Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Righting a Great Wrong against Nature

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Righting a Great Wrong against Nature

Article excerpt


WHITE BEECH: THE RAINFOREST YEARS by Germaine Greer (Bloomsbury, PS25)

THERE is nothing touchy-feely about Germaine Greer's vision of perfection. Twelve years ago she bought 150 acres of southern Queensland, part rainforest, part trashed banana plantation, part failing dairy farm. She fell for it the morning she saw it--a dazzling Regent bowerbird had danced for her in a patch of sunlight--and in her impenetrable fragment of paradise there is nothing she came to love more than the Giant Stingers.

Every leaf and limb of those brutal trees is covered in "fine stellate hairs that deliver formic acid" to any passing piece of flesh. For the last decade, Greer and her employees have worked hard to propagate hundreds of these beauties which, for obvious reasons, as she says, are not available from any of your usual garden centres.

Trees are not for hugging and this account of her attempt to rehabilitate a small patch of Australia is no sweet version of pastoral. It is a love affair with nature the real, nature as battleground, beautiful in its violence, run through with a spate stream that plunges into a romantic cavern "like an image of titanic intercourse".

For two centuries Europeans have heaped abuse on Australia and its people. She carefully chronicles the damage and wastage: Aborigines poisoned and shot; giant cedars felled and left to decay; afternoon parties in which the forest was destroyed for the fun of watching it collapse down the hillsides, a cascade of 150fthigh tree-dominoes, each felled giant destroying its neighbour below. Europeans in Australia have been "a human infestation", rats playing havoc in the pristine beauties of the great southern continent.

Quite a lot of the book doesn't work. There are long, falsesounding scientific conversations with her sister Jane, a botanist. …

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