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Green group wants practical policies

17, August 2006

I’ve heard environmentalism described as a quasi-religious blend of new-age nature worship, junk science, left-wing political activism and anti-profit economics.  

But while this description may apply to some deep green activists, it’s also true to say that we are all environmentalists nowadays.  

We all want to do our bit for biodiversity, to conserve water and energy.  

But unfortunately most Australians have little say in the environmental policies being put to Government. 

These policies are almost exclusively the domain of a tight network of conservation groups with a particular world view. 

For example, the Wilderness Society’s current campaign against broad scale tree clearing ignores the long history of land management in Australia. 

Aborigines used fire to favour grassland over forest across vast areas of western NSW. 

Remove fire from this landscape, introduce sheep and cattle, and it is not surprising that invasive woody weeds are a problem.   

But The Wilderness Society doesn’t even acknowledge the woody weed management problem, let alone propose a long term solution.

Not surprisingly the group finds itself at odds with pastoralists and croppers who want to keep their land manageable and productive.

Many environmental groups have an in principle problem with active land management and resource use. 

They agitate to get foresters out of forests and to close down productive fisheries.

Some irrigators have come to understand that it doesn’t matter how much water they give back for environmental flow, environmental groups will always want more.

Many of theses established environmental groups emerged from the protest movement of the 1960s and 70s. 

At that time there was over-exploitation, but the pendulum has now swung in the other direction and Government policies tend to favour conservation over sustainable resource use. 

The Dean of Science at the University of NSW, Mike Archer, is among those with a different slant on environmental thinking.  He is pleading for what he describes as “the revolution we must have - between the ears and on the land.”

A couple of years ago some farmers, foresters, fishers, university professors and others, got together in Ballarat to start a new environment group, the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF) –  an environment group that believes in taking an evidence-based approach to issues. 

I belong to the AEF, which holds its first conference in Brisbane next month, where Dr Archer will be a keynote speaker. 

We are hoping practical environmentalists will come from all over Australia.

For more information visit the AEF website, www.aefweb.info

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Dr Jennifer Marohasy is an AEF Director, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and has her own weblog at www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog .

Published in The Land

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