Where the Wild Things Were

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Australian scientists last decade called for urgent action to manage the risks of weather disasters and advance adaptation in light of anthropogenic climate change. In that context, this chapter explores the ways people understand and live with severe tropical cyclones as a core component of regional identity. It draws from a new collection of 20 oral histories recorded in communities affected by Category-Five Cyclone Yasi (2011) in Far North Queensland, homing in on the combined narrative of wildlife conservationists Daryl Dickson and Geoff Moffatt. This life-narrative approach also allows space for the richness of detail that oral history offers in contextualising, in a sense actualising, a cautionary tale on our imminent future. Dickson and Moffatt’s story is one of human and non-human environmental interconnection, where disaster is experienced as the loss of “wild things” (the rich biodiversity of the Wet Tropics, encountered in everyday life) and is remembered in discourse of environmental (in)justice. The chapter focuses especially on segments of their story that engage with the social politics of belonging in cyclone country, illuminating the ways discourse on weather and climate disaster sits at the intersection of biography, culture, politics and place. Indeed, their story of the experience of Cyclone Yasi reinforces a transpersonal ecology, where the memory of disaster is written into the future. In turn, this chapter argues for the value of oral history in opening up space for difference in disaster storytelling, for survivors grappling with an altered sense of the human place in a warming world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisasters in Australia and New Zealand
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical Approaches to Understanding Catastrophe
EditorsMargaret Cook, Scott McKinnon
Place of PublicationGateway Singapore
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789811543821
ISBN (Print)9789811543814
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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