The Guardian: Environmental Protections in Decline

An artist rendering of solar panels overlaying a CJ aerial photograph of the Respess property surrounding the Terra Ceia Christian School. (CJ graphic)

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The Guardian discusses declining environmental protections in Australia, for hydro ready alpine valleys and old growth stands of leafy biofuel, yet somehow ignores the fact that greens themselves were responsible for dismantling a lot of environmental protections, through their efforts to save the world from climate change.

‘The Franklin would be dammed today’: Australia’s shrinking environmental protections

The nation is losing the political will to protect our pristine places – and biodiversity is suffering


Tue 30 Jan 2018 06.02 AEDT

What if the Franklin river hadn’t been saved?

Stopping the Gordon-below-Franklin dam was one of the Australian environment movement’s great victories: in the late 1970s, the state-owned Hydro-Electric Commission wanted to flood one of three last temperate rainforests in the southern hemisphere to create a power station.

About 33km of the Franklin, a pristine wild river home to breathtaking ravines and rapids, and surrounded by untouched Huon pine and myrtle beech forest, would have drowned. After years of heated debate, pro-dam Liberal Robin Gray took power in 1982 and passed legislation allowing construction to begin. What happened from there was partly down to luck and timing, but could not have been achieved without one of Australia’s most successful acts of mass civil disobedience.

An estimated 6,000 people headed to the town of Strahan to join the protest, and nearly 1,500 were arrested on the river. Rallies and newspaper ads helped build an extraordinary level of buy-in throughout Australia. At a byelection for the Victorian federal seat of Flinders, 41% of voters scribbled “No Dams” on their ballot paper..

Legally and politically, they say environmental protection is harder to win than at any time since before the wave of landmark 1980s decisions to recognise the Daintree rainforest and Kakadu national park and to block mining in Antarctica.

Bob Brown, whose role in saving the Franklin launched him onto the national stage, believes the campaign would now fall at multiple hurdles: it would be unlikely to win crucial government backing for world heritage listing, as it did in 1982 under the Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser; that no political leader since had shown Hawke’s willingness to prioritise the environment over development; above all, that activists would be highly unlikely to turn out in large numbers given increased risk of serious fines or other criminal penalties.

The last point is key, he says, as it would deny a campaign momentum.

While Brown won a recent high court case that struck down harsh Tasmanian forestry laws that threatened fines of up to $10,000 and up to four years jail for anyone obstructing a “business activity”, that judgment was as much about the shoddy way in which the laws were written as the principle. The court found the aims of the laws were legitimate. The former Greens leader believes laws challenging peaceful protest will return.

“The Franklin would be dammed if it were today,” Brown says. “It would be just a dead moat around [nearby peak] Frenchman’s Cap.”

Read more:

Who speaks for the birds, when even the Audubon Society calls for more bird choppers?

Who speaks for habitats destroyed by hydropower reservoirs, or forests fed into the hungry maws of biofuel furnaces, when environmentalists are behind the demand for low carbon energy?

How many people ever get the opportunity to learn to love the wilderness, when rampant fuel poverty limits family travel to remote destinations?

What about the vast acreages which would have to be cleared, to support solar arrays sufficient to power our modern world?

If there has been a drop in support for protecting the environment, greens only have to look in the mirror to see who is responsible.

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J Mac
January 29, 2018 10:14 pm

New Title: Environmental Extremism In Retreat

Roger Bournival
January 29, 2018 10:32 pm

You would think that enviroweenies would support hydro power, but it just demonstrates they’re against all forms of progress. Years ago I would have found this difficult to believe until I started reading story after story after story just like this one.

Reply to  Roger Bournival
January 30, 2018 1:30 am

They are against everything : NO, NO ,NO ! What was the question again?

Roger Knights
Reply to  Roger Bournival
January 30, 2018 2:16 am

They claim that dams interfere with fish (“devastate” is the word they use, implying the whole species is threatened) and that lakes behind democracies emit methane. Also, land is lost. There were a couple of other reasons too.

Reply to  Roger Knights
January 30, 2018 3:03 am

Most reservoirs feeding dams are full of fish and provide lots of outdoor recreation.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Roger Knights
January 30, 2018 1:32 pm

@arthur 3:03
I generally agree, but
Dams create a reservoir that floods the existing land cover (minus any clearing of trees that takes place). The grasses, shrubs, and other decomposable things will provide nutrients, and fish and their prey will thrive for number of years. After a time (?) that burst of life will decrease. The non-flooded parts of the valley may contribute nutrients — every place is unique.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Roger Bournival
January 30, 2018 5:17 am

Well, hydro power has a nasty side effect. it turns a valley into a lake. That valley is probably inhabited by someone, and definitely inhabited by some thing alive that cannot breathe underwater. I can definitely understand objecting to it.
The problem only comes when they object to everything else too.

Alan D McIntire
Reply to  Ben of Houston
January 31, 2018 6:25 am

I guess they’e opposed to beavers and their artificial dams also.

January 29, 2018 10:33 pm

Adapt or die. It’s called evolution.

Reply to  Richard111
January 30, 2018 3:00 am

You die anyway. It’s called life.

Bryan A
Reply to  paqyfelyc
January 30, 2018 10:04 am

Noone has beat it yet or there would be any number of 20,000 year olds running around and birthday candles would be a mistake

Reply to  paqyfelyc
January 30, 2018 2:41 pm

Bryan A
A thought – if near immortality was common, then we can power the grid from 20,000th Birthday candles!
A Real Plus.
If only – it’s another Greenies’ dream.
I – and many others – call them watermelons – green on the outside, but bright red within.

January 29, 2018 10:34 pm

Thankfully, Australia is commissioning lots of diesel generators. Another “green” victory.

Extreme Hiatus
January 29, 2018 10:51 pm

“The Guardian discusses declining environmental protections… for hydro ready alpine valleys and old growth stands of leafy biofuel, yet somehow ignores the fact that greens themselves were responsible for dismantling a lot of environmental protections, through their efforts to save the world from climate change.”
Eric, you told the whole story for many countries in this first paragraph. It is a tragic story. There was so much progress in real conservation then Green got big and Big Green sold out.

Phillip Bratby
Reply to  Extreme Hiatus
January 29, 2018 11:36 pm

In the UK the environment is being increasingly degraded (destroyed) by: wind turbines; solar farms; anaerobic digesters with the monoculture crops needed to fuel them and the disposal of the toxic waste produced; mass growing and burning of biocrops; increased use of diesel. All of this environmental destruction is driven by greens and their misappreciation of the benefits to the environment of lots of lovely CO2.

Komrade Kuma
Reply to  Extreme Hiatus
January 30, 2018 12:39 am

The Greens are part of that evangelical fringe who believe that their intended purpose is the only outcome of their actions. They seem to have no concept of adverse, unintended consequences.
We see it in Oz and Europe regarding the refugee crises, especially those who try to come by boat. The weepy, do gooders cheer on the arrivals and provide defacto succour to the soulless criminals but scuttle off into the shadows when it comes to picking up the corpses.
In Australia it was referred to by the ‘conservative’ government as ‘stop the boats’ but in the minds of the voters it was ‘stop the bodies’. How ‘conservative’ do you have to be to not want people to die needlessly and at unacceptable rates?
The MSM have a lot to answere for in facilitating this utter degradation of the public discourse on such matters, dams, boats or otherwise, so addicted to salacious trivia are they.

Warren Blair
January 30, 2018 12:02 am

Premier Jay of South Australia . . .
Having blown-up 540 megawatts of cheap base load coal power at Port Augusta the Premier is now spending $360 million on 250 megawatts of standby gas power, 150 million of battery back-up and more again in back-up diesel power.”
South Australia now has the costliest ex-tax electricity in the World!
But locals deserve to pay every cent because they keep voting-in corrupt left-wing governments.

Paul r
Reply to  Warren Blair
January 30, 2018 12:28 am

In the last 3 state elections more voted against the labour party than for them. Preferences and electoral boundaries are the reasons why this incompetent bunch of socialists were able to keep in power

Reply to  Paul r
January 30, 2018 8:25 am

And they don’t even need a governing majority themselves. They just need enough seats to deny one to any other party, then form a coalition with whomever agrees not to mess with their pet policies.
Proportional parliamentary representation, where the tail wags the dog.

January 30, 2018 12:08 am

The harm goes fairly deep. In the mid-1980s I took a Federal Minister for Environment (through our Company) through the Australian Court system to the highest level, the Full bench of the High Court. We were a mining company, with granted mineral leases in the Top End of the Northern Territory, near where company colleagues had found the Ranger Uranium deposits. The mineral leases, granted by the Commonwealth, had a requirement that we perform work on them. Then, along came the green blob to demand that work be made illegal, that the areas become part of a national park then a United Nations world heritage area. Our actions delayed the world heritage bit, but exposed the confusion of the judicial system. In a lower court, we had a Judge who was formerly President of the Australian Conservation Foundation 1979-1984. He did not declare conflict of interest. He found against our legitimate uranium mining plans in favour of parks/world heritage. The High Court essentially said that the conflict was too complicated for them to resolve, which in hindsight I think was because to find in our favour would have provided grounds for actions against people in politics like the Prime Minister.
What struck me on the way through the courts was the deference that judges gave to international treaties like the one that enables world heritage. It seemed rather sinful to them to go back on an international treaty, instead of pointing out its weak points and suggesting ways to remediate. Characteristic of the exercise was important people appearing out of the woodwork, often well-connected foreigners with money and positions of influence. I got the idea that the start of this green attack on our legitimate ways had been planned and financed centrally and internationally and was on the way to coup accompli until people like us started objecting. I think of this every time there is a Davos meeting in Switzerland.
Since those days, I have been dismayed by the lack of personal and corporate objection to the green blob, even though people know they will be harmed. They adopt an expression that comes onto the face of a chook when a snake is about to strike at it. Geoff.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 30, 2018 5:40 am

Yes the State rights are guaranteed under the constitution and unless they agree to give those rights over to the Federal government. That is why you get such a weird mix of state and federal responsibilities.
Power would have been under Federal control right now if it was not blocked by Western Australia so instead we ended up with a national regulator under a Federal/State cooperation under the Council of Australian Governments.
I think we also scuttled the planned move of Hospitals to Federal control 😉

Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 30, 2018 5:25 pm

You mention “…defect in the Australian Constitution”. No. I don’t get that argument because it has no plausible solution and sounds like a bureaucrat’s excuse. As I alluded, the root sources of this evil are money, power and money. Geoff.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
January 30, 2018 12:48 am

Geoff Sherrington
January 30, 2018 at 12:08 am
I too had a taste of this madness in the Northern Terrritory in the late 1970’s working for UDC (now BHP) on uranium/gold in the South Alligator River area. We had discovered a gold orebody at Coronation Hill and when BHP took over and it was going through the permitting process the Greens / Aboriginal movement intervened. Seems the exact hill the mine was on just happened to be the home of the mythological “Rainbow Serpent” ! End of story for any mine and it too is now part of the extended Kakadu National Park.
BHP has continued its corporate timidity against these enviromental thugs with its recent statements on climate change and decision to leave the World Coal Association..

Extreme Hiatus
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
January 30, 2018 2:15 am

“Seems the exact hill the mine was on just happened to be the home of the mythological “Rainbow Serpent” !”
And thou shalt not question traditional indigenous knowledge. Or that which the Green Blob restores to them. No wonder the UN pushes its Indigenous Rights bill so hard.

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
January 30, 2018 5:30 am

The problem for the NT is it is a territory at the mercy of Federal Government that is the difference between a State and a Territory.

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
January 30, 2018 5:27 pm

AB, at some relevant times I was either Pres or VPO of the NT Chamber of Mines on a visiting basis. Coronation Hill consumed a lot of thought and energy. It was a disgusting over use of governmental power with shonky legal advice to encourage the green blob. Geoff

Wayne Job
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
January 30, 2018 12:58 am

Nice summery of the machinations of the green blob, for our American friends the term chook is our aussie term referring to hens as it is the sound they make. Cheers.

Joe Perth
January 30, 2018 12:43 am

As someone who worked until very recently in oil and gas exploration in Australia, I can say that if anything, environmental regulations for doing just about anything are tougher than they have ever been. It’s just about impossible to get low impact work like a small offshore seismic survey done, and certainly not in a reasonable time frame. Main reason is because there are so many layers of process to go through, approvals required, periods of public comment, replies to the comments, reports on everything from whales to fish to tourism to indigenous rights and so on. These people (the Guardian) should get out more and try to do some real work rather than trying to stop everybody else doing anything.
I would also like to add that any decision to dam the Franklin back in the 1970’s would have been one of the dumbest development decisions ever made. While over half of Tasmania’s houses didn’t even have basic insulation back then and most had drafty doors and windows, there was never a need for more power. The housing stock should have been improved first up. The decision to dam the Frankiin was more about keeping Tassie Hydro workers employed. The Franklin wilderness is spectacular and should never be dammed. I rafted down it in 1982 – thoroughly recommended.
Each environmental case needs to be assessed on its merits and neither approved or disallowed automatically.

Reply to  Joe Perth
January 30, 2018 11:57 am

Thanks Joe for this window into the paralysis of a system wherein everyone cleaves into mutually hostile, polarized camps. The point you mention about the housing stock exemplifies what I’ve found to be a general principle: that the most important thing in polarized debate (e.g. dams or nukes) is found in what NEITHER side talks about. What do both sides take for granted?

January 30, 2018 4:42 am

With Friends Like Environmentalists, the World Doesn’t Need Enemies
One of the greatest horror stories I’ve ever read was “Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America’s First National Park.” It is a truly heartbreaking story of how well-meaning but terribly misguided and frankly ignorant environmentalists were allowed to apply their ecological “science” to the Yellowstone Park. The results were catastrophic, and provide many lessons … Continue reading

January 30, 2018 7:48 am

This is what happens when emotional nitwits hijack an entire branch of science that they know nothing about. The nu-aged environmental movement is led by attorneys hungry to sue governments and businesses as well as profiters of such scams like carbon trading and ethanol.

Gerald Landry
January 30, 2018 7:53 am

The “Best of 2 Evil’s”
Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t Damn the Dam’s, Maybe an Innovative method could be developed to remove mercury from Coal Power Plant emissions. But then once a Hydro Dam is [capital co$t$?] Commissioned the Energy Inputs in it’s operation are minimal compared to Coal mining, transportation and emissions issues. Notwithstanding the fish are contaminated with methyl mercury in the Reservoir and downstream. Are communities drawing Drinking Water downstream?
Australia should decree a “moratorium on all Power Development” until the present Alternatives “Pass a Financial & Environmental Impact Test” in their Full Cycle Costs. Living in Ontario, Canada with $mart Meters our Peak Rate was 0.18 cents per Kw, a 353% increase above our Base Rate pre-smart meters of 5.1 cents per Kw. We have been served the tainted Green Kool Aid. We are exploited as Captive Conn/Consumers.
Solar Farms on FIT, Feed In Tariff Contracts were paid 1,500% more than Base Rate @ 0.80 cents per Kw. Wynn Farms, 700% more at 0.40 cents per Kw. Similar pricing schemes were initiated around the Globe, this is Green exploitation of greenbacks, paper money for a Basic Necessity of modern life.
Canada’s Big Dams Produce Clean Energy, and High Levels of Mercury…/clean-energy-dirty-water-canadas-hydroelectric-dams-ha…
Nov 10, 2016 – The protests are focused on a mostly overlooked side effect of hydroelectric projects all over Canada: The reservoirs behind the dams tend to develop high levels of methyl mercury, leading to mercury poisoning among people who eat fish or game caught downstream. Labrador Sea. 200 Miles.

January 30, 2018 9:15 am

Yes, the clear cutting of U.S. forests for wood pellets to ship across the Atlantic to burn in UK boilers is going backward on environmental protection.

January 30, 2018 12:04 pm

Thanks for this — a nice illustration of how the climate narrative has been a disaster for environmentalism. At first climate change seemed to be a boon to environmentalists, who thought, “Now they’ll HAVE to do what we always wanted them to do (stop destroying land and water for development)” But now with biofuels and big hydro, the blade has proved to have two edges. Moreover, it has shifted the conversation away from immediate, visible damage like a ruined valley, instead requiring people to trust the pronouncements of distant scientific authorities about consequences remote in time and space.

John Smith
January 30, 2018 1:35 pm

“… one of three last temperate rainforests in the southern hemisphere to create a power station”
I never even knew that rainforests could create power stations…

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  John Smith
January 30, 2018 9:15 pm

Ah the good ol’ days. Yes the environmental protection is now so thick, even the temperate rainforests can’t get a power station built.

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