THE REAL DIRT

Real Dirt, Fast – 21 August

August 21st, 2008 · 2 Comments · Real Dirt Fast

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Kimberley wilderness property, Marion Downs – purchase announced this week by Australian Wildlife Conservancy (story below)

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the baby whale in Pittwater, north of Sydney, but it is also a really striking example of how confused our priorities can get when it comes to animals.
The story – by far the most covered environmental news this week – is a weird, blended version of the rescue of the Beaconsfield miners, a reality veterinary show, a yachting drama and Free Willy.


We all feel sad for the little whale but there is a huge risk that because he is a child of one of the planet’s most charismatic creatures his suffering will be extended.
As one scientist pointed out this week, even if he could be fed, who is going to get him to Antarctica? Who is going to teach him to catch krill?
Life is cruel, folks, and part of the reason the world is in trouble is because as a species we don’t accept that nature is tough. If we really cared about whales we would act drastically to stop climate change, throwing the weight of our effort at saving an entire ocean of species rather than a single calf.
On the ABC television news on Wednesday night the story of the humpback nuzzling expensive yachts in Sydney was followed shortly after by a piece on shark fins being exported to Asia.
The shark story was truly gruesome – thousands of beautiful animals having their fins sliced off and then being pushed back into the sea. Conservationists are battling to be heard to have this wasteful fishing practice halted. The best the Queensland government can offer is for shark-finning to be wound back. The brutal truth is that Colin is cute and tries to suckle onto yachts whereas sharks bite holes in people.

If you want some important news then consider the results of research presented to a conference this week. As the Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Speaking on the first day of the Coast to Coast ’08 conference in Darwin, Will Steffen, of the Australian National University, said there could be devastating effects on many low-lying areas in coastal Australia within the next century.
“The evidence over the past 12 to 18 months suggests that we have underestimated how fast this aspect of the earth’s system can change,” he said.
“We see things happening much faster than we thought.”

Professor Steffen, who is an adviser to the Federal Government said a sea-level rise of at least 0.5 metres was a certainty, a rise of 1 to 1.5 metres is more likely, while a rise of up to four metres this century is possible.

And while waterfront property owners watch their lounge rooms fill up with water we also learn that birds in Europe are no longer able to keep up with the pace of climate change. The story is similar here – already scientists are reporting that nature and temperature in Australia are more out of synch than Cityrail’s timetable. But the figures out of Europe are staggering. As the Age reported:

The study showed that the geographic range of 105 birds species in France — accounting for 99.5 percent of the country’s wild avian population — moved north, on average, 91 kilometres (56.5 miles) from 1989 through 2006.
Average temperatures, however, shifted northward 273 kilometres (170 miles) over the same period, nearly three times farther.

There was some great news this week as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy continued to expand their estate of privately protected, scientifically managed properties. AWC announced a new acquisition in the Kimberley, creating an area a third of the size of Tasmania dedicated to fauna and flora. Known as Marion Downs Station, the property has been run as a cattle station but will now be a haven for endangered species like the Gouldian finch.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Les Mitchell

    Great source of national environmental news and discussion, with perspectives most of which I agree, particularly the baby whale story. Keep up the worthwhile efforts.

  • Professor Poonschtock

    When they start to cry over climate change like they do over baby whales the world will move in the right direction but as it currently stands the whale circus simply shows that we don’y have much in perspective.

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