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Not so green, less than clean

by Claire Miller
Environmental Reporter

We like to think of ourselves as environmentally aware. It's not an image that bears much examination.

Australia prides itself on a "clean and green" image. Unfortunately, the reality belies the rhetoric, as the toll mounts from dying river systems, collapsing biodiversity, surging greenhouse emissions, spreading salinity, clearfell logging and coastal pollution.

The record is mixed. Australia has some of the best environmental protection laws in the world. However, governments have rarely allocated the necessary resources or mustered the political will to properly enforce them. The exceptions are celebrated but isolated cases such as the Franklin River in Tasmania and Fraser Island near Brisbane.

There is strong community awareness, and a desire to do something. This is evident in the remarkable participation rate in clean-up and remediation programs: 300,000 rural Australians are members of Landcare groups alone, while many more are involved in programs such as Waterwatch, Coastcare and Clean Up Australia. Groups such as Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation are also enjoying record membership levels.

However, major indicators of environmental health - water, soil and biodiversity - continue to decline despite the community's efforts. One key reason is that the environment remains a low priority on the political agenda, with successive governments avoiding its integration as a core element of economic and social policy. Another reason is that the economy was built on high impact industries such as farming, mining and logging, and there is resistance to change.

Australia's environmental challenges are many and varied. What follows is an overview of major issues.


Salinity     Biodiversity loss    Landclearing Logging    Water
Global Warming    Further Reading - Websites    


The Age Publication
1st November 2000


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