Monitoring feral deer populations. Photo: Federation Training students

Monitoring feral deer populations. Photo: Federation Training students

we are removing threats such as clearing, weeds and feral animals

In 2015, the group Environment East Gippsland challenged a government department in court. Their goal was to protect important, unburnt habitats of three threatened owls – Sooty, Powerful and Masked Owls – from logging. Their win (in an out-of-court settlement) creates a better future for these beautiful animals.

As climate change intensifies, more (not fewer) natural areas will be needed to protect nature, to store carbon, and to benefit society. We can’t afford more losses. We need to reduce the threats to natural areas.

The threats we know – clearing, pollution, housing development, unsustainable harvesting, weeds, livestock grazing, feral animals and unsuitable fire regimes – will continue to threaten natural areas, regardless of climate change. We will always have to deal with these hard issues. Under a new climate, most of our work will be “business as usual”.

We need long-term strategies to deal with weeds such as Tradescantia, here in the Dandenong Ranges.

We need long-term strategies to deal with weeds such as Tradescantia, here in the Dandenong Ranges.

Climate change does not make any of this work less relevant; it makes it more important than ever. Intact ecosystems, large connected patches, and large populations of native plants and animals have the greatest potential to adapt to a new climate.

The best way to help nature adapt to a new climate is to help nature survive in the current climate.

Transforming solutions

As climate change intensifies and Victoria’s population grows, natural areas will experience new threats, many caused by people. For example, engineering works that are designed to protect bayside suburbs from rising sea levels could well damage coastal and marine ecosystems.

To address big social and environmental problems, we will (ultimately) need to find the types of solutions that social scientists call transforming solutions rather than reacting responses. Transforming solutions seek new ways to think about and address problems, in ways that aren’t tied to past practices. By contrast, reactive responses create quick, short-term fixes that lock in past practices.

Single-, double-, and triple-loop learning lead to different solutions for managing flood-prone areas (Source: IPCC 2012).

Single-, double-, and triple-loop learning lead to different solutions for managing flood-prone areas (Source: IPCC 2012).

The quest for transforming solutions is not naive or over-optimistic; in the end, all of our big responses to climate change will be transformative. Our goal is to get there sooner rather than later.

On the other hand, we don’t need to “solve” every long-term problem now, or anguish because we cannot. With our local communities we can develop adaptation pathways: plans that describe future “triggering” events (like big floods) and which suggest ways to respond after each event occurs. Adapting to a changing climate will always be a “process of adjustments over time” rather than a problem we can solve in one hit.

 

To help nature adapt to a new climate:

We are campaigning to stop vegetation clearing.
We are advocating for land-use policies that protect the environment.
We are removing threats such as weeds and feral animals.
We are seeking long-term, ‘transforming’ solutions rather than reactive stop-gap fixes.

VicNature 2050 was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, The Royal Society of Victoria and The University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute and sponsored by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria.