Thoughts on Christmas Beetles

by Trish Neil

Various ideas are rolling around in my head in response to this general theme. (See previous posting on the subject).

  • I can understand why my efforts – eg, not using pesticides or herbicides for 25 years – have not resulted in any local difference. If the beetle larvae need native grasses to thrive, then acres of kikuyu grass will not do them any good. The problems are too big, too global for me to have any impact.
  • This really makes me depressed. My being depressed does not save a single beetle. It does make me irritable and a general pain to be around.
  • This experience is making me understand the disaffection of the Australian aboriginal people a bit better. I know how the sadness of losing natural diversity makes you want to devote yourself to grief and mourning, to curl up, give up and just wait for the end of the world; the loss of culture, of whole families of cultures, languages, beliefs, and knowledge of country must be infinitely more disabling.
  • The aborigines looked after this country for at least 50,000 years. in that time, early on, the megafauna were lost, and the use of fire changed the landscape to a park-like system of belts of open grasses and closed scrub. See “The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia” by  Bill Gammage Allen & Unwin 2012. A brilliant book – this is a quote from a review for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for this book (no attribution found). “Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked an English country estate. With implications for us today, Bill Gammage explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness, revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the damaging bushfires we now experience. What we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.” (My italics.)
  • In less than 250 years, we Europeans have wreaked total havoc. 100’s of species lost, many, many more in substantial decline, near-dead river systems, extensive salination of the land, erosion, impacted soils, and so on.
  • There is no political will to change any of this. Australians, as shown in their recent voting, are more than ready to swap their heritage (the land’s wellbeing) for a mess of potage (slightly reduced electricity charges.) End of story.
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