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September 20, 2019

One careless night
by Christina Booth, Black Dog, 2019.

This sobering picture book warns us just how dangerous human carelessness is for wildlife. It tells the story of Benjamin, the last living Thylacine, who died in the Hobart Zoo, because the zoo keeper was too careless to bring her in one freezing winter night in 1936. Yet this final extinction event was no accident; it was a deliberate, systematic campaign sanctioned by the authorities for many years.

The Thylacine’s tragic disappearance continues to haunt us as the Australian extinction crisis escalates. Perhaps political leaders need to read this book to rethink their own carelessness towards the environment?

Playing with collage
By Jeannie Baker, Walker Books, 2019.

Jeannie Baker, renowned environmental picture book author and illustrator, shares her love of the art of collage where textures, patterns, shapes and colours create powerful images inspiring one to love nature.

This book is excellent for children of all ages, but for younger children adult supervision is needed. Jeannie Baker puts the case that the art of collage teaches observation, experimentation, listening and playfulness; and that delightful feeling of achievement, when after much practice, the collage finally looks and feels right!

Failing Nature: the Rise and Fall of the Wilderness Society
By Bill Lines, envirobook, 2019.

This history of the Wilderness Society raises many controversial questions. Perhaps its most abiding question is: why do we continue to fail nature? Is it because we are so blinded by our own needs that we cannot comprehend the needs of other living species?

The Wilderness Society was instrumental in leading the campaign to save Tasmania’s Franklin River in the 1980s. Following this stunning victory, which affirmed the values of wilderness and world heritage, the Wilderness Society took on campaigns to end the logging, wood chipping and land clearing that remain embedded in Australia’s deforestation history.

Bill Lines looks at the complex and entangled emotions that dominate the humanistic mindset — ego, ambition, politics and the belief in human exceptionalism. Lines refuses to shy away from how our obsession with our own species is responsible for the plunder and destruction of nature. He highlights the population-environment debate and argues how increases in human numbers are at the core of environmental destruction. This, of course, leads to challenging conversations with not only forestry workers and their unions but also many in the progressive and social justice movement. Yet Lines also argues that it is neoliberalism that drives environmental devastation. Neoliberalism sees nature as a tool kit to expand the corporate profits from industrial agriculture, mining, forestry, infrastructure and property development.

Lines shares his insights into the history of the “rise and fall” of the Wilderness Society. The rise includes getting people onto the streets and into the forests protesting to save the environment. The Wilderness Society achieved significant environment wins including saving the Tasmanian wilderness, the World Heritage tropics, Jabiluka, and Ningaloo. The falls include the coup that led to the ousting of Alec Marr as its director. Again deeply controversial.

Alec Marr’s achievements continued after he left the Wilderness Society. He helped purchase the Gunns woodchip mill by those who wanted to end logging of old growth forests. He then spent two years as the caretaker of the Triabunna woodchip mill to finalise its demolition so that woodchipping could not restart.

Yet this important book warns us of the dangers of worshipping our own human exceptionalism and calls on us to continue the fight to end corporate thuggery against the environment.

All three books are available from Federation Library.

Janine Kitson is a Life Member

So you want to talk about race
By Ijeoma Oluo Seal Press

“Act now, because people are dying now in this unjust system. How many lives have been ground up by racial prejudice and hate? ... We have to learn and fight at the same time. Because people have been waiting far too long for their chance to live as equals in this society.”

Have you ever sat down to read a book, but found that instead of reading the book, it somehow absorbed into your psyche and changed something deep within? This is that kind of a book. Though deeply rooted in American culture, its discussions of race, culture, gender, sexuality and life in general are universal.

So you want to talk about race is an intricate tapestry of anecdotes, history, social commentary, and revelation. Each chapter has a specific theme, ranging from the ways that Oluo’s identities as a black, queer, woman interact, and the implications intersectionality has for all people, through to a forthright and insightful discussion about why white people can’t say “the N word”.

Oluo begins chapters with the recount of an incident from her life, using these oft-shocking stories as a platform upon which to explore systemic issues such as cultural appropriation, the school-to-prison pipeline, and police brutality. Anecdotes about adult interactions with children in minority groups and the long-lasting impact this can have are heartbreaking, but endlessly illuminating.

The author explores her own biases, including past failures to include blacks from lower socio-economic backgrounds in her attempts to build confidence in her community, and previous lack of understanding about the impact of the “model minority myth” on Asian immigrants. In doing so, she helps lessen the blow for the reader who, from start to finish, has to face their own assumptions, their own shortcomings in the fight against systemic racism, all the way from micro-aggressions to democratic engagement.

Excerpts from this book would make for excellent discussion in the stage 5 or 6 Human Society and its Environment classroom, especially in Society and Culture, Legal Studies, or Modern History. This book confronts us, challenges us, and ultimately changes us. As educators this ought to be required reading.

Rebecca Langham is a member of the LGBTIQ Restricted Committee

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Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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