Melbourne Groups Rally for all Life and Habitat
By Extinction Rebellion Australia, on 11 December 2021
Led by a giant burning, animated koala, an alliance of community groups marched slowly through central Melbourne.
The koala represented the terror our animals are facing in the climate and ecological emergency. The rally highlighted the Victorian State Government’s report Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline, that had been recently released but raised barely a ripple in the commercial media, despite its devastating findings.
The community groups alliance is demanding a proportionate response to the biodiversity crisis, including legal and policy reform, and a substantial increase in funding for threatened species recovery work. The groups are calling for an immediate end to native forest logging, which would remove one of the key drivers of species decline in Victoria, and preserve the best form of carbon storage we have.
The rally and march began at Melbourne Museum forecourt with an acknowledgement of Country, and short speeches from forest campaigner Alana Mountain and koala campaigner from Friends of the Earth Michelle Baxter. Musicians, drummers, gongs and ‘Sybil Disobedients’ in costume accompanied the march.
Alana Mountain, spokesperson for the rally, said:
“Our future depends on our precious ecosystems teeming with irreplaceable life. We cannot continue to ignore the severity of the situation we find ourselves in. Our so-called leaders are failing us. It is now everyday people who are leading the way and those in power must listen.
“Approximately three billion animals were killed or displaced in the bushfires of 2019/2020, and many more lost their habitat. Nearly two thousand species are now on the threatened species list in Victoria, up from 690. The threats are many but include logging, land clearing, invasive species, and a dangerously warming climate.
“Victoria’s biodiversity provides the critical foundation of healthy ecosystems, on which Victorians rely for survival, and yet it is in a state of accelerating collapse. Healthy ecosystems are not just ‘pretty’ or 'nice to have'. They are vital for sustaining all life on this planet and we need urgent and strong protective actions, now before we trigger irreversible tipping points.
“The response of the Victorian Government to this crisis is too little and will be too late. They have announced native logging will be ‘phased out’ by 2030, but widespread logging of critical habitat of threatened species continues throughout Victoria, accelerating ecosystem decline and climate collapse. There is a plan to ‘transition’ VicForests to a timber plantation company. But we need to stop cutting down trees and start restoring our precious forest habitats, and it needs to start today. We have alternatives for paper and building materials. We do not have alternatives for our unique native forests. We have alternative ways to provide jobs in regional areas. We do not have an alternative planet.”
The role of VicForests - Something is very, very wrong.
Victoria is already the most cleared state in Australia. VicForests, the state-owned logging agency, operates lawlessly, paying little heed to the laws supposed to protect Victoria’s native forests, water catchments and threatened wildlife. Despite numerous breaches, investigations and legal challenges, VicForests continues to operate at a massive financial loss of public funds. Not only this but vast quantities of deforested timber are wasted, burned or end up buried in landfill.
VicForests’ actions have been criticised by Auditors-General, Federal and Supreme Court Justices and review after review. Bunnings Hardware cut all ties with VicForests over their illegal logging activities. Over the last week the ABC has exposed widespread illegal logging in Melbourne’s water catchments, as well as the systemic and widespread failure to regrow forests after logging, making a mockery of the VicForests claim “we grow it back”.
None of this makes any sense from the perspective of a ‘public good’ which should be the measure of expenditure of public funds. If the government wanted to spend $18 million per year in grants to support a handful of regional jobs, they could put people to work replanting and maintaining our precious native forests for a massive financial and environmental reward. But this is not happening, despite all of the above.