Salt of the Earth

Well, the ride turned into a dookin’, still, we peddled on, I just had to work off all those calories accumulated yesterday.

It all started when I was asked to build another of Mrs Sinclair’s purchases – this time a flat-pack – crap – chipboard – folding table. I just can not understand it. You see beautiful, well made, last a lifetime, Oak drop leave tables in salerooms and they have difficulty getting a bid on them, yet thousands – hundreds of thousands, of these flat-pack pieces of furnisher, from China and Sweden, pore into the country every day, and lasts about as long as a toy, given at Christmas, will last, possibly all the through until February.

But I diverse, when it was all together and placed under her window, a-ha, that is why Charles received her big chair; you know the one that had to be dismantled to get it out the door. There I go again off on a tangent, well to end this saga.

I was rewarded with a pack of six chocolate covered, mini sponge cakes, and although I did try to hide them in a cupboard I kept remembering where they were and scoffed the lot. (Sound of whiplash) come on you Christians, peddle faster.  

I lived next door to a young woman from Northern Ireland; she spoke at twenty to the dozen in her beautiful NI brogue, one of her overused sayings was ‘He’s the salt of the earth’. There are not many people I would go as far as to say that about, but Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado born 8th February 1944 would certainly be one, and top of the list.

In one line from the movie “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” and delivered by Spencer Tracy,

“I can understand why he had little to say about himself – who the hell would believe him?”

The same could be said about Sebastiao Salgado.

Most of us will already be familiar with the man through his photography, stunning, black and white, social documentary photographs from his travels to some 120 countries on his photographic projects, around the world and published in numerous books and publications. His most famous photographs are of Serra Pelada, a gold mine in Brazil. However, the one that sticks in my head is of a giant iceberg, as it succumbs to wind and weather as it slowly drifted south.

In the late 1999s, Salgado quit photography,

“I was sick. I was not well, I have lost faith in the species” he told the Canadian, Globe and Mail newspaper.

He and his wife, Lelia, who were living abroad at that time, decided to return to his childhood home, his parent’s farm in Brazil, that they had recently inherited. His youthful memories were full of a magical forest, teeming with life and flowing with water. Sadly when they returned, it was to find a devastated land. The forest was gone, and deforestation had left the land dry, barren and lifeless. The springs had stopped flowing. The hills eroded and the soil turned to dust. 

Most would not even have bothered unpacking and headed straight back to the airport, but as if in a bid to heal a deeper trauma, the Salgado’s decided to try to heal the earth, through reforestation of the Fazenda Balcao, (Balcao Farm) by Instituto Terra. Together, Lelia and Sebastiao started their work in the 1990s and by 1998 had succeeded in turning 17,000 acres into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra.  The institute is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.

Between 2004 and 2011, Salgado worked on Genesis, aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.

If there was a lifeline for this world of ours – it was thrown to us by the work of the Salgado’s. But as we can see from my previous blogs, time is not on our side, we must remember the butterflies of the El Yunque forest and how they are the canaries in the coalmine.

No one knows where the tipping point will be but already the world leaders are back peddling on commitments made about reducing global warming, and many like myself, believe that unless they seriously start talking about ditching ‘Growth for Grows Sake’ – capitalism – and start to talk about ‘Steady-State’ 

Never extract more than the ecosystem can regenerate.

Never waste or pollute more than ecosystems can safely absorb. 

And again in the words of a teenager,

“We cannot save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

Greta Thunberg.

 Keep safe.

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