AUTHOR: GRAEME BARTRIM, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION OF QUEENSLAND
Welcome to the Spring edition of Protected.
This edition features a description of the consequence of fire in one national park as well as consideration of where we are at in terms of our biodiversity. Two conclusions out of this are that parks provide habitat for threatened plants and animals and that they require care and maintenance to ensure long term biodiversity viability.
We also look at the Cooloola BioBlitz, jumping spiders, and Conandale National Park, as well as our ranger profile.
Neil Young, nearly 50 years ago, in his song, After the Gold Rush, sang “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s”.
As much of the country experiences unprecedented drought and spring fires, and some areas are faced with the reality of trucking in water to supply the townspeople, it is worth considering how we as a community respond to pressing long-term environmental issues.
Our news refers to the impacts of climate change daily; the decline in our state’s biodiversity is well defined. Yet, as with a number of long-term issues that require our urgent attention, there appears to be minority community support for genuine expenditure or redress. This is a mystery, as in surveys Queenslanders tend to express their love for national parks and support there being more of them.
It is easy to say our politicians need to show leadership or that they are advocating for sectional interests, but, politicians do spend a fair bit of time trying to work out what a majority of the community prioritises.
Kenneth Hayne AC QC, former Justice of the High Court and royal commissioner, recently gave a speech at the Melbourne Law School and made thoughtful comment around government finding it difficult to address certain issues, instead often turning to royal commissions. He questioned the efficacy of our current system:
“Does reference of these matters suggest that our governmental structures can deal effectively only with the immediate spot fire and cannot deal with large issues?”
Suggesting that the issue may be our focus on the divide, rather than what brings us together:
“Policy ideas seem to be framed only for partisan or sectional advantage with little articulation of how or why their implementation would contribute to the greater good.”
Along with social trends in information consumption:
“Too often the information that is available is neither read nor understood. And even if the information has been read and understood, debate proceeds by reference only to slogans coined by partisan participants.”
Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind has added to this discussion suggesting that “We are easily divided into hostile groups, each one certain of its righteousness.” He has also suggested that with all the benefits of the internet, social media has made it easier for us to connect with like-minded people and to demonise those with a different point of view.
It seems that we live in an age when information developed through science carries limited weight. As Jonathan Haidt has suggested, the scientific method and peer review has proven to be a reliable (but not perfect) way of getting close to the truth of a matter. The prevailing scientific view is that our biodiversity is in decline and protected areas have value in arresting this. The challenge for our community is to manage this along with a number of other priorities whilst maintaining an eye to the long term. Maybe there is much to bring us together; the average koala supporter probably values the benefits of agriculture and mining. And the average farmer most likely values our unique wildlife.