Territory Stories

Prepare for Impact! When People and Environment Collide in the Tropics



Prepare for Impact! When People and Environment Collide in the Tropics

Other title

When people and environment collide in the tropics


Abdurohman, Rahman; Arnstrong, Rachel; Boggs, Guy; Bowman, David; Brook Barry; Bunn, Stuart; Campbell, Bruce; Cunningham, Anthony; Davies, Diane; Garnett, Stephen; Gerritsen, Rolf; Griffiths, Tony; Morrison, Joe; Yu, Peter; Wright, S. Joseph; Williams, Meryl; Tay, Simon; Steffe, Will; Stacey, Natasha; Srivastava, Leena; Sodhi, Navjot S; Sanchez-Azofeifa, Arturo; Resosudarmo, Budy P; Portillo-Quintero, Carlos; Nurdianto, Ditya Agung; Muller-Landau, Helene C


Stacey, Natasha E; Boggs, Guy S; Campbell, Bruce M.; Steffen, Will


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




South East Asia and tropical Australia are undergoing major changes, which are likely to intensify in the next decade. Booming economies in China and India, and potentially other countries, are likely to drive exponential increases in demands for natural resources. Climate change is likely to have severe impacts, ranging from those associated with changes in severity of cyclones, to those associated with sea level rise in shallow oceans. Land cover transformations, already a common feature in many parts, could well decimate biodiversity. Human disease outbreaks, which have already caused alarm and economic disruption, could remain a feature of the region. The challenges are immense; it is timely to reflect on transforming forces and our responses. In May 2006, an international symposium was held in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia, to discuss these very issues. This publication features papers by leading researchers and policy makers on the following themes:'Drivers of Change; 'Values & Livelihoods; 'What Are the Changes and Their Impacts? The editors of this book all have wide experience in this area. Dr Natasha Stacey is an anthropologist with expertise in natural resource management in the Asia-Pacific region. Dr Guy Boggs has focused his GIS and modelling research on the use of technologies for understanding changes in spatial patterns of vegetation distribution, erosion and runoff response. Prof Bruce Campbell works in the tropics on four continents from humid rainforests to dry woodlands and is focussed on achieving better outcomes for conservation and development and improving the well-being of people through natural resource management and use. Prof Will Steffen has research interests which span a broad range within the field of Earth System science.

Table of contents

Setting the scene -- Gerritsen : A resilient future for Northern Australia? People, economics and policy issues -- Resosudarmo : Setting the scene : driving forces of change in Southeast Asia -- Drivers of change -- Steffen : Climate change in the tropics -- Srivastava : Securing India's energy future : what does the world have to worry about? -- Tay : Trade and environment in Southeast Asia -- Williams : Food production systems and policy development in Southeast Asia -- Values and livelihoods -- Armstong et al : Indigenous land and sea management and sustainable business development in Northern Australia -- Garnett : Enterprise development by indigenous communities using natural resources : where do the benefits go? -- Campbell et al : Do local people and the environment collide? Who drives environmental change? -- What are the changes and their impacts? -- Cunningham : Culture, livelihoods and conservatism -- Sodhi and Brook : Biodiversity crisis in Southeast Asia -- Wright et al : The future of Southeast Asian forests and their species -- Bunn : Northern Australia -- all that water ... going to waste? -- Bowman : Time's up for Australia's last frontier.




0502 - Environmental Science and Management; Southeast Asia; Northern Australia; Natural Resource Management; Politics & Society

Publisher name

Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)

Place of publication



vi, 119 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.

File type



9780980665017; 980665019



Copyright owner

Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)



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5. Times Up for Australias Last Frontier D.M J.S. Bowman1 Introduction Frontiers are by their very nature odd places because the singular purpose of life on the frontier is change. Debora Bird Rose (1997) described the transformative energy of the frontier as the moment when history and meaning is made de novo. Kim Mahood (2000) grasped the intoxicating effect of frontier life for individuals. Writing about the Northern Territory in the 1940s she observed that the Territory was a tremendous stage with a handful of players, and the opportunity for everyone to have a starring role, to write the drama as they go along. On frontiers the only certainty is change itself in one or two generations heroic, vital and purposeful frontier lifestyles can be reduced to pathetic, marginal lives, as is powerfully portrayed in Arthur Millers The Misfits. With calculated irony, Miller (1961) has some of the last of the wild west cowboys eking a living killing wild horses for pet food. With so much change, attachments to place are obliterated as those places are changed it is no coincidence that Xavier Herbert entitled his north Australian magnum opus Poor Fellow My Country. Aldo Leopold (1949), the father of the modern environment movement, understood the inherent contradiction of the American frontier life when he wrote that pioneers usually scoff at any effort to perpetuate pioneering. Yet, without consideration of how a frontier is being developed, and strenuous effort to conserve the natural and cultural values of the frontier, are we not doomed to repeat the same mistakes as have occurred on other frontiers? Simply put, will northern Australia be a replay of the development of southern Australia? For 150 years, there has been a remarkable confluence of a 40 millennia old culture and western traditions in northern Australia, associated with the last wave of colonisation by the British Empire. The economic drivers of northern settlement in the 19th century were geopolitical strategic imperatives, localised mining and extensive cattle ranching on the endless landscapes (Powell 2000). Infertile soils, labour shortages, livestock diseases and isolation from markets stymied intensive agricultural development. In consequence, only a tiny portion of the northern Australia savannas were subject to land clearing, in dramatic contrast with the transformation of landscapes witnessed in southern Australia during the same period. For the first half of the 20th century, the north remained an exotic backwater aptly described as a feral frontier by Cathy Robinson (2005) because hunting of feral buffalo for hides and crocodiles for skins were major primary industries. These feral industries were a dramatic manifestation of a social and biological frontier that both separated, and united, black hunter-gatherers with white civilisation and modernity (Robinson 2005). The future of the north was so far outside the Australian political consciousness that it was beyond serious consideration. However, sustained attacks by the Japanese during the Second World War forced the Australian government to grapple with the problem of the north. In the post-war period, the Australian government explored the economic potential of the vast empty and unproductive landscapes. Using technological approaches, land capability was assessed and heroic attempts at agriculture and forestry swallowed up considerable sums of Commonwealth money, to no avail (Ridpath et al. 1991). In the early 1990s, Ridpath et al. (1991) declared that the transition from Aboriginal to settler Australian custodianship was incomplete and that the north remained a colonial frontier. They wondered whether the north was too hostile for European settlement, yet they recognised that this 1 School for Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia 109

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