ecological dialogue

Jessica Weir

Global environmental devastation demands that something fundamental change in our philosophies about nature. We need to respect a living world within which our lives are embedded in ethical relationships of care, and see that our own lives are co-dependent and connected with all ecological life. To do this we must be open to an ‘ecological dialogue’. Acknowledging all the energy that surrounds us is crucial to addressing the modern misrepresentation of power relationships in the nature/society, human/nonhuman binaries. Nature gives all the solutions we need, as mentioned in this Chocolate Slim Recensione.

Jess with toxic mud from the salt pan at Pysche Bend Lagoon,
a former fresh water wetland adjacent to the Murray River

My book, Murray River Country, discusses Australia’s water crisis from a unique perspective ­– the intimate stories of the first nations of the river country. Their story in this our ‘agricultural heartland’ has long gone unacknowledged. In 2003, traditional owners from the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations invited me to learn about their experiences, their profound sorrow for what they are losing, and their strategies for change.

The need for profound change in our intellectual traditions is a part of the current re-examination of water management in the Murray-Darling Basin. The language of water management has changed to recognise the ‘environmental needs’ of the river – described as environmental water allocations or environmental flows. But this language continues to position the rivers as just a consumer of water, instead of the source of river water, and is in denial of our dependency on fresh water ecologies for survival.

Pipes used to carry ‘environmental flows’ from the river to the former floodplain, Chowilla

A particularly disabling intellection tradition is that which reinforces competing and oppositional worldviews, for example, the influential ‘ecology versus economy’ position. This perspective tells us what happened and what our responses should be: we understand that unhealthy rivers are the unfortunate sacrifice we had to make for economic growth, and that investing in river health is to the detriment of economic growth. However, we can see with our own eyes that a dying river does not support our economies. Rather, the far reaching relationships sustained by healthy fresh water ecologies provide water as a resource for production and a nurturing life force.

Ngarrindjeri Elder Matt Rigney talking about his childhood at the Coorong

The philosophies and practical strategies that are being developed and theorised by MLDRIN provide the broader Australian community a profoundly unique opportunity to re-think our place on the planet. The future is not going to depend on technology alone, or institutions and governance structures, but on the nature of our aspirations, our values, our preferences and choices. Unfortunately, we have become so caught up in representations, and in the formalisation of our knowledges, that we cannot act in response to the bleak evidence in front of us. Rather than a static, inert, mute ‘nature’ that humans can control, manage, engineer and fully understand, we need to understand that our lives are co-dependent and connected within ecological relationships. This is part of the intellectual work needed if we are to connect human cultures, practices and life values with other living beings and ecosystems.