AANZEHN Member Publications Round-Up, March – September 2020

By Daniel Rothenburg

October brings a new issue of our regular round-up of publications from our network members which have been published between March and September of this year. From the great number of diverse contributions, some deserve special highlighting.

First of all, congratulations to Scott McKinnon and Margaret Cook for the publication of their edited volume “Disasters in Australia and New Zealand. Historical Approaches to Understanding Catastrophe”, to which other network members also contributed sections.

Our congratulations further go out to Rod Giblett for the publication of his book “Modern Melbourne. City and Site of Nature and Culture”, to Deirdre Slattery and Graeme L. Worboys for their recently released book “Kosciuszko. A Great National Park”, and to Paul Star for his newly published “Thomas Potts of Canterbury: Colonist and Conservationist”, which – along with other titles – adds a strong flavor of New Zealand to the mix of new publications listed here.

Alessandro Antonello and Adrian Howkins: The rise of technocratic environmentalism: the United States, Antarctica, and the globalisation of the environmental impact statement; in Journal of Historical Geography 68 (2020) pp. 55-64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2020.03.004

“Environmental impact statements (EISs), and the related environmental impact assessments (EIAs) which precede them, have become central elements of environmental management, governance, and policy worldwide since their introduction in the United States in 1970. Assessing environmental impact has a particular force and centrality within modern Antarctic environmental management and governance too. This article investigates the ways in which the United States used EISs and EIAs in Antarctica between 1970 and 1982 – during their first decade of existence in US law and during a geopolitically and scientifically vibrant decade in Antarctic affairs – as a way of illuminating the broader conceptual and historical aspects of this central, though understudied, environmental governance tool and framework. We historicise and draw attention to the EIS – individually, as a regulatory genre, and as a genre that articulates regional, global and planetary environments – as highly influential and powerful documents demanding attention from environmental historians and historical geographers. We argue that the prominence of EISs in Antarctica arose because they appealed to top-down, process-oriented approaches favoured in Antarctic governance – a technocratic environmentalism – and because of their spatial elements, particularly their tendency to upscaling.”

Alessandro Antonello: Another Ferocious Summer; in Inside Story, March 2020. https://insidestory.org.au/another-ferocious-summer/

What did the 2019-2020 summer look like in Antarctica? Drawing on his own visit there in January 2020, Antonello reflects on climate change, record high temperatures, geopolitics, tourism science, histories and futures in Antarctica.

Margaret Cook: ‘Shaken but not stirred’: The Aftermath of Disasters; in: Scott McKinnon and Margaret Cook(eds.): Disasters in Australia and New Zealand: Historical Approaches to Understanding Catastrophe. Singapore: Palgrave MacMillan 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-4382-1_5.

“Disasters, as transformative environmental forces, challenge human perceptions of identity, belonging and control. My chapter concentrates on the aftermath of two specific urban disasters — the 1989 Newcastle earthquake and 2011 Brisbane flood. The death and building destruction caused by the earthquake undermined Newcastle’s residents’ sense of identity, the rarity of the event challenged their sense of security. Brisbane’s 2011 flood inundated or destroyed buildings, shattering the myth of flood immunity. In Newcastle intense debate erupted over the preservation of damaged buildings. In Brisbane wrath was directed at presumed dam mismanagement. I argue in both cases that at stake was a desire to reassert a sense of place and human control over nature. But in doing so, both cities failed to adequately address the human-induced dimensions of natural disasters, thereby undermining potential for resilience and adaptation to environmental change.“

Margaret Cook: Perceptions of a ‘Normal’ Climate in Queensland, Australia (1924-34); in: Rural History 31 (2020) pp. 63-77. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0956793319000219.

“The concept of ‘normal’ climatic conditions reflects the complexities of human understandings of the environment. Scholarship on settler societies has explored how culture, science and state imperatives combine to construct a notion of ‘normal’ climate. This study of Callide Valley settlement (1924-1934) in northern Australia, draws on government propaganda, farmers’ submissions to a 1934 government inquiry and meteorological data to reveal the discrepancy between rainfall reality and expectations. Promised fertile soil, plentiful water and an ideal climate by the government, new settlers flocked to the Callide Valley, many without farming experience or knowledge of the region’s subtropical climate. Drought and flood soon challenged the promises of a bountiful climate. These confused understandings of a normal climate continue today to shape agriculture in central Queensland.”

Peter Davies, Susan Lawrence, Jodi Turnbull, Ian Rutherfurd, James Grove, Ewen Silvester and Mark Macklin: Mining Modification of River Systems: A Case Study from the Australian Gold Rush; in: Geoarchaeology 35 (3/2020) pp. 384-399. https://doi.org/10.1002/gea.21775.

“Mobilisation of large volumes of bedrock, regolith and soil has long been a characteristic feature of metal mining. Before the 20th century this was most efficiently achieved through harnessing the motive power of water. Large‐scale water use in mining produced waste sands, gravels and silts that were flushed downstream, triggering changes in stream and floodplain morphology and function. During the 19th century the shift from artisanal to industrialised mining resulted in a rapid increase in the scale and extent of environmental change. This paper presents results from a multidisciplinary research programme investigating the environmental effects of 19th‐century gold mining on waterways in south‐eastern Australia. Archaeological and geospatial landscape survey are combined with historical data modelling and geomorphological analysis to examine the extractive processes that produced sediment in headwater regions and how this influenced fluvial processes operating on downstream waterways and floodplains. Our case study of the Three Mile‐Hodgson Creek system on the Ovens (Beechworth) goldfield in north‐east Victoria indicates that miners mobilised up to 7.3 million m3 of sediment in this small catchment alone. Results of the research suggest that tailings dams and sludge channels in this catchment are important archaeological evidence for early attempts to manage industrial waste.”

Peter Davies, Susan Lawrence, Jodi Turnbull, Ian Rutherfurd, Ewen Silvester, James Grove, and Mark Macklin: Groundwater Extraction on the Goldfields of Victoria, Australia; in: Hydrogeology Journal, published online 24 June 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-020-02196-w.

“Groundwater supply systems constructed by gold miners in Victoria during the 19th century were highly significant in the historical development of water law and water licensing in Australia. Alluvial gold mining required large volumes of water to separate gold from washdirt, but surface flows often failed in seasonally dry conditions. Drought in the mid-1860s prompted miners on the Ovens goldfield in north-east Victoria to exploit groundwater to increase supplies, despite limited scientific understanding of this resource at the time. Analysis of historical plans held by Public Records Office Victoria has revealed numerous ‘source of supply’ tunnels dug by miners to extract groundwater in the area. By the early 1880s miners were using up to 31 ML of groundwater per day, with much of the water transferred between creek and river catchments. These activities represent an early, large-scale and significant intervention in the hydrogeological environment, several decades prior to economic development of the Great Artesian Basin in northern Australia. Understanding the nature and scale of groundwater use in this period provides vital social and historical context for modern debates about groundwater modelling, extraction and management.”

Rod Giblett: Modern Melbourne. City and Site of Nature and Culture. Bristol; Chicago: Intellect 2020. https://www.intellectbooks.com/modern-melbourne.

“Melbourne, founded in 1835 among marshes and beside a sluggish stream, grew from wetlands into a world-class modern city. Drawing on a wide range of historical, literary and artistic sources, this book explores the cultural and environmental history of the city and its site. Tracing the city from its swampy beginnings in a squatter’s settlement nestled in the marshy delta of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers, Rod Giblett illuminates Melbourne through its visible structures and the invisible history of its site.

The book places Melbourne within an international context by comparing and contrasting it to other cities built on or beside wetlands, including London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles and Toronto. Further, it is the first book to apply the work of European thinkers and writers on modernity and the modern city – such as Walter Benjamin and Peter Sloterdijk – to an analysis of Melbourne. Giblett considers the intertwining of nature and culture, people and place, and cities and wetlands in this bioregional and ecocultural analysis.”

Christine Hansen: Flume Country; in: Foreground, published online 31 August 2020. https://www.foreground.com.au/agriculture-environment/flume-country/.

“South-eastern Australia is one of the most fire-prone regions on the planet, but a persistent lack of connection between culture and place has left its settlements dangerously exposed to disaster time and time again.

Architects have long loved the Yarra Valley, with its majestic mountain ash and tree fern forests, the sinuous billabongs of the Yarra and its tributaries, and the lingering vistas from the escarpments of the Great Dividing Range. […] For almost two centuries, art galleries and wineries, boutique hoteliers and gastronomy entrepreneurs have collaborated with the best Australian designers to shape one of the most visited tourist regions in Australia.

It’s easy to forget that on 7 February 2009, the Black Saturday firestorm transformed this bucolic landscape into a theatre of unutterable terror. By the time the last of the flames had been quenched, over a million acres had been blackened, and countless animals, wild and domesticated, had been killed. More than three thousand buildings were destroyed and 7,562 people displaced. In one small village alone, 38 people died, 34 in another, 173 in total. All of them friends, neighbours, family—in some instances, multiple generations of the same family.

Twelve years on, have we really taken the hard-learned lessons to heart?“

Barbara Holloway: Sheep | Voice | Complicity | Precedent; in: Jessica White and Gillian Whitlock (eds.): Life Writing in the Anthropocene. Special Issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 35 (1/2020) pp. 251-259. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989575.2020.1720198.

“[M]y essay is an investigation of literary forms of voice in the compromised relationship between human and flock animal. It investigates the possibility of other-than-human agency in writing. I first revisit and attempt to unpack formative relationships I had with sheep in order to address issues embedded in interdependency and interactivity between human and pastoral animal. Such relationships are hard to articulate, so innate do they seem in my being—intuitive, complex, emotional knowledge beyond thought. Drawing on the lens of critical posthumanism and alert to the (post)-colonial context, I try to engage with inherent and simultaneous companionship and exploitation, ministry, empathy, and ruthlessness, exemplified by both innocence and complicity, as I recall induction into that companionship. I go on to consider a portrayal in earlier literature of such ambiguous relations, revaluing it in the context of separation from animals in contemporary urban society.”

Jarrod Hore: Reckoning with Urgency: Crisis & Radical Environmental History; in: Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Environmental History Network, Insights Series (June 2020). https://www.environmentalhistory-au-nz.org/insights/articles-essays/reckoning-with-urgency-crisis-radical-environmental-history/.

“[O]ur times have a particular feel. In their introduction to the recent ‘Doing History in Urgent Times’ forum in History Australia Yves Rees and Ben Huf identify a climate of ‘seemingly incessant crisis’ that has overwhelmed our entry into the 2020s. In many ways, it’s the motion of changes, the way that events and information wash over and around us, that lends urgency to this moment. And rather than narrowing our consciousness, interconnected crises have demanded a whole range of social and temporal explanations. […] A practice of handling these different kinds of stories is possibly the most important contribution that environmental historians might make to our discipline. Using this skill, we can begin to conceive of the feedback loops that have plunged us into these urgent times and name and describe them for what they are. Then we might start telling their history.“

Susan Lawrence and Peter Davies: Historical Mercury Losses from the Gold Mines of Victoria, Australia; in: Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 8 (1/2020) pp. 35. http://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.432.

“Health and ecological risks associated with the use of mercury in gold mining are well known, with much recent attention focussed on contemporary small-scale artisanal mining. Legacy tailings from historical gold mining may also present ongoing risks, as the industry used large quantities of mercury with minimal environmental regulation to limit its discharge. This occurred in both alluvial (placer) mining and in processing auriferous ores. Analysis of historical data on mercury use in the mining industry in Victoria, Australia, indicates that at least 131 tonnes of elemental mercury were discharged into the environment as mine tailings between 1868–1888, with the total amount lost over the historic mining period likely to be much higher. The processing of pyritic ores also concentrated mercury losses in a small number of mining centres, including Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Clunes, Maldon and Walhalla. This analysis provides a basis for further research needed to support improved management of legacy mine tailings.”

Daniel May: Shallow Fire Literacy Hinders Robust Fire Policy: Black Saturday and Prescribed Burning Debates; in: Scott McKinnon and Margaret Cook(eds.): Disasters in Australia and New Zealand: Historical Approaches to Understanding Catastrophe. Singapore: Palgrave MacMillan 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-4382-1_8.

“The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires were Australia’s worst bushfire disaster and sparked an intense political debate including a lengthy and contested Royal Commission. One policy measure discussed following the disaster was the level of prescribed burning conducted in Victoria, which dominated hyperbolic public discourse and the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. Environmental groups and some ecologists cautioned against proposals for a hectare-based target, while many foresters and lobby groups advocated for it and pointed to the success of targets in the jarrah forests of South-Western Australia. Understandings of Indigenous burning practices were drawn upon or dismissed during the debate over the need for more burning, though only as rhetorical flourishes rather than detailed considerations. Following the Royal Commission, Victoria adopted a state-wide target for 5 per cent of public land to be annually burned from 2010 to 2014, though this was recently abandoned in favour of a ‘risk-based’ strategy.

In this chapter I argue the post-Black Saturday discussion of prescribed burning largely failed to consider the nuances of this land management technique; it was interpreted largely as a front for culture wars rather than on its own terms. This stemmed from a lack of fire literacy. The term ‘fuel’ flattened diversity of fire ecology; different techniques and philosophies of prescribed burning were generally left unrecognised in the debate. Shallow fire literacy thus hindered an effective response to this disaster.”

Scott McKinnon and Margaret Cook (eds): Disasters in Australia and New Zealand. Historical Approaches to Understanding Catastrophe. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-4382-1.

“Disasters in Australia and New Zealand brings together a collection of essays on the history of disasters in both countries. Leading experts provide a timely interrogation of long-held assumptions about the impacts of bushfires, floods, cyclones and earthquakes, exploring the blurred line between nature and culture, asking what are the anthropogenic causes of ‘natural’ disasters? How have disasters been remembered or forgotten? And how have societies over generations responded to or understood disaster? As climate change escalates disaster risk in Australia, New Zealand and around the world, these questions have assumed greater urgency. This collection poses a challenge to learn from past experiences and to implement behavioural and policy change.”

Scott McKinnon and Margaret Cook: Five Days of Swirling Fury: Emotion and Memory in Newspaper Anniversary Reports of the 1974 Queensland Floods; in: Emotion, Space and Society 35 (2020) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2020.100685.

“The news media plays a pivotal role in constructing memories of disasters. This paper examines newspaper reporting on the anniversaries of significant disaster events, revealing how news media commemoration maintains and re-constructs collective memory of disasters over time. In particular, the article focusses on the role of emotions in reporting of a devastating flood in the Queensland cities of Brisbane and Ipswich in 1974. The paper traces anniversary reporting in local newspapers from 1975 until 2010, the year before a substantial flood hit both cities. We argue that, by ascribing particular emotions to various actors within the floods, the media set boundaries around possible responses to future disasters. The floods were commemorated as an attack by nature on a vulnerable but brave population deserving of greater protection from the state.”

Russell McGregor: Disputing the Territory: The Payne-Fletcher Report of 1937; in: Australian Historical Studies, published online 17 March 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1031461X.2019.1709516.

“The Payne-Fletcher Report of 1937 offers an intriguing array of commentary on the environmental attributes of the Northern Territory. It also makes some comments – though far fewer – on the role of Aboriginal people in Territorian life and on the admission of indentured Asian labour. This article sets the report’s commentary on both environmental and racial issues in the context of contemporary anxieties over Australia’s tropical north. It argues that Payne and Fletcher’s most innovative recommendation was for Australians to cease worrying about the Territory’s sparse population and focus instead on wringing profit from the land.”

Russell McGregor: What “The Birdman of Wahroonga” and other Historic Birdwatchers can Teach Us About Cherishing Wildlife; in: The Conversation, published online 6 August 2020. https://theconversation.com/what-the-birdman-of-wahroonga-and-other-historic-birdwatchers-can-teach-us-about-cherishing-wildlife-143189.

“Since the turn of the 20th century, when birdwatching as a hobby began in Australia, birders have cherished the birds in their backyards as much as those in outback wilds. Birdwatchers admired wild birds anywhere, for one of their big motivations was — and is — to experience and conserve the wild near home. This wasn’t an abstract ambition, but a heartfelt commitment. Birdwatchers have long known that if we are to conserve nature, we need not only the intellectual expertise of science but also an emotional affinity with the living things around us.”

Timothy Neale and Daniel May:Fuzzy Boundaries: Simulation and Expertise in Bushfire Prediction; in: Social Studies of Science, February 13, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312720906869.

“It is becoming apparent that changes in climatic and demographic distributions are increasing the frequency and social impact of many ‘natural hazards’, including wildfires (or ‘bushfires’ in Australia). Across many national contexts, the governmental agencies legally responsible for ‘managing’ such hazards been called upon to provide greater foresight into the potential consequences, occurrence and behaviour of these dynamic phenomena. These conditions, of growing occurrence and expectation, have given rise to new anticipatory regimes, tools, practitioners and expertise tasked with revealing near and distant fiery futures. Drawing on interviews with Fire Behaviour Analysts from across the fire-prone continent of Australia, this article examines how their expertise has emerged and become institutionalized, exploring how its embedding in bushfire management agencies reveals cultural boundaries and tensions. This article provides important insight into the human and nonhuman infrastructures enrolled in predicting and managing landscape fires, foregrounding the wider social and political implications of these infrastructures and how their ‘fuzzy boundaries’ are negotiated by practitioners. Such empirical studies of expertise in practice are also, we suggest, necessary to the continued refinement of existing critiques of expertise as an individual capacity, derived from science and serving established social orders.”

Justine Philip: Air-Dropping Poisoned Meat to Kill Bush Predators Hasn’t Worked in the Past, and it’s Unlikely to Help Now; in: The Conversation, March 13, 2020. https://theconversation.com/air-dropping-poisoned-meat-to-kill-bush-predators-hasnt-worked-in-the-past-and-its-unlikely-to-help-now-132195.

“After the summer’s devastating bushfires, the New South Wales government announced a plan to airdrop one million poisoned baits in the state’s most vulnerable regions over the next year. The plan is aimed at protecting surviving native animals from foxes, feral cats and wild dogs.

This isn’t the first time aerial baiting has been used in NSW recently. As the fire season got underway in September last year, the government’s biannual aerial baiting program scattered baits over nearly 8 million hectares in the Western Division alone – dispensing 43,442 aerial baits and 115,162 ground-laid baits over the drought-stricken region.

In a study published this week, I explore Australia’s history as pioneers of this technology. The review raises serious concerns about the ethics and poor results of baiting programs, and the high uptake of baits by non-target species such as marsupials.”

Michael Roche: An Environmental History; in: Margaret Tennant, Geoffrey Watson,and Kerry Taylor (eds.): City at the Centre. Auckland: Massey University Press 2020, pp. 61-93.

“In this sketch of the environmental history of Palmerston North from the 1840s to the 2010s, attention is paid to the much modified ‘natural,’ rather than the built environment,  concentrating on the rate and scale of transformation. This involves examining critical moments in the vegetative de-cloaking and re-clothing of Palmerston North, the draining and preservation of various lagoons around which the city has expanded, consideration of the many gravel pits that accompanied the early growth of the city, some of which were repurposed, the engineering of the streams across which the city was sited and which later posed a local flood hazard, and the establishment of the Victoria Esplanade. These themes range variably across the city as well as through time.”

Michael Roche, Gui Dib and Geoffrey Watson: Bringing Biodynamic Agriculture to New Zealand in the 1920s and 1930s; in: Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online 2020. https://doi.org/10.1080/1177083X.2020.1764065.

“Biodynamic agriculture as a form of alternative agriculture dates to a series of lectures delivered by philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1924 at Schloss Koberwitz (then in Germany now Kobierzyce in Poland). In 2019 biodynamic agriculture occupies some 190,000 ha in 55 countries, though nearly half remains concentrated in Germany. This paper explores the introduction of biodynamic agriculture principles and practices to New Zealand in the 1920s and 1930s.”

Michael Roche: Owen Jones: An Assistant Conservator of Forests in Ceylon, 1912-1917; in: Australian Forest History Society Newsletter 80 (2020), pp. 17-22. https://www.foresthistory.org.au/newsletter/afhsnewsletter80.pdf.

“Owen Jones BA (Natural Sciences) and Diploma of Forestry (Oxford) was the inaugural chair of the Forests Commission of Victoria (1920-1925) and subsequently Forestry Superintendent for New Zealand Perpetual Forests, the leading afforestation company in that country at the time. He was over many years a strong supporter of the New Zealand Institute of Foresters. Jones’ career began, however, in Ceylon where he was appointed as an Assistant Conservator in 1911. He left to join what became the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and, newly married, never took up the option of continuing in Ceylon but instead sailed for Australia in 1919. Jones left few details about his work in Ceylon yet, arguably, it is useful to try and reimagine the forestry scene that greeted him when he arrived in 1912. This is the place where he first put into play his professional training and this arguably shaped some of the later forestry impasses in which he found himself in both Victoria and New Zealand. In this respect Jones offers a parallel case to that of C.E. Lane Poole who graduated from Nancy and worked as a colonial forester in Sierra Leone before coming to Western Australia (Dargavel, 2008). Some of the difficulties that both Lane Poole and Jones faced might be attributed to their (very different) personalities, but that is only a partial answer for British colonial forestry depending as it did on German and French practices, modified by experiences in India, that were not easily applicable in Australia or New Zealand of the 1920s.“

Michael Roche: Peter Black, City Curator and Father of the Esplanade; in: Manawatū Journal of History 16 (2020), pp. 38-47.

“The Esplanade is a popular feature of Palmerston North for locals and visitors. Many of its essential features were the work of Peter Black, the Curator of Reserves who shaped the Esplanade over nearly four decades.  Lavish praise was heaped on his efforts, the Manawatu Times as early as 1922 declared that the Esplanade has been ‘converted from a wilderness into a veritable Garden of Eden that will be a joy forever.’ Today the Conservatory in the Esplanade bears his name, but the man and his work has faded from sight.“

Ian Rutherfurd, Christine Kenyon, Martin Thoms, James Grove, Jodie Turnbull, Peter Davies and Susan Lawrence: Human Impacts on Suspended Sediment and Turbidity in the River Murray, South Eastern Australia: Multiple Lines of Evidence; in: River Research and Applications 36 (4/2020) pp. 522-541. https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.3566.

“European settlement has led to increased loads of fine suspended sediment (SS) entering the River Murray, Australia’s largest, and arguably, most important river. The River Murray’s anthropogenic sediment history can be divided into four periods with varying source areas, sediment loads, and seasonal patterns. The Aboriginal period (before 1840) was characterized by clear water at summer low-flows in the River Murray and its southern tributaries, with more sediment coming from the northern catchment than the southern, and the Darling River being turbid at all flows. There is little evidence that Aboriginal burning resulted in any measurable increase in SS. SS loads peaked in the 1870s and 1880s (the gold and gully period, 1850–1930) as valley floors were incised by gullies (mostly in northern tributaries), and gold sluicing flushed huge amounts of sludge into southern tributaries. Sedimentation in wetlands and on floodplains increased by 2–10 times in this period, and the biota in wetlands switched from clear water to turbid water communities. In the hiatus period (1930–1960) sediment supply from gullies and gold mining waned and low flow SS concentrations returned to low levels. Dam construction through the 1960s and 1970s (the regulation period, 1960 on) disconnected the River Murray from catchment derived sediment. Despite this, SS levels increased again: now largely derived from instream sources including bank erosion from long duration summer irrigation flows, the spread of bottom-feeding carp (Cyprinus carpio), and wave erosion from boats. Erosion switched from winter to summer dominated. Significant investment in securing water for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin could be complemented by addressing in-channel sediment sources in the River Murray itself to reduce turbidity. Overall, European era SS concentrations remain relatively low with small sediment delivery to the ocean (0.1 Mt per annum), despite high catchment erosion rates. This is due to poor sediment delivery efficiency through the low-gradient landscape.”

Deirdre Slattery and Graeme L. Worboys: Kosciuszko. A Great National Park. Sussex Inlet: Envirobook 2020. http://envirobook.com.au/Publishing/publishing.htm.

“This book tells the story of one of Australia’s natural wonders, Kosciuszko National Park. A National Heritage-listed treasure, the park is the home of the mainland’s highest mountains, past glaciation sites, limestone caves, fields of summer wildflowers and alpine animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth. It is the headwater catchments of the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Snowy Rivers. It is much loved by more than 2 million visitors annually who enjoy its natural and cultural history, its snowfields, walking, riding and sightseeing.

Kosciuszko: A Great National Park traces the aspirations of adventurers, settlers, scientists, graziers, miners, timber cutters, dam constructors, conservation groups, recreationists and tourism operators. While some visions were utilitarian and exploitative, others recognised the mountains’ exceptional aesthetic, natural and cultural values. Although the mountains’ value for resource extraction became entrenched, concern over accelerating ecological decline and desire for protection as a land use also increased. Grazing overuse in drought and the severe erosion of the high mountain catchments triggered a disaster and a turning point: political intervention and land use change. Kosciusko State Park was established in 1944.

The struggle to manage these outstanding lands and their precious water catchments, to promote their natural value and to protect the park from hungry eyes is a grand story. It is a story of how our society transformed its view of its most important water catchment from use for wealth creation to conservation. This change has been hard won and owes its success to scientists and those who listened to them. Their work to establish better understanding of unique Australian mountain soils, vegetation and catchments is little known or understood. The evolution of a professional park service helped shape protected area land use in Australia.”

Paul Star: Thomas Potts of Canterbury: Colonist and Conservationist. Dunedin: Otago University Press 2020. https://www.nationwidebooks.co.nz/product/thomas-potts-of-canterbury-colonist-and-conservationist-9781988592428.

“In 1858 Canterbury settler Thomas Potts protested against the destruction of tōtara on the Port Hills near Christchurch. A decade later, as a member of Parliament, he made forest conservation a national issue. Through his writing he raised the then novel idea of protecting native birds on island reserves, and proposed the creation of national ‘domains’ or parks. As a pioneering colonist, acclimatist and runholder, however, Potts’ own actions threatened the very environments he sought to maintain. This makes him a fascinating subject as we confront present-day problems in balancing development and conservation. This book is about, and partly by, Potts, and through him about New Zealand and the course and consequences of colonisation. It describes and interprets his life, from his early years in England through to his 34 years in New Zealand. Excerpts from Potts’ vivid 1850s diary, written from close to the edge of European settlement, are published here for the first time. Thomas Potts of Canterbury also reproduces 11 long-forgotten essays by him from the 1880s, in which he reflected on the 1850s and what had happened since – both to New Zealand’s natural environment and to Māori and Pākehā. It is a story of conflicting goals, magnificently exemplified in the life and writings of a man who strove, 150 years ago, to be both colonist and conservationist.”

Elizabeth Summerfield and Yumin Dai: Finding Commonality: The First Principles of the Leadership Thought of Theodore Roosevelt and Traditional Chinese Culture; in: The Journal of Values-Based Leadership 13 (2/2020) Article 11. http://dx.doi.org/10.22543/0733.132.1314.

“This paper argues that, while the imperative to find global solutions to complex problems like climate change and resource management is agreed, dominant ethical and intellectual thought leadership in many western nations impedes progress. The Cartesian binaries of western post-Enlightenment culture tend instead toward oppositional binary divides where each ‘side’ assumes to be the whole and not a part. And the present and future similarly assume precedence over the past. The paper points to systems thinking as both a method and a practice of wise leadership of past western and eastern societies, including their conservation of natural resources. Two historical case studies, one of President Theodore Roosevelt, the other of ancient Chinese sages, explore common features of a social vision and the thought processes that created these.”

Jonathan West: Mirrors on the Land: Histories of New Zealand’s Lakes. Journal of New Zealand Studies NS30 (June 2020) https://doi.org/10.26686/jnzs.v0iNS30.6496.

“Freshwater quality is New Zealanders’ number one environmental concern, even in the face of mass species extinction and of climate change. The politics of freshwater quality here are fraught, subject to claim and counterclaim, division and controversy over who is to blame. City is pitted against country, conservation flails against development, individual property rights are asserted against the common wealth in our waters. Inflamed debates raise questions that cut to our core, and set our sense of the past against our vision of the future: Who are we, if not a nation of farmers? Who will we become, if we cannot again live in a land of clean waters? The pitch of public rhetoric is such that it is hard to judge: just how bad are our freshwater quality problems? How have we reached this point? And what does this mean for what can be done?”