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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.
Leigh Davison’s Story

Leigh Davison’s Story

By on Jul 1, 2013 in Dharmananda | 0 comments

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Engineering and travelling

When I left school I got a cadetship to do engineering and part of that was I had to work part-time for two years. I was a fitting and turning apprentice which was the best thing that ever – the most valuable learning of my whole life. Cause I’ve spent twelve years in universities but those two years in the work shop I learned how to put things together. So I built three houses and you know – that was incredibly valuable. Because on a farm of course, you’re your own jack of all trades aren’t you doing all of that?

This cadetship with this particular company – they paid for me to go to uni. So it was pretty good deal for me really. Engineering. University of New South Wales. I worked for several years as an engineer and then I went travelling The idea was to go overland to Europe but I never made it, I never got out of India; fascinating place. Having been a very straight sort of a bloke in a suit and gone to India, I came back here with hair down to my shoulders and a big moustache and, you know, I used to wear pajamary clothes and I got involved in this food co-op at the uni. I suppose by the time I got back, this is 1970, I’d kind of had a change …I’d broken free of the … Well my father, he’d started out fairly poor and worked his way up to a very high position, with no education, in the Public Service, apart from an accountancy ticket, and he thought I’d go the next step and become Prime Minister or something because I was good at school work and such. But I kind of got in touch with my own aspirations in Asia I think. So I broke free of that because I’m not an ambitious person.

But when I got back everyone’s saying ‘Oh you’ve got to get a job.’ So I went and got another engineering job and I got sick of that. I’d met a bunch of people when I was travelling who’d done their PhD. And that seemed like a pretty good life to me (laughs) so I just went back to uni and talked to a few of my old lecturers and said ‘what’s happening?’ And as it turned out one of my old structural engineering lecturers had some money from the Royal Australian Navy and a really good scholarship. It was $3000 a year, which was good in those days, and he just wanted me to do this project which I did. It was all mathematics, never went near a ship (laughs), totally not interested in ships! That wasn’t a career choice for me, it was sort of a delaying tactic.

So I was doing the PhD and that was going alright but then I read the Limits to Growth Report. Life changing event, life changing event! I still tell all my students about it. I’d say that book has sold fifteen million copies; it’s the world’s biggest selling book on the environment, fifteen million copies. And one of the authors who’s still alive, Jørgen Randers, he’s actually only 67, he’s just written a book forty years after you know, like yeah, a number of people, CSIRO have looked at it and they’ve said ‘yeah we’re tracking business as usual,’ (laughs) nobody’s really listening.

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