Our view from the top of the canopy!
Sorry I couldn't put the pictures in the right place throughout the blog - technical difficulties & poor internet!
It is so good to be back in my boring dorm room! Never thought I would say that, but it is true. After being on a 3 day excursion to multiple farms and through many different parts of the rainforest, including the canopy, I am relieved to say I've made it back alive. I don't have a single bug bite, cut, or weird plant rash, and thank goodness, I didn't see one snake! This field trip was not what I was expecting, but I think I learned a lot more than I thought I would. At the beginning of our 3 day adventure, we started at a coffee farm and then moved on to a cattle farm/macadamia nut farm. Australia is a very rural country, contrary to the popular belief that there is just Sydney and the Outback. The cattle, coffee, and dairy industries are all rapidly growing. We discussed that most farms are family owned and they really need to strategize about low risk/high return products to make the most money because the markets for most items are diminishing or disappearing all together, like potatoes. Most of the dairy farmers in Queensland lost thier milk contract and now need to rush to figure out how they are going to make their money. We saw multiple classic cases of big industry taking over small, family industry. Somthing that has been happening for a while in the States, but is now really catching on in Australia now that the land is really being utilized.
Not only did we talk about sustainable farms, but we talked about retro-fitting and making existing homes more sustainable. Most homes in Australia need to score a high enough rating out of a 5-star scale in order to sell thier home. This scale is based on how sustainable and cost/energy efficient it is. This was interesting because the steps to becoming a 5-star home were so simple. A homeowner didn't need to completely rebuild his house in order to sell it. I think this is something we should definitely take up back home just as a small step to reducing our carbon footprint. Something as simple as creating more cross-ventilation in a home to prevent so much AC use. After our tour through 2 urban developments, one that exemplified sustainable living and one that didn't we moved on to the really exciting part - our rainforest adventures!
We went on multiple walks through the rainforest, day and night, understory and canopy. I can officially say I have seen and experienced most aspects of the rainforest. The area that we had gone through, still in Queensland, which is the northeast state of Australia had just recently in 2006 been hit be Cyclone Larry (hurricane) which was a category 5 storm. Not only did the small towns take a beating (like not having power for 22 days!), but the rainforest was pretty much destroyed in multiple parts. But you can see only 4 years later that it is bouncing back and how resiliant, adaptable, and sustainable trees really are - a lesson we should learn from them. The cyclone helped bring communites together on a local and national level to help people get back on thier feet and to help in reforestation efforts. We got to go and look at multiple non-governmental non-profit organizations who have been working since Cyclone Larry to get the rainforest back to its original state and to help people learn about ways to make thier homes more sustainble in response to events like these.
Unfortuantely I did not learn very much on my night rainforest walk becuase I was too busy making sure nothing was going to jump out at me or drop on my head. Even in a group of 10 people who all have flashlights, the rainforest is a scary place a night with a lot more noises. We did get to see some tree kangaroos though, which was really cool. They look like possums, just bigger and cuter! We also got to seem some platypus becuase they feed right after sun down.
Tomorrow is our free day so my two roommates and I have made plans to go snorkelling on the great barrier reef! I have been excited for days! I cannot wait to be laying on the beach in a bathing suit rather than standing in the rain and mud in dirty, smelly clothes!