DeforestationOf all of the environmental issues facing Australia, the loss of our nation’s old growth forests are by far the most troubling. At the same time, the issue of unchecked deforestation is probably the one issue that we as Australian citizens can most easily impact by pressuring our government to take the necessary steps to stop the destruction of our nation’s natural resources in its tracks. The Rainforest Alliance intends to stand firmly in defiance to the continued depletion of Australia’s old growth forests. In keeping with this aim, Lipton has taken considerable steps toward bringing the tea industry into the 21st century’s environmental standards through the Rainforest Alliance.Coal EnergyIn Australia, coal mining continues to be one of the most controversial environmental issues in our country. While many environmentalists point out the contributions that coal burning make to global warming, it is difficult to ignore the fact that coal based energy is currently a major part of Australia’s energy infrastructure. However, allies of the Rainforest Alliance are quick to point out that modern energy technology has reached the point that the nation can now begin making the switch from coal energy to a more environmentally responsible energy infrastructure.Air QualityLike most of the modern world, our nation’s cities have developed some serious air quality issues. Air quality in urban areas is affected by a variety of influences to include automobile exhaust, industrial waste and byproducts of the production of herbicides and pesticides.Climate ChangeRecent studies have shown that our planet’s environment is warming at a much more alarming rate than scientists had initially predicted, and the dangers that rising sea levels pose to the Australian coast could prove to be devastating if current global warming trends continue.Water SecurityThe continent of Australia is second only to Antartica in terms of scarcity of water, and irrigation and other water conservation issues have plagued our nation since it was founded. Politicians, environmentalists and farmers have been hashing out water security issues for decades, but increased pressures on our water supply by population growth and potential climate change have tipped the scales to critical mass. It is time for the nation to recognise the drastic effects that the diversion of natural water flows have wreaked on our nations environment and to recognise that unchecked irrigation expansion simply is not a viable option for an environmentally stable Australia. Thankfully, corporations such as Unilever’s Lipton and fast food joint McDonalds, have waken up to the necessity of finding lasting solutions to Australia’s water security concerns.
Sydney, Australia is a fantastic city. There are water views everywhere thanks to a harbor that folds its way for more than 40km inland from its ocean entrance. The beaches, all 62 of them, are fabulous and the water is warm most of the year. And if you tire of the beach there is a world heritage forest wilderness an hour away in the Blue Mountains.Not surprisingly there are roughly 4 million Sydney residents. Most live in suburbs spread across a metropolitan area of 12,145 km2, leaving plenty of space between and in the dwellings, and open areas to enjoy. Almost everyone is within walking distance of a park. Add some sun, those infamous beaches and you have the ideal city.Visitors also like Sydney. Each year the city plays host to close to 10 million tourists, 3 million of them from overseas.The place is so popular that in the last decade around half a million people have decided to become Sydneysiders, the local name for residents. This is roughly 1,000 new inhabitants per week, a growth rate of 15%, a little higher than the rate of increase in the overall population of Australia over the same period.In addition to the arrivals social trends have seen families become smaller, splitting faster than they are merging. And whilst youngsters are staying at home longer, they eventually want to move out.Over the coming decades Sydney will need to supply 640,000 new homes just to keep up with projected demand.Whilst developers may be smiling, this number has had planners in state and local government waving their hands in the air. Even in a place with so much space, such a sustained influx places huge pressure on infrastructure, especially transport.It also generates environmental challenges.The supply of water, sewage services and power must all increase as the city grows. And there comes a point where delivery systems for utilities are past their sell-buy date. They cannot be upgraded or expanded anymore and a whole new system is needed.Or, as with Sydney and its sewage release to the open ocean, the system is no longer acceptable.640,000 homes and the roads, railways, shops and public spaces that support them need space. Some will be squeezed in amongst the existing suburbs; others will be green field developments. Conservation of natural habitat is a challenge when the concreted area expands.In Sydney the built up area is encroaching on fertile agricultural land that has traditionally supplied a large proportion of the horticultural produce consumed by the city’s residents and those 10 million visitors. Planners must make the difficult choice between food production and living space. Good choices need local input and a clear regional strategy.Sydney has a few quirky issues too, such as what to with a resident population of grey-headed flying foxes, an endangered but nuisance species of fruit bat the size of a small cat, roosting in the botanic gardens that sit in the shadow of the CBD skyscrapers.Then there is the real environmental issue of the city’s footprint. Water, energy, food and waste cannot all be generated within the Sydney basin. A much bigger land area is needed to supply the resources and places are needed to dispose of waste.There is also the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from lifestyles that use fossil fuel based electricity and transport.It is a long list of challenges that each place pressure on the integrity of the environment.Sydney is a moderate sized city by modern standards, similar to Phoenix, Arizona. It is half the size of Chennai, a third the size of London, a quarter that of Shanghai and a blip compared to Tokyo, the largest agglomeration in the world, at 34 million inhabitants.The significant statistic is that there are at least 70 cities in the world that have larger populations than Sydney. Urbanization is a big deal.The environmental issue for real is that we have to have this urbanization. The world population of 7 billion will peak at between 9 and 12 billion and, to help retain an environment that can support them; we probably want most of these extra people to live in cities.Attention to how we make these cities livable and how we can manage their environmental footprints should be a priority for us all.