By Daniel Rothenburg
Peter J. Ardill and Louise Brodie (eds.): Albert Morris and the Broken Hill regeneration area. Essays and supplementary materials commemorating and celebrating the history and eightieth anniversary of this project. Sydney: Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR) 2018.
“In 2017 the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators, Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Greening Australia and Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia collaborated to present, with local botanists, landcarers, conservationists and community, an eighty years anniversary celebration of the Broken Hill regeneration area (1936-1958), and to inaugurate the Albert Morris Award for an Outstanding Ecological Restoration Project. This anthology consists of articles, historic print media and historic and contemporary illustrations. It explores the natural, political, industrial and social history of the heritage listed regeneration area, its significance as an early example of ecological restoration, its contemporary relevance for environmental repair and the events of the week-long 2017 celebration held in Broken Hill.”
Peter J. Ardill: The South Australian arid zone plantation and natural regeneration work of Albert Morris. Sydney: Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR) 2018.
“Albert Morris (1886-1939) was a prominent Australian arid-zone botanist and proponent of the re-vegetation technique known as natural regeneration. Morris’s extensive herbarium of approximately 7000 specimens is now predominantly housed in the State Herbarium of South Australia. Morris commenced his botanical and natural regeneration research c1920, and played a dominant role in the initiation and development of the landmark Broken Hill regeneration area (1936 -1958), a project which demonstrated to politicians, administrators and academics of the time that the devastating ecological and social consequences of industrially and agriculturally induced desertification could be reversed. At the invitation of Essington Lewis (BHP), Morris also developed indigenous tree plantations and two natural regeneration projects in South Australia in the 1930s, and until now these projects have not been formally documented. This article outlines the history of the South Australian projects and their significance to an understanding of the development of Morris’s restoration skills.”
Margaret Cook: ‘It will never happen again’: The Myth of Flood Immunity in Brisbane; in: Journal of Australian Studies 42 (3/2018) 328-342.
“Although scholarship shows how collective memory aids community resilience to hazards, socio-political forces erode this transformative potential. A study of Brisbane River floods highlights the entanglement of memory with a myth of flood immunity, created by community faith in dams to prevent flooding, infrequent floods, drought and hydrological misunderstandings, and upheld by floodplain development perceived as an economic booster. When flooding threatened the myth of immunity in 2011, the event was framed as dam mismanagement to deflect attention from poor land use practices and government culpability. This myth endures, leaving Southeast Queensland no more resilient for unpredictable, but certain future flooding.”
Vanessa Finney: Capturing Nature. Exhibition “Early Photography at the Australian Museum 1857-1893”.
“In Capturing Nature, we travel back to a time when photography was revolutionising science, art and society. These never-before-seen images dating from 1857 to 1893 have been printed from the Australian Museum’s collection of glass plate negatives and are some of Australia’s earliest natural history photographs. Sitting at the nexus of science and art, they tell both the story of pioneering research as well as the advent of photography in the young colony less than 20 years after the birth of photography in Europe. Exhibition open until 21 July 2019.”
Vanessa Finney: Capturing Nature: Early Scientific Photography at the Australian Museum 1857–1893. Sydney: NewSouth 2019.
“The groundbreaking scientific photographs of Australian Museum curator Gerard Krefft and taxidermist Henry Barnes are revealed for the first time. In the mid-nineteenth century, scientists around the world were quick to see photography’s huge potential for capturing fleeting moments of life, death and discovery. At the Australian Museum, curator Gerard Krefft and taxidermist Henry Barnes began to experiment with the revolutionary new art form, preparing and staging their specimens — from whales and giant sunfish to lifelike lyre bird scenes and fossils — and documenting them in thousands of arresting images.”
T. L. Kreplins, Andrea Gaynor, M. S. Kennedy, C. M. Baudains, P. Adams, P. W. Bateman and P. A. Fleming: What to Call a Dog? A Review of Common Names for Australian free-ranging Dogs; in: Pacific Conservation Biology.
“Wildlife research is informed by human values and interests, and these are reflected in, and reinforced by, the language used to describe particular species and animals. Examining factors that influence the use of common names of contentious taxa such free-ranging dogs is important, as naming can influence the design and reception of scientific studies. There are a range of common names for free-ranging dogs in Australian scientific literature but the most common names are ‘dingoes’ and ‘wild dogs’. This review investigated influences on the terminology used to describe Australian free-ranging dogs in scientific studies from October 1952 to January 2018. Our study explores the contextual factors that influence the choice of common names in scientific papers. Although referring to the same species, this review highlights that common terminology within scientific papers is reliant on the discussion of mesopredators release, control programs and the paper’s context.”
Nick Rose and Andrea Gaynor (eds.): Reclaiming the Urban Commons: The past, present and future of food growing in Australian towns and cities. Crawley: UWAP 2018.
“We are in the midst of a great shift, a fundamental transformation in our relations with the earth and with each other. This shift poses humanity with a challenge: how to transition from a period of environmental devastation of the planet by humans to one of mutual benefit? How do we transform our relationship to the land, nonhuman lifeforms, and each other? Reclaiming the Urban Commons argues this change begins with a deeper understanding of and connection with the food we produce and consume. This book is a critical reflection on the past and the present of urban food growing in Australia, as well as a map and a passionate rallying call to a better future as an urbanised species. It addresses the critical question of how to design, share, and live well in our cities and towns. It describes how to translate concepts of sustainable production into daily practices and ways of sharing spaces and working together for mutual benefit, and also reflects on how we can learn from our productive urban past.”
Andrea Gaynor: Leaning from our Productive Past; in: Nick Rose and Andrea Gaynor (eds.) Reclaiming the Urban Commons: The past, present and future of food growing in Australian towns and cities. Crawley: UWAP 2018. 167-174.
“Australian cities have long traditions of local food production. As such, they are a rich source of historical stories that can help us work toward more sustainable, resilient and fair food systems today. These stories point to the lost potential for local food production, as well as some of the risks and opportunities of regaining it. In tracing continuity and change over time, they also illuminate what is enduring and what is unique in our times. Without such guides, we are stuck with the narrow horizons and inexplicable profusion of the present.”
Tanya Howard, T. Alter, P. Frumento and L.J. Thompson: Community Pest Management in Practice: A Narrative Approach. Melbourne: Springer 2018.
“This book presents a collection of practitioner and community stories that reveal how invasive species management is a community issue that can spark community formation and collective action. It combines the unique first-person narratives of practitioners on the frontline of invasive species management in Australia with three case studies of community action for wild dog management across a range of geographical landscapes. The book offers readers a new understanding of how communities are formed in the context of managing different species, and how fundamental social and political processes can make or break landholders’ ability to manage invasive species. Using narrative analysis of practitioner profiles and community groups, drawing lessons from real-world practices, and employing theories from community development, rural sociology and collective action, this book serves multiple functions: it offers a teaching tool, a valuable research contribution, and a practitioner’s field guide to pursuing effective community development work in connection with natural resource management, wildlife management and environmental governance.”
Rebecca Jones: Understanding the Conundrum of Drought in Australia; in: Ewald Frie, Mischa Meier and Thomas Kohl (eds.) Dynamics of Social Change and Perceptions of Threat. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2019. 183-199.
“Droughts are a distinct form of slow disaster which meanders for months and years rather than just days and weeks. Droughts are defined by an absence. While tangible events such as dust storms, fires and heatwaves may be contained within them, the drought itself – the absence of rain – is intangible, neither a presence nor an event. Droughts cast a long shadow, their effects often felt many months after the commence and continue long after the drought itself has ended. […] The impact of drought can be profound, and yet people have, over time, found ways to respond, adapt and survive. […] The way people have responded to drought reflects the conundrum of drought – slow, uncertain and variable, like the droughts themselves.”
Astrid Mignon Kirchhof: East-West German Transborder Entanglements through the Nuclear Waste Sites in Gorleben and Morsleben; in: Journal for the History of Environment and Society 3 (2018) 145-173.
“This article examines the porosity of national borders using the examples of two nuclear facilities at Gorleben and Morsleben located at the West German municipality in the state of Lower Saxony as well as the former Börde district of Saxony-Anhalt (former East Germany). Gorleben and Morsleben became known for their final nuclear waste repositories located directly at the German-German border. Debates and protests surrounding the facilities began in the 1970s and continued after the wall came down. Since opponents had to deal with two different political systems, protests differed in their duration, effect, and methods, even though the border as such was not the problem since West Germans were allowed into the GDR. Transboundary relations were much rather limited by the dictatorial regime on the one side, by the absence of anti-nuclear groups in the GDR until the mid-1980s, and by sufficient coalition partners for West German activists in their own country. Since the disclosure of environmental data by the East German government and the Chernobyl accident a few years later, transboundary relations increased and activists interconnected in many ways. With their protest they indicated that even if the border was a fact, concerns of people in both states transcended it and that borderlands are often characterized by relationality and entanglement.”
Rebecca Le Get: Tuberculosis in Echuca and the Therapeutic Migration to Southeastern Australia (1889–1908); in: Arcadia 29 (Autumn 2018).
“Tuberculosis, formerly known as consumption, is a disease that primarily attacks the lungs and which has long plagued humankind. The British Empire of the late nineteenth century was no exception. […] The territories of the Empire offered various locations for emigration that desperate tuberculous Britons, with the requisite financial means, hoped would offer a permanent cure. The long sea voyages to reach Britain’s overseas dominions were considered therapeutic in and of themselves: passengers could inhale the ocean air during the weeks of sailing. But these ships were also taking their passengers to colonies that were believed to have therapeutically suitable landscapes and climates, including Australia. […] The climate of Echuca explains the town’s popularity for health seekers. Not only does it have a higher average number of bright sunlight hours per year than most of the United Kingdom, but Echuca is also near the largest river red gum forest on the continent. The river red gum, along with other eucalypt species, was believed to have health benefits for sufferers of tuberculosis.”
Rebecca Le Get: Aerial Photography of Melbourne from 1945: A Peephole into Past Technology and Landscapes. Environmental History Now.
“In Australia, aerial photography was primarily utilised by the military for topographical mapping in the 1920s and 1930s. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Royal Australian Air Force continued to photograph population centres, such as Sydney in 1943. […] In Victoria, much of the aerial photography was created by a company called Adastra Aerial Surveys, including composite photographic mosaics of the state’s capital, Melbourne. […] As someone who is interested in how particular areas around Australian cities have been modified over the decades, particularly due to the conversion of agriculturally productive land to suburban housing, these maps are a wonderful resource as a snapshot of how things appeared in 1945. But they are also interesting as a product of their time, and how much the process of creating these aerial survey maps differs from digital aerial photography in the present.“
Daniel May: Why Australian Retailers Should Respect the Past and Rename Their ‘Black Friday’ Sales. The Conversation, November 22, 2018.
“Australians familiar with ‘Black Friday’ sales might associate them with images of Americans clambering over each other to battle for iPhones and TVs. Yet this term – used here by companies such as Amazon, Kogan, Bonds, and The Good Guys to promote their sales – is inappropriate for Australia given its association with devastating bushfires. […] [I]n Australia, the term Black Friday has a very different history. The 1939 Black Friday bushfires in Victoria were Australia’s worst environmental disaster at the time. Seventy one people were killed and over 1,000 houses were destroyed on January 13, 1939, by fires driven by extreme winds and severe drought. […] I’m not suggesting here that Australian businesses should avoid competing in a global shopping bonanza – but I would like to constructively suggest an alternative name for their sales.”
Geoff Mosley: Rescuing the Wilderness. The History of Wilderness Conservation in Australia. Sydney: Colong Foundation for Wilderness 2018.
“Australia has played a seminal role in developing the concept of wilderness as a distinct protected area, worthy of special recognition, designation, and management. […] Although the modern concept of wilderness as a distinct protected area started in the United States with John Muir, followed by Aldo Leopold and others as the 20th century rolled out, the movement began in Australia just a few years later, around 1920. This makes Australia’s wilderness story valuable for both global and national reasons […] It is important for us to know this history, and to become acquainted with the pioneers who drove this issue – their personalities and strategies, the lessons they learned, the many challenges they faced, and how they adapted the modern wilderness concept to an ancient and diverse continent that had been thoroughly inhabited for some 70,000 years before the white settlers arrived. Rescuing The Wilderness is a highly detailed account of the wilderness concept in Australia from 1946 to present.”
Justine Philip: How Australia made Poisoning Animals Normal. The Conversation, February 18, 2019.
“In 1818 French scientist Pierre Joseph Pelletier successfully extracted beautiful but sinister crystals from the plant nux vomica. This discovery revolutionised toxicology: it enabled mass production of a highly toxic, stable and cheap poison known as strychnine. The crystals were soon to be exported en masse around the world. Strychinine became an essential item in the Australian farmer’s toolkit, and by 1852 its use on landholdings was mandatory to control unwanted wildlife. […] In the history of agricultural expansion, it was the dingo that was the initial target of eradication campaigns. Land clearing worked in concert with the broad scale application of vertebrate pesticides. The expansion in the application, range, methods of delivery and quantity of poison and poisoned baits applied was rapid, using increasingly sophisticated machinery. […] The legacy of Australia’s chemical-dependent farming over the past 200 years remains largely unacknowledged in conversations about the current biodiversity crisis.”
Justine Philip: The Institutionalisation of Poison: A historical review of vertebrate pest control in Australia, 1814 to 2018; in: Australian Zoologist In-Press 2018.
“This paper provides a chronological record of the history of poison in vertebrate species control in south-east Australia, since the first instance was recorded to target dingoes in 1814. Over this time, poison was employed first as a weapon against native wildlife, and then as a curative to address Australia’s increasing biodiversity crisis. The paper examines this paradox, and the legacy of Australia’s long-term pairing of toxicology and environmental management.”
Alison Pouliot: The Allure of Fungi. Clayton South: CSIRO Publishing 2018.
“Although relatively little known, fungi provide the links between the various organisms and ecosystems that underpin our functioning planet. The Allure of Fungi presents fungi through multiple perspectives – those of mycologists and ecologists, foragers and forayers, naturalists and farmers, aesthetes and artists, philosophers and Traditional Owners. It explores how a history of entrenched fears and misconceptions about fungi has led to their near absence in Australian ecological consciousness and biodiversity conservation. Through the combination of engaging text and stunning photography, the author reflects on how aesthetic, sensate experience deepened by scientific knowledge offers the best chance for understanding fungi, the forest and human interactions with them.”
Paul Warde, Libby Robin and Sverker Sörlin: The Environment: A History of The Idea. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 2018.
“In this book, Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin trace the emergence of the concept of the environment following World War II, a period characterized by both hope for a new global order and fear of humans’ capacity for almost limitless destruction. It was at this moment that a new idea and a new narrative about the planet-wide impact of people’s behaviour emerged, closely allied to anxieties for the future. Now we had a vocabulary for talking about how we were changing nature: resource exhaustion and energy, biodiversity, pollution, and—eventually—climate change. With the rise of ‘the environment,’ the authors argue, came new expertise, making certain kinds of knowledge crucial to understanding the future of our planet.”
Libby Robin: From the Environment to the Anthropocene: A History of Changing Expertise 1948-2018; in: Manuel Rivera, Anna Barbara Sum and Frank Trentmann (eds.) Work in Progress. Economy and Environment at the hands of Experts. Potsdam: IASS, 184-203.
“The term ‘environment’ is surprisingly recent. It was created in the late 1940s, when ideas about managing natural resources for all humanity were emerging through new global institutions like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The idea of ‘environmental expertise’ began with sciences like ecology, soil science and concerns about conservation. […] The emergence of digital tools to model the future changed the course of science and redirected what was meant by ‘the environment’. Space programmes, including the race to the moon, supplied a new language of the ‘planetary’, and the imagination and tools to manage data at such scales. Environmental science grew to include much more than the world’s terrestrial biota, which had been the primary concern of the ecologists who had launched the environment concept in the 1940s. By the 1960s, the environment encompassed the global systems of Earth — including the oceans and the atmosphere — and its tools came from biology, geology, chemistry, physics and, above all, the mathematical and statistical tools of modelling. In the 1980s, the environmental focus turned to the greenhouse effect and its unpleasant surprises. New expertise was demanded, something that could plan for sudden shocks, tipping points and unexpected effects, not just document them scientifically after they had occurred; expertise to support the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. […] In 2000, a proposal was put forward that the Earth had left the Holocene and entered a new epoch in which humanity had become a geological force, the Anthropocene. […] In this chapter, I consider how ideas of the environment and global change have shaped concepts of ‘necessary knowledge’ and changed the ‘voice of nature’ from ecology towards earth system science, and how in the twenty-first century, the ‘quest for the unity of knowledge’ continues, invoking widely different experts from within and beyond science.”
Libby Robin: Anthropocene Cabinets of Curiosity: Objects of Strange Change; in: Gregg Mitman Rob Emmett and Marco Armiero (eds.) Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2018. 205-18.
“What is the significance of Cabinets of Curiosities in the Anthropocene moment? Museums and artists of the present are returning to cabinets almost like those of the pre- Enlightenment era, as they seek to make sense of the chaotic changes of our present ‘strange times.’ Wunderkammern juxtapose unlikely things. They stack and array, they align and contrast. Each object is a counterpoint to other objects, in conversation and contradistinction. Objects in museums have always carried stories across generations and places, drawing out memories of other times. In the twenty-first century, artists too have grabbed the cabinet concept and are using it to invoke the curious anew. While the traditional museum seeks out ‘authentic’ objects in its cabinets, and orders them according to rules, the artist creates curious objects and places them on shelves to disrupt order. Playing with the order and disorder of Cabinets of Curiosity, using the juxtaposition of objects, is an art form. It has now also become a tool to explore the Great Acceleration of change at the apocalyptic turn of the millennium. Cabinets are about the relations between objects: they can be intellectual (the classic natural history cabinet of species), but more often the twenty-first-century cabinets are personal and emotional, a throwback to times before the world was ordered in binomials, to a time when mystery and myth also played a major role in understanding nature and the world at large. A Cabinet speaks of collecting, curating, coordinating and classifying. It offers a way to unpack the curious in strange times. At the end of the Holocene epoch, it has become a lens on the world in this rupture of time.”
Jan Zalasiewicz, Sverker Sörlin, Libby Robin and Jacques Grinewald: Introduction: Buffon and the history of the Earth; in: Georges-Louis Le Clerc, le Compte de Buffon (translated Jan Zalasiewicz, Anne-Sophie Milon and Mateusz Zalasiewicz) The Epochs of Nature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2018. xiii-xxxiv.
“Georges-Louis Leclerc, le comte de Buffon’s The Epochs of Nature, originally published as Les Époques de la Nature in 1778, is one of the first great popular science books, a work of style and insight that was devoured by Catherine the Great of Russia and influenced Humboldt, Darwin, Lyell, Vernadsky, and many other renowned scientists. It is the first geological history of the world, stretching from the Earth’s origins to its foreseen end, and though Buffon was limited by the scientific knowledge of his era—the substance of the Earth was not, as he asserts, dragged out of the sun by a giant comet, nor is the sun’s heat generated by tidal forces—many of his deductions appear today as startling insights. And yet, The Epochs of Nature has never before been available in its entirety in English.” With an “enlightening introduction by editor and translator Jan Zalasiewicz and historians of science Sverker Sörlin, Libby Robin, and Jacques Grinevald, this extraordinary new translation revives Buffon’s quite literally groundbreaking work for a new age.“
Libby Robin: Uncertain Seasons in the El Niño Continent: Local and Global Views; in: Anglica: International Journal of English Studies (University of Warsaw, Poland), 28 (3/2019) 7-21.
“As global climate change shifts seasonal patterns, local and uncertain seasons of Australia have global relevance. Australia’s literature tracks extreme local weather events, exploring ‘slow catastrophes’ and ‘endurance.’ Humanists can change public policy in times when stress is a state of life, by reflecting on the psyches of individuals, rather than the patterns of the state. ‘Probable’ futures, generated by mathematical models that predict nature and economics, have little to say about living with extreme weather. Hope is not easily modelled. The frameworks that enable hopeful futures are qualitatively different. They can explore the unimaginable by offering an ‘interior apprehension.’”
Mandy Martin and Libby Robin, with Mike Smith and Guy Fitzhardinge: Sketches in the Sands of Time; in: Alexandra Toland, Jay Stratton Noller, Gerd Wessolek (eds.), Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene. Boca Raton: CRC Press 2019. 491-508.
“Libby Robin, Mandy Martin, Guy Fitzhardinge, and Mike Smith have been working collaboratively for over a decade. This chapter offers a reflection on their collective scholarship, inspired by the initiation to explore partnerships between art and science in a larger interdisciplinary dialogue on soil protection in an age of accelerated environmental change. […] Sketches in the Sands of Time portray landscapes of the north, but use the materiality of deep-time archaeological samples from all over Australia. Together, they celebrate the partnerships between arts and sciences, particularly archaeology and conservation biology. The sketches embrace the long connections between Traditional Owners and their country, and explore the history of relationships between the peoples of the first and the second settlements of the continent.”
Michael Roche: Charles Foweraker: Forestry and Ideas of Sustainability at Canterbury University College (1925-1934); in: ENNZ: Environment and Nature in New Zealand 11 (2018) 6-23.
“This paper considers an earlier set of sustainability principles expounded by the first generation of forestry professionals in New Zealand in the 1920s and 1930s. In this respect they were inheritors of a set of ideas, constituting ‘sustained yield management’ that stretched back to the origins of modern scientific forestry in Germany and France in the 17th century and which were intended to provide a predictable supply of timber in perpetuity. […] This group of foresters, included Mary Sutherland, the first women to graduate in forestry in the British Empire (and the second world wide), was part of a complex Imperial forestry network. […] But there is another contemporary […] who played a different role and merits some attention; this is Charles Ethelbert Foweraker (1886-1964).“