Collaboration for conservation

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We know that we need to change the old way of doing conservation to transform our approaches to meet the demands and uncertainty of the environment. This is why collaboration for conservation gives me hope for the future. And this is why I am increasingly becoming more optimistic (can that be possible!) about the future because of the collaborative efforts behind the scenes that make wonder possible for conservation.

Being a networker with passion for innovative coastal management, natural resource management and Landcare (pretty much anything to do with improving the health and resilience of our land and water), gives me access to, can I use Intrepid Landcare’s tag, ‘a backstage pass to nature’. But to be politically correct here  I would have to say a backstage pass to the conversations for conservation.

Today, I have had conversations with volunteers, coordinators, a CEO and a politician about various projects and the theme in all those conversations has been about how we can we approach conservation differently through collaboration (broadly stated). And yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Lockyer Valley in south east Queensland to see the collaborative efforts of approaching catchment management through an entire new lens.

The Lockyer Valley is prime agricultural land and produces approximately 40% of the fresh vegetables consumed in south east Queensland. The rich black soils boost the productivity. It’s the black gold of our regions agricultural heartland. However, the land and water have been under significant pressures for many years. Unsustainable farming practices and development have impacted this heartland, with overgrazing, vegetation clearing, weeds and soil erosion impacting the entire region’s catchment.  The loss of vegetation and overgrazing has rapidly increased the mobility of sediment in the upper catchment with it ending up in Moreton Bay. The models show that this increased mobility has been occurring for many years with some sediment slugs moving at a rate of 30 years. What this means is that we have productive rich soils that are 60,000 years old moving through the creeks and rivers of our central catchments, reducing the health of the waterways. This isn’t news as we have watched the health of south east Queensland’s waterways decrease despite investment efforts in catchment management. However, what is news is the new way of approaching this issue.

What is unique, actually, transformational in this new approach is the collaborative effort to do something about the dying needs of south east Queensland catchments. It did take for a flood to shift cultural ideologies, however, we are getting there through collaboration. Here we have the Port of Brisbane spending big dollars on dredging and offsets every year. They are paying for the end result of sedimentation building up in Moreton Bay. Then we have the farmers upstream that are losing productive land. So, a handful of  collaborative conservation leaders got together to do something about this mis-matched approach and thought, how can we shift investment spent on mopping up the downstream issues to clean up the symptoms of the upper catchment issue. How about we invest in the actual issue, rather than pay to clean up the problem. This has seen a shift in investment from downstream to upstream to revegetate creeks and in time with monitoring we will see if this approach works.

To the outside world this seems like a no brainer. But inside the tent it took a natural disaster, and a flood of convincing and influencing from collaborative leaders to make this happen. And of course, a central networker to make this possible, that being Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Unfortunately how this project was influenced and by who, their characteristics, value systems and ways of doing business isn’t captured in project or monitoring reports. Something we forget to capture, and I certainly didn’t see it showcased on the project sign hanging up in the local hall. But I think in time the value of collaboration will be communicated, celebrated and embraced more and more, and to be honest I think it’s the younger generation’s enthusiasm and fresh ideas that have a lot more value waiting to be untapped and added to the ever increasing pie of collaboration.

Scared of warmer oceans

Wonders of the Great Barrier Reef (pc:

Wonders of the Great Barrier Reef (pc:

I just returned home after attending Australia’s national coastal management conference, 2016 Coast to coast, which was held at the MCG in Melbourne.

Travelling from the Gold Coast I had packed my thermals, gloves and beanie and neither left my suitcase while in Melbourne. It was a warmer than usual beginning of Spring and I even slept with the window open and fan on. It was as if I was in Queensland. But I was in Victoria, where the climate is changing and you can feel it. It’s warm, closer than you think.

Sadly, I am becoming accustomed to the stark reality of the future. Mass coral bleaching, mangrove forest die back and beaches squeezed between rising seas and built up coasts behind or on the dunes. So, a warmer trip to Victoria should be expected, an expectation I am scared about.

You see, it was only last week when I let loose and posted a rampage on my brother’s Facebook page about a post he had posted ‘celebrating’ the Carmichael Coal Mine… although it is awaiting finance. You see, people who can’t connect their actions to the recent mass coral bleaching and mangrove dieback think 4000 jobs to build and operate the economically and environmentally disastrous mine is a good new story for jobs in central Queensland. Yet, the coal mine, if finance is found (which I doubt), will jeoparadise the 69,000 jobs that rely on Queensland’s healthy reefs and coasts.  For me, this should be a straight forward argument, do you want short-term gain now which will continue to fuel the warming seas and put our future at risk, or do you want to secure the future for all generations, and all ecosystems and cycles that are fundamental to all life on earth. There is no ifs or buts now, because now is the time to change.

Because climate change is real and it is here. And I am scared of warmer oceans.

With this fresh in my mind I sit their listening to Tim Flannery’s keynote presentation about mobilising communities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I completely get and understand what he is saying, and if anything, it wasn’t new to me. But what I grappled with was how to inspire my own microsystem, my own family, to change their own ideals for a cleaner, fairer future. A future without coal.

Feeling sluggish from the night before I share my concerns with a colleague as we munch on some vegetarian pastries. As Tim Flannery approaches the pastry pile and I took the opportunity to share my tangent. What advice could he give me?

The good news is that he was compassionate and got what I was saying. But the better news was hearing about how the unions, which my brother is a member of, are talking about how to transition a fossil fuel fuelled workforce to a cleaner, fairer, and renewable workforce.

I always thought welding windmills would be much more rewarding than welding pipelines that are killing our future’s pipeline. A future where my nieces and nephews can visit the Great Barrier Reef and be inspired to be eco-stewards for all humanity on earth.