An exploration of language for biodiversity and regeneration in Australian agriculture

Pennie Scott, Geoffrey Watson

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Abstract

The language of words is the most commonly used tool in person to person communication and this in turn, profoundly reflects and creates an individual's belief systems and behaviours. In the arena of sustainable production systems for food and fibre and the 'management' of natural resources, there is a plethora of information provided by organisations dedicated to researching and communicating new land use methods for farmers to implement. However to date, the uptake of new methods has been frustratingly low resulting in the on-going degradation of Australia's fragile landscapes while exploitative farming practices continue. A key issue is whether the language of current policies is appropriate to influence the belief systems of decision makers in exploitative agriculture in order to achieve a shift towards more sustainable and regenerative outcomes. Research is currently in the early stages to distinguish the different 'languages' present in Australian culture, especially in agri-culture. Initial evaluation reveals that the hegemonic language is economic rationalism (hereon known as 'eco-rat') emanating from neo-liberal economic policies. 'Eco-rat' is characterised by espoused masculinity, viz. competitiveness, control, reductionism, power and domination and is counter-productive to sustainable production practices. Conversely, the language of sustainability and regeneration is feminine - nurturing, holistic, supportive and nature-cyclical. An integral component of this research is to identify specific paradigms in Australia that characterise exploitative (industrialised) farmers and paradigms that characterise regenerative / conservation landholders. A key characteristic of such paradigms is the level and extent of each person's vocabulary, building on Wittgenstein's notion that 'the limits of my language are the limits of my mind'. Are there differences between the vocabularies of landholders engaged in regenerative farmingcompared to those who use more industrialised methods of production? For example when contemporary advertisements for high input agriculture are analysed, farming is commonly portrayed as a competitive 'battle'. In polemic essay style, this paper explores and characterises the underlying belief systems and vocabularies that perpetuate the paradigms of 'stubble-burners' in broadacre cropping enterprises, and compares these to those of regenerative farmers ' with the implication that these distinct paradigms can influence the development of very different land use practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-91
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Farm Business Management Journal
Volume3
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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