Saturday, 11 June 2022

PLANNING FOR EXTREME WEATHER

The overworked phrase, “who could have seen this coming”, used by all levels of government to excuse the debacle which was the response to the recent flooding event across the Northern Rivers, has been rightly ridiculed.

For 40 years, the world’s scientific community, through the UN, has been warning us that the changing climate will generate more frequent and more extreme weather events, and have begged the world’s governments to take appropriate action, with little success.

The failure of those governments to make meaningful attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is inexcusable. However, to fail to plan for those forecast catastrophic weather events, verges on criminal neglect. The recent flooding saw lives and property lost, businesses forced to close, and thousands rendered homeless.

In the Clarence Valley, the response to four decades of warnings about the inevitability of increased flooding has been zero - something that even this latest disaster seems unlikely to change.

In fact, Clarence Valley Council’s first act when reviewing the cause of ponding in some areas in Iluka, was to examine past rainfall data. This led to the hardly surprising conclusion that: “The significant rainfall has led to a saturated catchment and high-water table, exacerbating the time taken for water to disperse”.

 Council’s statement continues with: “There has been no event or combination of events since records began that comes close to the rainfall totals recorded at Yamba”, going on to say: “We need to be aware that the most efficiently designed drainage systems are not built to cope with rainfall totals equal to that recently experienced”.

 Having had 40 years to plan for just such an event, we have to ask why haven’t adequate drainage systems been designed, and installed in all new developments?

Alongside one of Iluka’s ponding problem areas, a 140-lot subdivision is currently converting 14 ha of bushland into roofs, concrete and bitumen, all combining to channel rainfall at speed through an apparently inadequate stormwater system directly into those ponding hotspots.

Clarence Valley Council must take its “Climate Emergency” declaration seriously, and plan and act accordingly.

                - John Edwards

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , June 1, 2022.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

NSW KOALA STRATEGY MARK II

The 2019/20 bushfires, and a damning report from the 2019 Legislative Council Inquiry into NSW Koala Populations sent the NSW government hurrying to produce a report claiming successes with their earlier Strategy, and deciding on further tactics to prevent Australia from losing a globally renowned species on their watch.

Will this updated Strategy be any better?  It comes with funding of $193.3 million, along with 30 actions aimed at doubling NSW koala numbers by 2050. This in itself could be questionable when eventual outcomes are released since koala numbers today are not known, with an estimate of 15,000 to 30,000, giving a ballpark figure of 20,000.

There is also concern that this commitment will not see any marked changes, for a number of reasons. The main one is that although over 280,000 ha of premium and secondary koala habitat is officially identified in north-east NSW State forests alone, with some supporting important koala hubs, there are still no plans to permanently protect these vital habitats from logging.

Another is that instead of basing conservation outcomes on legislative changes and government responsibilities, they once again are to rest on private landowner decisions - to either sell their homes to the government, or take up binding conservation agreements (CAs) attached to their properties' titles. For the first option the government wants 15,000 ha, with some already selected from the Northern Rivers. For the CAs, they plan for just 7,000 ha from across the whole of NSW. This does not generate confidence that many necessary koala corridors will be safely protected.

Also the actual protection value of a CA can often depend on adjoining neighbours, who can legally log their properties, and gradually clear for a number of legitimate reasons, even through koala habitat.

On a more positive note, if this funding can support a dedicated effort to bring our koalas back from the brink, then we might hope to see some level of success, perhaps to a point where a passing tourist in known koala habitat might even be able to see a koala.

- Patricia Edwards

 

Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , May 18, 2022.

 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

ANJALI SHARMA ON VOTING FOR THE CLIMATE

Anjali Sharma was one of eight young people who took the federal Environment Minister (Sussan Ley) to court last year over whether the minister had a duty of care to young people in the decisions she made approving new fossil fuel projects which could exacerbate the effects of climate change in the future.  While the court originally found in favour of the young litigants, the decision was overturned on appeal.

Ms Sharma is still campaigning for effective climate action.  She recently asked all candidates at a candidates’ debate in the inner Melbourne federal seat of Macnamara if they believed that the federal environment minister owed a duty of care to young people to protect them from climate change.

One of the candidates, instead of simply answering “Yes” or “No”, expanded her response by saying that teaching children there is a climate emergency is almost abuse because it’s stressing them about the environment.  This candidate added later that we should be teaching our children hope, not fear.  Many of the children she was referring to are adolescents who are interested in understanding the world and its problems and do not want to be kept in ignorance – blissful or otherwise.  In other words they are certainly not the “quiet Australians” so beloved of our current Prime Minister.

Ms Sharma  stated that she and other young activists are informed people who have read the news and have listened to the climate scientists and know that time is running out for securing a livable future.

She is very concerned about the major parties’ failure to take climate change seriously with their talk of the economic importance of backing fossil fuels and ignoring the humanitarian cost as well as the many well-documented benefits of shifting to a clean economy.  

In a recent article in the Guardian Australia she pointed out that currently there are 114 new fossil fuel projects in the pipeline.

As a first time voter, she said that she will be voting for the climate as will be hundreds of thousands of young people like herself.

            -Leonie Blain