Phillip Toyne - a magnificent Australian

RS13904_DSC_1114-crop.jpgPhillip Toyne. Photo courtesy Bush Heritage Australia

From Bob Brown.

Phillip Toyne piloted the Landcare revolution with its enormous environmental, employment and economic benefits for rural and regional Australia. Landcare has drawn world-wide plaudits.

He combined an ardent advocacy for Aboriginal custody of the land with an historic new engagement with government - in particular the Hawke Government - for breakthroughs like the hand-back of Uluru to its Traditional Owners, the World Heritage listing and protection of Queensland's Wet Tropical (Daintree) Rainforests, and the enlargement of both the Kakadu and  Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas.

His presidency of the board of Bush Heritage Australia saw it grow into one of the world's top private land conservation organisations, protecting vital wildlife habitats right across the continent.

Phillip Toyne has left our nation, and our planet, greener and better equipped, both socially and politically, to face the very great environmental challenges which lie ahead.

I have a particularly fond recollection of leaning against the blade of a  bulldozer and talking tactics with Phillip in Tasmania's misty Lemonthyme Forest, near Cradle Mountain, in the 1980s.That forest is now an important part of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park.

Phillip Toyne was a magnificent Australian.

Add your reaction Share

The Alhambra, Granada

The Alhambra. Photo: Bob Brown. 6 Apr 2015

The Alhambra (Red Fortress) dates from the tenth century but was primarily built by the Moorish (Muslim) sultans between 1237 and 1391.

Its hilltop grandeur echoes Tibet's Potala (Dalai Lama's) Palace which was constructed in similar times. The Alhambra was proclaimed World Heritage in 1984, 2 years after the Tasmanian Wilderness's listing. One of the world's great buildings, not least for its beautiful tiled palaces, tours are booked out months ahead unless you care to queue at 6am for the 400 on-spec tickets available each day.

The huge Sixteenth Century palace of King Carlos V (not visible here) is an add-on: the fortress was surrendered to the Catholic monarchs in 1492, the year Columbus crossed the Atlantic. The infamously cruel and perverted Spanish Inquisition was to follow on both sides of the ocean.

But springtime in the valley makes this scene from the city of Granada, below the Alhambra, seem as if humanity and nature are an inevitably sublime duo. And the openness and friendliness - not to speak of the paella and beer - of modern Spain, where equal marriage is law, is indeed sublime.

Wish you were here,

Bob and Paul.

1 reaction Share

WILD magazine: The more we secure the future the more we make our own times happy

Originally published in WILD magazine

 Cataraqui coast King Island
Cataraqui coast King Island. Photo: Bob Brown

Campbell Phillips' thoughtful editorial in WILD 145 should have stimulated many debates about whether or not humanity will save the planet from itself. Or will we simply consume our way to the inevitable depletion of resources (including wilderness and biodiversity) and societal collapse which, in previous history, has occurred on a regional scale but this time will be global.

We will either gain a world-wide consensus for self-preservation through democracy or thrash out the scramble for more water, food and shelter as Earth's population tops 10 billions later this century, using guns and whatever other weaponry is available. No victors in the latter option will be left feeling good.

Local and global democracy is the way forward. As Winston Churchill put it in 1947, democracy may be full of faults but it is better than all the other tried options. The problem for planetary environmental survival is not with leaders but with voters - that is, us all. For example, in September 2012, fourteen million of Australia's 15 million voters backed candidates whose platforms included building six mega coal ports inside the Great Barrier Reef.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Book Review - "The Rise and Fall of Gunns Ltd. " by Quentin Beresford

 The Rise and Fall of Gunns Ltd. By Quentin Beresford

Quentin Beresford's 'Rise and Fall' should be kept on the kitchen sideboard. Here, in 400 pages, is the best reply to the next visitor who asks why Tasmania's fortunes have been so blighted.

The book is a history of big egos and arrogance overrunning respect for democracy and public wellbeing in Tasmania. In 1972, for example, Premier 'Electric' Eric Reece arrogantly flooded Lake Pedder ("there was a national park out there but I can't remember exactly where it was") but the book focuses on Gunns supremo John Gay's bid for a huge pulp mill in the Tamar Valley in 2003-10.

When Gay was asked on national television about his logging regime poisoning protected wildlife he famously replied "Well, there's too many of them...". The program was a PR disaster for Gay and for Tasmania but the 'combative, authoritarian and arrogant' entrepreneur was determined to build his mill regardless of public opinion.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Green living - No more infrastructure for Mount Wellington

Wild Magazine
Wild Magazine

Mount Wellington dominates Hobart and is a binding place of interest for the southern capital's 215,000 people. Whether it is a fresh mantle of snow, the orange glow of bushfire smoke clouds over the summit at sunset, or a full moon setting behind its lofty spine, Wellington fascinates the populace below and draws more visitors than Port Arthur or Cradle Mountain.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Talking Point: New life for Pedder looms large

Lake Pedder

It is a matter of time before Lake Pedder, the discarded jewel in Tasmania's western wilderness, makes a celebrated comeback.

Nestling 300m high between the Frankland Range and the Coronets peaks west of Maydena, the lake was formed as the last Ice Age receded.

It was two kilometres square with a glorious pale-pink sandy beach 500m wide along its eastern margin.

Such was its beauty and magnetic attraction that Lake Pedder became a mecca for bushwalkers and campers from all over Australia.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Carnarvon wonders

Lost City
Bob Brown

Carnarvon Gorge is the centrepiece of one of Queensland's most spectacular national parks. As the park camping area was shut in May, there was no option but to stay at one of the privatised  venues we stayed just one night. The day walking up the gorge was one of visual and photographic delights including this classic scene of the  native palms and sandstone cliffs reflected in on of the pools of Carnarvon Creek.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Letter to Hypatia of Alexandria

A letter written and read by Bob for the Men of Letters event, held in Melbourne on 28th October 2012.

Dear Hypatia,

I first got to know you in 1977, on page 365 of Bertrand Russell’s 789 page tome, ‘A History of Western Civilization’. You rated one paragraph.

There are very few women in that three thousand years of history, drawn from the annals of men. But there you were, the world’s greatest mind on mathematics, astronomy and philosophy in 400 AD.

The last sentence of Russell’s paragraph is etched in my brain. After you were killed by Christian terrorists, he observed drily that, ‘Alexandria was no longer troubled by philosophers’.

Read more
Add your reaction Share


Bob recites "Oddity", a poem he wrote in 1973.

Add your reaction Share

Why I am a Green

Originally published in Resurgence magazine

I studied medicine at Sydney University and practised for 12 years after graduating in 1968, but I have always been an activist at heart. During my tenure at the Royal Canberra Hospital, I joined other doctors to certify young men who did not wish to fight in the Vietnam War as unfit to be conscripted. I moved to Tasmania in 1972 to take up a post as a GP and in the years after became active in the state’s environmental movement and joined the newly formed United Tasmania Group (the world’s first-ever Green Party). In 1976 I campaigned to overturn the law that made homosexuality a crime in Tasmania, and I spent a week fasting on top of Mount Wellington in protest against the arrival at Hobart of the nuclear-powered warship USS Enterprise.

Read more
Add your reaction Share