Unlike previous campaigns, today’s interest in the Great Barrier Reef is stuck in neutral Rohan Lloyd

apart of the cover First budget for workersABC provided analysis of the nation Winners and losers. In it, the Great Barrier Reef was listed as “neutral”. The Reefs have not received any additional funding beyond commitments made by the Labor Party during the election campaign.

It is remarkable that the ecosystem – more than a place for man – can be included alongside such major economic and social concerns as Families, the Pacific Ocean, NBN and ABC itself. It’s a testament to the reef’s importance to our national identity, but also how dire things have become for that environment in the past four decades.

The state of coral reefs is a major concern. Almost annually, UNESCO approaches our governments to “do better” to avoid listing coral reefs as “at risk”. Coral reefs are globally threatened, but globally coral reefs are in decline the great Barrier Reef Of particular concern given its micromanagement.

Of course, coral reefs have faced dangers before. The well-known story of coral reefs’ past is Save the Coral Reefs Campaign 1967-1975. That campaign was sparked in response to proposals from the Ellison Reef mines (near Mission Beach) for lime and the wider Great Barrier Reef oil development. It included grassroots campaigning, cases of constitutional law, a ban on black unionization, a royal commission, the creation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and ultimately the protection of coral reefs from oil and mineral exploitation.

in a my researchI own argue that this campaign was remembered as a “David and Goliath” battle because describing it as such makes it a source of hope for contemporary activists, but also because it aligns with our public memory of the anti-environmental, anti-intellectual Bilke-Petersen government.

However, while I accept that the activists felt like they were fighting an unwinnable battle, the historical archives, including those of conservationists at the time, show that they enjoyed significant support from parts of Australian mediathe trade union movement, the Commonwealth Government and the wider public.

The final royal commission on oil exploration in the Great Barrier Reef made it clear that while many people were comfortable exploiting the reefs to develop fish, tourism and ports, the prospect of drilling for oil was too much.

The biblical metaphors of David and Goliath are useful scaffolding to remember past successes, but for me it is equally powerful to realize that the reef was saved because the people overwhelmingly supported its protection.


Today, however, conditions are markedly different.

In contrast to the campaign of the past, there is a much greater rejection of conservationists’ concerns about coral reefs, particularly in the media. Likewise, it is unlikely that labor unions will begin imposing a black ban on potential mines in support of reef-saving initiatives.

Most confusingly, our governments have been slow, if not hampered, in making meaningful policy change toward climate change (which is the greatest threat to coral reefs) while providing significant funding to coral reef research bodies such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, and the Parks Authority. Navy and Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Science has gained from this investment, while governments have benefited He benefited from the research when the health and outlook of coral reefs came into questionProtect themselves from greater international pressure to act on climate change.

But of course things are more complicated than that, too. The tremendous amount of research into coral reefs since the establishment of the MPA has revealed the interconnectedness of the coral reef ecosystem and the people and industries in the watershed. Moreover, the pressures of climate change have made coral reefs a national and international problem. We have all become attached to the health of coral reefs to varying degrees.

Despite the collective involvement in this crisis, there appears to be little agreement about what it means to save coral reefs and how to achieve it. It feels like we’re going up against Goliath.

Conservationists have succeeded in Save the Reef because they have benefited from the widespread love, curiosity, and admiration for coral reefs. They helped create a body of concern about future coral reefs being ravaged by oil and mining, which led to a Royal Commission that eventually recommended the creation of a Marine Parks Authority. These achievements seem beyond our capabilities at this point.

An honest approach to saving coral reefs can start by building on our current and historical engagement with them in the face of climate change. However, at this point our Commonwealth Government appears to prefer to remain neutral.

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