Australia enters an Olympic year as the only developed nation to make a world list of deforestation hotspots, due to land clearing which is decimating a national symbol.
Eastern Australia in particular has been singled out. The states of New South Wales and Queensland recorded the highest rates of land clearing, and experts fear that Victoria and Tasmania may soon catch up. The statistics are far more depressing than those recorded at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976, where Australia failed to win a single gold medal.
- Australia kills tens of millions of native animals each year as a consequence of land clearing, and is the worst offending country in the world for mammal extinctions.
- The country has cleared nearly half of its forest cover in the last 200 years.
- An area the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is being destroyed every two minutes.
- Australia has lost 27% of rainforest, 19% of open forest, 11% of woodland forest and 28% of mallee forest since 1750.
- 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production.
- Carbon emissions released by land clearing across the country are equivalent to about a third of the total emissions released by all of the coal-fired power stations in the wide brown land. When native forest logging emissions are included, this is equivalent to at least half the carbon pollution of all Australian coal-fired power stations.
In response to the dismal performance at the Montreal Olympics, the Australian government poured millions of dollars into the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport. In response to the deforestation statistics, the Australian government poured millions of dollars into the resources and the agricultural sector.
So real is the threat to wildlife that the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, earned the nickname Koala Killer, because the biggest threat to koalas in New South Wales is habitat loss. Under the Berejiklian government, restrictions were axed and land clearing rates dramatically increased, and this made eastern Australia one of the most infamous places on the planet for forest destruction. Some experts fear habitat loss could drive Koalas to extinction. How many countries knowingly wipe out a national symbol?
The sunshine state is not much better. 275,775 ha of likely koala habitat in Queensland was cleared between 2013 and 2018. Of this, 76% of likely koala habitat was cleared on land which is primarily dedicated to beef production.
Even if the Olympic Games do go ahead in 2021 and Australia wins many medals, what will the country’s athletes come home to?