Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Landcare Evolves, But Beancounters Haven’t

By Ian Lowe

It makes more economic sense to trash the farm for short-term profit than to farm it sustainably.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University.

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The national Landcare program was formally launched in 1989 with an ambitious goal of spreading to 2000 local groups. The early focus was on planting trees to preserve topsoil and strengthen the banks of inland waterways. There are now well over 5000 community-based groups in all corners of Australia.

The conference was told that the Landcare movement has evolved over the decades, so it now has a much broader role than protecting topsoil, native vegetation and the riparian zone. Local groups are concerned about carbon storage, mitigating the effects of climate change and the integrity of landscape-scale ecosystems, as well as such broader social issues as food production and food security. The farm sector is under pressure as social changes sees young people leaving the land for city life, while economic pressures see small landholdings merged with larger farms or acquired by corporate entities. I was on a panel of “elders” wrestling with the thorny issue of adapting the Landcare movement to these changes.

As the conference coincided with the announcement that Cubbie Station had been sold to overseas interests, there was impassioned discussion of the issue of foreign ownership. While some delegates argued that foreign investment is needed in rural Australia and should be welcomed, others were clearly worried by the prospect of land management decisions being...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.