Beyond a 'good thing': political interests and the meaning of landcare

Lockie, Stewart (1995) Beyond a 'good thing': political interests and the meaning of landcare. Rural Society, 5 (2-3). pp. 3-12.

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Abstract

[Extract] If any one question plagues those who seek to evaluate or comment on Landcare - not to mention those attempting to initiate Landcare groups or programs - it is the seemingly innocuous question of just what Landcare is. Even the most cursory perusal of documentation on Landcare will reveal at least two things; firstly, that the term 'Landcare' means many things to many people; and secondly, that the idea of Landcare is closely related to many other concepts and projects. If we look solely at this edition of Rural Society, for instance, we find that Landcare is examined as a government program by Curtis and De Lacy; a form of extension and information system by Carr; a means of enacting governance by Martin; and as the network of community Landcare groups, and supporting institutions, by Campbell. Further, the paper by Ritchie shows that the concept of Landcare has travelled across the Tasman, but has changed even further along the way. The question we might ask is whether the dilemmas this diversity poses for professional evaluators - who work best with clear goals and criteria - are of any consequence for anybody else.

Contemplating the meaning of Landcare no doubt seems as esoteric for many people as the meaning of life; an interesting question to puzzle over late at night with a good bottle of wine, but somehow remote from the day-to-day projects and issues which confront their lives. Indeed, six years into the Decade of Landcare we may well conclude that the time for pondering meanings is well and truly over if Landcare is to make an indelible mark on our landscape by the turn of the century. It could, on the other hand, be argued that we need some sort of common understanding about what Landcare is so that we might all 'pull in the same direction', aligning our individual and communal goals to satisfy an agreed upon notion of the common good. Listening to some, we may even conclude, somewhat paradoxically, that we need to suspend our discussion of what Landcare is in case the ensuing debate threatens any consensus we may already have, even if this extends little beyond the banal observation that Landcare is, without doubt, 'a good thing'.

All of the above positions obscure real, and legitimate, differences in the interests of participants in Landcare, and consequently the importance of their position taking practices in associated discourses. Some of the 'battles' over meaning associated with Landcare are fairly obvious and have been discussed by numerous other authors. Others are a little less clear, and require us to think more about the relationships between Landcare, and social and cultural change more generally. This paper will begin with a brief outline of the theoretical perspective which informs this analysis. The fieldwork on which most of the ensuing discussion is based was conducted through 1993 and 1994, and involved a range of methods aimed towards ethnographic understanding of the research problem, namely, both open-ended and structured interviews, and participant observation. These methods were deployed in the context of a case study conducted in one Local Government Area in the mixed cropping/grazing zone of south west NSW, and through involvement with the wider 'Landcare community'. They were undertaken as part of PhD research which will be completed shortly.

Item ID: 31277
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Landcare meaning
Additional Information:

This paper was also published as Lockie, Stewart (1997) Beyond a 'good thing': political interests and the meaning of landcare. In: Lockie, Stewart, and Vanclay, Frank, (eds.) Critical Landcare. Key Papers Series (5). Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia, pp. 29-43 and can be accessed in ResearchOnline at the related URL.

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ISSN: 1037-1656
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2016 23:17
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160804 Rural Sociology @ 30%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160802 Environmental Sociology @ 30%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160801 Applied Sociology, Program Evaluation and Social Impact Assessment @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960504 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Environments @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960704 Land Stewardship @ 60%
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