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Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

The Murray syndrome Print E-mail

Murray had a brilliant mind but was hopelessly incompetent at relationships. It was a trap because it was easy to imagine that he must see connections when in fact they were quite beyond him. Murray was famous, for example, for never having said hello to colleagues although he had worked with them for more than twenty years.



He imagined that this inability to communicate made him seem powerful when in fact it only made him look faintly ridiculous. Understanding the environment was impossible for Murray because that understanding was concerned with seeing relationships rather than with intellectual comprehension. Lovelock moved the understanding of environmentalists forward with the concept of Gaia, but all that had left Murray behind, in spite of his medical background. Gaia saw that everything was interconnected so that the world was a single complex system. Every change had consequences as the whole network readjusted.

Murray was concerned, for example, about any rubbish on the beach. He found every piece of plastic very offensive and made a great display of sending them off to join the leachate polluting our harbours. In contrast Murray dumped all his own rubbish on the beach. When it was completely out of control the Council spent some $74,000 of ratepayers’ money sending in heavy equipment to clear it all away. Rumour had it that they did so because Murray had complained about other people. Murray then just carried on dumping his rubbish on the beach as usual. He was not being devious in any of this. He just did not see the connections.

Murray is unfortunately not the only person suffering from “Murray syndrome”. A great many very intelligent architects do not see the impact that their buildings have on the natural environment. They do not have an ethical problem with their activity because they cannot see an ethical issue.

The “Murray syndrome” means that if you do have a problem you simply need to find something which seems to deal with the immediate issue, but in fact only moves it further down the line. This kind of thinking seems to belong to a time before the 1972 Stockholm Environment Conference, and we have moved a long way since then, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that those aware of relationships have moved a long way.

The sand at Karaka Bay is 80% cockle-shell sand. The cockle beds have been allowed to die. It would seem to be a “no brainer” to say that anyone interested in beach erosion would seek before all else to restore the health of the eco-system by bringing the cockle beds back to life.

At first this seems to be such a simple and powerful idea that it is hard to understand how any intelligent person could disagree. The problem is that people suffering from “Murray syndrome” do not see the relationships and connections. It is not that they disagree. Their static world view just does not see that today’s cockles will be tomorrow’s sand. They cannot comprehend that there is a connection between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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