the world beyond our radar


A few things in the last 12 hours have reminded me how little I know, or at least how what I know is mediated by the media I chose to utilize / consume.

1. This morning, in the ‘boarding-to-seatbelt-light-off period’, I read last week’s Economist feature on Africa. Fascinating. I had no real appreciation of the development progress that has occurred on the poorest continent. My work with various international development agencies has not really helped, as most discussions I’ve had tend to relate to ongoing need rather than progress. My stereotypical image of Africa continues to be informed by last centuries headlines: famine and dictators. Yes, war and hunger are a long way from being banished but I was struck by the hope expressed in the correspondent’s report after having travelled 25,000kms by surface transport around the continent.

2. The trigger for this post: we just flew over Gladstone. We urbanites know there is a mining boom happening. But from the vantage point of an inner city café it is a long way away. The future of the real Australia is defined by left leaning hipsters. Then you see 40+ freighters anchored off the port and you begin to wonder. The regulars in the airport lounges in QLD are not suits of the south, but the boots and safety jackets of the FIFOs. You can know it in your head but even a sniff of the reality is confronting.

3. And then on the ABC News last night I see a project I am closer to, but still reminds me of how small my world is. The Boardroom where I spend much of my time in PNG (with some of my work in the background) is the backdrop for an interview with a researcher who has just conducted exploration along the Hindenburg Wall. This is an amazing landscape which includes 50kms of vertical cliff face up to 1km high, deep in Western PNG. It reportedly has eight times the bio diversity of the already incredibly diverse PNG wilderness. Giants rats and mini wallabies are among new species discovered, alongside plants and the largest butterflies in the world. Exotic is an understatement.

I think about this and it reminds me how much we stunt our thinking because we consume ideas with which we already agree, or we diet on knowledge that simply extends rather than challenges. It’s a natural thing and ‘expertise’ depends on it, but there is no excuse in this information age for not expanding the reach of what we appreciate about the world; whether that is the stories associated with others (Africa), the corners of the economy that are pretty much out of sight (where are all those ships going?) or the natural world in all its wonder and beauty (The Hindenburg Wall).

We have finite time to soak in the wonderful world in which we live. Let’s live expansive lives that continually extend the domains of our experience.