Published in Chain Reaction #134, December 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction
Walk this Way: no time to waste on tackling climate change
On October 13, Friends of the Earth (FoE) Melbourne held its second ever Walk this Way. This year's event ‒ a 15 km walk ‒ was centred around the impacts of waste and climate change on Melbourne's bayside suburbs. A huge part of this was launching FoE Melbourne's newest campaign to tackle waste and consumption.
The walk took place along Melbourne's beautiful bayside foreshore from Sandringham to St Kilda on Boon Wurrung country, which extends from the Werribee River to Wilsons Prom. This area is hugely threatened by climate change with rising sea levels and coastal erosion likely to have far-reaching impacts.
The walk was filled with colourful costumes and outfits, including a representative from the forest collective dressed as a Glider, a River Country campaigner in a Murray Cod suit and many outfits made from recycled materials.
Overall it was a magical day! We couldn't have asked for better conditions with the sun shining. About 70-80 people gathered in Sandringham to kick things off early in the morning, and we started the day with a Welcome to Country from Jayden Williams of the Boon Wurrung people.
We heard about FoE's new waste and consumption campaign from Anine Cummins, and heard about microplastics and monitoring of pollution from the Port Phillip Bay Keeper Neil Blake. Further down the route, Kate Wattchow from FoE's Act on Climate collective and Geoff Love of the Elwood Flood Action Group talked about the work being done to secure investment in climate impact resilience in communities like Elwood, which is already affected by coastal erosion and flooding.
Our colourful crowd made its way along the bayside tracks and ended with a delicious feed provided by the food co-op in St Kilda's Catani Gardens.
Not only was it a great day for all those involved, the fundraising results were outstanding with donations reaching over $25,000!
FoE's #transformwaste campaign (formerly Waste & Consumption) is gaining momentum, and would love your participation.
Did you know that an average Australian's landfill bin is 36-50% organic material? And that food scraps rot in landfill, producing methane? And that methane amounts to 23% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions? We need action to arrest this problem, and you can help.
We're seeking people all over Australia to engage their local councils about taking on organics recycling. If you live, work, eat or play in a council you have power to change their decisions. You are welcome to get involved with our decision making (we have face to face meetings and online meetings), or involved in talking to your council, or both!
You can find out everything you need to know at www.melbournefoe.org.au/waste_and_consumption
Contact: Anine Cummins, [email protected]
Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) updates
National strategy weekend: ASENites from Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and Melbourne came together on a beautiful property on the land of the Wurundjeri in Victoria. We chatted about our plans, how we can do Students of Sustainability conferences better in the future and about all our visions and dreams! We also went a lovely bush walk together on Wurundjeri country.
UNSW 50-hour occupation: In October, University of New South Wales (UNSW) students in Sydney completed a 50-hour occupation of the UNSW Chancellery, as part of their Fossil Free campaign. The campaigners had strong support from students and staff, as well as the backing of other university collectives across Australia. Acting Vice Chancellor Merlin Crossley and Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs failed to meet students' demand for their university to divest from the fossil fuel industry. UNSW students announced that they would continue the fight for our climate and future! ASEN congratulates the students involved in the occupation and extends our thanks to them for their powerful actions.
Meanjin (Queensland): The Meanjin crew have been preparing beds and planting at the permaculture project called the Pelican Patch, and been getting involved in the No Gatton Women's Prison campaign (facebook.com/NoGWP).
ASEN NSW Road Trip: Students from across different universities in NSW participated in a mid-semester road trip, visiting communities affected by coal, and deforestation on Gamilaraay Country. Students visited Wollar where local community members are challenging the Wilpinjong coal mine expansions. On the second day ASENites met with Gomeroi traditional custodians who introduced traditional cultural and environmental values at risk due to the local coal seam gas pipeline. Planeteers had the opportunity to learn from Gomeroi astrophysicist Krystal de Napoli, who discussed with students the relationship between Indigenous astronomy and local traditions.
A little later in the journey, road-trippers spent time with ecologist, David Paul, who explored the ecological impacts of the Whitehaven Coal and Narrabri Underground Mine, and attended a community meeting about a new proposed mine. On day five of the road trip, students took part in a koala habitat survey in the Leard Forest as part of a Koala Species Recovery Program and on final day Gomeroi folks took students to visit the proposed Shenhua coal mine in the Liverpool Plains.
The trip was an awesome adventure of learning, bonding, exploring and connecting with communities. ASEN road trips are a big part of how the NSW state network keeps connected and engaged with state-based campaigns and rural community struggles, so we want to thank all those community members who invited us in and made us feel welcomed.
Glyphosate in Australian hair analysis
In the past few years there has been an ongoing controversy regarding the dangers of the herbicide Glyphosate. In 2016 the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that Glyphosate was a probable carcinogen. People spraying Glyphosate are at most risk of exposure. However, Glyphosate has been detected in many common foodstuffs and consumers have little knowledge about whether they have been exposed or not.
We want to know how Glyphosate levels in Australian's compare to levels in people from across the world. We also want to know where Glyphosate levels are highest. Hence the need for testing. The tests will be analysed by the French based Kudzu Science, working in conjunction with the Detox Project.
Friends of the Earth will publish the Australian results after getting them back from France sometime in May 2019. At the same time results from the global survey will be published internationally.
You can join us: A glyphosate hair test for one person, costs about $240. If we are successful, $6000 should be enough money to allow 25 people to be tested. We hope to get these tests from various locations across Australia. All test results will remain confidential and copies of the individual test results will be sent back to the individual whose hair sample was posted to the laboratory in France.
We are hoping to raise enough money to test for 12 people in urban environments and 13 people living in the country. Your donation will help pay for someone's testing. (There may also be the chance that you may be selected to be included in the survey too).
If you would like to be added to the list of people who want to be tested let us know.
To donate: www.chuffed.org/project/glyphosate-in-australian-hair-analysis
Contact: Anthony Amis, [email protected]
The Kuranda Wet Tropics Corridor dilemma
The Kuranda section of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) of North Queensland is an essential corridor and is one of its most threatened sections. The 'Kuranda Corridor' is an active centre for evolutionary biology. It is a part of the original Gondwana forests. Kuranda links the wider Bellenden Ker bioregion with Mt Lewis, Daintree and Windsor Tableland providing an essential transfer of genetics north and south. It is the narrowest section of the World Heritage Area (<1.5kms) and is the most threatened by road building and development. There is 9,800 ha of surrounding unprotected lands of almost exclusively freehold property in private ownership spread across hundreds of landholders.
A further and more recent threat to WTWHA values is the massive KUR-World 'eco-resort' development. This large development is planned right in the middle of an important ecological corridor next to the Wet Tropics with endangered species such as the Southern Cassowary and the endemic Kuranda tree frog and Myola palm.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the KUR-World proposal is now out with submissions due by January 14. Please have your say and make a submission. The Kuranda Region Planning Group website has a pre-prepared submission template at www.kurandaregion.org/eis
The EIS is online at www.dsdmip.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/kur-world-eis-documents.html
Corporate capture in Europe
ALTER-EU ‒ a coalition of over 200 public interest groups and trade unions (including Friends of the Earth) concerned with the influence of corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe ‒ has published a report, 'Corporate Capture in Europe: When big business dominates policy-making and threatens our rights'.
Whether avoiding regulation or increasing public funding for corporate activities: lobbying; the revolving door between business and politics; strategic pitches of corporate 'expertise'; as well as privileged access to decision-makers and corporations' threats to leverage their structural economic power continue to be highly effective tools used by big business to ensure decision-makers prioritise the profit interests of corporations over vital public needs.
The report includes eight case studies from the EU level and member states, covering the banking sector, trade policy and the case of TTIP, the gas industry, tax policy in the Netherlands, the pharmaceutical industry, data protection and privacy policies, the arms industry, and 'Dieselgate' and the German car industry.
New research finds solar, wind and battery storage cheaper than diesel or fracked gas in Kimberley
A detailed plan to power the West Kimberley region with renewable energy was unveiled in Perth on November 7. The Kimberley Clean Energy Roadmap outlines how small, medium and large communities across the West Kimberley could transition to a clean energy future that would save $14 million per year, reduce carbon emissions and create much needed jobs.
The plan, produced by Friends of the Earth affiliate Sustainable Energy Now, used sophisticated modelling of different energy paths to show that solar energy, battery storage and wind generation could out compete diesel generators or fracked gas on cost across the region.
- The Kimberley is currently powered by 94% fossil fuels
- Communities and the government could save $14.8 million annually on energy bills if the Kimberley Clean Energy Roadmap is adopted
- A sustainable local workforce of over 180 jobs could be created across WA with 160 of those in the Kimberley.
The report is posted at www.sen.asn.au/kcer
Illegal logging in Victoria
The ABC reported on 21 November 2018:
Thousands of hectares of state forest appear to have been logged illegally, an ABC investigation has found, amounting to what some say is the mass "theft" by a government-owned for-profit logging company.
The apparently illegal logging is also threatening the habitats of some of the country's most vulnerable species, including the Leadbeater's possum, Victoria's animal emblem.
The Victorian Government determines where VicForests can log in state forests by creating what is known as an "allocation order". That order includes a map, and the ownership of the timber inside the borders of that map is transferred to VicForests.
According to the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004, only trees within that allocation can be harvested for sale — and all other timber in state forests remains the property of the Crown.
But VicForests appears to be taking trees from outside its allocation at hundreds of locations across the state.
"It's theft. Essentially these forests belong to all Victorians and by logging them, VicForests is stealing from all Victorians," said Ed Hill, an environmental activist employed by Friends of the Earth.
He was one of the first to notice VicForests was regularly planning logging of timber it did not own.
"The [Environment] department have failed in their role as the regulator to hold them accountable for a whole raft of breaches that have not been acted on," Mr Hill said.
Abridged from: Michael Slezak and Penny Timms, 21 Nov 2018, 'Australia's endangered forests are being 'stolen' and sold in hardware and office stores', www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-21/victorian-forests-appear-to-have-been-logged-illegally/10496424
And another Victorian forest scandal
In late September, the Victorian environment department was notified that critical habitat with legal protection was about to be logged. You would think they would spring into action, right? Instead, the department chose to make excuses for their inaction. They refused to investigate and allowed logging to continue.
Surveyors from Friends of the Earth affiliate WOTCH (Wildlife of the Central Highlands) detected Zone 1B Leadbeater's Possum habitat in the logging area. This special kind of habitat is legally protected.
Despite providing clear evidence that the forest meets legal protection requirements, the environment department refused to investigate and instead made up excuses as to why logging should continue.
In September, Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio announced an independent inquiry into the department and their approach to enforcing environment laws in our forests (www.tinyurl.com/vic-forest-review). This was prompted after years of inaction, years of not properly investigating logging breaches and failing to prosecute VicForests for illegal logging.
Even whilst they are under scrutiny, the environment department continues to fail. They refuse to investigate, refuse to enforce the laws and bend over backwards to allow VicForests to log endangered species habitat.
Gene Ethics updates
Gene Ethics, a member of Friends of the Earth affiliate GM Free Australia Alliance, summarises some of the wins they contributed to in 2018:
GM crops kept at bay in Australia: Our advocacy for GM-free saw GM canola drop from 30% to <15% of Australia's canola crop. Only GM canola and cotton are grown commercially.
35 local councils move to Roundup-free: Gene Ethics' campaign petitions helped Local Councils go Roundup-free as they are liable for Roundup's impacts on residents and workers. Our long-running Chemical-free Councils campaign took off when Dewayne Johnson, plaintiff in the Johnson vs Monsanto case, was awarded $78 million for his glyphosate-induced cancer. ABC TV's Four Corners questioned the independence of our Ag and Vet chemicals regulator, the APVMA. Nearly 90% of APVMA's $40 million annual budget is paid by the companies that produce and market registered toxins.
SA GM-free set to continue till 2025: We took the lead with the SAGFIN team in the campaign to keep South Australia GM-free. Our cyberaction and letter writing campaign were successful.
New CRISPR GM deregulation delayed: Our joint cyberaction with FoE mobilised 1,500 people to lobby State Ministers. Ministers then resisted the federal government's push to deregulate new GM CRISPR techniques and products which are untried and unsafe. They called for further advice so we are sending more evidence to add to our earlier submissions.
Farmers Compensation Fund for WA: Gene Ethics, FOODWatch and FoE made a strong case for a no-fault Compensation Fund, from which farmers can claim for GM contamination. It would be funded from a levy on GM seed sales, so the GM industry opposes the scheme. But Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Greens MP Diane Evers are sympathetic.
Senate reviews APVMA and farm chemicals: Gene Ethics contributed background to the ABC TV Four Corners program Monsanto Papers. It featured Dewayne Johnson's success and Monsanto's fake denial that Roundup causes cancer. In Australia, the program challenged the APVMA's independence as the regulator recovers most of its operating costs from the chemical companies. We met the Senate Committee to argue the case Gene Ethics made in its written submission.
Repower Health launch
Saturday 27th of October saw the launch party for Repower Health, an exciting new project from Healthy Futures, the NGO for health practitioners who want to take action on climate, on health grounds.
Repower Health will promote the installation of renewable energy, particularly solar, across Australia's health services by campaigning with health practitioners and facilitating industry connections.
The launch took place at FAD Gallery, an art space and bar in Melbourne's Chinatown. A number of special guests from across the health and renewable energy worlds spoke. Repower Health's Director Alex Bhathal said "our sector has led the way on tobacco and now it's time for us to do the same with coal and gas".
Repower Health is the latest project of Healthy Futures, an affiliate of Friends of the Earth Australia. Doctors Kate Lardner and Harry Jennens founded the organisation in 2015. Dr Lardner said "There was a real sense of energy in the room. It was inspiring to see the great turnout of health professionals, all keen to know how they can help with the Repower project."
You can see what Healthy Futures and Repower Health are up to on their website and Facebook pages:
Friends of the Earth's Climate Frontlines campaign has begun a process of lobbying the relevant MPs and Senators in the Federal Government to advocate for Australia to sign on to the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, due to be agreed by member states in Morocco in December. The Pacific Island governments and civil society organisations lobbied hard to get forced migration due to climate change into the compact, and Climate Frontlines was involved in some of the initial lobbying. More information about our advocacy strategy will be available soon.
On November 6, Climate Frontlines hosted a public seminar with Prof Patrick Nunn, geographer at the University of the Sunshine Coast, at the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue at Griffith University Nathan Campus, Brisbane. The topic of Prof Nunn's presentation was "Climate Change and Faith in the Pacific Islands". He has been involved in researching this issue for more than 20 years, much of that time based at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, and has contributed to several IPCC reports.
The crux of the seminar was an illustration of how working with local communities in the Pacific on climate change mitigation and adaptation was essentially ineffective if it did not take into account the traditional spiritual and faith-based understandings that form the basis of people's lives. He pointed out the difficulty of communicating this challenge to most outside aid agencies, and as well opened up the drawbacks of fundamentalist Christian beliefs when effective long-term action was required.
Underground coal gasification poses a grave risk to northern SA
After the disaster of the test UCG project in Queensland, it is clear that this dangerous technology should not be given a second chance.
However, the SA government has approved a trial project in the north of the state at Leigh Creek. A Supreme Court challenge lodged by Adnyamathanha traditional owners has been knocked back.
Please support our call for a national ban on this dangerous technology.
Gina Rinehart-backed Lakes Oil loses court battle to challenge #VicGasBan
In a fantastic outcome, Lakes Oil lost their attempt to have the ban on fracking in Victoria declared unlawful. Friends of the Earth Melbourne played a key role in winning the moratorium back in 2012.
Lakes Oil initiated legal action in 2016 after the Andrews Government announced a permanent ban on unconventional gas in Victoria following a parliamentary inquiry and long-running community campaign.
Victorian communities fought tirelessly for more than five years to secure Australia's first permanent ban on fracking This is a great outcome for the community, the environment and the climate.
FoE's Quit Coal campaign took the trusty green-washing machine down to AGL's AGM to call the company out for their misleading advertising. While they sell themselves as a green and clean company, they are still Australia's largest climate polluter with 80% of their energy still coming from fossil fuels and a new gas project in the works.
Over 100 people turned up to call the company out and demand they scrap their plans for a gas import terminal along Victoria's beautiful coastline. A bus full of locals came up from Westernport with hand-made dolphins, fish and banners ‒ speaking of the threats this project poses to their homes and community.
Quit Coal will continue to stand in solidarity with the Westernport community, recognising that any new fossil fuel projects in Victoria delays urgent action needed on climate change. As AGL has not ruled out importing fracked gas, it's essential that communities rise again after the #VicGasBan to ensure that AGL does not create a market in Victoria for fracked gas that has contaminated water and land in other states.
Melbourne Metro 2
FoE's Sustainable Cities team has been hitting the streets, spreading the word about Melbourne Metro 2 and getting hundreds of petition sign-ups! Melbourne Metro 2 (MM2) is the vital next addition to Melbourne's 21st century rail network and integrated public transport system. It's a tunnel between Newport and Clifton Hill via Fishermans Bend, Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Parkville and Fitzroy connecting to existing services.
With a dozen actions now, we've visited train stations that would directly benefit from new connections to and through the city from Preston and Thornbury, to Clifton Hill and Richmond. We also blitzed the city at Parliament Station with every station exit covered to ensure all the commuters to Parliament, government departments and local businesses heard about the project.
It's been especially awesome having lots of urban planning students joining us on the street to see how the public reacts to ideas, and getting experience in on the ground work.
Victorian state election
The dust is settling on the Victorian state election, and while we still don't know the exact makeup of the Upper House, we've had a chance to reflect on our largest ever state election campaign.
In short, Friends of the Earth ran a massive grassroots campaign – our largest ever – which put climate, transport and forests firmly on the agenda in many seats and changed the state-wide narrative in the lead up to the election.
We impacted on votes. For instance in seats where we worked deeply on forests, the swing to pro-conservation parties was noticeable. Our work resonated with voters across Melbourne, not just the inner marginals.
Exit polling showed that renewables also resonated, with 23% of people saying that renewables mattered to them as an issue when they voted.
There were some good outcomes that defend our previous wins, including
- A commitment by the Andrews government to enshrine the ban on fracking in the state's constitution. FoE led the successful campaign for a ban.
- The VRET is safe, and will continue to create climate-friendly, job-rich energy. FoE led the campaign to secure the VRET.
- The current moratorium on onshore gas drilling will not be lifted, as had been the Liberals' plan.
Sadly, we didn't secure the good outcomes on forests that we worked so hard to win. This largely came down to a leak from within the party to the Herald Sun, which scared the government, and they subsequently retreated into the bunker.
While 'metrics' are important, numbers don't necessarily equate to impact or outcomes. Our approach has been to ask for specific, tangible outcomes and then work through a combination of 'inside track' lobby efforts and grassroots organising; this is what gets results. But the metrics are still impressive:
- We worked deeply in nine metro and two regional seats
- Our forests campaign leafletted more than 202,000 households, and distributed a total of over 220,000 leaflets from Brunswick to Prahran
- We organised several hundred events: including leaflet handouts at railway stations, forums, banner drops, projections, community surveys, stunts and info stalls
- We generated some incredible mainstream media, including an ABC 7.30 report into illegal logging, a couple of days before the election
- We spoke with several thousand people via phone, at stalls, at public events, and in street surveys
- More than 350 people volunteered their time to our campaign efforts
FoE Melbourne has never had a stronger, more skilled team of activists. We started our election campaign back in August 2017. We made forest protection a key issue in the November by-election that saw Lidia Thorpe elected in Northcote. We officially launched our campaign in May this year, then started work in a range of Labor/ Liberal seats before focusing on the inner marginals in the last three months, whilst maintaining consistent lobbying pressure.
It's been exhausting. It's been inspiring. We have built our alliances with regional communities, other green groups, trade unions and other progressive allies. And we have had significant impact.
One of things I love about FoE is our ability to achieve a lot on very little. We're frugal, smart and very effective. And we couldn't do it without your support. Thanks to everyone who donated funds, time, passion, strategic advice and moral support. I'm proud to work with such a dedicated and amazing team.
Here's to an awesome 2019!
‒ Cam Walker, campaigns coordinator, Friends of the Earth Melbourne