My Secret Valley


The house of my childhood. Half hand-built of riverstone by my father. Some trees are gone, while many have grown. It sits at the foot of a hillside property in a quiet valley in the Adelaide Hills, merely a few minutes drive from our major highway.


One of the myriad paths I would set out on, filling my young days with exploration. It parallels a creek. The road is seldom used. Trees, clean air and calm.


The creek is clear, flowing sedately. Insects flit across and above its surface.


The water sustains a sheltered lushness.


There are open, shallow, undisturbed and accessible spots like this all along this creek. This was a ford but local vehicles use a bridge further up now.


Tadpoles. Frogs are always a good sign. This creek had trouble with effluent some years ago but I think residents are now taking great care.


Back across the road, in what might have originally been a quarry. A short trail ramps upwards to meet nearly impenetrable scrub and the back of the property at which I lived. I climbed this countless times.


The discreet power supply infrastructure. The valley regards stobbie poles merely as something to grow on.

My childhood was intertwined with the ecosystems of this valley. Countless adventures and day-long exploration let me experience it all – and it, me. It instilled in me a preconscious environmental awareness, which now as an adult and a father is balanced by an appreciation of the structure and services of the advanced industrial society that enabled my idyllic youth. It’s from this perspective that I embraced Ecomodernism when I found it.

The concern that this new environmentalism will dictate a wholesale movement of people to cities, divorced from nature, borders on disingenuous; there is no prescription in clearly stating the demonstrated ecological benefits of concentrated populations which save nature by default. There is no sharp city-nature delineation, and there will always – increasingly – be secret valleys which remain uneconomical for development yet valuable to conservation efforts.

If, after these years of study and consultation, I felt that any of this could be endangered by the potential expansion of the nuclear energy fuel cycle in South Australia, I wouldn’t be an advocate. The opportunities before us offer an assurance of a broader horizon for my children, while I make every effort now to provide to them as much of the unrestricted nature as I took for granted. And with the uncertainties of climate disruption we will need concentrated, plentiful energy with which to reliably ensure the needs of this state are covered: water, air conditioning, clean transportation, and responsible usage of our natural resources.

I’ll gladly consider alternatives to Ecomodernism, especially ones which republish every criticism. Similarly, I’ll take claims about alternative energy sources seriously, but I’ll demand the same high standard of evidence that modern nuclear energy meets. My childhood was ineffably fortunate, but even in such a location would have instead been hardship without the underpinnings of reliable energy. Is it up to us to improve upon that, or disrupt it? I choose the former and reject the latter.



2 thoughts on “My Secret Valley

  1. Hi Oscar. Your pictures remind me of the two rural properties we have owned over the last 15 years both around 5 acres. The first was in Victoria in the highlands (800m) and the more recent one in the Northern Rivers in far north NSW. That last one had a creek running through it (which frequently overflowed) and is surrounded by cattle farms. Alas it was getting too much work for us so we have now moved to the nearby coastal village of Brunswick Heads. More urban, but a beautiful spot.

  2. I was climbing up to the hills on my bike this morning when I heard what sounded like a malfunctioning chainsaw. A glance up and to my left found the source: a koala, making an early-morning call. Until one sees them do it, it’s impossible to credit such a big sound to such a small creature.

    In the course of running and riding from my front door, I regularly enjoy the company of koalas, kangaroos, emus, echidna, snakes and lizards of many types, plus the occasional feral fox and rabbit. It’s wonderful.

    Our Mt Lofty Ranges are far from pristine; there is a lot we could and should do better; see here and here for examples from my conservation expert boss Corey Bradshaw. Note not one thing he says suggests devolving away from dense energy. In fact, he wants nuclear energy and he wants intensification of agriculture, to which energy is a key input.

    But even though they are not perfect they are still a wonderful area with the potential to be even better as my kids grow old. It doesn’t all look as nice as our bit. Head out to Sedan and you can see the worst of it. The wheat fields on the plains are chockers, but the hills are a denuded wasteland that supports nothing but some grazing. Guess what the main industry was? Timber; firewood to be exact. 200,000 tons per year according to this newspaper report . Thanks to the probably pointless gazing those forests can’t come back. If we did not use dense energy, there is every change the whole ranges would have met the same fate. Restoring forests to these hills is the sort of thing I would like a prosperous, energy rich South Australia to do for our kids.

    Worsening fire will be a major risk to the ranges this century. We have to cut our GHG and nuclear can make sure we do our bit along with the already-prevalent wind and solar PV in SA.

    Great piece.

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