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Australia’s politicians have betrayed the Great Barrier Reef and only the people can save it

David Ritter comments in The Guardian (10.4.17), arging that ‘the big lie’ propagated by government and big business is that it is possible to turn things around for the Great Barrier Reef without tackling global warming.

‘Once upon a time, in the distant 60s and 70s, the Great Barrier Reef faced imminent destruction. Tenement applications for drilling and mining covered vast swathes of the reef, with both government and industry enthusiastically backing the plans for mass exploitation.

‘In the face of the reef’s impending doom a motley collection of ordinary Australians shared a common determination that something had to be done. But the odds didn’t look good. The poet turned campaigner Judith Wright wrote that “if it had not been for the public backing for protection of the reef that we knew existed, we might have given up hope”.

‘The optimism of the poet was well founded. First in the hundreds, then in the tens of thousands, a people’s movement grew to defend the reef. Everyday Aussies turned activists and campaigners. Scientists and lawyers came forward with vital expertise. At a crucial moment the Queensland Trades and Labour Council approved a total black-ban by all affiliated unions on oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef.

‘… Again, the balance of power seems loaded against us. First the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and now the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have betrayed both the reef and the trust of the Australian people by snivelling across the seas, pledging allegiance to the Carmichael coalmine. All too often, the rest of big business is complicit in the crisis by explicitly or tacitly supporting the coal industry. Financial institutions such as CommBank continue to invest in the fossil fuel projects that are bringing disaster to the reef.

‘But, once we are roused, never underestimate the power and determination of the Australian people to defend our iconic animals and the natural beauty of our lands and seas. The extraordinary success of the Stop Adani Roadshow – which sold out across the eastern Australian capital cities reaching an audience of thousands – is just a glimpse of the popular will to fight the coal industry for the future of our reef.

‘We have the opportunity to write our own story, not of despair but of defiance. If we, the people of Australia, stand determined together against coalmining and the rest of the fossil fuel industry then the future of our reef is not bleak but hopeful.’

Back-to-back bleaching has now hit two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef

Terry Hughes and James Kerry write in The Conversation (12.4.17) that, for the first time, the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by mass bleaching in consecutive years, with only the reef’s southernmost stretches having escaped both events unscathed.

‘Corals on the Great Barrier Reef have bleached again in 2017 as a result of extreme summer temperatures. It’s the fourth such event and the second in as many years, following earlier mass bleachings in 1998, 2002 and 2016.

‘The consecutive bleaching in 2016 and 2017 is concerning for two reasons. First, the 12-month gap between the two events is far too short for any meaningful recovery on reefs that were affected in 2016.

‘Second, last year’s bleaching was most severe in the northern section of the reef, from the Torres Strait to Port Douglas, whereas this year the most intense bleaching has occurred further south, between Cooktown and Townsville. The combined footprint of this unprecedented back-to-back bleaching now stretches along two-thirds of the length of the Great Barrier Reef.’

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