The Deforestation Crisis Down Under: Voices of Passionate Young People Need to be Heard

This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.

When people mention Australia, they tend to think of the beautiful acres of natural bushland and unique array of animal species. However, this ideal paradise is slowly but surely deteriorating due to an urgent disaster known as the deforestation crisis. In the last 200 years since the early European settlement, almost half of our beautiful forests have been cleared. In fact, a stadium-sized area of bushland is cleared every 2 minutes. As a result of land clearing, animal species are killed and Australia remains one of the top countries in the world for mammal extinctions.

The consequences of deforestation are detrimental and impact all living plants, animals, and human life. The destruction of natural land causes carbon emissions, accelerates soil loss, pollutes streams and rivers, harms human health and wellbeing, and reduces soil fertility and farm productivity for generations to come. Beyond such ramifications, it also deeply affects the spiritual essence of the aboriginal peoples of Australia who are the original custodians of the land. As forests are destroyed, carbon dioxide is released from the decomposition of vegetation. The consequences are endless and continue to wreak havoc on our beautiful ecosystem and ozone layer.

However, despite the obvious state of the earth’s rapid deterioration, our government at the local and federal levels is ceasing to take charge of the issue. Australia’s heedlessness towards the deforestation crisis undermines our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, which was established to reduce carbon emissions as intended by the Agreement. Despite this, the Australian government, like many others in the ASEAN region, fails to enact adequate environmental protection laws. There is a need for stricter laws to protect our forests. There needs to be productive and progressive steps undertaken by the governments to tackle this issue. There are, in fact, many ways through which this can be accelerated. As long as there is political will, the government can formulate declarations, regulations, and policies in line with tighter deforestation laws.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of the chaos that can ensue if deforestation is not taken seriously. It is suspected that the deadly virus stemmed from the consumption of a bat. Australia and other countries need to protect our land and animal species, including the curbing of illegal transportation and consumption of wildlife. Otherwise, the potential risks of future life-threatening pandemics would remain in mankind. Fortunately, there is still a silver lining in the present situation – and that is the youths of today and tomorrow in ASEAN and the greater Asia region who are passionate about putting a stop to the devastating crisis. The youths are the future leaders and custodians of the earth and it is vital to acknowledge their passion, hear their voices, and implement their creative problem-solving solutions to bring about change.

Our youths need to become more involved in the discussions on green recovery. The voices of youths ignite a kind of passion, motivation, energy, and creativity for change that the current political system is lacking in. There is a list of actionables that youths can be involved in to allow their voices to be heard and acknowledged. First, youths should speak up, which is necessary in order to create a more inclusive environment. Second, opinion pieces or blogs can be published online. Third, creative mediums such as youtube and vimeo amongst others can be utilised to post impactful videos and documentaries. These are just a few examples of ways through which youths can bring ideas to the table to create catalysts of change to combat the deforestation crisis. The future depends on our young people, not only in Australia but the rest of the globe as we are all united under one sun, one atmosphere, and one earth.

This op-ed was written by Meela Tiba and edited by the AASYP Publications Team.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.

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