In 1996, the first independent national report on the state of Australia’s environment found that we faced serious problems. With increasing urgency, five subsequent reports declared those problems were all getting worse, each calling for immediate action to protect our future. The 2021 report determined that, ‘Overall, the state and trend of the environment of Australia are poor and deteriorating as a result of increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction,’ and warned of the dramatic impact on our health and living standards. It is now clearer than ever that the consequences of long-term inaction are upon us.
Accelerating climate change and the loss of our unique biodiversity are the most obvious signs of the grim outlook for future generations of Australians. But the international trends are equally worrying, with quixotic economic systems casting doubt on the wisdom of running down our domestic production of essential goods and services in favour of a dependence on trade. It is no exaggeration to conclude that Australian society itself is at risk.
In Australia on the Brink, Ian Lowe argues that the essential first steps in addressing these threats are stabilising the global climate and protecting our local biota. We must also change the emphasis of resource extraction from a damaging reliance on trade to improving our capacity to meet our own needs. This is our best – perhaps our only – chance of restoring a sense of social stability, and the equality of opportunity that was once a hallmark of this country.