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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Water Dreams, Earthen Histories: Exploring Urban Environmental History at the Penrith Lakes Scheme and Castlereagh, Sydney

Grace Karskens

Environment and History 13(2007): 115-154

Urban environmental history comprises both human and ecological experience; the two were and are inseparable, and their interaction is dynamic. This essay explores the human and bioregional history of the Penrith Lakes Scheme at Castlereagh in outer Western Sydney as a case study in integrating the two approaches. Conceived in the late 1960s, the Scheme is a quintessential 'hybrid landscape', aiming to rehabilitate 2,000 hectares of open-cut gravel quarries by creating huge artificial lakes and landforms. But it destroyed a rich palimpsest of earlier farming and Aboriginal landscapes, both of which had also transformed the environment. By focusing on this place over time, it is possible to track the succession of Aboriginal, settler, industrial and urban histories, to explore the shifting meanings of this environment, the different ways they knew and shaped this country, and the politics and strategic uses of different types of environmental knowledge.

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