WIT Press

Achieving Sustainability In Agriculture: Lessons From Australia


Free (open access)





Page Range

601 - 608




570 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


R. Bartel & E. Barclay


The scientific evidence for environmental degradation is overwhelming however, it is sometimes difficult to translate this evidence into government and policy action and even more problematic to use it to generate behavioural change. The dynamics of scientific knowledge and the way it interacts with personal beliefs and social norms are complex and regard must always be had for the sometimes competing forces at work. Presently there are two crises enveloping the globe, one financial and the other environmental, which are forcing us to recognise the relationships between past and present human activities and future lives and landscapes. Humanity is presently facing relatively well-documented threats of climate change, land use conflict, desertification, extinctions, food, water and financial (in)security however we are still lacking some basic information about a critical part of the global system: ourselves. It is this gap which this study addressed, by inquiring into the environmental attitudes and behaviours of Australian farmers. In Australia the impacts of environmental change will be severe as it is already the driest inhabited continent on Earth and its high and unique biodiversity is especially susceptible to even minor perturbations in conditions. Impacts on food production will also be severe as approximately 60% of Australia’s land surface is under agriculture and Australia exports twothirds of what it produces. However government initiatives to forestall environmental collapse frequently meet with disagreement from farmers: the sector of the Australian population which might be expected to be most concerned. In Australia the relationship between certain land management activities and environmental sustainability is often contested. From a nationwide survey with 1,926 respondents it is apparent that farmers have a range of views and exhibit a variety of behaviours in relation to environmental sustainability but they also share many attitudes. Many are sceptical about climate change and are resistant to nature preservation and restoration laws. Most landholders appreciate their farm environment but many are also ambivalent about government interference. These findings may be used to build our understanding of the \“people part” of the sustainability equation and how we might better integrate scientific and technical knowledge with the experience of farmers and land managers. In order to manage landscapes and achieve sustainability we need to understand natural systems but we also need to understand people. Keywords: environmental degradation, scientific knowledge, agriculture, Australia, environmental change, behavioural change, attitudes.


environmental degradation, scientific knowledge, agriculture, Australia, environmental change, behavioural change, attitudes