Precious, thirst-quenching, and so easily taken for granted.
When I was about seven years old, I sat on the rug in front of the TV eating my morning Vegemite toast and watched my own private horror show. Sesame Street was on. An animated cartoon segment played, in which a young boy went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and left the water running as he did so.
As I watched the water gush out of the tap and the panic in Frank the Fish’s eyes as his home was drained of water, I experienced a level of suspense and terror I’d yet to know in my young and very sheltered life.
Frank’s last words to the kid were, “Don’t waste water,” and I’ve thought of that cartoon every year of my life since. It was no surprise to me then when on Fraser Island this time last year, Frank the Fish popped into my head.
Fraser is unlike anywhere I’ve been. It’s a land of seemingly untouched wild. Narrow tracks carve through gnarled bush, each branch reaching like fingernails to claw at your vehicle as you drive by. Eli Creeks lazily runs out to feed the hungry sea on the east coast as each wave pummels the one before it as it reaches the shore.
I loved it. I was there as part of a crew for a 4×4 show and on the last morning, took myself off for a walk along the beach. I hadn’t swum in the ocean the entire time I was there because I was sure a tiger shark would choose me for breakfast, and a large swarm of bluebottle jellyfish had come to Fraser days earlier for their own island retreat. I kept keen eyes to the white sand as I walked, but the only blue I saw was plastic. Milk bottle caps, water bottle lids, toothbrushes, a piece of a car – also blue. A chip packet written in Mandarin.
I went back to camp and with one other person, filled two big black bin bags in a 100-metre stretch of what’s known as 75 Mile Beach. There were still 75 miles of that beach left to clean.
Having participated in beach cleanups before, I went to one of the bosses later that day and said a beach clean up would be a great PR and sponsorship opportunity for the business, and he replied, “Four-wheel-drive clubs already do beach cleanups, plus, I don’t know of any dirty beaches around Sydney.”
I learned that day that I’m an expert at hiding feelings of rage, and that the real danger in the ocean is not tiger sharks coming to nibble on my spleen. It’s apathy.
Hope and passion can be contagious when presented right. People’s values can’t be changed through reason, but they can through experiences and education. Our hearts and brains are 73% water; it’s our life blood and right now we’re literally putting a price tag on it and selling it to the highest bidder.
It’s in these times of hopelessness that I force myself to believe there’s still a chance. When the chasm between society and nature stretches wide with apathy, meaningful connections and experiences will be the bridge that divides. I want to change people’s values for the better through storytelling and facilitating experiences for people who might not yet have a relationship with nature.
If I can sell hope, I can sell change. Everyone needs their own Frank the Fish moment.
“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”Benjamin Franklin