My sustainability reading list for November features a mix of older and new content from around the web.

Addressing climate change in a post pandemic world

COVID-19 has forced governments globally into action. The pandemic is maybe the first event since the deregulation of markets in the 1980s when governments had to put policies in place that prioritise human health over economic growth.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that analysts are comparing the pandemic response to climate action (or the lack thereof). McKinsey has put together a useful overview of the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and climate change.

One of the key differences that remains a challenge for more drastic climate action? A pandemic is a public-health crisis that “presents imminent, discrete, and directly discernable dangers“. In contrast, “the risks from climate change are gradual, cumulative, and often distributed dangers“. In simple terms, this means that it’s easier to respond to a public health crisis, because the threat seems more ‘real’. Climate change, on the other hand, requires us to take action now, even if we will personally may not benefit in our lifetime.

Non-native species should count in conservation

Feral cats and foxes are a major threat to Australia’s native wildlife. So are wild camels, horses, donkeys, boars and a seemingly endless list of introduced animals that are wreaking havoc on Australia’s biodiversity.

However, an article in The Conversation from November 2019 argued that non-native species should count in conservation, even in Australia. The authors take the dromedary camel as an example which was extinct in the wild for 5,000 years until it was introduced to Australia.

The article made it onto this month’s sustainability reading list, because it offers an interesting perspective. Unfortunately, it provides little in the way of practical solutions. For instance, I’d be interested to learn what role these feral Australian species populations could play in reintroducing them to their native home where they have become extinct.

A surge of new plastic is about to hit the planet

Consumer awareness around single-use plastic is certainly growing. Yet, we’re still a long way away from getting on top of the problem. In Australia alone, each person uses on average 130kg of plastic per year. And that is despite the fact that innovative, compostable plastic alternatives are available.

So, what’s holding back a more drastic change toward a plastic-free future? This excellent WIRED article dives deeper into the problem. The essence of the story: with demand for oil as an energy source shrinking, the petrochemical industry is seeing plastic as a major growth category. In fact, plastic is estimated to drive half of oil demand growth between now and 2050.

It’s an eye-opening article and one that highlights how interrelated our planetary health and sustainability challenges are.

Indigenous fashion is the future

To celebrate the opening of a first-of-its-kind Indigenous fashion exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery, the Guardian Australia ran an excellent feature interview on the future of Indigenous fashion.

The insightful conversation between Grace Lilian Lee, designer and co-founder of First Nations Fashion and Design, and Shonae Hobson, the curator of the exhibition, covers everything from reclaiming fashion in Australia to the sustainability lessons we can learn. Hobson, for instance, describes the focus on the creative process rather than the finished garment. The lengthy process of traditional Indigenous weaving also stands in direct opposition to the fast fashion industry.

The article also features stunning original photography with creations from 28 First Nations designers and artists

Undermined: Tales from the Kimberley

Indigenous Australians have a deep connection to Country. They also possess a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge that is sadly missing from mainstream climate change debates. What’s more, when it comes to new resource projects, Indigenous communities are often given a raw deal. Either they accept new developments under the pretense of job creation for their communities, or they lose any say in the project implementation.

Undermined: Tales from the Kimberly is a powerful documentary that investigates the politics of “the future economic powerhouse of Australia.” The film explores what development of the area means for our First People and their unique cultural landscapes. Even though it is a couple of year old now, it has not lost its relevance. As the Rio Tinto’s recent destruction of an ancient Aboriginal cultural at Juukan Gorge shows, not much has changed.

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Hero image credit: Lara Far on Unsplash

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