Australian State Of The Environment Report Describes A Deteriorating World

A report released by the Australian government on Tuesday, July 19, details the state of the nation’s environmental health in the past five years; a period that included droughts, bushfires, floods, intensive climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and mining. Due to the crises of the past half-decade, the report describes a nation that is on the verge of losing the immense biodiversity that makes its part of the world so unique.

According to the report, compared to all the other continents of the world, Australia has lost the most mammal species and has one of the highest rates of species decline among the world’s wealthiest nations. At least 19 Australian ecosystems show signs of collapsing or approaching collapse. Over seven million hectares of habitat for threatened species were cleared or substantially degraded between 2000 and 2017. Australian sea levels have been rising faster than the global average of 3 to 3.5 millimeters per year. The rising sea levels endanger communities close to the ocean through coastal erosion and the movement of beaches and low-lying areas. Indigenous communities are especially vulnerable, given the loss of native vegetation in their regions and their lack of easy access to water, finances, and other critical resources. These facts and statistics are a mere handful of those from the report, but we can already understand how dire the situation is.

The Australian Labor Party, which won the Prime Minister’s office earlier this year, echoed the severity of the news. The Minister of Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek released a statement saying, “The State of the Environment Report is a shocking document — it tells a story of crisis and decline in Australia’s environment, and a decade of government inaction and willful ignorance,”. Plibersek pledged to reform environmental laws and form an Environment Protection Agency next year. While taking ecological issues seriously should be the minimum for a government, it’s a relief to see the new Australian administration do so. The former Liberal Party’s administration received the State of the Environment Report in late 2021 but refused to release it until after the 2022 election. Environmental health is a global issue that affects people from all parts of the world; thus, when governments refuse to take the environment sincerely, they fail both their citizens and the international community. The Labor Party must honor its promise to reform the state’s environmental policy as soon as possible. This report is too devastating to be a mere wake-up call; effective, dedicated measures to reaching environmental justice should have been taken long ago. The longer it takes the Australian government to take action, the longer the world suffers the consequences.

The World Economic Forum considers environmental degradation a threat to humanity that could “bring about societal collapses with long‑lasting and severe consequences.” Australia’s State of the Environment Report proves that these consequences have already begun. The “Black Summer” bushfires in 2019 and 2020 were the worst bushfire season recorded in some parts of Australia. Those fires alone increased the extinction risk of many plants and animals — 480 plant, 20 mammal, and 16 frog species needed urgent management intervention. That fire season, combined with the droughts from 2017 to 2019, the floods in eastern Australia, and the continued practice of deforestation and cropping without enough regulation, have led to the present-day state of the Australian environment.

Australia’s land and seas are home to over 600,000 native species, many of which are unique to that part of the world. Losing that incredible biodiversity would devastate the global ecosystem. Professor Euan Ritchie of the Centre for Integrative Ecology at Deakin University, while admitting that the report confirms “Australia’s utter failure of environmental and conservation stewardship,” is confident that the situation isn’t lost. Ritchie asserts that “If we act now and strengthen and enforce environmental laws, provide far greater investment to aid the protection and recovery of the environment and threatened species, and better engage with communities, we stand to gain substantial social, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits.” With swift and immediate action, the Australian government still has a chance to restore its environment; this will take immense effort, but change and a better future for all is still achievable.