Some days, I just get sick of the news. Of being riveted to a procession of unpleasant stories; rarely natural disasters these days but more about the propensity of human beings to believe that our differences in politics / religion / lifestyles make us morally superior, and therefore justifies the most repugnant behaviour.
Some days the news kicks us like an unwanted dog until we hide under the table from it.
So yesterday, one spot on my calendar was a logistics meeting about a forthcoming event that we are exhibiting at. While that sounds like the dullest thing ever, the idea of turning off the phone for an hour and listening to someone talk about “Car Park A” and “access gate B” and testing and tagging and hi-vis vests and bumping in and out (which in themselves are nowhere near as saucy as they sound) was actually quite appealing.
And – spoiler alert – it wasn’t dull.
So the delight of my nagging Fitbit, a hike was involved from car park across several pavilions at the Adelaide showgrounds to the Goyder pavilion where a show was being set up in the main area. It was full of trucks and diggers and bobcats, all shiny and yellow. More importantly, there was a giant screen up one end, and at that moment that screen had a giant and loud Freddie Mercury on it, belting out “We are The Champions” in what I believe was Queen’s 1978 Houston concert. Great way to start.
Eventually locating the meeting room, we were all offered pod coffee and teab*gs, which is possibly the worst start an Environmental Fair could have, and muffins, which are never the worst start to anything except perhaps a diabetes conference.
Piously helping myself to just some filtered water (I had bought along some excellent white tea but left it in the Utilitea) I sat up the front and prepared to be my usual disruptive self.
Introductions got underway, and the first exhibitor was a guy who recycles used coffee grounds by sticking them in boxes and growing mushrooms in them. WOW that’s a good start. Everyone else in the room was less exciting than this on the face if it, though in the case of artists and musicians time will tell. There was a guy from a car club, for God’s sake, and even worse, some people from the Government. I was beginning to regret being unmuffined.
Brian Haddy, the event director began to speak, and the first thing he said was interesting, but I’ll make you wait for that.
As Brian spoke, the enormity of this brand-new event began to dawn. Unlike many events at the Showgrounds, this event was taking two adjacent pavilions and the bit between them. I think someone said 16000 square metres. Does that sound right? I think it is. It’s huge.
The Government people turned out to be taking up 600 square metres, which is great. It will probably be OK, but even if it’s the dullest bit it still means they have contributed a stack of cash that will benefit us small stall holders in terms of marketing and such.
There will be a section on tiny houses. WHO DOESN’T LOVE TINY HOUSES? Just visit IKEA and see people exploring those mini-apartments set-ups and then imagine it clad in cedar or recycled tyres or 3D printed stuff or whatever. That will be cool.
The car club guy turns out to be involved not with greasy 1973 muscle cars but with shiny, shiny electric cars, and there will be Mitsubishi and Tesla electric cars on site. That also sounds like fun. Also, adds to the “something for everyone” vibe. For people who love wheels, there’s also a caravan / camping /motorhome bit.
There’s also a specially imported black marquee from Germany, which will be turned into a “Noctarium” (thanks to JK Rowling, kids and Latin is now an excellent mix) and it will be filled with 30 night-dwelling animals. Since this is Australia, I imagine about 70% of them will be highly dangerous, and that should add a great flavour to the event.
There’s also going to be a kids’ play area of 800 square metres, with a dry creek bed and 5-tonne logs. So it’s an outdoor playground indoors, and its bigger than your average housing block. That’s first rate.
The events also have guest speakers, including Professor Ross Garnaut, who is one of Australia’s leading environmentalists and therefore loved and hated in equal proportions, and Deane Hutton, who was on TV 30 years ago blowing things up on the Curiosity Show and is therefore semi-divine to my generations.
I’m also speaking, a talk entitled “Four And A Half Billion Tea Bags: The personal, environmental and economic cost of convenience.” which is scary, not because I have a fear of public speaking but (a) because I’ve only written the snazzy title so far and (b) what if I’m on at the same time Deane Hutton is blowing things up on the other stage? Even our own team will be MIA.
Did I mention a planetarium and organic market or reggae bands?
There was inflatable this and solar that and cardboard whatever, and it got to the point where I was almost cheering. I can’t believe how great this event sounds, and as a bonus I only had to concentrate on Car park A/ access gate B/ hi-vis/bi-directional bumping for a few minutes.
I mentioned earlier that Brian Haddy had said something interesting to kick off. He spoke of going to an environment-focused event somewhere else that I shall not name for fear of giving offense to an inferior city – let’s redact it to it ‘M*lbourne’ – and he described it as two rows of tents of people who wanted petitions signed and donations. He got to the end and was feeling depressed about the state of the planet, it was tent after tent of bad news.
Well, this event is past-tents*. It’s solid, a city of environment and nature. All indoors which is handy as it will probably rain.
And it’s a city of joy. It’s a collection of people, not harbingers of doom, not wailing and gnashing teeth, but people who want to make a difference. And who want to share the joy of that difference.
This is going to be an exceptional event. In some ways, I wish we were free to attend as members of the public. I wish it had happened when our kids were 12 and 10, two decades ago. In one hour I went from thinking about sharing the joy of tea in our .00025% of the floor space to thinking about the boundless joy of the whole event.
The new tea we are launching at this event couldn’t be any more perfect, and that wasn’t planned that way.
If you are in or near Adelaide come along. If you aren’t – firstly, plan to come next year and secondly, demand a similar event near you.
The latter is so important. If we are to fix the planet, it won’t be by lobbying politicians or stamping pictures of frogs of boxes, it will be by engaging with families and demonstrating what we have lost, and what we are in danger of losing. And not with a fear of dreadful consequences, but by showing what unmitigated joy can be had in the environment.
Perhaps I’m wrong to want the same joy as a seven year old from this event, but I may end up swinging across a dry creek bed on a recycled tyre; and as long as there are no photos, no-one will ever prove it.
*My pun, not his. I’m rather proud of that one