Australian Supreme Court Halts Logging Project as Animals Seek New Habitat Amid Fire Destruction
The Australian Supreme Court has stepped in to put an immediate halt to a logging project in east Victoria while it waits for cases about the health of native species to be heard in court, according the Brisbane Times.
The state's logging agency VicForests must immediately stop logging several areas that were earmarked for clear-cutting. Environmentalists had argued that that devastation from the fires in East Gippsland had put an inordinate amount of strain on native species in Victoria. They argued that areas that were left unscathed must not be logged while surviving animals try to find a new habitat, as the Australian Broadcasting Company reported.
Justice Kate McMillan said there was "a real threat of a serious or irreversible damage to threatened species and their habitat should harvesting operations continue in the coupes," according to the Australian Broadcasting Company. "The recent bushfires have caused extensive environmental damage, the severity of which is only beginning to be understood."
Wildlife of the Central Highlands filed the case against VicForests. It is looking to stop 10 areas that are scheduled for clear-cutting. The current injunction stops three of them from continuing. They will seek an injunction for the other seven forests when the issue is before a court again in a few weeks, as The Guardian reported.
Wildlife of the Central Highlands claimed the areas targeted for logging are habitat for the greater glider, the smoky mouse, the sooty owl, and the powerful owl — all have been identified by the Victorian government as being of immediate concern because of the bushfires, according to The Guardian. The plaintiffs say that logging the areas where these animals have been spotted is illegal until the government creates a plan to protect the wildlife.
Environmental Justice Australia, which represented Wildlife of the Central Highlands in court, told the justices that the animals had seen their habitats destroyed in the fires so the unscathed areas will now take on a larger role in conservation. Considering that, the trees should remain standing for the short term, according to the Brisbane Times.
Danya Jacobs, a senior lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia, said it was a good result for threatened species "who suffered a huge blow after the catastrophic bushfires," as The Guardian reported. She added, "important unburnt habitat is now safe from logging, while this case moves to the next stage."
"This case is an important test for whether laws designed to protect threatened species are able to do so in the aftermath of this summer's catastrophic bushfires," said Jacobs, as the Brisbane Times reported.
Victoria's Premier, Daniel Andrews, said the fires destroyed 40 percent of the area in East Gippsland that had been slated for logging, as the Australian Broadcasting Company reported. In 2019, Andrews announced that logging in Victoria would be phased out by 2030 because of dwindling sustainable supplies.
"I don't think we yet know exactly what the impact is on the current timber release plan or our timber transition plan in terms of whether the volumes we thought would be available will be," said Andrews, as the Australian Broadcasting Company reported."There has been impact from these fires, and we will have to assess what that impact is."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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