The following is a guest post by 1 Million Women ambassador Laura Wells
It was if I had been hit with a bolt of lightening when I heard the news that Australia’s pride and joy, our Great Barrier Reef, continued to be in danger of having its World Heritage listing revoked. I shook my head, sat up straighter in my seat and after muttering a few expletives about the imprudence of the human race, immediately started scrutinizing the plethora of ways, we as a nation and as individuals can change the face of the reefs uncertain future.
The reef is influenced by many human activities including mining and the proposed mining expansion in Queensland, tourism, shipping incidents and oil spills, over-fishing, agricultural runoff and pollution. It is also at the mercy of a number of various cyclical and natural factors encompassing El Niño events, coral bleaching and destruction by the Crown of Thorns starfish.
As individuals we must be aware of how our actions and decisions impact the reef and other marine ecosystems. We have no second chances. We must act now to ensure our children’s children have the opportunity to marvel at the unparalleled beauty the Great Barrier Reef offers. Here are a few easy ways you can at home help save the reef.
1. Reduce the addition of chemicals to the environment:
– Use low phosphate/ low nitrate detergents: Phosphates and nitrates found in detergents act like fertilizers in rivers, lakes and oceans, and are not removed by the normal sewage treatment process. Excess fertilizer and nitrate concentration in the ocean increases the algae levels in water. Algae are the primary food source for the Crown of Thorns Starfish and are why its proliferation has been so extensive. The Crown of Thorns decimates the reef and is currently a major threat. Purchase and use detergents with lower levels of these chemicals.
– Reduce the use of garden chemicals: fertilizers and other garden chemicals enter the oceans and local areas via storm water drains and runoff.
– Dispose of household waste and chemicals properly: Never dump or flush household waste or chemicals. Dispose of oils, solvents, paints and other toxic waste at various specialized disposal depots. Recycle whatever materials.
– Buy organic produce: organic produce directly reduces the impact of chemicals in the environment because they don’t use any! Not only are they better for the environment but also they are very beneficial for your health.
2. Reduce your electricity use: so we don’t have to mine so much of that pesky coal and can limit or stop the expansion of the mines in Queensland.
-Energy saving bulbs, insulating your home and turning the power switches to the ‘off’ position and not having electronics on ‘standby’ are great ways to reduce energy use.
3. Use public transport: limiting or reducing the use of a vehicle reduces your carbon output significantly.
4. Buy sustainably caught seafood:
– Overfishing and bycatch and aquaculture are major issues affecting the sustainability of the reef. Whenever possible by sustainably caught seafood. Check out http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/ for a guide to the best choices.
5. Reduce your use of plastic and single use items: beverage containers, plastic cutlery, plastic shopping bags and other single use plastic items are some of the worst offenders in our oceans. Approximately 6.4 tons of garbage enters our oceans every year, killing around 1 million sea birds and 100 000 sea mammals each year. Reducing the use of these items makes a HUGE difference.
– Take reusable bags to do your shopping
– Always carry a reusable water bottle with you. It saves money and is much healthier for yourself and the environment
– Carry a set of reusable cutlery for meals on the go.
– Reusable coffee cups are great and a lot of coffee shops are now providing monetary incentives for bringing your own
– Always take your trash with you
6. Join a local area clean up group or start your own.:
-There are a bunch of fantastic environmental clean up and awareness groups out there to get involved with, educate yourself and your kids and encourage those around you to make a positive difference. Helping out once a week or even once a month does make a difference and gives you a great feeling of accomplishment as well. Check out http://www.take3.org.au, http://www.responsiblerunners.org , or http://www.twohandsproject.org just to name a few, and get involved in helping rid our country of marine debris.
7. Lobby Government to stop the expansion of mining in Queensland:
– Check out fightforthereef.org.au for more information and what you can
– do to prevent the decimation of hectares of marine park area.
By making slight changes to your lifestyle you can make huge changes in the environment and ultimately the future. From first hand experience I know that setting examples for those around you works wonders, being a little more eco-friendly in your life is contagious. That one plastic bag you refuse today, can lead to 20 plastic bags being refused tomorrow, with sea turtles and birds worldwide having one less plastic meal. Ultimately the state of our reef is in our hands, and its what you do with those hands, no matter how big or small that makes the difference.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
We are daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with practical climate action to live better for us and the planet. Join the movement at www.1millionwomen.com.au