by Ruth Morgan
This month we take stock of our colleagues’ publishing achievements since July. Firstly, a round of applause for Rebecca Jones who has recently celebrated the publication of her second book, Slow Catastrophes: Living with Drought in Australia. If you were unable to attend her book launch, you can read Tom Griffiths’ celebratory speech on the website of Monash University Publishing. Rebecca will further explore some of the themes raised in this project during her upcoming term as a Fellow at the National Library of Australia. The publications below suggest that water – too much or too little – is a concern for many of us in the AANZEHN, along with the cultures, commodities and creatures associated with such hydrologies. From nineteenth-century plant exchange to the refugee crisis of the present, networks of environmental and cultural interaction (“eco-cultural networks”) provide another area of focus, while others explore the accessibility of environmental history beyond the academy. Our colleagues also reflect on the historical significance of Geoff Bolton’s Spoils and Spoilers, and the valuable contribution of AANZEHN member Eric Pawson to the fields of environmental history and historical geography in Australasia. If you have a publication that you would like to feature in our publications round-up, please email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other editions of our publications round-up see the publications archive here.
Beattie, James. “Thomas McDonnell’s Opium: Circulating, Plants, Patronage, and Power in Britain, China and New Zealand, 1830s-1850s.” In The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century, edited by Sarah Burke Cahalan and Yota Basaki, 163-88. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard University Press, 2017.
“James Beattie tracks the career of Thomas McDonnell, whose areas of collecting encompassed India, China, and New Zealand. McDonnell illustrates the ways in which the overlapping economies of eighteenth-century botany continued into the nineteenth century. While making his fortune as an opium trader and honing his local status in New Zealand as a collector of exotic Chinese and Indian flora, he nonetheless sought scientific recognition through his publications, in London, on the unassuming plants that grew outside his garden at Horeke. Beattie concludes by arguing that the cultural practices around ‘science making’ and the associated patronage networks it established conferred differing levels of respectability on McDonnell, dependent on the specific social and political contexts of Britain and Australasia.”
Brooking, Tom. “Eric Pawson: The Ultimate Co-Author.” International Review of Environmental History 3, no. 1 (2017): doi:10.22459/IREH.03.01.2017.04.
“In the process of producing the three volumes together, Eric and I have become good friends. Eric has also become a favourite with three generations of our family because of his penchant for telling stories with wit and wisdom. My mother-in-law relished his visits to Dunedin and hung on his every word. Trish and I wish him well for his retirement which, we suspect, will be productive in all kinds of ways that might help the nation earn its living in ways that are more in sympathy with the well-being of our environment and, at the same time, are more likely to increase our standard of living than the current obsession with simple commodity production. Thanks to his endeavours and clear thinking, environmental history in New Zealand will continue to develop as something much more interesting than ‘history with nature added in’.”
Cook, Margaret. “Vacating the Floodplain: Urban Property, Engineering, and Floods in Brisbane (1974-2011).” Conservation and Society 15 (2017): 344-54.
“This article exposes the dominant socio-economic and political values that shaped flood management between 1974 and 2011 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. By the 1970s, international hazard scholarship advocated regulating land use as an effective flood mitigation tool. In 1974, floods devastated Southeast Queensland and highlighted the hazards of building on floodplains. Drawing on scholarship that frames floods as a cultural, rather than natural event, this paper shows that the state government of Queensland prioritised property development and continued to rely on dam building as a way of controlling floods. Dams were built with the aim of providing immunity from flooding, but tensions between State and local governments allowed both to evade responsibility for the growing hazard arising from continuing development in the floodplain. When legislation and regulations were introduced to control floodplain development, they reflected popular sentiment against land use restrictions and hence were limited in scope, non-mandatory, and riddled with loopholes. The results of these inadequate land use regulations and continued residential development below the 100-year flood level were fully exposed in 2011 when a substantial increase in damages accompanied flooding of the Brisbane River. Despite evidence and predictions of increased risk of more frequent and larger floods from a warming climate, both state and local governments have continued to promote development in the Brisbane River floodplain, and appear willing to subject the city and its residents to increased hazards and vulnerability.”
Cook, Margaret. “A Legacy of Brisbane’s Benchmark Floods of 1893: Creating Dam Dependence.” Arcadia Spring, no. 9 (2017).
“In 1892–93 Queensland experienced one of the hottest summers since British colonization in 1824, resulting in severe drought in the western districts. Relief came with an especially wet season in 1893, caused by what is now understood as a strong La Niña event. Brisbane, the state capital, experienced extreme rainfall with 1,025.9 mm falling at the Brisbane Regional Office in February alone. This caused three floods in the Brisbane River; the first peaking on 5 February, the second on 12 February, and the third on 19 February. The middle flood was comparatively minor, but the first reached 8.35 meters and the third 8.09 meters in the city centre. These floods remain Brisbane’s second- and third-highest recorded floods, surpassed only in 1841 by an 8.43-meter flood. As such, the 1893 floods remain the benchmark that still determines the city’s water supply and flood mitigation strategies.”
Cook, Margaret. “The Australia Day Floods.” Arcadia Summer, no. 15 (2017).
“In the La Niña year of 1974, an estimated 900 billion tons of rain fell throughout the state of Queensland in January alone. As Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city, prepared for its annual Australia Day public holiday on 26 January, a large monsoonal trough, associated with Cyclone Wanda, hovered above the 13,500 km² Brisbane River catchment. A slow-moving depression dumped huge amounts of rain, flooding local creeks and the Bremer River tributary upstream in Ipswich. Brisbane experienced three separate intense rain events, with a record 600 mm of rain falling over three days. On 26 January, Brisbane received 314 mm of rain, which was only the second recorded time that the average monthly rainfall was exceeded in 24 hours and made it the city’s wettest day in 87 years. The capital braced itself for riverine floods. On 29 January, the river peaked at 5.45 meters in Brisbane city, the largest floods since 1893 (8.35 m and 8.09 m). The 1974 flood remains Brisbane’s fifth-highest recorded flood.”
Dargavel, John. “The Fence of Sorrow and Hope.” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“Punched through a patch of scruffy bush outside Canberra, the steel gates and electric wire of the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary look like a prison of sorts, which it is. It jars me to find it in a nature reserve and it tells me of a sad history. But it is also story of recovery. Heroic or forlorn? I don’t know.”
Gaynor, Andrea and Griffiths, Tom. “Tearing Down and Building Up: How Geoffrey Bolton’s Environmental History Made a Difference.” Inside Story July 18, 2017.
“Spoils and Spoilers was upbeat, ecological, literary, federal and urban. Bolton, like Barry Humphries, drew inspiration from Australian suburbia – but for him it was a source not of self-mockery but of a rather surprising radicalism. When the revised edition was published in 1992 – a time Bolton described as replete with gloom – his publishers assured readers that ‘Professor Bolton… reaffirms the message of hope from the first edition, that Australians can influence governments and markets to ensure the quality of urban and rural environments.’ And he wanted his book to make a difference. He advised his publishers: ‘Every member of parliament should have [a copy] – at least those who read’.”
Gaynor, Andrea. “How Can Paper Hearts Save Wetlands?” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“The fences went up even before the court challenge failed. Police stood guard, relaxed but close, as workers laid panels of wire mesh into orange plastic bases. This land in southern Perth was reserved for an extension of the Roe Highway; a long dormant plan which in 2014 had become part of Tony Abbott’s Perth Freight Link to Fremantle. The fence was the first step in making the plan a reality and the bushland into a death row; now only those involved in the execution would have access to the condemned. The fence was despised, but artist Susie Waller dreamed up a project that re-figured it as a canvas on which people could express their frustration, love and hopes for a commutation of the sentence, or at least a stay of execution. Inspired by the Noongar story of the rainbow serpent or Wagyl that created the nearby Beeliar wetlands – through which the highway would also pass – Waller provided colourful cardboard hearts for people to write on and tie to the fence. I wrote my own message on a yellow heart and tearfully fastened it among others declaring love for the wetlands, desire to protect the endangered Carnaby’s cockatoo, or simply No Roe 8.”
Griggs, Peter. “Too Much Water: Drainage Schemes and Landscape Change in the Sugar-Producing Areas of Queensland, 1920-90.” Australian Geographer (2017) doi:10.1080/00049182.2017.1336965.
“Drainage schemes to reclaim land or improve the productivity of waterlogged land in Queensland’s sugar-producing districts occurred overwhelmingly between 1920 and 1990. To understand the motivations for and timings of these schemes the discussion begins by defining drainage, examining its purpose and establishing how drainage in the sugar-producing lands of Queensland occurred at different geographic scales and involved various combinations of structures and co-operative arrangements. Next, consideration is given to why poor drainage retards the growth of sugar cane and how better drainage improves yields and reduces disease outbreaks. The analysis then considers how floodplain topography and the presence of soils with poor internal drainage, combined with high to very high annual rainfall, contributed to drainage problems in the sugar-producing lands of Queensland. The fifth section contains an examination of what drainage activities occurred throughout the sugar-cane-growing lands of Queensland, particularly after 1950. The environmental consequences of these drainage activities such as the loss of freshwater wetlands and the creation of sites where weeds have flourished are considered in the final section. Three important themes in the environmental and agricultural history of Australia will be explored in this article: the role of the State; knowledge and technology transfer; and human mastery over nature and its environmental consequences.”
Holland, Peter. “Eric Pawson: Research Collaborator and Facilitator.” International Review of Environmental History 3, no. 1 (2017): doi:10.22459/IREH.03.01.2017.03.
“All who have had the privilege of collaborating on a research project with Eric Pawson will remember his ability to develop a strong argument with information gleaned from archival searches, his knowledge of the current literature, and his determination to observe the assigned word limit. He understands that research in environmental history and historical geography—the two domains in which his impact has been notable for four decades—demands special skills if the inquirer is to discriminate between interesting and essential information, and assess its importance to the topic under investigation. He is not a field or laboratory worker, and relatively little of the information for his published research comes from interviews or questionnaire surveys, but in his publications—alone or with one or several coauthors—he shows his appreciation of an earlier generation’s contributions to current understanding. He aims to involve previously unpublished diagrams, photographs, tables, and blocks of text, and draws detail from diverse domains and literatures to ensure context. He also writes clearly and avoids repetition, using informative footnotes and relevant citations to support his argument and introduce allied topics, and speaks with authority to experts in ways that individuals with a general interest in the topic will find understandable and interesting. He is investigator, explainer, and communicator rolled into one.”
Jones, Rebecca. Slow Catastrophes: Living with Drought in Australia. Clayton: Monash University Press, 2017.
“Living with drought is one of the biggest issues of our times. Climate change scenarios suggest that in the next fifty years global warming will increase both the frequency and severity of these phenomena. Stories of drought are familiar to us, accompanied by images of dead sheep, dry dams, cracked earth, farmers leaving their lands, and rural economic stagnation. Drought is indeed a catastrophe, played out slowly. But as Rebecca Jones reveals in this sensitive account of families living on the Australian land, the story of drought in this driest continent is as much about resilience, adaptation, strength of community, ingenious planning for, and creative responses to, persistent absences of rainfall. The histories of eight farming families, stretching from the 1870s to the 1950s, are related, with a focus on private lives and inner thoughts, revealed by personal diaries. The story is brought up to the present with the author’s discussions with contemporary farmers and pastoralists. In greatly enriching our understanding of the human dimensions of drought, Slow Catastrophes provides us with vital resources to face our ecological future.”
Kheraj, Sean and Oosthoek, K. Jan. “Online Digital Communication, Networking, and Environmental History.” In Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research, edited by Jocelyn Thorpe, Stephanie Rutherford and L. Anders Sandberg. London: Routledge, 2016.
“Online digital technologies have opened up new avenues for the communication of research findings and the development of research networks among environmental historians. In fact, environmental historians have been leaders in the use of online digital communications technologies in the environmental humanities. As Cheryl Lousley (2015) recently wrote, ‘Among environmental humanities scholars, it is the environmental historians who have been most adept at reconfiguring scholarly research and communication in light of emerging digital possibilities’ (Lousley 2015, p. 3). This chapter examines the changing uses of online digital technologies for communication and networking in the environmental history research community. It offers a survey of the history of online environmental history activities and a snapshot of the contemporary uses of such technologies. These technologies have influenced scholarship in the field of environmental history in a number of important ways. First, they have facilitated the development and growth of regional, national, and international scholarly networks. Second, they have extended the reach of environmental history research findings making this research accessible to communities beyond the academy, including educators, policy makers, journalists, and public history audiences. Finally, environmental historians have begun to make use of online digital technologies for the development of new forms of scholarly publication.”
Kitsen, Janine. “Why Environmental History Matters.” National Parks Association of New South Wales. September 1, 2017.
“Since 2014 fourteen two-hour environmental history courses have been run at the Workers Educational Association, Sydney (WEA), under the banner of the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA). The NPA’s connections with the WEA date back to the 1970s when courses on natural history were run there. So too are there connections with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW who had their first meeting at the WEA when Allen Strom used the powers of the Fauna Protection Panel Act to gather NSW’s flora and fauna societies to meet in 1955. Environmental History matters – particularly when there is so much history that the NPA can celebrate!”
McCalman, Iain. “A Tool for Creation or Destruction?” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“Today the chain-saw is a ubiquitous tool, but an ambiguous symbol. On the one hand it has greatly enlarged the food-growing capacities of small farmers in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, North America and Australia. Yet here and elsewhere it has also facilitated the corporate-driven global destruction of forest lands for cash crops, furniture or fossil fuel mining on a scale that threatens the survival of peoples, animals and eco-systems all over our planet.”
Morgan, Ruth. “On the Home Front: Australians and the 1914 Drought.” In Cultural Histories, Memories and Extreme Weather: A Historical Geography Perspective, edited by Georgina Endfield and Lucy Veale, 34-54. New York: Routledge, 2018.
“Recent historical research into Australian climate histories encourages a closer examination of the effects of, and responses to, the 1914 drought in the young nation’s wheat regions. This chapter focuses on Western Australia, where the 1914 drought contributed to one of the driest years on the state’s record, and lingers as a meteorological and cultural marker of the severely dry conditions faced in the state’s agricultural areas. From as early as 1915, the drought was framed as both an aberration and opportunity, as a defining experience of character and belonging, and as a proxy for predicting the weather. Important to this framing process was the contemporary reportage of local newspapers, which provide insight into how the 1914 drought was perceived and subsequently portrayed. To bolster their assessments, these reports frequently deployed the meteorological records kept by individuals and the state. Close listening to oral history interviews with wheatbelt farmers and their families reveals the extent to which these reports aligned with personal experiences of drought and climate variability in the region. Drawing on these oral histories, meteorological records, and newspaper accounts, this chapter examines the ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous Western Australians experienced and have remembered this drought, and how these memories shaped personal and state responses to subsequent periods of water scarcity.”
Muir, Cameron. “The Remixing of Peoples: Migration as Adaptation,” Griffith Review Edition 57: Perils of Populism August (2017): 93-115.
“In the summer of 2015, Greek photojournalist Tasos Markou journeyed to Lesvos to cover the story of the ‘great exodus’. What he saw there changed him. He became a volunteer, and then ran a three-month photography workshop for refugees stuck in Greece after the European borders closed. This piece of reporting explores the experiences of Tasos and the refugees and migrants who crossed the Mediterranean, framing the crisis as an Anthropocene story: 19th century nationalism, the French occupation of Damascus, the undue influence of oil money, ill-fated irrigation schemes, the rise of ISIS, and the pressures of climate change.”
Muir, Cameron. “What do Shortbread Biscuits Have to do with Coal Seam Gas?” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“For the past thirty years, Kim and her husband worked to build their cotton farm in the northwest of New South Wales. When coal seam gas mining first arrived, Kim and other farmers feared what it might mean for their water supply. Concerns have grown beyond the personal to include questions about what kind of future the people rural Australia want, the need to protect local ecosystems such as the Pilliga Forest, and the urgency of mitigating climate change. ‘Living out here you can’t ignore it,’ says Kim. Locals are beginning to see their circumstances as part of something bigger: ‘Everyone’s just horrified what’s happening to the Great Barrier Reef.’ Baking the biscuits for stalls is just one way Kim contributes to the community movement.”
O’Gorman, Emily. “Imagined Ecologies: A More-than-Human History of Malaria in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, Australia, 1919-1945.” Environmental History 22, no. 3 (2017): 486-514.
“In eastern inland Australia, the significant redistribution of water in the Murray River system for irrigated agriculture from the late nineteenth century created new ecological dynamics. At the same time, scientific research into mosquito-borne diseases also increased. Scientific proof of the life cycle of malaria in the late nineteenth century, and subsequent research into this and other mosquito-borne diseases, changed people’s relationships with watery landscapes, including irrigation areas, as well as with mosquitoes. Wetlands were no longer just dangerous to visit but could come out into the world, onto farms, and into homes via these insects. Within these contexts, this article examines changing understandings of mosquitoes and irrigation systems in light of a series of investigations into the possibility of an outbreak of malaria in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area between 1919 and 1945. Using the concept of imagined ecologies, it examines the way that particular understandings of nonhumans were and are world-making. It particularly analyses the shifting biocultural terrains of the borders between agriculture and “nature,” and the home and nonhumans, as well as approaches to race and health, as mosquitoes were now seen to bring tropical diseases to the climatically and socially idealized temperate inland. Underpinned by powerful political and social goals, these watery farming areas could not be drained like other wetlands, presenting possible new medical, ecological, and ideological challenges.”
O’Gorman, Emily. “An Encounter with Brine Shrimp and Deep Time.” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“While Australia is, in the words of Dorothea Mackellar, a ‘land of drought and flooding rains,’ the Bureau of Meteorology declared the Millennium Drought to have been linked to climate change. This, together with significant changes to the Murray River system from large dams and more intensive agriculture in the twentieth century, along with the diversion of local inflows into the southern lagoon, had opened up an uncertain future for many in the area. In light of expected permanent changes, how could these sorts of these events now be interpreted? Droughts and shrimp hatchings resonated with the deep rhythms of this continent, only relatively recently recognised in Western science. In the Anthropocene they take on a new significance, rendered both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The decomposed bodies of the shrimp that formed such a distinct black layer brought us into the multiple temporalities and scales of this continent’s history and of the Anthropocene, of deep time and upstream–downstream Murray River politics, of international environmental conventions and local industry, of unexpected and expected consequences, of possible winners and losers in the Anthropocene. The black layer may not last, but the shrimp will be in the Coorong lagoon, waiting, perhaps playing the long game in a new epoch.”
Philip, Justine M. “Living Blanket, Water Diviner, Wild Pet: A Cultural History of the Dingo.” The Conversation August 7, 2017.
“DNA studies estimate that the dingo arrived on the Australian continent between 4,700 and 18,000 years ago, representing perhaps the earliest example of human-assisted oceanic migration. They were adopted into Aboriginal society, maintaining a symbiotic partnership that lasted thousands of years, and for this reason have been celebrated as a cultural keystone species. The dingo’s ability to locate water above and below ground was perhaps its most indispensable skill. Written records, artworks and photographs in museum archives reveal dingo water knowledge as recorded by European explorers. Records reveal a number of accounts of wild/semi-wild dingoes leading Europeans to lifesaving water springs. In Aboriginal mythology, the travels of ancestral dingoes map out songlines, graphemic maps tracing pathways across the continent from one water source to the next. Their stories tell of the formation of mountains, waterholes and star constellations. In some accounts, dingoes emerged from the ground as rainbows; in others they dug the waterholes and made waterfalls as they travelled through the landscape.”
Pouliot, Alison. “A Loupe and a Forgotten Kingdom.” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“Over the years, my loupe has not only revealed unseen worlds and details, but also alerted me to environmental changes. Often slow and insidious changes, undetected, happening secretly, out of sight. Small changes with potentially large consequences. Fungi occupy the subterrain. They occupy litter and dirt. These aren’t places that are well regarded. Nor are their inhabitants. They require close observation. That’s what my loupe is for.”
Robin, Libby. “Making the Planetary Personal.” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“The planetary is so large – and the briquette is so small. This object personalised planetary responsibilities for me. It enabled me to hold the Anthropocene in my own hand. It was both an everyday object of historical significance (the briquette) and a sculpture. In object terms it explored the fiction/non-fiction border between ‘found object’ and creative artwork.”
Willis, Ian. “‘Just like England’: A Colonial Settler Landscape.” ISAA Review 15, no. 2 (2016): 5-18.
“Early European settlers were the key actors in a place-making exercise that constructed an English-style landscape aesthetic on the colonial stage in the Cowpastures district of New South Wales. The aesthetic became part of the settler colonial project and the settlers’ aim of taking possession of territory involving the construction of a cultural ideal from familiar elements of home in the ‘Old Country’. The new continent, and particularly the bush, had the elements of the Gothic with its grotesque and the demonic, and the landscape aesthetic was one attempt to counter these forces. Settlers used the aesthetic to assist the creation of a new narrative on an apparently blank slate and in the process dispossessed and displaced the Indigenous occupants. The new colonial landscape was characterised by English place names, English farming methods and English settlement patterns, with only cursory acknowledgement of Indigenous occupation.”
Willoughby, Sharon. “Stories for a Changing Climate.” Everyday Futures: Australia in the Age of Humans (2017).
“Having left the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, at Cranbourne Gardens, I am newly arrived at Kew in London to take up my dream job as the Head of Interpretation. In essence, my role is that of chief storyteller. I arrived in the freezing cold of early March with the only promise of warmth the crocuses bravely poking through the lawns. At the moment, a big part of my job involves working out what stories we will tell visitors in the refurbished Temperate House complex, and where and how we will tell them. The Australian House will re-open, as part of that complex, in May 2018, as the Davies Exploration House. As it was originally designed to do it will again contain plants from the Western Australian biodiversity hotspot. When I’m cold and homesick next winter this is where you will find me.”
Wynn, Graeme. “Eric Pawson: An Appreciation of a New Zealand Career.” International Review of Environmental History 3, no. 1 (2017): doi:10.22459/IREH.03.01.2017.02.
“After an academic career extending over four decades, Eric Pawson retired in April 2017 as New Zealand’s pre-eminent historical geographer, as a leading light among the country’s environmental historians, and as a scholar with international recognition in both fields. Recognising these achievements with this special issue of the International Review of Environmental History is entirely appropriate. But limiting my appreciation to these contributions—as the editor’s invitation and space allocation compel me to do—is to annotate only a part of Eric’s intellectual influence and to risk diminishing a diverse career well spent. The tight focus of what follows should not obscure Eric’s significant roles as an intellectual leader among New Zealand geographers, as an important participant in the day-to-day workings of his own university, and above all as an award-winning teacher and frequent contributor to the scholarship of teaching and learning.”