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In recent years the world has seen what a financial crisis looks like. The GFC shook economies and prompted drastic emergency action from governments in Europe, the US, Australia and elsewhere. Now we face a GEC – a global environmental crisis.
Our natural assets – clean air and soil, healthy rivers and oceans, forests, reefs, wetlands and native species – are stretched and stressed as never before. We have “maxed out” our ecological credit card and are deeply in debt. But, even in an election year, the “solutions” on offer from our political leaders do not come close to matching the scale of the problem. In fact, our politicians seem determined to exacerbate the problems. Multinational mining companies continue to get nearly $3 billion dollars a year subsidy to get their fuel cheaper than ordinary Australian motorists.
Short-sighted businesses have lobbied to have environmental approval powers handed from federal to state governments. The Great Barrier Reef – already so degraded UNESCO is considering putting it on the ‘shame’ list of endangered world heritage sites – is under further threat from the massive increase in coal mining and coal exports. Every year more and more ships traverse the reef with cargo that will be burned in China and India, adding to the world’s accelerating climate change problem. After a summer of record temperatures, bushfires and floods, Ian Lowe asks what it will take for Australia’s leaders to see through the myth of endless economic growth and start to tackle the ecological credit crisis.
Professor Ian Lowe is President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University in Brisbane, and adjunct professor at Sunshine Coast University and Flinders University.
Professor Lowe has authored 20 books and more than 500 other publications.
Professor Lowe’s contributions to environmental science have won him a Centenary Medal, the Eureka Prize for promotion of science, the Prime Minister’s Environment Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement, the Queensland Premier’s Millennium Award for Excellence in Science, and the University of NSW Alumni Award for achievement in science.
Professor Lowe was named Humanist of the Year in 1988 and made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2001.
Professor Lowe has been ACF president since 2004.