2nd June 2022
It’s been one year since the United Nations declared we have just one decade to restore the planet. This is where we’re at now.
"Today, we are using 1.6 Earths to give us what we need to live, eat and grow our economies. We are plundering and polluting nature's resources, treating it as a dumping ground for plastic and waste" - UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021
Author: Emily Rice
Last year, the United Nations declared this decade (2021-2030) as the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. 2030 also marks the end of the timeline for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This gives us 9 more years to work together to reverse damage and conserve the beautiful ecosystems we have, before this damage becomes irreversible.
The 2019-2020 Australian Bushfire season was unprecedented in many ways (Image: pexels)
The last few years have shown us the effects of climate change. Australia has seen an increase in extreme weather- ranging from floods to bushfires, and extreme rainfall to drought. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, has been affected by coral bleaching on over 90% of its reefs. And the rest of the world is feeling the heat too- India has recently recorded temperatures close to 50° Celsius. These devastating heat waves are sadly becoming more and more common, and are attributed to climate change.
The past two decades have seen several widespread coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef. Rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change is the primary cause of coral bleaching. Image (Great Barrier Reef Foundation)
Scientists have identified this decade as the last chance we have to take action and prevent catastrophic climate change.
“Our new extremes of heat and other severe weather mean we now need to re-imagine how our towns and cities function, ensure we provide essential climate safety services, and rethink how we go about our daily lives and care for others.” - The Climate Council
The Paris Agreement set the goal of keeping global temperature increases below 2°C. An increase in 1.5°C will have negative effects, but just half a degree more “will have serious consequences on health, livelihoods, food and water supply, human security, infrastructure and the environment,” says the climate council.
Infographic: Climate Council
If we don’t take more action, according to CarbonBrief, we will reach this temperature rise sometime between 2026 and 2042. It’s time for big changes.
WHERE ARE WE AT NOW?
How is Tasmania faring since this alarming declaration from the United Nations? There’s both good and bad news here in our island state.
Tasmania has recently been declared carbon negative- not just neutral, negative- which is an amazing achievement. Only two other regions in the world, Bhutan and Suriname, have achieved this. This means that we are removing more carbon from the atmosphere than we are emitting. For reference, the rest of Australia is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050 (see Net Zero here).
Sadly, our ocean health is beginning to suffer. IMAS Researchers have dubbed Tasmania a 'global hotspot' for marine climate change, and have said that the ocean surface surrounding Tasmania’s East Coast is warming by 2.3° Celsius every century. While global ocean temperature rises are difficult to measure, scientists estimate this is approximately two to four times the global average. This is already having negative effects on our ecosystem, with kelp being almost eradicated in some areas, and invasive species migrating to our warming waters. Scientists have predicted that more reef species will be attracted to Tasmania’s East Coast - because their water is becoming too hot, and ours is warming to the right temperature. This will further disrupt our biodiversity and alter the flow of our ecosystems.
Tasmania's waters are experiencing wholesale changes in the reef ecosystems as sea life responds to rising temperatures. (Image: IMAS)
As of November 2021, there are over 700 species of flora and fauna currently threatened in Tasmania. The Swift Parrot is one such example of the effects of biodiversity loss and habitat destruction. The species is critically endangered in Tasmania, with less than 2,000 of the beautiful, brightly coloured birds left in the wild.
Image: Bob Brown Foundation
Tasmania's threatened species index shows steady declines in population numbers of threatened species, with nearly 40% reductions compared with the year 2000.
Figure: Changes in population numbers of threatened species compared with 2000. e.g. 0.6 = 40% decrease. Source: Threatened Species Link
There are currently 29 EPBC Act approved species recovery plans for Tasmania's threatened flora and fauna. Will it be enough to protect Tasmania's biodiversity?
Image: Cultural Burning Workshop with Landcare Tasmania members and SETAC 2021. Photo: Anna Cadden
Students from Rosny mob have seen the difference between areas that have been poorly and intensively (mis)managed and areas that have been cared for using traditional skills and knowledge.
Cathy Ransom from Rosny College's 'Rosny mob' says: "Learning to read Country is vital - what signs are there that the country is sick, what shows us that the country is healthy? Through guidance from Aboriginal elders and land holders, members of Rosny mob have learnt to identify native vegetation and invasive species, to read the first history of an area and to understand the critical role fire management plays in keeping lands healthy."
An article published in Restoration Ecology argues that "deep listening with Indigenous Peoples and engagement with humility and respect needs to be the starting point" of ecological restoration.
There is no holistic ecosystem restoration without traditional knowledge from original custodians of country.
The phrase ‘climate anxiety’ has been used a lot over the last few years. A University of Bath study revealed last year that 60% of young people aged 16-25 are either worried, or very worried about climate change. It’s clear that this issue is affecting the mental health of the younger generation- and they will be the generation who are most affected by these rising temperatures.
Image: Nest box construction with Landcare Tasmania and Seven Mile Beach Coastcare.
Yet, young people can often struggle to find a voice. In Tasmania, 13 year old Josie (pictured above) is experiencing climate anxiety. Josie will be just 22 years old at the end of the decade on ecosystem restoration - the timeframe dubbed the 'last chance to restore the planet'. She spoke to Landcare Tasmania about these fears, saying “I hear it pretty much every day, something bad has happened… so I feel really scared sometimes. Really anxious and sad. I can sometimes feel distressed, like, what can I do?”
Josie feels that she is just one person amongst a backdrop of climate emergency, and overwhelming issues- and it can be tough wanting to help, but not knowing how.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
It all sounds very grim- 9 years is both nothing and everything- depending on how we act. The good news is, you can help. There’s still time.
Australia is taking on board advice from the United Nations, and the Gondwana Link in Western Australia is undertaking huge restoration efforts, working across thousands of kilometres to restore and conserve biodiversity.
In Tasmania, our own communities and organisations are also working hard. At Landcare Tasmania, our purpose is to empower the community. It is a grassroots, bottom-up approach: our aim is to empower locals to take care of their patch. Recently, we held a plantation restoration workshop on the Tasman Peninsula as part of our fourth landscape-scale project - bringing together the community working on common issues to create change from the bottom up. Volunteering with onground Landcare is a great way to get involved and play a part. Or, you could come along to some workshops to find out how you can care for our beautiful environment through conservation and restoration.
Image: Plantation Restoration Workshop, April 2022. Photo: Huon Douglas
Imagine what we could achieve if everyone started making small changes. It is possible to change the world- and we can start from the bottom, and work our way up. This can include growing your own veggies and native plants, restoring the patch you live on, opting for recycled or sustainable clothes and food, volunteering with your local environmental organisations, and having conversations with friends and family members about what they can do as well.
The United Nation’s Restoration Playbook outlines these strategies and many more, such as planting trees, restoring native vegetation, cleaning up rubbish, and limiting meat and dairy consumption. There are endless ways that you can contribute. Check out some more ideas here.
“Protecting what we have and healing what we damaged is a task too daunting for any one entity to lead. It takes a movement. It takes you.”- Restoration Playbook
Image: Landcare Tasmania planting 2021. Photo: Sasha Lev
You can start right now, wherever you are. Take some advice from Josie: “We should help out in our little community wherever we live… Just helping someone across the road or using your own bags instead of plastic bags… planting a tree… watering the tree. Just little things that help.” Climate change is undoubtedly a scientific issue- but it is also a social one. Landcare aims to mobilise the community to tackle problems just like this.
It seems overwhelming- but if we work together, start small, work our way up, and take Josie’s advice- we can help tackle this issue that is defining our life time. How we act over the decade is incredibly important. As individuals, as communities, as nations, and as an entire planet- we all have a contribution to make.
Not sure where to start? We have some ideas.
- Join a Landcare Group. Find out what is being done in your area - and lend a hand. You might be surprised to know what is being done in your local area. Join seasoned Landcarers and learn about enhancing biodiversity, tackling weeds, growing plants, caring for wildlife and much more. It's fun. And good for your health (that's been studied).
- Be informed, listen, respect Country and get in touch with local custodians and knowledge keepers to learn more. Some cultural awareness resources can be found here.
- Come to a Landcare training event. Do you want to take action but feel like you need some skills first? Or some friends? Join a skills workshop and learn hands-on Landcaring skills, gain knowledge, and meet the community. These events build capacity and networks to strengthen the community so that all land and coasts can be cared for.
- Become a Landcare Tasmania member. $30 per year. Access to insurance, grants, materials, advice and administrative support to help you succeed in your Landcare project. Put your local priorities 'on the map' and have your voice heard.
- Register as a volunteer. Join the Extra Hands club. Let us help you find a volunteering opportunity or stay on our list for volunteer notifications.
- Connect to the community. We don't want you to feel alone in the face of big challenges. Reach out. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In. Check out our knowledge and tutorial archive on YouTube. Subscribe to our Newsletter. Give us a call. Or why not pop in to the office!? We are here to help.
- Donate. Donations help us support the growing Landcare movement which is urgently accelerating in this time. Support our programs and help us support community Landcarers by donating today.
📖Ten More Years to Restore the Planet The decade, which runs from 2021 through to 2030 is not only the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, but also the timeline that scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Image: Landcare Tasmania planting 2021. Photo: Sasha Lev