Reviews

In this webpage - reviews from Chain Reaction #122, November 2014

  • Art in Nature − David Rennie
  • Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin − Dianne Bell
  • Let the Land Speak − Jackie French
  • The Green Leaf − Mariette Perrinjacquet-Spertini
  • Earth Jurisprudence: Private Property and the Environment − Peter Burdon
  • Poisoned Planet − Julian Cribb
  • The Coral Battleground − Judith Wright
  • Banning landmines one step at a time − Jane Jolly and Sally Heinrich
  • Album Review: The Yearlings, 'All the Wandering'
  • Fukushima books
  • Maralinga: a chilling exposé

Art in Nature

Art in Nature

David Rennie

Exisle Publishing www.exislepublishing.com.au

RRP $55

November 2014

Also available as a Leather Bound Limited Edition

The Mandurah Wetlands of Western Australia are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet. Protected by the Ramsar convention they are home to over 100 species of bird. They are part of a global network of environments essential to the breeding cycle of many migratory species, some from as far away as Russia.

In Art in Nature, photographer David Rennie captures glimpses of the raw and natural beauty of this threatened landscape. David, who suffers from bipolar disorder, would often be in the field day and night. In manic times, unable to sleep, he would stalk the birds he loved to photograph, capturing "the perfect second in which light and landscape rendered their magic".

Art In Nature includes a selection of the strikingly memorable images that now comprise his vast collection. The result is a book that will captivate not just bird lovers but all who appreciate the art we find in nature.

Reviewer Nicholas Cadey writes: "This is a very special book for many reasons, but the first that come to mind − after my wife and I have poured over every page − is that it's such a comprehensive and intimate view of wildlife that we never get to see. One of my favorite things is that every stunning image seems to be accompanied by a witty insight or a fun title. This book is definitely not the dry coffee table fodder that you see so much of, it's full of beautiful images, some cheeky, some surprising and very often images that you'd never be so lucky to see."

David Rennie has won many awards for his work, including the prestigious Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year in 2013.

More information: www.artinnature.com.au, www.davidrennie.com


Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin

Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was, and Will Be

Diane Bell

Spinifex Press www.spinifexpress.com.au

ISBN: 9781742199184

June 2014

RRP: $39.95, eBook: $24.99

In Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin, Diane Bell invites her readers into the complex and contested world of the cultural beliefs and practices of the Ngarrindjeri of South Australia; teases out the meanings and misreadings of the written sources; traces changes andcontinuities in oral accounts; challenges assumptions about what Ngarrindjeri women know, how they know it, and how outsiders may know what is to be known. Wurruwarrin: knowing and believing.

In 1995, a South Australian Royal Commission found Ngarrindjeri women to have "fabricated" their beliefs to stop the building of a bridge from Goolwa to Hindmarsh Island. By 2001, in federal court, the women were vindicated as truth-tellers. In 2009, the site was registered, but scars remain of that shameful moment.

In the Preface to the new edition of Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin, Bell looks to the world that "will be", where talented, committed Ngarrindjeri leaders are building the infrastructure for future generations of the Ngarrindjeri nation and challenging the very foundation of the state of South Australia.

Diane Bell writes as an insider who is clear about the bases of her engagement with her Ngarrindjeri friends and colleagues. The story will continue to unfold. There is unfinished business. 

Diane Bell is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at The George Washington University, DC, USA and Writer and Editor in Residence at Flinders University, South Australia. She has written of matters concerning Aboriginal society with particular emphasis on land rights, native title, law reform, women's rights, violence against women, religion and the environment. 

Christine Nicholls writes in Times Higher Education: "Bell's greatest achievement in Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin lies in her truthful rendering of the complexities and internal contradictions of the current Ngarrindjeri position, without underplaying the hard questions ... magisterial work."


Let the Land Speak

Let the Land Speak

By Jackie French

October 2013

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780732296759

RRP: $39.99, e-book available

Storyteller, historian and ecologist Jackie French's exploration of our country's past has taken 50 years to write and encompasses thousands of year's worth of knowledge

French has spent decades listening to and living from the land. She grows 272 kinds of fruit in her garden, sings to wombats and knows how to build an earth oven, a roof out of stringybark and find water in the desert.

Through her understanding of our land and the way our ancestors lived, French shows how we can predict floods and bush fires before they happen and why boats will continue to arrive on our shores – just as they have for the last 60,000 years.

Reintepreting the history we think we all know – from Terra Incognita to Eureka, from Federation to Gallipoli and beyond, French shows us how the land has been instrumental in creating our nation.

Let the Land Speak is a rich insight into our past, and a glimpse into what we can do to shape Australia's future.


The Green Leaf

The Green Leaf / La Feuille Verte

Mariette Perrinjacquet-Spertini

Classic Press, 2013, Melbourne

ISBN 978-0-646-56875-1

Review by Linda Delory

Is it possible to feel related to the environmental cause when our lives are daily so disconnected from nature? The painter, sculptor and illustrator Mariette Perrinjaquet-Spertini, born in Switzerland and having worked in Australia since 1961, shares some inspiring visions in her poetic and spiritual production The Green Leaf / La Feuille Verte, combining insightful drawings and text in both English and French.

In a modern parable, using simple text accompanying the gentle and pastel tones visions drawn with a clean line, the artist shares her love for nature and her desire to pass it on to the next generation. She also draws a harsh picture of our current system alienating individuals and producing a deep lack of connection to our own nature.

The book starts with the androgen universal character, Humanus, discovering in the mirror 'the face of his own alienation', in a cold, polluted, mechanical world. The spiritual awakening is then symbolised by the observing self, Spiritus, breaking free from the cage that was willingly created, and then left with a barren land, growing an inner seed which will take time and hope.

The simplicity of the text, leaving just the necessary, gives a refreshing space for the mind to wander in the powerful illustrations and gives the pure and striking impression of a Japanese Haiku. This book is a deep, conscious breath, to share with everyone and especially kids.

The book can be bought in Rewadings book store in Melbourne.


Earth Jurisprudence: Private Property and the Environment

Earth Jurisprudence: Private Property and the Environment

By Peter D. Burdon

Routledge

2014

Hardback $125, also available as an e-book
978-0-415-63317-8

The idea of human dominion over nature has become entrenched by the dominant rights-based interpretation of private property. Accordingly, nature is not attributed any inherent value and becomes merely the matter of a human property relationship. Earth Jurisprudence: Private Property and the Environment explores how an alternative conception of property might be instead grounded in the ecocentric concept of an Earth community. Recognising that human beings are deeply interconnected with and dependent on nature, this concept is proposed as a standard and measure for human law.

This book argues that the anthropocentric institution of private property needs to be reconceived; drawing on international case law, indigenous views of property and the land use practices of agrarian communities, Peter Burdon considers how private property can be reformulated in a way that fosters duties towards nature. Using the theory of earth jurisprudence as a guide, he outlines an alternative ecocentric description of private property as a relationship between and among members of the Earth community.

Peter Burdon is a Senior Lecturer at the Adelaide Law School, deputy chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Ethics Specialist Group, and a member of Friends of the Earth, Adelaide.

More information: www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415633178


Poisoned Planet

Poisoned Planet
How constant exposure to man-made chemicals is putting your life at risk
Julian Cribb

Published: June 2014

RRP: $27.99

ISBN: 9781760110468

We want things to be cheap, convenient and useful. Our food arrives contaminated with pesticides and wastes, wrapped in plastic made of hormone-disrupting chemicals. We bathe and dress our children in petrochemicals. Even our coffee contains miniscule traces of arsenic, cup by cup adding to the toxins accumulating in our bodies.

Man-made chemicals are creating a silent epidemic. Our children are sicker; cancer, obesity, allergies and mental health issues are on the rise in adults; and frighteningly, we may be less intelligent than previous generations.

A poisoned planet is the price we pay for our lifestyle, but Julian Cribb shows we have the tools to clean it up and create a healthier, safer future for us all.

Julian Cribb is a distinguished science writer with more than thirty awards for journalism. He was a newspaper editor, founder of the influential ScienceAlert website and author of eight books, including The Coming Famine.

Academic Clive Hamilton says: "How could one species poison an entire planet, from the poles to the stratosphere and down to the ocean floor? In this meticulously researched yet highly readable book Julian Cribb tells us how it happened, and what we might do about it."

www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9781760110468


The Coral Battleground

The Coral Battleground

Judith Wright

Spinifex Press www.spinifexpress.com.au

ISBN: 9781742199061

RRP: $29.95, eBook: $19.99

May 2014

Just as in the late 1960s when the Great Barrier Reef was threatened with limestone mining and oil drilling and a small group of dedicated conservationists battled to save the Ellison Reef, today we must again fight to save the Reef. The Reef is again facing threats from mining, government and corporate interests. Once again a battle looms to protect this unique world heritage environment from vested interests that only seek commercial gain.

Therefore it is timely that Spinifex has republished Judith Wright's The Coral Battleground which includes a foreword by Margaret Thorsborne AO, conservationist and environmental activist. The Coral Battleground shows how a small group of dedicated activists can change history and will hopefully inspire a new generation to join the fight to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Judith Wright is one of Australia's best known poets. She was also an ardent conservationist and activist. Over a long and distinguished literary career, she published poetry, children's books, literary essays, biographies, histories and other works of non-fiction. Her commitment to the Great Barrier Reef began in 1962, when she helped found the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. She went on to become a member of the Committee of Enquiry into the National Estate and life member of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Germaine Greer writes: "It will come as a surprise to most people that so many of the issues confronted in the 1960s by the doughty campaigners against drilling for oil on the barrier reef are still alive. We will have to be as determined and as persistent as they if we are to protect what is now a World Heritage Site from pollution, dredging, dumping, coral bleaching and pest species."

Bob Brown writes: "'Where is the fire in their belly?' Judith Wright asked me of the millions who claim to be environmentalists but do nothing or, worse still, vote for the wreckers. Her Coral Battleground is a call to action from last century to save the Great Barrier Reef from ending up as a barren ruin this century. This book is a classic of ecological literature."


Banning landmines one step at a time

One Step At a Time

Jane Jolly (author) and Sally Heinrich (illustrator)

MidnightSun Publishing

February 2015

Review by Helen Stranger

At first glance a young elephant injured by a landmine might seem an unlikely topic for a picture book for young children; certainly there would be little or no competition for such a niche. Yet this book is highly engaging rather than scary.

This touching story begins with a baby elephant foraging for bananas in a jungle clearing. The peaceful scene is violently disrupted by the explosion of a hidden landmine. Such a situation is a fact of life in many areas of historic conflict such as South-East Asia, where borders have been disputed and remnants of war still contaminate the land, causing hazards for people and wildlife.

How can young children be informed sensitively of such dangers, without inducing terror? In this picture book, author Jane Jolly and illustrator Sally Heinrich succeed in bringing a comforting message of courage, bravery and love. The text and delightful illustrations combine to show the characters coping with adversity and coming at length to a happy ending. They are assisted by the community and watched over by benign Buddhist monks.

This uplifting book celebrates the close relationship between the young elephant Mali and the boy Luk who cares for her so tenderly as she is returned to health and supported to walk once more – one step at a time.

Author Jane Jolly has had three picture books in the Children's Book Council Australia Book of the Year Awards. Jane strongly believes in the fight to rid the world of landmines and cluster munitions, and in teaching empathy to children through stories so that future generations may live more peaceful lives. Jane has promised 50% of her Royalties to SafeGround (formerly known as the Australian Network to Ban Landmines), which seeks to reduce the impacts of war.

Illustrator Sally Heinrich has been recognised through fellowships from the Asialink Foundation, the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust, Varuna – the Writers' Centre, Arts SA and the Ian Reed Foundation. Her original artwork and linoprints have been exhibited in Australia and Asia. Sally believes that picture books are a powerful tool to communicate ideas and build bridges of understanding between people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Publication of the book was made possible by a Pozible Crowdfunding campaign, and the funding exceeded the $10,000 target initially set for printing and shipping expenses. The surplus is enabling Jane and Sally to travel to schools and regional centres for author visits, and will also go towards translation into the languages of the region where the book is set.

One Step at a Time is published by Anna Solding of MidnightSun Publishing. It is currently in production, and the launch in Adelaide is planned for February 2015. For further information, keep up to date with the blog: www.lukandmali.wordpress.com

Helen Stanger is the South Australian Coordinator on the SafeGround Committee, which has warmly embraced the project to fund and publish this book. www.safeground.org.au


Album Review: The Yearlings, All the Wandering

Review by Anthony Amis

“This pancake land / the dust and the sand / white picket crosses / scattered over our land.”

I reckon what hooks me most when listening to music these days is mystery. The lingering possibility of something undefined, either good or bad, that could unravel at anytime when you least expect or want it to occur.

All the Wandering, by Adelaide duo The Yearlings, is full of mystery. It evokes all kinds of emotions in me that I can't exactly pin down. The first and ninth songs would make Emmylou Harris proud and the rest of the album verges on impressive cosmic country-tinged blues that would make Gram Parsons, or even Nick Drake smile – if they could.

The Yearlings' sound absorbs Australian landscapes like a sponge, allowing fragile harmonies to mix perfectly +with sly lyrical observations backed by spare use of electric and acoustic guitars. Horns also come into play on some tracks and some of the guitar playing is really cool, particularly on tracks like What Becomes of Love, Breathless Eric and perhaps the best track on the album Way Out East, which features excellent desert-fried lead guitar.

The album reminds me in part of the best country album I've heard in the past decade, the hauntingly beautiful Between Here and the Night by The Hired Guns, another band rooted in the often parched South Australian environment. Neil Murray also comes to mind on a couple of tracks.

This is the Yearlings fifth album in a dozen years and the band has toured extensively through Australia and overseas. Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson have chalked up another winner here. This album is probably at the top of my heap for 2014. Get on board!

www.theyearlings.net


Fukushima Books

Fukushima

Mark Willacy

ISBN: 9781742612959

2013

RRP $32.99, also available as an e-book

Macmillan Australia

www.panmacmillan.com.au/display_title.asp?ISBN=9781742612959

Fukushima is the story behind the twin catastrophes of the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, seen through the eyes of witnesses and victims – from the mother patiently excavating the mud and debris left by the tsunami as she looked for the remains of her daughter; to the prime minister of the day, Naoto Kan; to the TEPCO plant director of Fukushima Dai-Ichi and his senior engineers; to the elite firefighters who risked their lives to avert the ultimate nuclear nightmare. The book is written by Mark Willacy, a Tokyo-based correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Villains are identified, including the "nuclear village" of power companies, politicians and bureaucrats, aided by a compliant media. And heroes are identified, including the nuclear plant's manager, the 'Fukushima 50' who stayed behind and the 'samurai firemen'" who worked to prevent an even bigger disaster, along with the individual officials, scientists, journalists and others who battled against a complacent establishment.

"There's this view that you're either pro- or anti-nuclear in covering this disaster, and I'm not either," Willacy told Japan Times. "My reporting is about exposing official corporate and regulatory failings. The government ignored repeated warnings from their own panel members, their own seismologists and their own committees. I find it horribly ironic that TEPCO of all people had the closest, most accurate simulation of anyone − their 15.7-metre tsunami wave forecast was the closest anyone got to what actually happened on March 11."

Willacy argues that Japan has much to learn from the nuclear disaster, including the need for independent regulators, an end to jobs for bureaucrats in nuclear companies and reform of the 'kisha club' media system that helped prevent scrutiny. He warns that another Fukushima is possible if the lessons of the disaster are ignored.

Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima Daiichi: Social, Political and Environmental Issues

Edited by Richard Hindmarsh

Routledge

2013

Also available as an e-book

www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415527835/

Informed by a leading cast of international scholars, including Japanese scholars on the ground as the disaster unfolded, this collection of essays sets the Fukushima disaster against the background of social, environmental and energy security and sustainability. It provides insights into its background and the disaster management options taken and the political, technical and social reactions as the accident unfolded, and critically reflects on both the implications for managing future nuclear disasters and the future of nuclear power itself.

Contributors note that a history of pro-nuclear government policies led to safety, siting and construction of nuclear reactors compromised in a number of areas that inadvertently invited natural disaster. Post-disaster, the book probes the flawed disaster management options taken as radioactive pollution began spreading; and the political, technical, and social reactions as the meltdown unfolded.

The book is edited by Assoc. Prof. Richard Hindmarsh, an Australian academic and co-founder of the Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network.

The essay titles are as follows:

  • Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima Daiichi: Introducing the Terrain
  • Social Shaping of Nuclear Safety: Before and After the Disaster
  • Social Structure and Nuclear Power Siting Problems Revealed
  • Megatechnology, Siting, Place and Participation
  • Environmental Infrastructures of Emergency: The Formation of a Civic Radiation Monitoring
  • Post-Apocalyptic Citizenship and Humanitarian Hardware
  • Envirotechnical Disaster at Fukushima: Nature, Technology and Politics
  • Nuclear Power after 3/11: Looking Back and Thinking Ahead
  • The Search for Energy Security After Fukushima Daiichi
  • The Future Is Not Nuclear: Ethical Choices for Energy after Fukushima
  • Nuclear Emergency Response: Atomic Priests or an International SWAT Team?

Maralinga: a chilling exposé

Maralinga: the chilling exposé of our secret nuclear shame and betrayal of our troops and country

Frank Walker

Hachette Australia www.hachette.com.au

August 2014

RRP $32.99

ISBN 9780733631900

Nine atomic bombs were detonated at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia by the British, with the full support of the Menzies Government, between 1952 and 1957. Another three were detonated at the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of WA. After being asked to provide media assistance to a legal firm attempting to win compensation for victims affected by radiation, veteran investigative journalist Frank Walker became intrigued with the scale of the injury done to servicemen and women, Aboriginal people and the landscape.

The crimes and cover-ups discussed in Walker's book include:

  • Aborigines had their traditional lands stolen from them and poisoned, and were left in the test region to be killed by the fallout.
  • Around 22,000 corpses of children and young people were pilfered for bones and tested for strontium-90. Families were not told, autopsy workers were bribed, results were not revealed − all with the acquiescence of the Australian government.
  • Australian airmen were ordered to fly repeatedly through the mushroom clouds of atomic bombs, with no protection.
  • Australian soldiers were ordered to march into ground zero minutes after explosions, even roll in radioactive dust, with no protection.
  • Australian officers were placed in shelters as close as 1600 m from a nuclear explosion. (The goal was to show that soldiers in a nuclear war could be near a blast and still be fit for battle.)
  • Clouds of radioactive material drifted across the continent to drop 'radioactive rain' on Queensland farms, country towns and Brisbane.

On the broad objectives of the British, Walker writes: "What the British wanted to know was could a nation survive an atomic war? ... Could they grow food? Could the people survive? Would the children grow up to be adults? This was what they wanted to know and this was why the instructions were to have men positioned at certain distances from the blast to see whether they could function afterwards."

Australia gained nothing from the tests yet Australians lost a great deal: "Britain controlled everything − from the scientific knowledge to having overall military authority over the tests and the testing ground. Australians were there simply to provide the labour, the bodies needed to get the tests done, the land to explode the bombs on, and, as it was later revealed, to function as lab rats for the British scientists."

Walker writes in the Prologue:

File number DEFE 16/808 exposes in chilling scientific language that the agenda of the British on that bright sunny spring day was to turn the whole of Australia into one giant nuclear laboratory. They wanted to use the Australian population as human guinea pigs for decades to come.

First, the scientists agreed that in order to find out the amount of fallout the nine atomic bombs had already caused on Australia they needed to collect samples of soil from pasture regions near the five mainland cities – Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Second, they would test vegetation and thirdly, they wanted samples of dairy cows' milk. The reason was simple – radioactivity spread through the air from atomic tests falls on soil, grass grows in soil, cows eat grass, cows produce milk and, finally, humans – particularly children – drink the milk. ...

"Animal samples," said [British nuclear scientist Ernest] Titterton. "We have to have bones from animals to see if Strontium-90 is getting into domestic animals."

After some discussion of the mechanics of the sampling, the scientists decided to take samples from twelve sheep stations 200 to 300 miles (482 to 804 kilometres) along the path the radioactive clouds would be expected to drift in the prevailing winds. Not satisfied with that, they decided to increase the sampling all the way to the east coast to see what happened when radioactive clouds reached the most populated areas of Australia.

Titterton looked around at his fellow scientists. So far so good. No objections to where this was going. No questions about the morality of what they were doing to the people of Australia.

Never one to be squeamish or subtle, he spelled out the next step. "We have to find out if Strontium-90 is entering the food chain and getting into humans."

The biggest consumers of milk are babies, infants and young children. Milk was handed out free at Australian schools. If the scientists got bones from babies and Aussie kids, they'd quickly and efficiently know how much fallout was getting into the food chain. Babies and kids would be best for the test as their bones were still growing and Strontium-90 collects in the bones.

None of the scientists questioned what they were about to embark on. The group nodded to each other. This was science. They were all professionals. The group agreed they needed to take the bones of dead Australian babies to test for Strontium-90.

How many bones wasn't up for discussion. It was simple. The more bones from dead babies the better. There were no questions. It was all written down.

"As many samples as possible are to be obtained,"' the official minutes of the meeting recorded. The minutes noted, as though this might be a problem, that the number of dead babies would probably be small.

The scientists didn't discuss the morality of taking baby bones from grieving Australian families. They didn't think it necessary to ask Australians whether they could rob graves for bones. ...

Professor Titterton said he would make arrangements for the Australian Safety Committee to collect all the samples and dispatch them to the UK. Titterton would make it happen. He was supposed to be representing the interests of Australians on the Atomic Safety Committee. In reality he was running the experiments and the atomic tests solely for Britain.

The scientists' concern that the number of dead baby bones they could get would be low proved to be unfounded. They underestimated the enthusiasm of pathologists, morticians and autopsy attendants for a quick buck.

Workers were more than happy to extract thigh bones from baby corpses in a cash-in-hand deal with the collectors for the atomic scientists. Distraught parents were not to be asked for permission. They weren't to be told what was happening to their lost loved ones. It was to be done in a clandestine operation that would last for decades.

Over the next twenty-one years a staggering 22,000 corpses of babies, infants, children, teenagers and younger adults were pilfered for bones and tested for Strontium-90. It was the longest experiment of its kind in the world. The data gleaned by the body snatchers went not to Australia, but to nuclear authorities in the UK and the US. It was used to further both the nuclear industry and the development of nuclear weapons.

This is the story of how the people of Australia were unknowingly used as guinea pigs in bizarre nuclear tests. It is the story of the betrayal of a nation and its people by its political leaders.

It is the continuing disgrace of thousands of servicemen being lied to and treated like dirt by successive governments.

It began with the worst act of betrayal against Australians by their Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. Robert Menzies couldn't say yes quickly enough when Britain asked if they could explode their atom bombs in Australia. The Australian prime minister received the polite and rather casual request on a Saturday. He said yes on Monday.

A longer extract can be downloaded at:

www.hachette.com.au/books/detail.page?isbn=9780733631900