An opportunity to renew our relationship with our Planet

Nature really has its way of reminding us of its power and beauty during this turbulent and unusual time. Shoals of fish and crabs have returned to Venice’s crystal-clear canals, and coyotes have wandered around San Francisco’s empty beaches.

Global air quality improved dramatically due to COVID-19 quarantine measures, with Australian urban centres like Sydney and Brisbane having reduced their nitrogen dioxide (‘NO2’) levels by around 30% since the lockdown began (even though Melbourne’s NO2 levels rose by 40%).

By all means, take a walk at your nearest nature reserve or park and admire the beautiful flowers and wildlife that make up the world’s most liveable city.

However, we must be reminded that these positive environmental benefits ‘are [all] but temporary’. For example, take a look at these recent pictures from Delhi.

Clean streets and clear skies, (not a bad place to be in, right?) Now imagine what Delhi like when everything goes back to ‘normal’. We’ll leave that up to your imagination (or just search ‘Delhi traffic’). 

Sadly, while we’re all focused on staying safe and looking out for one another, the Coalition government said it wants to “tackle green tape” (i.e. environmental regulations) to speed up project approvals. Similarly, Victoria’s Labor Government has:

1. Lifted the ban on gas drilling, opening our state to new fossil fuel industries.

2. Signed a deal with the Morrison Government to extend logging in Victoria’s native forests for another 10 years, exempting logging from environmental laws.

3. Delayed important environmental protection laws by 12 months.

So, why does this all matter? Generally speaking, it is fundamental that we shift from ‘the grey to green’ economy, where “our long-term response must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss”. This ‘quarantine on consumption’ is having a devastating impact on our economy and culture, but is ultimately offering ‘a blank page to a new beginning’.

After COVID-19, we can hope for a rebirth of industries that puts people and planet ahead of profits –  even Bernard Looney, BP’s Chief Executive, recently said:

“This cruel pandemic is showing us much about what really matters. This crisis has helped make clear thatthe world in which the sole objective of a company’s purpose is to maximise profit is no longer acceptable.”

Thus, the focus of regrowth should be a Green New Deal for economic recovery. Investments in renewable energy, public transport and restoring our precious environment will create millions of jobs and a caring, clean economy for the future. 

This means stopping environmental destruction across the country. From gas drilling, to native forest logging, and the hunting of native wildlife, destruction is continuing and we must keep pushing for stronger laws to protect our environment and wildlife even during this pandemic.

While we know that the pandemic means we all have to make some adjustments, letting corporations continue to pollute our environment and damage our health doesn’t make any sense. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres recently put it

“Public funds should be used to invest in the future, not the past, and flow to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate…Where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, it needs to be tied to achieving green jobs and sustainable growth.”

We need to be environmentally aware in our post-COVID-19 future. In fact, there’s a lot we could do to keep the skies clear, waterways clean and to become environmentally savvy.

Some simple changes you can make include: 

  • Cycling or walking more, and driving less – (Burn Fat, Not Fuel!);
  • Thinking about shopping? There is no doubt that fast fashion and the latest technology are attractive, but think again before purchasing that new item. Waste (e.g. textile, electronic, plastic) is a critical environmental issue, which can be combatted by practicing ethical and sustainable awareness when shopping.  Choose cruelty-free products and visit your local second-hand shop;
  • Bringing your own reusable container and reduce takeaway waste; speak with your favourite takeaway places and see if they are happy to accommodate you. By the way, did you know about the “Bring Me Home – Food Rescue App”? They let you buy “cheap, quality excess food which would otherwise be binned”. Give them a try!
  • Trying handicrafts to make awesome things, including upcycling existing products;
  • Setting up an environmental network and sharing tips + tricks for living sustainably;
  • Practicing energy efficiency where you can – maybe make the first step layering up this winter, instead of leaving the heater on.

We acknowledge that the unprecedented lockdown measures have brought considerable challenges to light. But we’ve also seen time and time again that Australians are resilient and adaptable in major periods of crisis. As we tackle this issue with a great sense of camaraderie and (hopefully) humour, we’ve come one step closer to getting rid of those lockdown blues! 

Our hope is that we can envision a renewed relationship with our planet after COVID-19, and make our efforts count even during this crisis. 

The MULSS Enviro Team –– Momo, Alex and Emily

The MULSS Environment Portfolio is responsible for everything that’s green and sustainable amongst the Law School Student community and is your go-to body for anything Environmental and Animal Law related. Should the Law School open up again in Semester 2, we’ll be hosting environmentally focused movie nights; career panels; lectures; and (fingers crossed!) tree-planting days. Until then, join our Facebook group and stay updated by your in-resident eco warriors!

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