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Critical Histories for Ecological Restoration

Pearce, Lilian

Description

Before dust, there was soil; before bare earth, there were grasslands; before a crumbled road, there was a sand dune. The transition between these states tells a story common to settler colonies, of systemic violence to both ecological and human communities. This thesis considers both material changes in the land and cultures that produce and respond to them. The role of history in ecological restoration is changing, prompted by anthropogenic climate change and recognition of relationships...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorPearce, Lilian
dc.date.accessioned2019-10-05T04:47:51Z
dc.date.available2019-10-05T04:47:51Z
dc.identifier.otherb71495800
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/173547
dc.description.abstractBefore dust, there was soil; before bare earth, there were grasslands; before a crumbled road, there was a sand dune. The transition between these states tells a story common to settler colonies, of systemic violence to both ecological and human communities. This thesis considers both material changes in the land and cultures that produce and respond to them. The role of history in ecological restoration is changing, prompted by anthropogenic climate change and recognition of relationships between Indigenous peoples and ecological systems. Accordingly, dialogue on the ethical aspects of ecological restoration has resurged. Informed by critical perspectives of environmental history, political ecology and decolonising methodologies, this thesis builds on ecological restoration discourses by illuminating cultures of restoration within a settler society undergoing irreversible change. In Australia, mentalities that continue historical injustices by treating the continent as 'empty' or 'balanced' until a 'settler-clock' began to tick are identified. 'Australia is still, for us, not a country but a state of mind. We do not speak from within, but from outside' writes poet Judith Wright.1 This thesis argues that ecological restoration can pull people powerfully into a new state of mind. Through restoration practices, ecological imaginaries rub up against material realities, and important ethical realisations, with associated moral obligations, emerge. This thesis is made of practice as much as theory, doing as much as thinking. A technique of turning to history, practice and reflection is illustrated within three place-based studies in New South Wales. Each project emerged within a transformative decade in Australia's history: 1930s Broken Hill; 1950s Monaro, and, 1970s Bermagui. The studies span semi-arid, montane and coastal ecosystems, and mining, grazing and mixed production/tourism industries. We find layered histories and environmental justice concerns; objects in the land and reflections on social memory, and, affective emotional practices and uncertain futures. In each place, a distinct and complex story arises. For participants, ecological restoration is not about restoring a thing, but rather about cultivating meaningful committed relationships with local ecologies. More than ever, practices that assist in negotiating change and uncertainty are required. Engaging with history, practice and reflection facilitates enhanced ecological outcomes, cultural outcomes and health outcomes for practitioners and their communities. This thesis contends that a critical assessment of the politics of restoration is necessary. Framed within settler-colonial or modernist, techno-fix narratives and removed from the specificities of local place, ecological restoration participates in ethically fraught activities. Restoration can support narratives of denial, enable ongoing degrading land uses, permit the evasion of industry and government accountability and distract from desperately needed policy reform. Systemic changes are still required to expand environmental work beyond the limits of passionate individuals and groups, and, beyond the limited boundaries of Western science. Despite being housed in the world of science and management, ecological restoration is profoundly cultural. Critical local histories are essential as moral guides to responsible and inclusive interventions. This thesis demonstrates that the practical and political potential of ecological restoration is expanded through histories of ecological restoration and histories for ecological restoration.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.titleCritical Histories for Ecological Restoration
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorRobin, Elizabeth
local.contributor.supervisorcontactu9704089@anu.edu.au
dc.date.issued2019
local.contributor.affiliationFenner School of Environment and Society, ANU College of Science, The Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5da592662980f
local.identifier.proquestYes
local.thesisANUonly.authord938804c-d4eb-4846-8975-a00a4cb8a2df
local.thesisANUonly.title000000015446_TC_1
local.thesisANUonly.key0eae60de-e2b6-1ae7-f67a-cec697b5a8ab
local.mintdoimint
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