FARMERS' CHANGING ATTITUDES
Sustainable agriculture and land use management is affected by farmers attitudes, which have changed
in Australia over the two hundred years of European settlement [Roberts, 1995]. Although agricultural
systems are predominantly controlled by the climate, other forces such as the market, farmers' attitudes
and management skills have played an important part in shaping what has been described as 'conventional
agriculture' and the development and increasing acceptance of the 'alternative' agricultural movement in
Australia. Both these schools of thoughts can be partially traced back through three recognisable stages
Settlement and survival [subsistence farming]
- settlement and survival [subsistence farming];
- settlement and exploitation;
All settlement farmers had to firstly secure their physiological needs for fresh water, food and
shelter in order to survive [Megginson, Mosley, Pietri, 1992]. Gradually there was a change from
subsistence farming for food to having surplus product for sale and profit. The goal of increased
profits altered the farmers' attitudes towards the land changing from providing purely for their basic
needs to being an economic resource suitable for exploitation.
Settlement and exploitation
Roberts  records that Australia has an established record of robbing nature's treasure store and,
as is the common practice for newly developed countries, Australia has exploited its existing reserves of
natural resources, which includes soil nutrients [Aitken, Tribe, Tulloh, Wilson, 1966]. Exploitation has
occurred in agriculture where land has been degraded and soils 'mined' of carbon [Hampson, 1989]. The
development of "systems of exploitation" [Symons, 1972] emphasises short term economic planning due to
economic pressures, though long term ecological considerations have significantly impacted on many systems.
For example, Duruz  documents the clearing of the Heytesbury forest prior to the establishment of
settlement farms. Intensive farming practices on these properties have resulted in short term economic
sustainability though now salinity, in properties less than forty years old, is apparent thus threatening
the long term ecological sustainability of the area. The development of the above project took place
when conventional agriculture was responsible for spectacular productivity gains through increasing input
intensiveness. This success reinforced modern agriculture's commitment to industrialisation and
heightened, almost to a point of unshakeable confidence, a belief in agricultural science and technology.
This attitude greatly influenced the outlook of 'alternative' sustainable production systems. As a result,
organic and more particularly biodynamic farmers were considered as being on the lunatic fringe [Reeve, 1990].
Settlement and sustainability
It would appear that the exploitation phase of agriculture is changing, as the attitudes of some
farmers move towards the third stage of deliberately including sustainability as a goal. Campbell
states that "most of our current farming systems are unsustainable by any definition" [Campbell, 1991, p.4].
This extreme viewpoint is dependent upon the writer's definition of sustainability and this is the focus of
the following section.