Name: Honor Auchinleck
Role: Farmer and freelance writer
What first triggered your interest in environmental issues?
During the Second World War my mother wrote 'If "the fundamental history of civilization is the history of the soil" we have reaced a time now when civilization as we know it - art and literature; music, poetry and philosophy; cathedrals, houses, farms, universities and theatres - will go towards a rapid destruction unless we ourselves awaken to retrieve this land.' My mother was writing in the Murray Valley in Victoria. Her words became the opening paragraph of a book called 'Soil and Civilization' (1946). I have recently returned from England and Europe to the Murray Valley. Here in Victoria we have had some good rain after some ten to fifteen years of drought. It is unclear as to whether the drought is over. I suspect not. On our various trips north out of Melbourne I see trees on bush covered hills that have died in the recent fires and also from lack of water. In places the top soil has been so bare that heavy rain has caused erosion before grass and plants had a chance to grow. My mother's words ring as true now as they were when she first wrote them.
What are you working on, concerned by, or motivated by at the moment?
Having returned to Australia to live after over thirty years living in England, Europe and Turkey, I am getting to know my country all over again. I have applied to volunteer for the Australian Red Cross as I feel that unless people can look after each other, they are less well equipped to look after the world in which they live.
What do you anticipate working on, or thinking about, in relation to environmental issues over the next 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years?
I have noted how the urban sprawl of Melbourne has spread in the time I have been away. Population growth is in the news and the Australian Government has appointed a Minister for Population for the first time. Given our lack of water resources and our fragile environment, I am wondering how this country is going to continue to provide for its growing population without importing increasing quantities? If Australia's ability to provide for itself declines, then it will be more vulnerable to trends in world trade and politics. More of ours scarce resources may go to providing essentials and meanwhile our environment may not enjoy the fund and attention it needs.
How optimistic or pessimistic are you as you look at where we might be in 2020, and why?
The appointment of a Minister for Population is a positive step. While I am sure that every member of the community can help in many ways preserve the environment, the success of our attempts to preserve our environment will also depend on government policy and the availability of funds to assist conservation programmes. I would like to see increased use of solar and other alternative power sources and more water recycling. We need to look at other methods of water conservation. It is too early for me to say whether I am optimistic or pessimistic. I think we have a lot to do to help preserve our environment.
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