For why we need environmental awareness.

Australia was discovered by white people in 1770, less than 250 years ago (as a comparison, the United States was “discovered” more than 500 years ago – in 1492), yet they have managed to destroy much of the natural environment that existed before their arrival. The continent should be considered heaven for environmental scientists, they can study first-hand how destructive our species can be – and in a controlled space no less. The discovery of Australia set off a chain reaction that has only begun to be noticed today.

Early settlers cut down 98 percent of the original rainforest in the upper section of the continent. No, they didn’t just cut down the trees they needed and then leave, allowing the forest to repair itself. Instead, they cut down the trees they needed, then burned the rest of the forest so they could use it for raising cattle.

This is where the chain reaction began. Clear-cutting the forest took away the natural absorbers for rain water. Add to that the fact that Australia has no native species of hooved animals and suddenly there is a serious problem. Raising cattle in the clear-cut forest meant more run-off to the surrounding creeks and rivers, not only because there were no trees to absorb the water, but because the cattle were breaking up the land and making it softer than it had ever been. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it were just rain water, but it was also animal feces and pesticides flowing into the creeks and rivers, which then flowed into the ocean.

Well, these particular rivers led to the part of the ocean that contains the Great Barrier Reef, (maybe you’ve heard of it?) which has been suffering from coral bleaching during the past several years. Some argue the reason for the bleaching is due to warmer waters flowing through the area and is linked to global warming, while others believe that is only part of the cause. Some scientists think coral bleaching is compounded by run-off from cattle farms and crops where the rainforest used to be.

But there is hope. Because the Great Barrier Reef is a huge tourist attraction, the Australian government is working to restore the rainforest and has begun introducing environmental protections for other regions of the country. Australia holds some of the last untouched places we have in this world. Let’s hope their government wasn’t too late in introducing legislation to save those places.

PS Australia was the first country to have a National Parks system, so they weren’t all anti-environment. This was just a really good example of how one action can lead to environmental destruction.

PPS Australia has lots of other examples of environmental must-nots. Look up Cane Toads if you’re interested.