Alarming News for Australia’s Green Status

by Lauren Fogelstrom '14

The Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Australia and is around the size of Italy. (Photo: New York Times)

The Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Australia and is around the size of Italy. (Photo: New York Times)

When the new republican government took office in Sydney, Australia, almost half a year ago, their newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Abbott initiated steps to drastically change one of Australia’s proudest traits; their green credibility. More specifically, “The Abbott government has given a green light to the expansion of a coal port in the country’s north that critics fear will dump tons of silt on the Great Barrier Reef” stated a recent report from the New York Times.

The reef stretches along 1,250 miles of the coast of Northeast Australia, and has considered one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Although the plan is to dump the saline sludge around 15 miles away further in the sea where there is no presence of coral, the expansion will still very likely influence the reef nearby.

One scientist at the University of Queensland, Selina Ward stated that, “Sediment plumes can move to the outer reef,” which would kill essential corals and sea grass currently inhabiting the area.

“Abbot Point”, the name of the coal port, which has been in business for 30 years now, has only been approved, because the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has agreed that the location will affect the reef the least, out of other possible spots along the coast. Just last year, the expansion of a deep-water port aimed at increasing coal exports, north of Brisbane, and was approved by the federal government.

This plan has produced a petition supported by 240 international scientists and activists alarmed by the repercussions this expansion will have on the reef environment.

Other plans Abbot has proposed have included plans to repeal the carbon tax Australia has on national greenhouse gas emissions, and is currently working to nullify the protection of parts of the Tasmanian rain forest to use as logging. Furthermore, the government has approved slaughtering of several types of sharks, including endangered great whites, after a few fatal attacks on tourists, in order to keep the flow of tourism in tact.

All of these conservation issues have been brought to much closer to the surface recently, with coal port expansion plan. Hopefully Australia can find successful alternatives to these topics, and won’t have to sacrifice their environment in order to do so.