TIM WINTON says writing his latest book was an antidote to his despondency about the environment.
The four-time Miles Franklin winner says after years of campaigning, his memoir Island Home needed to be a bit of a reality check.
“You get the sense the place is going to rack and ruin and people aren’t changing,” Winton told the Herald.
“I needed a wake-up on how much we have grown up as well as how much there is to do.
“I do feel a sense the book is a celebration of how far we have travelled.”
He points to the univerally popular dumping of climate change sceptic Tony Abbott as a bellwether on how Australians’ relationship to their environment has matured.
“The rolling of Abbott is an indication of that change, because he sure was a throwback to the era where the environment was simply seen for its ability to be exploited, and his election was an attempt to wrest back the old ways of the old white warrior.”
Winton says younger Australians now have the language to express a relationship to land that their grandparents would never have experienced.
“We have lived through a revolution that none of us noticed fully.”
It includes a growing awareness of the valuable information held by Aborigines, and Winton would like to see education programs such as those run by Bibbulmun elder Noel Nannup expanded throughout the metropolitan area.
“It’s strange the number of people who are open to exotic wisdom, and adopt aspects of foreign traditions, but they ignore their own backyard.
“In order to see, you have to stop and be humble.”
Island Home’s chapters recall memories from important locations in Winton’s life and how the natural landscapes continue to shape him.
From watching Perth’s urban sprawl swallow his childhood haunts, being dislocated as a teenager to conservative Albany where the towering granite along the Southern Ocean finally won him over, to his awakening activism as he worked up north, Winton says people underestimate how much their island home shapes them.
And he says Perth residents are missing out, with environmental gems on their doorsteps, such as The Spectacles or Thompson’s Lake, rarely visited.
“People are not seeing what is in front of them, it’s an Olympian feat of delusion,” he says.
“Is it because those places are close to the city so people are going beyond with their $50,000 camper trailers?
“People have become more fearful and physically incompetent, so they buy all this stuff to surround themselves with when they go camping; the camping and fishing store is bigger than Bunnings.”
Island Home: A Landscape Memoir is published by Penguin Australia
by STEVE GRANT