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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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 ...
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 ...
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)
This year, the Australian bushfire season began in winter. A long, dry summer – the warmest on record – lingered into and then beyond autumn. By spring, more than one hundred uncontrolled fires were raging across the eastern seaboard, reaching into ecological regions unfamiliar with flame. It is alarming how routine such record-breaking extremes have become, and ...
Australia’s energy transition has been hotly debated for a decade, and it doesn’t look set to cool anytime soon. Blackout: How is energy-rich Australia running out of electricity? offers readers the chance to be an informed participant in the debate. For more than a century, decisions about our electricity system have been left to the experts ...... (read more)
When Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird wrote The Secret Life of Plants (1975), many critics labelled their attempt to prove a spiritual link between people and plants as mystical gibberish, with a New York Times review chiding the authors for pandering to charlatans and amateur psychics ...... (read more)
Night Parrot by Penny Olsen is more than a biography of a bird that spent most of the twentieth century successfully hiding from people. It is a historical biography of human determination and obsession, and of the ways in which this bird has acted as a catalyst for transitions between those two psychological states ...... (read more)
Be afraid. ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, the viral article published in New York magazine (2017) that was both fêted and scorned for its visceral bluntness, has grown out and up. A scary, 7,000-word portrait of a near-future Earth razed by climate change has matured into a deeper, darker treatise on ...... (read more)
On 6 October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning of the dangers of surpassing a 1.5° Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels in average global temperatures. They are many, and dire. To halt at 1.5°, carbon emissions need to fall by forty per cent globally by 2030 ...... (read more)