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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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climate change

Climb8: 700 kms across the Alps on snowshoes

Climb8 will be a long distance snowshoe expedition planned for the 2020 winter.
It aims to cross 36 summits, visit 8 ski resorts and carry out climate change research along the way.

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In the chaos, it’s important to remember the good stuff

Regardless of who wins the federal election, life will go on, and winter snows are getting closer. But it is still easy to get depressed about the chaotic state of federal politics, and the appalling lack of action on climate change that we have witnessed under the current Coalition government. Fires burnt large areas of the mountains this summer, there are ongoing attempts to allow commercial developments in national parks and other wild places, and feral horses have, in effect, been given protected status in Kosciuszko national park. Faced with ever more intense fire seasons, the forests are getting younger as we get older.

As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’ And, if you’re paying the slightest bit of attention to the natural world, then it’s normal to feel constant Solastalgia.

So, its important to hold hope and to pay attention to the good things that are happening. As Outside magazine recently reminded us, being out in nature is good for our bodies and also our emotional health. And there are also many good developments affecting the places that we love.

Continue reading “In the chaos, it’s important to remember the good stuff”

Adventurers for Climate Action

Anyone who spends time in wild nature knows that climate change is already impacting on the places we love. While for decades the primary political work of outdoor enthusiasts was to campaign for the protection of wild places through the creation of national parks and other reserves, now we need to also respond to the existential threat posed by unbridled climate change.

Older groups are shifting their focus to include acting on climate. For instance, the Wilderness Society, which has led so many campaigns to protect wild landscapes here in Australia, now has a strong focus on climate change. The wintersports group Protect our Winters (POW) is doing valuable work mobilising the skiing and riding communities and focusing them on decision makers.

Now another outdoor focused group – Adventurers for Climate Action – brings together the combined efforts of 10 organisations.

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‘The cure for depression is action’

In March this year, I sat on the summit of one of my favourite hills, Mt Blowhard, and watched the fires just to the south, which were in the Dargo River valley and burning up onto the Dargo High Plains. Already a mosaic of burnt and reburnt forest, now characterised by the grey trunks of burnt trees, I knew that this would be another wave of impact on these mountain forests. Some parts of north east VIC have now burnt more than three times in a bit over a decade. Scientists warn about the loss of alpine ash and snow gum if the frequency of fire continues to increase.

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Former fire chiefs demand urgent action on ‘escalating climate change threat’

We know that climate change is already impacting on Australia’s high country through longer and more intense fire seasons and increasingly erratic winter snow.

What is perhaps less obvious is the fact that emergency services are not adequately resourced to defend the mountains from worsening bushfire seasons.

This has been highlighted in the case of recent fires in Tasmania, where – even with interstate and international support – emergency services were not able to control fires in Tasmania’s world heritage areas over the summer of 2018/19. This had previously been the case in Tasmania in 2016, when precious areas of fire sensitive vegetation were destroyed. Additionally fires in the Victorian high country burnt some areas for the third time in 10 years, with the possibility of significant long term ecological impacts.

Now 23 of Australia’s most senior former emergency service bosses have come together in an unprecedented show of unity, calling on the Prime Minister to ‘get on with the job’ of reducing greenhouse gasses.

They also highlight the fact that Australia currently lacks the resources we need to fight wild fire effectively.

Continue reading “Former fire chiefs demand urgent action on ‘escalating climate change threat’”

VIC State of the Environment report – what does it say about the future of the Alps?

We all know that climate change is already affecting Australia’s mountains. From more intense fire seasons, less rainfall and higher temperatures, we are already locked into a changed future.

What we do now will influence how much additional change the Alps experience in coming decades.

The Victorian government’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability has just released their State of the Environment Report for 2018. These are produced every five years.

The report tells Victorians about the health of our environment – our land, our water, our air, and our ecosystems. Using 170 different scientific indicators, the report shows us where we’re doing well and where we need to improve. It has specific information on alpine environments, and the following is lifted directly from the 2018 report, which is available here.

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Please make a submission to the VIC alpine resorts strategic plan

The Victorian Alpine Resorts Coordinating Council (ARCC) is developing a new alpine resorts strategic plan entitled “Alpine Resorts Strategic Plan (2019) – responding to a changing climate”. The preparation of an Alpine Resorts Strategic Plan is a requirement under the Alpine Resorts (Management) Act 1997 and will be informed by the review of the existing Alpine Resorts Strategic Plan, completed by Council in 2017.

You can make a submission to this process. But time is short, with the submission process closing on March 19.

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‘Giving climbers a platform to speak up about climate change’

Protect Our Winters (POW) is well known for its efforts to mobilise the snowsports community to be active on climate change issues.

Now they have launched POW Climb – describing it as ‘a unique division of the POW Alliance focused on engaging the climbing community in climate action’.

‘By highlighting the climate impacts most relevant to climbers, POW Climb works to connect the climbing community with opportunities for advocacy and activism while amplifying the community’s voice to affect systemic solutions to climate change’.

You can find out more about the program here.

“It’s time to give the climbing community a platform to speak up about climate change.”
– Tommy Caldwell

[IMAGE: POW]

“The whole thing is unravelling”

Once again, we are hearing that Australia’s forests are being ‘reshaped’ by climate change as droughts, heat waves, rising temperatures and bushfires drive ecosystems towards collapse.

Ecologists have long predicted that climate change would have major consequences for Australia’s forests. Now they believe those impacts are already unfolding. Mountain Journal has often reported on this, for instance:

  • In Tasmania, research has confirmed the trend towards more extreme fire seasons. It suggests that we reached a ‘tipping point’ sometime around the year 2000 and that, since then, there has been an increase in the number of lightning-caused fires and an increase in the average size of the fires. This is impacting on fire sensitive vegetation like the high elevation Pencil Pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides) forests and cool temperate rainforest.
  • Fires have decimated some populations of Alpine Ash and Snow Gum
  • Mountain Ash forests could collapse as a result of climate change

A new report, covered in The Guardian describes one of the processes driving the change, called the ‘interval squeeze’.

Continue reading ““The whole thing is unravelling””

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