Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles

Buckman - Tasmania's Wilderness BattlesGreg Buckman

Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles

Jacana, June 2008, $29.95

Wilderness has been a bigger community issue in Tasmania than in any other Australian state, so a history of the fight to preserve it has a lot of ground to cover. Buckman organises it chronologically within four strands – hydro-electric power, forestry, mining and national parks – and traces them from the 1850s to the beginning of this year.

‘The Hydro’ created the biggest issues: Lake Pedder and the Franklin River made national headlines and political history from the 1960s to the 1980s. The conservationists’ focus then shifted to forestry, confronting the rise of woodchipping and the (stalled, as of October 2008) Tamar Valley pulp mill. Continue reading “Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles”

Landscape of Farewell: reflections on reconciliation

• This review was published in the Townsville Bulletin and then, in a longer form, in LiNQ before Green Path was conceived but is relevant enough to the blog to deserve a place on it. The date-stamp will say 2008, the date of first publication, although the review was only added to this site in 2017.

Miller Landscape of Farewell coverLandscape of Farewell

Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin (2007), 275pp, $35.00.

Eight novels in twenty years have established Alex Miller as one of Australia’s most respected authors. He received the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1993 for The Ancestor Game and another a decade later for Journey to the Stone Country, and has been shortlisted for it on three more occasions, most recently for the present book.

Landscape of Farewell revisits themes of Journey to the Stone Country (2002) but with quite different emphasis and treatment. Continue reading “Landscape of Farewell: reflections on reconciliation”

The Revenge of Gaia

In a universe long, long ago The Townsville Bulletin had a weekly books page independently edited by a staff journalist. I approached her about the possibility of doing some reviewing, and she was open-minded enough to give me the opportunity. She had no budget to pay me for my time but I got lots of free books and a completely (well, almost) open choice of what to review and how; I thought that was good enough and enjoyed the role for several years. This is an early example, with just a few words (the last one, for instance) changed now that there is no need to consider editorial proprieties.

It was added to Green Path in April 2020 but like some of my other reviews, it is published to the blog under its original date.

cover of The Revenge of GaiaThe Revenge of Gaia
James Lovelock
Penguin, 2007

The Revenge of Gaia was first published in England in early 2006 but Penguin have just released it here in a new, sensationalising, cover. In that eighteen-month interval we have seen the new IPCC report, the Stern Report and the beginnings of a political response. The (admittedly vigorous) legitimate debate that remains is over the extent of warming, and the best ways to slow and reverse the inevitable damage. In this context, The Revenge of Gaia is unhelpful: Lovelock presents such an overstated doom-and-gloom scenario that he undermines any emerging consensus.

Worse, though, is the illogicality of his proposals to mitigate the disaster he foresees. He wants us to rely on nuclear fission and dirty coal to keep industrial civilisation going until nuclear fusion takes over as our main energy source and carbon sequestration lets us safely continue to burn coal.

He is confident that both technologies are going to be developed in time, although neither exists yet, but he dismisses the possibility that renewables – solar, geothermal, biomass, tidal, wind – will be able to contribute significantly to our power supply soon enough to be useful although the technologies do already exist and are improving rapidly. And he dismisses energy-saving strategies as too difficult to implement although they are already making worthwhile reductions to carbon emissions.

But Lovelock’s Gaia Theory makes even his energy science look relatively reasonable. He proposed forty years ago that we should think of the biosphere as if it were a living being, and he named the being ‘Gaia’ after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth. He says now, as he did then, that his Gaia is only a metaphor to help scientists and everyone else to think more holistically about our fragile environment, but he continually slides into speaking of Gaia as a real, purposeful, intelligence: ‘She acts as a mother who is nurturing but ruthlessly cruel towards transgressors,’ is typical. One whole chapter is an appeal to channel our religious impulses into the veneration of Gaia, so that we may rebuild a sustainable relationship with our world.

Lovelock’s heart may be in the right place but his critical intelligence is, sadly, a long way away.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of good introductions to the science and implications of global warming. I won’t pretend to have read them all, but We Are the Weather Makers by Tim Flannery is good and has the advantage of an Australian emphasis as well as sound, clearly presented science. The Revenge of Gaia, on the other hand, will be most useful as mulch.

Forestry in Tasmania – a photographic souvenir

• This is one of a few articles I published elsewhere long before Green Path was begun or even conceived but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2005, the date of first publication, although the article was only added to GP in 2016. 

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Tasmania for a mixture of business and social reasons at the end of March 2005. The Tuesday after Easter was a perfect Autumn day in Hobart and my host suggested a trip to Hartz Mountains National Park, just over an hour’s drive South-West of Hobart (more info here). By the time we arrived it was nearly lunchtime, but we set off towards Hartz Peak anyway.

Hartz peak

We walked as far as Lake Esperance and stopped for a sandwich. While we were there, another hiker pointed out to us a small cloud of smoke rising from a valley over to our East, between us and the Huon Valley. Continue reading “Forestry in Tasmania – a photographic souvenir”

Western Queensland

• This is one of a few articles which I published elsewhere long before Green Path was conceived or begun but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2005, the date of first publication, although the article was only added to GP in 2016. 

If Australia is little known to the rest of the world, North Queensland is little known to the rest of Australia – and Western Queensland is little known even to most North Queenslanders. Most of the NQ population lives in the provincial cities along the coast (Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Bowen, Rockhampton) and most of the rest live in the roughly 50 km wide strip between the coast and the Great Dividing Range. These pictures introduce some of the country on the inland side of the mountains. Continue reading “Western Queensland”