sacred adjective 5. regarded with reverence.*
What is a sacred place? How do they relate to geography?
If we go with the above definition, a scared place is a place regarded with reverence. As we’re talking geography, let’s make it a natural or natural/human interface where people feel reverence.
It is important to have such places, and to hold them dear and protect them, otherwise geography sort of falls on it’s sword. What’s the point in sustainable agriculture if we don’t care about rivers and soil health? What’s the point of National Parks if we don’t respect and interact with biodiversity and wild places? What’s the point of stopping logging if rainforests are meaningless for us?
In short, why interact meaningfully with the Earth’s natural systems if we have no reverence for them?
It may be a big ask for every part of the natural system to be a sacred space, but everyone should have one. A place to connect to and recharge in. Where you feel the wind in your hair and the water on your skin, where you squint in the sun, and hear leaves rustling and watch birds and sunsets and small kids playing with dogs.
Though I haven’t seen much of it, I love Australia’s environment. Salt bush plains, Tasmania’s alpine areas, rainforests, open woodlands, agricultural areas, the aridity of the Flinders, marshes replete with water-birds, the wilderness of the NSW South Coast, it’s all amazing and you should see it. I love it all, but my sacred place is a few beaches along the NSW Mid-North Coast where I grew up. It’s the border of land and sea and sky, where Norfolk pines and beech trees and rainforests and banksias all rub shoulders. It’s where I learnt about the threat of climate change to the ocean, to agriculture, to human health.
I study ecological decline for (theoretically) about 60 hours a week.
It’s highly stressful, learning about it all the time, hearing about boundaries and tipping points and dead canaries that have all been ignored, so when I go to that part of the world it’s like a tonic, and I remember why it’s so important for us to study geography. I go back to study refreshed and ready to solve some wicked problems.
Up until about 1908 no-one really admitted to seeing beauty in the Australian landscape, and then Dorothea Mackellar penned My Country.
Now we’re allowed to love it and be reverent, and it is because I share those feelings that I study geography.
*Definition from the Macquarie Dictionary, Federation Edition.
All of the photos in this post are my own.