Reform of National Environmental Laws; light amongst the darkness


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.

There will be national announcements and activity soon. Only The Wilderness Society has commenced action so far.

The importance to DEA is that we have been working for a National EPA since 2012 and more recently in a submission to the Senate TOR “m”. Here is a national initiative we can support for we expect it to include options to advance several aspects of climate change and health as well as environmental protection. 

The importance of this crisis is reflected by many individual organisations coming together in a national agenda of reform. But even more significantly, my feeling is that it reflects a scientific and environmental recognition that the Anthropocene has arrived, humanity can never return to the Holocene. Many current changes cannot be reversed, whether land clearing of forests in Australia, the Amazon, PNG or Indonesia. Many crucial environments are already irretrievably changed, whether McQuarrie Harbour in Tasmania, the gas fields in Queensland or wheat belt of WA. Climate change is but one of a number of confluent events all augmenting each other, the most important being huge biodiversity loss, climate change, water scarcity and population growth, the common denominator being economic systems which require perpetual growth to satisfy a demanding populace.

Reform of national environmental laws to deliver security also recognises that our democratic system is unable to respond appropriately to the threat. We see elected representatives of the National Party unable to recognise the threat of climate change, and more crucially, unwilling to read the science and perhaps lacking the understanding to do so anyway. One is the new deputy Prime Minister. Of course, intellectual behemoths exist in the other parties as well. So, the action has to move out into the community and into business. 

Where does the medical profession and DEA fit into this growing recognition of the Earth’s plight?

In Australia the Profession does not. There is a spectrum of resolve and little cohesion to embark on a journey equivalent to the environmentalists. A major need is for us to bring new approaches to engage our colleagues.


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