Wattle Day and Nationalist Ecology

With Wattle Day coming up again this Friday, as we joyfully greet the Australian Spring season, it is worth considering the meaning of this holiday in its nationalist ecological dimension. I do not take nationalism and ecology as two separate things; rather, ecology is nationalism in its aspect of care for, and dwelling in, the place. I start this post with a brief discussion of Wattle Day and in the second half discuss what nationalist ecology is, drawing on the ideas of deep ecology.

Wattle Day was first conceived in Tasmania in 1838, and although not initially popular, was championed in the late 19th century by the A.N.A. and the Wattle Blossom League leading to its eventual adoption. The first great celebration of Wattle Day was in 1910, and the Golden Wattle was incorporated into the Australian Coat of Arms in 1912. The wattle was chosen to represent Australia’s native environment due to its distinct and attractive appearance and because it can be found across Australia, making it an excellent symbol of national unity. As Libby Robin has noted, celebration of Wattle Day had a clear nativist focus, as opposed to the internationalism of Empire Day, and it fit well with the bush poets’ emphasis on the Australian countryside and wilderness as the heart and soul of the nation, as opposed to the degeneracy of the city. Today, when we look at cities like Melbourne and Sydney, this degeneracy is far more pronounced with the physical and moral filthiness on display every day, and with the proliferation of aliens in so-called “ethnoburbs,” who care nothing for Australia’s culture and environment. Robin notes that Australia suffered from a “biological cringe” alongside its better known “cultural cringe,” with a common view being that Australia’s flora and fauna were inferior to that of Europe. It was C.J. Dennis, the “laureate of the larrikin,” who pushed back against this view, as can be seen in this excerpt from his poem about one of our native birds, The Golden Whistler:

Golden minstrel, justly famed,

Greeted e’er with grateful words;

Long ere this my song has shamed

Him who fatuously named

This a land of songless birds.

Seek you solace; seek you balm;

Hearken to my golden psalm.

It is this environmental and nativist focus of the bush poets that should be drawn upon by Australian Nationalists to develop a Nationalist Ecology to respond to the present ecological challenges our nation faces. It is important that Nationalist Ecology has depth, drawing from the distinction between shallow and deep ecology pioneered by Arne Naess. Shallow ecology is the form of environmental activism that we see most frequently, taking modernity and “progress” for granted and trying to solve ecological issues on this basis without questioning the philosophical and structural problems that drive the modern destruction of nature. Furthermore, it remains completely anthropocentric, worrying about environmental issues only insofar as they affect humanity and human goals. Deep Ecology challenges this anthropocentrism, developing an ecocentric view that contextualises human culture within the greater ecosystem, giving animals, plants, and landscapes their own autonomous and intrinsic value based on a spiritual foundation. In Platonic terms, we see this in each thing’s reflection of and striving for the Good according to the interconnectedness of the “world soul.” As Plato says in Timaeus 30D:

The God wished the cosmos to resemble the most beautiful and entirely perfect of all that Mind perceives, so he constructed a single visible living creature containing within it all creatures that are by nature kindred to it.

Thus, Nationalist Ecology will fit within the broader framework of Platonic Futurism. Nevertheless, what makes it nationalist is its focus on a specific place, namely, the Australian continent and biosphere. The problem with so many environmental movements is their highly abstract “global” perspective. Nationalist Ecology, while recognising that we are impacted by other places, will focus on the preservation of this place through land care and management of the population via immigration restriction and the repatriation of aliens. Most environmentalists understand that it is important to respect the carrying capacity of the land and not overpopulate. Unfortunately, the major “environmental” party in Australia, the Greens, abandoned the reduction of immigration as an element of their platform back in the 90s following the emergence of One Nation. A Nationalist Ecology will be based on the shared interests of the Australian land and the Australian people, and, as the A.N.A. championed Wattle Day as a rejection of the “biological cringe,” our association will once more take the lead in ecological thinking and activism.

I end this piece with a quote from P.R. Stephensen’s The Foundations of Culture in Australia:

Race and Place are the two permanent elements in a culture, and Place, I think, is even more important than Race in giving that culture its direction. When Races migrate, taking their culture with them, to a new Place, the culture becomes modified. It is the spirit of a Place which ultimately gives any human culture its distinctiveness.

Elias Priestly

ANA Victoria

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