Australia's Controversial Adani Coal Mine Now One Approval Away From Construction
The Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) said it accepted an updated plan that Adani had submitted May 28 which complied with requests made by the department to ensure the protection of the endangered species. The mine now needs one more environmental approval to begin construction.
"Assessment of this plan has been a rigorous process, informed by the best available science," a DES spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "DES has met regularly with Adani to ensure that the plan is robust and is well-placed to deliver the best outcomes for the protection of the black-throated finch."
However, conservationists are concerned the plan will not do enough to protect the finch, whose most significant known population lives on the mine site in the Galilee Basin.
We're in the middle of an extinction crisis. We can't let more precious wildlife be lost forever because of the gre… https://t.co/1PJw10xxaG— Stop Adani (@Stop Adani)1559275874.0
Adani has said it will preserve an area for the species next to the mine site, but Melbourne University Conservation Ecology Professor Brendan Wintle explained to The Guardian why that might not work.
"They currently don't exist there and they don't currently occupy that habitat," Wintle said. "They need particular grass species to feed. There doesn't appear to be the appropriate grasses on the site. It's the wrong ecology. They've had the opportunity to breed there for 10,000 years and they haven't. This project will significantly increase the risk of extinction for the finch."
Adani must now earn approval on its plans for managing groundwater, and then it can begin construction. It will still need environmental approvals from the federal government before it can start mining coal.
The groundwater decision is due June 13, SBS News reported.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had insisted on approval deadlines after Labor was defeated during federal elections this month in regions that are anxious for the jobs Adani has promised.
"We're obviously encouraged to have that in our hands," Adani's mining CEO Lucas Dow said of the finch plan approval, as Australia's ABC News reported. "We obviously appreciate that the Queensland Department of Environment and Science has met their self imposed timing to be able to conclude this.'
However, environmental groups raised concerns about the approval process.
"Adani's Carmichael project is an instrument of destruction and climate disaster that the Australian legal and regulatory system isn't designed to see for what it is," Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said in a Twitter thread.
Adani's Carmichael project is an instrument of destruction and climate disaster that the Australian legal and regul… https://t.co/6WXDTvWkro— David Ritter (@David Ritter)1559265929.0
Christian Slattery of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) agreed.
"This process is the result of Adani and their mates in the mining industry pressuring the State Government, and rather than stand up to these corporate bullies, the Queensland Government has rolled out the red carpet for them," he told ABC News. "Frankly, the whole process of approvals for this mine stinks."
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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