2014 is here, ready or not, and we are pledging to lose weight, be better, self-improve, which I’m all for, but there is an elephant in the room when deciding what we really should care about. The ultimate fact of our time: Our natural world is in serious trouble. Like it or not, one of the “great extinction episodes” of plants and animals in the Earth’s history is underway. Dubbed the Sixth Extinction, science writer, Virginia Morell, notes “such a rate of extinction has occurred only five times since complex life emerged, and each time it was caused by a catastrophic natural disaster. The sixth extinction is not happening because of some external force. It is happening because of us.”
I have been lucky enough to experience some exquisite African safaris, and being a native African the wild animals hold special significance. “We are losing rhino, elephant, leopard and lion at a rapid rate due to an insatiable market in China and South East Asia”, say National Geographic explorers-in-residence and award-winning filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who have devoted their conservation efforts to big cats, making 25 films. “We are about to record the 700th rhino poached this year alone.” Denouncing hunting, the Jouberts point out that of the 20,000 lions left in the wild only about 3,000 are males, and CITES allows 600 a year to be hunted. “We’ve lost 95 percent of lions in the last 50 years,” says Dereck. Their latest film, Game of Lions, premiered last month.
If present trends continue, one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than a 100 years. This threat is largely a result of deforestation, urbanisation, pollution, over-grazing, hunting, climate change, habitat loss and degradation, human disturbance, poaching, agricultural expansion, mining, logging, land clearance and construction of dams. It should make us weep, really. Yet we go on, almost immune as, of course, we’ve heard it before.
We are too busy keeping our own lives afloat, to take on another bit of somewhat intangible worry. But in our hearts we know big changes are afoot in our world. I’d say, if you’re not already in the fray, there isn’t a better time in history to jump in, adopt a cause close to your heart and smother our planet with love. Miranda Gibson cared enough that she lived up a tree for 14 months in protest of logging in an old growth forest in Tasmania while trees fell around her. With local and international support the logging was halted and the forest became World Heritage listed.
Back home, I felt really sad in the midst of the Christmas holidays when I learnt that half of Noosa National Park’s koala population was wiped out in a week. Now only three remain, down from hundreds. Can it be? I remember the day we found the cutest lone koala in a gum tree in my suburb, the day we saw one amble cross the road, the day my friend’s garden gums held a few, and the many trips to the National Park to inevitably see one up in a tree. No more? Up to 70% of koalas in the wild are living with Chlamydia. When the animals are stressed it becomes dangerous and fatal. Stress is caused by habitat loss, dogs, road trauma and bush fires. With increased urbanisation more and more koalas now show signs of clinical Chlamydia. The Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue is a non-profit organisation that has been saving koalas since 2008. Their Facebook page will keep you updated on the plight of our individual local koalas but be warned, their little faces tug heartstrings.
I thank our lucky stars that we have won the six-year battle to restore our independent Noosa Council, so resolute in protecting our natural heritage and our unique Biosphere status, for future generations. This status cements Noosa’s global profile as a very special place to visit as echoed by Friends of Noosa President, Bob Ansett: “We need to preserve this little patch of real estate that is increasingly becoming a rarity in today’s world”.
At Lake Weyba, a koala habitat, Eastern grey kangaroos, bird species, marine life and the Noosa River system are threatened by a high density urban development proposal. But in true Noosa nature-loving fashion, the Friends of Lake Weyba have whipped into existence and opposition. Their Facebook page immerses us in the area’s sheer natural beauty: A mob of kangaroos taking a daily dip in the lake, a koala nestling in a tree, a shoreline gnarly Old Man Paperbark, wildflowers and birds. It offers poetry and photographic competitions, and Gubbi Gubbi tribe history. Pure heart stuff, and 1200 anti-development submissions later, they are feeling hopeful. It’s another patch of paradise worth fighting for.
Another personal passion of mine is the ocean and visiting the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. Environmental pressures on this natural wonder of the world include chemical runoff of fertilisers, pesticides, pollution, climate change, increased temperatures, coral bleaching, overfishing and oil spills. I cannot imagine a trip to the reef islands without toppling over the side of a boat to be immersed in a wonderland of fish and coral. In 2000, a rare Bryde’s whale died near Cairns and when examined, its stomach was compacted with almost six square metres of plastic sheets, bait bags, zip top bags, fertiliser bags, several metres of plastic strips, supermarket bags and frayed rope pieces. Land-based sources (such as agricultural run-off, discharge of nutrients and pesticides and untreated sewage including plastics) account for approximately 80% of marine pollution, globally. Marine habitats worldwide are contaminated with man-made debris. It is said we have enough fishing boats for three planets. In 1900 our oceans contained 6 times more fish than 2009 and about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone.
Carlos Eyles, 72, is an inspiring free diver, ocean photographer and author, intimately connected with the ocean and deeply concerned for it’s future health. “Even if you’re just a little inclined to feel yourself, you’re going to feel it in the ocean…It’s important for people to start finding a way to connect to what’s true. It’s been my salvation, a certain way of understanding my path as a human being. It’s never failed me, it’s been the truest friend I’ve probably had…We’ve been ignorant of the price we’re going to pay, our children are going to pay, our grandchildren are going to pay. And it will be gone forever when it does go. Our lives will be different, they will be changed.”
Free dive with Carlos in this 11-minute video
Go well in 2014, love this Earth madly then show it in your own special way.