Protecting our forests protects our climate

The Sustainable Hour no. 446 | Podcast notes

Our guests in The Sustainable Hour no. 446 are forest defenders Amy Calton from Wombat Action Group and Alana Mountain from the Victorian Forest Alliance and Friends of the Earth.

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Amy Calton is spokesperson for the Wombat Action Group, which has been outspoken about the so-called “salvage logging” that VicForests have been carrying out in their beloved Wombat Forest. Their concerns centre about the way VicForests are operating in their area. Salvage logging is supposed to involve them in just taking the trees that have been blown over or are leaning, but VicForests are using this excuse to virtually clear fell this special place.
To find out more about their concerns and the issue, go to

Alana Mountain is from the Victorian Forest Alliance and she is Friends of the Earth Melbourne’s Forest Campaigns Lead. She gives a wider perspective on current Victorian forestry issues. Needless to say, VicForests cops more heavy criticism because of the way they “manage” our forests. We are left in no doubt that we can’t wait till 2030 to stop native logging.
More info can be found here:

Both Alana and Amy mention mature trees’ ability to draw down carbon. Leaving our forests standing is yet another solution to the climate emergency we face. A recent report was done on this.
It can be found here:

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We start today’s show as we often do with a clip from our planetary chief Antonio Guterres. This one is from when he opened the UN Climate Summit in Egypt last November, where he said: “We are in the fight for our lives, and we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” He finished his speech with these final words: “One thing is certain: those that give up are sure to lose. So let’s fight together – and let’s win”. (Transcript | Video)

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We follow up with a tribute to Will Steffen who was arguably Australia’s foremost climate scientist. He died last week after a long struggle with cancer. What follows below is our tribute to Will. It includes a collection of key quotes and speeches he gave.

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The songs we play are first Ariana Grande‘s ‘Just Look Up’ and then Rhiannon Giddens, Bhi Bhiman and Leyla McCalla‘s ‘Factory Girl’. As we have done many times before, we round off with Missy Higgins‘ climate anthem ‘The Difference’ and a quote from Greta Thunberg about “never being too small to making a difference.” The signature music for The Sustainable Hour was produced by Mik Aidt, Pernilla Aidt and Torsten Myhre Jensen.

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Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook this week begins in the United States where a team of clever and patient investigators, after decades of digging, has announced that it has conclusive proof that America’s largest oil company – and probably the world’s largest, too… – ExxonMobil knew 30 years ago that burning fossil fuels was the principal cause of global warming. Their scientists reported this to the board, which suppressed them and started a campaign of denial that remains today.

The report paper, published last week in the journal Science, analysed all known climate predictions produced or reported by scientists at ExxonMobil and its predecessors from 1977-2003, and found that they were at least as accurate as those by independent experts, and they reached the same conclusions. Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999, so prior to that, there were two independent sets of scientists. Like those independent models, most of Exxon’s and Mobil’s scientists proved to be accurate.

Geoffrey Supran, the paper’s lead author, said: “They didn’t just vaguely know something about global warming decades ago, they literally knew as much as independent academic scientists did. We now have this airtight, unimpeachable evidence that Exxon accurately predicted global warming years before it turned around and publicly attacked climate science.”

What happens next is depressingly predictable. With bottomless reserves of money, the company will challenge this new report in the courts and continue its official denials for as long as it continues to make money. And that’s well into the foreseeable future it seems unless the courts start to look on them as the criminals they are.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s government unveiled a new five-year delivery plan aimed at restoring nature and improving the environmental quality of the nations’ air, waters and land. Titled the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, it arrived with the government claiming it ‘provides a comprehensive delivery plan for the government’s approach to halting and then reversing the decline in nature’.

It claims that inside the next five years the UK government will:

  • Create and restore at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats
  • Deliver a clean and plentiful supply of water into the future
  • Challenge councils to improve air quality quickly by tackling key hotspots
  • Boost green growth and create new jobs – from foresters and farmers to roles in green finance and research and development

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Protecting our natural environment is fundamental to the health, economy and prosperity of our country.”

One of the world’s biggest companies, Microsoft, announced a new partnership with the leading manufacturer of solar panels, QCells, with the aim of building a supply chain for new renewable electricity capacity.

The scheme is projected to require at least 2.5 gigawatts of solar panels and related services — equivalent to powering over 400,000 homes. QCells will work with Microsoft to develop solar projects as well as provide panels and engineering, procurement and construction services to selected solar projects Microsoft has contracted for through power purchase agreements.’

Microsoft is supporting Qcells’ solar products to bring more renewable energy to the grid. Qcells is the only company in the U.S. that will have a complete solar supply chain and provide one-stop clean energy solutions.

Microsoft president Brad Smith said: “Building a resilient solar energy supply chain is essential to advancing a global green energy economy. Microsoft’s partnership with Qcells will help make this vision a reality by bringing innovation and investment to rural Georgia. As one of the world’s largest purchasers of renewable energy, this work will help bring more solar energy to the grid, faster.

It’s all wonderful, isn’t it, until you look up who owns QCells – it’s the Hanwa group, one of South Korea’s top eight companies and a leading energy and petrochemical company.

Finally, our pet vegan zero carbon-football team Forest Green Rovers lost 2–0 at home to Peterboro at the weekend, leaving them 4 points adrift at the bottom of the ladder. But the club’s women’s team, FGR Women First, played Sherbourne Town Ladies – early morning our time – and won 2–0, putting them back on top of their division.

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We hope that you, our listeners, have taken something with you that you can use in the coming days. It doesn’t stop here. We look forward to being on your airwaves next week with two more solution-seekers to inspire you to become active participants in the climate revolution.

“It is the closest thing to us and it actually baffles me that people don’t feel that sense of curiosity towards the environment because that’s our creator, that’s where we came from. How can we not want to follow that animalistic, that intuitive connection? It’s ultimately our birthright to connect to the Earth. It’s also about making sure that we know how to be good custodians of the land.”
~ Alana Mountain, Friends of the Earth Melbourne Forest Campaigns and Victorian Forest Alliance

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we
are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millennia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How disrespectful and unfair is that?

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An invitation from the Victorian Forest Collective:

Forest walk in March 2023

“Victoria’s highest mountain, Bogong (Warkwoolowler in the Waywurru and Dhudhuroa languages) is protected in the Alpine National Park. It sits high above the town of Mount Beauty and is a drawcard for hikers, skiers and backcountry snowboarders. It is an alpine wonderland of wildflowers in summer and deep snow in winter.

However, surrounding areas continue to be logged. And now a series of logging coupes are proposed along the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) between Mt Bogong and Mt Wills. Additionally, a coupe is planned in the headwaters of the Mitta Mitta River, close to the AAWT.

If this concerns you, please join us for a walk to Mt Wills on Saturday March 18. It is about a 90 minute walk up a good 4WD track to reach the summit. We will take a photo of the group on the summit with Mt Bogong as our backdrop as part of our campaign to build awareness about this new threat to mountain forests.

We will then lead interested people to visit some of the forests along the AAWT that are listed to be logged.”

See more details on this here:

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An aerial photo clearly puts the lie to the VicForests claim that this is just salvage logging.

Demand an end to logging

Add your name to Friends of the Earth Melbourne’s letter to the new Victorian Environment Minister, calling on her to urgently protect native forests by ending all logging on public lands in the state.

Logging of native forest drives increased risk of devastating wildfire. With a new environment minister in Victoria, there is a good opportunity for the government to bring forward it’s planned end to native forest logging. 

You can support this call here:

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Forest protests not just in Victoria:

ABC News – 6 February 2023:
Protesters lock onto sawmill gates as simultaneous logging protests ramp up across NSW
“A person has been arrested and forestry operations halted as protesters today launched simultaneous protests against native timber logging in northern NSW.”

This is how VicForests present themselves on their website “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at VicForests”…

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“My worst fear is that we may reach a ‘point of no return’ where we commit our children to a future of hell on Earth.” 

Will Steffen, Australian climate scientist, 2020

Will Steffen was an Earth System scientist. He was a Councillor on the publicly-funded Climate Council of Australia that delivers independent expert information about climate change. He was also an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University (ANU); Canberra, a Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden; and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group. From 1998 to mid-2004, Steffen was Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, based in Stockholm. His research interests spanned a broad range within Earth System science, with an emphasis on sustainability and climate change.

Will Steffen: Number one, from today, from now: No new fossil fuel developments of any kind. Coal, oil or gas. Just stop the expansion of the industry. Same thing as stopping the expansion of the virus: we have to try to contain it. Same with the fossil fuel industry. By 2030 we should have achieved a 50% reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions. Here in Australia we can go a long way toward that by getting to 100% renewable energy. It is absolutely technologically feasible, it is economically achievable and is going to give a lot of positives. Side benefits in terms of employment, distribution of energy systems, more resilient energy systems, et cetera. And by 2040 we need to reach net zero emissions. 2050 is too late. If you want to meet the Paris targets, it has to be 2040. So that’s a very simple, but I think a very powerful guideline for what we could do to “flatten the curve” on climate change.

Mik Aidt: Climate scientist Will Steffen – a real authority on climate here in Australia – is no longer with us. He was a strong supporter of the Climate Emergency Declaration campaign that we started back in 2016, and he has given so many talks and presentations and many of them are kept, you can still watch them on YouTube – like this one – and many many others.

Anthony Gleeson: He is certainly going to be sorely missed. He wasn’t scared at all to speak truth to power. His work was to find the truth, and he had no hesitation in saying it. He was also one of the few climate scientists that was prepared to go into battle for ordinary Australians who had been arrested, or had to face charges in court: He was prepared to be called in as an expert witness. He did that on a number of occasions. And that was even last year, when he was fighting cancer. So his contributions just cannot be overestimated. He is going to be sorely missed.

~ Transcript from The Sustainable Hour no. 446

ABC News:
‘One of Australia’s most influential and respected climate scientists’ Will Steffen dies aged 75

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Will Steffen’s letter to Joe Duggan

“As the climate system continues to spiral towards a potentially uncontrollable state, I am struck with an increasing sense of both anger and apprehension. I’m angry because the lack of effective action on climate change, despite the wealth not of only scientific information but also of solutions to reduce emissions, has now created a climate emergency. The students are right. Their future is now being threatening by the greed of the wealthy fossil fuel elite, the lies of the Murdoch press, and the weakness of our political leaders. These people have no right to destroy my daughter’s future and that of her generation.
I’m apprehensive because the more we learn about climate change, the riskier it looks. Even at a 1 degree C rise in global temperature, extreme weather events are becoming more violent and dangerous than models have predicted. Over the last 5 years, our knowledge of tipping points in the Earth System has advanced rapidly, with many already showing signs of instability. Worse yet, they can interact like a row of dominoes to set off a tipping cascade, driving the Earth to hotter and more unstable conditions. That is my worst fear – that we may reach a ‘point of no return’ where we commit our children to a future of hell on Earth.”
~ Will Steffen
16 February 2020

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“There are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe. It is time for the scientific community to grapple with the challenge of better understanding catastrophic climate change.”
~ From abstract of report by Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber and more: ‘Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios’, 2022

Environmental Defenders Office wrote:

.“This month, the world sadly lost a remarkable and generous human, in climate scientist Professor Will Steffen. Tributes about Will’s intellect, passion and courage have flowed since news of his passing spread. We wish to add to those tributes our particular admiration for Professor Steffen as an expert witness in climate litigation. Many people will not be aware of the significant role Professor Steffen played in advancing climate law in Australia. For us, Will was an independent expert we briefed many times on behalf of our clients to explain to the courts the impacts of climate change, the complex earth systems which drive the change and the existence of ‘tipping points’ within those systems which might have dire consequences for humanity and the world on which we rely.”

“One of the report’s authors, executive director of the Australian National University Climate Change Institute Will Steffen, cited the example of allied nations transforming their economies in five years to defeat the Axis power in World War II. “The point is, it’s going to be a tough decade, no doubt about it,” he said. “There’ll be some disruption soon, but it’ll be an exciting decade and it’ll set us up for a much brighter future after 2030.”

To reach such targets Professor Steffen said the government would need to immediately halt the expansion of coal and gas and plan to support affected communities as fossil fuels were phased out. Secondly, Australia would have to reach almost 100 per cent renewables in its energy system by 2030.”

→ Sydney Morning Herald – 15 April 2021:
Facing the climate ‘endgame’ in a world bound for 1.5 degrees warming

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UN Chief: “Let’s fight together”

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“More heatwaves and extreme rains, stronger tropical storms, more drought and fires – it feels sad to see how our scientific predictions are coming true, and still the world’s response to the unfolding climate crisis is woefully inadequate. Some leaders even remain in full-out denial of reality.”

~ Stefan Rahmstorf

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“More Fossil Fuel bosses popping the champagne corks while trashing the planet and screwing the poor.”

Professor Bill McGuire

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Calls for a revolution


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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of running petitions where we encourage you to add your name

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