The Write Way
24 July 2009
If It Stands Still ...
It may just be because Australia is a very big country, and our first European settlers came from a small island, but their actions seem to indicate that they felt they'd stumbled upon the eighteenth century equivalent of the bottomless cup of coffee. Here was a huge continent all theirs for the taking ... if you'd messed up one bit of it, beaten it to within an inch of its life, exploited it until there was nothing left, that was fine, because over the next hill, around the next bend in the river, beyond the next gully was another wide expanse of land just waiting for them.
Farming practices were based on the sound principles that had guided Europeans in their "conquest" of the known world for centuries: "If it moves, shoot it; if it stands still, chop it down."
Early settlers in rainforest areas here in Queensland were impressed by the mighty trees growing, and they reasoned that this must be incredibly fertile land that would be excellent for crops and grazing. So they chopped down all the trees, with the result that the fertile but fragile and shallow layer of topsoil, nourished over the centuries by litter from the trees, vanished faster than last week's pay. But not to worry ... there was another rainforest just up ahead ...
Sadly, there's still a lot (too much) of this attitude still around in rural areas.
What started me gnashing my teeth and cringing about the problem was a program I saw concerning a fellow by the name of Peter Andrews, who's spent the past 30 years trying to show farmers how to undo the damage to their land, in between banging his head up against the brick wall of bureaucracy.
"The whole story began more than three decades ago. When he (Peter Woods) purchased Tarwyn Park, it was an environmental wasteland. It was a landscape that people just said you could do nothing with. And within years he transformed it. He reversed the salinity, he re-hydrated the landscape, he re-fertilised the floodplain."...
(Peter Woods) "I realised 30 years ago that there was a major threat. We've failed to recognise in this country that it had some unique qualities that made it sustainable in its own right. Biodiversity and the ability to prevent water evaporating. They were the really simple things. I saw that for land to go through a drought, you had to have reserves of water somewhere. And there were shapes in these sediments in the flood plains which proved that they worked like a series of giant sponges that filled up and they trickle-fed the rest of the system through the dry periods. And so I said, well let me see if I can do that. Maybe I’ll fill up the floodplain and see what happens."
(John Ryan, reporter) "It became
an obsession with Pete. He’d call everyone he could think of. He’d talk to
everybody in a position of power he could. He was just ridiculed. He was
derided. He was saying all these things that were opposite to what the
scientists were saying. But in the end they couldn’t refute the evidence."
(Prof, Richard Bush, Head "Baramul" Scientific team) "Peter Andrews’ views or understanding of the landscape (are) not necessarily in step with the scientists’ views of the landscape. Nevertheless, some of his management practices have resulted in some tremendous benefits to the Australian landscape. I think up until Peter Andrews there was very much a view that, you know, the landscape was degrading and it was all too big to be able to address. Whereas he’s demonstrated that in fact, the common landholder, the average landholder can make some changes that can be very, very significant."
Basically, his system involves building small dams on properties then planting ... something, anything on the land to hold the soil and the moisture. (John Ryan) "One of Peter’s main secrets is he uses weeds and ground cover. Australia’s fragile soil needs ground cover 100 per cent of the time. He slashes his weeds. Eventually the soil improves so much that the weeds don’t grow, the better things out compete them. The weeds aren’t needed any more. They’re just repair mechanisms."
(Prof David Goldney Landscape Ecologist) "I go over farmland all across the central west and you never see soil being built. You see it being degraded. Now here in 18 months you are seeing soil made on top of sand by a very simple process and the organic layer is quite significant, that black layer that starts to form. I think it’s the most significant contribution to landscape restoration that I’ve seen in Australia."
Of course, these techniques will work on any soil, but Peter Andrews is a very unique man in that he's maintained his passion in the face of such adversity for so long ... Or maybe he's just "unique."
dictionary.com tells us that 'unique' means: existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics; having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable; limited in occurrence to a given class, situation, or area; limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities; not typical; unusual
The word is derived from the Latin unicus, from the word unus, meaning 'one.'
And while most times you can't use these absolute words in a way that denotes more or less than that absolute condition, when using 'unique' in the sense of 'not typical' or 'unusual' it is permissible to qualify it.
F'r instance, if two things are square, then that's all they can be ... one can't be more square than the other. Likewise for 'equal' (despite what the pigs in Animal Farm might have us believe) and likewise for 'perfect, complete and round.' All of these words are absolute terms, and as such, they have no need of degrees of comparison like most other adjectives. (Although I have heard it mentioned that no woman who has ever been nine months pregnant with twins would doubt the legitimacy of the term "more pregnant.")
"Certain adjectives denote meanings that are absolute in nature: unique, round, square, perfect, single, double. They can fill both the attributive and predicate slots, but they generally cannot be qualified or compared. We can, of course, say 'almost perfect' or 'nearly square,' but most writers avoid 'more perfect' or 'very perfect.' In the case of unique, it has come to mean 'rare' or 'unusual,' in which case 'very unique' would be comparable to 'very unusual.' However, given the historical meaning 'one of a kind,' the qualified 'very unique' makes no sense." (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar, Allyn and Bacon, 1998)
Apart from being one of those feel-good stories that show we carbon-based bipeds do have a heart, Peter's story also shows how important it is to persevere with something you're passionate about.
It's a bit like writing, really. Think of those 12 publishers who rejected the original submissions from J K Rowling ... Did she throw up her hands in horror, slink off for a coffee and decide she was a failure?
Not at all ... she sent out more submissions and was accepted ... although Bloomsbury editor, Barry Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books(!)
Look where her journey has taken her!
From the late 90s when she was a divorced single mother, sitting on a delayed train scribbling notes for a story to pass the time, to now ... She's the first modern writer to earn more than $1billion (yes, that's billion with a B) from her writing.
The final book in her series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released on 21 July 2007 and broke its predecessor's record as the fastest-selling book of all time, selling 11 million copies in the first day of release in the United Kingdom and United States.
Many writers say that they just start writing without any idea how their characters will develop or what will happen to them, but others, like Rowling adopt a very different approach:
"It took me a long, hard five years to complete The Philosopher's Stone. The reason so much time slipped by was because, from that very first idea, I envisaged a series of seven books - each one charting a year of Harry's life whilst he is a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And I wanted to fully sketch the plots of all the stories and get the essential characteristics of my principal characters before I actually started writing the books in detail."
When asked about the number of times she drafts and rewrites, Rowling said, "Loads and loads and loads. The worst ever was 13 different versions of one chapter (Chapter 9 in The Goblet of Fire). I hated that chapter so much; at one point, I thought of missing it out altogether and just putting in a page saying `Chapter 9 was too difficult' and going straight to Chapter 10." (Source)
The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages. Here is a woman who knows of what she writes! And this week's Little Something Extra explains why Harry Potter is so popular with adults as well as children ...
So this year, don't just read a best-seller ... Write your own using the
software program that uses the same methods used in England's leading university
creative writing course and can help anyone start that novel that's lurking in
all of us. (It's also based on the same methods J K Rowling uses to write her
Harry Potter novels ... I read that the latest HP film had grossed over $500
million in its first 10 days ... Not a bad act to follow, if you ask me!)
This week's quiz:
Let's see how much you know about the dirt beneath our feet ...
loess, permafrost, alluvium, fragipan, humus, rill, shale, leaching, tuff, moraine
1. accumulation of earth, stones, and other debris deposited by a glacier
2. removal of soluble material from soil or other material by percolating water
3. loamy, brittle subsurface horizon low in porosity and content of organic matter and low or moderate in clay but high in silt or very fine sand; appears cemented and restricts roots. When dry, it is hard or very hard and has a higher bulk density than the horizon or horizons above. When moist, it tends to rupture suddenly under pressure rather than to deform slowly
4.material, such as sand, silt or clay deposited on land by streams
5. fine-grained material, dominantly of silt-sized particles, deposited by wind
6. layers of soil, or even bedrock, occurring in arctic or subarctic regions, in which a temperature below freezing has existed continuously for a long time
7. well decomposed, more or less stable part of the organic matter in mineral soils
8. compacted deposit that is 50 percent or more volcanic ash and dust
9. steep-sided channel resulting from accelerated erosion; is generally a few inches deep
10. sedimentary rock formed by the hardening of a clay deposit
This next little piece was found by Keith Clough, one of our Merry Band. He and I have both read and re-read it and it works for us, but it really shouldn't ... What do you think?
It is the month of August in a
small country town. It is raining, and the little town looks totally deserted.
It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
Last week's quiz:
Here are some terms you may come across while dining out ... Match 'em up:
aperitif, entree, carpaccio, gratuity, Mâitre d'Hôtel, appetiser, sous chef, ŕ la Carte, baba, farci
1. head of the catering department; the host - MAITRE D'HOTEL (Sorry, I can't get the circumflex to work in capitals!)
2. priced separately on the menu, as opposed to an entire meal set at one price - A LA CARTE
3. small drink of alcoholic liquor taken to stimulate the appetite before a meal - APERITIF
4. the second in command in a kitchen - SOUS CHEF
5. a dish served at dinner between the principal courses - ENTREE
6. French term for stuffed - FARCI (This is usually used in reference to the food, rather than the diners!)
7. small portion of a food or drink served before or at the beginning of a meal to stimulate the desire to eat - APPETISER
8. Paper thin slices of raw beef, traditionally served with a creamy sauce; may also describe other types of thinly sliced raw or smoked meats, fish or vegetables - CARPACCIO
9. small cake made from a yeast dough, typically containing raisins or currants, baked in a cylindrical mould, and then soaked in a rum-flavoured syrup - BABA
10. gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter; tip - GRATUITY
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A Little Something Extra
The Secret Behind Harry Potter's Popularity
Word of the week: Anthropogenic (adj) Generated by humans. Used to indicate soil conditions, disturbances or stresses that are created by people
Think of all the other words using this same prefix: anthropology (the study of people); anthropomorphic (suggesting human characteristics for animals or inanimate things ...think about those people who think that dogs are just small people in fur coats ...); anthroposcopy (art of discovering or judging of a man -- or woman's -- character, passions and inclinations from a study of his/her visible features).
Oxymoron of the week: commercially viable ecology
This week's Latin phrase couldn't be anything else but the motto of Hogwarts!
Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus
Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)?
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com