White Beech is the result of Germaine Greer’s love affair with the Australian bush. It charts the changing fortunes of Cave Creek, 60 hectares of derelict cattle farm that Greer purchased in 2001 and has since sought to turn back over to native rainforest. She describes her mission as ‘rebuilding wild nature’, although, as she finds to her sorrow, only so much human destruction can be undone.
The strengths of the book are two-fold. Greer is a talented wordsmith and her vivid descriptions transport readers into a habitat that thrums with noise and movement and life.
But it’s also a platform from which she speaks with righteous indignation on issues about which she feels exceptionally strongly: the Aboriginal population and land rights; the ‘fog of good intentions’ that enables the government to put off dealing with serious environmental problems; and the inevitable conflict she sees between intensive farming and biodiversity. Most of the time, her arguments are eloquent and detailed, but she can’t resist quoting her own statement to a defender of the Landcare programme: ‘Farmers shouldn’t be helped... They should be told to fuck off out of it.’
It’s at times such as this that Greer’s fans will recognise the writer they know and love. She’s impassioned and direct to the point of confrontation, unconcerned about the discomfort that her carefully chosen words will inevitably cause. White Beech is a book to be read, considered and discussed.
WHITE BEECH: The Rainforest Years by Germaine Greer, Bloomsbury, £25