Tasmania to become world’s eco-tourism hub

Tasmania is dreaming big time. The Liberal government is plotting to transform the state into an environmental tourism capital to attract globe trotters. It comes as no surprise that conservation groups are blocking the proposed project and say the World Heritage Site will be exploited for development; a trade off to draw 1.5 million visitors a year by 2020.

Aerial view of Tasmanian island. (Photo: Supplied)

Aerial view of Tasmanian island. (Photo: Supplied)

The Office of Will Hogman, premier of Tasmania, has been advertising the mega-tourism plan approved by Matthew Groom, minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage. Last year, it called for EOI (Expression of Interests) from private developers to submit proposals. Out of 37 who submitted interests, 23 have been shortlisted as of December.

Stage 1 involved assessment of proposals against various criteria including appropriateness of the proposed project to the site. Building and operational qualifications of the proponent were also reviewed, as well as the financial capability of the proponent to carry out the proposal.

Shortlisted developers are now being asked to proceed to Stage 2. Final selection is set to be done by March 13.

Groom, in a press statement, said his government is determined to open Tasmania for tourism investments that will create jobs for many Tasmanians. He promised the natural and cultural values of national parks and World Heritage Area will be fully protected.

The Maria Island Walk EOI. The project involves developing a hut based six day guided walk on the 84km long South Coast Track in the Southwest National Park.  (Photo: Office of the Coordinator-General)

The Maria Island Walk EOI. The project involves developing a hut based six day guided walk on the 84km long South Coast Track in the Southwest National Park. (Photo: Office of the Coordinator-General)

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 1.4 million hectares, almost a fifth of the total area of Tasmania. It encompasses 19 national parks and more than 800 reserves.

The heritage area is well-known for its teeming and diverse native flora and fauna, along with unique landscape, pristine coastlines, and tangible and intangible Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural values reflecting thousands of years of living culture.

Conservation groups have been up in arms to oppose the development project. Tasmania’s leading environment organisations are calling for local, national and global support to stop what they call “an intrusion” into the Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The Bob Brown Foundation in Tasmania and Friends of the Earth in Melbourne, respectively, are spearheading to organise meetings and rallies to lambast the Liberal government. Environmental top guns will be holding the microphones in Melbourne like Bob Brown, The Wilderness Society’s Vica Bayley, Tasmanian Greens Leader and Bass MHA Kim Booth, and Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Adam Thompson.  In Hobart, on 3 March, speakers will include World Heritage expert Jamie Kirkpatrick, environmentalist Bob Brown, champion orienteerer and runner Hanny Allston, and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Ruth Langford.

The platypus is also native to Tasmania. Pic: Vera Rayson (Flickr CC)

The platypus is also native to Tasmania. Pic: Vera Rayson (Flickr CC)

Bob Brown Foundation’s spokesperson Jenny Weber said the Tasmanian government is opening the Tasmanian wilderness’ World Heritage Area to logging, mining and invasive tourism projects.

Weber admits there are positive aspects of the proposals like the Gordon River experience by World Heritage Cruises. However, 2-4 days package tours, for example, require construction of accommodation facilities like private huts. Weber foresees “the largest expansion of hut intrusions into the wilderness.”

Bob Brown also said, “A circuit around Cradle Mountain with a proposed ‘lodge’. What’s next a circuit around Federation Peak with a lodge? No absurdity is off the agenda in this process of opening the World Heritage Area to such intrusions.”

Robert Campbell from the Tasmanian National Parks Association lamented, “Our National Parks are a legacy handed down to us by Tasmanians who had the foresight to preserve what they held to be precious. They are not the Government’s to give away or auction off to the highest bidder…”

Indeed, known as one of the last frontiers of untouched wilderness, Tasmania’s pristine wonders is open for business.

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Renewable energy future uncertain as investment falters

solar stations

Just as Australia was too optimistic in its Renewable Energy Targets, plans are falling apart with a significant dropped in renewable investments last year.

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) is facing an uncertain future with a recent report showing that investment in large-scale renewable energy has nose-dived over the past year.

Investment in renewable energy worldwide is up by 16%, in a stark contrast with Australia’s figure which dropped by 88%.

The Climate Council said the future of Australia’s renewable energy industry remains highly uncertain due to the lack of a clear federal government renewable energy policy.

The RET aims to achieve 20% of the country’s power supply from renewables. About 89% of Australians support the initiative.

Activist group GetUp blames Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with his pro-capitalist, pro-coal agenda which favours power companies such as Origin, AGL and Energy Australia.

GetUp said since 2001 the RET has been responsible for a massive $20 billion in investment into the Australian economy creating over 24,000 new jobs and lower power bills for consumers.

Nearly 24,000 GetUp members made their voices heard by making a submission to the government’s review of the RET. In addition, over 5,000 GetUp members have switched from Origin, AGL and Energy Australia to renewable energy companies such as Powershop as part of a campaign to make consumers’ voices heard.

With the RET’s future hanging in the balance new investment in renewables has fallen to a 13-year low, the group said.

GetUp noted this is ironic considering the fact that the Government’s former Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Party Senator Simon Birmingham admitted in 2013 that the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the RET. The senator was quoted as saying, “We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

Workers check on solar panels in Yulin, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In 2014, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao met to agree on mutual cooperation to reduce carbon emission before the G20 meeting in Brisbane. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liu Xiao)

Beyond Zero Emission (BZE) is also driving a campaign to discourage Australians from supporting the three main power companies. Although the three companies provide energy to the majority of Australians, the group said they have been actively campaigning to dismantle the RET.

Many Australians can opt for greener alternatives to the big three power suppliers. Victoria residents can switch to Powershop or Diamond Energy while consumers from South Australia, New South Wales or South East Queensland can switch to Diamond Energy.

World leaders will gather in Paris in December this year to determine the rules for a new global agreement to limit global greenhouse emissions and temperature below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s major trading partners have been building significant momentum to make ambitious contributions toward their post-2020 national targets. The Climate Change Authority (CCA) suggests that nationally determined contribution to reduce emissions, agreed by Australia, will be central in determining the climate policy framework that will cover and impact companies covered under any emissions reduction initiative. The Authority adds:

This is an important time to convene business, government and NGOs for a mature, constructive dialogue about what should be the nature of Australia’s commitment, why it is in our best interests to actively participate in the negotiations and to share views to understand the economic, environmental and social implications for business.

The CCA finds Australia’s emission reduction target (5 % reduction by 2020) to be too low and out of step with its allies and trading partners.

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Vandana Shiva is coming to Sydney

By Feb 12, 2015 

Dr. Vandan Shiva: "Planet on Plate - Eating and Farming for our Future" - Intriduction by Joel Salatin (Photo: Supplied)

The 2010 Sydney Peace Prize and Right Livelihood Award recipient Dr. Vandana Shiva is coming to Sydney, Feb 20, to share her continuing fight to save seeds, farmers, and food from corporate monopolies. The internationally renowned environmental and agricultural activist will be speaking at the Teachers Federation Conference Centre hosted by the GM-free Australia Alliance and Sydney Food Fairness Alliance.

Dr. Shiva will discuss the need for a transition to ecological farming systems and regenerative agriculture to secure food supplies for the future — in stark contrast to the current unsustainable globalised food industries which are based on agrichemicals, seed patents, and genetically modified (GMO) crops.

Shiva explained that globalized industrialized food is too costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for people’s health. She said the Earth can no longer carry the burden of groundwater mining, pesticide pollution, disappearance of species, and destabilization of the climate adding

“Farmers can no longer carry the burden of debt, which is inevitable in industrial farming with its high costs of production. It is incapable of producing safe, culturally appropriate, tasty, quality food. And it is incapable of producing enough food for all because it is wasteful of land, water and energy. Industrial agriculture uses ten times more energy than it produces. It is thus ten times less efficient.”

Organisers noted a few GMO fiascos, including a $15 million GM ‘super banana’ developed by Dr. James Dale at QUT in Australia. Financially backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ‘super banana’ recently had human feeding trials at Iowa State University experimenting on female students but they were delayed due to diligence problems.

gmo-free

Another GM ‘golden’ rice feeding trials were carried out at Tufts University in Boston, but were exposed as a scandal last year.

In Uganda, the GMO pro-vitamin A-enriched banana, supposedly being developed to deal with Vitamin A deficiency has been rejected as unwelcome by African civil society in a recent open letter by AFSA (African Food Sovereignty Alliance).

Adam Breasley, event spokesperson said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded GMO ‘super banana’ coming out of the Queensland University of Technology. However, Dr Shiva has rightfully spoken out against it. Shiva found the super banana not an invention, but an act of ‘biopiracy’ against neighbouring Pacific peoples’ traditional knowledge and biodiversity.

Fran Murrell, president of GM-Free Australia said, “The Earth and human communities cannot bear the hidden ecological, economic and social costs of high input industrial farming any longer. The monocultures depend on constant inputs of diminishing oil, phosphate, land and water resources, so we must change.”

“We don’t need more false claims of GMOs based on piracy of indigenous biodiversity and knowledge.
The GMO banana project based on biopiracy must stop”, said Shiva.

Spinifex Press will publish essays on “Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard” edited by Dr Shiva this month.

Booking details HERE.

New study predicts demise of Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is facing serious threats from climate change, and ongoing coal projects make it even worse. The Carmichael Mine Project, located in the Galilee Basin, will go ahead despite warnings that coal transported from the mining site to the Abbot Point Port will cause irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

A new scientific study says the reef could be destroyed by environmental change before the end of the century. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation  (CSIRO) and Bureau of Meteorology (MOB) forecast that Australia will be hit hard by climate change as temperatures will rise of up to 5.1C by 2090. Scientists under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) have agreed a limit of 2C if the earth is to avert catastrophe.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

CSIRO’s principal scientist,  Kevin Hennessy, said the inland will be most affected but  one of the most dramatic  transformations are set to take place in the seas that surround Australia, which will warm between 2C to 4C  unless carbon emissions are cut.

On average, four metric tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere per person per year, representing an increase of 30% over the last 250 years. The IPCC monitors these changes.

The effect of climate change is already changing the Reef. The Department of Environmentalso confirms sea and air temperatures will continue to rise, along with sea levels, and the ocean is sure to become more acidic. These changes affect reef species and habitats, as well as ecosystem processes, and the industries and communities that depend on the Reef.

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Tourism, commercial fishing and recreational fishing on the reef together contribute $6.9 billion to the national economy per year. Unusually warm sea temperatures have already caused serious and lasting damage to 16% of the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced eight mass bleaching events since 1979, triggered by unusually high sea surface temperatures. The most widespread events occurred in 1998 and 2002 with more than 50% of reefs bleached. Coral bleaching is a natural process but the rate is increasing faster than ever before.

The Federal Government gave a green light to the coal project despite warnings from the United Nations that it will put the Reef at risk. Predictions also suggest that the Carmichael mine could produce an extra 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the mine’s lifetime, representing a quarter of Australia’s annual emissions.  The pollution from the entire Galilee Basin, if all projects go ahead, will be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution.

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

“That intermediate emissions scenario would have significant effects for Australia,” Hennessy said. “Coral reefs are sensitive to even small changes in ocean temperature and a 1C rise would have severe implications for the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo reef.

The forecast is grim for the Great Barrier Reef and if Australia cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions the future could be very challenging, the CSIRO scientist said.

Re-blogged from: Green Journal/Asian Correspondent
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