When I was a child in Queensland in the 1960s we learned early that we had one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef, on our doorstep.
I was too young then to remember firsthand the environmental campaign of that era to save the reef from the threat of oil drilling, but that ranks as one of the great early conservation wins in Australia.
Many Queenslanders and many other Australians who grew up in those times will have memories of family holidays somewhere on the thousands of kilometres of coastline facing the reef.
In those times there were many healthy inshore reefs, as well as the vast series of outer reefs that are know collectively as the Great Barrier Reef, and it seemed like there were more beautifully-coloured fish than could ever be caught.
The threat of oil drilling aside, the best-known reef peril in the 1960s and 1970s was the dreaded Crown of Thorns starfish, which could appear without warning in plague proportions. There was a time we thought they might devour and destroy the whole reef.
Looking back I know those were halcyon times indeed. So much of the extraordinary natural value of the Queensland offshore environment has been lost to us now.
Too many people and trawlers catching too many fish, too much nutrient-laden run-off from cane farms and grazing properties polluting the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, devastating loss of key species like marine turtles through human impacts, more and more shipping, and more recently the profound threat of climate change with more extreme heat events causing coral bleaching, more storm damage and the looming disaster of ocean acidification.
Now we see a massive new generation of physical threats to the reef from the industrialisation of the Queensland coastline and dredging for more and more port facilities to export fossil fuels, coal and gas, which in turn cause more climate change risk for the reef when they are burned.
Is this some madness that has come upon us? How could we let our precious Great Barrier Reef, which attracts so much tourism to Queensland and Australia, and which lives in the soul of our nation, be destroyed in this way?
How can we stand by as the likelihood grows that this natural wonder of the world will be listed as World Heritage in Danger?
Last year, in the build-up to the September national elections, 1 Million Women asked our members to show their support or otherwise for our own list of ‘7 No If’s No Buts Election Policies’, and the most supported of all was to save the Great Barrier Reef whatever else, no excuses.
I know now that the reef is an irreplaceable treasure, not only for all Australians but for everyone around the world. If we lose it, what can’t we lose?
It fills me with sadness to even contemplate the idea that my children already can’t see the coral wonderland that I saw as a child, and that their children may not see it at all.
Please email directly to the Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the Prime Minister (also the self appointed Minister for Women) and help all those who are campaigning to save the reef. There’s no time to waste and we have to be more united and determined than ever.
JOIN 1 MILLION WOMEN! Our fight for climate action is also a fight to save the reef. Join us in taking practical action on dangerous climate change through the way that we live, the choices we make and the way we spend our money.
What can I do?
- Email the Prime Minister of Australia and join us in urgently calling on him to halt developments that are threatening the Great Barrier Reef – send email here.
- Email the Environment Minister and call on him to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is protected from all development threats – send email here.