Australia - Land of Enviro-Hypocrisy
When it comes to hypocrisy on the environment, surely Australia is unsurpassed globally. The stories of habitat conservation, protecting threatened species and climate change -- to name but a few - are writ large with failure. Yet, the way we promote ourselves to the rest of the world emphasises our natural beauty; the unique flora and fauna with which we are blessed. Nowhere is this more evident than in tourism campaigns, putting emblematic symbols of the land like the Koala and Bilby at the front and centre. With all key indicators showing a country in decline, however, how much do we really value the natural world down under? When do we collectively begin to live according to our professed values? Let’s examine existing trends, and how we can change course in a meaningful way.
“Land clearing rates rocketed after the axing of restrictions in Queensland and NSW placing eastern Australia alongside the most infamous places in the world for forest destruction" (WWF, 2021 [reference]) Thus, Australia remains the only developed nation on the list of global deforestation fronts
“Australia's lesser-known ecosystems are heading for collapse” (ABC Science, 2021 [reference])
"... since the EPBC Act has come into effect, approximately 7.6 million hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed due to bulldozing or logging." Notably, "The iconic koala has been the hardest hit, with almost 1 million hectares of habitat destroyed since 2000." (Fast Tracking Extinction, Australia’s national environmental Law, submission to Federal Parliament [reference])
“The country has recorded 90 extinctions since European settlement – 36 plants, 27 mammals, 22 birds, four frogs and an earthworm, and extinction rates per decade are not improving." (University of Queensland, 2018 [reference])
“Australia has one of the worst extinction rates of any nation, yet there has been little assessment of the effect of its flagship environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), to prevent species extinction.” (Society of Conservation Biology, 2019 [reference])
“Australia’s threatened species plan has failed on several counts. Without change, more extinctions are assured” (The Conversation, 2021 [reference])
What must change:
Strengthen state and national legislation along with severe enforcement
Reduce population growth
Support efforts to promote biodiversity on private land (see, for example, AWC)
“They died of thirst': Extreme conditions wipe out forest over 1000 kilometres” (SMH, 2017 [reference])
“Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change, a study has found.” (BBC, 2020 [reference])
“A lack of climate action at the national level is a defining leadership failure of the past eight years. Australians are living with the everyday consequences of this, and we must work quickly to prevent catastrophe.” (Climate Council, 2022 [reference])
What must change:
Enact an economy-wide emissions trading scheme as soon as practical
Cease coal exports
Accelerate the transition to a green, renewable economy
Bring forward “net zero” targets as soon as can be reasonably achieved
So, the story is not great for us. But not all chapters have been written. Only time will tell if the change of government to a left-leaning Labour Party in June 2022 along with an upswing in Green Party support can be the catalyst for the change in direction that is so badly needed. As living in accordance with one’s values is one of the highest callings, individually and collectively. And us Aussies need to ensure we do a better job in future.
Australia: We Must do Better.