Bush Tucker in the Dunes

Neville Bonney, renowned botanist and author, will be guiding tours at the Tennyson Dunes Open Day on Sunday 28th September, 11am to 2pm.

The Tennyson Dunes Group has invited Neville to show us just a little of how Aboriginal people used coastal plants prior to European arrival.  Volunteers will also be on hand to explain how they’ve cared for the dunes over the past 19 years since the group formed.

Last year the Open Day attracted more than 100 visitors and with the weather looking like a perfect Spring weekend you can expect it’ll be popular again this year.

So, for an insight into a little known world make sure you get down to the Tennyson Dunes this weekend.


The Endangered Ranger

There’s a great new campaign being run by Conservation SA, The Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Society of SA for the upcoming South Australian state election and we here at Natural Perspectives were honoured to be asked to help them out.

Funding for environmental protection has been slashed in recent years, so we produced a short video documenting the search for the now rare SA Park Ranger……

You can check it out at their campaign website ourbackyardsa.org.au.


Getting Sand Between Your Toes

Experiential learning is what it’s all about.

The best way to learn about nature, the best way to develop an appreciation for nature, is to be amongst nature.  Get the sand between your toes, so to speak.

To this end, the Tennyson Dunes Group is holding their annual open day this coming Sunday – 15th September 2013 – from 11am to 2pm.

Guided walks, led by the volunteers themselves, leave every half hour and you’ll get a chance to hear from special guests Professor Chris Daniels and Associate Professor Victor Gostin.

So if you want to hear about the natural history of Adelaide’s coastline, see what the volunteers do to protect the dunes, check out the wildflowers and native fauna or just want to get sand between your toes be sure to get down to the Tennyson Dunes tomorrow.

2013 Tennyson Dunes Open Day flyer

Environmental Policy Analysis

Yesterday I reviewed the educational policy directions for the Greens, Labor and Coalition parties for tomorrow’s federal election.  With Australia now on the eve of the big vote, literally, there is no time like the present for us to have a look at their environmental policies.

Environmental issues are dear to all readers of this blog and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important our natural world is to the economic and social well-being of all people.  Not to mention the importance to other species we share this beautiful planet with.

There are a complex raft of different policies from the three sides of politics and I’ll attempt to summarise them as best as I can.


Some Labor policies on the environmental front are quite progressive, the main one being a commitment to a carbon price through an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).  Kevin Rudd wants to transition from the current Carbon Tax to the ETS by mid-2014, a year ahead of the original date.  The difference between a tax and an ETS is not small, however the core point is they both place a price on carbon pollution, which encourages innovation in energy conservation and production so as to save money by reducing pollution.

The unfortunate side of Labor’s climate change policies is a weak 5-25% reduction of carbon emissions (based on the year 2000 levels) by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050.  I say “weak” because the consensus by climate scientists is that the world must reduce emissions by 25-40% by 2020 to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius.  Mind you, a 2 degree warming will still cause significant harm to ecosystems, communities and economies around the world.

Labor will also maintain funding to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and keep their current 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020, but plan to review it in 2016.

Unfortunately, Labor seem to be fairly quiet on environmental policies outside of the climate change sphere.  The only positive one that stands out is their $56 million feasibility study into Fast Rail linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.  While it is only a small step forward, it is a step in the right direction.  Fast Rail will help to reduce transport related carbon pollution by reducing car and plane travel between the regions and East coast cities.

On the negative front, Labor plan to cut the Biodiversity Fund from $1 billion to $400 million, decrease Landcare funding and not renew funding at all for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility is a step backward.  They have also ruled out putting a moratorium on coal seam gas exploration, as requested by conservationists and farmers across Australia.

Their policy is to oppose nuclear power generation but support uranium mining.  However there is no sign of any policy on a sustainable population.

Liberal/National Coalition

The Coalition are diametrically opposed to the Labor Party with regards to climate change.  They intend to completely remove a price on carbon pollution and instead rely on a Direct Action Policy of tree planting and energy efficiency measures paid for by government grants.  This will be a voluntary initiative for businesses but if it is widely adopted there is a funding cap and Tony Abbott has already ruled out increasing the fund even if it doesn’t meet their own weak targets of 5-25% carbon pollution reduction by 2020 (from 2000 levels).  This is a distinct back-flip on their previous commitments to reduce carbon pollution.  Furthermore, economists say that the Direct Action strategy will cost far more per tonne of carbon than a Carbon Tax or ETS.

The Liberals also plan to axe the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Biodiversity Fund and a host of other incentives linked to the Carbon Tax.

Like Labor, they are still committed to a 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020, but will review it in 2014.  Unlike the Labor Party, they will renew funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, however.

On a positive note, they plan to introduce an unemployed work program called the Green Army.  This is a just a renaming of the old Green Corps, Work for the Dole and LEAP programs of years gone by.  These programs do have good outcomes in terms of giving meaningful work and environmental education to disadvantaged youth, however I do question the quality of the on-ground work and the fate of existing contractors who currently do the work earmarked to be taken over by the Green Army.

The Coalition plan to introduce a Threatened Species Commissioner, but there is no detail on what powers or resources this person will have.

They have also committed to a $40 million trust fund to combat threats against the Great Barrier Reef, such as the Crown of Thorns Starfish, however it must be noted that occurrence of this invasive species is linked to poor stormwater quality from the land, so without addressing the runoff, the Crown of Thorns will continue to proliferate and damage the Reef.

I’m afraid that’s about all the positive things I can say about Liberal and National environmental policies.

They are committed to building more roads, a strategy that has been proved time and time again around the world to promote car use and increase congestion, let alone carbon emissions. They also plan to delegate some of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act powers to the states, decrease Landcare funding, slow the water buyback in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and remove funding for research into how art can affect people’s behaviour on reducing carbon pollution.

Like Labor, they will not put a moratorium on coal seam gas exploration, but they are also not opposed to nuclear power generation or uranium mining in Australia.  Nor do they have a sustainable population policy.

Worryingly, an Abbott government will remove World Heritage listing for Tasmania’s tall forests and discard Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters.  Both are retrograde actions.

The Greens

The Greens are committed to maintaining a price on carbon with the current Carbon Tax and moving to the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2015 as initially planned.  Their emissions targets are much more ambitious, through a reduction of carbon pollution by 25-40% by 2020, based on 1990 levels, and for Australia to have no net emissions by 2050.

Like the other major parties, they have a 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020, but also include a 90% target by 2030.  They also plan to maintain funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Like Labor, the Greens want to develop Fast Rail for the East coast, but unlike any other parties, they also want to increase Landcare funding, oppose both nuclear power and uranium mining, increase Threatened Species funding by $120 million over three years and increase climate risk mitigation funding to $350 million, up from a paltry $50 million.

The Greens also promise to block the handover of EPBC Act powers to the states and improve the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to allow the return of 3200 GL of water back to the river.

Their policies on the Great Barrier Reef are equally admirable.  They plan to ban  dredging and dumping of dredge spoil in World Heritage waters, undertake a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Reef prior to any other developmental approval and stop any new coal and gas ports in the vicinity of it.  By increasing funding to farmers to improve water runoff quality to the tune of $25 million per year and increasing the funding to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, they hope to also improve the overall health of the Reef and help it adapt to climate change.

They want to give farmers the right to say “no” to coal and gas mining on their land and fund independent monitoring of methane pollution from coal seam gas mines.

And they haven’t forgotten the small policies with a $5 million per year strategy to train and support wildlife carers throughout Australia.

The Greens do have a policy on population but it doesn’t set any limits.  Rather, it suggests that Australia’s and the world’s environmental capacity should be considered when a decision is made.  They also want to increase foreign aid funding, including a commitment to family planning and empowering women in developing countries.

You can further explore these policies through some of the following links:









I hope that this analysis has helped you rate each of the major parties ahead of your vote.  Incidentally, tomorrow is also Threatened Species Day, so do something positive for our planet’s biodiversity and make your vote count.

Thinking is the Key

The Australian Association for Environmental Education conference is overflowing with great conversations about how to improve what we do as educators.  There is so much ground to cover, I think I’ll be writing about it for many months yet.

For now, I’d like to talk about the plenary session given by Professor Sam Ham from the University of Idaho this afternoon.  Looking around the packed auditorium I could see the audience were hanging on his every word.  He is such a fantastic communicator, which makes what he says even more powerful, since good education has good communication at its core.

Sam led by illustrating that as environmental scientists, managers and educators we are essentially different to the majority of other people on this planet.  People who are passionate about environmental issues are in the minority – we are not the norm in society.  Consequently, if we try to motivate others toward behavioural change by using things that would inspire us, we will be unlikely to reach the majority of people, and really only be preaching to the converted.

He went on to say, however, that most people are capable of doing the right thing (by our particular standards), but they will only do it for their own reasons.  The trick is finding out what those reasons are.  That’s where good survey techniques are important, but that’s an issue for a future post.

Perhaps the most important thing (to me anyway) that Sam said was that it won’t be what we say to them that will make them act, but it will be their own thinking that does.  Hence, we must get them to think, and find out the answer, for themselves.  The notion of constructivist learning is not new, but never-the-less it is often overlooked, especially in community education.  We have to get better at encouraging our audiences to think their own thoughts and find for themselves the motivation to act.  That means finding what is relevant to them.

That brings me to an earlier workshop by Grahame Collier from T Issues Consultancy.  He was discussing how to reach challenging people and groups.  The people that are disengaged by traditional community education campaigns.

One thing Grahame did was to showcase a few successful examples.  Some were quirky, such as the Shit on my Shoe campaign to encourage UK dog owners to pick up their dog poo, or Dog Breakfasts to protect threatened Hooded Plovers on South Australian beaches by inviting dog owners to a breakfast bbq and in the process talk to them individually about keeping their dogs on leads around Plovers.  Others were more sedate, but used a peer from that sector of society to champion the message, or used the personal approach of having face-to-face conversations about what it is that matters to them.

One great example that Sam used was encouraging walkers to stay on the path in sensitive forest areas of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.  It wasn’t environmental or safety reasons which ultimately motivated them to stay on the path (in fact, even people who strayed off the path already held these beliefs).  In the end what mattered to most visitors to these areas was seeing the best view and getting the best photos.  So by reinforcing the notion that the path went to the spots with the best views, the rangers were able to change visitor behaviour considerably.  Only good research about your target audience can find what is most relevant to them.

Ultimately, people will not change their behaviour unless they want to.  Our job is to make the message relevant to them, and encourage them to find the answer for themselves.

Marine Leaders are Stars of the Sea

Congratulations must go the Marine Discovery Centre for winning the state round of the Schools First Awards.

The Marine Leaders project run by the Centre is a fantastic initiative engaging school students in marine and coastal conservation.  Not only do they learn about marine ecology and environmental issues, but they also actively participate in conservation programs.

The Marine Discovery Centre

Some of the aquaria (photo courtesy of the Marine Discovery Centre)

The practical nature of their learning really helps students to understand life in our oceans and why land based activities impact on the marine environment.  Too often in our community what goes on under the sea is out of sight and out of mind, but these students are starting to turn that around.

The facilities are full of excellent learning activities, but I’d have to say the aquaria with live fish are my favourites, especially the Sea Horses.

Well done to Tim Hoile and everyone that works and volunteers at the Centre.  Kudos also to the Star of the Sea School who supported the development of the Marine Discovery Centre 15 years ago.

Good luck with the national awards in November.

Tennyson Dunes Open Day

The Tennyson Dunes Group is holding their spring open day, giving tours of the wonderful Tennyson Dunes, on Sunday 16 September 2012. It’s guaranteed to be a great day out.

This is community environmental education at it’s finest. Professor Chris Daniels and Associate Professor Victor Gostin will both be there to give guided tours, each highlighting the dunes in their own special way.

Tennyson Dunes 2012 Open Day flierThe Tennyson Dunes are the most significant coastal dunes on the Adelaide Plains.  They are the largest of only three pre-European remnants and the only ones to still have the original tertiary dune system.  Threatened species of plants and animals abound and they are the only place you can see what Adelaide’s coastal dunes might have looked like in Colonel Light’s day.

Come along and see why the Tennyson Dunes Group is the winner of the 2011 Premier’s NRM Community Engagement Award.  Not only will you experience a great tour, but you’ll be able to see the environmental education initiatives of the group (including excellent interpretive signs created by the Marine Discovery Centre), support local volunteers, and most importantly, learn about Adelaide’s fantastic coastal ecology.

Why is environmental education important?

Environmental education comes in many shapes and sizes.  From vocational training for conservation professionals to community awareness campaigns, it serves to not only encourage environmental protection but also arm people with the skills and knowledge to achieve it.

TAFE Field CampIf you’ve ever been on a tour of your local council reserve, picked up a pamphlet on organic veggie gardening or watched a wildlife documentary you’ve participated in environmental education.  And that’s just as important as what goes on at the other end of the spectrum where TAFE students learn how to measure water quality or office staff participate in sustainability in the workplace.

There are many environmental threats these days such as ocean acidification, habitat destruction, over population, biodiversity loss, weed invasion, pollution, just to name a few.  However, by far the greatest threat is ignorance.  Ignorance of how our food is made, where our waste goes, why it matters and what to do about it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that people are generally bad.  Most of us want to do the right thing.  We just don’t know how.

As far as I can see, there are three ways to change the world and save Planet Earth:

  • money (and I don’t have much of that)
  • politics (call me a cynic but the calibre of our politicians lately leaves something to be desired) and,
  • education.

Only one of these can tackle ignorance.  Only one can bring the other two along for the ride.  Only one can encourage lasting change in the community.


In this blog series I hope to share my experiences, learn from other environmental educators and, most importantly, spark a few debates.  So, if you’ve got something to say, don’t hold back.