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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