River view

My feet thud against the wooden planks as I cross the bridge, a slight breeze stirring wisps of my hair and blowing them into my face. Pausing at the centre, I grip the red handrail and gaze at the landscape before me, taking in the details. Ahead lies the river, its shimmering surface alight with the blazing rays of the sun. Grey rocks tinted with the deep green of algae line the water on both sides, separating the land from the water. Lush green grass ripples in the wind, darkened by the shadows of the enormous trees that tower above the ground.

Sparrows, magpies, galahs and rainbow lorikeets dart in and out of the vegetation, disturbing the quiet with a ruckus chorus of birdsong. In the distance a dog barks, followed by a squeal of childish laughter floating on the breeze. Suddenly I hear my name being called, telling me that it’s time to go. Slowly, I turn away and begin making my way across the rest of the bridge, thinking about the river. The river I have grown up on. The river that I have always lived on. The river that is so full of life … I can only hope it stays that way.

– Eliza / Footscray City College Substation

The Hel Peninsula is a place

IMG_7975-2The Hel Peninsula is a place where fishing and tourism provide a chance to survive – because they pay. But we are beginning to think that tourism is as horrible an industry as fishing is. It always stinks in the port and it’s polluted. We got used to it, but the dreams of a different everyday reality have been maturing in us. We want it to be different even though we are the residents of the place, which is a tourist destination. Hel is still a home for us.
Why do we have to accept the noise, trampled plants by the beach, loud music and bad-mannered tourists? Are these the inevitable costs of earning money? It is us, the residents of Hel, who clean the beaches in springtime and in autumn, because we love relaxing there all year round. It is us who accept sleepless nights in summertime in the name of earning money, which is enough to survive all year round. It is us who can only smell fried fish in summer, the odour stronger even than the odour of the port. Accepting all that is our conscious decision taken under the financial pressure, but what about the animals? What advantages are there for the animals living in the Hel woods? I don’t think they ever wanted to live in the woods littered with bottles, plastic, paper and chocolate wrappers. Although it might still be better than setting the forest on fire, which does happen when playful tourists start a bonfire and lose control over it. One of the summer attractions of Hel is a tree decorated with empty bottles. For us it’s a monument of despair…
Every year we remove rubbish from military bunkers – several dozens bags worth of rubbish; and fromIMG_7881-2 one of the most untouched beaches – another several dozens of bags and some tyres on top of that. Do tourists who come here in summertime spend their time in cities in a similar manner? We don’t think so!
Some will say that these are the extra costs we pay for living in a tourist destination. But these are costs, which we don’t understand and don’t accept. After all people come here seeking nature. Why don’t they notice its assets? Why do they destroy the woods? That’s where the animals live; they can’t pack their things and go back to their clean and tidy cities? We thought fishing nets were the biggest nightmare. They kill seals, porpoises and birds, which get entangled in them together with the fish. For a while now though we’ve been wondering if the tourists who have no respect for nature aren’t even worse?
Another summer holiday will start in a short while and we would love Hel to be a place where people can be close to nature, where they come to spend several days on the beach, respecting each and every creature. This is the Hel we want to create.

Climate poetry slam

1.

Global warming, it calls for a warning,
The ice is melting, the planet’s drowning.
We burn up tonnes of coal, gallons of oil too,
You love airplanes, they’re guzzlers, it’s sad but true.

Global warming, it’s time for a warning,
Earth’s surface’s burning, it’s alarming.
Water reserves drying up –
Let’s drink water from the tap.

Could good old cooperation
Save us from deterioration?
A filter for your chimney, that’s right!
Fight to spread it nationwide.

Start recycle and repair,
That’s our way out of despair.

2.

Global warming, it calls for a warning,
The ice is melting, the planet’s drowning.
We burn up tonnes of coal, gallons of oil too,
You love airplanes, they’re guzzlers, it’s sad but true.

Carbon dioxide’s the villain,
That’s who stands behind this killing:
Storms and draughts and floods and tides,
Creatures cannot live their lives.

Let’s plant green plants, shut down your greed-plants,
Trees are the best filters, now give them a chance.

Flooded by plastic and cows’ greenhouse gas
We soon may forget the looks of the grass.

3.

Global warming, it calls for warning,
The ice is melting, the planet’s drowning.
We burn up tonnes of coal, gallons of oil too,
You love airplanes, they’re guzzlers, it’s sad but true.

Don’t eat hamburgers in bed,
Better take a walk instead.
Are you brave enough to smoke?
What if those around you choke?
Our atmosphere’s our common good
Don’t see it yet? Well, you should.

The ozone hole, up there, is a real evil badass,
It’s mean as methane, the cow-produced bad gas.
Methane makes the Earth keep heat,
We’ll all end up as sizzling meat.
Save the planet’s water now,
Ask not why, start thinking how.

Translated by Mikołaj Denderski

Hello from Hel

IMG_3740The Polish Substation of the Weather Stations project is situated at the far end of the Hel Peninsula on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The Substation’s team are students of the Zespół Szkół Ogólnokształcących im. Obrońców Helu (General Education School Complex in Hel).

Participants of the project go to school at one of Poland’s most frequented summer resorts. In the town of Hel there are many tourist attractions, such as a cycling route that runs all the way through the Hel Peninsula, lovely beaches, an observatory pier from which one can view the flora of the dunes, remnants of the bunkers and casemates of the Hel Fortified Area, the Seal Sanctuary, where Poland’s population of the grey seal is being restored, run by the Hel Marine Station of the University of Gdańsk, Hel’s Seaport, the beaches, the Museum of Fishery and many others.

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In the summer, every day several thousand visitors want to experience Hel’s tourist attractions. Is it a blessing or a curse? Certainly obliterated during the summer holiday season is the charm of Hel, a place which at other times invites peaceful recreation.

The participants of the project say: “Thanks to the Weather Stations project, in which we have been involved for more than a year now, we are getting to know more and more about our peninsula. Early in March we watched birds near the seaport and the peninsula’s tip. With Mikołaj, an ornithologist from the Marine Station, we went on an excursion equipped with binoculars. We learnt about the lives of cormorants, mallards and long-tailed ducks, and the names of the several species of gull living in the seaport: the herring gull, the black-headed gull, the Caspian gull, and the common gull. Thanks to the trip we now know that long-tailed ducks frequently fall victim to what is known as bycatch, trapped in the nets cast for fish. We were also fortunate to encounter rare specimens: robin and snow bunting.”

photoAnd what is the everyday life of the school like? Throughout the school year there are many events, such as school fairs, drama productions, visits from interesting people, and more. The students develop athletically and artistically. They have staged several times the play The Story of the Blue Planet, whose author, Andri Magnason, visited the nearby city of Gdańsk.blekitnaplaneta

The students staged a guest performance of the play for children at Gdański Archipelag Kultury.

Beside Weather Stations there are also other educational projects going on at school, e.g. meetings with the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre. Whenever possible, there are excursions for students, from which they return to Hel inspired.
The school’s involvement in the project brings to Hel writers also engaged in Weather Stations. They run workshops for the youth and pose questions about the future of our planet. Recently Hel was visited by Xiaolu Guo from London.

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