South Asian and Australasian Forestry Anxieties and Exchanges, 1870s–1920s

  • James Beattie
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series


This chapter builds upon previous ones on the influence of particular groups to examine some of the direct exchanges of environmental anxieties and policies that shaped Australasian and South Asian conservation into the early-twentieth century. Advocates of forest conservation in Australasia drew upon the same centres of environmental knowledge (notably India by the 1870s, but also Germany and France and, by the early 1900s, the US) at the same time as they accumulated local knowledge of environmental processes and problems. This chapter reveals that they constructed similar arguments to justify forest protection, demonstrating that what Richard Grove identified as an ‘Edenic’ narrative of conservation on tropical islands also applied to Australasia.3 An Edenic argument went something like this: Colonisation and the unfettered example of private interests, proponents of conservation argued, caused an Environmental Fall, resulting in deforestation and, with it, alternating cycles of drought and flooding that threatened agricultural production. Only state-directed scientific forest conservation and forestation, they argued, could reverse the excesses of private interests and restore agricultural prosperity to areas ruined by deforestation. Through examination of the forests-climate idea in Australasia and India, this chapter also examines the changing relationship between environmental anxieties and scientific credibility.


Soil Erosion Forest Conservation Forest Department Indian Forester Zealand Forest 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Charles Sturt, Journal of the Central Australian Expedition, 1844–1845 (London: Caliban books, 1984).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Timothy Fridtjof Flannery, The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People (London: Harper Collins, 1996).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    W. J. Wendelken, ‘New Zealand Experience in Stabilization and Afforestation of Coastal Sands’, International Journal of Biometeorology, 18, 2 (1974): 145–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 10.
    Libby Robin, Defending the Little Desert: The Rise of Ecological Consciousness in Australia (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    R. L. Heathcote, ‘Images of a Desert? Perceptions of Arid Australia’, Australian Geographical Studies, 25, 1 (April, 1987): 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 13.
    Beattie, ‘Re-Thinking Science, Religion and Nature in Environmental History’, Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 29, 3 (November, 2004): 82–103.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Ernst Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand, Volume 1 (London: J. Murray, 1843), 207.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    J. Dixon, ‘The Sand-Drift Reclamation’, Newcastle & Hunter District Historical Society, 1, 1 (1936): 70.Google Scholar
  9. 38.
    Elizabeth Whitcombe, ‘The Environmental Costs of Irrigation in British India: Waterlogging, Salinity and Malaria’, in David Arnold and Ramachandra Guha, eds, Nature, Culture, Imperialism: Essays on the Environmental History of South Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), 237–9.Google Scholar
  10. 45.
    Vasant K. Sabarwal, ‘Environmental Alarm and Institutionalized Conservation’, in Arun Agarwal and K. Sivaramakrishnan, eds, Agrarian Environments: Resources, Representation, and Rule in Colonial India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 68–85.Google Scholar
  11. Sukhwant Singh, ‘Agricultural Science and Technology in the Punjab in the Nineteenth Century’, Indian Journal of History of Science, 17, 2 (1982): 191–204.Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    Colonel B. R. Branfill, ‘Notes on the Physiography of Southern India’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, new series, 7, 11 (November, 1885): 733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 47.
    Peter McKelvey, Sand Forests: A Historical Perspective of the Stabilisation and Afforestation of Coastal Sands in New Zealand (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 1999), 11.Google Scholar
  14. 57.
    K. C. McDonald, City of Dunedin: A Century of Civic Enterprise (Dunedin: Dunedin City Corporation, 1965), 200–1.Google Scholar
  15. 111.
    Ross Galbreath, DSIR: Making Science Work for New Zealand. Themes from the History of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1926–1992 (Wellington: Historical Branch, 1998).Google Scholar
  16. 124.
    E. Benskin, Afforestation in the United Provinces, India (Allahabad: Government Press, United Provinces, 1922), 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 148.
    Francis N. Ratcliffe, Soil Drift in the Arid Pastoral Areas of South Australia (Melbourne: CSIRO, 1936).Google Scholar
  18. 149.
    Ratcliffe, Further Observations on Soil Erosion and Sand Drift, with Special Reference to South-Western Queensland (Melbourne: CSIRO, 1937), 21.Google Scholar
  19. 150.
    Ratcliffe, Flying Fox and Drifting Sand (London: Chatto and Windus, 1938), 302.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James Beattie 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Beattie
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WaikatoNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations