Published in Chain Reaction #136, August 2019. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction
Global #ClimateStrike ‒ September 20
The world's biggest ever climate mobilisation was led by children. It's time adults stepped up and joined in. Take the day off to demand climate justice for everyone on September 20. Actions and protests will be held in dozens of cities and towns across Australia ‒ for details see www.schoolstrike4climate.com/sept20
Join us on September 20 – three days out from the UN's Emergency Climate Summit ‒ by taking the day off school, uni or work to show our politicians that we're serious about climate action. The world isn't waiting so neither are we.
Global Climate Strike: https://globalclimatestrike.net
Facebook: Workers for the September 20 Global Climate Strike
Save the date (November 9) for Walk This Way 2019!
Jemila Rushton, fundraising coordinator with Friends of the Earth Melbourne, writes:
There is an urgent climate imperative to transform our economic and energy systems. Victoria is already in the middle of a largely unplanned transition ‒ many coal-fired power stations are nearing the end of their lives and the native forests sector is on the verge of collapse. There is no doubt that change is coming to extractive industries. We need to plan accordingly. Where governments have fallen behind, communities are taking the lead in preventing climate change from getting worse and setting the agenda for a fair and just energy transition for Victoria.
On Saturday November 9, join us on a sponsored walk through Melbourne's evolving urban landscape as we announce our plan for a fair and just energy transition for Victoria.
More information online soon at www.walkthisway.org.au, #WalkThisWay
Earthworker Energy in the news and on the move
Recent developments around the world are giving many reasons to despair. But providing hope and vision is at the heart of the work of Friends of the Earth affiliate Earthworker, and there are reasons to be hopeful. The Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative has begun producing and selling premium solar hot water products at the Morwell factory in Victoria's Latrobe Valley! To celebrate the milestone, a social day and factory celebration was held on June 30.
Please spread the word that Earthworker Energy solar hot water products are now available, including a range of evacuated tube and new CO2 heat pump solar hot water systems incorporating our 'Made in Morwell' stainless steel tanks! See www.earthworkerenergy.coop
Earthworker is not a one-trick-pony, with other cooperatives in the network also on the move. The award-winning Redgum Cleaning Cooperative (http://redgumcleaning.coop) is a member of the Earthworker Cooperative network, and Earthworker is co-founder of Cooperative Power Australia ‒ a new electricity retailer cooperative (www.cooperativepower.org.au).
Antibiotic resistant bacteria genes found in GM cattle
Scientists from the US Food and Drug Administration have discovered that cattle genes edited not to grow horns unexpectedly contain bacterial DNA. These include complete DNA sequences that confer resistance to three different antibiotics. The study demonstrates how risky the Australian government's current proposal to deregulate a number of these new genetic modification techniques in animals, plants and microbes is.
Take action: tell Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen to keep regulating these GM techniques at http://gmfree.org.au
Please support Djap Wurrung people
VicRoads is planning on expanding the western highway near Ararat. The project threatens ancient trees that are sacred to Djap Wurrung people who have camped on the site for over one year. The Djap Wurrung embassy has issued a red alert and they are calling for support.
You can help by coming to the camp, bring supplies, resources, energy and volunteer on the front line. Information is posted at www.dwembassy.com/come-to-camp/
Or help the protectors by making a donation: www.gofundme.com/support-towards-djap-wurrung-embassy
Friends of the Earth report uncovers Australian banks financing palm oil
The big four banks have been exposed in new research by Friends of the Earth to be financing the palm oil supply chain. The report finds that all four banks had a financial relationship with Wilmar International, whose subsidiary in West Sumatra, Indonesia, is accused of intimidating local inhabitants off their native land. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The study uncovers 68 reports of human rights and environmental violations by the palm oil companies that receive funds from Australian banks. From land grabbing to rainforest destruction, these harmful practises are systemic in the palm oil business.
The report was covered widely by the media and is part of a campaign demanding we hold Australian companies accountable for their human rights and environmental impact overseas.
The report ‒ Draw the Line: A Black Book about the Shady Investments of Australian Banks in Palm Oil ‒ is posted at www.tinyurl.com/palm-oil-report
Guardians of the Wet Tropics
Ingrid Marker, a member of FoE Far North Queensland and Cassowary Keystone Conservation, writes:
The Wet Tropics World Heritage area is threatened by invasive pest plants and animals. Research demonstrates neighbouring landholders are often to first people to become aware of issues including roaming domestic animals, exotic pests, pollution and fire. Engaged, empowered and connected communities can provide a valuable first response and alarm system to authorities.
Cassowary Keystone Conservation is planning a pilot project to change values necessary for social empowerment and guardianship of the Little Mulgrave River area and the riparian corridor by Figtree Creek, home to rare and threatened species including cassowary, crayfish and fish. This project is unique and fills a niche by bringing together Traditional Owners and those landholders on the edges of the Wet Tropics Management Authority aspiring to best practices.
Activities will involve cooperative management activities such as restoration of creeks and citizen science projects. Options include understanding the complex nature of pig and feral dog management and the agencies working in this space; mapping of cassowary habitat in the Fig Tree Creek and Mulgrave Valley; looking at other unique and threatened species such as crayfish and fish in the creeks and river systems; water quality; localised land management plans to reduce identified threats; and assistance with negotiating regulations and systems.
Goodbye to a kind and gentle soul, John Glue
Ingrid Marker, a member of FoE Far North Queensland, writes
It was in 2015 at the Cairns Esplanade markets one beautiful Autumn morning that I met this kind hearted bear of a man, with his grey shoulder length hair, beard and contemplative eyes. We sat on a park bench beside the lagoon and I shared with this stranger my story of witnessing an environmental crime. John was a compassionate listener, deep thinker and slow in responding to my urgent pleas for help.
John responded eventually with have you heard of Friends of the Earth, the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre or the Environmental Defenders Office. I had not, so he quietly recommended they were a good place to start.
I trusted John's advice, he was that kind of guy. Decent, trustworthy, integral and cared about people and the planet with a long history of environmentalism.
We were to become good friends as he guided the start of what was to become a campaign, bumping into him at Rusty's markets, he would patiently listen to where it was at and steer me in the right direction, not many people take the time to listen to people's stories. John was a special man.
The last conversation I was to have with John was like no other I had shared over our four-year friendship. There was a desperation in his voice and frustration. Nothing else matters but the climate crisis, it is a pending climate catastrophe he said "we all need to work together on this issue as nothing else matters everything else is just fluffy around the edges".
Now John is gone and all I can think about is how precious he was. I keep hearing the last message he shared with me, how we need to collectively focus our attention on the climate crisis and protect the planet that we collectively love, share and depend on, supporting us much like John Glue did for me.
Much love on your next journey John.
Sustainable Cities, Victoria
In late June, locals came together for a mock opening of Doncaster Rail to call on the Victorian government to stop the North East Link toll road. It was a fantastic action with moving speeches from community members calling on the government to immediately review their mega-toll-road thinking of the past decade.
The North East Link will jeopardise the potential for a much-needed express rail line from the city to Doncaster. Metro-style train lines are much more efficient and sustainable than mega toll roads, with the ability to move more than double the people in the same amount of time. North East Link will kill off future plans for a railroad to Doncaster. A reservation for Doncaster Rail runs through the Eastern Freeway, but North East Link will demolish it for car lanes.
Please sign the petition at www.getonboard.org.au/stop_north_east_link
Bees and pesticides
Anthony Amis, FoE Australia pesticides spokesperson, writes:
There has been a lot of information recently about the association of pesticides and bee deaths. However, there has been very little information about this phenomenon in Australia. There have been some suggestions that a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids are the major factor in bee deaths associated with pesticides in Australia. Neonicotinoids are definitely a major issue but a search for bees on FoE's Australian Pesticide Map (www.pesticides.australianmap.net) reveals that another pesticide called fipronil has been responsible for more bee deaths than neonicotinoids. In June 2019, fipronil was linked to the deaths of 10 million bees near Griffith in New South Wales.
It is an impossible task to try and determine the exact number of bee deaths due to pesticide application in Australia. Part of the problem lies with the secrecy of bee industry and a reluctance to speak openly about pesticide concerns, costs associated with testing if hives are damaged, public relations campaigns on behalf of agribusiness interests, but perhaps a far greater problem is that in Australia there are no regulations in place that require biocide information to be reported and there are no government or private bodies who have responsibility for monitoring biocide application.
More information: www.foe.org.au/bees_and_pesticides
Trouble for Aussie miners heats up in Ecuador
Australian mining companies Solgold and a subsidiary of Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting continue to encounter problems in Ecuador (see 'Gina and Twiggy's South American adventure' in Chain Reaction #135). Solgold is starting to come under sustained resistance from local communities, alarmed that hundreds of thousands of hectares are now under mining concessions owned by Solgold.
Recent research by Melbourne Rainforest Action Group has revealed that many of Solgold's concessions in Ecuador are located on Indigenous lands and protected forests (www.tinyurl.com/mrag-ecuador). Residents of Gualel in the south of the country, who are surrounded by three Solgold concessions, are currently planning widespread protests if mining is not stopped.
Gina Rinehart's problems have been receiving international media attention, after the Ecuadorian government employed 2,000 troops in July to clear out her mining concession in the north of the country of 10,000 'illegal' miners. The army was apparently sent in by President Lenin Moreno after a terse meeting with Hanrine, the Hancock subsidiary, in April.
Anti-nuclear campaign update
There's a renewed push for nuclear power, with no less than three parliamentary inquiries underway ‒ federal, NSW and Victoria. Thankfully the push is mostly driven by ignorant far-right ideologues and they are unlikely to make much progress. Friends of the Earth will put in submissions to the three inquiries and we have written a briefing paper on nuclear power and climate change as well as a paper on nuclear power's economic crisis (both posted at nuclear.foe.org.au).
Submissions to the federal inquiry close soon (September 16): please put in a submission if you can. Details are posted at https://tinyurl.com/omg-another-nukes-inquiry
The Barngarla People are Traditional Owners for two of the three sites in SA being targeted by the federal government for a national nuclear waste dump. The government planned a 'community ballot' which would have excluded Barngarla Traditional Owners other than those living near the proposed dump site. The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) initiated a legal challenge on the grounds that the exclusion of Traditional Owners from the ballot was a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act. Sadly, the Federal Court rejected BDAC's legal challenge, but BDAC has lodged an appeal in the Full Court of the Federal Court.
The two proposed dump sites on Barngarla land are both near the farming town of Kimba. The other SA site being targeted for a national nuclear waste dump is on Adnyamathanha land near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission last year, alleging contractors damaged a precious cultural site while assessing land for the proposed nuclear dump, and also protesting the exclusion of Traditional Owners from the proposed 'community ballot'. The complaint remains unresolved.
BHP is seeking approvals to expand its Olympic Dam copper and uranium (and gold and silver) mine in South Australia. FoE is working with environmental campaigner David Noonan to hold the mining giant to account ‒ and to hold state and federal governments to account given that their preference would be to approve the expansion with minimal scrutiny and few if any conditions. In June, BHP disclosed that three radioactive mine waste tailings facilities at Olympic Dam are in the global "extreme risk" hazard category based on the consequences of a potential catastrophic failure. More information: www.nuclear.foe.org.au/olympic-dam/
Traditional Owners, conservationists and supporters of the campaign against the proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine in Western Australia were disappointed by the unsuccessful legal challenge against the mine's approval. But the fight is not over! Vicki Abdullah, Traditional Owner and Tjiwarl Native Holder said, "We are disappointed, but glad we took this to court, to defend our country and expose the problems with environmental law in this state. We won't give up ‒ our country is too important. We will continue to fight for Yeelirrie and to change the laws."
The Yeelirrie mine proposal was twice rejected by the WA EPA but approved by the state Liberal government just prior to losing office at the March 2017 election. Then the federal environment minister Melissa Price approved the mine the day before the May 2019 federal election was announced ‒ without any public notification of the approval and despite previously saying that federal approvals would not be given before the resolution of the court case. More information is posted at www.ccwa.org.au/yeelirrie
A step forward for Vic's renewable energy transition
Pat Simons, FoE Melbourne Yes 2 Renewables campaigner, writes:
FoE Melbourne welcomed the Victorian government's introduction of legislation to increase Victoria's Renewable Energy Target (VRET) to 50% by 2030. The announcement comes as the Victoria government prepares to set economy-wide Emissions Reduction Targets for the state.
It is predicted the increased VRET will generate thousands of jobs across the state, and secure and additional $5.8 billion in investment by 2030. The Victorian government can build on this announcement by delivering the next round of renewable energy auctions; committing to power Melbourne's train network with renewable energy; and paving the way for the landmark Star of the South offshore wind farm proposed off the coast of Gippsland South.
Emissions Reduction Targets ‒ Victoria
Leigh Ewbank from FoE Melbourne's Act on Climate collective writes:
The countdown to climate action continues. The Victorian Labor government has less than eight months to set the state's first interim Emissions Reduction Targets. If we can get Premier Dan Andrews and the Labor government to commit to bold and ambitious targets, then we can lock in the rollout of renewable energy. Momentum is building, with over 2,200 submissions calling for the state government to set science-based Emissions Reduction Targets. It's why we've launched a community-led lobbying blitz of state Labor MPs.
The Victorian Parliament's Environment and Planning Committee will conduct an inquiry into what communities are doing to tackle the climate crisis and how the government can support them. We're keen to seize this opportunity to educate MPs about community action and local climate impacts as well as building the case for bold and ambitious solutions such as the Climate Budget. More information is posted at www.actonclimate.org.au/parl_inquiry_into_climate_action
We know who's working with Adani
From FoE affiliate Market Forces:
We know who's working with Adani. Engineering firm GHD is leading the engineering design work for Adani's disastrous Carmichael coal mine. GHD claims to have a "commitment to sustainable development". Yet it is working on a project that threatens water supplies, trashes traditional owners' rights and will fuel ever-worsening heatwaves, bushfires, droughts and storms. Please let GHD know that this is not a project an ethical company works on via the online action at www.marketforces.org.au/info/key-issues/theadanilist/ghd/
We've been in this position before. Last year, with people all over Australia taking action, AECOM (another international engineering firm) pulled out of their work with Adani. With enough pressure we can convince GHD that helping Adani build its climate-wrecking mine just isn't worth the damage to its reputation.
Government survey shows public support forest protection, not logging
From FoE Australia affiliate Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO):
Results of a public survey conducted by the Victorian government show overwhelming support for protecting native forests from logging and provide the Victorian Labor government with a strong platform to protect forests and transition jobs out of the native forest logging sector.
The survey was phase one in the Victorian government's engagement with the public as part of the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) modernisation program. In 2018, rather than extend the bilateral RFAs for another 20 years as has occurred elsewhere, the Victorian government instead provided a short-term extension in order to review the effectiveness of the state's RFAs.
Protecting native forests from logging was identified by 52% of respondents as being the most important way of improving forests for all Victorians, whilst 42% identified protecting and restoring biodiversity to the forests as the most important action for government to take.
The online survey was completed by 2,824 respondents while data was also collected at 126 events across regional Victoria, a Forest Youth Symposium and from written submissions.
The RFAs have comprehensively failed the environment, the logging industry, and the public. The survey results show the Victorian people know this and that they expect change.
The government survey report is posted at https://preview.tinyurl.com/forests-feedback
More information: www.geco.org.au/gov_survey_shows_public_support_forest_protection_not_logging
Climate Frontlines campaign updates
In 2017, FoE Australia's Climate Frontlines campaign sponsored Brisbane-based Stella Miria-Robinson, originally from PNG, to join the FoE International team at the UN COP23 climate negotiations in Bonn Germany. Stella has used every opportunity since then to highlight one of the key FoE International's campaign messages ‒ decent jobs on a living planet ‒ most recently at a well-attended women's nation building event at a mosque in Brisbane.
Climate Frontlines is partnering with the University of Queensland Human Rights Consortium to hold a conference on Human Rights and Climate Change on Friday 11 October 2019. The aim of this one-day conference is to increase understandings of, and effective responses to, rights and justice issues emerging in a climate-changed world with a focus on Australian and Pacific Island local communities and indigenous peoples. Key themes will include climate change and human mobility, resource extractivism and resistance, mainstreaming human rights in development, opportunities for climate litigation, and the role of social movements in advocacy for climate justice. The conference will be held at the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, and will include an evening public lecture by Dr Anne Poelina, Nyikina Warrwa Traditional Custodian and Chair of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council. For more information contact [email protected]
Climate Frontlines collaborated with the Pacific Islands Council of Queensland to send Sailoto Liveti as a civil society representative to the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu in August. For the first time, there was an opportunity for formal civil society participation in the deliberations. Sailoto was born in Australia of Tuvaluan parents, and is studying for a Masters in Environmental Management.
Federal bully effort on gas an attempt to hide policy failure
The federal government has stepped up its attempt to bully NSW and Victoria into opening up new gas fields. "This is part of a long running campaign by the fossil fuel industry and conservative MPs, with the support from some conservative and business media outlets," said Friends of the Earth's Cam Walker in an August 6 statement.
"These groups continue to push the argument that the moratorium on onshore gas drilling and ban on fracking in Victoria are driving up gas prices for consumers. However, what we have is a failure of the market and government policy, not a lack of supply. The federal government has aggressively pursued the development of an export LNG industry without putting price safe guards in place for local consumers.
"The moratorium was hard fought for by regional and urban communities in Victoria. The Coalition would be unwise to provoke these communities by attacking these sensible policy measures. We urge the Victorian government to stand firm against this fear campaign which seeks to overturn the outcome of an 18-month public inquiry and broad community support for the moratorium."
A briefing paper, 'Busting Victoria's Gas Myths', is posted at www.melbournefoe.org.au/_busting_victoria_s_gas_myths
Background reading on the campaign that secured the original moratorium is posted at www.melbournefoe.org.au/coal_and_gas
Transform Waste was created as FoE campaign in response to the ever-increasing demand on Earth's finite resources and a disposable culture which has led to a global waste crisis. We believe in the transition to a circular economy and are advocating for a suit of regulatory and policy changes to influence behaviour and promote investment in infrastructure and technology in order to achieve this.
At present, our major focus is calling for the immediate implementation of a 10c refund for cans and bottles in Victoria – an action which will result in significant reduction in litter and pollution as well as increase recycling quality. We have protested on the steps of Parliament on multiple occasions in support of this cause and our actions are being noticed – with mounting pressure on the Victorian government we are confident that it will not be long until we will see a breakthrough!
Come along to our meetings 6pm every Wednesday at FoE Melbourne, 312 Smith St, Collingwood.
Whilst you are here, please make a tax deductible donation. Friends of the Earth relies on donations from people like you to keep running campaigns for social and environmental justice.