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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relatively well researched (eg. Baker et al. 2001). Other matters, especially in the area of Aboriginal responses to the mainstream capitalist economy and its institutions, will require further work. The basic structures for a communalised economy exist. We know that Aboriginal persons in northern (and central) Australia retain their historic connection to land, to maintaining that land and to hunting and fishing on that land (NATSISS). Organisational forms such as the CDEP provide one economic organisational platform for linking the communal economy into productive interactions with the mainstream economy. Some work has already been done to incorporate the Aboriginal communal economy into land management, in particular using traditional burning practices (Dyer et al.2001). This is of utility not just for communally-owned lands but for privately controlled pastoral properties. So a potential market exists for traditional Aboriginal land management knowledge. Indeed this knowledge may be vital for the successful adaptive management (Holling 1978; Walters 1986) of our natural resources in northern Australia. Equally, potential markets exist for Aboriginal knowledge about flora and fauna. Securing these markets requires research and education, and possibly government regulation. Governments can intervene to assist the marketisation of Aboriginal-controlled resources (though not always positively, as in the Commonwealths recent precipitate prevention of crocodile culling safaris). Other more conventional markets for Aboriginal labour exist in the current industries of northern Australia. For example, the cattle industry on the tropical savannas has an annual labour force turnover rate of about 50%. Clearly that hampers efficiency. The turnover is a combination of the low rates of pay in the industry and the changes in white-fella social expectations, so that people are reluctant to live for a long time in conditions of social isolation and geographic remoteness. Because Aborigines are mostly committed to their country, young Aboriginal men would be the ideal labourforce for cattle enterprisesiii. Indeed, they have done so within relatively recent memory. However, unless they are teenage boys, these young family men are inhibited from participation in the cattle industry because of Commonwealth regulatory penalties with regards to family benefits and unemployment benefits. In this case the Commonwealths regulatory rules create a marginal tax regime of 100 per cent if these men take dry season work in the cattle industry. These are problems that need to be solved. Conclusions This paper is not merely to make a moral case for recognition of the traditional Aboriginal economy and its potential contribution to a new framework for economic development in the north. A moral case exists but it would never convince the hard heads that make policy within the Commonwealth Treasury. The test I would apply is the economic opportunity cost test of my approach against the costs and effects of present policy paradigms. Let me make the point with a simple example of providing law and order within a large Aboriginal settlement. Police in remote locations are expensive (in accrual accounting terms they annually each cost well over $100,000 per capita in a remote settlement). Police often have spouses who frequently obtain employment on the community. This situation arises from the difficulty governments have in securing people willing to live in remote communities and so encouraging such behaviour. The net result is an expensive justice system and reduced Aboriginal employment. Alternatives based upon Community Patrols and enhanced powers for Aboriginal Community Police Officers would produce a better socio-economic result for each dollar of outlay. This is not an isolated example. All Territorians are aware of the Maningrida sea rangers success in discovering illegal fishers in coastal waters. On a per-dollar basis they are almost certainly more cost-effective than the Commonwealths coast watch service. Altman (2006) notes that Aboriginal natural resource management is far cheaper than for government-run national parks. Prepare for Impact!Setting the Scene 9

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