Early memories of childhood include examining the flowers that blossomed in the neat borders of our house. This was one of my father’s passions – his collection of perfectly formed flourishing flora. I gazed then at the complexity and precise beauty of a passion flower. The symbolism adopted in the middle ages by devout priests in the Americas will have suited his piety. For me, their form symbolises nature’s brilliance her razzle dazzle mating ritual and extraordinary microcosmic architecture.

‘Oh willow, titwillow, titwillow!’ I hum the Mikado instinctively. Here you lie amongst pavement detritus, an inauspicious grave. You lie in a feather deathbed of your own delicate prussian blue and lemon yellow feathers. Did a predatory cat hasten your end? I sit writing with a feline occasional assassin on my lap. This is one of Britain’s unpalatable and unverifiable conundrums. How do a nation of cat and dog lovers deal with this possibility. The RSPB quotes “the Mammal Society estimate that cats in the UK catch up to 275 prey items of which 27 million are birds”. Or was he homeless – a victim of loss of habitat? Poor titwillow.

There is a blueprint for living within our means. Examples of cultures living by taking only what they need, of sharing, of co-operative community are described. We hear from indigenous representatives – from Ju|’hoan (Khoisan), Idu Mishmi (India), Bishnoi (India), “We don’t conserve, it is our way of life that conserves,” says Kitelo Chongeywo, Ogiek (Kenya), “the future is all of us being sustainable”. Despite the restriction of the learning environment (school desks, lecture theatre, power point presentations) we find moments to sound together and to make eye contact, to hope for solidarity.

I sit with my baggage of whiteness. Grief, shame, overwhelm and helplessness are here with me also. Disconnection is spoken of as a disease. One after another indigenous speaker takes to the floor. The details of each story is different, but there is a disturbing uniformity of the troubles and threats these people face in the front line of commercially driven destruction which is devastating rainforest, environments and communities. I hear of the loss of habitat, species, food resources, land and wellbeing, and feel the enormity of the task of rewiring ourselves to get humans everywhere back into right relationship with the earth. “Wake up, let’s live, let’s not deceive ourselves,” says Okosho of the Ashaninka (Brazil).

I am so used to being the person who looks after that on days when the tables turn, I can feel really awkward. Two gold finches were drinking at the bird bath and seagulls squawarking overhead. A pigeon landed in our garden. Three pink toes on each foot are healthy and whole, unlike the pigeons I saw waiting at Denmark Hill station. This and other tokens of love add to my feeling special. I am given some of my favourite things by people I love.

A long slow sun down strokes the city in copper light. We watch a new city rising up, and remember the places we have known over the years in this spot. Through the mists and splashes of the fountains run the ghosts of the groovers we were in the 80’s at warehouse parties in Battle Bridge Road. And ravers in the 90’s at the Cross or Bagley’s in dingy warehouses with festoon lights, beer residue sticking to our hyperactive trainers. Now the gas towers are an exoskeleton for apartments and the warehouses are filled with sparse rails of crisp linens.

Neighbours on both sides ensure daily conversations about weather, pets, excursions, vehicles and offspring. There are also regular exchanges in kind – of parcels, trips to the vet, and borrowed eggs. Today there is a surfeit of succulent baby tomatoes. Eleven sit on an heirloom plate in transit from 23 to 22. I try to save these winnings till lunch, but one by one I pop them into my mouth to be burst then sucked, sweet and juicy.

We arrive just after the fall. A narrowboat’s passage is blocked. Boating seniors on holiday consider their options mid-stream. This is not an obvious weather-related event. On the bank is the fresh wound – trunk torn with stress fractures. My mind’s ear hears the creak of wrenched wood and tumbling branches heavy with leaves, then the splash! I am haunted by the absence in my vocabulary. I cannot name the tree with its unevenly serrated orbicular leaves.

Autumn has arrived on the marshes. Sloe berries are fat enough for hipster foragers on bicycles with their shoulder satchels full of berries. The sky is dappled; grasses and leaves are tinged yellow. How long do we have until we’re out of time? The dandelion clock is briefly whole, with its perfect interlocking sacred geometry.

From the outset the fortitude of the ensemble cast move us when a member of the Sydney Theatre Company tells of Ningali Lawford-Wolf’s death last week mid tour. Our narrator has come sudden to take her place, sometimes reading the text, to keep the narrative going despite tragedy. Is this a metaphor for the continuing struggle for Aboriginal land rights perhaps? This is the story of one small place where white settlers take land from the first nation people of Australia. One tale told well demonstrates the bloody outcome of colonisation. We see how fear breeds separation, which leads to violence. As one indigenous performer fills the huge Olivier stage, the power of two centuries of injustice is brought home.