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A koala plays beside an ice cube at Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou on July 22. The zoo is one of the most successful parks outside of Australia at breeding and raising koalas. Photo: Xinhua

LettersAustralia should work with China and others to save the koala and preserve biodiversity

  • Readers discuss the state of Australia’s response to climate change and environmental degradation as well as the sanctions against Russia
Feel strongly about these letters, or any other aspects of the news? Share your views by emailing us your Letter to the Editor at [email protected] or filling in this Google form. Submissions should not exceed 400 words, and must include your full name and address, plus a phone number for verification.
On July 19, Australian Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek released the 2021 State of the Environment report. The five-year findings – characterised by political inaction and deficient environmental protections at the federal, state and local levels – were described as shocking, disastrous and depressing.

Every report category except urban environments had deteriorated since 2016. Most were described as “poor and deteriorating” – climate, extreme weather, land and soil, inland water and coasts. Environmental degradation is considered a threat to societal collapse.

Australia has one of the highest rates of species decline in the developed world and has lost more mammals than any other continent. Since 2016, 202 animal and plant species have been listed as threatened and only 21 species recorded improved trajectories.

Major causes of extinction were introduced invasive species, population growth, habitat loss and climate change. Since 1990, Australians have cleared more than 6.1 million hectares of native forest. Most of Australia’s salt marshes have been lost since European settlement and managed retreat from some coastal communities is forecast.
The former Morrison government delivered just two of 450 gigalitres of water recommended under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to maintain environmental stability. Native fish populations in river catchments have declined by more than 90 per cent in the past 150 years. Marine heatwaves threaten the Great Barrier Reef.


Animals rescued from Australia floods, thousands evacuated from Sydney

Animals rescued from Australia floods, thousands evacuated from Sydney
Extreme weather is challenging Australia’s capacity to safeguard its environment. The 2019-20 bush fires are estimated to have burned more than 17 million hectares and killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs.

Failure to protect our environment is adversely affecting Australians’ mental health and well-being. The scientific consensus is humanity’s impact on itself and Earth is on an increasing trajectory, cumulative in effect and inordinately expensive.

Environmental protections and sustainable development aren’t mutually exclusive. They can and should coexist.

The Senate report “The Koala – Saving our National Icon” estimated in 2011 that prior to European settlement Australia’s koalas numbered up to 10 million. Since colonisation, it has been a horror show for koalas. The Australian Koala Foundation recently estimated there was a 30 per cent decline in koalas in the wild from 2018 to 2021, with numbers as low as 32,000.

China’s largest zoo, Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, is reportedly the world’s most successful park at breeding and rearing koalas outside Australia. It’s time leaders exercise some soft diplomacy and better collaborate to internationally arrest the collapse in biodiversity.

Protecting the environment should be above politics. Otherwise, the extinction precipice looms large for many of Australia’s endangered species.

Dr Michael Walton, New South Wales, Australia

US has no business calling for sanctions

Tai-heng Cheng says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended the global legal order (“Ukraine war: whether Western sanctions on Russia are working is only part of the question”, July 23). That is no more true than the United States’ invasion of Iraq and subsequent destruction of that country, not to mention other countries.

Only the UN Security Council is legally allowed to impose sanctions. There were no sanctions imposed against the US over Iraq. But now, the US is able to coerce much of the Western world and some in Asia into sanctioning Russia. The world pays the price for the maintenance of US hegemony and aggression.

Peter Guardino, Scarsdale, New York