Cleaning up the environment


By Debra Wirth

River and beach pollution, soil erosion and salinity, forest depletion, chemical contamination, disappearing wildlife habitats: all have to be put right. Thousands of jobs would be created by a determined campaign to clean up, protect and regenerate the environment.

While it is beyond the scope of most environmental groups to research exactly how many jobs would be created by a systematic environmental clean-up, there is general agreement it is urgently needed.

At the Nature Conservation Council, Sandra Heilpern sounds a note of caution: cleaning up shouldn't be seen as a substitute for preventing pollution.

The root of the problem is production and consumption patterns. An example is the present system of warehousing food and household goods on the outskirts of our large cities. This requires excessive packaging to permit almost totally mechanised handling. While apparently the last word in efficiency, this is a very inefficient use of resources. More resource-efficient distribution systems would create many jobs in the distribution and retail sectors, Heilpern said.

Kim McKay, a spokesperson for Clean-Up Australia, told Green Left that its national clean-up day makes people feel less helpless about the state of the environment, and the organisation doesn't leave it there. "Clean-Up Australia subscribes to the slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and we support any move by industry in that direction."

An idea of the size of the problem can be gained from McKay's estimate that it would cost between $5 and $10 million to pay people to clean up as much rubbish as is collected in a day by the Clean-Up Australia volunteers. n