Friday, May 11, 2012

White Australians Attitudes to the Environment

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This assessment requires a critical evaluation and a constructed argument of a selected topic. The topic that has been appointed for evaluation is as follows. ¡®Are the attitudes of non-Aboriginal Australians¡¯ to and uses of both fauna and introduced species characterised by continuity, or change over time.¡¯ To assist the evaluation of this assertion, the term continuity should be defined. The Macquarie Concise Dictionary defines continuity as, ¡®The state or quality of being continuous (Delbridge, 00).¡¯

This assessment will discuss firstly, the attitudes of White Australians to fauna and introduced species in a historical context and the impacts this has had to the environment. It will then discuss White Australians attitudes to fauna and introduced species in a contemporary context and the impacts of these attitudes. Lastly the assessment will argue the outlined hypothesis, which is as follows The attitudes of White Australians toward Australian fauna and introduced species during the period of 1788 onwards can be characterised by continuity, however at the same time some of these attitudes have experienced minor changes.

When Australia was first discovered and inhabited by white man, particular objectives were outlined to successfully colonise a discovered land. The majority of these objectives came under the headings of room for urban growth, new development and international trade. The British considered themselves to be pioneers, who gained control and capital of everything that they discovered. The so called uninhabited land of Australia appeared to be the simple answer and relief to the crowded, hostile British lives that so many had lived in England for so long. Geoffrey Bolton supports this statement in his text ¡®Spoils and Spoilers.¡¯

¡°The British of 1788 believed themselves to be one of the worlds most advanced civilisations not perhaps as ancient as China or as polished as France, but superior to all liberty, initiative, and prospects for economic enterprise and growth. Britain stood at the threshold of industrialisation (Bolton, 1).¡±

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However along with these preconceived ideas on how colonies should be developed, run and maintained, many consequences to native flora and fauna occurred. The pastoralist, government and explorers were unprepared for the land and seasons that they would be met with when colonising Australia. The seasons were very speratic changing from a dry period when the First Fleet arrived to a wetter season in 181, which was then followed by a drier and then finally a wetter season once again in 184. This regular pattern caused politicians in 1860 to believe that this change in dry season to wet seasons was continuous, therefore campaigns were then developed for inland agriculture (Bolton, ).

As the seasons continued to vary from dry to wet, agriculture grew immensely with the rise in sheep and cattle numbers. In 1860 sheep numbers rose from 0 million to 40 million by the 70s and 100 million by the 0s (Bolton ).

Although sheep and cattle provided adequate trade for the developing nation, the detrimental affects of the introduced species were expanding with time. 187-80 was the first major time span of a dry period (Bolton, 0). This left many farmland areas dry baron and spoilt by erosion and infested by exotic weeds. Although many pastoralists believed that they understood the climate and season of this foreign country, they were unprepared for the dry periods to come.

Britain and other European countries had land and rainfall that suited the species of cattle, sheep, goat and other grazing animals, as the land was always moist and rich with nutrients to prevent erosion. Pastoralists in Australia did not consider this when they introduced these species to Australia. This inconsideration was due to the fact that the environment was not their main concern, instead profit and income was. Prior to the discovery of Australia, no hoofed animal had ever set foot on Australian land, therefore the destruction that hoofs, grazing and land clearing mixed with the dry period caused intense trouble for farmlands, as erosion and dust storms became sever.

An obvious and continuous attitude of the government and of pastoralists throughout the development of Australia in the earlier years was production, distribution and income. Concern for the environment and it¡¯s welfare, was hardly an issue when land was cleared for farming and the impacts that introduced species would have on the continent were far from consideration.

During the 180¡¯s grazing sheep for the production of wool, was a major trade export for Australia, however many consequences came along with this economic profit. Defoliation occurred due to grazing of these animals, especially sheep near watercourses. Harsh spear grass replaced the nutritious grasses that grazing animals ate. This transformation of grasses became an irreversible process, as thousands of acres of the Australian outback was to be eaten away (Bolton, 84).

The economic motive of Australian pastoralists grew immensely by the mid 1860¡¯s and encircled Australia by the mid 80¡¯s (Bolton, 81). Livestock continued to suppress seedling regeneration that affected many native animals and native plant, however the destruction that sheep and cattle caused was only one of many problems to the environment since the settlement of white man.

Many other destructive acts by White Australians caused the depletion and destruction to the Australian environment. For example the careless attitude that was taken to the introduction of the dog and cat was problematic. These two species enjoyed regular hunting and killing of native birds and marsupials, which caused major depletion in native animal numbers, and caused the endangered species list to grow.

Introduction of animals for sport was also popular for recreational activities, such as pigs and foxes that were introduced through hunt clubs in Melbourne in 1864 (Bolton 8). The rabbit was the most problematic exotic species that was introduced for sporting, eating and the meat trade.

In 1855 Samuel White of Wirrabeen in South Australia continually introduced colonies of rabbits and Thomas Austin Brown of Barwon Park near Geelong also developed a name for himself as the man who introduced the rabbit. However during this period the pest appeared to be under control (Bolton, 0).

The control over this species quickly depleted and the introduction of this exotic species soon became out of control. The rabbit is a prime example of the careless introduction of an exotic species, as consideration was not taken in regards to the impact that the species may have on the environment. The rabbit ran wild, eating crops and clearing farmlands due to their destruction. In 1877 four stations carrying approximately 15 000 sheep was abandoned due to rabbit destruction to the properties, and many more sations were to follow (Bolton 0). This left baron, unfertile plains to be left to cause major erosion and dust problems.

This species was once regarded as a delicacy, however it quickly turned into a common pest that needed to be eliminated. The desire to kill off the pest caused further introduction of exotic species to act as predators to the rabbit, however not only were these species predators of the rabbit, they were also predators of many native Australian animals.

The attitudes that were taken in regards to the introduction of certain species was careless, economically selfish and destructive. The environmental problems that were caused from the exotic animals became catastrophic and a sever detriment to the Australian environment.

The Australian Government however did notice the problems that many of these exotic plants and species were causing; therefore animal shooting licences and certain exotic species laws were introduced. Unfortunately the attitude of the government was not entirely environmentally moral, as many of these laws were passed to support economic motives only. For example, in 1846 the Legislative Council of Van Diemen¡¯s Land passed an act that proposed to restrain the hunting of Kangaroo by enforcing a licence. Although the protection of native fauna appears to be the motive of this act, it is however not the case. The act was passed to mainly keep in check sheep stealing that was committed by ex-convict kangaroo hunters (Bolton, 55).

Another example was in 1880 when Victoria and New South Wales passed Rabbit Destruction Acts. These acts were put in place to protect farmers, their property and livestock from the destruction that the pest caused. The welfare of the environment was once again no influence to the reinforcement of these acts.

It was easily recognised that human life was becoming the main weapon for the destruction of native species. The slaughter of many native animals occurred on the mainland for the trade of meat, skins and fur. The slaughter of many animals was caused from the destruction of habitat and food resources of animals, soully for the development of human colonies. For example by 100 the brush-tailed rat kangaroo was extinct except in Western Australia, the brown hare wallaby was gone by 180 and numerous others were on the verge of extinction (Bolton, 100).

The impact of human life was not only affecting inland, but off shore animals were also being affected and slaughtered by the millions. Australia off shore areas was a major target for whaling and the slaughter of millions of seals. It began predominantly in 171 by a man named Thomas Melville (Bolton, 4).

The slaughter of whales and seals was mainly predominate after the period when the Third Fleet arrived, as it carried many skilled whalers and specialised fishermen (Bolton, 50). Seals and whales were prized for their skins as it provided material for clothing and oil for the overseas trade. This trading of goods was perfect for the economic income of a small growing colony. This trading industry became so successful, that in 180-1 the export income for whale and seal was more then wool. Geoffrey Bolton even stated this in his text ¡®Spoils and Spoilers¡¯

¡°Sealing was one of the few good investments available in the struggling colony, and plenty of hardened ex-convicts were ready to sign on as crew (Bolton, 51).¡±

The evidence above suggests that the act of slaughtering these animals reached such an extent that greed became the main influenced. Seals were easy to slaughter during breeding season, which caused income into the growing nation to be greater. Geoffrey Bolton makes an accurate statement in his text ¡®Spoils and Spoilers¡¯

¡°By all account, they were a rough lot, careless of human and animal life (Bolton, 51).¡±

Just like the majority of the Australian native animals that were hunted for sport, food or trade, the numbers of the whale and seal decreased immensely. White man during the period of the colonisation of Australia became greedy and money hungry. The motives in relation to the slaughter of native species and the introduction of exotic animals in the beginning were entirely motivated by economic income. Sustainability and protection of the environment was not important at the time, because white man was not being threatened by depletion to an extent at this stage, however as the numbers of these animals decreased, and as more properties and landscapes became spoilt from farming and grazing attitudes slowly began to change.

Due to the slow changes of attitude, the actions to protect the environment were very minimal. However as threats began to interrupt international trade, the impact that man was having on the environment began to be noticed. Action slowly began to take shape and protection attitudes toward the environment were being formed. A movement which lead to the formation of the Australian Ornithologist Union, by the Tasmanian bird lovers ornithological society, 1888, sparked pressure to develop the Native Bird Protection Act in 18 (Bolton, ). In 10 a group in Sydney whom pressured many for the creation of sanctuaries for native fauna and flora succeeded (Bolton, ).

Changes in attitudes of Australian scientist and pressure groups began to occur. The realisation of the destruction that white man was causing on the environment was finally surfacing. However sadly too much destruction had already occurred.

However today¡¯s attitudes to the environment does prove that some changes have taken place since the colonisation period. If this argument for the assessment was to be analysed during the 18th and 1th century, it would be almost safe to assume that white Australians attitudes to the environment could have been defined through continuity, however in relation to today¡¯s attitudes, movements and laws, it can be assumed that change over time has occurred in relation to our attitudes toward the safety and preservation of the environment.

This assumption however does not presume that the changes have been entirely successful, quick and complete in the protection of the environment, as many habitats and natural areas have been cleared for human construction. This has continued the slaughter of hundreds and thousands of native species to point where they become endangered.

For example, the koala continues to be killed when land is being cleared, and hundreds have been slaughter for their fur. 1 species of kangaroo are extinct and the native numbat is endangered (Edols). This is a very small fraction of the affects that white Australia is still having on the environment.

Today we continue to allow exotic species to over graze causing erosion and environmental problems, and this is all done for the price of economic trade. Foreign species continue to be introduced either accidentally or purposefully, causing destruction to native flora and fauna. Our attitudes in relation to trade and development are still the same as it was when Australia was being colonised. In retrospect it appears that White Australian attitudes to the environment can still be defined by continuity, and it is sad to say that the changes that have occurred are not rapid or great enough to make a significant impact on the Australian environment.

It is still estimated that 100 plants have been introduced to Australia over the last centuries (Bolton, 85).

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