Soaking in Hope: Provident Nature and Grand Schemes (1909–25)
This chapter demonstrates the link between La Niña events, climate optimism and the grand schemes to populate Australia in the period from 1909 to the late 1920s. It argues that La Niñas provided the material evidence for perceptions of climate as genial and providing and that climate optimism was particularly buoyant in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The chapter demonstrates that abundant rains during the La Niñas of 1909–11 and 1916–18 gave credence to the idea that Australian deserts could be made to bloom and arid landscapes transformed into gardens. Through dam building and irrigation these rains could be harnessed and used to boost food production and to supply towns and cities, so that Australia’s population could be increased. Particularly during the 1916–18 La Niña, when widespread flooding resulted, the sometimes wild and chaotic nature of climate was seen as a phenomenon that could be tamed and used in aid of human endeavour. The idea of provident nature, even when climate was destructive, endured due to the recourse to science and technology. Grand schemes such as diverting rivers inland, as well as placing returned soldiers on Solider Settlement blocks, are examined and the connection demonstrated between ideas about climate and environmental policy.