RIP the Australian environment

I often have random conversations with people about Australia (somehow my accent is still almost instantly recognisable despite some 15 years of not living there) and people are shocked when I say that the Australian environment has, on a broad scale, at least in the most productive parts of the country, been wrecked. While the human toll of environmental degradation and climate change might not be as large here as in parts of Africa, the overall damage is at least as bad if not worse.

So it is that the government is about the flood with seawater what had been a major wetland area in South Australia – near the mouth of the stricken Murray-Darling system.

Much further upstream, governments have just spent a very large sum on buying a major cotton farm in an attempt to save another seriously threatened wetland, even though there’s no guarantee at all that the plan will work. That’s because while the purchase included its licence for irrigation water, the dam that would supply it is only 18% full, and therefore there’s no water to be had. What’s REALLY obscene about this is that the farm was only developed in the 80s, when the water problems were already all too evident.

But to finish on a slightly positive note, as the New York Times reported it shipping costs are starting to crimp globalisation.

The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to the United States has risen to $8,000, compared with $3,000 early in the decade, according to a recent study of transportation costs. Big container ships, the pack mules of the 21st-century economy, have shaved their top speed by nearly 20 percent to save on fuel costs, substantially slowing shipping times.

And the campaigners are battling on – Jim on The Daily Maybe is keeping track of press coverage of the Camp for Climate Action here in the UK.

2 Comments

  • david ware
    August 7, 2008 - 4:55 am | Permalink

    I spotted that NY Times story too–and a sentimental luddite buried within me asked, “how long until the Chinese figure out how to make sail-powered transport pay?” At this rate, maybe not so long…

    As for the decline and fall of the Australian environment, it’s something that many outsiders miss because their (our) image of Australia is defined by reefs, crocodiles and picturesque deserts. Farmland and good (sustainable) stock-grazing country aren’t so high on the touristic beat.

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