In 2003-2004 I was involved in a mammoth task to explain to people – fishers, conservationists, tourism operators, the community – the benefits of increasing protection to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park through rezoning. This involved years of consultations, public meetings and ‘roadshows’, but in terms of achieving it’s outcome, it was a huge success. One of the biggest indicators of success was the understanding of the need for change in the community, leading to action by community groups, individuals and local businesses along the Queensland coast to do their bit to protect the Reef.
These actions included the set up of Reef Guardian Schools and businesses, Marine Advisory Groups and Community Access Points based at local bait and tackle shops. The general opinion was that no matter what industry you came from, the Great Barrier Reef was too important to lose.
In many places, it was community members – farmers, fishers, operators, conservationists and local leaders – who were driving change, recognising that harm to the Great Barrier Reef is not just an environmental issue, but that there is an economic imperative to protect one of Queensland’s most valuable assets.
The community is still driving this change, even in the face of complex science and resource and economic issues. So why is it so hard to engage people to support the world’s biggest environmental, economic and livelihood challenge – climate change? Continue reading