Politics and the environment: focus on the things we can change
If you don’t have politics on your mind this month, then you must have either fallen down a well sometime in early September or you’re Dejan Stojanovic and you’ve been out counting the first ever nest-box-bred-in-the-wild swift parrot chicks in beautiful Tasmanian forests on Bruny Island. More on swifties later.
Big things are happening in politics, both here and abroad that will have a material influence on the environmental outlook and the future for threatened species in our country.
The new President of the US has promised to step back from the Paris Agreement. How much this undermines global action on emissions remains to be seen. He has appointed Myron Ebell to lead the US EPA transition team. Here is an Ebell quote about climate science from his time working for the American Petroleum Institute: “Victory will be achieved when...uncertainties become part of the conventional wisdom.” It’s going to be a tough few years for our colleagues in US environmental agencies. Credit to our Prime Minister for ratifying the Paris Agreement.
On the day of the US election, the NSW Government passed controversial new vegetation clearing laws that seem likely to increase rates of clearing throughout the state. The spike in land clearing that occurred over the past 18 months in Queensland following relaxation of clearing laws in that state (now back to ~300 000ha/yr) doesn’t bode well for woodland habitats in NSW.
These BIG changes can be painful and even demoralising for scientists and managers who are working hard to improve environmental policy and management on the ground and in the offices of public agencies, universities and conservation organisations. So, how do we stay optimistic and energised in pursuit of better outcomes for threatened species and ecosystems?
Here’s a tip: focus on what we can do, the contribution we can make, and draw inspiration from the successes we do have. Start by getting onto the ABC Catalyst website and watching Dejan and TeamSwiftParrot have some success with their inspirational swift parrot conservation research and management. It’s the best conservation story of the year, and I promise it’ll help you get through the rest of the week: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4570455.htm
Though you may be left asking: How can an orange and red face look so good on an endangered parrot and so not on a new President?
Acting Hub Director
Photo: Sclerolaena walkeri fruits, by Peter McRae