environmental

The devastating hurricanes that hit the southern US and the Caribbean, and the catastrophic flooding in South Asia, have highlighted the worsening reality of global warming-related extreme weather.

The worsening reality of  weather-related disasters was explicitly recorded in a little-noticed United Nations Office for Disaster risk reduction report The Human Cost of Weather-Related Disasters: 1995-2015. The report noted that both the number of extreme-weather events, and the number of people affected, has risen dramatically over the past two decades.

Lawless Logging, a new report by Friends of the Earth, Fauna and Flora Research Collective and Goongerah Environment Centre, has documented 27 unlawful native forest logging operations by Victoria's state-owned logging company VicForests in protected threatened species habitat and rainforest in East Gippsland and the Central Highlands.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has announced his state will ban single-use plastic bags from July 1 next year, the same day Queensland begins its ban. South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and ACT have already implemented a ban.

The Conservation Council of WA welcomed the decision. Director Piers Verstegen said: “Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem because plastics remain in the environment, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces which contaminate soil and water and affect the health of wildlife.

Cuban brigades and volunteers are continuing the arduous task of rebuilding after the damaging and deadly effects of Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms to hit the region that left dozens dead and caused widespread damage.

Described by meteorologists as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Caribbean in a century, Irma left a path of widespread destruction in Cuba and several north-eastern Caribbean Islands, especially Barbuda.

Hurricane Irma has just passed through the Caribbean, in a procession of tragedies that have destroyed lives and left material damage behind.

In response to this natural disaster, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sent humanitarian aid to Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda (with 95% of buildings in Barbuda destroyed), and the French colony of Saint Martin on September 10.

The huge devastation, death and misery that Hurricane Harvey wreaked upon Texas and Louisiana has been seen around the world.

Meanwhile, fresh havoc is being wreaked upon the Caribbean and the US’s south-east by Hurricane Irma. In less reported news, more than 1400 people have been killed in recent weeks by horrific flooding in South Asia. The consequences of such disasters caused by extreme weather reveal the intersection of crises caused by the capitalist system.

There is a climate emergency. The massive forest fires in Canada, the Lucifer heatwave engulfing southern Europe and Australia experiencing its warmest July on record have all happened within the past fortnight. Yet, Australia’s carbon emissions continue to rise.

The growing movement to prevent the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as well as fossil fuel divestment campaigns, show we are making headway. But activism is not enough.

More than 350 activists participated in the Sydney Stop Adani Summit on September 2.

Participants came from a range of organisations. Some were part of the Stop Adani Alliance, which includes the Bob Brown Foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation, 350.org, GetUp!, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Sea Shepherd and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which smashed into the Gulf Coast on August 25, had left at least 23 people dead by August 31, thousands in need of rescue on rooftops or in boats, hundreds of thousands more without power and tens of thousands in need of shelter.

Yet characterisations of the carnage by the National Weather Service as “historic”, “unprecedented” or “beyond anything experienced” should not be conflated with the spurious claim that the devastation wrought by Harvey was “unpreventable” or “unexpected”.

An open letter from eight former agronomists and soil scientists, including five who worked for the Department of Primary Industries, has urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to halt Shenhua’s Watermark coalmine and protect the Liverpool Plains from mining.

The letter said the agreement the government reached last month with Shenhua to renew its coal exploration licence, paving the way for the mine to proceed, puts at risk “the future of one of the major contributors to food and fibre security”.

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