Creating Space, Supporting Diversity

I listened with interest earlier this week to a Radio National Bush Telegraph discussion.

Cameron White interviewed Hugh Possingham, the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland about National Parks and Biodiversity.

The brief blog post about the program (with the podcast of the interview) notes that Hugh “argues that Australia’s conservation dollar is being spread to thinly. He believes we need to prioritise which national parks should be kept, and which ones can be sold off.”

In the interview Hugh drew attention to two fundamental issues:

  1. Do national parks support biodiversity?
  2. How do you manage 12% of Australia’s land mass with limited resources?

In addition to the interview some of Hugh’s thinking is shared in a University of Queensland press release. In that release Hugh observes that:

In the absence of major new sources of funds, we need to consider where the prospects of success are greatest and, indeed, what success in conservation actually consists of.

I found the combination of applied mathematics, decision science and economics in this discussion fascinating.

The Bush Telegraph interview prompted me to think about the spaces we create for high performance and the challenge to meet running costs. I thought too about all the conversations I have heard about a return on investment.

This has sent me off to ponder optimal training environments and how we might develop satiable and sustainable strategies for excellence. We have some lessons from biodiversity research to help focus our attention:

For all our present nationwide investment in conservation, we are still losing both species and ecosystem integrity. We clearly need better ways to decide what we can afford to save, because the current system plainly isn’t working as well as we’d hoped. The evidence indicates that Australian native species are still disappearing at a rate 100 to 1000 times faster than normal. Over the past 200 years, 22 mammal species have become extinct, over 100 are now on the threatened and endangered species list, and 6 more bird taxa were recently declared extinct.

Hearing Voices

I heard two delightful radio items this week.

Both items exemplified for me the invitational nature of voice and the triggering of enquiry.

On 30 August Phillip Adams interviewed Ira Glass about This American Life (a weekly public radio show produced by Chicago Public Media and broadcast on more than 500 stations across America).

I liked the single comment on the Late Night Live page for the program “One of my favorite radio programs talking about another one of my favorite radio programs. This was great.”

From This American Life’s web page:

The radio show and TV show follow the same format. There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe. Probably the best way to understand the show is to start at our favorites page, though we do have longer guides to our radio show and our TV show. If you want to dive into the hundreds of episodes we’ve done over the years, there’s an archive of all our old radio shows and listings for all our TV episodes, too.

Ira’s conversation with Phillip explores story telling and narrative in a way that makes following up on the radio program a compelling opportunity.

Whilst mulling over this interview I had the good fortune to listen to a story about the Lajamanu Champions and their teacher Patrick. The Bush Telegraph trail for this story:

The world of internet podcasts has some unlikely new rising stars. They’re a bunch of kids from Lajamanu School, one of the most remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. With their teacher Adrian Trost, the students have started their own audio podcast. The kids choose what goes in it and that means jokes, stories about hunting and the canteen report. But student Margaret Johnson says her favourite part of the podcast is the segment when they speak in Warlpiri.

I really enjoyed the vitality of the Champions’ approach to using voice. I thought it was a great example of what a teacher with imagination and energy can do.

Home is where the hut is


Radio National’s Bush Telegraph had a great item yesterday (23 June) on Huts in the Wild.

Greg Muller interviewed Dianne Johnson about her new book on Huts.

Dianne has been interviewed by Radio National’s By Design program too.

In her Bush Telegraph interview, Dianne made some fascinating observations that helped me think further about my changing sense of space and place. She found a great ally in Greg in the interview. He too was passionate about huts.


Amongst the points Dianne made in her interview were:

  • Being “struck dumb” by the beauty of the Waldheim Chalet on Cradle Mountain
  • Huts as liminal spaces  that mediate between the built landscape and nature
  • Huts are spare and sparse: they are not designed as stores (unlike sheds)
  • Huts offer enchantment and are imagined, mindful and slow spaces
  • Huts are creative spaces within which to think and reflect and on some occasions take on demons
  • You must not stay for a long time in huts and avoid Martin Heidegger’s experience of overstaying
  • You are the honoured guest in a hut. It is a place of respect and hospitality.
  • Huts are egalitarian, they are inclusive. Each has its own distinctive portal.
  • Each of us has a sense of our wild spaces and our hard country. These are places of wonderment that energise the spirit.
  • Huts tend to be built in magnificent places.
  • Huts are temporary and  raise issues about preservation. Part of the experience of a hut is its ephemerality … ‘hutness’ is about coming from from the earth and returning to earth.

At the end of the interview Greg asked Dianne if she had a favourite hut. She mentioned Dixons Kingdom Hut.

Place and Space

I have been thinking a lot about space and place. My recent journey started whilst contemplating Everywhen. Developments around Commons spaces at the University of Canberra have accelerated my reflections.

Dianne and Greg have helped me travel further in my thinking. Given the essential characteristics of ‘hutness’ I wonder if I ought to stop thinking about research centres and units and work to develop huts for ideas and practice. It would be wonderful to develop a way of being that stimulated the imagination, enhanced sociability and celebrated liminality.

Such huts would not be places of permanent residence. They would be way stations that had varying configurations of people and ideas that were nourished by the place.

Photo Credits

Wallaces Hut

Davies Run (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)

Dixons Kingdom Hut (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)