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Germaine Greer: "I've now become a doer"

Germaine Greer: "I've now become a doer"

Germaine Greer (credit: University of Melbourne/Wikipedia)

Australian writer Germaine Greer is known for her strong voice, often opinionated, funny, and brilliant. Her books on feminism and the woman's movement have been read by millions. Greer purchased an abandoned dairy farm in Queensland and retired to become an advocate for environmental restoration. When asked why she decided on this work Greer said: Give me just a chance to clean something up, sort something out, make it right, and I will take it.

               Cave Creek and Springbrook NP, Queensland (credit: Friends of Gondwana)

The famous author has written about this journey of restoration in White Beech: The Rainforest Years to describe her time learning about the forest, its plants, animals, and how to restore the degraded areas that surrounded the farm. The science magazine Nature was so impressed by Greer's new endeavor they asked fellow Australian, the ecologist Tim Flannery, to write them a book review.

Looking for something different after a career of political and social commentary. Greer embarked on this grand environmental effort by creating a non-profit organization: the Friends of Gondwana Rainforest. The recovery program is based at Cave Creek near Springbrook National Park inland from some of Queensland's famous surfing beaches. Besides restoring her farm's landscape, another of the organization's goals is to highlight the plight of rainforests in Australia. They represent remnants of the forests that once covered the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, of which Australia was a large part.

Chance encounters with the natural world can often have profound effects on someone. Greer had one such serendipitous epiphany while sitting quietly on a rock in the forest. She commented on this to a lecture audience at the University of Melbourne:

I was sitting on a rock viewing and listening to the forest when a bird appeared, a Regent Bowerbird, and danced in front of me. The whole time it kept looking out of its yellow eyes right at me. It was like the bird was saying, What are you going to do about this place? Are you going to help us? In the end, when I left that rock, I bought the property."

 

                   Regent Bowerbird (credit: Friends of Gondwana/Lui Weber)

Greer purchased ~150 acres of degraded landscape and began propagating native species from seeds she gathered from the few remaining rainforest plant species nearby. Using ecological 'trial & error' attempts she watched to see what grew, became established, and which did not. Greer then planted the species which survived around her property to encourage further regeneration from the few remaining patches of the original forest. She wanted to see if it would be possible to rebuild a rainforest extensively degraded by logging, clearing, overgrazing, and covered in invasive weeds. As her Gondwana foundation notes:

"if the extraordinary rainforest biodiversity is to be preserved, a network of small reserves will need to be created. We hope to inspire other private landholders that have rainforest fragments to conserve and protect them. We hope our efforts will help like-minded individuals and organizations find each other as well as providing a information database to assist. To keep even the smallest patches of native or semi-native vegetation – the large reserves alone are not enough”.

 

            Rainforest restoration, Cave Creek (credit: Friends of Gondwana)

The author was invited to make a presentation on her forest recovery efforts, the results, and the impact the work had on her intellectually. Her accounts are personal, emotional, powerful, and funny. Greer made quite a positive choice for trying environmental restoration as a second career. Such efforts are big tasks but anyone can participate in some capacity. Perhaps you may also do some engaged restoration work yourself someday. WHB

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