Emerging thoughts on tackling climate change

The recent Shell EcoVolunteers Geelong Climate Change Forum run by Conservation Volunteers Australia opened with a message for us all.   David Tournier of the Wathaurong Community welcomed the attendees with the words “I have been involved in land care since birth” – a sobering thought for a group of people meeting to discuss environmental challenges created through a lack of protection for the very land he was referring to.

The forum aimed to articulate important actions to be taken locally in response to the effects of climate change on biodiversity, and gave participants a greater understanding of what others were doing to tackle climate change.

Forum Speakers
EcoVolunteers Geelong Climate Change Forum Speakers

Speakers from various facets of the community described how they were making a difference within their businesses, careers and communities.  Some of the speakers sharing their stories included:

  • Mark Schubert, General Manager of the Shell Refinery: Mark spoke about climate proofing our communities.  This included information on “integrating economic, environmental and social considerations into business decision-making”, and how Shell was tackling the issue on both a local and global stage.  Mark’s presentation can be found here.
  • Patrick O’Callahan, Director of Conservation Enterprises and the Conservation Volunteers Australia Wild Futures Program: Patrick raised the point that it is not necessarily about trying to save the world, but thinking about actions we can initiate right now, so that plans come to life and become ‘living documents’, and spoke about the animals being targeted by the Wild Futures program, including the Australian Flat Back Turtle and the Southern Bell Frog.  Patrick’s presentation can be found here.
  • Assoc. Professor Peter Waterman, Environmental Planner and Associate Professor, Environmental Science at the University of Sunshine Coast: Peter clarified ambiguities surrounding definitions of and phrases relating to climate change, and spoke about ‘climate proofing’ and how to adapt to change. Peter’s presentation can be found here.
  • Katie Gillett, President of the Geelong West Community Garden, Chair of the Geelong Organic Gardeners: Katie spoke about community gardens as a tool for tackling climate change and their ability to improve health, look after our environment, create a sense of community and increase food security.   Katie’s presentation can be found here.
  • Mark Sanders, Managing Director of Third Ecology – Third Ecology is a multi disciplinary firm focusing on sustainability in architecture, construction management and sustainability advice and ratings.  Mark focussed on tackling climate change through architecture and his presentation can be found here.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee’s Website also has information on what the organisation and others are doing to maintain the coast’s health and resilience in light of climate change impacts such as sea level rise and other threats and what you can do to help.

Below is a video clip available from The Committee’s website about climate change along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road Coast and how you can help us to look after the coast by reducing your carbon footprint.

Other topics on the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee site include:

  • A healthier future for our coast
    Why climate change is important and its likely impacts on our beautiful coastal environment.
  • Climate change snapshot
    An overview of potential climate change effects and their impacts on coastal communities.
  • Learn more
    Useful documents and links to more information about climate change and our coast.
  • Make a difference
    Simple things you can do to reduce your own carbon footprint and contribute to reducing climate change impacts on our coast.

Let’s work together to protect coastal biodiversity

The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity this Saturday, 22 May, aims to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues across the globe.

On a more local level, GORCC, local coastal volunteer groups and many others have for some time been working hard to raise awareness of the need for everyone to do their bit to protect and care for our coast’s precious biodiversity.

The coastal environment along the Great Ocean Road includes sandy beaches, dune systems, shore platforms, reefs, estuaries and lowland forests – all of which provide important habitat for many indigenous flora and fauna species.

While much of the coastal vegetation is in excellent condition, ongoing degradation is severely compromising and destroying biodiversity values. Here are 10 major threats to coastal biodiversity.

  • Environmental weeds – several native species are outside their natural range, which is causing damage to our indigenous species. Coast Tea Tree and Coast Wattle are the two main offenders.
  • Other weeds – Pittosporum, Mirror Bush, Agapanthus, African Boneseed, Sweet Hakea, Cotoneaster, Bridal Creeper, African Boxthorn, Cape Ivy and Myrtle-leaf Milkwort. Need we go on? Most of these are common in residential gardens along the coast. Time to replace them with more appropriate indigenous species.
  • Litter – brings nutrients, which encourages weed species, and is harmful to wildlife.
  • Erosion – damages native vegetation and encourages weeds species to colonise.
  • Pest animals – rabbits, foxes, feral cats, noisy miner birds and the like.
  • Access – creation of informal tracks, clearance of vegetation, damage to vegetation, soil disturbance, access to sensitive areas.
  • Climate change – some species will adapt better than others to climate change. Indigenous species may cope worse than pest plants and animals.
  • Fire – some of our landscapes need cool, safe burns to encourage regeneration of indigenous species and remove weed species (which are often fire intolerant). Bushfires, on the other hand, burn fast and hot, which threatens biodiversity.
  • Development – development on or near the coast often involves degradation or removal of native vegetation. Whilst efforts are made to protect, rehabilitate and regenerate areas, the cumulative impacts of development are significant.
  • Dog poo – nutrient-rich dog poo washes off walking tracks into sensitive bushland areas where indigenous species are intolerant to the high nutrient levels.

You can find out more about these and other threats, and the work we are doing with local volunteers and others to protect coastal biodiversity, by downloading our latest webclip Protecting the Great Ocean Road Coast’s biodiversity. Tell us what you think by posting a comment on this blog.

We need to change the climate to help our coast

We love the coast. It looms large in our collective psyche as a place where we live, work and play. As another summer nears the half-way mark, hundreds of thousands of Victorians have already made their way to the coast to enjoy swimming, fishing, surfing, camping and other coastal-related activities. More are expected in the coming weeks before summer draws to an end.

Also looming large is the risk of climate change significantly impacting on our coast. The Victorian Coastal Strategy, released in late 2008, states that we must plan for sea level rises of not less than 0.8 metres by 2100.

At first glance, this may not sound like much or appear to be too far ahead in the future to worry about. However, sea level rises of the magnitude predicted, along with associated storm surges, will impact substantially on beaches and infrastructure along the coast. And we will start to see these impacts sooner rather than later.

Climate change therefore does represent a major risk to all the things we love about our coast – its natural environment, its cultural heritage, a place to enjoy and relax.

While we ponder this, let’s not also forget the coast’s significant economic value.

Coastal industries and tourism contribute more than $2.8 billion each year to the Victorian economy. Visitors to our own Great Ocean Road region – with its spectacular coastline and adjoining hinterland – spend more than $1 billion annually, underpinning not just local and regional economies but also a large chunk of the Victorian and Australian tourism experience.

Consequently, we must recognise that the coast’s value to us – on both an individual and a broader economic level – is contingent on the value of the coast itself. That is, a healthy coast equals healthy communities – and a healthy economy.

There is a high risk that climate change will noticeably diminish the health of our coast. Given this risk and the coast’s importance in our lives, it is essential that new and ongoing investment focuses on protecting the coast.

We need to protect high quality areas of native vegetation, cultural sites and estuaries. We also need to undertake beach protection works, as well as providing car parks, walking tracks, lookouts, signage and other facilities to support our use of the coast.

And importantly, we all need to do our bit to reduce the risk of climate change.

In just the same way as our greenhouse gas emissions are warming the climate and contributing to sea level rise, which in turn threatens the coast, our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help lessen the impacts of climate change and therefore help to protect the coast.

In other words, we all need to become climate changers – for the benefit of our beautiful coast.

Posted by David Clarke, CEO