Saturday, November 10, 2007

Death of Eric Rolls - and environmental confusions

To my mind, Eric Roll's A Million Wild Acres is one of the best books ever written in Australia.

For those who do not know either Eric or the book, the book is the story of what is now known as the Pilliga Scrub, a forest created by the European dispossession of the Aborigines who had kept the area open by fire. To international readers, you do not need to know either Australia or the area itself to enjoy the book. it is just a very good read.

Eric Rolls has now died, and I have put an obit up drawn heavily from Tom Buton's obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Eric Roll's death reminded me why I am not an environmentalist in the conventional sense of the word.

Roll's made the point, one that I agree with, that Australia was a man modified landscape at the time the Europeans arrived. The Europeans introduced a new form of modification that has continued until today. The environmental movement itself is just latest manifestation of the process.

Do not get me wrong. Rolls himself was an environmentalist as am I, nor would Mr Roll's have necessarily agreed with my own views.

I see no point in locking up land in national parks for the sake of national parks or in pursuit of some arcadian dream. I am especially opposed to the creation of national parks where we are not prepared to put the money in to properly manage and develop them.

Don't get me wrong. On some things I would be far tougher than existing Governments, but for different reasons.

As a simple example, I would be tougher on moves to lock people out of access to Sydney Harbour. However, this is a public policy rather than environmental argument. I just think it wrong that the majority of the population should be locked out to the benefit of the few.

In similar vein, I support controls on pollution of land and waterways. Some pollution is inevitable, but no one has the right to pollute our own backyard. Again, this is a case where the benefit for the few imposes costs on the many.

I think, and I will try to argue this at some point, that we need a new multi-faceted approach to environmental issues, not a crude one side fits all approach.

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