Recreating the Country blog
European culture and its battle with nature
As an ecologist and a manager of flora and fauna reserves I seem to spend a lot of my time battling against the forces of nature. For example each of the three reserves that I help to manage has problem weeds that have to be suppressed with herbicides each year to prevent them from spreading and over running the remnant native plants, though the spraying inevitably and ironically kills some of the native grasses and herbs that we are trying to protect. The irony of this process weighs heavily on me at times but I/we seem to be locked in to an endless cycle of herbicide spraying in a fight with nature from which there appears to be no retreat.
Since the beginning of white settlement in Australia, battling nature has been our chosen way of life.
Richard Howitt wrote in 1845 in 'Impressions of Australia Felix';
"Day after day it was no slight army of trees against which we had to do battle. We had to fight hard with them to gain possession of the soil, for the trees in those days were giants"
Howitt was describing the beginnings of 170 years of clearing trees from the Australian continent which sadly is still going on full steam ahead in some states. There is no doubt that many Australians still see the environment as an enemy that has to be beaten into submission or at least subdued.
The First Australians partner with nature
It makes more sense to work with nature than to do battle against her. Becoming a partner with the most powerful force on earth is an extremely desirable relationship.
How can this present combatant relationship be turned around?
How do long foes begin a new relationship of cooperation and nurturing?
T0 the First Australians nature and nurture are inseparable. Partnering with nature is so deeply embedded in their culture that it is impossible for them to feel whole as people without maintaining a tangible connection. This connection with 'country' goes far beyond the love and empathy for familiar places that I often feel for the place I live, it's a deep and complex spiritual connection that sadly goes well beyond my powers of comprehension.
Bill Gammage on page 131 of 'The Biggest Estate on Earth' quotes Strehlow to give some insights into this spiritual relationship;
"the overwhelming affection felt by a native for his ancestral territory - mountains and creeks and springs and water-holes are to him not merely interesting or beautiful but the handiwork of ancestors from whom he himself has descended. He sees recorded in the surrounding landscape the ancient story of the lives and deeds of the immortal beings whom he reveres. The whole countryside is his living age old family tree."
Stephen Murphy is qualified in Geology and Environmental Management and has been a nurseryman and a designer of natural landscapes for over 30 years. He loves the bush, supports Landcare and is a volunteer helping to conserve local reserves.