It was a welcome relief to come across pockets of habitat in the Lower Lakes and the Coorong National Park that were in a healthy condition, despite the lack of river flow during the Millennium Drought (1997–2009) in south-eastern Australia.
These low flows happened within the proposed Anthroprocene period, which is a time when much of the diversity of life on Earth is being lost through human action causing a steady global warming.
This experience foregrounds the need for photography, as a form of art, to be more open to the experiences of nature; and to be part of a rethinking that questions our most basic cultural narratives if photography in the 21st century is not to degenerate into idle chatter.
The causes for the ecological devastation in the Coorong during the Millennium Drought were the reduced freshwater flows from upstream. These, in turn, were caused by both the low rainfall during the drought, and the over extraction of water for the upstream, irrigated agricultural industries. As a result, the shallow water in the Coorong become saltier than seawater, and this diminished the life that previously thrived in the mixture of fresh and saltwater.
The 28-32 Mile Crossing in the Coorong is at the bottom end of the River Murray, which had become a regulated river for irrigation water supply between 1910 to 1950. This was a period of history in which dams and weirs became powerful symbols of the transformative power of engineering and technology.
Though the Millennium Drought was a time of low rainfall, the melaleuca pictured below looked to be in good condition. It was growing on the side of the Old Coorong Rd, near the 28-32 Mile Crossing, near The Granites, and it would be normally be overlooked or disregarded. However, such a healthy tree within the highly stressed Coorong suggests the need to start thinking about the fate of non-human others in the Murray-Darling Basin:
This part of the Coorong suggests we need to move away from a more simplistic dichotomy of nature versus humans to a photographic culture that works with a more nuanced and multilayered narrative.
The 28-32 Mile Crossing is before 42 Mile Crossing as the distance is measured from the township Kingston that lies south of the Coorong. The representations of 42 Mile Crossing assume the conventional understanding of the ‘natural world’ as a passive background to human dramas.
It is seen as a popular spot for fishers, campers and tourists, as it is one of the few locations within the Coorong National Park providing ready access to the Young Husband Peninsula and the ocean beach without the need of water-craft. This conventional understanding ignores the deep time of earth history within which such human action is situated. Continue reading