11 September 2019

Burning Amazon inspires need for deeper local climate discussion

| Elise Searson
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Brazil Nut Trees are sensitive to deforestation, and only seem to produce fruit in undisturbed forest. They depend on agoutis for seed dispersal, bees for pollination and other plants in the rainforest for their continued survival. If these other species disappear, so will the Brazil Nut Tree. Photo: Elise Searson

Imagine a fire wiping out the whole of the Eurobodalla, that’s how much of the Amazon is burning.

Take a deep breath in…a long one out. Thanks to the Amazon, 20% of that breath was produced by oxygen created from a rainforest the size of 95 Bega Valleys.

Brazil’s right-wing populist government is being blamed for nearly 40,000 fires turning parts of the ‘lungs of the earth’ into an apocalyptic landscape.

This man-made disaster increased by 85% in 2019 after President Jair Bolsonaro encouraged loggers and farmers to clear land for economic activity.

Esteban Rivera cutting open a Brazil Nut pod in the Amazon. Photo: Elise Searson

I remember sitting in my year three class at Batemans Bay Primary School daydreaming about the wonders of the Amazon while being taught the significance of the world’s biggest rainforest.

This lesson on the environment inspired me to put the Amazon on my bucket list.

Sap dripping off a tree in the Amazon. Photo: Elise Searson

During my second year into a Bachelor of Photography, I landed in Peru as part of an international collaboration course where I got to finally tick ‘go to the Amazon’ off my list of dreams.

Hopefully, for our children, the Amazon remains in reach for decades to come.

Amazon Basin, Peru. Photo: Elise Searson

A little closer to home, a motion pointing to a ‘climate emergency’ was shot down at Eurobodalla Shire Council. Cr Rob Pollack said, “I don’t accept that the imperative of time is relevant.”

While 33 of the nation’s local councils, including Melbourne City and Bega Valley have called for urgent climate action, Eurobodalla Shire Council isn’t one of them.

To be fair, with regard to climate change, Mayor Liz Innes says, “our council has been leading the way in this space as far as the work we have been doing in this regard.”

Council has made inroads on the issue, a recent media release stated, “A plan of 69 practical steps sees Eurobodalla exceeding its greenhouse gas emission targets for local government operations.”

“While climate change dominates the news globally and locally, Eurobodalla Council’s sustainability coordinator Mark Shorter said the 2017-21 Emissions Reduction Plan had already saved more than 21,000 tonnes of CO2 and more than $1 million.”

Yet Council’s recently approved Rural Lands Strategy has many concerned it will lead to more land clearing and environmental impact in the name of economic development.

Time will tell, councillors and council staff will be accountable to the future.

With sadness, I hope the smoke and flames of the Amazon inferno forces people to stop and consider the benefit our own local forests provide – beyond short term dollars and cents.

I am glad I got to see the Amazon, I hope my little boy does too.

Rainforest canopy in the Amazon. Photo: Elise Searson

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