Defending the Little Desert: The Rise of Ecological Consciousness in Australia

Robin, Libby | from Multimedia Library Collection:
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Robin, Libby. Defending the Little Desert. Cover (1994)

Robin, Libby. Defending the Little Desert: The Rise of Ecological Consciousness in Australia. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing Ltd., 1994.

In 1968 Sir William McDonald, Victoria’s Minister of Lands, announced a rural settlement scheme for the Little Desert in Victoria’s far north-west. The conservation campaign that ensued was one of unprecedented vehemence and sophistication. It cost McDonald his parliamentary seat and consigned the Little Desert Settlement Scheme to oblivion.

The Little Desert dispute was a watershed in Australian environmental politics. Suburban activists, scientists, amateur naturalists, economists, and bureaucrats banded together to oppose McDonald’s ill-conceived scheme. It marked the beginning of a new consciousness of nature and the concept of “biological diversity” was voiced in the halls of parliament for the first time.

In Defending the Little Desert, Libby Robin offers a sensitive account of the unlikely coalition of forces that assembled to save the Little Desert. This account of the campaign, perhaps the earliest expression of ecological consciousness in Australia, is relevant to all people interested in conservation and the environment, in participatory political processes, and in “public science.” (Text adapted from Melbourne University Publishing.)