Sunday 30 May 2021


Over the 15 or so years I’ve been writing and editing articles on environmental issues, every now and then a friend or acquaintance will, in hushed tones, lean over and divulge a secret. They don’t read about climate change. It’s not that they don’t care – of course they do. But amid the maelstrom of work and kids and life stuff, keeping on top of the climate crisis is all a bit too much – too complicated, too guilt-inducing, too depressing. 

I completely get it. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to read the articles either. But next time a friend makes that confession, I will point them to the one article, published by The Conversation this week, I’d recommend they read.

It involves a class action brought against Environment Minister Sussan Ley by a group of young people, acting on behalf of all Australian children and teenagers.

Their bid to prevent a coal mine expansion did not succeed. But the Federal Court nonetheless made a historic ruling: the environment minister owes a duty of care to Australia’s young people not to cause them harm from climate change.

The finding was ground-breaking enough. But it was this moving excerpt from the written judgment by Justice Mordy Bromberg that really cut to the bone:

"It is difficult to characterise in a single phrase the devastation that the plausible evidence presented in this proceeding forecasts for the children. As Australian adults know their country, Australia will be lost and the world as we know it gone as well.

The physical environment will be harsher, far more extreme and devastatingly brutal when angry. As for the human experience – quality of life, opportunities to partake in nature’s treasures, the capacity to grow and prosper – all will be greatly diminished.

Lives will be cut short. Trauma will be far more common and good health harder to hold and maintain.

None of this will be the fault of nature itself. It will largely be inflicted by the inaction of this generation of adults, in what might fairly be described as the greatest inter-generational injustice ever inflicted by one generation of humans upon the next.

To say that the children are vulnerable is to understate their predicament."

The no-holds-barred statement brought tears to the eyes of hardened lawyers, not to mention many other watchers of the case. National debate over Australia's climate policies often centres on the short-term social and economic implications. The consequences for future generations of today's inaction is often overlooked.

In fact, we can now put a dollar figure on those consequences. An independent expert witness in the court case conservatively calculated the cost of climate change to today's young people at between A$125,000 and A$245,000 per person. The estimate took into account property loss, reduced earnings and other economic impacts. And frighteningly, the expert found one in five of today’s children will likely be hospitalised due to heat stress in their senior years.

So where does all this leave us? Clearly, rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are sorely needed. In Australia, such measures are deeply polarising, but they needn’t be. The best solutions will come from finding common ground – working out what we all care about, and building from there. Surely leaving a habitable planet for today’s children, and others to come, is something most of us would agree is paramount.

And while reading about climate change is quite often hard, the court case this week revealed one big positive. A formidable generation of young climate advocates has well and truly arrived – demanding action, and inspiring hope.


Nicole Hasham, Environment + Energy Editor,
The Conversation


Monday 24 May 2021


For some years Clarence Valley Council, like many other government and business organisations, has been working steadily to reduce its operation’s carbon emissions in response to the challenge of climate change.

In November 2018 Council adopted a target to reduce its carbon emissions (excluding landfill) by 40% by 2030 compared with 2016/17 levels.  It aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.  At the same meeting it set a target of supplying 50% of its electricity demand from renewable energy by 2030 - with the long-term aim of sourcing all electricity from renewables.

By June this year Council will have 39 facilities with solar systems with a generating capacity of 970 kW as well as four battery storage systems. It has been steadily upgrading lighting to energy saving LEDs along streets, in seven sports fields and in Council buildings.

Its Council fleet of light passenger vehicles is being progressively changed to hybrid vehicles resulting in significant reductions in fuel consumption

Council plans to involve the local community – including business and government organisations - in reducing emissions on a personal and community level.  As a first step it engaged consultants to draw up a draft strategy in consultation with the community.  This Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Draft Strategy recently went on exhibition with council seeking comment from the community about the options presented.

As 82% of our region’s greenhouse emissions are associated with the consumption of electricity as well as fuel for transport, this is one area where significant reductions will need to be made. 

There are, of course, many other areas where changes can be made to reduce emissions on both a personal and community level.  And many in our community, like our Council, are already involved in reducing their emissions either with rooftop solar systems or in other ways.

The next step with the Draft Strategy is a consideration of the community input and production of the final document which will then go to Council for adoption. Following that, Council will be implementing the strategy in cooperation with the community.

            - Leonie Blain

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , May 12, 2021.

Wednesday 19 May 2021


 Letter to the Editor

The Echo, May 5, 2021.

I have been an environmental activist for over 50 years (I started when I was a 15 y/o schoolgirl in Melbourne). Some would call me ‘driven’.

Starting with Terania Creek, I have been involved in many campaigns to defend our rainforests, our old growth forests, and our beautiful rural landscapes from gas mining. Now I am fighting for the life of a rainforest that would be destroyed by a dam.

In all these cases I have been propelled by a powerful love of place, and of natural beauty. I think most Australians are familiar with this feeling, wherever they live. The first Australians certainly knew about it, with depths of connection that the rest of us can probably never understand. When the land is your religion, your history, your food source, your home, your responsibility, your future and your reason for being alive – then its preciousness can’t be described.

These two issues of heritage, natural and human, are central to the Dunoon dam debate. Heritage is something that is given to pass on intact, not to destroy in wilful ignorance.

So much of our heritage has been damaged in our region. Most of our original landscape has been transformed, and only a few original, or semi-original, remnants are left to tell us of what we have lost. Our Aboriginal heritage, now the heritage of all Australians, has been whittled away, over and over, while the traditional custodians are repeatedly ‘consulted’ then comprehensively ignored. How insulting is the Welcome to Country ritual when there is not a shred of willingness to act on their stated wishes?

I despair when I see that the new campaign to push the Dunoon Dam shows no interest in values that we all claim to hold dear – our love for our remarkable natural landscapes, forests, ecosystems and species that are found nowhere else on Earth, and our supposed respect for our First Nations peoples.  

The natural places of our region have been maintained and preserved for thousands of years by people whose desire to protect them is now swept aside by uninformed claims that ‘the studies are incomplete’.   

Detailed ecological and heritage assessments have already established why the Dunoon Dam site is extremely important, both to scientists and to our first people. Surely we can, just once, let the natural environment, and the people who have loved it the longest, prevail.

We know that extremes of drought are coming. Knowledge about droughts from the past can no longer be relied on. One big flood can fill the dam quickly, for sure, but five years of drought and low runoff would give us 253 ha of bare dirt with not a trace of the natural beauty and the millennia of human history that it destroyed with so little need.

Nan Nicholson

Information on the Stop the Dunoon Dam campaign. 




Tuesday 11 May 2021


Some years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the renowned Grampians National Park in western Victoria, a very popular tourist destination, both for local and overseas visitors, keen to experience that region's well-documented biodiversity.

Victorians are rightfully proud of that beautifully scenic mountain range, with its weathered sandstone outcroppings which have endured for over 400 million years. It’s an area referred to in promotional brochures as “nature’s wonderland”, stretching 95km from north to south, and around 55km at its widest, officially measuring 1,672 km².

The brochures tell us: “These ranges are renowned for their wealth of ferns, orchids, herbs, shrubs and trees, with over 1000 different species in the area”.

Reading that description brings into focus the amazing biodiversity that exists in our own backyard. Much of that has been highlighted by work undertaken by the local environment centre’s volunteers, associated with bush regeneration work which has been ongoing since 2014.

For example, the 4-year Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Project, which worked extensively across Pillar Valley, identified close to 1,050 native plant species in an area just 16km long by an average width of about 6km, around 100km².

In the Chambigne Nature Reserve – Shannon Creek area, southwest of Grafton, measuring less than 50km², work associated with several projects there over the years, have identified more than 1,100 native plant species more than two dozen of them listed as threatened.

This region’s biodiversity is legend, and in those two relatively small areas mentioned above, 90 orchids, more than 90 ferns, and 39 eucalypts (Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus), have so far been identified.

Funded by grants received through Local Land Services, the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, and the Saving our Species program, this work has allowed surveys for flora and fauna to occur across many properties that have never previously been examined. Also, the popular Land for Wildlife program, for which the Environment Centre is the local coordinator, has contributed greatly to that body of knowledge, as more and more landowners sign up to help our native animals survive into the future.

- John Edwards

Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , April 28, 2021.