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Gardening the World

Gardening the World: Agency, Identity and the Ownership of Water

Veronica Strang
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Gardening the World
    Book Description:

    Around the world, intensifying development and human demands for fresh water are placing unsustainable pressures on finite resources. Countries are waging war over transboundary rivers, and rural and urban communities are increasingly divided as irrigation demands compete with domestic desires. Marginal groups are losing access to water as powerful elites protect their own interests, and entire ecosystems are being severely degraded. These problems are particularly evident in Australia, with its industrialised economy and arid climate. Yet there have been relatively few attempts to examine the social and cultural complexities that underlie people's engagements with water. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in two major Australian river catchments (the Mitchell River in Cape York, and the Brisbane River in southeast Queensland), this book examines their major water using and managing groups: indigenous communities, farmers, industries, recreational and domestic water users, and environmental organisations. It explores the issues that shape their different beliefs, values and practices in relation to water, and considers the specifically cultural or sub-cultural meanings that they encode in their material surroundings. Through an analysis of each group's diverse efforts to 'garden the world', it provides insights into the complexities of human-environmental relationships.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-940-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Figures and Table
    (pp. vi-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION Water Garden
    (pp. 1-27)

    There is a garden in the mind’s eye: a vision of a perfect world; a productive, well-fed, well-watered world in which societies coexist amicably; in which ecosystems are allowed to maintain themselves and all of their extraordinary intricacies; in which resources are only used at a rate that can be replenished; and in which the wordsstarvation, conflictandextinctiondo not exist. This image, in myriad cultural forms, hovers like a mirage on the edge of the human imagination, sometimes inspiring hope that with enough striving it can be reached; more often engendering concern that humankind is on a...

  6. CHAPTER 1 A Process of Engagement
    (pp. 28-53)

    To understand why cultural and subcultural groups develop diverse interactions with land and resources, it is necessary to place these in an analytic frame. This chapter explores human-environmental relationships as dynamic intellectual, emotional and physical engagements with the material world, in which groups and individuals ‘garden’ resources assiduously to support their social and cultural purposes. Its considers how this process happens, trying to provide a lens through which, in examining the ethnographic data, it is possible to discern the factors that influence people to garden in particular ways, some of which are more socially and ecologically sustainable than others.


  7. CHAPTER 2 Governing Water
    (pp. 54-86)

    Water governance takes place at every level, from the global to the local. Every agency of government and its decision-making processes has some direct or indirect implications for what happens to water, and every government strives to balance the human and environmental needs within its borders. Because power and agency depend on water, arrangements about who owns and controls it directly reflect social and political dynamics. In this sense, like religious cosmologies, water governance reveals a Durkheimian projection of societal beliefs and values: a particular vision of how the garden should be arranged.¹

    In precolonial Australia, Aboriginal governance, based on...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Indigenous Fluidscapes
    (pp. 87-118)

    The presence of an Aboriginal population in Australia, albeit comprising only 2.4 per cent of the population, has some important implications for the debates surrounding water use and management. The meanings and values attached to water in an indigenous cosmos (and their manifestation in ‘traditional’¹ forms of water ownership and management) present an engagement with water that is almost a polar opposite of the economic and technical vision of ‘resources’ that dominates environmental management. This alternate worldview offers a valuable counterpoint in current debates, helping indigenous groups – and others – to articulate the social and cultural issues generally excluded from narrower...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Farming Water
    (pp. 119-157)

    This chapter considers how farmers and graziers – the ‘primary producers’ in the Mitchell and Brisbane catchments – engage with water in the garden. It examines, in particular, how this engagement has been affected by a changing cultural landscape and increasing involvement in a global economy.

    The sharpest contrast between the Aboriginal economic mode described in the previous chapter and that introduced to Australia by primary producers is the extent to which they apply managerial direction to material resources. Precolonial production in Australia relied on harvesting local flora and fauna with minimal human intervention using methods that were generally sustainable.¹ Early European...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Manufacturing Water
    (pp. 158-192)

    For much of Australia’s colonial history, social, political and economic life was dominated by the primary industries: agriculture and resource extraction. While farming and its related activities now occupy a lesser role, mining and quarrying still contribute significantly to the nation’s wealth. There are also new manufacturing and secondary industries. All of these industries depend on water, often requiring major quantities of it, and in some cases, such as for food and drink production, this also has to be good quality, potable water. Thus the major challenges for almost all industrial water users are access to sufficient quality and quantity...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Recreating Water
    (pp. 193-236)

    In Australia, as in other industrialized societies, most people’s everyday engagements with water take place either in the domestic sphere or in a recreational context. Although they pay for domestic water supply and the services of a tourist industry, experientially, these interactions with water are noncommercial, and thus significantly different from those in agriculture and industry. This chapter considers the rise of recreational usage of land and water and the kinds of cultural waterscapes, values and practices generated by recreational engagements. It argues that while recreational and domestic engagements with water may be noncommercial, they are nonetheless ‘productive’, and serve...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Saving Water
    (pp. 237-273)

    One of the most radical changes in Australia in the last two decades has been the emergence of a powerful environmental movement, bringing with it an increasingly vocal critique of land and resource management practices.¹ In Queensland, this provides a substantial counterpoint to the productivist ideologies and commitment to development that have dominated public discourse and guided environmental engagements since the early days of colonial settlement. In the Brisbane and Mitchell River catchments, the groups concerned with managing water reflect this central ideological divide, ranging from regional and local stakeholder groups dominated by local primary producers to avowedly ‘green’ organizations...

  13. CONCLUSION Gardening the World
    (pp. 274-292)

    A garden is, indeed, a ‘lovesome thing’. As the ethnography in this volume illustrates, human beings, whatever their cultural background, social situation, profession or gender, engage with the world and its resources actively, in an attempt to manifest the garden that they see in their mind’s eye. This engagement is often passionate and committed: it evokes deep emotions that colour all of the social interactions and structural arrangements surrounding water use (Barbalet 1998). Through ‘gardening’, people create cultural landscapes and waterscapes and maintain intricate relationships with these.¹ Water is the vital fluid of this process: as the essence of fluid...

    (pp. 293-311)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 312-317)