Timothy Neale reviews 'A Future History of Water' by Andrea Ballestero and 'Anthropogenic Rivers: The production of uncertainty in Lao hydropower' by Jerome Whitington
This June I attended a major Aboriginal fire-management workshop in Barmah National Park on Yorta Yorta woka, or Country. Camping on the floodplain of Dhungala – the Murray River – the participants’ discussions of bushfire led repeatedly back to another elemental force: walla, or water. As several elders explained, the flammability of the surrounding red gum forest is inextricably linked to the industrial regulation of the river’s movements. Anthropogenic infrastructures such as Lake Dartmouth have turned the forest’s wetting regime ‘upside down’, repurposing a millennia-old ecological pattern to capture spring floods and create summer flows. One perverse outcome, as Yorta Yorta man Corey Walker said, is that holidaymakers experience the river as rich in water. When urbanites encounter news reports of plunder in the wider Murray–Darling Basin, the channelling of its vitality into irrigation, they think back to summer breaks and long Invasion Day weekends enjoying a generous current, likely unaware that those flows were a gift from water authorities sending a strategic pulse through the system.
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Alexandra Roginski reviews 'Sludge: Disaster on Victoria’s goldfields' by Susan Lawrence and Peter Davies
Drive not too far inland from Melbourne in most directions, past thick bands of ordered suburbia, and you’ll reach bush localities that shiver on breezy days with the sound of gumleaves. At dusk, you might glimpse kangaroos slinking like grey ghosts through blocks of steep, rocky land. Despite this poetry, these bushland escapes represent nature in a third life ...
Graeme Davison reviews 'Asbestos in Australia: From boom to dust' edited by Lenore Layman and Gail Phillips
Wittenoom is no more. The notorious mine has been abandoned and the township, ten kilometres away across the Pilbara, has been demolished and buried. The name has been erased from road signs along Route 95. Blue asbestos – the mineral that created and then condemned the place – is still virulently present in its soil, air, and water. But while Wittenoom is no mo ...
At first I can’t make out the inscription, even though I’m searching for it. Smooth new bark has grown into the cuts, bulging around the incision, preserving the words on the trunk. I run my hand across the surface, tracing the grooves, feeling the letters: R-E-T-R-I-B-U-T-I-O-N. And below, in slightly larger hand, ‘CAMP’ ...... (read more)
Many climate activists and scientists are becoming desperate. They have devoted decades to warning the world of the danger of climate change and to forging solutions. But nothing has worked. No climate report or warning, no political agreement, no technological innovation has ...... (read more)
Barely a decade ago, Australia was in the middle of much excitement about the Asian Century. Today, those heady days seem a distant memory. A growing number of pundits see the north as troubled by dangerous flashpoints and great power rivalries. On top of that is an America apparently in strategic retreat from the region ...... (read more)
The 2019 federal election result confirmed that housing prices, upward mobility, tax cuts, and limited immigration are powerful motivators for Australian voters. Peter Polites’s second novel, The Pillars, with its themes of social and material advancement in Sydney’s western suburbs, captures this spirit of the time perfectly ...... (read more)
Bruce Moore reviews 'The Dictionary Wars: The American fight over the English language' by Peter Martin
The title of this book refers to the battle for market dominance between the editors and publishers of two rival dictionaries, the one edited by Noah Webster and the other by Joseph Worcester. This battle took place largely between 1829 and 1864, and it was played out in the newspapers and by means of pamphlet warfare ...... (read more)
In his infamous 1955 review of Patrick White’s The Tree of Man, A.D. Hope’s dismissal of the book as ‘illiterate verbal sludge’ focuses on a perceived confusion between the categories of poetry and prose. White ‘tries to write a novel as if he were writing poetry, and lyric poetry at that’, writes Hope ...... (read more)
Ilana Snyder reviews 'Jean Blackburn: Education, feminism and social justice' by Craig Campbell and Debra Hayes
In the foundation Jean Blackburn Memorial Lecture in 2014, David Gonski observed that Australian schooling was unfairly funded – that the money wasn’t going where it was needed. To our national shame, this is not a new phenomenon. Successive governments in Australia have adopted school-funding policies for ...... (read more)