Valuing country

Let me count three ways

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  • Published 20190205
  • ISBN: 9781925773408
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

IT WAS READING Alexis Wright’s novel Carpentaria (Giramondo, 2006) in 2007 that introduced me to the idea of ‘country’: land as a living being with meaning, personality, will, a temper and ancient reciprocal relationships with its people governed by law. This made sense to me. I’ve felt the living presence of this land and I care deeply about how we treat it. I’m especially interested in how our thinking about land shapes our behaviour towards it. And I’ve been preoccupied by ideas of country and two new ways of conceiving it – ‘natural capital’ and ‘rights of nature’ – that seek to address the many ecological crises currently afflicting our planet.

I first heard about natural capital in 2010 when I was writing about accounting and grappling with the fact that traditional methods of calculating the wealth of a nation make living nature invisible. In that terminology a tree is worth more dead than alive, felled for timber rather than providing shade, shelter and homes for animals, making oxygen from carbon dioxide, bolstering soil, filtering water. Because of this anomaly, pursuing economic growth, or increases in gross domestic product (GDP), encourages us to trash and exhaust the natural world – which we have been doing so successfully.

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