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It’s often said but bears repeating—Australia has one of the highest levels of modern-day extinction in the world. We have lost 10% of all mammal species that were known to exist in Australia in 1788.
It’s important to remind ourselves of this, because the only way we will turn this pattern around is to address the underlying causes of the problem. The 2021 State of the Environment Report (SoE Report) has left us in no doubt of what is driving our current extinction crisis.
The Report highlights that the pressures on our native plants and animals have been increasing in intensity since the last report five years ago, and that we are already seeing irreversible impacts across almost all of Australia. Multiple threats are creating cumulative and compounding impacts that are leading to ecosystem collapse. As the SoE Report states:
“Overall, the state and trend of the environment of Australia are poor and deteriorating as a result of increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction. ”
But the SoE Report doesn’t just tell us about what we have already seen. It also tells us what we can expect to see in the future without radical intervention, and it’s not good news. Native vegetation continues to be cleared and invasive species are an increasing problem. And all of this is happening as we just begin to really feel the effects of climate change. The SoE doesn’t try and sugar coat what is coming:
“We can expect further extinctions of Australian species over the next 2 decades unless current management effort and investment are substantially increased.“
Around the country every day, Australians are trying to reverse this trend—taking action to protect our threatened species—whether it’s through lobbying for change, volunteering for landcare and bushcare, or taking part in HSI’s own Wildlife Land Trust . Whatever you do, in your own way, to protect our threatened species, we thank you.
While we all work hard to protect and restore our natural environment, we need to make sure the actions of governments don’t undermine us. We need systemic change if we are to halt and reverse our extinction crisis. That’s why HSI is continuing its fight for stronger environmental laws—laws that work to protect nature.
If that last sentence made you want to hit the snooze button, we don’t blame you. Arguments about how to interpret section 10, sub-clause B of a piece of legislation doesn’t feel like it matters much in the day to day. But the truth is, it’s the strength of our environmental laws that will determine whether the decisions made about threatened species, every day, will help them or continue to drive them towards extinction.
The good news is that the Australian Government has committed to reform our key environmental legislation over the next 18 months and that gives all of us a chance to make sure that those laws deliver for nature.
But there’s a lot going on in our world today—our recovery from COVID and the economic and healthcare challenges it brings, the need to address climate change, and implementing a Voice to Parliament. These are all incredibly important issues that need to be progressed, but we can’t let nature get left behind, or worse, sacrificed to drive ongoing unsustainable economic development.
We need a fundamental shift in how we think about nature. We need to ensure that our national environmental laws set strong national standards that provide a pathway to recovery for our threatened species. And to make that happen, we need the Government to hear that Australians wants change to our environmental laws to ensure that they protect and restore nature.
That’s why this Threatened Species Day we’re inviting you to become a HSI Extinction Fighter. As an Extinction Fighter, you will be first to know when opportunities arise to make a change for nature.
Sometimes you may be asked to sign or share a petition. Other times, we may ask you to write to government representatives or to alert you to critical action taking place to protect nature in your region. We will also keep you informed of breaking developments that may have an impact on our environment.
As an Extinction Fighter, you will be empowered to stand up and use your voice to demand stronger laws for nature in Australia. Together we make sure that future generations of Australians can know and appreciate the unique and wonderful species that call Australia home.
P.S. Have you let the Minister know that you think our wildlife and habitats need stronger laws yet? If not, can you still write to her!