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

Thursday 19 July 2018


In early May the NSW Government finally released its Koala Strategy.  One of the major parts of this strategy was the creation of “new” koala reserves.

While it is not surprising that the Government has finally responded to community concerns about the plight of koalas, their proposed reserve system has been seen by conservationists as completely inadequate and more about spin than a genuine attempt to halt the rapid decline of this species.

An analysis of the proposed reserves (most of which are in State Forests) by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has shown that 82% of these proposed reserves offer no new protection for koalas because these areas were already protected in forest reserves. 

Furthermore only 2% (554 ha) of these reserves are actually high-quality koala habitat.  Creating koala reserves in areas which do not contain suitable habitat is pointless as it will not assist in reversing the species’ decline.

Another concern is that hunting will be permitted in eight of the twelve areas because they will be designated Flora Reserves where hunting is permitted.

And all of these reserves are away from the coastal forests where the best koala habitat exists. None are located between the Bellingen catchment and the Queensland border.  So the Clarence catchment, which includes some significant areas of high-quality koala habitat, has missed out entirely.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh stated, “It is fraudulent for the NSW Government to pretend that these are new Koala Reserves.  There are many state forests known to be far more important for koalas that the Government has ignored.”

Kate Smolski, CEO of the Nature Conservation Council, pointed out that koala populations on the North Coast in the last 20 years have collapsed by 50% and that the Government’s strategy will do little to redress that decline.

She said, “If the Berejiklian government was serious about saving our koalas from extinction it would be ending native forest logging, strengthen land clearing laws and create the Great Koala National Park.”

It is very disappointing that we have a government with so little concern about biodiversity protection.
            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on July 2, 2018.  

Monday 2 July 2018


Nowhere are our changing times more evident than in the choices people are making about what they eat.

Not long ago the term vegetarian brought to mind underweight alternate life-stylers surviving on lentils, lettuce, love and little else. So it might be surprising to learn that today over 2 million Australians and 6% of the US population are vegetarian, while globally a massive one in three people now eat little to no meat.

This growing trend means that every 5 minutes someone in the world is switching to a vegetarian diet or cutting back on their meat intake. In Australia, Tasmania boasts the most vegetarians at 12.7% per capita, while Ray Morgan Research finds NSW has the greatest growth in the movement, with a 30% increase in vegetarianism from 2012 to 2016.

Interviews show that the majority of vegetarians switch to a meatless diet for health reasons, supported by research from Oxford University that shows that if no one is eating meat by 2050, then 8.1 million human lives would be spared each year from obesity, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer, with an equivalent saving in health care costs of US$1 trillion annually.

Most others make the ethical choice for animals and the environment. This is also supported by studies showing that raising livestock for humans to eat takes up 26% of the world’s ice-free land; 33% of croplands to feed them; about 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef depending on circumstances; emits around 2 billion metric tons of CO2 a year; is responsible for 2.8 billion further metric tons of CO2 emission by forest clearing for more grazing land, and in the end takes far more food to keep the animals than they return as meat.

Meanwhile, to dispel that myth of lentils and lettuce, a brief browse online delivers an array of mouthwatering vegetarian and vegan recipes that any cook would itch to try, all made easy by listed ingredients being readily available on major supermarket shelves

Hats off too this year to Aldi, who even managed to supply vegan Easter eggs.

- Patricia Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on June 4, 2018.