Last Friday we received a comment on the post about Brian Mooney from the Diamantina Shire, visitors and Bush Heritage Australia.
We are grateful for the feedback from Fiona Lake, who took the time to talk about how she felt about the study and related issues.
Her main concern was that agriculture was being made to look like the bad guy and that there was not enough exploration of the industry and representative voices in the Iconic Landscapes media and data.
These points have been duly noted and we have stated that this was never our intention and that there are, indeed, agricultural perspectives in our research that, as mentioned in past posts, we will see more of as the blog and study progresses.
While we took all of what she said into account, we would like to try and clear a few things up by going through some of her comments. You can see our full response under the Brian Mooney of Diamantina Shire talks about visitors and Bush Heritage in the Simpson Desert post comments. The following is an excerpt of two examples.
Bold text is from the blog, (bracketed) text is Fiona’s comments and italics is the Iconic Landscapes response.
Australian environments are under increasing stress from droughts, feral animals and urban development. (I would add: And increasing stress due to the rabbitings on of uneducated* urbanites, thus steering public perception in a particular [incorrect] direction [’oh those terrible farmers desecrating the landscape’; bit of a laugh coming from anyone living in Australia’s largest mass of cement & bitumen, Sydney] & resulting in poorly judged government action [eg the Wild Rivers legislation, locking up land that was fine as it is – largely unchanged since white settlement – and hindering the opportunities of local indigenous communities. Read Noel Pearson’s opinions on the subject].FL)
(*Uneducated in the sense that they have no genuine understanding of the life and environment in remote areas. They visit for a while, pre-conceived firmly rooted opinions firmly in hand – do studies, then return to comfy quarters in inner-city Sydney to write should-do reports. FL)
Thank you for this comment Fiona. It gives us another chance to explain and defend this initiative. We are aware of what you call the ‘rabbitings of uneducated urbanites’ and although, as people who do live in ‘the largest mass of cement and bitumen’, we don’t know what it’s like to live on the land, we can have a go at trying to learn as much as we can. I understand your defensiveness and appreciate, completely, where you’re coming from but please let us explain our position.
We had no intention of being the ‘oh those terrible farmers desecrating the landscape’finger pointing types. Neither do I think we have been. This project does not seek to write a ‘should-do’ report. We want to do what we said: present our findings in an innovative way – online and in video form, for example, so we can explore a RANGE of voices and different issues. If you read the end of some of our other posts we mention that each video is an opinion in itself, except for some of the photo/text pieces. We ask readers to look out for a range of different voices; underlining the idea that there won’t be two sides (local pastoralists, for example) in each work.
On Noel Pearson’s thoughts, if you’re referring to his opinion article in The Australian a month or so ago and many other pieces on the subject, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t, however, think you can compare what you see as the shortcomings of a project like this to the government’s betrayal and abandonment of the Australian Aboriginal community.
In addition to the traditional scientific findings linking distress with ecological resilience, we envisage identification of key societal values in the general public and the decision-making process involved in environmental change. (Unfortunately the vast majority of Australians wouldn’t know genuine conservation if they fell over it. They have backyards full of exotic species, pet cats that roam 24/7, do not think twice about chopping down any trees they want in their own backyard and few will pay the extra to purchase recycled paper, even if it’s toilet paper, yet there is an expectation food growers will produce ‘top quality’ ‘organic’ tucker with ‘low food miles’ at bottom drawer prices, by levitating it above the earth. Ummm, is it sensible to ask this lot, the majority, what conservation measures they think are important, what should be put in place, and act on that? I think not! It’ll be NIMBYism at it’s most extreme. If you want to ask what conservation measures are already in place and what else could be done in future, ask people who are already managing the land well. That rules out the vast majority of people living in suburbs and towns, all government departments and education institutions – except perhaps those working in agricultural fields who have genuine, long-term hands-on experience. FL)
Perhaps, at the start of this study, when the blog was set up and these points were made, we may have been over shooting with phrases like ‘key societal values in the general public’. I understand your point about the complexity of conservation but that does not necessarily mean people living in the city are ignorant. Part of the Iconic Landscapes project has seen us working with representatives from the North Sydney Council – a high-density suburb – who actively promote initiatives like tree vandalism prevention, landcare and recycling programs.
This project is important because it brings to light these knowledge gaps you refer to. There is ‘one Australia’ but the diversity of comprehension and appreciation around environments like the Simpson Desert and Channel Country is such that being able to identify some of the differences might help bridge these information holes in the future.
As we mentioned before, these two examples are only a excerpt of a longer response you can find in the comments of the last post.