sirisa clark

the things I do and the words I choose

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Blog Action Day: The Cultural Environment

Today is Blog Action Day – a day for bloggers across the world to write on a common theme, and share their thoughts and their readers. I was introduced to the concept by my friend and fellow writer Yen.

As this year’s theme is the Power of We, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a post I’ve been meaning to write since I was in Italy, in the hope that I can harness the Power of Blog Action Day to promote a worthwhile cause.

In a quiet corner of southern Italy, 8,000 olive trees are marked for destruction.

Why? Well, somebody thought it would be a good idea to expand the existing highway from two lanes to four. The words ‘hyperspace bypass’ spring to mind, but may not mean much to people who aren’t nuts about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Anyway, I’ve been up and down this highway several times, and the last thing it needs is an additional two lanes.

Leila and her friends are engaged in a grass roots campaign to save the olive trees and halt expansion of the highway (or should I say, tree roots campaign! No, no I shouldn’t. Shut up, silly pun Siri). They’ve been working locally to raise awareness of the campaign, and to gather a thousand signatures on their petition. They have also launched the petition online with Avaaz to reach a wider audience, check it out (if you don’t read Italian, try opening it in Chrome and it will offer you a translation).

You all know that I think trees are kind of a big deal, so I won’t go off on one again about how no trees = asphyxiation and death.

But a funny thing struck me as I was reading through the petition. The petition makes reference to ancient Greco-Roman and Christian relics that will be destroyed in the process, such as the crypt of San Basilio. Google Translate makes a bit of a hash of this – or perhaps it’s a poetic interpretation?

“the dissipation and destruction of priceless and countless stories of the greek-Roman and Christian civilization and the work of our age-old civilization”

I was immediately reminded of an article I read recently on George Monbiot’s blog: Ash tree threat reminds us that when we lose wildlife, we lose stories.

The Ash tree has an incredibly important role in Norse mythology, but the Olive tree plays a major role in Mediterranean life and consequently, in Greek and Roman myths. It is said that Athena brought the olive to Greece, by casting her spear into the ground, which sprang to life as an olive tree.

The olive tree also crops up in the Bible and the Quran, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Obviously this is a very different situation from the possibility of the Ash tree dying out completely. But my point is that this kind of destruction wears away at more than just the environment – it also erodes our cultural heritage.

Local officials in Salento say that the new 4-lane highway will bring tourists to the region. But what do they think tourists are coming to see?


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Go Faster Stripes

New and improved – now with go faster stripes!

Day two of my preparation for Saturday’s run and I am taking it easy after yesterday’s 5.3k test run.

Siri: I feel mostly okay, but the fronts of my legs are killing me

Ben: Yeah, that’ll happen

Siri: Maybe I have shin splints. What are shin splints?

Ben: It’s what it sounds like: they are actual splints they put on your legs when you break them.

Siri: No, I’m sure it’s a terrible malady of some kind

Ben: … there isn’t a name for every little thing that happens to hurt occasionally on your body

Siri: [googles shin splints] you SEE?! I was right!

Ben: Hmmm… yeah okay. Maybe you have stress fractures in your shins… after one jog around the block

Other than googling horrible injuries that may befall me, I’ve been preparing for Saturday with some shopping.

Ben was pretty convinced I needed some shorts to run in. I was pretty convinced he was just making an excuse to see me in some tiny shorts, I tend to defer to him in all physical matters. Wait, uh… that came out wrong.

Either way, I had to admit that my heavyweight cotton jogging bottoms which I bought at Pineapple when I was 15 were not the most accommodating running gear, not least because they actually seem to hamper my ability to lift my knees. I took myself off to TK Maxx, but the only shorts in evidence were denim hotpants (also not the one for a 5k run) so I invested in some snazzy new yoga pants instead.

Are they prime running wear? No. Do they have an awesome pink stripe across the bum? Why yes, yes they do!

I spent the evening wearing my coordinated pink and black gym gear, whilst prepping for Saturday with carb-loading and hydrating with an antioxidant-laden beverage (aka knocking back pasta, garlic bread and red wine).

Happy training all!

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So today is the end of the Fortnight of Pain, and to celebrate I have done something either monumentally stupid or crazy brilliant. Or both, I’m not sure.

I’ve signed up for a 5k run. In 5 days’ time.

I have wanted to do the Trees for Cities Tree-athlon for quite some time. Partly because it sounds like my kind of triathlon (you run 5k, plant a tree, and then round it off with a barefoot 100m dash. Then you have a bit of a village fete type thing in the park), but more importantly because I think trees are such a hugely important thing. I don’t want to use the word resource, because that puts a very human-centric slant on things, but essentially without them, we are fucked.

Photo credit: Sirisa Clark 2011

Bonus: they’re also beautiful

Did you know the UK is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe? Trees are important for biodiversity, soil stabilisation, reducing urban heat retention, storing carbon and releasing oxygen.

I was about 12 years old when I decided all human problems were secondary to environmental ones, because what is the point of World Peace, a cure for cancer, any of it, if there is nowhere to live?

Ahem. So, that’s enough preachy bidness from me! You all knew I was a hippy anyway, so I’m not going to labour the point – I know you want to hear more about how hideously ill-equipped I am to run a race on Saturday morning, right?

The truth is I signed up, made a Just Giving page, sent it round to a few friends, then started to freak out about what I’d got myself into. My dad emailed me and warned me it was a bad idea. My friend emailed to say “weren’t you the girl with an addiction to LOUNGING two weeks ago?!”. I downloaded the training guide from Trees for Cities, which suggested starting your training regime 8 weeks before the race. I don’t even have 8 days.

And then I came home, and Ben hugged me and told me what I was doing was amazing, and that he’d come for a run with me and we’d see how far we could manage. We jogged round the park 8 times, then back to the house: 5.3km.

Today I learned: I can do anything with Ben by my side.

And on that sappy note, cough up bitches!