October issue of Australian Garden History

Here’s my editorial introducing the October issue. Get the whole issue at https://www.gardenhistorysociety.org.au 

The Australian National Trust movement, with which the Australian Garden History Society is affiliated, was established in New South Wales in 1945. Its 75th anniversary celebrations in 2https://www.gardenhistorysociety.org.au020 were, like so much else, scuttled by the pandemic. We are, nevertheless, delighted to be able to mark the occasion with an article by Graham Quint, who reflects on the anniversary and the 40 years he spent working for the Trust. His article, as well as Elizabeth Teeland’s, on bushcare in the suburbs of Brisbane, show how much conservation can be achieved at the community level, especially when there are good links into broader advocacy movements and government-funded initiatives.

So, individuals can effect change. That’s also the message in a book for children that explains climate change and offers them ideas for action. It is reviewed on page 27. You may think it a good addition to Christmas stockings. Before then, in November, world leaders will be gathering at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow. They do so in the wake of the most sobering report yet by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which makes the Glasgow goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 all the more pressing. Much of the action required to do that demands national leadership and policy change. Glasgow’s second goal –that we adapt to protect communities and natural habitats – is more within ordinary people’s reach. As you will see in these pages, we can each help to protect and restore ecosystems. Thinking about this, I was struck by the value of images in helping to tell factual stories of destruction and renewal, as well as demonstrating the awe the natural world has inspired for millennia.

Discussing ideas about the landscape, John Dwyer argues that, in terms of the natural/cultural division, Australia has the oldest cultural landscapes in the world. This point is pertinent in the Dark Emu debate, reignited recently by anthropologist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe. Another view on the debate, put forward by Professor of Creative Writing, Stephen Muecke, is that we need to combine western science and Indigenous knowledge to become what Sutton and Walshe call ‘skilled ecological agents’. The Aboriginal notion of caring for country is helpful here, showing through the totemic kinship relations that humans have with honey-ants, pelicans, rivers and so on, that it is these relationships that must be maintained because they are more permanent than our own brief lives.

Also important is to make science visible. This can be done in all sorts of ways: from honouring botanists on street signs to issuing gorgeous stamps featuring botanical art.

To borrow a phrase from Trisha Dixon, featured on the back cover, those of us interested in garden history are ‘really gardeners of the mind’. I hope this issue gives much food for thought in these troubled times.

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