Australians demonstrate against pro-bushfire government


Protesters march in Melbourne, Australia

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australia: Thousands protest government inaction on bushfires and climate change

By our reporters

22 January 2020

On Saturday, several thousands of young people demonstrated in Melbourne, the Victorian state capital, in opposition to the official response to the ongoing bushfire crisis across the country.

The protests reflect the deep hostility and distrust that ordinary workers and youth have for successive Labor and Liberal-National coalition governments who have refused to act to mitigate bushfires or take any action on climate change, which is contributing to the severity of droughts and fire danger.

Like earlier rallies, the events were organised by Uni Students for Climate Justice …

Socialist Alternative’s Cormac Ritchard told the Melbourne rally: “If the Liberal MP who follows Morrison won’t [tackle climate change]—and they won’t—then we’ll sack them as well. And if the Labor Party government that comes in after them won’t do it—and they won’t—then we’ll sack them as well.” …

Kath Larkin

Socialist Alternative’s Kath Larkin—a leading figure in the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU)—also spoke at the Melbourne rally. Larkin denounced the “so-called Labor opposition,” as well as the Morrison government

She singled out the United Workers’ Union … and the RTBU for their statements of support for the protest. …

In Melbourne, Socialist Equality Party (SEP) campaigners and World Socialist Web Site reporters found a warm response from workers and youth at the rally for a revolutionary, internationalist and socialist program.

Josh

Speaking with WSWS reporters, musician Josh said: “The government isn’t doing anything about the fires. ScoMo went to Hawaii and left us to burn. There wasn’t enough done to reduce the impacts of it. And they saw it coming for a long time and did nothing.” …

Jennifer (right)

Jennifer works in philanthropy and attended the rally with Mark, and daughter Rose. She said, “The government is not doing nearly enough. They’ve got a ridiculous position about climate change, complete denial, in bed with the coal industry. We vote against it whenever we can but it’s clearly not enough. So we want to keep sending a signal that we’re unhappy.”

Angie (left)

Victoria University nursing student Angie told the WSWS: “The fires are happening and the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all. You can only do so much raising money on social media. Climate change is real and it is going to have a terrible impact on future generations. It all comes down to money and how much they can make. But what is the point of improving economically if there isn’t going to be anywhere to live?”

Marcus (right)

Marcus noted that “the fires are definitely climate change-induced, I think we have to stand up to the government and actually demand that they do something. I think the response is focussing on emergency and disaster planning. I see that as a Band-Aid effect. I think you have to get to the root cause, and the root cause is climate change.”

Jessica

High-school student Jessica, originally from New Zealand, said she thinks “climate change is the biggest issue we are facing. I think there is too much greed, and profit is prevalent. Once there is money and power—there’s too much. I think that climate change is not unconnected. Everything that happens has to take into account climate change. Social justice has to be tackled.”

Matt, from the outer-eastern Melbourne suburb of Boronia, told WSWS reporters: “The situation is getting worse. I don’t think politicians want to hear about this. In Australia we have a Prime Minister who brought in a lump of coal into the parliament. I vote Labor but I don’t think any of the parties have made climate change a priority. Even the Greens and independents do deals that do not assist this cause.”

Matt (centre)

Translator from Britain, Maddy, said: “I’m interested in the issue of climate change. I’ve read about it and it’s scary. I’ve come to realise that it’s an unavoidable symptom of the capitalist system which is based on exploitation and maximising profits, as if there are no consequences.

Maddy (right)

“It’s going to take a huge movement of people to change this. Political leaders are trying to appease business. I think that Scott Morrison is corrupt and the ALP still supports coal despite everything that has happened. In the UK the ruling party doesn’t take any actions on climate change.”

She added: “The way it is framed is that ordinary people have to keep making changes, but even if we recycled everything it wouldn’t stop climate change. This has to come from government policy.”

AIR TANKER FIGHTING AUSSIE WILDFIRES CRASHES, KILLING 3 U.S. FIREFIGHTERS Authorities have confirmed three U.S.-born crew members have died after an air tanker crashed in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales while fighting bushfires. “Our hearts are with all those that are suffering what is the loss of three remarkable, well-respected crew,” said fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. [HuffPost]

Australian workers to pay as bushfire disaster intensifies slump: here.

Bushfire smoke pollutes Australian Open tennis


This 14 January 2020 video says about itself:

Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupović has been forced to retire during her qualifying match at the Australian Open after suffering from severe coughing fits. The poor air quality in Melbourne already delayed the start of the qualifying rounds as smoke from surrounding bushfires smothered the city. Jakupović claimed the first set 6-4 against Swiss player Stefanie Vögele and looked likely to secure the second but collapsed on court before retiring,

Dutch NOS radio reports that Ms Jakupović cried as she had to give up because of the global warming bushfires. Many other players also complained about the foul air.

GERMAN engineering giant Siemens said today that it would continue infrastructure work on a coal mine in Australia despite protests from climate change activists: here.

Australians missing in wildfire disasters


This 2 January 2020 video says about itself:

Australia: 17 missing after wildfires

At least 17 people were missing in the Australian state of Victoria as mass evacuations began in the bushfire-ravaged region.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the number of unaccounted people in the state during a news conference on Thursday.

“I don’t propose to go through the 17 different locations. I don’t think that serves any purpose. They are from East Gippsland from a number of smaller communities across East Gippsland. That number may grow or indeed people may report to authorities or we can get to them either via mobile phone coverage or getting people into those communities. It may be that some of those people are safe, but we do hold very significant fears for the welfare of anybody who is missing at this time,” said Daniel Andrews, Victorian Premier.

He added that the missing people were “from a number of smaller communities across East Gippsland.”

Andrews’ announcement was made after thousands of tourists in a 250-kilometre (155 miles) stretch from Victoria’s East Gippsland to the New South Wales South coast were ordered to leave the region within a 24-hour period.

The order was given amid a brief reprieve from hot weather conditions in the area, aiding firefighting and allowing people to replenish dwindling supplies.

Military ships and aircraft also started evacuating trapped residents who had fled to the shoreline as bushfires approached their towns in recent days.

Fire conditions were expected to deteriorate on Saturday as high temperatures and strong winds return.

At least 18 people have died, more than 1,300 homes have been destroyed and about five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land has burned nationwide from the wildfires since September.

A new study shows that air pollutants from the smoke of fires from as far as Canada and the southeastern US traveled hundreds of miles and several days to reach Connecticut and New York City, where it caused significant increases in pollution concentrations: here.

Saving helmeted honeyeaters in Australia


This 5 June 2015 video from Australia says about itself:

Meet the Helmeted Honeyeater

Get to know the story of a little helmeted Victorian and the dedicated people who are helping to bring it back from the brink of extinction.

From Monash University in Australia:

Repairing harmful effects of inbreeding could save the iconic Helmeted Honeyeater

Research reveals just how much damage is done by inbreeding in the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater

August 1, 2019

Summary: A new study combines over 30 years of demanding fieldwork and advanced genetics to quantify how much harm is done by inbreeding in the last wild population of the helmeted honeyeater, and identifies ways forward.

Habitat destruction results in wildlife populations that are small, made up of relatives, and have low genetic variation.

Breeding between relatives (inbreeding) has harmful effects called ‘inbreeding depression’, often experienced as a shortened life, a poor breeder, or even death.

Not surprisingly then, most animals avoid breeding with their relatives. But when populations become too small, it becomes impossible to find a mate who is not some kind of relation.

Research published today in Current Biology by a collaborative research team led by Monash University reveals just how much damage is done by inbreeding in the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater.

Professor Paul Sunnucks from Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the study said the findings have wide-ranging implications for wildlife management.

“Our study combines over 30 years of demanding fieldwork and advanced genetics to quantify how much harm is done by inbreeding in the last wild population of the Helmeted Honeyeater, and identifies ways forward,” Professor Sunnucks said.

The Monash-led study involved collaboration with Zoos Victoria, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), and other conservation partners, with funding from the Australian Research Council. The Helmeted Honeyeater, named for its ‘helmet’ of head feathers, is a much-loved State emblem found only in a small region of the State of Victoria.

Since European settlement of Australia, a staggering 99% of the floodplain forest essential for Helmeted Honeyeaters has been converted to agricultural land and towns. Consequently, only 50 wild Helmeted Honeyeaters remained by 1989. Thanks to conservation actions including captive breeding at Healesville Sanctuary and habitat restoration, there are now about 230 free-living Helmeted Honeyeaters, living precariously in a single location, Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.

The Helmeted Honeyeater would now very likely be extinct if not for those 30 years of conservation actions involving DELWP, Zoos Victoria, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water, and hundreds of passionate volunteers centred on the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater.

“Most Helmeted Honeyeaters over that time have been given coloured leg-bands so that their success in life and love can be followed,” said DELWP Senior Ornithologist Bruce Quin, who led the monitoring.

The result is a detailed account of how long each of the birds lived and how many offspring they had in their lifetimes. Combining this information on breeding success with advanced genetic analysis, the research team could quantify the profound damage caused to Helmeted Honeyeaters by inbreeding: the most inbred birds produced only one-tenth as many young as the least inbred.

“Clearly, inbreeding depression is likely to impact the population’s chances of survival,” said the paper’s first author Dr Katherine Harrisson, a Monash PhD graduate now at La Trobe University, and the Arthur Rylah Institute (DELWP).

While inbreeding depression is a big problem, it can be reduced by bringing in ‘new blood’ from a closely-related population. Such ‘gene pool mixing’ is an emerging approach to help threatened species. But the wild population of Helmeted Honeyeater is the last of its kind, so where can new genes come from?

Helmeted Honeyeaters are the most distinctive subspecies of the widespread Yellow-tufted honeyeater. In careful trials of gene pool mixing, Zoos Victoria has cross-bred Helmeted Honeyeaters with members of the most similar other subspecies. “Mixing the two subspecies in captivity is going very well, with no signs of genetic or other problems,” said Dr Michael Magrath, a Senior Research Manager from Zoos Victoria. “We have plans to release the first out-crossed birds into the wild population at Yellingbo soon,” he said.

Professor Sunnucks said that all being well, gene pool mixing could help overcome the burden of inbreeding depression and bolster an enduring recovery of the Helmeted Honeyeater.

Young Australians against climate change


Students at the anti-climate change rally in Geelong, Australia

From the World Socialist Web Site in Victoria state in Australia:

Australia: Youth speak out against environmental destruction, poverty and war

By our reporters

24 November 2018

Dozens of young people joined a demonstration yesterday in Geelong—50 kilometres southwest of Melbourne—to voice their concern over climate change and the destruction of the global environment.

The protest was one of the school walk-outs to be held across Australia toward the end of the month. Thousands of youth have promoted the events on social media, pointing to a growing political radicalisation.

Students gathered outside the office of the local federal member of parliament, Richard Marles, an Australian Labor Party shadow minister, along with parents and others concerned about climate change. Many students were from Kardinia International College—a private school.

A section of the rally

At the rally, students spoke about their concerns over climate change, poverty and social conditions, particularly for youth.

Jude speaking at the walk-out

Jude, one of the protest’s year 11 organisers, spoke of the importance of “seeing dedicated kids out, speaking about their future and starting to make a change, because change starts with us.” He continued: “It won’t start with politicians or those who have power. It has to be a ground-up process.” He added: “There are others all around the world who are rallying together to make a change for their future.”

Jude noted that “in our lives, we have more access to technology than ever, more access to climate data, more access to politics and the events that are occurring, and this will dictate the future of the planet.”

In concluding his speech, he said: “We are tired of the inaction. The decisions made today will affect our planet tomorrow. Whilst these movements have fallen on deaf ears in the past, that cannot happen any longer. This is a problem that cannot be ignored.”

Dom

A number of students delivered impromptu speeches. Dom, another year 11 student, said “climate change affects us all, young and old.”

One student said: “I, like a lot of young people, thought there was nothing I could really do about climate change. I’m 15, so I thought I really had no power. But then, when I read the UN climate report which shows that, by 2030, there will be an increase in natural disasters and poverty, I really felt like I have to do something.”

She continued: “The reason why we are all out here is to ask our politicians to represent us, because clearly, on this issue, we are not being represented.”

Evrim Yazgin, the president of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) club at the University of Melbourne, was invited to speak. Yazgin began: “The IYSSE welcomes the widest participation by youth and students in the demonstrations on climate change and we are here in solidarity with you today.”

Evrim Yazgin addressing the rally

Yazgin said: “Young people today face a future of environmental destruction, unending war, growing social inequality and attacks on democratic rights. The official political establishment has nothing to offer young people. All the major parties—Labor, Liberals, … —represent the interests of a tiny, wealthy minority.”

Yazgin emphasised: “The critical question is: What political perspective will halt and reverse environmental destruction, the drive to war, growing poverty and authoritarianism?” The root cause of all these social problems was the global capitalist system. Therefore, “the political perspective that is required to provide youth with a future free from war, inequality, authoritarianism and environmental catastrophe must be anti-capitalist and socialist.”

The IYSSE speaker explained that “under socialism, wealth distribution will be based on need, not profit. The rational reorganisation of society along socialist lines will mean resources being poured into education, healthcare, the environment, and other social programs, not war, censorship, or the accumulation of wealth by a tiny minority.”

Yazgin called on those present to join the building of an “international revolutionary socialist movement opposed to war, inequality, censorship and environmental destruction.” He urged everyone to read the World Socialist Web Site and attend the upcoming public lectures being held by the IYSSE and the Socialist Equality Party.

After the speeches, students and parents spoke with WSWS reporters.

Mick and his son

Mick, who attended the rally with his 13-year-old son, said: “It’s great to see that these kids are linking up to a global conversation. It’s pathetic what’s going on at the moment with politics. Politicians don’t have a plan for the environment. They aren’t even talking about the environment.”

Saskia, who attended the protest with a group of friends from her school, said: “Politicians are too focused on what’s happening right now, not what will happen to future generations.”

One of the rally’s student organisers, Laura Kelly, said: “I think it’s important that all these youth are coming around. You see 30 kids around here, all different ages, and we are fighting for our future—not just our future but the future generations that will be after us. We’re not able to vote but I think it’s really important that we’re putting our voice out there.”

Laura Kelly

Laura continued: “This youth movement is just getting started, so we haven’t properly seen the actual effect that it has. But I think the powerful thing is that we are the majority. We’ve got all the facts, we know that we’re heading in the wrong direction, and I think it’s important that all of us can see that and that were all doing something about it. I’m so excited that there are so many young kids around. There are a heap of us year 11, but there’s also a variety of different ages, which is really touching.”

Speaking on socialism, Laura said: “I actually study global politics at school, and we look at different theories on power, and the socialist power is really interesting because it’s such a humanitarian and ideal approach to life. The benefits that are described in theory seem so ideal and I think that’s really powerful. People have the same levels of power, money and equality. That’s really cool.”

Peter

Peter, Laura’s father, commented: “Hearing all the young people speak over the course of the last 15 or 20 minutes, I feel really humbled that we’ve got all these fantastic young people really thinking about this issue and putting forward a lot of thought and ideas, and aspirations. They want to live a better future, and a lot of that is driven by the conditions around us, including our environment, which is just so critical in terms of our health and wellbeing and the way we live together.”

Peter added: “The political structures we’ve had up to this stage haven’t done a fantastic job, in terms of really looking after the world more generally. We need to restructure our political frameworks and ideology to bring it to the fore. I think they [the students] are on the right track. The older generation, we can’t just sit back and expect them to do it—we’ve got to support them as well.”

At the end of the rally, a number of students were invited to meet Marles in his office. However, as a capitalist politician, he has no intention or perspective to act to stem climate change at the expense of big business.

As the IYSSE wrote in a statement published on the WSWS this week: “The starting point is to recognise that the fundamental problem is the capitalist profit system and the division of the planet into competing national-states. Capitalism prevents any rational, global plan being implemented to carry out the necessary drastic and rapid reduction in carbon emissions, while protecting the living standards of the world’s population.”

The latest report from the US Global Change Research Program confirms the danger posed by climate change and the inability of capitalist governments to address it: here.

REPUBLICANS SHRUG OFF CLIMATE REPORT GOP senators retreated to well-trod talking points when pressed about an alarming federal report detailing the impact of unchecked greenhouse emissions on American livelihoods, agriculture, the economy and the environment. The Trump administration tried to minimize the findings by releasing the report the day after Thanksgiving. [HuffPost]

Endangered birds in Victoria, Australia


This 2012 video from Victoria in Australia is about mallee emu-wrens.

This video says about itself:

In September 2014, I had the excitement of finding a population of at least 3-4 Mallee Emu-wren, an endangered species, at Wyperfeld National Park in northwest Victoria, Australia. My video here is hand-held and rough but, along with the pictures I got, I hope it shows you that these tiny vulnerable birds are present at this location.

From BirdLife:

14 Sep 2017

Irreplaceable – Murray-Sunset, Hattah & Annuello, Australia

In our ‘Irreplaceable’ series, we cast a light on the globally-significant bird habitats that are in danger of disappearing forever.

By Alex Dale

Stretching across three national parks and covering 7,004 km2 of semi-arid shrubland in North-Western Victoria, this area is one of the last refuges for a number of endangered bird species dependent on its unique mallee habitat for survival.

Mallee is a term used to describe species of eucalypt plant that have adapted to survive in hot, dry areas prone to bushfires. They boast a swollen root crown laced with buds. When the plant is destroyed by fire, the dormant buds allow it to grow back in multi-stemmed form. After 15-20 years of unburnt growth, they offer the perfect environment to deliver sanctuary and shelter to several specialist species.

These include Malleefowl Leipoa ocellata, a chicken-sized megapode once widespread across Australia, but now restricted to scattered locations across southern Australia. Other resident species are scarcer still. A small colony of 20-40 breeding pairs of Black-eared Miner Manorina melanotis in Murray-Sunset National Park is considered one of only two populations deemed pure enough to be worth conserving, due to frequent interbreeding with Yellow-throated Miner Manorina flavigula. Also restricted to a handful of populations in Victoria, Mallee Emuwren Stipiturus mallee is more numerous within this Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA), with an estimated 200 breeding pairs, but its numbers are plummeting fast.

For all these species, the biggest threat to their future is destruction of mallee habitat from further fires, both unplanned and planned. Victoria’s government currently adopts a policy of planned burning of 5% of public land ever year, an initiative intended to minimise the risk of human life from bushfires. However, since species such as Mallee Emuwren are poor flyers, these firebreaks further isolate their populations, as they’re unable to travel over the burnt heath.

Modelling indicates that due to the time it takes for the mallee vegetation to grow back, this policy will render this IBA uninhabitable for these species within 20 years. BirdLife Australia is calling on the Victorian government to ensure the needs of threatened species are incorporated into their fire management planning, drawing up the Threatened Malee Birds Conservation Action Plan which also advocates strategic revegetation programs to combat habitat fragmentation, and re-establishing populations in areas within the reserve which now have suitable habitat. Without these measures, these species could be just one blaze away from disaster.

Snake in Australian Christmas tree


Snake in Christmas tree, photo by Snakecatcher Victoria

From the BBC today:

Australian woman finds snake curled up in Christmas tree

A woman has discovered a 1m-long venomous snake wrapped around her Christmas tree in Australia.

The woman called for help to remove the tiger snake from her suburban home in Melbourne, Victoria, on Sunday.

Snake catcher Barry Goldsmith said the reptile entered through an open door before curling up among the decorations.

Tiger snakes, found along Australia’s coast, are highly venomous.

Mr Goldsmith said the woman “reacted quite well” after making the discovery.

“She left the room, put a towel down as a door jam and came and rang me,” he told the BBC.

The snake was released back into the wild. The species is protected in most Australian states.

Mr Goldsmith said he was used to finding snakes in unusual places.

“I’ve found them in ugg boots, washing machines, dog kennels, cat boxes, toilets, kitchen cupboards and bookcases,” he said.

See also here.