Friday, 10 August 2018


Barcaldine’s Tree of Knowledge in western Queensland became famous as an important meeting place during the Great Shearers’ Strike of 1891. Because of its role in the formation of the union movement and the foundation of the Australian Labor Party, it was heritage listed in 2006.  Shortly afterwards it was poisoned and died.

In thinking about the Tree of Knowledge a friend who recently visited Barcaldine commented on attitudes towards knowledge and fact in today’s world.

On one level we see so-called “alternative facts” promoted as reality over actual facts. Factual news reports are dismissed as “fake news” not because they are false but because these reports do not suit a particular person or group. So we have a new version of political spin and propaganda.

While the “alternative facts” and “fake news” are largely associated with the US, there is concern that this labelling of inconvenient truth or knowledge in this dismissive fashion could become common here and elsewhere around the world. 

Currently much more worrying in Australia is a growing refusal to accept scientific knowledge in the formation of policy at a political level.  This is particularly disturbing for those concerned with protecting the natural world for current and future generations of humans and other life forms.  

There are numerous recent examples of how scientific knowledge about how best to protect the natural world is being ignored by government departments and politicians.   These bureaucrats and politicians are captive to short-term economic plans or vested interests.

Federal decisions which ignored scientific knowledge and advice have included the reduction in marine park protection to allow fishing over a much greater area and the plan to reduce the  environmental water recovery target  in the Murray-Darling Basin in the interests of irrigators. 

In NSW the changes to biodiversity laws and to management of native vegetation despite scientific advice, are already seeing increased land-clearing and habitat loss which is threatening the survival of vulnerable species such as the koala.

Our political leaders often claim they make decisions based on the best science but this seems to happen very rarely. It’s time this changed.

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 6, 2018. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018


Knowing as we do the urgent need to reduce greenhouse emissions to ensure we avoid the impacts of catastrophic climate change, the Australian government's internal wrangling over the cost of energy is depressing to say the least.

We see daily images of the deadly effects of climate change, which intensifies and prolongs storms, droughts, wildfires, and floods. In fact the US reportedly spent as much on disaster management in 2017 alone, as it did in 30 years from 1980 to 2010.

However, we are now becoming aware of other impacts. “Climate disruption” is becoming the leading threat to our built environment, an accelerant of armed conflict, and a leading cause of mass migration.

So why has an issue that should demand a united response become so intensely divisive?

The right wing's ideological opposition to anything proposed by the left, and vice versa, regardless of how illogical that opposition sometimes appears, is stalling what little progress that has been made to date. The fear tactics, famously employed by Tony Abbott over the carbon tax are now being redeployed, this time focusing on rising electricity prices. Of course it's all the fault of renewable energy, and those misguided souls who think coal burning is dirty, unhealthy, and a driver of climate change.

If electricity costs are so critical, why did governments sell off the networks in the first instance?

Sure, electricity prices have risen sharply, but how bad are they really? For example, how many of us complain about that indispensable daily $5 cappuccino, when for the same amount everything in the home can be activated, 24/7, by the simple flick of a switch?

If the government is serious about giving relief from rising prices, why not look at fuel prices? Through necessity, petrol costs many rural Australians far more than electricity, but of course a large chunk of that cost is tax, so a scare campaign over that might backfire badly.

Climate change is real, and needs real action to lower emissions, and to achieve that we must have bipartisanship from all sides if the political spectrum.

            - John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on July 30, 2018. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018


The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) is holding their Towards Zero Deforestation Roadshow on the NSW North Coast between July 23 -27.  Sessions are being held in the Tweed, Lismore, Ballina, Byron Bay and Grafton. 

The NCC  believes nature in NSW is in crisis. New laws allow for devastating deforestation and broad scale land clearing of important wildlife habitat. At least 1000 species of plants and animals in NSW are facing extinction, including the koala; and the destruction of their habitats is the leading threat.

As a result of these new laws, 99% of identified koala habitat on private land can be bulldozed, and a staggering 8 million hectares of forest and bushland has no protection from deforestation.

 The NCC believes this devastation is firmly within our power to stop.

 In their Roadshow sessions Daisy Barham and Shirley Hall from the NCC will cover how we can all work together to call for stronger laws for nature - and how community members can get involved.

In Tweed, Lismore, Ballina and Byron, environmental lawyer and Outreach Director for the Environment Defenders Office, Jemilah Hallinan will talk through what the changes to the laws mean for nature. In Grafton Vicki Lett, WIRES wildlife carer since 1988, will talk about the devastating impact deforestation has on wildlife and bulldozer caused crisis for wildlife habitat.

The NCC is hoping that community members will call on the state government to take action to save our forests and bushland from bulldozers, and protect wildlife habitat.

The Grafton Roadshow will take place from 6 – 8.30 pm on July 27 at 104 Bacon Street, Grafton