The draft report of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act audit has been released and is open for public comment until August 17th.
Yesterday’s press conference (not televised because the PM was conveniently speaking at the same time….) was the therapy session I didn’t know I needed. It was a relief to hear Prof Samuel say the EPBC Act is ‘ineffective’ and ‘insufficient’, it does not address current or future environmental challenges, it doesn’t value indigenous heritage and needs an independent regulator. He said databases are incomplete, inaccessible and outdated. He said the government has simply stopped listing major environmental threats, that available habitat needs to grow and restoration is required. He didn’t stop there either. FIND THE REPORT SUMMARY HERE
It was then very disheartening, but sadly unsurprising to hear the environment minister Sussan Ley spinning this into an opportunity to streamline development applications. There will be no independent regulator. All suggestions on leveraging the carbon market to benefit biodiversity were dismissed. The government will meeting with indigenous leaders and develop new environmental standards but will also transfer more powers to the states (because clearly threatened species recognise state borders). You have to look at anything this government does that seemingly benefits the environment and ask ‘what’s in it for them?’.
Minister Ley announced that the government plans to push these changes through in August before the final audit report is released in October. We’ve waiting 20 years for this and suddenly the government is in a rush to push a very specific selection of reforms?
Parliament in Australia is still not sitting because of COVID19 and hasn’t worked out how to sit online yet. So the next time they meet, scheduled for August, they will rush through these changes to the EPBC Act? In seemingly unrelated news - to restart the economy post COVID19 (which they still insist is a thing, like it’s going to magically vanish one day) the government has released a ‘JobTrainer’ package. To push people into priority industries, such as mining and construction. Now who do you think would benefit from streamlined development applications and no independent regulator? Certainly not the environment.
If you like to listen to podcasts this is a good one talking on the EPBC Act review but also the recent controversy with Vic Forests and generally explaining environmental protections in Australia.
Finally if you have made it this far - please check out the report and submit comments before August 17th 2020.
While we paid all the optional offsets on travel we also wanted to plant some trees to complete our offsets.
The question of carbon storage depends on the type of tree you plant, how long it lives and a million other factors 🤨 but generally what I found is that one tree can absorb around 22kg of carbon a year or 1 tonne in a lifetime (calculated at 40 years - the relationship isn't quite linear). People recommend that you plant approximately 5 trees for every one you hope will live for 40 years. However I wanted to offset my carbon asap. So I made an educated guess and decided I would be happy if I could plant 24 trees.
Luckily my lovely friend and colleague Fiona Hume has a farm and is very pro-active with revegetation. With a lot of people travelling for conferences it wasn't hard to find a few willing volunteers to some along and help.
It's a whole year later and I am finally getting round to finishing this blog! 🙈
So briefly - We had an amazing stop over in Alice Springs with the wonderful Al Stewart! Ran into a couple of old friends from undergraduate in Sydney (small world!). A break to stretch our legs and sleep in a proper bed for a night was well worth it. Coincidentally we were also in town for the 2019 Alice Springs Beanie Festival! Thoroughly recommend!
The second half of the bus trip was actually easier than the first. We had a very strange middle of the night stop when we had to get off the bus for a while at a service station. I think Clare managed to work quite well on the bus but I wasn't expecting to. I work well on trains but I find buses and planes more difficult. Mostly because there is less space and in this case I couldn't charge my laptop. I did get some work done (and listened to the whole series of 'My dad wrote a porno' podcasts (hilarious!)).
We arrived in Darwin mid-afternoon and had a full day to catch up with friends before the conference. Not only did we save a ton of carbon we also had a great adventure.
Hobart – Melbourne – Adelaide - Alice Springs
After weighing up my time vs carbon I had decided to fly via Melbourne rather than direct because direct flights don’t operate everyday and would have meant two extra nights in Adelaide. However this came back to bite me when arriving at Hobart airport I found that a delayed flight meant missing my Adelaide connection and instead of having 2.5 hours to get from the airport to bus stop I would now have <0.5 hrs.
I most other places I wouldn’t have even considered trying but Adelaide airport is a mere 15mins from the bus (in the centre of town), Clare was at the bus station trying to convince them to wait for me and Virgin put a priority label on my bag.
To save you all the anxiety, drama and bemusement (in the form of a very confused taxi driver) – I made it! I was 10mins late and I am ridiculously grateful to Clare and the bus driver!
We are now just 2 hours from Alice Springs and have survived our first night on the bus. I surprised myself by sleeping ok, not great or even well but ok. I did wake up quite cold and found bodies in the isle next to me buy got to sleep again relatively quickly so today I am feeling quite good!
We forgot about the bus!
We also realised that although two people driving a campervan from Brisbane to Darwin is more carbon efficient than flying the same route, the net carbon emissions are more or less the same as flying the whole way via Adelaide or Melbourne. Which just doesn’t sit well with the purpose of this trip: whatever the route – our carbon emissions must be < than flying. As there are such big differences between where we fly though, it makes sense to use the lowest level which is Hobart – Melbourne or Adelaide – Darwin and 1060kg for two people.
We also didn’t hear back from the hire car company about the possible Brisbane rental….
The bus from Adelaide to Darwin is just 80kg each!
It’s also a 48hour trip including a 5hour break in Alice Springs and a few short meal breaks. Essentially that’s 40 hours on a bus, no bed.... I don’t know about you, but I’ve never spent more than about 6 hours on a bus and that was enough. I really don’t think you are supposed to do it all in one go so maybe we'll have a stopover in Alice Springs.
We briefly entertained the idea of taking the bus to Alice and then a campervan to Darwin (we even booked a van!). It would make the whole trip much more bearable. But it would also add 320kg carbon to our trip. I’ve had to adjust my calculations slightly as we first talked about driving a car but campervans are heavier, less aerodynamic and therefore burn more fuel.
So, for the moment we have booked a bus from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Where between us we have discovered we know a larger than expected* number of fabulous people. Some of whom are also traveling to the conference by various means. For now we’ll leave off booking the last leg of the trip and making the final carbon calculations. We’re not worried that the bus will book out just yet.
To get to Adelaide we are taking different routes. Clare will be traveling to Canberra first and then to Adelaide. While I will fly Hobart to Adelaide. Unfortunately to get to the bus before it leaves I’ll be flying via Melbourne (the direct flight gets in 2hrs after the bus departs). This adds an extra 20kg to my carbon bill (total 180kg). Anyone know how that works, I thought the difference would be bigger? Maybe because the plane doesn't go as high as it's a short trip?
Things I have learnt so far
*the number is unexpected not the fact that they are fabulous 😉
Disaster! The hire company have decided that they don’t need that van moved anymore! :/ But they may have another one available from Brisbane! The email came through at 4pm on a Friday, we said yes please and thank you straight away but we didn’t get a response before 5pm so I guess we’ll have to wait till after the weekend to find out if it’s confirmed. We don’t even know if it’s two or four seats so we cannot reach out to any potential Brisbane travellers yet either.
We are purposely keeping the time short and getting from A to B as quick as possible. This is not a sightseeing trip, we are both time poor. It is a carbon saving mission. So we will share driving and work in the car – it’s end of financial year so everyone has loads of reports due right? But we will need breaks, we are biologists on our way to a bird conference and road trips are supposed to be fun right! So I am putting together a list of must see sights and a small list of target birds/birding locations (+ a longer list of hopefuls). #BirdNerdRoadie
P.S. My husband has since pointed out that a roadie, as well as being a crew member for a band is also Australian slang for a an alcoholic beverage that you take in the car to consume while driving. Needless to say we won’t be following this definition!