FoE Australia News

Published in Chain Reaction, national magazine of Friends of the Earth, Australia, edition #124, September 2015, www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction

Challenging the privatised university

A conference titled 'Challenging the Privatised University' will be held on November 23−24 at the University of Queensland. Co-hosted by the National Tertiary Education Union, Ngara Institute, Friends of the Earth and the National Alliance for Public Universities, the purpose of the conference is to bring together academics, students and civil society organisations to examine the ways in which privatisation, neoliberal ideology, corporate funding and influence have changed the nature of universities from public good to private interest institutions. Can these realities be challenged and changed ... and if so, how?

More information: www.privatiseduni.com

Zobi and the Zoox

Zobi and the Zoox is a new science-adventure storybook for both children and adults alike, written and produced by Ailsa Wild, Aviva Reed, Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti. Recent shortlisted for the Environmental Award for Children's Literature (EACL), this innovative book tells the story of the microscopic friends living symbiotically within a single tiny coral polyp. With her home under threat from a warming ocean, Zobi, a brave rhizobia bacteria, teams up with a family of slow but steady Zoox (zooxanthellae). The coral becomes gravely ill and bacteria around them begin to starve. So Zobi and the Zoox have work together to try to save the day.

Zobi and the Zoox is the second in the Small Friends series: stories of symbiosis between microbes and larger forms of life. The first was titled The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon. Each Small Friends book is also a kind of symbiosis − a collaboration between writers, scientists, artists, designers and educators − initiated by Scale Free Network, an art-science collective.

David Suzuki writes: "I read the first book, The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon, to my four year old grandson and he was absolutely riveted. As soon as I finished, he demanded that I read it again. He was swept up by the story, the incredible characters in it and wonders of the relationships that have evolved. I look forward to the series to come."

Price: $19.95
For Ages: 7+ years
Available from: Friends of the Earth Melbourne (312 Smith St, Collingwood) and www.smallfriendsbooks.com/

Abbot Point coal port

Two years ago, the prospect of an epic expansion of coal exports in Queensland looked almost unstoppable. With tireless work from a coalition of groups, including Friends of the Earth, coupled with a falling coal price, these projects have been knocked over one-by-one. The proposed expansion of the Abbot Point coal port in northern Queensland has been the most enduring and hard fought battle grounds. The expansion would pave the way for new mega-mines in the Galilee Basin and see the biggest coal port in the Southern Hemisphere tear through the Great Barrier Reef.

Fortunately, a powerful coalition of local indigenous elders, community groups and environmental organisations have come together to oppose the project. On June 19 over 100 people from all over the country came together for the first major convergence of the campaign. The four-day event was a chance to get up to speed with Queensland coal politics, meet the amazing people involved and take action to stop the project.

On the day of action, Birri elder Ken Dodd, whose land would be carved through by coal trains and dammed to supply water to the mines, lead a smoking ceremony at the entrance of the coal port. Each of the 120 people present passed through the smoke and handed a written pledge to Carol Prior, Juru elder and traditional owner of the Abbot Point land. These pledges represented commitments to take action to stop the Abbot Point coal port expansion. The elders then lead a procession onto the coal port property with more than 100 people risking arrest.

Days later, media reports emerged that Adani was stalling work on the project, a strong sign that the pressure is working.

On July 16, Juru and Birri traditional owners travelled to Adani's Brisbane headquarters to deliver pledges from thousands of people, who have committed to take civil disobedience to stop the massive coal expansion.

We're winning, but the fight isn't over!

Join over 2000 people that have pledged to take action to stop the Abbot Point expansion at http://reefdefenders.org

Fracking the Planet with the TPP

As Trade Ministers met in Hawaii to continue the secret negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in July, FoE Melbourne's Economic Justice Collective released a paper titled 'Fracking the Planet: How the Trans Pacific Partnership will expand fracking in Australia and around the globe'. This paper explains the implications of the Investment State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Chapter of the TPP (https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment), and explores the ways in which foreign corporations could use this clause to override the Australian law and environmental regulations to continue fracking the planet.

The authors of this paper are concerned that the inclusion of the ISDS clause in the TPP will provide foreign fossil fuel corporations with an avenue by which to sue the Australian government for instituting legislation designed to protect the natural environment, human health and agricultural land. Fracking the Planet paper also explains the basic process of fracking, and presents the current state of play across Australia, the US and Europe, including areas currently engaging in fracking, bans and moratoriums, and areas of community resistance.

The report, 'Fracking the Planet: How the Trans Pacific Partnership will expand fracking in Australia and around the globe', is posted at: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/fracking_the_planet_with_the_tpp

Add your voice to the Economic Justice's joint statement on the TPP already signed by over 60 groups including unions and community organisations: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/tpp-joint-statement

Beth Cameron − Local Hero

Beth Cameron, co-ordinator of FoE Melbourne's food co-op, won the Local Hero award at the Yarra Sustainability Awards in June. Big thanks to all the hard work she's been doing over the years and to the City of Yarra for acknowledging her contribution to the community.

The award citation states:

Beth Cameron has been the coordinator of the Friends of the Earth food cooperative in Smith Street, Collingwood, for 25 years. Running a business for this long is an outstanding effort in its own right, but managing a large, volunteer-run not-for-profit business over this period is an astonishing accomplishment. In addition to being an ethical business that constantly strives to be as sustainable as possible, the co-op has a strong social justice component through providing many hundreds of people a year with experience through the volunteer, Community based order and transitional programs that are run in conjunction with local and state governments.

www.yarracity.vic.gov.au/environment/Sustainability-Awards/yarra-sustain...

Cheaper GreenPower available to FoE members

Friends of the Earth has joined a unique, nationwide, community GreenPower scheme – the Community Climate Chest (C3) − so that we can offer tax-deductible, clean energy to FoE members and supporters. By participating, our members can save up to 50% on standard GreenPower fees, while raising funds for FoE (FoE gets 10% of every donation our members and supporters make to C3).

What is unique about this scheme is that payments for energy certificates can be claimed as tax deductions. C3 is a joint initiative of the Alternative Technology Association, the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group, and GreenPower provider ACXargyle.

While the C3 site offers the option of offsets (for instance to offset the impact of a car), FoE has not traditionally supported simple offsetting as a way of dealing with climate change. However there are options to select a range of offsets on the site if you choose to do so.

To start saving money and supporting FoE while reducing your carbon footprint, please visit www.climatechest.org.au/host/foe

See also: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/support_foe_and_support_green_energy_at_the_sam...

Indigenous Mapuche people and the First Nations of Australia

The Mapuche-Aboriginal Struggles for Indigenous Land (MASIL) Project is a historic exchange between the Indigenous Mapuche people of Chile/Argentina and the First Nations of this country. The purpose of this project is to facilitate Mapuche and Aboriginal representatives to travel to each others' country and in doing so, build solidarity and links between Indigenous peoples defending their rights and lands. The project also serves to record the exchange and produce a documentary of approx. 60 minutes duration for international distribution (land polluted by pine and eucalyptus plantations).

The first leg of the MASIL project is planned for October 2016, when Aboriginal representatives will travel to Chile/Argentina to meet with Mapuche Indigenous communities. The MASIL project will be the first exchange of it's kind between Mapuche and Aboriginal peoples.

We need to raise $60,000 to fund the exchange and documentary. Please donate if you can:

Bank: Bendigo Bank
Account Name: Mapuche Aboriginal Struggles for Indigenous Land
BSB: 633-000
Account Number: 153 950 357

Please spread the word around your networks and follow us on www.facebook.com/MASILproject

The Project website is www.foeausmapuche.wordpress.com

To volunteer or support in any other way, or endorse the Project, please contact FoE Melbourne member and MASIL Project Co-ordinator Marisol Salinas, marisol.salinas@foe.org.au

FoE calls for restrictions on pesticides

Many pesticides allowed for use in home gardens have also been detected in waterways, particularly in the Melbourne region. The most commonly detected pesticide in waterways in the Melbourne region is simazine. Simazine and its byproduct Desisopropyl Atrazine, along with the herbicide Atrazine, have been detected in over 40% of pesticides in Melbourne's waterways.

Simazine can be purchased over the counter as a once-a-year driveway herbicide, whereas Atrazine, which is closely related to Simazine, is only allowed to be used by permit holders and can't be used by gardeners, as it is listed as a Schedule 7 Poison. FoE is calling on the Victorian state government to make Simazine a Restricted Use Pesticide, thereby disallowing home gardeners to use the product. A number of other pesticides have also been detected in Melbourne waterways, including MCPA, Triclopyr Dicamba and Imidacloprid. Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid insecticide also associated with bee deaths. FoE will be contacting gardening radio and television shows about our concerns and is asking FoE supporters to forward this information onto home gardeners in their networks.

More information is posted at: www.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/FoEGardenSprays_0.pdf

Contact: Anthony Amis, FoE pesticides campaigner, ajamis50@gmail.com

Healthy Futures: New FoE affiliate group

Healthy Futures is a network of health professionals, students and supporters organising to address climate change and related public health challenges.  We recognise climate change as the greatest global health threat of our time − but also that the solutions to climate change (e.g. air free from coal pollution, greater active transport) can also bring immediate health benefits. We believe in people power from the bottom up and are keen to hear from anyone interested in working together to help build a healthy global future. To find out more, get involved or drop us a line, head to our website www.healthyfutures.net.au or see the inside back cover of Chain Reaction for our contact details.

New report highlights gulf between renewable and fossil fuel financing

A report released by FoE affiliate Market Forces in June shines a light on Australian banks' financing of the fossil fuel industry and the disparity between lending to 'clean' and 'dirty' energy. Covering over 150 financial institutions, the report – Fueling the Fire – identifies ANZ as the leading lender to fossil fuels, having provided $12.6 billion to coal, oil and gas in Australia since 2008.

With Commonwealth bank loaning $9.9 billion, National Australia Bank $8.3 billion and Westpac $5.9 billion, Australia's "big four" banks have lent $36.7 billion to the fossil fuel sector in Australia since 2008. This accounts for over a quarter of the $135 billion made in loans to the sector since that date.

"This report leaves no doubt that Australia's big banks are the lynchpin of major fossil fuel projects in Australia. With the 'big four' involved in three quarters of the deals to take place in the sector, it's highly unlikely that any major polluting project could go ahead without their investment", said Market Forces campaigner Julien Vincent.

The report also compares the big four banks' lending to renewable energy against its support for fossil fuels. For every dollar loaned to renewable energy, the "big four" loaned an average of $6 to fossil fuels. Commonwealth Bank performed the worst of the big four, lending thirteen times as much to fossil fuels between 2008 and 2014 as it did to renewable energy.

The report is posted at www.marketforces.org.au/fuelingthefire

Climate Guardian off to the Paris climate talks

A troupe of climate activist women will travel to the Paris UN climate talks in December to express Australians' widespread frustration at our government's inaction on climate change. The Climate Guardians (also known as the Climate Angels) aim to expose Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a climate leaner. They will entreat international leaders in Paris to override the ineffective targets announced by Prime Minister Abbott in August, which ignore key findings released by the Climate Institute showing the vast majority of Australians demand a transition to clean energy away from coal and want deeper cuts in carbon emissions.

Climate Guardian co-convener Dr Liz Conor said: "This woeful commitment to our share of the climate responsibility is an international embarrassment. It smears all Australians as climate shirkers. It is abjectly derelict in our duty of care to all people and life on earth."

The Climate Guardians are an Australian protest theatre troupe using angel iconography to portend the dangers of government inaction on climate change. In Paris they will be hand-delivering letters written especially by Australian children imploring international climate leaders to secure their future in a safe and just climate.

At the G20 protests in Brisbane last year, the Climate Guardians were awarded the 'Most Aussie Moment' in the Courier Mail after negotiating with police to drop them off at the pub after a hard day's protesting.

For more information see the ClimActs website: www.climacts.org.au

Auditor General warns of "damaging legacy" over unconventional gas

Communities across Gippsland and Western Victoria were relieved and heartened that  Victorian Auditor General's report on August 19 warned the state government that well recognised risks may make unconventional gas mining unsuitable for Victoria because of it's dense population, scarce water resources, and high reliance on agriculture.

The report, called Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts states that "substantial national and international studies have comprehensively identified the potential and known risks that unconventional gas poses to the environment and the community ... Environmental and social values are integral to this conversation if we are to avoid a damaging legacy in years to come." It points out the gross inadequacy of the current regime for regulating earth resources, stating "the regime has too few environmental controls, and weak consideration of the competing interests for land involved and potential social impacts".

FoE spokesperson Chloe Aldenhoven said: "The auditor generals report confirms what the community has been arguing for years: that the risks are too great, agriculture and existing economies too precious and ultimately, we just don't need the gas." 

The Auditor General's report is posted at: www.audit.vic.gov.au/reports_and_publications/latest_reports/2015-16/201...

Celebrating the creation of the Nyah-Vinifera Park

On June 28, FoE Melbourne's River Country Campaign and Wadi Wadi community members hosted an event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Nyah-Vinifera Park. We brought together Wadi Wadi people, locals, Friends of Nyah-Vinifera Forest members, past campaigners, Parks Vic representatives and the Mallee CMA. We toured the Park to look at problems in the Park and recent watering, had lunch asked questions and discussed our priorities for the Park going forward.

Nyah-Vinifera Park is just one example of many forests along the Murray River that are still struggling. Our campaign will continue until all River Red Gum forests are protected from logging, hunting and grazing.

www.melbourne.foe.org.au/nyah_vinifera