Suffocating our environment

Don’t take it for granted: There’s no economy without the environment. Photo by Geoff Adams

A friend often reminds me, and others who will listen, that everything is connected to everything.

His reminder, gratuitous advice according to some, was echoed in an article in last week’s Melbourne Age by Ross Gittins.

Gittins and my friend are as one about the disregard we have for our country, and what my friend describes as the ecosystem services upon which every aspect of our wellbeing hinges and depends.

Gittins said: “The ‘economy’ sits inside what we call ‘the environment’. Without the environment, there wouldn’t be an economy. Humans wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t need one.”

I can almost hear my friend whooping and hollering in support of that view; a position that we — that’s all of us — need to get on board with.

The opinion piece by Gittins was headed, ‘A wounded environment leads to an unliveable economy’.

The recently released 2021 State of the Environment report, hidden from public view until after the May 21 Federal Election, shows us, conclusively, that we are disembowelling our country, little by little, piece by piece.

‘Progress’ is often trotted out as the reason, or justification, for the obliteration of some critical piece of our social or natural infrastructure, but the real reason is the blatant desire for profit.

“This small stand of six trees won’t matter” our profiteers will argue, and if that’s all it is, then it wouldn’t matter, but when you multiply that six by 100 or 1000, then you have a small forest.

Yes, little by little, piece by piece we are reducing our rich and vibrant planet to an impoverished place in which the critters find it hard to survive, meaning you and I will soon follow them into the vortex.

We comfort ourselves with the City of Greater Shepparton’s one-tree-per-child scheme, which is a wonderful process that warrants applause.

And while that program deserves praise, it can lull us into thinking, and believing, that the concerns of Gittins and my friend have been resolved.

Of course, they haven’t — far from it, as we continue to ravage our country, flattening six trees here, building over a swamp there and laying more concrete, ripping up and desecrating another patch of nature all in the name of progress.

It was in the 1940s that we first saw the buds of an idea that, after many iterations, has become entrenched in our lives, prizing profit, individualism, consumption and accumulation ahead of those unmeasurable human traits of kindness, generosity, co-operation, sharing and collaboration.

I once worked with a fellow who said, “What gets measured, gets done”, and, of course, if we see life through the prism of profit he was correct, but it makes no allowance for the aforementioned unmeasurable traits.

As a former editor of this newspaper, it was stories celebrating those unmeasurable human traits that drew the greatest response and it is those same behaviours, if given oxygen, that will answer the concerns of my friend and Gittins, and give the Earth the chance to draw a breath and, hopefully, recover.