Publication Details

Ihlein, L. M. "Agricultural Inventiveness: Beyond Environmental Management?." Covert Plants: Vegetal Consciousness and Agency in an Anthropocentric World. Ed.P. Gibson & B. Brits. Santa Barbara: Brainstorm Books, 2018, 197-212. https://punctumbooks.com/titles/covert-plants/


In 2014, I began working on a collaborative art project called Sugar vs the Reef? The project came about following an invitation from John Sweet, a retired farmer and active community worker in the Queensland town of Mackay. Sweet's hunch was that the involvement of artists in a complex environmental management problem might help to catalyse positive transformations in the sugar cane industry, which is often accused of polluting the pristine waters of the Great Barrier Reef with agricultural run-off. This chapter is based on some of the early field research for Sugar vs the Reef? and my task is to present the inventiveness of three change agents: two human and one non-human. The first is Simon Mattsson, a sugar cane farmer in Mackay, and a founder of Central Queensland Soil Health Systems (CQSHS). The second is Allan Yeomans, director of the Yeomans Plow Company on the Gold Coast and inventor of the Yeomans Carbon Still: a device for measuring carbon sequestration in soil. The third change agent has been around for millennia: the humble plant-specifically grass-and the complex soil community of which grasses are an integral member. While presenting the inventiveness of these three change agents together here, I also want to point to some of the factors that have thus far inhibited the broader uptake of their inventions. I do so in the hope that identifying such barriers might be a small positive step beyond the paternalistic discourse of environmental management, and towards the formation of more dynamic relations in social and ecological systems between humans and plants.



Link to publisher version (DOI)