By Daniel Rothenburg
During these “interesting times”, this edition of our member publications round-up provides timely and thought-provoking pieces which we hope you will find interesting. Among these, there are a number of titles that deserve particular mention.
Firstly, congratulations to our members who have published new books. Susan Ballard’s Art and Nature in the Anthropocene. Planetary Aesthetics examines how contemporary artists have engaged with histories of nature, geology, and extinction within the context of the changing planet. Tom Brooking and Eric Pawson’s Seeds of Empire. The Environmental Transformation of New Zealand places the transformation of Aotearoa New Zealand into a landscape of lush green pastures into the context of the interests of Empire.
Secondly, may we direct your attention to two collections of essays which deal with the Anthropocene and Environmental History during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Living with the Anthropocene: Love, Loss and Hope in the Face of Environmental Crisis, published by Cameron Muir, Jennifer Newell, and Kirsten Wehner, numerous writers and thinkers come together to reflect on what it is like to be alive during an ecological crisis – including a lot of our network members. Furthermore, in a special issue of the Environmental History journal, prominent environmental historians, including Libby Robin, reflect on the pandemic from their respective points of view.
Peter J. Ardill: Innovative Federation and Inter-war Period repair of degraded natural areas and their ecosystems: local government and community restoration of Coast Teatree Leptospermum laevigatum at Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia; in: Ecological Restoration History. Published online 17 February 2021. https://ecologicalrestorationhistory.org/articles/.
“At the time of Eastern Kulin nation management of the lands of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne, Coast Teatree Leptospermum laevigatum vegetation communities were likely to have been healthily persistent. Settler dispossession of the Eastern Kulin clans, and subsequent settlement practices, disrupted Coast Teatree persistence, and the natural ecosystems of the Bay. This article reveals innovative settler attempts to repair the degraded natural areas and ecosystems of the eastern foreshore reserves of the Bay between 1896 and ca. 1930. These projects appear to represent the earliest known attempts in Australia by settlers to actively repair and restore degraded natural areas. It is interesting to note that local government initiated, funded and managed many of these projects, in partnership with volunteer community organisations; the state and federal levels of government played no role. Concern to replenish ecosystem service delivery capacity motivated the various environmental repair projects. However, the loss of cherished biological qualities, and a desire to recover them, also motivated some participants. This research also contributes to and confirms an emerging historical picture of substantial engagement in twentieth-century Australia with natural area repair thought and practice.”
Susan Ballard: Art and Nature in the Anthropocene. Planetary Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2021. https://www.routledge.com/Art-and-Nature-in-the-Anthropocene-Planetary-Aesthetics/Ballard/p/book/9780367349394.
“This book examines how contemporary artists have engaged with histories of nature, geology, and extinction within the context of the changing planet. Susan Ballard describes how artists challenge the categories of animal, mineral, and vegetable—turning to a multispecies order of relations that opens up a new vision of what it means to live within the Anthropocene. Considering the work of a broad range of artists including Francisco de Goya, J. M. W. Turner, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Yhonnie Scarce, Joyce Campbell, Lisa Reihana, Katie Paterson, Taryn Simon, Susan Norrie, Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, Ken + Julia Yonetani, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Angela Tiatia, and Hito Steyerl and with a particular focus on artists from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, this book reveals the emergence of a planetary aesthetics that challenges fixed concepts of nature in the Anthropocene.“
James Beattie: Fashioning a future. Part I: Settlement, improvement and conservation in the European colonisation of Otago, 1840–60; in: International Review of Environmental History 6 (2/2020) 75-102. https://doi.org/10.22459/ireh.06.02.2020.05.
“This article, split into 2 parts that will be published over 2 journal issues, examines environmental attitudes and actions amongst the first generation of settlers in Otago, New Zealand, between 1840 and 1860. Based on extensive analysis of diaries, letters, artworks and official documents, it argues for the need to recognise the complexity of European environmental responses and actions, including highlighting extensive official attempts at forest conservation from the late 1840s. Part I of this article examines the complexity of settler views by demonstrating the importance of the concept of improvement as a means by which colonists sought to Europeanise Otago through introductions of familiar plants and animals, and the establishment of farms. Part II is in 2 sections: Section 1 considers the impact of Romanticism on settler interpretations of Otago’s environment, including the manner in which they framed and depicted its harbours and mountains in writing and art. Section 2 examines concerns over resource depletion and details official measures to protect forests, including through reservation, licensing of timber extraction and the appointment of forest guards.“
Angi Buettner: ‘Imagine what we could do’— the school strikes for climate and reclaiming citizen empowerment; in: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 34 (6/2020) 828-839. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2020.1842123.
“This essay argues that the School Strike for Climate movement, and with it the whole climate movement as well as other resistance mobilizations, is in danger of being immobilized by the logic of the spectacle, the coronavirus pandemic, and government lockdowns. It ranges over issues of political performance, media spectacle, climate inaction and the challenges of protest in the contemporary era of environmental collapse, hyperspeed media cycles, and the coronavirus pandemic.“
Margaret Cook: Challenging gender stereotypes in Queensland’s Callide Valley: settlers, patriarchy and environment; in: History Australia. Published online 15 February (2021). doi.org/10.1080/14490854.2021.1878911.
“This article explores the intersection of gender, race, environment and economics in a specific spatial and temporal case study – the Callide Valley, central Queensland, in the 1920s and 1930s. Government propaganda focused on the ideal male settler and his agricultural labour for the settlement’s success. Women were assigned a supportive role, although family survival and the agricultural industry depended on their work beyond the home. Yet, rather than challenge the patriarchal myths that underpinned the closer settlement’s legal and administrative system, female labour paradoxically helped sustain them.“
James Dunk and Warwick Anderson: Assembling planetary health: histories of the future; in: Samuel S. Myers and Howard Frumkin (eds.): Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves. Washington DC: Island Press 2020. 17-35. https://islandpress.org/books/planetary-health.
“The history of what came to be known commonly, around 2010, as “planetary health” is both short and extremely long. Short in the sense that epidemiologists such as McMichael and organizations such as the World Health Organization did not recognize the risks of climate change and destruction of the planet’s life support systems to human population health until the 1980s. Shorter still in that the specific term was commonly applied to the health of the planet from the 1990s and then to the effects of planetary spoliation on humans only in the second decade of the twenty-first century. But very long in the sense that the environment in various forms and at different scales has figured in the calculus of human health and disease for thousands of years. Long, too, is the history of medical activism and advocacy extending beyond the clinic and into the realms of politics and policymaking. In this chapter we focus on the recent history, since World War II, of what we now call planetary health, the latest instantiation of environmental health, as amalgamated with systems ecology, planetary thinking, and health activism. We argue that these particular origins and influences make planetary health a distinct formation of global health, a divergent configuration in which environmental ethics on a planetary scale productively meets human population health.”
Barbara Holloway: Body and Trunk in Colonial Australia: Henry Kendall, the Trees and the Un/Makings of Lives; in: Tamkang Review50 (1/Special Issue: The Eco-side of Australasian Literature) 2-28.
“A great many eucalyptus trees and their understory of shrubs, grasses, and forbs have been destroyed across central New South Wales during non-Aboriginal occupation. Surviving trees are dotted across paddocks, along roadsides, in clumps on rocky outcrops, in small national parks and at times in generous areas on private land. Arguing for the ongoing power of historical presences, my case study moves between the contemporary presence of ancient trees in a small area of land, and the bodily presence, writings, and activities of Henry Kendall (1840–1882), inaugural State Inspector of Forests and most substantial and renowned of colonial Australian poets. The essay explores Kendall’s lyrical expression as it changed from representing European activities as devastation to and sacrifice of both environment and Australian Aboriginal people—to devising a discourse of Europeanized heroism, agri-pastoral productivity and nation-building vision. It engages with Kendall’s political and aesthetic sensibilities to end with his ambivalent non-literary presences as State official, celebrity and semi-invalid travelling between the trees and communities of south-western NSW.”
Rebecca Jones: Maps of the Australian Inland Mission and Flying Doctor Service 1910s-1960s. online visual essay. http://rebeccacjones.com/maps-of-the-australian-inland-mission-and-flying-doctor-service-1910s-1960s.
“Maps guide us to a world of unknowns. They provide a pointer to the different and exotic, carrying ideas from one place to another. Maps are not only graphic aids to navigation of the physical world but are also creative representations of ideas, beliefs, and ideologies which reflect cultural views of the times and, in turn, help to define and reinforce those perspectives.
Maps were integral to the Australian Inland Mission’s activities during the 1920s to the 1950s.
The Australian Inland Mission (A.I.M), which provided health care as well as spiritual and social guidance to people of remote inland Australia was established by Reverend John Flynn in 1912. […] Flynn’s vision was for an organisation which nurtured the physical, social and spiritual well being of settlers in remote inland and northern Australia.“
Narissa Bax, Camilla Novaglio, Kimberley H. Maxwell, Koen Meyers, Joy McCann, Sarah Jennings, Stewart Frusher, Elizabeth A. Fulton, Melissa Nursey-Bray, Mibu Fischer, Kelli Anderson, Cayne Layton, Gholam Reza Emad, Karen A. Alexander, Yannick Rousseau, Zau Lunn & Chris G. Carter: Ocean resource use: building the coastal blue economy’; in: Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. 9 March 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-021-09636-0.
“Humans have relied on coastal resources for centuries. However, current growth in population and increased accessibility of coastal resources through technology have resulted in overcrowded and often conflicted spaces. The recent global move towards development of national blue economy strategies further highlights the increased focus on coastal resources to address a broad range of blue growth industries. The need to manage sustainable development and future exploitation of both over-utilised and emergent coastal resources is both a political and environmental complexity. To address this complexity, we draw on the perspectives of a multi-disciplinary team, utilising two in depth exemplary case studies in New Zealand and within the Myanmar Delta Landscape, to showcase barriers, pathways and actions that facilitate a move from Business as Usual (BAU) to a future aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021–2030. We provide key recommendations to guide interest groups, and nations globally, towards sustainable utilisation, conservation and preservation of their marine environments in a fair and equitable way, and in collaboration with those who directly rely upon coastal ecosystems.”
Cameron Muir, Jennifer Newell, and Kirsten Wehner (eds.): Living with the Anthropocene: Love, Loss and Hope in the Face of Environmental Crisis. Sydney: New South 2020. https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/living-anthropocene/.
With contributions from Andrea Gaynor, Billy Griffiths, George Main, Gretchen Miller, Ruth A. Morgan, Cameron Muir, Emily O’Gorman, Alison Pouliot, Libby Robin, and others.
“Australia — and the world — is changing. On the Great Barrier Reef corals bleach white, across the inland farmers struggle with declining rainfall, birds and insects disappear from our gardens and plastic waste chokes our shores. The 2019–20 summer saw bushfires ravage the country like never before and young and old alike are rightly anxious. Human activity is transforming the places we live in and love.
In this extraordinarily powerful and moving book, some of Australia’s best-known writers and thinkers — as well as ecologists, walkers, farmers, historians, ornithologists, artists and community activists — come together to reflect on what it is like to be alive during an ecological crisis. They build a picture of a collective endeavour towards a culture of care, respect, and attention as the physical world changes around us. How do we hold onto hope?“
Cameron Muir: Re-Designing Farming; in: Foreground Magazine. Published online 4 February 2021. https://www.foreground.com.au/agriculture-environment/re-designing-farming/.
“The regenerative agriculture revolution promises to dramatically change the way we grow our food. Its success—or failure—could have profound consequences for the future of life on earth. […] Design professionals are among those rising to the challenge of rethinking current agricultural systems and practices. Dramatic renders of vertical farming structures have captured public interest, rooftop horticultural gardens for new buildings have grown in popularity, and landscape architects have incorporated community agriculture into public places. One proposal for the rebuild of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral reimagined the roof as a glasshouse, capturing energy to power the building, and using aquaponics and permaculture to grow up to 21 tons of fruits and vegetables per year. Urban agriculture, if done with the right policies and support, could act as a buffer against disruption, reduce food deserts, develop community skills, and increase understanding about how food is produced. But while this is promising, experts still say urban agriculture can likely only supply food for a small proportion of a city’s population, serving as a supplement to broadscale agriculture. This makes the development of more sustainable and regenerative broadscale agriculture systems crucial in the fight against climate change.“
Emily Potter, Fiona Miller, Eva Lövbrand, Donna Houston, Jessica McLean, Emily O’Gorman, Clifton Evers, and Gina Ziervogel: A manifesto for shadow places: Re-imagining and co-producing connections for justice in an era of climate change; in: Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. Published online 2 December 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2514848620977022.
“In this article, on behalf of The Shadow Places Network, we outline a working manifesto of politics and practice. We mobilise the format of the manifesto to speak to an uncertain and damaged future, to begin to imagine other possible worlds. For feminist philosopher Val Plumwood, whose thinking inspires this network, shadow places are the underside of the capitalist fantasy, ‘the multiple disregarded places of economic and ecological support’. In turning towards shadow places, and the unjust and unsustainable processes that produce them, we call for an environmental humanities that reaches beyond abstraction, fosters new responsibilities, considers the uncomfortable, and generates reparative possibilities and alternative futures. We aim to continue to trace out a world of shadow places. We acknowledge that these shadow places cannot be known in full, but through a willingness to engage in careful conversation with the beings and places harmed by (or strategically shielded from) processes of the Anthropocene, we can learn how to relate to each other and these places in more just ways. Recognising that shadow places are impermanent and contingent, this working manifesto does not look to predetermine or prescribe but rather invites conversation, encounter and exchange. In so doing we choose to contribute to making different worlds possible by pursuing new collaborations, new methods and new politics.“
Eric Pawson: Into the Anthropocene: Environmental History and the Morality of Climate Change; in: International Review of Environmental History 6 (2/2020) 57-73. https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/journals/international-review-environmental-history/ireh-volume-6-issue-2-2020.
“This article argues that the nature of landscape ‘improvement’ as understood in the colonial period reflected a strong sense of common purpose and collective good, and the desire to use this as the basis of modern prosperity and growth. But these are not sentiments that have been uncritically accepted for some decades as the modernist conception of the rural landscape and resource use has come under increasing attack. The central questions posed here are then: what has happened to this moral commonality, and how might we rediscover some workable elements of collective value to guide us in today’s much less certain and restless Anthropocene times? This applies particularly to the issue of climate change, which is often treated as a scientific or technical problem rather than one of moral urgency. The concept of terrestrial dwelling is offered as a means of exploring where we might now find a place to stand, on an Earth that is revealing itself to be both acutely vulnerable and inconveniently active. This article discusses some incipient examples of terrestrial dwelling in Aotearoa New Zealand.“
Tom Brooking and Eric Pawson: Seeds of Empire. The Environmental Transformation of New Zealand. London, et al: Bloomsbury 2020. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/seeds-of-empire-9781350166004/.
“The traditional image of New Zealand is one of verdant landscapes with sheep grazing on lush green pastures. Yet this landscape is almost entirely an artificial creation. As Britain became increasingly reliant on its overseas territories for supplies of food and raw material, so all over the Empire indigenous plants were replaced with English grasses to provide the worked up products of pasture – meat, butter, cheese, wool, and hides. In New Zealand this process was carried to an extreme, with forest cleared and swamps drained. How, why and with what consequences did the transformation of New Zealand into these empires of grass occur? ‘Seeds of Empire’ provides both an exciting appraisal of New Zealand’s environmental history and a long overdue exploration of the significance of grass in the processes of sowing empire.“
Libby Robin: Museums in the Long Now: History in the Geological Age of Humans; in: Journal of the Philosophy of History 14 (3/2020) 359-381. https://doi.org/10.1163/18722636-12341448.
“History in times of crisis is practical: future action depends on historical framing. Moving beyond ‘human scales’ to include the evolutionary and the geological, and beyond humans to include other species, demands different approaches and new ‘archives’ like ice-cores. This paper considers history in the Long Now, and particularly how museums and big public arts institutions develop new sorts of history through practical story-telling, taking seriously the notion that “the central role of museums [is] both an expression of cultural identity and … a powerful force for human development and education.” The museum has a particular value as ‘slow media’, deepening news stories in times of rapid change. The new epoch of Earth, the Anthropocene, where humans have become a geological force, poses challenges for exhibitions, but also reshapes museums themselves. Crucial to managing stories, collections and objects in Anthropocene times is the capacity to change course, to remain open to new developments, using performances, events and ‘pop-up’ exhibitions alongside traditional museum offerings. New Museology regards stories as the fundamental unit of museums. Thus, the curation of stories is central work. No longer are museums defined solely by objects: the artistic and the ephemeral are all part of story-telling.“
Libby Robin: On the Verge of Isolation. Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Environmental History Network. Published online 31 October 2020. https://www.environmentalhistory-au-nz.org/insights/restoring-forests-in-times-of-contagion/on-the-verge-of-isolation/.
“An ecological corridor is inclusive of all life, enabling parallel uses of plantings. It joins up many different destinations in accordance with the needs of the life-forms it shares. As we tend our new little plantings, staking them against the wind, watering them in and mulching around their roots, we are attracting other life forms too. It seems that we ourselves have become part of the passing landscape for exercising fellow Covid-19 dwellers. We exchange brief pleasantries with neighbours we have never met before. We now know their names, and they know ours. The verge of isolation is a new corridor of connection.“
Peter Alagona, Jane Carruthers, Hao Chen, Michèle Dagenais, Sandro Dutra e Silva, Gerard Fitzgerald, Shen Hou, Dolly Jørgensen, Claudia Leal, John McNeill, Gregg Mitman, Gabriella Petrick, Liza Piper, Libby Robin, Edmund Russell, Christopher Sellers, Mart A Stewart, Frank Uekötter, Conevery Bolton Valencius, Marco Armiero: Reflections: Environmental History in the Era of COVID-19; in: Environmental History 25 (4/2020) 595-686. https://doi.org/10.1093/envhis/emaa053.
“In March 2020, as the scope and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic began to come into focus, we reached out to some of the leading lights in the field of environmental history—some senior, some junior, from every continent but Antarctica—and asked if they would be interested in committing to paper their thoughts about the meaning of the virus from their perspectives. Our hope was that the collected essays could provide some useful context for understanding a global historical phenomenon and also serve as a sort of time capsule, capturing what environmental historians thought was noteworthy at a moment when the natural world came crashing into the human world in a dramatic way. We were heartened by the response—despite the disruptions to daily life that most of us have experienced as the virus closed schools and universities, almost every invitee agreed. […] The result of their efforts is the following collection of diverse and thought-provoking essays. Our instructions to each contributor were spare: simply convey to our readers what seems important in understanding the pandemic and keep it short. The contributors have, accordingly, gone in a variety of directions; some have focused on geographical regions, some have focused thematically, and others have considered the epidemiology or microbiology of the COVID-19 virus. Some have drawn upon science, while others have drawn upon personal experience; some are dispassionate, while others excoriate elected leaders for failing to respond to the crisis adequately or society at large for tolerating problems that the pandemic has cast in sharp relief. Taken together, the essays provide a panoramic picture of a world coming to grips with contagion.“
Ben Wilkie: The Deforestation and Reforestation of Australian Volcanoes. Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Environmental History Network. October 2020. https://www.environmentalhistory-au-nz.org/insights/restoring-forests-in-times-of-contagion/the-deforestation-and-reforestation-of-victorian-volcanoes/.
“Western Victoria is dominated by undulating volcanic plains. Its soils are a fertile and rich in nutrients, supporting grassy woodland and wetland ecosystems. The countryside is marked by stony rises, old lava flows, volcanic cones, and old eruption points. […] Many of the volcanoes in this region – there are over 400 volcanoes in the Newer Volcanics Province, which spans over 400 kilometres from Melbourne to Mount Gambier – are bare. (Indeed, there are at least eleven volcanoes that carry the appellation ‘Bald Hill’.) […] These western Victorian volcanoes, whether they were always bare or whether the profound environmental changes wrought by intensive pastoralism caused them to become that way, have more recently been the subject of re-evaluation. The land on which Mount Noorat is located, still in the hands of the Black family, was bequeathed to the Corangamite Shire in 2017, after which a management plan was devised. Included is a plan to protect remnant native vegetation and embark on a revegetation programme.“