White Beech: The Rainforest Years

Overview

One bright day in December 2001, sixty-two-year-old Germaine Greer found herself confronted by an irresistible challenge in the shape of sixty hectares of dairy farm, one of many in southeast Queensland, Australia, which, after a century of logging, clearing, and downright devastation, had been abandoned to their fate.

She didn’t think for a minute that by restoring the land she was saving the world. She was in search of heart’s ease. Beyond the acres of exotic pasture grass and...

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White Beech: The Rainforest Years

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Overview

One bright day in December 2001, sixty-two-year-old Germaine Greer found herself confronted by an irresistible challenge in the shape of sixty hectares of dairy farm, one of many in southeast Queensland, Australia, which, after a century of logging, clearing, and downright devastation, had been abandoned to their fate.

She didn’t think for a minute that by restoring the land she was saving the world. She was in search of heart’s ease. Beyond the acres of exotic pasture grass and soft weed and the impenetrable curtains of tangled lantana canes, there were macadamias dangling their strings of unripe nuts, black beans with red and yellow pea flowers growing on their branches . . . and the few remaining white beeches, stupendous trees up to 120 feet in height, logged out within forty years of the arrival of the first white settlers. To have turned down even a faint chance of bringing them back to their old haunts would have been to succumb to despair.

Once the process of rehabilitation had begun, the chance proved to be a dead certainty. When the first replanting shot up to make a forest and rare caterpillars turned up to feed on the leaves of the new young trees, she knew beyond a doubt that at least here, biodepletion could be reversed.

Greer describes herself as an old dog who succeeded in learning a load of new tricks, inspired and rejuvenated by her passionate love of Australia and of Earth, the most exuberant of small planets.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 03/31/2014
Greer (The Female Eunuch) has written a love letter to a rainforest, one that she just happens to own. In her middle years, Greer set out to find a property in her native Australia that she could restore to its state before white colonists imposed clear-cutting and invasive species. After a long search, she settled upon a 60-hectare dairy farm in southeastern Queensland that had suffered all the depredations of human intrusion. Greer began the painstaking process of rehabilitation and found that while the work was difficult, it wasn’t quite Sisyphean. Greer is a scrupulous scholar with a deep interest in botany, and the level of detail in her research is impressive. One of the most interesting devices in the book is her exchanges with her sister, a professional botanist, who pushes her more famous sibling to precision and clarity. There’s a fair amount of tendentious proselytizing, and even worse, Greer lets the narrative focus disappear in endless debates over the minutiae of plant classification. Still, the range of Greer’s knowledge and interests provide fascinating insight into the thoughtless transformation of a continent. (July)
From the Publisher

"Greer's brilliant analysis . . . is mischievous, restless, wide-ranging, unpredictable." —Katie Roiphe, New York Times Book Review

"Intelligent, funny, beautifully written." —Vogue, on The Female Eunuch

"Greer offers a richly textured account of the lives of ordinary women . . . She meticulously traces the members of the Shakespeare and Hathaway families . . . She reminds us of facts other critics have ignored." —Marilyn French, Publishers Weekly, on Shakespeare's Wife

Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-05
A controversial scholar/journalist’s quasi-academic account of how she helped transform Australian land dedicated to dairy farming back into rain forest.Though based for much of her career in England, Greer (Shakespeare’s Wife, 2008, etc.) had always intended to return to her native Australia. For 20 years, she roved across the continent’s desert interior “hunting for [her] own patch of ground.” The land she would eventually buy was in southeast Queensland, not far from the Gold Coast and near areas overrun by tourists. Partly inspired by her botanist sister, Greer decided to rehabilitate the remains of a rain forest growing on her property, “[b]attered by clearing, by logging, by spraying and worse.” Not only did she seek to heal a small piece of her beloved Australia; she also wanted to demonstrate that restoring the land to itself was the work of “dedicated individuals.” Government efforts at environmental conservation had been a failure. The little money delegated to preservation had been used to “protect the tourists from themselves.” None had been spent on restoring Australian flora threatened by plant species brought to the continent by early settlers with the “civilizing” aim of making their new home look more like Britain. With seemingly limitless vigor, Greer documents her rain forest finds—including Australian white beech trees nearly logged out of existence—and the indigenous and post-colonial histories of the land she would call the Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme. Her late-life foray into environmentalism and the establishment of a charity that would preserve the land on which she cheerfully spent her life savings are nothing short of extraordinary. At the same time, her enthusiasm for spreading the gospel of biodiversity is also a source of narrative weakness. The scholarly presentation of textual material and lack of more personal details regarding her Australian rain forest venture will strike readers as overly fastidious and tiresome.Passionate and well-intended but not especially accessible.
Library Journal
04/01/2014
Noted feminist writer Greer (The Female Eunuch) writes of a monumental task that she took on. The rain forest she refers to is on 60 hectares of land she purchased, formerly used as a dairy farm, in Queensland, Australia. The land, logged and abandoned, was classified as rain forest but was replete with invasive species, such as lantana and bamboo. Greer began to restore the property, enlisting the help of environmental allies to remove the unwanted classes and propagate and restore the native species, such as the white beech. Focusing primarily on plants and trees, she also documents the invertebrates and vertebrates that inhabit this ecosystem. Greer writes of attempting to trace who has legitimate rights to this territory. She documents the "whitefellas" who have historically laid claim to the area and the many destructive land use practices they employed. Work continues on this piece of the earth and is now supported in part by the Friends of Gondwana Rainforest, a nonprofit that aims to preserve subtropical and temperate rain forests across the world. VERDICT This is an engaging and erudite memoir rich with historical, cultural, and ecological explorations of Australia and, by extension, any part of the planet that has been influenced by humans. [See Prepub Alert, 1/26/14.]—Diana Hartle, Univ. of Georgia Science Lib., Athens
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620406113
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/15/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 567,985
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.47 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer is an Australian academic and journalist, and a major feminist voice of the mid-twentieth century. She earned her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1967. She is Professor Emerita of English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick. Greer's ideas have created controversy ever since The Female Eunuch became an international bestseller in 1970. She is the author of many other books including Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984); The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991); Shakespeare's Wife (2007); and The Whole Woman (1999).

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