Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) is making a final plea to voters to realise that their political leaders and an incoming Government needs to support the Koala Protection Act, before it’s too late, as the Government’s recently released Koala Recovery Plan does not go far enough!
Life is increasingly serious, it seems to me. Or is it just what I choose to watch on television or read, especially on the Internet? Quark writes about our Heath Robinson government in Victoria, of the war between cyclists and nature lovers over parkland, of factory-farming of human masses and the tedious obligation of infinite pseudo choice.
It’s not that I go looking for trouble exactly.
I have what I would call a normal concern about our environment, not only because I enjoy nature but because I think I understand its inextricable relationship and importance to us. I also think I have a normal concern about the future, about the way animals are treated and about preserving native species and even about people and their quality of life.
Who doesn’t care about at least some of these things?
The sad thing is that I can’t find any good news, anywhere on these fronts.
Everywhere I look things seem to be getting worse
Everywhere I look the situation seems to be getting worse and I am constantly confronted with images and accounts of suffering factory farm animals, homeless, doomed orangutans whose forest homes have been decimated, kangaroos being culled, and cattle tortured after an interminable journey to the other side of the planet before what must be the final real relief of expiring.
I think, to be a happy balanced person, I’m supposed to focus on other things and to appreciate the “privileged” place in history and in geography in which I find myself.
I’m supposed to thank my lucky stars that I live in the age of mass communications, especially the Internet.
I must say that I really do appreciate these things which I am using right now but, at the same time, there are so many other aspects of our contemporary world that are draining it of enjoyment.
This effect is a combination of how changes to our political, social and physical environment affect us directly and the pressures that human existence place on other creatures. I learn about these things via the very media which I have just acknowledged as a great plus.
Daily deluge of pleas to save the helpless from us
Daily, I am deluged with electronic pleas to help stop baby seals being clubbed to death, save bears from being caged for the purpose of draining bile from them, to save from logging, forests in my own state which are home to the engaging and endangered Leadbeater's possum, the Victorian state emblem.
Even if I did not look at electronic media, I would still receive through my letter box appeals for funds to help the hapless products of puppy mills or to rescue other cruelly treated malnourished domestic animals.
It is well known that laying hens are kept in tiny cages, their little feet never scratching in the earth. If this were not bad enough, the media is oozing with propaganda meant to coax people, push them, finally forcing them through price into minimal sized apartments with little or no natural light.
Factory farming the human masses
Housing for the masses is now all about minimally accommodating people rather than providing living space.
Both situations - for hens and for people - are utilitarian, functional and completely inconsiderate.
I then read and hear about scarce public parkland being appropriated for road construction. At best one could see this as a utilitarian approach about traffic and transport rather than about people and their lives, at worst a project for its own sake.
Stealing our parkland and enemy cyclists
Parkland is a luxury that can be just stolen from the people it seems. This can happen in Melbourne or Istanbul.
Whatever is happening spawns unexpected competing interests.
The gentle activity of cycling has become some sort of monster! In Melbourne cyclists want bicycle paths as commuter highways through parkland and require the sacrifice of pre-European settlement trees.
The cyclists could traverse the parkland in a meandering fashion on the existing pathways but they want to go at top speed in order to get to work.
You see, cycling is now a mode of transport rather than a recreational activity.
Cyclists occupy the high moral and environmental ground because of their dainty carbon footprint.
This is a kind of war between the cyclists and those who want to preserve the park.
The country’s priorities now seem to be focused on our lives as real estate consumers and workers. Numbers of hours worked, house prices, GDP, company profits, are critical indicators of our competitive edge.
Are these things really life or death?
Heath Robinson government
We seem to be trapped in a very unimaginative version of a Heath Robinson machine with no detours.
Even our recreation seems to be about something organised and orchestrated from a higher power like the AFL (football) rather than our own ways of re creating ourselves. Our private activities and invented fun have literally no room in contemporary life.
Opportunities for creative play are being removed as open space diminishes and we are funneled into profit making arenas of entertainment. These opportunities are being removed as the ratio of nature to humanity decreases and access to nature diminishes, becoming less accessible in crowded, regulated, expensive cities.
Even our precious spare time is hijacked by organisations.
Things that I never used to have to make decisions about and could leave ticking away in the back ground are now items I am supposed to spend time on. I refer here especially to telcos and to energy supply.
In a nutshell, it requires quite some calculation to ascertain if one company is better value than another. This question comes up several times a week through phone calls interrupting my peace or someone at the door insisting that I go and find my last electricity account. Even after I have worked out the advantage of one over another, it will have all changed by the time I get around to working it out again and I’ll find I’ve been on the wrong plan or with the wrong company.
'Choice' - a tedious obligation
Did we ever really need this in our lives? “Choice” has become a very tedious obligation.
The Internet, smart phones, the “vibrancy” of a city growing in population at an enormous pace, Skype, Twitter, tablets: all these should make me happy.
The trouble is that I am losing what really made me happy.
Normal life increasingly criminalised
At the risk of appearing to indulge in nostalgia, our lives are far less free than they were. Big Brother is out there doing its robotic best to nab us in a hapless 100 metres of driving at 64 in a 60 zone or the parking officer is doing his level best to add to his daily quota as we tear back to our parking meters when a community meeting goes 10 minutes too long.
Even using water has become a sort of crime whereas it was once part of our lives and it was OK to hydrate both ourselves and our environment. Friends boast to one another that they never water their plants or are getting rid of their gardens. My neighbours have covered theirs in concrete slabs which will be very economical on water.
All the above symptoms impose stress and remove spontaneity and freedom. It is the effect of our governments imposing themselves on us and overcrowding us so that we are constantly banging up against the will and interests of others, the limits to resources, and being reminded us of the cost of everything, every minute of the day.
Along with the loss of fun and freedom in contemporary life, there is a burdensome overlay of the oppressive and unhelpful role that governments play in our lives. There’s a feeling of being administered, of having ideas, projects and changes to our environment imposed on us; of control of our world coming from somewhere outside ourselves.
Queensland clearing laws could kill over 400 million native animalsl The Commonwealth must act to stop the destruction.
More about the upcoming 2013 environmental exhibition containing this painting, at end of this article under "Notes".
Impact of new Queensland laws and Coalition intentions
Humane Society International (HSI) Campaign Director Michael Kennedy said today:
“With the passage of legislation through the Queensland Parliament this week allowing farmers to clear potentially large areas of threatened wildlife habitats and graze cattle in National Parks, and news confirming that an incoming Coalition Government would devolve the Commonwealth’s national environment powers to the states and territories, a national environmental disaster is looming.”
Mr Kennedy continued,
“Under the amendments to Queensland’s Vegetation Management Act, approximately 2,000,000 hectares (5,000,000 acres) of wildlife habitats are at-risk of clearing*. Extrapolating from a scientific report** on the numbers of animals killed during land clearing operations in Queensland during the late 90s, it can be estimated that if all land clearing options were taken up by Queensland farmers, in the region of 455 million native animals could be killed as a result. And even if only a quarter of this land total was cleared, we are still talking about killing over 100 million animals.”
The Commonwealth’s Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) also protects 14 threatened ecological communities.*** in Queensland, highly endangered habitats that require the Federal Environment Minister’s permission before any development can occur that may significantly affect them. It is estimated* that 169,000 hectares of mature bushland and 366,000 hectares of important regrowth habitats of these threatened ecological communities are now at risk from clearing, presenting Minister Burke with clear reasons for intervening in Queensland.
Cattle grazing is also highly destructive on the natural environment, spreading weeds, significantly damaging waterways and having the potential to destroy critical habitats and native ground-dwelling species. Giving a few private individuals access to a highly valuable public asset, due to their continuing incompetence, is a public policy travesty. Calls by the RSPCA in Queensland to allow cattle to graze in National Parks are chronically misguided, and do not address the root cause of the plight of the animals – greed and prolonged environmental and livestock mismanagement.
Mr Kennedy concluded,
“We are urging the Prime Minister and Environment Minster Burke to change the Federal environment laws so that any incoming Coalition Government cannot devolve national environment powers; introduce new national environment “triggers” for land clearing and the National Reserve System; and to “call-in” Queensland land clearing and cattle grazing proposals and actions for assessment under the EPBC Act.”
***HSI prepared scientific listing proposals for 8 of these threatened communities
Re image, "Apocalypse". From the original site at http://www.cantonart.org/20"This touring art exhibition confronts environmental issues facing human, plant and wildlife species in our time, from land development to natural resource depletion, and seeks to heighten public awareness through the power of art. The show is curated by Dr. David J. Wagner, author of the reference book, American Wildlife Art, and curator/tour director of an impressive list of exhibitions including The Art of Robert Bateman, The Sea of Cortez, and Endangered Species: Flora and Fauna in Peril which toured to the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. The exhibition features iconic works such Still Not Listening, a poem and sculpture of the same title by Leo Osborne, an elegy to victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. (Image: Apocalypse, Walter Ferguson)"
Tony Burke had no legal obligation to even consider the threatened koalas in Leard forest for the Maules Creek and Boggabri approval. New loopholes could see developers and miners determining if koalas are under threat.
Federal documents obtained by the ABC unveiled on 13 February that the Federal government is endeavouring to make it even easier for miners and developers to avoid protecting koalas.
This comes as Federal Minister Tony Burke approves the Maules Creek and Boggabri open cut coal mines in Leard forest, despite never considering the impacts to koalas.
"The thousands of hectares of Leard State forest to be destroyed by the open cut coal mines are teeming with koalas, however they are offered absolutely no protection by the 2012 addition of the koala to the federal threatened species list," said Naomi Hogan of The Wilderness Society.
Tony Burke had no legal obligation to even consider the hundreds of Koalas that will certainly die as a result of the Boggabri and Maules Creek open cut coal mines in Leard forest. The Maules Creek and Boggabri open coal mining applications were lodged before the koala became a federally listed threatened species, so the Federal government isn't obliged to even consider the koala's plight. The koalas in Leard forest now face a slash and burn future. In essence, the federal koala protection law is useless to the koalas facing a forest wipe out by the Maules Creek and Boggabri open cut approvals."
This date discrepancy is just one of many loopholes in our Federal environmental protection law.
On 13 February it was revealed by the ABC that under the leaked draft federal guidelines, the applicant seeking to develop an area must establish for themselves if an area has koalas and if their proposed activity will have an impact on the habitat. The guidelines to not include any koala maps nor a requirement for long term koala surveys.
"No developer, no mining company can be trusted to undertake their own assessments of threatened species. Mining companies are driven by their legal requirement to make money, not to protect our threatened koalas. I have no doubt that many mining companies would rather see koalas dead than have them interrupting with their profits," said Ms Hogan.
Media Release 13 February 2013 from The Wilderness Society