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Melbourne’s second lockdown and the enforced separation of the city’s residents from those of regional Victoria and the rest of the world has proven a sobering time in which to reflect upon a complex relationship. Across Melbourne, lockdown has delivered a collective jolt to the senses, a striking realisation of how deeply integral mobility is, in its myriad forms, to our taken-for-granted sense of the rhythm and texture and stimulations of day-to-day life. 

For many of us our new physical immobility has been accompanied and enabled by a proliferation of digital connections. Whether for work, family or recreation, we have turned to digital technologies to keep us linked to ‘the world’, downloading and uploading content, communicating in groups small and large, observing and participating in events. While offering thin lines of connection, being ensconced in a Zoom box within an urban box within a quiet city hour after hour can be deeply disorienting. Like watching a film in the dark on a plane, only to pull the headphones off and hear nothing but a wall of white noise and see nothing but motionless shadowy figures around you, to live in lockdown Melbourne is to feel untethered from reality. Instead of the spatial mobility and digital disconnection experienced on a flight, it is spatial immobility and an overabundance of digital connection that now leave us with a sense of floating in space, disembedded from the Earth.

In both cases this sense of physical detachment is a dangerous mirage. It is a denial of the destructive physical processes underlying plane travel and digital systems, and it shores up the foundational phantasy of hypermodern capitalism: the figure of the human being as autonomous and disembodied, and the world as the mere ‘plastic modelling clay’ of capitalism, as Frédéric Neyrat puts it.1 More than the mere separation of humans from nature, today this vision imagines humans as ‘residing off-planet, outside the Earth, without any kind of vital relation with the ecosphere, detached and separated as far away as possible from the Earth object to be reformatted’.2 Lewis Mumford diagnosed the emergence of this imaginary in the 1960s:

Our age is passing from the primeval state of man [sic] marked by his invention of tools and weapons and for the purpose of achieving mastery over the forces of nature, to a radically different condition, in which he will have not only conquered nature, but detached himself as far as possible from the organic habitat.3  

Mumford was writing in the midst of the ‘space race’ that quite literally sought to sustain humans ‘off-planet’. It was a period of intensive research and development that delivered not only the airborne capsules needed for space travel but much of the computing, satellites and ICT that now enable our global digital connectivity and help sustain the belief that we can transcend geographical and natural constraints.

Mobile food

Many of us know that such a belief is ridiculous, notwithstanding the new force it has been given by the Silicon Valley space race accelerating in 2020. When offline, living in lockdown Melbourne has been a jolting reminder of how grounded and emplaced we are. Local parks have never been more popular, and many people seem to have directed their new spare time towards gardening, adding to what feels like a particularly spectacular spring, with blossoms and new growth in all directions. Home cooking has also had a resurgence, directing attention to what we eat and our households’ and bodies’ reliance on constant inflows of food. For some this has included sourcing food from new backyard ventures, whether vegetables, or eggs from some of the many chickens that have recently populated the suburbs. Some were lucky enough to have farmers markets still operating within their allowed 5-kilometre travel radius and were able to have their turn processing around stands of produce, walking the periphery of peri-urban Melbourne in miniature.  

For many Melburnians though, lockdown has led to an unprecedented reliance on their local supermarket. Today a ‘local’ supermarket is something of an oxymoron, referring merely to a nearby branch of one of a small number of interlinked global corporations, most likely Coles or Woolworths, which together account for approximately 70 per cent of Australian supermarket sales. Once a genuinely local shop in Melbourne, Coles is now part of Coles Group, selling not just groceries and liquor but petrol and financial products, and is owned primarily by UK-based bank HSBC, Australia’s largest company Wesfarmers (which trades in chemicals, fertilisers, coal mining, and industrial and safety products as well as retail), and US-based JP Morgan, the world’s largest financier of fossil fuels. Woolworths similarly began as a local shop in Sydney but is now part of the Woolworths group that also owns most of Australia’s liquor and hotel businesses, including the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which operates more than 12,000 poker machines. Like Coles, Woolworths is majority-owned by HSBC and JP Morgan. Woolworths has enjoyed record sales during lockdown. Yet in the midst of the turmoil of the pandemic, the company was forced to compensate staff for $90 million in underpaid wages. It also quietly announced the redundancies of 1350 warehouse workers, who will be replaced with robots. 

Here, in the knotted bowels of the corporate world, we see once again the phantasy of disconnection. In such spaces, food appears on balance sheets as one commodity among others, its intimate relationship with particular ecosystems and human bodies peeled off and hidden from view. We, meanwhile, enter our local store and encounter a pricing system that magnetically draws us to products—two-dollar two-litre containers of milk, for example—with complete detachment from how such pricing comes about and its devastating consequences for dairy farmers. Just like the minerals and coal that are physically imbricated throughout food chains, food is now thoroughly financialised. 

Involved in this financialisation are what Jennifer Clapp calls two types of ‘distancing’. The first is the increasing number of actors involved in ‘adding value to’ (that is, extracting profit from) food chains, making many of them so long as to be virtually untraceable and unplaceable.4 As Jane Dixon notes, major supermarkets disembed local food economies through their global supply sourcing.5Second, financialisation operates by separating food into material and nutritional components, abstracting them as commodities and reconfiguring them into ‘bundles of resources’ to be traded on derivatives markets.The result is that, as Marc Edelman writes, ‘the lion’s share of the vast wealth that rural zones produce…has accrued to shareholders in corporations and financial institutions headquartered in a handful of distant, economically dynamic urban centers’.6 

Wheat is a case in point. One of Australia’s major export crops, wheat exists in the world not only as a plant, a seed or even a material such as flour, but as ‘futures’ and other fictions traded on the Chicago Stock Exchange by financial actors with little interest in or concern about its value as food. As Lesley Head and colleagues describe in their analysis of Australian wheat in the global food system, besides existing as a genetic code, pharmaceutical filler and land use, wheat features as an information flow. ‘We could track flows of virtual wheat as currency traded through different markets. It flowed across computer screens in various symbolic ways—on graphs, in recipes, in mixtures of stock feed’.7 Wheat’s spaces thus stretch far beyond the rural ‘wheat belts’ of northwestern Victoria or southern Western Australia, and even beyond the trade routes, warehouses, feed lots and factories that feed off it, to encompass complex webs of digital abstractions and financial value, including information feeds flowing through computers and smart devices in home offices across Melbourne. The result is that while wheat has many points of connection in the world—indeed one of the most extensive fingerprints of any commodity—its real connections, its roots and soil and the intricate human dance involved in cultivating it, are hidden from view as it is blended into the plastic modelling clay of capitalism. 

For us kneading sourdough in lockdown Melbourne in an increasingly half-hearted effort to remain grounded and sane, it is worth appreciating the hypermobile, fragmented and capitalised world that our flour is part of. At the same time, bread is a quintessential staple—an age-old icon of reliable sustenance. As Justin Clemens wrote in Arena no. 3 in relation to the pandemic, even as funding has been turned off for everything the Coalition does not like: ‘it’s still the case that bread and circuses must never stop—especially not now in the end times, when so many people are forcibly locked down or otherwise holed up’. His point was about the Herculean effort devoted to ensuring that the circus of the AFL football season continued at all costs. But it turns out that we cannot take the more mundane matter of bread for granted. This was underlined during the early days of the pandemic, when people were stocking up on goods like well-trained preppers and Melbourne ran out of bread flour. On this and numerous other items, the logistics models that underpin supermarkets’ just-in-time supply chains failed to anticipate consumers’ emotional responses to the pandemic and the resultant surge in demand, despite their continuous flows of information from expensive NASA satellite-enabled smart technologies. These breaks in supply chains quickly led to confronting scenes of empty supermarket shelves, strengthening people’s suspicion that we could not trust existing systems to keep us fed and well. ‘Next we’ll be queuing for cabbages!’ we feared.

That bread flour in particular was missing from the shelves arguably said more about the pace of flour mills than the availability of wheat. As a highly preservable product, wheat is an exemplary foodstuff in the modern food system, highly amenable to the sort of purification, dehydration and long-term preservation that contemporary food technologies now regularly perform. Spin-offs from NASA’s ‘space food systems’, these technologies are used by corporations around the world not to provision shuttle crews but to process, preserve, package and deliver ingestible substances for non-astronauts. This includes the increasing use of controlled-environment technologies such as Airocide to purify air and stabilise temperatures in order to slow deterioration and eliminate pests and pathogens, including viruses. The resultant physical stability of the substances—what Bruno Latour might term ‘immutable mobiles’—immunises them against their surrounds, enables standardisation and deliberate decomposition, and provides a blank surface on which any financial value can be projected. It also implicates a wide range of other actors as food circulates through the global food system in capsules, encased in oil-based plastic as well as containers and hulls, all of which makes its arrival at any destination an achievement of the fossil-fuel and steel industries as much as the food industry. COVID-19 is amplifying this focus on prophylactic security, scaling the enclosures from food parcels to buildings, cities and nations.

The immutability of foodstuffs such as flour contrasts with the highly mutable and ‘recalcitrant’ character of wheat and the myriad other living things we grow to consume. Plant growth is a delicate undertaking. How seeds or seedlings react to the particular patterning of temperature, UV, atmospheric chemistry, rain, soil qualities and organisms in their immediate environment is difficult to completely control. They quite literally have a life of their own. Satellite-enabled environmental sensing and automated technologies do their best to create lab-like conditions, but there is always an element of chance. The resultant uncertainty calls for probabilistic thinkingand turns farming into an increasingly digitised form, crafted from flows of information and advice as much as seeds and soil. Farmers spend more and more time in offices glued to screens not dissimilar to those captivating the attention of the many urban actors integral to modern agricultural information ecologies trying to choreograph their production activities to the syncopated rhythms of international currencies, commodity markets, futures markets, energy and water prices, interest rates, brokers’ bets and seasonal forecasts. 

Among the uncertainties they have to deal with are those increasingly generated by the certainty of climate change. Rains no longer arrive on schedule or deliver as expected over winter. They often come in a rush over summer in destructive downpours, feeding weeds and groundwater more than crops, or cruelly catching the latter late in the season, on the cusp of harvest, when they have absorbed every investment and effort but are sitting vulnerable in the paddock, yet to offer a return. Temperatures are shifting and sparking across the calendar, rushing plants to bud and flower too early, throwing them under clear skies into the fridge of sudden winter frost, then thrusting them into the oven of a heatwave, often so quickly and locally that such events do not register in the information flows of urban media. Then there are the pests, whether considered by a farmer to be every organism other than the commodified species or a short list of specific tricksters that need to be carefully negotiated. 

Climate change is warping ecological relations as species respond individually and move across the landscape where they can, creating new problem ecologies and undermining the ‘ecological services’ our farming systems rely on, such as those of pest predation and pollination. In the northwestern Victorian wheat belt, the prevalent pest, the bird-cherry oat aphid, is likely to be negatively affected by climate change, migrating southward and disappearing off the coast of Victoria. Yet this depends in part on how stressed its host crop plants are by new climatic and other pressures. These include the yellow dwarf virus that the aphid carries, which is likely to quickly increase in higher temperatures as plants host the aphid earlier in the season and allow it to spread further.8 At the same time, climate change is beginning to affect the aphids’ predators, including migratory birds, whose numbers will likely fall as rainfall declines, depending on how soil moisture and vegetation respond to less rain.9 On farms, the result may be an increased turn to chemical pesticides, which are also sensitive to temperature, rain and wind and may prove unreliable allies in a changing climate.

As it turns out, pesticides are also sensitive to another virus—COVID-19. Among the pandemic’s innumerable impacts on the world has been the disruption of glyphosate production in China. Glyphosate is the key active ingredient of Roundup—the ‘miracle’ chemical that corporate behemoth Bayer is now being sued for by cancer-afflicted farmers—and its sudden inaccessibility ‘crippled’ farmers in Australia in the early days of the pandemic as they prepared to seize the autumnal climatic window when grain seeds are positioned to take root in their sanitised pockets of soil. Adding to the disruption were similar problems in flows of synthetic fertiliser from China. Among these fertilisers were not only those reliant on phosphate and potassium mines in Russia, Brazil, India and Canada but also those based on atmospheric nitrogen—an emissions-intensive chemical transformation devised by the father of chemical warfare, Fritz Haber. What the Germans call ‘brot aus luft’—making ‘bread from air’—the invention of nitrogenous fertiliser is a ‘miracle’ long hailed as proof of humans’ ability to overcome nature’s limits with technology.10 By disrupting the apparent ability to make bread from air—that is, by disrupting the long chains of intensive physical processes underpinning wheat production—COVID-19 exposed the global industrial complex into which Australian agriculture not only feeds commodified goods but also feeds off, in an attempt to control the lively mutability of production. 

Pushing against centrifugal forces

But this is not simply a story of COVID disruption. These are some of the ways in which agricultural production is embroiled in techno-capitalism’s globalised processes, processes that in turn connect rural communities to those of us stuck in the metropole. With the burgeoning of industrial-scale agriculture, many rural areas have become sites of extraction—‘sacrifice zones’, in the words of anthropologist Marc Edelman—where profit-making growth is the main game and wealth is generated and exported elsewhere in a model originating from early colonial days. Today Canadian superannuation funds are the single largest investor in Australian agriculture, though they still do not rival the United Kingdom, China or the United States in terms of foreign ownership of Australian farmland and water.

Technologised, neoliberal transformations in agriculture don’t just result in the mass exportation of food and economic wealth; they also lead to significant reductions in the number of people employed in agricultural work. While the populations of larger rural towns continue to grow steadily, the shifting nature of employment in these areas is telling: for example, in Mildura—regional centre of one of Victoria’s prime food bowls—between 2001 and 2016 there was a 50-per-cent reduction in the number of people directly employed in agricultural work and a simultaneous 84-per-cent increase in the number employed in ‘human services’. In a recent public talk,11Mildura businessman and community leader Ross Lake painted a devastating picture of the disassociation, distress and fragmentation associated with the intergenerational stripping away of local controls over water, land and productive labour. While people live in rural places, they are increasingly likely to work in ways that result in their being as disconnected from the land and from each other as those who reside in metropolitan cities. 

Paradoxically, it is this same technologically enabled disconnection that fuels the latest COVID-driven imaginary of a mass exodus from the capital-city ‘bunker’ for a better ‘work–life balance’ in regional Australia. Work-from-home employees are now ‘liberated’ from the need to attend physical workplaces and thus look to ‘capitalise’ on cheaper real estate as well as an imagined simpler life in the country, a life free of the deadening weekday hours of commuter gridlock. What they may encounter in their rural retreat, however, are not just the wonders of internet connection. At least for those escaping Melbourne, there may be a familiar sense of being encased in white noise, not simply because of their underdeveloped local relationships but because Australia’s news and policy are so city-centric, leaving many outside the enclosures of capital cities feeling as left out as those in lockdown Melbourne. Also familiar will be the food on offer, given that an increasing proportion is supplied by the long arms of Coles and Woolworths. Known for ingesting its competition, Woolworths is now trying to purchase rural food supplier PFD, which would not only homogenise consumer choices but cut off a market for the small rural producers PFD currently supports, producers that try to resist the prevailing treatment of food as a mere widget of the capitalist economy. 

Such distanced, distinctively cultured ways of relating to rural places have a long tail. In 1946, Australian children’s author, farmer and environmentalist Elyne Mitchell made a rousing and impassioned plea for a national reimagination. In her book Soil and Civilization,12 Mitchell presciently tracks the disconnection of people from the earth via the growth of urban populations, industrialised agriculture, standardised education, the expansion of technologised communications and governance, and growing dependence on foreign trade for food. At the heart of her argument is the idea that soil fertility and health is foundational and symbiotically connected to the creativity and health of a people—a binding spiritual connection that Australia destroyed at colonisation. In its place we have built an industrial society hell-bent on exploiting the land, giving rise to erosion, desertification, dust bowls and people who are alienated and emptied out. 

Mitchell’s critique draws attention to the contingencies of energy flows—environmental, biological, electrical and spiritual—that should be symbiotically fused; a set of interlinked creative forces that we have fragmented and enabled to drain away. These ideas find passionate and practical force in the work of a new generation of farmers, activists and environmental writers, including American Wendell Berry, who writes of the need for human communities to exert ‘a kind of centripetal force, holding local soil and local memory in place’. Berry’s appeal to ‘the work of local culture’ is a plea to refuse the impoverished and toxic returns that flow to the country as a result of power being located in commercial centres, ‘which have drawn irresistibly into themselves both the products of the countryside and the people and talents of the country communities’. Berry echoes Mitchell’s warning that this is no simple opposition of city and country but rather an interpenetration of processes and orientations such that ‘country people more and more live like city people, and so connive in their own ruin’.13 

Local cultures

Whether we approach these dilemmas through the ecological prism of soil or the social-philosophical idea of the common good, as Jane Goodall does in The Politics of the Common Good: Dispossession in Australia, the message is the same: without the cultivation of attention to and care for the specific conditions of the places in which we live and work we are destined to live a rootless life, regardless of where we live. Rootlessness in this sense is not a matter of mobility so much as attitude, understanding, commitment. It is an attitude that infuses too many of the policies that shape rural places, penned as they are by city-based or at least urbanised authors reliant on but intellectually disconnected from the realities of rural life.

To begin to explore what the ‘work of local culture’ might look like in any place in the present is not to overlook existing local cultures—especially Indigenous cultures, which have been battered by these processes the longest—nor is it to altogether dismiss globalisation. It is to spark a debate about the first principles and values we have lost sight of, or sold off, and that need to be brought back to the centre of shared concern. Australian society has been described as suffering selective amnesia as well as ‘settler innocence’.14 The former applies to those countless instances of governments wilfully bulldozing or selling off places of community value and heritage for the sake of corporate interest, in a bewildering kind of second-wave, self-colonising violence. 

To disentangle, make sense of and push back against these hollowing-out processes is also to ask what kinds of relationships need to be prioritised to foster flourishing regions. A first lead might be taken from those Aboriginal activists, fire ecologists and custodians of country working against the forces of prolonged drought, the confounding and sometimes competing layers of commercial governance of water and land, and the myriad effects of accelerating climate change. These activists have been moved to decentre the politics of Aboriginal land ownership in favour of a more urgent need to cultivate a new, collectively shared love and responsibility for country. In so doing, they do not diminish the specific forms of Indigenous association and relatedness; rather, they call for shared rejection of capital-organised attitudes to land, water, places, species, environments.15  

Berry identifies loss of memory as a crucial element of the erosion of local culture. ‘When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know each other. How can they know each other if they have forgotten or have never learned each other’s stories?’16 In settler-colonial nations like Australia, memory and storytelling are highly contested ground, integrally connected with the workings of power and legitimacy. The prospect of an enriched coexistence turns upon the possibility of a differently figured exchange of stories, memories and traditions. On this we must look first to Aboriginal communities, but also to the post–Second World War generations of migrants who brought with them distinctive traditions of working and honouring the land, drawing upon them as anchors and inspiration as they made new homes, families, businesses and communities, in cities and rural towns. 

For decades rural producers have relied on itinerant backpackers and fly-in, fly-out Pacific workers for seasonal work, including the harvesting and packing of fruit and vegetables. Pacific labourers bring with them specialist skills that Australian farmers value, including bodily familiarity, confidence and pleasure in working with the produce of the earth derived from their own customary practices of land cultivation. For these labourers, among our closest regional neighbours, seasonal stints in Australia offer rare opportunities to accumulate savings that, once remitted home, can be life transforming. But the closure of state and international borders has triggered a shortfall of as many as 26,000 workers needed to harvest Australian crops in coming months if the produce is not to be left to rot. Industry lobbyists are calling for exceptional travel permits to enable the continuing movement of Pacific labour migrants between their home countries and Australia. Domestically, the Morrison government is promising relocation payments to welfare recipients willing to move to areas where seasonal labour is needed. 

If earlier attempts to lure unemployed city residents to the bush have failed, why should this campaign be any different? Young city folk don’t readily see country-based work as an option. Nor do many young rural folk, who frequently grow up with the implicit message that personal ‘success’ involves getting an education and job in the city.17 Their consequent out migration strengthens the gravitational pull of the city on society and weighs against anyone without even family ties heading off to the country for work. 

Farmers too express anxieties about the government’s proposed quick-fix labour programs and make clear that they won’t tolerate workers who don’t approach their crops with care. At the same time, poorly regulated work conditions can be onerous and exploitative. The hotter temperatures emerging out of the intersection of industrial capitalism with the atmosphere are making physical work in the agricultural sector especially difficult and demanding. In October a North Queensland farmer was fined following the death of a Belgian backpacker who collapsed as a result of heat stress while picking pumpkins. The agricultural industry has long been characterised by a largely dismissive attitude towards occupational health and safety, and bodily vulnerability to heat is often pooh-poohed as a sign of ‘non-Australian’ weakness, even as most of us increasingly exist in air-conditioned enclaves.18 

Temporarily moving large numbers of labourers into Australia’s agricultural production zones during a pandemic is a complex exercise, and only one more factor that leaves open the question of how to approach the deeper webs of dependencies and denials that characterise urban–rural relationships and the broader global patterns  the pandemic has helped to reveal. Mitchell again: 

Can we see a living relationship between the city worker and the mountains from which comes the water for living bodies and for electric power? There must be such breadth of vision, the understanding of fusion between all living things, and between life and the inanimate environment, if we wish to save this world-wide civilization by halting the forces of disintegration and re-creating it as a living unity.19 

As partly documented by Charles Massy in Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, a New Earth,20 thousands of small farmers and producers are already disentangling themselves from the disempowering relations that have captured agriculture and re-instating modes of production more re-productive and more re-generative of life, land and habitable futures for all of us. Neyrat advocates for such an ‘ecology of separation’, an approach that seeks to forge relationships that deny ‘Earth denial’ in order to ‘announce or propose another vision of the world…another configuration of existence’—one that reconnects to place and people.21 

Rebuilding regional life by prioritising its location, local cultures and crucial importance to urban existence would compel us to look with fresh eyes at the relationships that shape and constrain agricultural production, relationships between the residents of cities and the bush, relationships between white and black Australians and our Pacific neighbours. A post-COVID, post-neoliberal ordering of these relationships needs a new shared imagination to take us somewhere very different from where we find ourselves today, staring at digital wheat futures and unwrapping space-food in lockdown Melbourne.


1. Frédéric Neyrat, The Unconstructable Earth: An Ecology of Separation, translated by Drew Burk, New York: Fordham University Press, 2019, p. 19.

2. Neyrat, p. 5.

3. Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966, p. 3.

4. Jennifer Clapp, ‘Financialization, Distance and Global Food Politics’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5), 2014, p. 798.

5. Jane Dixon, ‘Supermarkets as New Food Authorities’, in David Burch and Geoffrey Lawrence (eds), Supermarkets and Agri-food Supply Chains: Transformations in the Production and Consumption of Foods, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2007, pp. 29–50.

6. Marc Edelman, ‘Hollowed Out Heartland, USA: How Capital Sacrificed Communities and Paved the Way for Authoritarian Populism’, Journal of Rural Studies, 2019,

7. Lesley Head, Jennifer Atchison and Alison Gates, Ingrained: A Human Bio-geography of Wheat, London: Ashgate Publishing, 2012, p. 131.

8. Sarina Macfayden, Garrick McDonald and Matthew Hill, ‘From Species Distributions to Climate Change Adaptation: Knowledge Gaps in Managing Invertebrate Pests in Broad-acre Grain Crops’, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 253, 2018, pp 208–19; Hazel Parry, Sarina Macfadyen and Darren Kriticos, ‘The Geographical Distribution of Yellow Dwarf Viruses and Their Aphid Vectors in Australian Grasslands and Wheat’, Australasian Plant Pathology, 41, 2012, pp 375–87; Narelle Nancarrow, Fiona Constable, Kyla Finlay, Angela Freeman, Brendan Rodoni, Piotr Trebicki, Simone Vassiliadis, Alan Yen and Jo Luck, ‘The Effect of Elevated Temperature on Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus-PAV in Wheat’, Virus Research 186, 2014, pp 97–103; Piotr Trebicki, Narelle Nancarrow, Ellen Cole, Nilsa Bosque-Pérez, Fiona Constable, Angela Freeman, Brendan Rodoni, Alan Yen, Jo Luck and Glenn Fitzgerald, ‘Virus Disease in Wheat Predicted to Increase with a Changing Climate’, Global Change Biology, 21, 2015, pp 3511–19.

9. Ary Hoffmann, Andrew Weeks, Michael Nash, G. Peter Mangano and Paul Umina, ‘The Changing Status of Invertebrate Pests and the Future of Pest Management in the Australian Grains Industry’, Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 48, 2008, pp 1481–93.

10. Matt Huber, ‘Reinvigorating Class in Political Ecology: Nitrogen Capital and the Means of Degradation’, Geoforum 85, 2017, pp 345–52;

11. Ross Lake, ‘Food, Water, and Community’, public presentation at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, December 2019; recording available at:

12. Elyne Mitchell, Soil and Civilization, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1946.

13. Wendell Berry, ‘The Work of Local Culture’, available at:

14. John Hinkson, ‘The ‘Innocence’ of the Settler Imagination’, in Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson (eds), Coercive Reconciliation: Stabilise, Normalise, Exit Aboriginal Australia, Melbourne: Arena Publications, pp 287–94.

15. Yin Paradies, ‘Unsettling Truths: Modernity, (de-)coloniality and Indigenous Futures’, Postcolonial Studies, 23(4), available at

16. Berry.

17. David Farrugia, ‘The Mobility Imperative for Rural Youth: The Structural, Symbolic and Non-Representational Dimensions Rural Youth Mobilities’, Journal of Youth Studies, 19, 2016, pp. 836–51.

18. Lauren Rickards and Elspeth Oppermann, ‘Battling the Tropics to Settle a Nation: Negotiating Multiple Energies, Frontiers and Feedback Loops in Australia’, Energy Research & Social Science 41, 2018, pp 97–108.

19. Mitchell, p. 46.

20. Charles Massy, Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth, Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2017.

21. Neyrat, p. 183.

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Lauren Rickards co-leads the Climate Change Transformations research program at RMIT University. Her current research on the sociocultural dimensions of environmental change includes a project with the Institute of Postcolonial Studies on the Future of Food.

Melinda Hinkson is an anthropologist based at Deakin University. She is director of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, and an Arena Publications editor.


Originally published with Arena on 24 November 2020.


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