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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Different environments, same environmental fight

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Wilderness preservation issues bite back, in Australia as in Canada

Wilderness preservation issues bite back, in Australia as in Canada

Going to Australia feels like stepping into a parallel universe, as if going through Alice’s looking glass.  Cars drive on the wrong side, though writing isn’t mirror-image.  The moon is upside down, and grows from the left side.  Stars are all different, but I recognized Orion.  People spoke English – I think.  Cities could be Montreal or Toronto, except I couldn’t recognize anything specific.  It’s as if some all-powerful alien recreated my reality, but missed a few crucial details.  Spooky.

 Seriously – there’s a lot that’s similar between Canada and Oz – but there’s always a twist.  For one thing, the fauna and flora of Australia is completely unique.  But the similarities are uncanny.

Take energy, for instance.  The Australian dollar is over-evaluated, and that is hurting the manufacturing industry.  When we were there, car maker Holden announced layoffs to 500 people.  Australia’s dollar is inflated, in part, by its large exports of coal.  Anyone who’s heard of Dutch Disease will recognise the parallels with Canada.

Speaking of coal, Australia is planning a new coal superport right in the Great Barrier Reef, in an area that would threaten endangered turtlesGreenpeace Australia has mounted an expedition against coal exports, boarding a large coaler in a spectacular protest, in part because of the impacts the coal exports would have on climate, in part because of the immediate danger to the Reef, a unique environment that is part of Australian identity.  This should sound familiar to any veteran of the Northern Gateway fight, where our threatened icons are the Great Bear Rainforest and our salmon.

Greenpeace's splendid Rainbow Warrior moored at Circular key before sailing to a direct action protest against coal barrier Reef

Greenpeace’s splendid Rainbow Warrior moored at Circular key before sailing to a direct action protest against coal barrier Reef

I found eerie parallels in forestry issues, as well.  I picked up a copy of Anna Krien’s award-winning Into The Woods, an account of the fight to save old growth Tasmanian forests.  It’s as if re-reading about the Clayoquot War in the Woods, complete with road blockades, sham trials, and trumped-up charges of eco-terrorism.  Then I read about the Queensland plans to open protected areas to clearcutting:

The largest rollback of environmental protection in Australia’s history is under way as the State Government waters down vegetation protection laws.  If an amendment Bill passes through Parliament in its current form, it will become legal to clear regrowth habitat for koalas, endangered mahogany gliders and cassowaries.

In an unrelated story (in NSW), there was a picture of a lonely koala looking for its home in the middle of a clearcut – saddest thing I ever saw in Australia!

A koala looking for its home after a logging clearcut in new South Wales

A koala looking for its home after a logging clearcut in new South Wales

So I’ve been signing petitions all over the place, asking the various Australian governments to stop.  But here’s the problem: who am I, a Canadian, to tell the Aussies what to do?

Well, for one, Dinah and I spent a sizeable chunk of money to get there to see those cassowaries (saw some wild ones!) and koalas.  And we were among many, many others who took in the delights of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, happy to plunk down our dollars and hear how these treasures are protected.  Tourism is the largest revenue-earning sector of Australia.  I wouldn’t pay to see clearcuts and bleached-out reefs, sorry.

A wild cassowary in the (still protected) Daintree rainforest

A wild cassowary in the (still protected) Daintree rainforest

En route to snorkeling in the Great barrier Reef

En route to snorkeling in the Great barrier Reef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     But more importantly, this is my planet, dammit!  Australians are merely custodians of unique treasures that are humanity’s heritage to cherish, just like Canadians have a unique responsibility to protect caribou and spirit bears.  Ich bin ein Australier, too, or something like that.

So there you go.  Check out what Greenpeace Australia are up to, or the Global Citizens for the Protection of the Great Barrier Reef.  Inspiring stuff, and they could use a hand – from everyone.

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Written by enviropaul

April 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

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