Open Forum: When our love of place gets swallowed by bushfires

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.

Canberra Times: Now is not the time to weaken our environmental protections

 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.  

Media release: Open Letter- prominent health leaders and groups warn ‘failing’ nature laws will lead to further public health crises 

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. 

Seeking submissions from DEA members - Speak up and protect our environment for the sake of human health

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. 

Media release: Doctors’ open letter to the Premier of Tasmania: logging is a health hazard  

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. 

Biodiversity Policy

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. 

Biodiversity Position Statement

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.

Media release: Doctors alarmed by the destruction of takayna/ Tarkine call for a stop to logging 

Tasmanian doctors have today called for an urgent halt to destructive logging of the Sumac forests of the takayna/Tarkine, as conservationists step up protests against proposed logging in the area.  Medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia says that damage to the takayna/Tarkine is not only an environmental issue but one which affects the health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians. 

Australia’s faunal extinction crisis

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.

Modernisation of Victorian Regional Forestry Agreements submission

DEA has made a submission on the Victorian Government’s review of its Regional Forestry Agreements (RFA). RFA’s are agreements between State and Federal governments which enable logging to occur without the oversight of national environmental protections. They were written some 20 years ago and the 5 agreements which cover Victoria are in the process of expiring.

DEA takayna / Tarkine Trip April 2019 

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.

How Land Clearing Harms Our Health: Fact Sheet

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.

Why We Need Forests and Native Vegetation for Our Health: Fact Sheet

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. 

Proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW’s coastal forests

Former Premier of NSW Bob Carr is dismayed by Berejiklian's environmental vandalismIn this submission DEA details just one aspect of this destruction - forest clearance. See below for the DEA submission to the NSW government on this issue and note the previous two recent articles from John van der Kallen on this topic. 

Download DEA's submission regarding the proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW’s coastal forests

Read more:

Future of Australian forests is vital to our own

Forests add value to our lives in so many ways.

They clean our air and water, promote rain formation and protect soils from salinity and erosion.

DEA and the New Logging Laws at NSW Parliament

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.

The Mercury: All not well in the greenhouse

The Tasmanian Government may well be celebrating an apparent benchmark of becoming Australia’s first carbon neutral state 30 years ahead of its plans. But as Dr Rohan Church writes in this opinion piece, the reality is  that the Will Hodgman Government is riding on the back of a collapse in the logging industry, and has taken few, if any, active steps towards this goal. 

Vicdoc: Protecting Victoria's forests is good for our health

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.

Online Opinion: Preserving our forests should be a top priority

The magnificent old growth forests of East Gippsland are a national treasure. Yet state-endorsed logging continues in this region, undermining the rich tapestry of plants and animals that support human health.

Submission on Protecting the Yarra River (Birrarung)

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.

Submission to Victoria State Government on Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2036

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.

Submission on the High Conservation Values Assessment and Management Plan

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.

Submissions to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill

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.

Submission to the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Component Strategic Assessment

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).

Submission to the West Australian Draft Forest Management Plan 2014-2023

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.

Black carbon, methane and action on climate change, an update.

This is an important topic because simple action on these short term pollutants reduces global temperature immediately. Their health impacts are therefore important. A year ago we provided an ABC on this topic and pointed out Australia’s role in this pollution. Black carbon is produced with the burning of forest floor waste, prescribed burns, the burning of agricultural waste and the use of diesel combustion engines. Methane pollution is a major mainly unaddressed problem in Australia from the fugitive emissions from coal seam gas wells and from the emissions by livestock. Methane emissions are increasing internationally.

Forests and Health Position Statement

Over 50 per cent of the earth’s forests have been cleared, mainly for grazing land expansion, agriculture and road construction.

Submission on the Regulated Trees Amendment

In SA an amendment on Regulated Trees to help development has lead to a spate of removals of mature trees by residents in Adelaide and suburbs who worry about leaves in their gutters.

Biodiversity, a fundamental for Human Health – an update

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.



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