The Beagle Editor, Your readers might be interested in the Presentation I did to Council's April 12th 2022 Public Forum. Good morning Mayor, Councillors, General Manager, Council staff and members of the public.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak about native forest logging in our region. I am a Surf Beach General Practitioner, a member of Doctors for the Environment and the South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance.
How blessed are we all to be living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth - on Yuin country - the land of the Walbunga people, who have protected and cared for this land for millennia. Where the majestic forests meet the sparkling ocean. But sadly, since colonisation, much change of this land has occurred.
Do you know what Eurobodalla scored for the health of its environment in 2020?
Just 1.6 out of 10 on the ANU Regional Environmental Report Card (1).
Despite this extremely low score, Forestry Corporation NSW were permitted to continue logging operations in our state forests.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change has just confirmed, what we have all witnessed the past two years through fires and floods, that the risks and impacts associated with climate change are appearing faster and more severe than previously predicted.
Climate change is making the need to stop logging our native forest, an urgent issue.
Logging and land clearing are the second major cause of climate change.
We need trees in the ground, to help reduce the release of carbon.
Logging also increases the severity of bushfires when they do occur. And the latest IPCC makes it clear, bushfires like those of 2019/20, will occur more frequently and bushfire seasons will be longer, as the planet heats up due to climate change.
This is significant, as studies have shown that native forest logging increases the severity at which forests burn compared to unlogged and old growth forests - particularly in the first ten years after logging. Logging operations increase the volume of coarse woody debris (much of the tree is left as waste), they open up the forest canopy, cause drying of soils and fuel, and allow stronger wind to affect fires on the forest floor (2).
Logging has been taking place behind the Mogo township for some years now. This tourist township was significantly impacted by the bushfires of 2019/20, with 300 homes being lost in and around that town. One must consider the possibility that the ferociousness of the fires in and around this town, could be related to the past and ongoing logging of the forests in the vicinity directly behind this township.
For indigenous Australians, witnessing this ongoing destruction is unbearable. The connection they have to their land and country is integral to their health and well-being. For many it is profoundly spiritual, and provides a connection to their ancestors, provides a sense of identity and validation, access to medicines, traditional ceremonies and fundamentally provides meaning in life. Twenty five percent of the population in Mogo is Indigenous Australian. The forests within the south coast are deeply important to the Walbunja people of Yuin country. Elder Bunja, who’s home town is Mogo, reminisces as a child that it was not uncommon to find Koalas in the forests of Mogo, or Platypus and Cary in the creeks. He wants us to embrace and protect nature and to finally stop the logging, having witness a lifetime of desecration of his sacred land, so he can die in peace.
Jordan Nye, from Mogo who has been welcoming us to country at countless events and gatherings and sharing his traditional dances with his group states “the desecration that is happening to our beautiful bushland is outrageous. The logging of our forest has changed our environment in a big way. The fire of 2019 was a devastating event but what happened after the fire was more devastating. The amount of cleaning and logging and spraying was sickening. When we damage our bush, we are damaging ourself. When we destroy our animals, we destroying ourselves. If you have sick country, you have sick people.”
We must forge deep and meaningful connections with our indigenous communities, in moving forward on these issues. They need to be respected and heard. We need new ways of integrating forest management, indigenous employment and traditional knowledge. This is an important way we can address social inequities, mental health, and environmental stewardship.
And finally, our forests provide ecosystem services which we all rely on, but are not calculated on an economic scale, but are invaluable to our health and wellbeing (3, 4).
Doctors for the Environment NSW is calling on:
The permanent protection of all intact ecosystems including old growth, remnant and high conservation value forests as well as the sustainable management of plantation forests. Highly biodiverse regions will need greater protection, such as those providing home to threatened species such as the greater glider and swift parrot. Otherwise they too will disappear in our areas, like the koala and platypus. Areas around water catchment also need long-term protection.
South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance is calling council to:
1. That council advocate to the state government to end native forest logging.
2. Recognise that increasing tourism within state forests in our region is a huge economic opportunity.
3. Call on state government to fund a fair and suitable job transition for current forestry worker (we can afford to do this given that the logging operations currently operates at a loss and is propped up by tax payer subsidies).
4. Acknowledge that our forests are a crucial carbon sink – they must be protected to reduce climate pollution. Economic opportunity exists in the carbon market that could be explored.
And lastly I’m, calling on us to work together with our First Nations brothers and sisters, in moving beyond just paying lip service at the beginning of each meeting by acknowledging their country, but including them and working together on these challenges and solutions.
These forests, are an extension of us, of our community, and deserve to be respected. Our forests are vital to our health, our culture, our tourism and our economy. Now is the time for regeneration of our forests, and forging new ways that heal the past and open up the future to new possibilities.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the Lorax…
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Dr Michelle Hamrosi
Below: Koalas need trees too - picture by my daughter Poppy aged 8
The Australian National University Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics, annually provides a Regional Environmental Report Card for each local government area. It summarises a large number of observations on the trajectory of our natural resources and ecosystems. The bushfires of 2019/20 burnt 90% of our shire’s national and state forests. The extent of the bushfires and biomass burnt, along with a massive reduction in tree cover, poor vegetation condition and increase in soil exposure are the main indicators reflecting the current poor score of just 1.6 out of 10.