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The State of the Environment
The general conclusion of the 2016 State of the Environment report, which was released last week, is no surprise: it finds that there is a conflict between the environment and economic development.

However the report notes that there have been some important wins in the five years since the last report.

The executive summary says “environmental policies and management practices in Australia have achieved improvements in the state and trends of parts of the Australian environment.

Australia’s built environment, natural and cultural heritage, and marine and Antarctic environments are generally in good condition.

“There are, however, areas where the condition of the environment is poor and/or deteriorating.

These include the more populated coastal areas and some of the growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest (particularly in south-eastern Australia); and the extensive land-use zone of Australia, where grazing is considered a major threat to biodiversity.”

In an article in ‘The Conversation’ William Jackson, Adjunct Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast and chair of the committee which prepared the report, commented that Australia’s population and economic growth continue to pose problems for the environment.

It is a meme that has been around since the Club of Rome’s ‘Limits to Growth’ report in the early 1970s. However the report does have a specificity that’s absent in the more proselytising environmental tracts.

Professor Jackson points to some of these in his article: “The new report shows that some individual pressures on the environment have eased since the 2011 report, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices and commercial offshore fishing, as well as oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.

“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased, including those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”

At the moment the federal government has policies to deal with all of these issues and it is to be hoped that when the next State of the Environment report is produced in five years’ time it will show considerable progress in dealing with the problems.

The report also refers to the threat of climate change, pointing out that some of the effects may be irreversible but it refrains from passing judgement on the policies the government’s adopted to deal with it.

In summary the report says the government “could do better,” so no gold star.

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