The sociology of the Australian agricultural environment

F. Vanclay

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    <p>Australian agriculture is in crisis, the terms of trade for agriculture are falling, many farmers have negative incomes, and there is massive structural adjustment with government policy assisting the exit of marginal farmers out of agriculture. Australian governments are gripped with the philosophy of economic rationalism. This creates a policy environment of reduced commitment to government funding for agriculture, a reduction in agricultural extension services and a government that is opposed, in principle, to regulatory and incentive based approaches to environmental management. Thus there is a period of considerable change in agricultural extension services as they attempt to deal with these changed circumstances. At the same time as these crises in agriculture and in agricultural extension, there is an increased need for effective agricultural extension because of increasing levels of land degradation in Australia. Increasing levels of salinity, acidity, soil structure decline, soil nutrient decline, erosion by wind and water, destruction of native habitat and wildlife, invasion of rangelands by woody weeds, and other environmental problems are of an unprecedented scale. The severity of enviromnental problems creates an enviromnental imperative for action for environmental management.<p>However, the debate about environmental problems in agriculture has been dominated by technical discussion of the physical aspects of the problem, of the physical causes and of the physical solutions. In agricultural extension circles, the debate has been restricted to a discussion of how to get farmers to adopt environmental management practices. At no time has there been any consideration of the social foundation of agriculture, of the social, political and economic processes that have shaped Australian agriculture, or of the social, political and economic basis of environmental problems within agriculture. Agricultural extension agencies, despite the crises in which they currently exist, have tended to maintain a commitment to traditional paradigms relating to farmers' adoption of environmental management practices. None of these ways of thinking are adequate for understanding the real nature of environmental problems within agriculture.<p>This thesis consists of a series of published papers which address the issue of environmental management within agriculture from a critical sociological perspective. This perspective is applied at three levels of analysis: international, national, and local. The international level applies to the consideration of the position of the Australian agricultural economy in terms of the world political economy and how this affects Australian agriculture and the environment. The national level applies to the responses of extension agencies to the issue of enviromnental management and how these agencies are responding to the changing policy context within Australia, and the consequences of their responses on enviromnental management. Finally, the thesis considers the role of individual farmers in the management of the agricultural environment and how they are affected by the international and national processes.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Long, N.E., Promotor
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    Award date28 Jun 1994
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789054852476
    Publication statusPublished - 1994


    • sociology
    • rural communities
    • sustainability
    • environment
    • man
    • environmental impact
    • australia
    • agricultural extension
    • human impact


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