Developmentalism and its environmental legacy: the Western Australia wheatabelt, 1900-1990s
Blackwell Publishers Ltd
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of International, Cultural and Community Studies
The Western Australia Wheatbelt contains the largest area of dry‐land salinity in Australia with major economic, social and environmental consequences. In recent years salinity has been widely recognised as the State's worst environmental problem. Yet, the historical record shows that this crisis, which has taken half a century to fully materialise, was largely foreseen by contemporary agricultural scientists. In examining the origins of the salinity crisis, the article examines the reasons why this scientific advice was ignored. It locates the schemes to open up the area for agriculture in the period 1900‐1980s within the ideology of developmentalism which became the major plank in the policy of successive governments. The article identifies the key elements in the way developmentalism was applied to agriculture and discusses its populist appeal; the separation of science from policy; and the institutionalisation of the developmentalist ethos in the administrative arms of government.