Oct. 19, 2021

Interview: Lou Costa - writing in the hope of changing the values, attitudes and behaviours of others

Interview: Lou Costa - writing in the hope of changing the values, attitudes and behaviours of others

Lou Costa (pictured) cares deeply about our environment and sometimes the pressing urgency of the damage we are causing to all those aspects of nature, the nature that plays an integral in making our lives possible, becomes so overwhelming that she turns to her keyboard to drive out her demons, subsequently writing a moving piece that frequently finds its way into the pages of The Shepparton News.

However, Lou is not writing for simple personal therapeutic purposes, she hopes that her views and ideas might change the values, attitudes and behaviours of others.

Here is her latest piece:

Every day I wake to the sound of birdsong. Magpie, butcherbird, kookaburra, wren; sharing the stage for their morning solos. My home, surrounded by a relatively small patch of remnant forest is carpeted with wildflowers this time of year. It is my ticket to escape. It is my passport to mental health. My exercise. My church. My altar.
I am acutely aware of the value of this place - especially in these times when so many are denied access. To touch, hear and see nature has become a commodity, reflected in the exodus of tree-changers that are now paying over-inflated prices for country properties, sight unseen from their locked-down city apartments. Or in other words, blindly thinking that the country holds treasures that are scarce in the big smoke.

Indeed, the natural environment defines the Australian psyche. It provides relief from anxiety, freedom from entrapment, protection from exposure, harmony in chaos, connection to instinct, national identity and yet, we seem hell-bent on managing it into disappearance. 

Species and entire ecosystems are on the brink of collapse caused by a relentless erosion of protections that incrementally expose the landscape to death by a thousand cuts. Little by little, we are throwing away our treasure.

Earlier this year the Victorian government held a parliamentary inquiry into statewide ecosystem decline, ringing alarm bells that the process of extinction is well on its way.

When we diminish nature’s importance as the foundation of a healthy society, we undermine our ability to survive; both physically and mentally. Humans’ need nature - not the other way around.

But where is this importance of the value of nature reflected in our system of government?

Damian Drum’s ‘NICHOLLS BIGGEST SURVEY’ asks us to prioritise four concerns from a long list of issues faced by regional Victoria. ‘Building a stronger economy' was on the top. ‘Protecting our local environment’ was on the bottom.

This seems to be a common approach by all levels of government to relegate nature to the scrap heap in the eyes of society. Whether this is intentional or not, it sends an almost subliminal message that nature is not as important as money. 

The state government recently announced funding for developers and landowners to propose vacant land for housing projects. This is an acute risk for natural remnants while our planning laws favour development and land prices are sky-rocketing. 
The irony is that many developers sell their product using nature as bait.

The same attitude can be seen in the 2021-2022 Campaspe Shire Council budget where ‘Environment and Conservation’ has the least amount of money spent on it. Sixty-six cents in every one hundred dollars while roads guzzle almost forty dollars for every hundred.

With such low priority and spending placed on protecting the natural environment, it is no wonder that developers are able to fill up its open spaces with bargain basement, home-maker estates and then proceed to remove any native fragment that has managed to survive agriculture and bypass routes.

If regional Victoria continues to devalue its natural assets, we risk the very thing that makes the country, our country. Nature.

Damian Drum’s survey is right, regional Victoria does have a long list of issues but they are all influenced by the health and function of the natural environment. By prioritising the protection of our local environment, we not only help to address regional economy, mental health, job opportunity, coronavirus recovery and education; we can ensure that morning birdsong is heard by all Victorians for generations to come. Surely this brings it closer to the top of the list.

Lou, for a period, was the president of the Goulburn Valley Environment Group.

Listen to Lou in an earlier episode: "'Sentinels guarding the memory of our land' - Lou Costa".

Enjoy "Music for a Warming World".

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