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Australian National University (2019)

Critical Histories for Ecological Restoration

Pearce, Lilian

Titre : Critical Histories for Ecological Restoration

Auteur : Pearce, Lilian

Université de soutenance : Australian National University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2019

Description partielle
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 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.

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