Tuesday 28 April 2020


Any notion that climate change is an issue that could be dealt with effectively in some distant future has been shown to be untenable given events of the past few years.  Extreme weather events, severe droughts and longer and more catastrophic bushfire seasons have shown more people that there is a connection between these events and the growing  carbon emissions in the earth’s atmosphere.

Australians concerned about climate change are becoming increasingly frustrated with the ostrich-like attitudes of many of their politicians and government agencies.

One group which is taking legal action in an attempt to force a NSW government agency to do more on climate change is Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action which is taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court because of its failure to better protect communities. 

Jo Dodds, president of the group, says that all its members have experienced a bushfire at first hand.  They believe that climate change is a major contributing factor to the cause and growing intensity of bushfires in Australia.

She said that the issue isn’t being taken seriously enough and “There’s a sense that the bushfires are over and we can get back to normal life after COVID-19 – but the fires are going to come harder and more frequently.”

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is representing the group. 

David Morris, the EDO chief executive, said the EPA had “a statutory mandate to protect the environment … but the EPA don’t have a current policy to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“Those two things can’t co-exist.

“We’re simply asking the court to tell the EPA go and create environmental quality objectives with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, regulate the pollution and use their existing powers to do so.”

According to the EDO the EPA is in a unique position.  As an agency “with teeth”, it has the power to issue licences to control pollution, as well as putting caps and prices on substances which are harmful to the environment.

The case is listed in the NSW Land and Environment Court in Sydney on May 8.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on April 27,  2020

Friday 17 April 2020


In the Daily Examiner recently , I was appalled to read one person's assessment that new laws aimed at protecting koala habitat would spell the demise of the timber and agricultural industries.

I realise it's everyone's right to have, and express their opinions, but how anyone can spout that type of utter rubbish is beyond me. The agricultural industry had been pretty successful in Australia for more than 200 years, albeit at enormous environmental expense, but we all have to eat. However, to suggest that stopping farmers from cutting down koala feed trees, which have always been there up until now, would somehow cause the industry's collapse, is ludicrous.

The native forest timber industry, which the writer also claims will be threatened with collapse if these laws are enacted, would have gone belly-up decades ago if tax-payers hadn't been forced to subsidise it. By rights, having incurred million dollar losses year after year for the past two decades, state forest logging should have been shut down years ago. At least that would have likely halted the downward spiral in koala numbers, and perhaps even allowed a modest recovery.

Right now, the NSW Government is spending huge amounts of money supporting a range of programs and initiatives to save koalas under the Saving our Species program. These include land acquisitions, feed tree-planting, monitoring and reporting programs and distribution of information.

However, while habitat enhancement is essential to the recovery of koalas, the fact that there is still widespread land-clearing and logging on a scale that far outstrips the habitat creation efforts of the Saving our Species' program, will ensure the continued decline of koalas into oblivion.

Other possible initiatives include investigations into captive breeding, training of vets in the treatment of koalas, and support for wildlife carer organisations, all seemingly last-ditch attempts to stave off extinction, rather than a proactive approach to providing land for koalas to recover across their natural range. The latter would be a logical approach, but we live in a world where logic is in increasingly short supply – witness the panic buying of toilet paper!

            -John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on March 23,  2020

Friday 10 April 2020


In a recent article in “The Guardian”, Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said Nature is sending humanity a message because we were placing too many pressures on the natural world with damaging consequences.

These consequences include serious environmental problems such as habitat and biodiversity loss as well as a multiplicity of impacts from climate change - and the spread of new diseases.

“Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people,” she said.

She noted that 75% of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife because our continued erosion of wild spaces brings us close to animals and plants that can harbour diseases that can jump to humans.

In recent years Ebola, bird flu, Mers, Rift Valley fever, Sars, West Nile fever and Zika virus are infectious diseases which have all crossed from animals to humans.

She says that there are too many pressures on our natural systems and “something has to give.”
“We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not.  If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves.  As we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally.”

It is believed that the source of the Covid19 outbreak was a market in China.  China has banned such markets but experts such as Professor Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London want this ban to be permanent.  He believes the ban needs to be global as there are similar markets in sub-Saharan Africa and many Asian markets other than those in China.

Cunningham pointed out that although the Sars outbreak of 2002-03 was a massive wake-up call that should have brought about significant change, it unfortunately resulted in a business as usual approach once the epidemic finished.

He hopes this will not happen with Covid19.

Perhaps the significant health, social and economic effects we are already seeing from Covid19 will lead to change.
            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on March 30,  2020.

Sunday 5 April 2020


With over a third of north-east NSW's rainforests burnt last year the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling for the immediate protection of 50m buffers around rainforest and an urgent weed control program in and adjacent to burnt stands.

"The NSW Government's mapping of fire extent and canopy scorch shows that some 160,000 hectares (35%) of north-east NSW's 462,000 ha of rainforests were burnt last fire season", said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"It is tragic that over a third of these priceless relicts burnt in one year. Across the fire-grounds most leaf litter, logs and understorey plants were burnt, along with their inhabitants. Many tree bases were damaged.

"Most worrying is the significant loss of large canopy trees, hundreds of years old, across 125,000 ha of rainforests, with 34,000 ha of these losing most canopy trees.

"Some stands are unlikely to ever recover. 

"These rainforests are relicts from over 70 million years ago when Australia was clothed in rainforest as part of the supercontinent of Gondwana. 

"The relatively small remnants left are packed with survivors from the ancient forests. Rainforests now cover only about 0.25 per cent of Australia, yet they contain about half of our plant species and a third of our mammals and birds.

"The exceptional importance of NSW's rainforests is recognised by parts being created as the Gondwana Rainforests Of Australia World Heritage Area.

"With climate heating increasing droughts, temperatures, heatwaves and extreme fire weather, many of our relictual rainforests are under a looming threat to their continued existence. 

"If we want them to survive they need to be treated with some care and respect.

"Rainforest buffers are essential to maintain moist rainforest microclimates and reduce fire threat.

"If our rainforests are to survive this climate emergency the NSW Government needs to protect their buffers. 

"As a minimum, 50m buffers (one tree height) should be applied around all mapped rainforest stands from which logging and clearing are excluded. Weeds and debris from past logging need to be removed from these buffers.

"The intensity of the fires has killed lantana over large areas, creating an opportunity to control it before it takes over again. This opportunity must be capitalised on if we want to increase the resilience of rainforests" said Mr. Pugh.