Australia's Environment Is in Grim Condition

19 ecosystems are on the brink of collapse
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2022 6:20 PM CDT
Australia's Latest Environment Survey Is Depressing
A young koala looks through eucalyptus leaves in a zoo in Duisburg, Germany, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Koalas have been declared officially endangered in eastern Australia as they fall prey to disease, lost habitat and other threats.   (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

(Newser) – Shocking, grim, dire, depressing … that’s what readers are saying about all 2,000 pages of Australia’s latest State of the Environment survey. Things weren’t great five years ago—the last time they conducted the survey—but conditions have deteriorated rapidly. Per the BBC, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the report "tells a story of crisis and decline in Australia's environment, and of a decade of government inaction and willful ignorance." Severe drought, record floods, devastating bushfires, and a half-dozen "mass bleaching events" on the Great Barrier Reef have left 19 distinct ecosystems on the brink of collapse. Hundreds of plant and animal species are threatened, including many unique to Australia like the iconic koala, which faces extinction.

Climate change isn’t the only culprit. Pollution, mining, invasive species, and habitat loss are all contributing to an imminent environmental breakdown. Per the Guardian, nearly half the country is now used for livestock grazing, while logging and farming threaten much of the rest. Urban development has intensified in recent years, thus increasing pollution, waste, and stress on unstable water systems, per the Washington Post. According to Al Jazeera, the report also "pays special attention to indigenous heritage and culture," which is also being destroyed at a steady place, as in the Juukan Gorge, where mining giant Rio Tinto literally blew up several sacred sites in 2020.

In addition to widespread calls for immediate action, the report has spurred plenty of finger-pointing among politicians, with the Labor Party and newly seated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese blaming his Liberal Party predecessors for mismanagement and poor stewardship. As environmental threats have increased in recent years, government spending on sustainability efforts has dropped, and the country lacks a cohesive, national framework for managing environmental issues. The report quotes the World Economic Forum, which says environmental degradation is a threat to humanity that could "bring about societal collapses with long-lasting and severe consequences." (Read more Australia stories.)

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