Big Question Marks

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thoughts on behalf of Captain Planet...

Being in such a naturally beautiful place like northern Queensland definitely gets you thinking more about the environment. Last Thursday, Adrian, I, and a fellow Canadian hit an environmental forum at the town's community centre about the climate change and its effects on the Great Barrier Reef.

While some of what we heard was very much along the lines of the film An Inconvenient Truth (if you haven't seen it yet, now's the time!). Sure, we all know that climate change is happening, but what can we do about it? While we're trying to do our best to recycle and not litter along our travels, how do you deal with living in a hostel (ie. Dougies) that only recycles cans and corrugated cardboard? And worse, our workplace doesn't recycle anything-- and when we asked the office manager on our second day, she pretty much shrugged it off and said that even though Port Douglas residents have different bins for garbage and recycling, she's heard they all end up in the same truck anyway and are sent off to the dump. And while individuals in this country seem to be fairly eco-conscious, Australia (along with the U.S.) has still not signed onto the Kyoto Protocol. And then there's the masses of old cars idling and polluting on the roads (and the guilt we're feeling from wanting to buy a van and add to it...)

We also learned at this forum about coral bleaching, a phenomenon that's been happening more and more in the past few years. Basically, coral gets stressed out from water temperatures rising (as well as from changes in salinity, disease, pollutants, etc.) and bleaches, and if conditions don't normalize soon enough, a good portion of the coral dies. Apparently it's been happening all over the world, including the Caribbean, not too far from home. So, enjoy it while it lasts...

But despite all the doom and gloom, there are good things happening-- we hear more about green energy sources all the time here, and there is a lot of land (and water) being watched over by national parks. One great thing happening here in Oz is the progression from plastic shopping bags- grocery stores encourage shoppers to use eco-friendly reusable bags, and at $1 apiece, it's a small price to pay to reduce plastic use. I thought Canada was a little behind with this, but I just received an email from President's Choice promoting their own "green" grocery bags, and offering PC bonus points for shopping with them. Hurray! Maybe we'll return to a plastic-bag free country!

Extracurricular reading (c'mon, you're not on summer holidays YET!):
--> Info on coral bleaching from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

--> More about coral bleaching

--> The debate on how good these "green" bags actually are

--> Good job, Canada! Green bags by President's Choice