White Beech – the Rainforest Years

white-beech-coverGermaine Greer: White Beech – the Rainforest Years, Bloomsbury, 2014

Germaine Greer made her name in 1970 with The Female Eunuch and for me, as for most people of my generation, her name instantly evokes thoughts of radical feminism and a brilliant, often abrasive, mind. Her subsequent career was that of a very public intellectual but as she approached 60 she began to look for a wilderness home here in Australia. Her initial impulse was to live in the inland desert but, to her own surprise, she ended up with 60 hectares of degraded dairying land in the Gold Coast hinterland, tucked away between the Lamington and Springbrook National Parks.

Her motivation from the outset was to rehabilitate the rainforest which had been logged and cleared a century ago, and to do that she had to learn about it, no mean task in a poorly-understood area of incredibly high biodiversity. Time and again she and her scientifically-trained friends and helpers were forced to the conclusion that a plant they were trying to identify did not match any officially described species and had to be a new one.

White Beech is a history of both the discovery and the beginnings of the restoration, and at times Greer’s passion to understand and explain leads to paragraphs as dense as the rainforest itself. Fortunately, she is always lucid and generally entertaining, while her deft sketches of plants and wildlife continually return the focus to what really matters.

Restoring a rainforest is not a one-person task, nor even a one-lifetime task, so Greer called the property the “Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme” from the beginning and, later, transferred ownership to a charitable trust, Friends of Gondwana Rainforest; their website will be useful to anyone interested in rainforest conservation.

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