straw and then throw it all into the beds we made with the sleepers…we then watered it all in with water we collected in ‘found’ 44 gallon drums full of redirected rain water from our roof repurposed with a hose banged into the bottom…I remember we grew a tonne of potatoes that first year and it took me a while to eat another one after that but it was a good learning experience haha.

How do you live simply?
Think simply. Read a bit of Thoreau for inspiration. I mean look at the basics…food, bed, roof overhead, companionship. I am trying to simplify my life by ridding myself of ‘things’ whether they be objects or mental clutter.

Can you leave us with a favorite quote of yours?
“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke.

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