Natural ecosystems support our health by filtering our air, providing fresh water and food, regulating our climate, directly improving human health and protecting against the spread of disease and pests.
They also foster our mental wellbeing and serve as places of recreation and sources of nature-based jobs in tourism and other vocations. Furthermore, with over one third of all medicines known to humans being derived from nature, protected ecosystems are a form of innovative capital for future medical advances. Ecosystems are the foundations of biodiversity, the infinite variation in life forms. Human resilience in the face of sudden and catastrophic shifts to the planet’s life-support systems is strengthened by this variety of life on earth.
Doctors for the Environment Australia is focused on the complex interaction between human health and our natural environment and is therefore interested in environmental degradation, particularly the loss of biodiversity and the impact this is having, and will continue to have, on human health and social stability. A global environment that supports biodiversity is better able to support human health. This is a topic of utmost urgency, and of great political and cultural complexity. It is also deeply fascinating as we continue to better understand the ways in which time spent in nature can help both prevent and cure common lifestyle related diseases.
On Monday July 20, the interim report of the EPBC Act review was released by Professor Graeme Samuel, the chair of the review panel. This included some positive proposals, but on the whole failed to present a reform agenda commensurate with the environmental crisis we face. In fact, some of the report’s recommendations have the potential a lead to a lowering of environmental protections at a time when entire ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. Click here to read what DEA's response to the interim report will focus on.
Like many Australians, this summer's horrific fires had a profound impact on Dr Dimity Williams. Not only did she experience angst about the fires in Victoria burning her ‘happy place’ -the Thurra River in Croajingalong National Park in East Gippsland- her oldest son, who had gone camping with friends in NSW, was among those evacuated on New Year’s Eve. Dr Williams writes that this catastrophic event is the new normal, and what those of us who have been advocating for action on climate change for the past decades have been warning about.
Australia's environmental track record is among the worst of all countries, write A/Professor Katherine Barraclough, Victorian Chair of DEA, and Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance. As our environmental laws undergo a once-in-a-decade review, health experts insist that environmental protections must be strengthened. Why? Human health is fundamentally dependent on the health of the natural world - for clean air, water and soils, food security, protection against infectious diseases and a stable climate. Nature is also the source of over half of all medicines we rely on.
The natural world filters our air, provides fresh water and food, regulates our climate, protects against the spread of disease and pests and fosters our mental wellbeing. It also is a source of over one third of all medicines. As the preamble on the World Environment Day website states, 'To care for ourselves we must care for nature...It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices. It’s time to build back better for People and Planet. This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature'. Read more about what DEA is doing to protect nature.
5 June 2020: We are pleased to provide a link to Corey Bradshaw's recent webinar. The webinar can now be viewed here
In the largest ever mobilisation of the health sector, DEA has joined over 370 health organisations and 40 million health professionals demanding a healthy recovery form Covid-19. This means reducing air pollution, reforming fossil fuel subsidies, scales up renewable energy, ramps up public transportation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. #HealthyRecovery
Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley are among more than 180 health professionals and leading health groups who have signed an open letter, warning the federal government must strengthen Australia’s weak environment laws to protect health. The letter warns that a failure to conserve our environment is in effect dismantling our life support systems, exposing humanity to potentially even more deadly pandemics than COVID-19, as well as catastrophic climate change, which fuelled the horrific Black Summer bushfires.
DEA believes that the flaws in the EPBC Act are too significant to be addressed by amendments alone. A new generation of environmental law is needed to restore past damage and cope with the scale of future challenges. This law must provide the Commonwealth with the powers it needs to fulfil a greater leadership role in the protection of Australia’s environment, as compared with the current situation where much of this task is left to the states and territories
The Federal Government is currently undertaking a once-in-a-decade review of Australia’s national environment laws and is asking for public input. This is a critically important opportunity for us to speak up about the need to protect our environment for the sake of human health.
Dr Marion Carey writes that with an estimated 40% of insect species now threatened with extinction, we can all do more to notice and appreciate our wonderful native bees and give them a helping hand- and with so little effort also comes great personal reward.
Dear Premier Gutwein, Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is alarmed at the resumption of old growth logging in the North West of Tasmania, as it imperils community health. We urge the State Government to cancel plans to log coupes in the takayna/Tarkine bio-region including Que Road, and for future forestry operations there to be suspended. There is no justification for ongoing logging in the face of the climate crisis and accelerating loss of forests to bushfire and other human activities.
Natural ecosystems support our health by filtering our air, providing fresh water and food, regulating our climate and protecting against the spread of disease and pests. They also foster our psychological and spiritual wellbeing and serve as places of recreation and sources of nature-based jobs in tourism and other vocations.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is focussed on the complex interaction between human health and our natural environment and is therefore interested in environmental restoration and the protection of biodiversity to promote human health and social stability. A global environment that supports biodiversity is better able to support human health. This is a topic of utmost urgency, given the alarming decline in biodiversity in recent years.
This Senate Committee on faunal extinction has a very important role because presently it is the only parliamentary voice in a position to make a statement on the interlocking and rapidly progressing climate change and biodiversity emergencies which are the basis for faunal extinctions. The Senate Committee is able to make recommendations for further national action and might consider means by which these national security issues can be developed further. Doctors don’t use the word, emergency lightly; we indicate that we must urgently address this climate and biodiversity emergency.
A normal week, another loss of koala habitat for new housing estates, of forest to provide jobs in the logging industry, of land clearance for gas development and agriculture. As Dr David Shearman writes, the litany of destruction is relentless. Australia is participating in a worldwide biodiversity crisis, in which thousands of species are threatened or have become extinct. The climate emergency is the main cause, but there are many others which emanate from economic growth and its consumption of natural resources.
Dr Dimity Williams, DEA's Biodiversity Convenor, recently wrote to the Minister for Environment the Hon Sussan Ley MP to applaud the addition of more plants and animals to Australia’s national list of threatened species and ecological communities. However, the letter also expressed concern that Australia was among the world’s worst performers in biodiversity protection and urged strong action to protect the health of nature. Read the letter in full HERE.
The conflicted beauty of Tasmania’s Tarkine, takayna in the Tasmanian Aboriginal palawa kani language, is unknown to most Australians.
The Tasmanian government is keeping its disgraceful degradation of world heritage forests out of national attention, losing precious tourism investment in exchange for a few votes, while it devalues this great asset.
Tasmanian DEA members Rohan Church and Darren Briggs have been planning for years to take a group of us to this extraordinary place to learn of the beauty and outrage. The 2019 DEA conference in Hobart brought us together and provided a chance to take a group out. Sixteen people began their Tarkine adventure on 8th April 2019 after the Hobart iDEA19 conference.
The Queensland government is considering a new bill - the Mineral Resources (Galilee Basin) Amendment Bill 2018 - that would effectively stop all coal mining in the Galilee Basin. DEA has provided a submission to the parliamentary committee outlining the compelling reasons the Mineral Bill should be approved. The risks to water security, ecosystems and air pollution are cause enough, but the overarching concern are the enormous health, economic, security and environmental costs of an inadequate response to global warming. The report’s due date is 30th April 2019.
Forests and native vegetation like grasslands, wetlands and woodlands are vital to our wellbeing yet in Australia we are currently seeing an explosion in land clearing. This has wide ranging and harmful implications for human health.
Forests and native vegetation like grasslands, wetlands and woodlands support our health and the environment in which we live. From purifying our air and water to providing food, medicines and places of psychological restoration.
The Bramble Cay melomys is the first mammal species whose demise can be attributed directly to climate change. Rising global temperatures will have grim outcomes for many living things. DEA's National Chair Professor Kingsley Faulkner, who was interviewed for this article, highlights that human health will be a major cost.
Why are we stripping the very foundations that sustain us? Biodiversity loss and climate change are together set to transform us to an alien world and our survival can't be left to politicians, writes DEA's Honorary Secretary Dr David Shearman.
Doctors for the Environment Australia is pleased to comment on this Enquiry for the extinction crisis reflects the rapid decline in biodiversity and ecological services, nationally and internationally, with grave implications for many aspects of human health and survival.
There are currently nearly 500 threatened faunal species and our current environment laws, especially the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC), are woefully inadequate.
A lack of biodiversity in faunal species impacts human health by threatening our food and water sources, current and potential medicines and crucial cultural and psychological wellsprings.
Download DEA's submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications - Australia’s faunal extinction crisis.
Every doctor needs to view this superb presentation by Katherine Barraclough at ANZ Association for Health Professional Educators. It details why environmental sustainability is core business for health professionals and an essential part of health education.
John Van Der Kallen presented at NSW Parliament House at the launch of the Forests For All: Case for Change event organised by the National Parks Association. The meeting highlighted the NSW government changes in zoning laws which allow clear felling of old growth forest. DEA supports the Forest for all Plan as the way to protect remaining NSW forests.
Queensland contributed 19 million tonnes of greenhouse gas in 2015 from land clearing, which was 80 percent of all the greenhouse gas from land use change in Australia for that year. After much anticipation, Queensland’s land clearing laws were finally passed last month. The laws are a significant step forward. The Annastacia Palaszczuk Government’s land clearing bill will start rectifying much of the terrible damage done to Queensland’s bushland, ecosystems and wildlife under the previous Liberal National Party government. As explained by Lucy-Jane Watt, DEA secretary of the DEA QLD committee, this is a health issue. Read full article in Croakey.
DEA doctors in Tasmania have been alarmed to see escalated threats to biodiversity with renewed and seemingly accelerated destruction of native forests in the takayna / Tarkine region. DEA has called for a halt in logging. Read more.
At a time when marine ecosystems are under threat from climate change increase in sea water temperature and local pollution, widespread cutbacks to marine sanctuaries are proposed by the Coalition government. Read the article by Katherine Barraclough. This is a further indication of the governments ignorance on the fundamental importance of ecosystems to human existence detailed in a recent DEA submission.
The United Nations sets these goals not just for developing countries but for all countries including Australia. Although Australia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, our SDG targets, particularly on health and the environment, have slipped 6 places in the last reporting year to 26th place globally. Furthermore, our overseas development aid to help others attain their goals is inadequate. DEA has made a submission to Parliament on SDGs.
Download DEA's submission to the Senate on the Inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The recent proposal from legal experts and the Environmental Alliance for new environmental laws recognises that health and the environment are indivisible. It is now the task of doctors' organisations to develop their input. This is a preventative health issue above all, and needs recognition of common cause between doctors and the environmental movement. This article in Croakey explains how reform of climate change and air pollution policy can begin.
A delegation of DEA doctors (Ben Ewald, Arnagretta Hunter, Selina Lo) attended the "Better Laws for a Better Planet Symposium" hosted by the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law (APEEL), IUCN Australia Committee, National Environmental Law Association, and Places You Love Alliance, on March 27, in Canberra at University House Hotel.
Australia needs an independent National Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard the environment and deliver effective climate policy, according to a new campaign launched today by a coalition of environmental, legal and medical organisations, including DEA. The initiative was launched today in Canberra and David Shearman has written this article to explain its role.
Read the full article
The Federal Government has produced a biodiversity conservation strategy paper which is deeply flawed in its assessments and fails to understand the urgency for action. In response, DEA has written a submission which demands action. The government has no recognition of climate change as a causative factor in biodiversity loss or of the health effects this will have.
Download DEA's submission on Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030: Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy and action inventory.
This is a developing issue of great importance. Many DEA members would have seen a leak to The Guardian; we await the definitive proposals from the Environmental Alliance. Their proposal arises from a recent report from a large group of distinguished environmental lawyers. The main aim is to provide a secure basis for a National Environmental Protection Authority, rather like the USEPA but secure against Trump-like demolition. With political games on environment, climate and health policy in Australia for 20 years, a secure Authority is seen as vital. I suggest all members read the long list of recommendations from APEEL.
Victoria’s forests are simply extraordinary. They support our health in a variety of ways and there is currently a community call for a new Great Forest National Park in our Central Highlands. Despite this, state government owned Vicforests continues industrial clear fell logging. In addition to the push from environmentalists and scientists there is a strong argument for the protection of our remaining forests on health grounds.
The diversity and complexity of the health issues that we face, whether as journalists or public health advocates or policymakers, can be overwhelming. In dealing with a constant avalanche of health-related news, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture.
The Victorian Government released a strategy for protecting Victoria’s biodiversity in April 2017. This article is the third in a series in Park Watch (see the June and September 2017 editions) that addresses the strategy and why it matters.
Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is the first formal statewide long-term biodiversity plan in two decades, and it contains a range of priorities and initiatives. Chapter Four, ‘A healthy environment for healthy Victorians’ explores why spending time connecting with nature is good for our health as individuals and as a society.
he Victorian Government’s Victorian Memorandum for Health and Nature is also a significant step in recognising that looking after nature also means looking after the health of people and their communities.
My guess is most Australians aren’t aware that an area of forest and bushland the size of the MCG is currently bulldozed in Queensland every three minutes, mainly for livestock grazing. Data released this year reveals that over 1 million hectares have been cleared over the last three years, making Eastern Australia a global deforestation hot-spot alongside places like the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo. Inexcusably, we are the only advanced economy still engaged in broad-scale land clearing.
In 2012, Australia made history by creating the world’s largest network of marine sanctuaries. This was the result of decades of scientific research, work by all sides of politics, and overwhelming community support. Science shows that sanctuaries protect marine life, help reefs to recover from coral bleaching, and ensure we have fish for the future.
DEA was pleased to contribute to a book by the Australian Marine Conservation Society outlining the value of the Great Barrier Reef. It is called ‘The Reef- a love story’ and was presented to the Minister for the Environment & Energy, Josh Frydenberg and also shared widely at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Poland. Josh was reportedly deeply appreciative of the book. You can download the book from this link to a drop box folder (to view it as a book you need to open the downloaded file in Adobe Acrobat and view in a 2 page format).
It may be merely symbolic but, for me, our surgery garden is an extension of what we do as doctors. We all know that the major determinants of health sit outside consulting rooms and hospitals so here’s the story of our very own green space.
As medical doctors we welcome this opportunity to contribute to the community discussion about opportunities to improve the oversight and management of the Yarra River. We rely on natural ecosystems for clean air and water; healthy fertile soils in which to grow our food; a stable climate in which to thrive and a rich tapestry of living organisms- biodiversity- from which we have taken food and developed over half of the medicines in use today.
There is much discussion in the medical and general media about the healthiness of food. Hardly surprising, as we face an unfolding epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases which, along with inactivity, are in large part related to our dietary excess.
Our health is absolutely dependent on our natural environment. We rely on natural ecosystems for clean air and water, healthy, fertile soils in which to grow our food, a stable climate in which to thrive and a rich tapestry of living organisms- biodiversity- from which we have taken food and over half of the medicines in use today. Currently we are facing urgent threats to our wellbeing from climate change and biodiversity loss. As medical doctors we welcome this opportunity to provide input to the Victorian government’s review of biodiversity protection – a plan that is desperately needed to address the appalling rate of species extinction in our state.
Local media reported today that drilling had begun in the Beeliar wetlands in Perth’s south for the construction of the controversial Roe 8 highway extension, planned as the first stage of the Western Australian Government’s $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link.
We recognise the importance of the fin-fish aquaculture industry to the state of Tasmania however if the industry is to continue to grow it must ensure that the health of Tasmania’s waterways and human health are not compromised.
As a body of medical professionals, DEA is an interested stakeholder due to our interest and expertise on the intersection of health, environmental threats and damage to natural ecosystems such as High Conservation Value (HCV) Forests.
Almost a quarter of the disease burden and deaths in the world can be attributed to environmental factors. We cannot begin to alleviate this burden of ill-health unless we address the environmental pathways and antecedent causes.
The Great Barrier Reef is of “natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and is of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity” (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO).
The following excerpt by Marion Carey appeared in a Crikey article and appears here under a Creative Commons licence.
We have a planet to manage, not just a local economy.
The Tarkine is an extensive area of rainforest and natural biodiversity in Tasmania. Although it has been described as “one of the world’s great archaeological regions”, The Tarkine is currently under threat form mining and forestry contractors.
The evidence of damage to the Great Barrier Reef continues to mount. This article by Andrew Jeremijenko provides further documentation. DEA has worked behind the scenes on this issue, corresponding with UNESCO on the impacts of coal mining on the catchments and the reef and by writing to Minister Burke.
It is encouraging to see that the European Commission has many policies and actions on biodiversity and this editorial from “Science for Environment Policy” is republished with thanks.
The draft management plan should be acknowledged for recognising and including some of the important factors that will determine the health and sustainability of our SW forest ecosystems over coming decades.
Instinctively, we want contact with nature – we’d all like the office with a view of the park instead of a view of the carpark. Yet few doctors are aware of the health benefits associated with regular contact with nature and this is despite an ever expanding evidence base. I hope this article will inspire you to bring nature into your practice and the prescription of a ‘green hour’ into your management plan for the wellbeing of not only your patients and your staff but for you too.
His article is a rational appraisal of the UNESCO report based on legal opinion and not on political blame which has obscured the realities of recent events. The final paragraph of the article summarises the abject folly of the developments which threaten survival of the reef.
This is an issue of great concern to DEA; it is perhaps the reflection of the immaturity of a society when the right to mine overrides some of the fundamentals for human health. Human dependence on biodiversity is built into our submissions to governments. In the article on Covenants the Bimblebox Nature Refuge is mentioned. In its submission on the EIS for Mr Palmer’s Waratah Coal’s proposed Galilee Coal Project, we said “this loss (of the refuge) would be of remnant native vegetation used for minimal impact sustainable grazing and the biodiversity that has adapted to this system, a unique experiment that has brought sustainable co-existence between grazing and conservation recognised in surveys of the biodiversity and government support under the Federal National Reserve System program”. Mr Palmer has said “Under that grading you’re allowed to mine it, build on it, build houses on it, do anything on it”.
Last month DEA’s Dr Dimity Williams- a Melbourne GP and passionate tree lover- went deep into the Tarkine with the crew from GetUp to help raise awareness on the threat to the Tarkine posed by mining see link : http://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/save-our-forests/tony-burke/dont-mine-the-tarkine
For eight years conservationists have fought to have the Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania included on the National Heritage List. Yet despite its eligibility it is under threat from large mining projects and a federal government reluctant to give responsibility for its listing to an independent arbiter.
A few weeks ago I was thrilled to be part of an expedition into the Tarkine rainforest of Tasmania organised by Getup! as part of their campaign to protect this great wilderness area. Getup! had selected a diverse group of participants from their large membership based on responses to a passionate call to action for the Tarkine.
We need more politicians who will talk at public meetings about the damage to ecology–our life support systems. This is exactly what Kelvin Thomson MP is doing in his talk “The impact of population growth on wildlife” which is published below. In publishing this, with his permission, I make the point that we will publish articles from members of other parties if they fit within our policy framework.
Three years ago DEA produced a poster on Biodiversity – the Web of Life. It asked “Will the next generation inhabit a healthy earth?” The poster was very popular especially with schools.
Seeds of Concern: The Genetic Manipulation of Plants – Part One – 11/04/2004 by Dr David Murray