Thursday, April 16, 2009

green contractors

Monash University used to have a bunch of green-clad grounds staff. They were a friendly lot who could always be found around the university with their rakes, brooms and wheel-barrows. They cared for the trees, bushes, grasses and ponds. On a number of occasions they took the time to answer my enquiries about various native plants around the place. I knew them by face and a couple knew me also. We would exchange simple smiles of greeting as I encountered them at lunch or on my way to and from lectures and my office.

They are gone, having been replaced by a number of green contractors who blow dust and leaves around with leaf blowers. These contractors remove garden leaf litter to make the place "neater", thereby ensuring the lizards, spiders and other critters have nowhere to live. I don't know these people although they wear green uniforms with a company name emblazoned across the back. Their leaf blowers are noisy and make them unapproachable. They use petrol-powered line trimmers around the cafe whilst the academics are trying to chat about philosophy, chemistry, maths or important things.

A couple of years ago, a garden of native plants used by the aborigines was destroyed to make way for a new building. This had been tended by some senior academics, in particular an elderly woman who was most distraught about the loss of her contribution to Monash's gardens. Did anybody care besides her? I did! I bet the old grounds staff did too. My favourite quiet lunch spot, the botanical specimen garden by the pond, had occasional oddities — such as the foul-smelling Dead-horse lily and the glorious, Triffidesque sunflowers — has been partly demolished by building works.

I am getting old and grumpy. Some changes are clearly not for the better.

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