AEGN

Hope in the state of our environment

14 September 2022

The recently released 2021 State of the Environment report is a sobering read. Every indicator shows widespread and rapid decline pushing some ecosystems and species to the brink of collapse, and that we have a rapidly changing climate with a rise of extreme weather events. 

But for the trained observer, who has digested many of these reports over decades, it represents a significant shift in science, scientists and the solutions to the crisis we are in. Indeed, after listening to several of the lead authors of the State of the Environment report and then to the Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek’s response, I walked away feeling more hopeful than I have for a long time.  

Why?

The story of the ongoing decline in our environment has been told for decades now. The impacts of bushfires, floods and coral bleaching; the loss of our unique and gorgeous creatures; and the collapsing of physical systems that support our economic, emotional and physical wellbeing are well documented.

The state of Australia’s environment is of no surprise.

But what was new, was the clarity of message, the willingness of our science community to speak to the solutions, the inclusion of First Nations’ authorship and the linking of human wellbeing to the state of our environment. Children, adults, older people, workers, retirees — everyone requires a healthy environment to flourish.

It’s clear. Innovation, ambitious time-based goals and collaboration are key to turning things around. It’s clear. We need nothing short of a total overhaul of environmental laws. It’s clear. Government funding to climate and environment has significantly declined and more resources are critical — for protection, restoration, emergency response and building resilience. It’s clear. This is urgent.

It’s also clear that Indigenous knowledge, practice and co-management must play a role if we are to heal our country. It speaks to the need for Australia to heal our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by investing in and empowering First Nations leaders and communities and how this is critically linked to the state of our environment. The two must go hand in hand.

A pathway forward

Our scientists are telling us there is a pathway forward, and that philanthropy has a critical role to play. The significant change levers to guide philanthropic funding that we see emerging from the SOE report are:

  1. Empower Indigenous Australians to care for Country and integrate knowledge and practice (First Nations)
  2. Advocate for better laws, policies and regulation (Legal)
  3. Advocate for increased government investment and activate philanthropy (Funding)
  4. Mobilise ties between human and ecosystem health (Health)
  5. Energise and involve communities locally (Community)
  6. Support strategic collaborations and backbone organisations (Collaboration)
  7. Catalyse solutions including seeding for innovation and trials (Innovation)
  8. Mobilise business pathways (Corporate)

Minister Plibersek indicated that environmental reform is coming by 2023. We need to get behind our community voices for the environment and our smart, strategic environmental and public good lawyers to make sure this fundamental key to change is done brilliantly. And then continue to fund the pathway forward.

What was new, was the clarity of message, the willingness of our science community to speak to the solutions, the inclusion of First Nations’ authorship and the linking of human wellbeing to the state of our environment … 

Amanda Martin OAM, AEGN CEO

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