If you get enough support – it helps to have one the world’s most powerful media baron on your side – then after a while, your ways of talking get normalized, and no longer sound like something out of Kafka.
Earlier this month, Abbott announced that the government would seek to overturn the World Heritage listing of 74, 000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests. Now, with the Liberals back in power in Tasmania, Abbott is promising what he has called a “renaissance of forestry”.
This makes it a very striking phrase. It is the first true Abbottism of his Prime Ministership.
What does a “renaissance of forestry” mean? According to the OED, a “renaissance” is “a revival of, or renewal of interest in, something; (also) the process by which this occurs”. So far so good – Abbott definitely seems to be signalling a revival or renewal of interest in something.
A glance at the thesaurus shows the intensely positive vibe of this word. It’s synonyms include resurgence, rejuvenation, renewal and invigoration. What’s not to love about a “renaissance”?
What about “forestry”? You might think the meaning is obvious. But “forestry” has a beautiful duality which works very much in Abbott’s favour. It means both “forests”, and the industry which cuts them down. The phrase is a kind of double entendre. Undoubtedly, Abbott and his timber industry friends will try to convince us this “renaissance of forestry” (as in, the industry) will create a “renaissance of forestry” (i.e. of the forests themselves).
In fact, Abbott set the scene for this rhetorical development in early March, when he gave a speech to at a dinner for ForestWorks, the forest, wood, paper and timber products industry skills council. It was a speech for shifting Australians out of the Forestry Dark Ages. While in those terrible long dark years, we thought of our forests as “protected”, Abbott, like one of the great early humanists, announced they were “locked up”. And having thought national parks were one of Australia’s great assets, Abbott assured his listeners that not only did we have enough, in fact we have too many.
As he gazed out on his forestry industry audience, Abbott, in a twist reminiscent of the Copernican revolution, remarked that he saw not “environmental bandits”, but “the ultimate conservationists”. The environment was “meant for man, and not the other way around”. The forestry industry, he want on, “intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us”.
From personal tales of making his own timber canoe with his “carpenter granddad”, to a diatribe on “green ideology”, Abbott laid it on thick. So expect more from this “renaissance of forestry” meme. The Once-ler is back, and is “figgering on biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering, turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds, which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”
First published here in edXpress, 7 April, 2014