By Sam Wainwright
World Environment Day was celebrated in cities across Australia June 5-6. The events, organised in most centres by the Environmental Youth Alliance under the theme "Environmental Justice for All", show that people are as concerned as ever about the environmental crisis.
Marches, rallies and festivals took up a range of environmental issues. In the face of government cutbacks to services, the need to expand public transport was discussed at a number of events.
Car drivers to Launceston University were confronted by members of the Greenhouse-EYA group and asked to make a donation. A petition was circulated calling for the most environmentally sound vehicles to be commissioned, to reduce bus fares and for an increase in services to outlying areas of the city.
Zoe Wood from Greenhouse-EYA said "The day was very successful in raising awareness of the effects of car pollution. If we are to save the environment, we need to increase public transport and reduce our reliance on cars."
In Adelaide around 600 people heard Aboriginal activist Jenny Baker link the theme of the rally to the exploitation of the third world: "It is the greed of the transnational corporations not controllable by any government that is the real cause of environmental damage and third world debt. In reality the debt has been paid 10 times over." Dennis White, speaking from the Public Transport Union, reported on the problems resulting from the industry being hived off into the private sector.
Despite pouring rain, 200 people attended a loud and vibrant rally and march through the streets of Sydney. One of its central themes was opposition to another nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney's south. Brendon Dorff, an EYA activist, and Genevieve Rankin, a councillor from Sutherland Shire, attacked the federal government for its determination to invest in this dangerous and unnecessary project.
Only a few kilometres away, Ros Kelly, the federal minister for the environment, was addressing a sponsored walk organised by the Australian Conservation Foundation. Speakers at the walk endorsed Sydney's 2000 Olympics bid.
Brisbane had actions on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, a march, rally and stalls on the South Bank were organised by the Queensland Conservation Council. Sunday's events, sponsored by EYA, included a rally in King George Square, followed by a march to Albert Park and an eco-fair. Rally speakers included Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, Democrat Senator-elect John Woodley, Maureen Watson from the Murri community and Susan Price from the Democratic Socialist Party. The large numbers of high school students at most of the events was very noticeable. In Melbourne high school students held up high a giant report card giving Australia's governments a "fail" on every significant area of environmental protection.
Zanny Begg, a member of EYA's National Working Group, said, "The turnout and enthusiasm show that young people in particular are eager to do something about the environment. The problems haven't gone away, they've got worse."
Adelaide EYA speaker Emma Webb finished her talk by asking whether it is too radical to ask for environmental justice. She pointed out that the question of environmental justice forces us to confront other areas of social justice. "This destruction is not occurring because we have spilled megalitres of oil into the ocean, or because we have poured toxic fumes into the atmosphere. It is the thoughtless businesses and governments of the world that are to blame."