A forest conscienceness
Calver, M. (2011) A forest conscienceness. In: Biodiversity and Forests Symposium, 7 October, Margaret River, Western Australia.
In his report to the British Empire Conference in 1920, Western Australia’s Conservator of Forests Charles Lane Poole looked forward to the time ‘when the people develop a forest conscienceness’ and ‘see to it that the forest policy is maintained and the forests are used for the benefit of the community as a whole forever, and not for the benefit of the few sawmillers, timber hewers, and timber merchants of to-day.’ With forest management still a major political issue, the statement has a contemporary ring even though it is nearly a century old. The unusual word ‘conscienceness’ at its core is not listed by serious dictionaries (although it does appear in some dictionaries of colloquialisms).
We can never know whether Lane Poole used ‘conscienceness’ in error for ‘consciousness’, or deliberately forged a word for a new concept. He was erudite, as his writings attest, so I’m tempted to believe that he punned and to speculate on what conscienceness means. It includes perception (consciousness) and also responsibility (conscience). Thus conscienceness incorporates awareness of issues and a moral position. Of course, based on their experience and values, individuals may be aware of different aspects of complex issues such as forest management and take differing moral positions in relation to them. Or, to use Lane Poole’s term, they may have different forest consciencenesses.
Here, I wish to explore three of the many consciencenesses that exist in relation to the forests of southwestern Australia: those of the forestry professional, the conservationist and the agriculturalist. By examining the unique combination of awareness and moral perspective characterising each group, we can come closer to what forests mean to our community today.
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