Volume 2 Issue 4 Editorial

Henry David Thoreau once proclaimed that ‘in wildness is the preservation of the world’ but I wonder! How many ways can you recall the word ‘wild’ being used in colloquial language? For those who follow sporting endeavours we have heard more than one commentator declare that ‘the crowd went wild’ in response to brilliant play or to an umpire’s unpopular decision.

The ‘call of the wild’ to which we are attending in this edition comes more from the depths perceived by Thoreau than the shouts of the crowd. In exploring this call we find such a diversity of meaning and, in the modern history of the Australian nation, a strong polarity.

The arrival of Europeans on this continent immediately established a clash of attitudes to the concept of ‘wild’.  As they stepped off the boats they saw a land entirely unfamiliar – a wild land that needed to be conquered and enslaved for their own ends.  As they proceeded along this path they were watched by those whose land had been invaded and who had no such concept of wild. The indigenous people offered futile objections to what they perceived to be a destruction of the integrity of country: a violent dislodgement of the intimate connection between land and its community of life. Indeed these first peoples were witnessing what, in their understanding, was the creation of wilderness.

Sometime later the ‘European’ eyes, largely those of poets and artists, gradually adjusted to the intrigue, beauty and diversity of this country and learnt, not only to respect its ecosystems, but indeed to fall in love with them. They then began to defend the wilderness and fight for its preservation.

In 1962 the poet Judith Wright with three companions founded the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. The Society sought to activate an awareness of the need to protect and preserve iconic marine and mainland areas threatened by economic development. These included the Great Barrier Reef the Hinchinbrook Passage and Fraser Island and it seems abysmal that, despite heroic efforts, these ecosystems are still fighting for their life in the face of ever new death threats.

In her poem Australia 1970, Wright engages in outrage over the pain of devastation in the wild urging a fierce response on the part of those to whom death is dealt:

Die, wild country, like the eaglehawk,
dangerous till the last breath’s gone,
clawing and striking. Die
cursing your captor through a raging eye.
. . .
Suffer, wild country, like the ironwood
that gaps the dozer-blade.
I see your living soil ebb with the tree
to naked poverty

In an outcry of pathos echoing the underbelly of Thoreau’s words she proclaims:

For we are conquerors and self-poisoners
more than scorpion or snake
and dying of the venoms that we make
even while you die of us.

I praise the scoring drought, the flying dust,
the drying creek, the furious animal,
that they oppose us still;
that we are ruined by the thing we kill.

But what is it that calls readers of EarthSong to the wild? Why is it that we experience the pain of gouged out Kimberley land, corals bleached by carbon emissions and fertile soils and ancient artesian basins poisoned by fracking? Alternatively, why is it that our spirits are called into places where air, shape, colour, sound and touch embrace us and communicate with us in the deepest places of our being?

The articles in this edition are messages of hope and invitation. There would be few of our readers who have had the opportunity of visiting Antarctica, the only continent on Earth not yet settled by humans. David Neilson’s entrancing images and the experiences of Bernadette Hince and Melanie Mackenzie invite you into a special awareness of the majesty and mystery of this still ‘wild’ place. Deborah Bird Rose presents us with a significant insight into the traditional indigenous understandings of the wild and, by implication, challenges us to wonder about our own ecological identity and sense of belonging to and caring for ‘country’.

Jan Morgan respectfully acknowledges that ‘mainstream Christianity has not recognized the call of the wild as a vocation’. In this acknowledgement lies an enormous challenge for many of us. Can we move more intentionally to listen to the call in the voices of what we inadequately refer to as the ‘natural’ world and to seek communion with all being?

Those of us who feel we are growing into the elder phase of our lives are heartened by stories telling of youngsters being initiated into an appreciation that Earth is the only home that we will ever have. Thus you will be delighted to read the two articles in the education section.

Tom Kingston offers an insight into the ongoing philosophical discussion of the nature and origins of existence and interpretations of the ‘wild’. This is held in balance by the reflections of Naomi Turner and Tony Taylor and the practical call of Gill Baker.

The Editorial Committee had quite profound discussions around this topic yet we seem to have only skimmed the surface of ‘the call of the wild’. Nonetheless my heart is drawn to a contemplation of the images in this edition so that the ‘wild’ may do the calling. I trust that you will have the same experience.