Wednesday 7 October 2009

Metcalfe hits back at Wild Rivers debate

Jonathan Metcalfe is a well-known Cairns environmentalist and a founding member of the Far North Greens. He has been a candidate for Mulgrave and is currently secretary of the local branch. Jon is also a past president of CAFNEC, and created the Far Northern Bike Ride.

Jon responds to Noel Pearson's A People’s Survival, writing in The Australian, and the ongoing debate about access to Cape York's Wild Rivers.

I support Wild Rivers legislation as a means to allow indigenous economic advancement while protecting culture and nature. "Wilderness" to me means the absence of western industrial society. It does not mean the absence of people.

Noel Pearson outlines the enormous pressure modern globalised culture places on vulnerable aboriginal populations to assimilate. He says this is exacerbated by substance abuse and economic disadvantage.

Surely there is also a level of economic choice and scale to consider in moving forward.

First consider a heavy-industrial future based on resource extraction and environmental exploitation. Here economic gain of a sort is assured. But also cultural extinction and assimilation is assured, as the values of the marketplace come to dominate, as it has in white culture which now has few other core values outside the economic.

The other scenario would be a deliberate choice to limit resource exploitation within sustainable boundaries with the major economic base being tourism and environmental maintenance. This future embraces technology and education and dovetails nicely into emerging opportunities in the economy of carbon credits. The Earth Sciences of forest, land and sea would be dominant in this economy.

But most importantly this way would also seem to magnify the opportunities for indigenous cultural maintenance and cultural retrieval. Noel Pearson has been very critical recently over the Wild Rivers legislation.

However, it can be argued that it is legislation like this which will protect against a heavy industrial future while still allowing economic activity on an appropriate scale.

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Glenn Walker said...

For the latest news about Wild Rivers, including how it can prevent highly destructive industrial development, go to our new article posted "Mining the Wenlock? ... what a croc!":

Mr Moderate said...

Shock and Horror!!

Cairns man makes rational and intelligent comment about future land use on Cape York!

Wild said...

This is the debate that Noel Pearson has tried to deflect through a campaign of fear and deception - a debate about appropriate development paths for Cape York.

Cape York is a place of incredible nature and culture. Surely we - including Pearson - are smart enough to do things differently in this region.

Wild Rivers is simply a mild protection framework to steer future development in a non-destructive path.

Based on what we know of the cost of restoring trashed rivers, it is the smartest economic decision for Cape York - Pearson in his opposition is advocating for a failed economic future as without healthy rivers there is no economic base.

Pearson's dishonesty in this debate has put a huge dent in credibility as a future, and contemporary leader.

John T. said...

Non-Aboriginal environmentalists should spend more time building relationships with Aboriginal people rather than pontificating as to what is best for them.

Jon says....

"I support Wild Rivers legislation as a means to allow indigenous economic advancement while protecting culture and nature."


"But most importantly this way would also seem to magnify the opportunities for indigenous cultural maintenance and cultural retrieval."

While Jon is certainly entitled to his opinion, the problem is the Traditional owners disagree. They have a different idea as to what their own culture is and what their own economic needs are.

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Jon's opinion is his assertion that the imposed white legislation will protect the interests of Aboriginal people. We have seen pretty clearly how white legislation has "protected" Aboriginal people in the past. There was a time when such a protectionist ideology was considered politically unsound and progressives supported the policy paradigms of land rights and self management.

It is sad that in a time of interventions and the new paternalism that environmentalists are at the forefront of reviving the old policy paradigms. It is not Pearson and the Cape York trial or Families responsibilities commission that diss-empowers Aboriginal people, for they seem to reinforce traditional family and authority structures. It is the removal of their sovereign rights to land that diss-empowers them.

The Wilderness society do not have a social justice platform and their constitution specifically says that if the TWS and traditional owners disagree then TWS opinion over-rules for policy.

The Greens however have social justice as one of their policy pillars. They also have policies of Aboriginal sovereignty and self determination.

For the Greens to adopt the wilderness society's policy framework not only betrays the attempts by Cape York Aboriginal people to drag themselves out of extreme poverty, it also betrays the philosophy and policy that has got the Greens to where it is today. The Greens have always insisted that they are not a single issue party yet on Cape York issues they cling to one dimensional environmental policy.

Bryan Law said...

I endorse the comments from John T. I was puzzled by Jon Metcalfe's seeming acceptance that industrial development had already culturally defeated whitefellas, and that we should therefore tell blackfellas how to do it.

What I don't understand about this debate is why is it so urgent to force Wild Rivers on blackfellas right now, instead of negotiating consent.

Negotiating consent isn't so hard.

I've got to pay attention elsewhere this coming week as the USS Blue Ridge (fingers on the nuclear trigger) visits Cairns.

I'll come back to this debate after that, and I'm hoping the Greens candidate for Barron River, Sarah Isaacs, will tell the March Queensland election story from her perspective.

Brian's Brain Explosions said...

Yeah Brian, you go and trivialise another issue with your silly antics. All you do is preach to the converted. You certainly don't seem to be changing anyone else's mind. Of course someone will have to fork out for the arrest and ensuing court usual.