The real world is a matter of perception

COSY: Bathurst ecologist Ray Mjadwesch, one of the driving forces behind the kangaroo relocation project, pictured with a joey. Photo: TRACY SORENSEN

COSY: Bathurst ecologist Ray Mjadwesch, one of the driving forces behind the kangaroo relocation project, pictured with a joey. Photo: TRACY SORENSEN

WE live in the world, but we also live in the stories in our own heads.

As we know, one person’s story about what’s going on can be so different to the person beside them that each can genuinely think the other is quite mad.

Just ask my mother and sister about which beach we were on when an alarming family incident occurred. Each replays the incident with a background scenery of their own beach.

Social media is amplifying the problem, because we can constantly reinforce our own beliefs and sift out information that challenges them.

We all think we’re calm and rational beings capable of understanding the “truth” but we’re actually more like animals guarding a bit of territory. That territory is made up of the stories that tell us who we are and what the world is like.

When stories clash, it can be explosive indeed. So let’s talk kangaroos.

What are they? Majestic creatures or agricultural pests? Skippy or pet food?

When it doesn’t matter that much, they can be both. Children have a little cognitive dissonance when they realise they’re feeding their friend to the dog, but they’re generally able to cope.

In the past, you didn’t have to “take sides” because there wasn’t really a debate.

Increasingly, though, it does matter. It matters now because the story we’ve been telling ourselves about the environment is changing.

The environment is no longer a simple venue for our exploits or a “baddie” to be conquered in order to create that venue. It is revealing itself as an essential and equal part of the main game. Increasingly, as we face scientific evidence of a depleted, polluted, warming planet, many are saying the environment is the main game.

It’s a global problem but it is being played out locally. People are taking sides; each side increasingly sees the other as dangerous or mad.

I recently followed a tranquilised mother kangaroo being relocated from the apple orchard on Mount Panorama – where she was in the way of racing horses and cars -  to her new home as part of the controversial kangaroo relocation project.

As the sun rose, she was still sound asleep. It took a while for her to come round. Ecologist Ray Mjadwesch sat quietly on the ground nearby, holding her joey in his arms.

Eventually, she was awake enough to reunite with her youngster, who leaped straight into her pouch. And then they bounded off to their new life.

Tracy Sorensen is president of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au

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