Monday, 3 September 2012

From Global to Local: Delegates Going Bush in Australia

From Global to Local: Delegates Going Bush in Australia 

By Julie Melrose

Despite the overwhelmingly negative media coverage about the weak outcome document that came out of the Rio+20 conference, ANU Rio+20 delegates returned home more motivated than ever to work on sustainability projects and initiatives, particularly wishing to get more students involved in local projects. Rio+20 basically highlighted how much the international community had failed to honour its commitments to reduce environmental harm under international environmental law over the last two decades since the first Rio conference in 1992. We all experienced frustration, even tears at the conference in the face of the magnitude of the challenge ahead for our generation. So what does a small group of students from Australia do about this? 

Several forums and discussions have been held at ANU, we have debriefed with the Australian Government and met with academics and public figures to discuss Rio outcomes. But we want to go the extra mile and try something new. Forums, while important and informative, sometimes seem to be "preaching to the converted" and result in no real gain for the environment or in really inspiring young people and students to dedicate their career to working towards sustainable development. 

In a recent meeting with Richard Denniss, CEO of the think-tank the Australia Institute, he reminded us that we are in a battle against rampant consumption, economic growth and environmental destruction on all fronts - and we are on the losing side. He challenged us to do something different in our post Rio activities. 

We talked about the principle that you protect the things you love - but you can't love something unless you know it first. Going bush and getting back to nature, strips away the layers of society that sometimes cloud us from the reality of environmental catastrophe that the world is facing in the present time. 

Reflecting on the process of coming back to Australia after a large international conference, we have decided to get right back down to the local level and embark on a bushwalking expedition to Tasmania in Feb 2013 - where the Australian environmental movement was born. In the hope of finding some grounding, solitude and inspiration for our work ahead, going bush seems like a really good idea.

An Expedition to walk Tasmania's South Coast Track 

Tasmania's South Coast Track is situated in the Southwest National Park and takes you through the heart of over 600, 000 hectares of wild, inspiring country. The track is more remote than other walks in Tasmania, and is 85kms in length running from Malaleuca to Cockle Creek. The trek will take 6-8 days with full packs. 

The team will gather footage from the walk about our personal experiences as young people reflecting on global to local environmentalism, as well as interview leading conservationists and those involved in the birth of the Tasmanian environmental movements. This footage will add to our material and interviews gathered at Rio+20 in Brazil to hopefully lead to a student sustainability documentary! 

The Australian Environmental Movement - Franklin Dams Case 

According to leading environmental law Barrister Chris McGrath and many others in the Australian legal profession, the Tasmanian Dams Case is the most famous and influential environmental law case in Australian history. It was also a landmark in Australian constitutional law. In this case, the Commonwealth Government prevented the construction of a large hydro-electric dam proposed for the Franklin-Lower Gordon Rivers in South-West Tasmania. They were able to achieve this win by relying on their powers under s 51 (xxix) of the Australian Constitution to make laws in relation to their international obligations under the World Heritage Convention. For more information on the case click here.

Island Bend, Franklin River

Interested in getting involved? 

Other interested students are encouraged to get in touch if interested in the trek, or helping out with the documentary project! Contact or join "The ANU Rio+20 Project" on Facebook to keep up to date with our planning and other activities. 

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