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Environment day material brainwashes school children

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Deputy Leader, National Party of Australia Shadow Minister for Primary industry

Media Release For farther information: Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Telephone: Facsimile:

06/2774193 06/2772053


The Environment Minister, Ros Kelly, has been condemned for allowing her department to attempt to brainwash a generation of school children.

National Party Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Bruce Lloyd, said Mrs Kelly's Department in the name of World Environment Day 1992 had mounted a deplorable attack on Australia's farming community.

Mr Lloyd said that at a time when there was unprecedented co­ operation between farmers and conservationists, he was saddended that the Minister should sanction such a jaundiced document.

"In my 20 years in Parliament I have never seen such an

unbalanced, misleading and divisive document as that sanctioned by the Minister," Mr Lloyd said.

"It is disgusting that this material has been circulated to 12,000 schools across Australia without even a semblance of an attempt to give students the real picture about agriculture.

"This project material on land management depicts farmers as red­ necked hicks hell-bent on destroying the environment when nothing is further from the truth.

"It abjectly fails to acknowledge the tremendous progress made by the general farming community during the past 20 years to reclaim degraded land and adopt sustainable land use practices.

"I understand the authors of this biased material did not even consult the Department of Primary Industries and Energy which dedicates significant resources to issues of land management."

Mr Lloyd said Mrs Kelly was presiding over a department

pioneering a new frontier in brainwashing school children.

"First Mrs Kelly retarded the development of a sustainable forest industry with her veto over sensible resource security


"Now she is poisoning the minds of the next generation of

Australians against farming. .

Mr Lloyd said the document offered scant recognition that farm production had increased dramatically to the benefit of all Australians over the past 50 years and fragile farming areas such as the Mallee are now immeasurably more stable and sustainable.

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" T h e r e i s n o a c k n o w l e d g m e n t o f t h e f a r l o w e r u s a g e i n A u s t r a l i a

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a n d N o r t h A m e r i c a .

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A u s t r a l i a n C o n s e r v a t i o n F o u n d a t i o n , a n d b o t h s i d e s o f P a r l i a m e n t

i n p r o m o t i n g l a n d c a r e a n d s u s t a i n a b l e a g r i c u l t u r e .

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52/92 27/5/92

A c o p y o f t h e p r o j e c t m a t e r i a l i s a t t a c h e d . T h e f r o n t p a g e

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Subjects: Geography» Commence, History, A rt

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Land management Learning to manage our land and sustaining it for future generations is one of the most urgent issues facing the Earth Summit. ; /

The earth’s fertile land is disappearing at an alarming rate as forests are cut down and cash crops and modern farming methods destroy the soil.

. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that 35 per cent of the earth's surface is turrently at risk from desertification. - Nearly Jj^per cent of the world’s drylands are ; airearfy"affected (an area larger than Canada, China ipd the USA put together). Since European colonisation of Africa, environmental ;j ·, - deterioration has steadily increased. Millions of

hectares of farming (and and natural forest have been lost to the desert.

Down on the farm

Natural habitat ■ destroyed to grow more food. Natural ' enemies of pests

die out.

Fields without trees cause water table and salinity increases, and wind


Until about 50 years ago, most farms were ‘mixed’. The average farmer produced small amounts of many different crops — perhaps growing wheat, barley, potatoes and other ,

vegetables, and running cows, pigs, ducks and . hens. ■ ’ *

La n d M anagem ent

Farming practices today are verv d i f f e r e n t . . Farmers are often specialists — growing enormous amounts of ju st one or two types of crop. Artificial fertilisers and herbicides are used to produce the biggest crop possible.

At firs'· glance, this style of farming seems like a huge step forward — farmers are able to produce huge quantities of food quickly and efficiently and

we are able to produce enough food to feed a large population. But the environmental costs of these farming practices are high, and loss of fertility,

soli erosion and land degradation have occurred in many places. . .

Huge areas of land in Australia and many other countries are dying and being turned into desert. Top soil is being eroded at an increasing rate, the salt level in the soil is rising as the water table

rises and more fertilisers are needed to produce crops on dying land. Use the diagram above to discuss farming practices in class. Suggest

changes which could help avoid the problems.

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Australia's salty soil The salt level in our soil has been rising gradually since European farmers arrived in Australia. They cut down trees to grow food crops and to allow farm animals to graze. Now, at least 4

per cent of our farmland is threatened by salination which could make the soil unsuitable for farming. In Western Australia, more than 250 square kilometres of agricultural land becomes

unusable due to salination every year.

The trees which used to cover much of southern Australia acted as pum ps - taking water from the deep water table up into their leaves. Once the trees were cut down, and plants with shallow roots

were introduced, the water table began to rise. And ' as the water table rises, so does the level of salt in the soil. Over time, the soil becomes so salty that nothing can grow.

• in order to stop our soils dying, we must change

our methods of farming. The first part of the solution is to plant trees to encourage the water table to drop again. In July 1989 the Prime Minister launched the One Billion Trees Program — which aims to plant one billion trees by the year 2000.

What dots salination mean? why has Australia's lard become salty? What can be done to stop Sdlination?

f / T f Research the salination problem in VV Australia. Using information from the school library, write a report about the areas most affected by salinisation. Include a map showing these areas and diagrams of how salination occurs.

Find out what food is grown in your local area. Where does the rest of the food come from? What difference does it make if the food comes from a long distance (costs of travelling, pollution

through transport, older food etc). How much does it cost to transport the food (ask shop owners)?

Organic farming and permaculture Organic farming is a sustainable method of farming which treats the soil as something to be valued, not as a resource which can be used and destroyed.

Organic farms are usually diverse — with several different species of plants and animals. Organic farmers usually rotate the crops carefully, growing "different plants in each field every year; and they use no chemical fertilisers or herbicides

to increase production. · ·

Because they are so careful with the land, organic farmers rarely suffer from the problems of erosion and salination. And while the food grown on organic farms doesn’t usually look as perfect as other foods, most people agree that it tastes a whole lot better! "

Permaculture is a method of farming which encourages diversity. Different plants and animals live and grow together. Some of the plants encourage birds, while others might help keep pests away. Like organic farms, permaculture gardens don't need any fertiliser or pesticides because the species all help each other — some provide shelter, some provide food for the others, and all help to fertilise the ground. ■

Start a permaculture garden at school. You will need a suitable area of land, some basic tools and mulch. You might like to arrange the garden so that It grows vegetables for the home science

department to use. A good book to get you going is Introduction to Permaculture by 8ill Moltison. Some important points to remember are to select the area for the garden carefully, to plant species which suit

the local climate and to arrange the plants so that larger plants provide shade to plants which don't like direct sunlight.

p£ Y Research farming techniques in Australia. Find out how the food you eat is produced, and where It comes from. Look at the production of crops and ‘factory farming1 of animals. Compare these methods to organic growing and permaculture. Make an assessment of which farming method you think is

the most sustainable. Why do you think that all farmers don’t use organic methods? Could they be influenced by what people want to buy?

Find out what environmental organisations are doing about land management. Contact some environmental groups and find out what campaigns they are involved in.


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The growing desert

The diagram above illustrates the problem of desertification — when deserts are formed In arid countries from cutting down trees or over-grazing the land. The ground becomes dryer and hotter, wind speed increases and rainfall drops. ' V

Desertification is a major problem in the Sahara " region of northern Africa — for exam ple/m uch of Ethiopia is now being overtaken by desert. - *

is? Vr!h i0 JJta ^ Write a short report about the land m Ethiopia, wh l( ht do (his f(? (he jand? m ht explaining how the desert is being formed and how it famtfS 0ver.g,aze or cut dom tr6es t0 grow J , has changed people s lives, is anything being done to whtn f„ /f mighvdamagt tH ,an% *

Locate the Sahara Desert on a school atlas. Locate and name three more deserts Explain these words: desertification, land degradation, sustainably land management.

Why is the ground hotter in pictures 2 and 3 than in 17

Can you suggest a land use which Is 3H likely to prevent desertification?

Dying forests

La n d M a n agem ent

Forests are often called ‘the earth's lungs'. Trees help us to breath — like all plants they take in carbon dioxide (CO 2) and give out oxygen. But all over the world, our forests our* dying — either being cut down for timber, burned to make space for crop production or destroyed by acid rain.

The rapid destruction of forests is one of the major contributors to the greenhouse effect — forests absorb carbon dioxide (one of the major greenhouse gases), but burning forests emit large quantities of COj. Deforestation also causes

erosion of hills, siltation of rivers and water supplies and expansion of deserts. Choose one country for a research project. Describe the forests in the country. How much of the country is covered with forest? Has any of the forest been cut down? If yes, what was the forest used for? How is the land used now? How has cutting down the forest affected the land? Can you explain why the forest was cut down or burned? Did

anyone benefit? .

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Forests in developing nations



Two of the greatest causes of land degradation In developing nations are the logging of forests and planting of cash crops for western consumers.

Developing nations often log their forests for export to countries such as Australia, Japan and the USA. In 1985 Australia imported 360,000 cubic metres of rainforest timber, mainly for use in the building industry. Many other countries import timber from developing countries to use to make paper. ' '

Cash crops — like coffee, sugar and cotton — are usually planted on the best soil in developing nations. These crops are

then exported to rich countries. The villagers who once grew food on this land are forced to move · ' elsewhere — either into' cities, the forests or onto

poor, dry land.

Often, these developing nations know they are dam agingthe environment by logging-forests and growing large cash crops, but they desperately need money. Developing countries often have huge debts to pay to banks and developers in richer countries, and they need to sell what they can to keep up with the repayments.

The people who live m the forests, such as the Penan people In Malaysia, stand to lose their entire way of life as the forests are destroyed for logging. These poor, local people have little financial or political power. When governments have to choose between cash crops or logging to pay their debts, and the subsistence livelihood of

local people, the local people are usually the losers. - ·

Answer the following questions. What are the two greatest causes of land degradation in developing nations7 Why do people do these things? What often happens to the people when

the good land is used for cash crops? What are the Penan people doing to protect their forests?

Buying the forest A group of children from all over the world recently bought a huge area of forest in Costa Rica. Children in the USA and several other countries raised $50,000 to buy 5.740 hectares of forest. They are now raising funds to buy more forests in Costa Rica, and for land in Brazil and the Philippines.

The program, called The Children's Rainforest, is organised by Sharon Kinsman, a biology professor at Bates College In the USA, She visits

schools to talk about the forests and give them ideas on raising funds. She also takes students -

from Bates College to visit the forest in Costa Rica twice a year. Write a letter to Sharon Kinsman to find out

more about The Children’s Rainforest — PQ Box 936, Lewiston, ME 04240, USA.

ij-Write a creative short story about the rainforestjmagine you are on holidays ϊή.α forest. Write about

what you cio and the plants and animals you see.

China saves its trees In the early 1950s only 8 per cent of China was covered in trees. The country suffered from / / landslides, floods and droughts *

because so many trees had been cut down. The government started a tree planting program, and by 1986 12.6 per cent of the country was covered

with trees. They hope to eventually cover 30 per cent of the land with forests. On a photocopied map of China, shade in about 8 per cent of the country. Using

a different colour, shade in 30 per cent, if the percentage of forest-covered land m China rose from 8 per cent in 1950 to 12 per cent in 1986, calculate how many years it will take China to have 30 per cent of its land covered in forest.

The Australian government has started 4 ^ a tree planting program called Landcare. It aims to plant one billion trees in Australia in the next 10 years. Contact Creening Australia to find out how you can become involved in this program.

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