Friday, October 31, 2008


About a month ago Erika and I took ourselves to CERES, the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies. It was a gorgeous sunny spring day absolutely perfect for biking, and we wanted to go where there were plants. Luckily, I knew just the place.

CERES has expanded significantly since I first visited years ago with my uncle. Built atop a reclaimed landfill about two miles from downtown Melbourne, CERES is an inspiring sustainable model farm/garden store/café. Chickens run amok amidst pockets of gardens, random buildings, and windy dirt paths, all along the banks of the Yarra.

Hand-painted educational signs dot the view around every turn – if you have a question about what you are seeing, the information is right there before you! You have only to look! Kind of like Google but painted imperfectly in eco-friendly pigments on recycled ply-board. What these signs describe are the many examples of innovative sustainable, low-impact technologies that CERES promote: recycled wastewater ponds, solar panel installations, native plants, bike repair workshop of awesome, creatively reused everything. I particularly like their emphasis on technologies and practices appropriate for an Australian environment.

Not quite everything is appropriate, though. There is a hokey vaguely-appropriative feeling to some of the content, a syle reminiscent of North American eco-pagan-hippies (as much as I love you). In the multi-faith adobe-walled chapel Krishna and the Buddha hold court over a Christian-style altar adorned indiscriminately with a potpourri of religious symbols. The “African Teaching Village” that I remember from my last visit has only recently and imperfectly been rechristened “the “multicultural education centre,” with the painfully cartoonish “African” architecture and some of the signs yet to be improved. Their intentions are wonderful, but it’s another reminder of how culturally naive Australia has been until very recently (and in many ways still is). If I wanted to pursue further multicultural consulting here, I would have my work cut out for me.

We rounded out the lovely afternoon with a delicious snack of muffins and tea at their café. My tea featured such ingredients as local lemon myrtle, eucalypus, and powdered heaven, which the waitress patiently poured over ice especially for me. I love fresh food, and I love people working creatively to save the environment.

1 comment:

MJ Kramer said...

Petra, this place sounds fantastic! It reminds me of Genesis Farm, this amazing farm in New Jersey I visited the last time I was there. It was founded by the Dominican Sisters (Catholic nuns) and is dedicated to sustainability and what they call "Earth literacy." I thought of how much you and Erika would like it. You should check out the website:

And you're looking very bonny, by the way! Australia seems to agree with you. :)