Why we can't afford to cut down more trees
I HAD a very interesting conversation this week with a University of Queensland research fellow Dr Frank Carrick.
He, like entrepreneur Dick Smith and many other Australians, has come to the realisation that rather than being a country with infinite plains to share, ours is one rapidly occupying every available habitable space.
Already the most urbanised country in the world, Australia continues to develop vast, sprawling cities, the largest of which in Queensland already all but stretches from Noosa to Coolangatta.
Further south having long bought the lie that increased density reduces sprawl, Sydney now effectively spans from Newcastle to Wollongong and west to the ranges.
Dr Carrick bemoans an inability to accept that resources are finite.
Instead we get Business As Usual and treat resources as limitless with the consequence we are doomed to remake the mistakes that led to the ecosystem collapse in the Darling which saw a river and all that was in it die.
Dr Carrick was derisive of claims of "balanced development" describes it as weasel words that simply meant the environment and the fauna it sustains doesn't count.
This is a considerable conversion of faith for the koala expert whose evidence was crucial to the approval of the now sprawling Peregian Springs despite the best attempts of local conservationists.
It's a recognition that any hope of retaining anything of the natural environment that once made south east Queensland one of the most biodiverse places on the planet is only achievable if we stop the behaviour of the past 40 years.
Any difference between Labor and the LNP when it comes to perpetual population growth and unbalanced development is lost on the margins.
The push for another two million people in South east Queensland is being driven by no popular mandate.
The government whether LNP or Labor acts in the service of land bankers for whose property they both willingly increase value through the stroke of planning scheme pens.
Anything, it would appear, is justifiable. Long-fought for principles of sensible land use have been pushed aside.
In an age where climate change predictions and realities are increasingly obvious governments continue to allow increased densification of places that will become dysfunctional.
Simply raising floor heights to above anticipated sea level rise, denies the impact on critical infrastructure like roads and sewage systems and the realities of increasingly intense storm events.
Such a blasé, venal response to reality condemns a future which will have no access to fix the mess from the short-term profits now being made and spent.
Simply put every additional dwelling now being planned for the vulnerable coastal plains of south east Queensland will have to eventually be relocated inland along with those already built and on the ground.
In its information request to Stockland in relation to its Twin Waters West development, Sunshine Coast Council planners pointed out that a significant number of existing Maroochy River north shore properties will eventually have to be raised or demolished and rebuilt after the ground they stood on was raised.
Asked how many not just there but elsewhere across the region the council simply waved airily at its climate change inundation mapping which should have long been sobering to community representatives who repeatedly appear to, in the constant push for more, to simply ignore them.
The council's all-growth-is-good mantra has been enabled by a Labor government increasingly reverting to the bad habits of the last days of the Beattie-Bligh regimes that foisted the massive urban sprawl of Palmview and Caloundra South onto the region.
As Dr Carrick pointed out this week, and others have argued for decades, the denial of realities we are now seeing is simply not sustainable.
He and others have warned repeatedly of the ecosystem collapse that will not come gradually but in a moment.
The environment is our life support system.
The parlous state of national and global economies as they lurch from periods of boom to the despair to which many economists now fear we are heading, should give further pause to question whether business as usual can be allowed to continue unfettered.
Don't though expect the hard issues to be addressed during the looming federal election campaign.
Instead as their standard of living continues to wane, most voters will demand instant gratification and politicians will respond with more of the same.