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Understorey

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In ecology, the understorey grows where light shines through the forest canopy.

Our award-winning Understorey journalists highlight local and globally-connected environmental issues that the other media commonly pass over.

RTRFM’s long-running dedicated environment program makers Adrian Glamorgan and Elizabeth PO’ bring together stories from near and sometimes afar, whether it be conservationists rehabilitating habitat, citizen scientists gathering data, campaigners at the frontline, or decision-makers at their desks, seeking solutions together to the challenges affecting our shared air, water, land and life processes.

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Episodes

Wednesday 30th September 2020

Understorey: Rio Tinto’s poisoned legacy in Bougainville

Yesterday 156 Bougainville community members filed a complaint with the Australian Government against Rio Tinto for environmental and human rights violations caused by its former mine on Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

The complaint, filed with the Australian OECD National Contact Point, alleges that the massive mine waste pollution  left behind by Rio Tinto’s Panguna mine is putting communities’ lives and livelihoods at risk, poisoning their water sources, flooding their lands and sacred sites and causing a range of health problems.  (Watch a short video)

The Bougainville community complaint alleges that Rio Tinto’s failure to clean up the billion tonnes of waste pollution left by the mine, and mitigate the risks, breaches human rights and environmental standards set out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a leading international standard on responsible business conduct.  In the aftermath of Juukan Gorge, there are early signs that Rio Tinto are willing to talk.

Understorey’s Adrian Glamorgan spoke with Keren Adams from the Human Rights Law Centre yesterday, and brings this report.

Photo: montage from supplied images.

Wednesday 23rd September 2020

Understorey: Planting Gingkos for Peace

On Monday, the people of Albany had a ceremony with twenty seven people attending, including members of the Albany Youth Advisory Council, and the young people, along with the Mayor of Albany, unveiled a peace plaque gifted by Mayors for Peace, next to a newly planted gingko biloba tree.  The City of Busselton also had a gingko planting ceremony, and also a plaque, gifted by Mayors for Peace, and so too did Rockingham, and Subiaco, and Fremantle, and Cockburn.  So why these gingko trees?

A day before, from New York: fifty-six former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 NATO member states, as well as Japan and South Korea, issued an open letter calling on their current governments to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The link between trees and high-level clarion call is a commitment to peace across cultures and communities, on the day designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace. The Gingko biloba trees were all grown from seed collected in Hiroshima from a survivor tree of the 1945 atomic blast - a hibaku-moku.

Photo: A. Glamorgan

Wednesday 16th September 2020

Understorey: Don’t Panic, Get Nonviolent!

Climate fiction, or Cli-fi, meets Sci-fi, meets fan fiction, meets peace literature, all linking up with nonviolent environmental protests in this ragged corner of the universe, with Dr Marty Branagan's tribute to Douglas Adams, boldly titled "Locked On! The Seventh and Most Illegal in the Hitchhiker's Guide Trilogy."  Understorey commemorates International Day of Peace this coming Monday, as Adrian Glamorgan asks Marty about the role of fiction in enabling people to reflect on the protest experience, and link with protests both here and far, far away.  Darlington will have its peace fair; various councils in WA will be planting gingko trees to commemorate 75 years since the Hiroshima atomic bomb: how will you celebrate the International Day of Peace in 2020?

Montage: supplied photos from M Branagan and Stop Adani

Wednesday 9th September 2020

Understorey: Divest Adani

Divestment is being defined as a tool of democratisation aimed at finance. Understorey follows the money, particularly when governments and companies don’t move to act on the developing global climate emergency. In the 21st century, environmentalists are increasingly asking big questions about corporations.  Companies don’t breathe fresh air, or drink clean water.  Their logic is to only accumulate profits for shareholders.  But can the planet sustain that simplistic model of commerce?  Adani's plans for Galilee Basin may impact on the global climate emergency, local communities, the Great Barrier Reef, water, Indigenous rights, and our shared future.   Even if governments give such corporations legal approvals, many in the community argue that business needs a "social license to operate,"  properly embodying social expectations and environmental values.  And if they are not required to do this by the regulators, perhaps market forces will see that they do.   Elizabeth PO' speaks to campaigner Pablo Braitt from his home in lockdown Melbourne.

Photos: Stop Adani, including Adani's coal at Abbott Point coal loading facility with coal water run-off moving North West into the Wetlands 11 April 2017, by Dean Sewell/Oculi

Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Understorey: Forests For Life 2

Mark McGowan's Labor government in WA faces electors in March 2021, but his environment minister has been ignoring the findings of The Australia Institute 2016 report which says that the WA Forest Products Commission has been “barking up the wrong trees,” failing to protect remnant native forests, to get an economic return or to generate job growth via the government's investment in the Forest Products Commission.  With their native forestry operations having posted repeated losses, also log quality and forest values steadily declining, and relatively few people employed in native forestry, the Australia Institute urged the state government back in 2016 to transition from current practices to protect both forests and state finances, so far to no avail. 

The WA Forest Alliance is campaigning strongly, saying there is alternative employment in high value use of timber, rather than felling old growth forests for charcoal.  And most importantly, WAFA says Forest protection is the much-needed climate action which the state government still needs to act on. Stopping logging of high conservation value trees can prevent up to 60-million tonnes of CO2 being emitted over the next 10-years, while protecting habitat and biodiversity.  They argue, as does Noongar poet Uncle Alf Taylor, we need to respect and nurture the land.

This is the second of Understorey's two part coverage of the relaunch of the WA Forest Alliance campaign.

Photo: Supplied wafa.org.au

Wednesday 26th August 2020

Understorey: Forests For Life 1

The remnant high conservation value forests in our South West are at risk, still being logged, turned into charcoal, and wasted, even in their unique climate-saving and ecosystem-supporting roles. With precious old growth forests of trees that grow nowhere else on earth our isolated biodiversity hotspot is seriously threatened, as 90% of original growth is gone and important threatened species such Numbats and Baudin's black cockatoo need more protection.  Three and half years into its first term the Labor government is still to launch a coherent state climate policy, and protected forests play a crucial role in reducing carbon.

Last week a relaunch of the Forests for Life campaign with the Western Australia Forest Alliance (WAFA) gathered people to the Moores' Building in Fremantle, some voices including Noongar Yued elder Uncle Ben Taylor, his brother Uncle Alf Taylor (who'll be in next week's program), and WA Forest Alliance's Jess Beckerling, Shona Hunter, and Giz Watson.

Photo: Supplied wafa.org.au

Wednesday 12th August 2020

Understorey: Banking Good ~Investing in Landscapes

Understorey brings you positive news about banks – not Australian banks, but financial institutions that are operating globally, ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in sustainable landscapes, especially if different economic, social and environment interests can be facilitated to promote their cooperative advancement. These are the banks who could be interested in lending to mitigate climate change and help our living planet thrive.  These are the banks in Europe which will be expected to mark green impacts on their key indicators, for any banking product.  Paul Chatterton from the Landscape Finance Lab in Vienna, operating globally, talks to Understorey about this 21st century approach to banking that has moved organisations like WWF to broaden their focus from species, to habits, to ecoregions, to now encompass where the money goes and flows, to shape a more promising future where it's needed most.

Photo: montage from photos supplied by WWF

Wednesday 5th August 2020

Understorey: Banking Bad ~Nukes

In the summer of 1945 Keijiro Matsushima glanced up and saw two beautiful silver planes in the sky.  Within a moment, an atomic bomb detonated, his Hiroshima was destroyed, killing family and classmates.  Within a few days, Nagasaki too experienced civilians being vapourised, burned and irradiated in the tens of thousands.   After these nuclear attacks, the world changed for ever.  But as the US breaches its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and modernises its nuclear forces, it may surprise you that some Australian banks, superannuation companies, and our national Future Fund, are making profits from their investments in nuclear weapons companies, and don’t think the question is even "controversial."  The Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPWA) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) have set up Quit Nukes , to analyse and approach Australian financial institutions which are benefiting from nuclear weapons.  MAPWA's Dr Margaret Beavis and Quit Nukes' national director Margaret Peril share what they are finding out, asking us all: does your super fund invest in nuclear weapons? Are you interested in divesting?

Photo: Nagasaki, September 25, 1945 (Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. at Wikimedia)

Wednesday 29th July 2020

Understorey: Boo Park’s Six Seasons

Booyeembara Park is widely know as a haven for its greenery-filled walkways through and around areas of gentle wetland, lake, grassed open spaces, and so much more ‘bushy’ development, for two decades growing out of an old quarry and sump site – but much less well known as a notable Indigenous gathering place. Now "Boo Park" locals have planted a new area of a “Six Seasons” design, reclaimed from another previously-closed section of the park’s 17 hectare footprint, informed by much research about Noongar culture and life in the area. Thousands of indigenous plants, with signage to come, show care and energy for reconciling an area of neglect and abuse, making for a welcoming acknowledgement of the distant past for future generations.

With help from Commonwealth Environment program funding, guidelines about remediated sites from the Health Department and the Department of Environment, as well as design from Apace Natural Design, and help from SERCUL (South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare) and the City of Fremantle, with insights by Aboriginal elder Neville Collard, and many keen locals from the Friends of Booyeembara Park, this grassroot-led project inspires, restores, and refreshes.

Photos: Booyambara Park: E PO' and A Glamorgan

Wednesday 22nd July 2020

Understorey: Texan frackers eyeing the Kimberley

Since the oil glut and covid-19 pandemic, falling prices for fossil fuels means oil companies have been in trouble globally: in Texas, some oil and gas companies have been facing particular difficulties, leaving debts and abandoning methane-leaking drills, with 250 more companies expected to file for bankruptcy before the end of the year.   A more optimistic private company from Texas is now eyeing off the Kimberley for its "natural resources" - and it doesn't mean tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal heritage, or outstanding tropical savannah habitat.  Understorey speaks with Martin Pritchard from Environs Kimberley about Texan company Black Mountain Energy, which is keen to do destructive seismic testing prior to rolling out rigs by 2022, as it moves in to help industrialise the "natural resources" of the Canning Basin and help out with what it calls "nation building."  Environmental campaigners are keen for the Environment Protection Authority to recognise the risks, but they are now calling on people who care to let Premier Mark McGowan know how they feel about one of the world's last remaining untouched biospheres.

(Photo: Amy Youngs, Frackfree WA)

Wednesday 15th July 2020

Understorey: The Gap in our Defences

Understorey speaks with former army intelligence Clinton Fernandes, who is raising important questions about Australia’s sovereignty and capacity to manage its own affairs, because of our narrow economic base which has given the United States enormous influence over our military and foreign policy.  This means spending an extra $279 billion on military hardware that will fit in with the US fighting approach.  It means Pine Gap, and the potential for Australia to be complicit in drone war crimes for anywhere between Yemen to the Sea of Japan.  It means North West Cape, which could drag Australia into a nuclear conflict, or play a part in an American first strike in the South China Sea, without Australia having much say over it.  Remarkably, there is the lack of proper oversight over intelligence and security in our own country.  And there is also the issue that currently the Australian parliament has no say about when Australia goes to war.  The environment movement in Western Australia has campaigned vigorously for habitats, species, and the climate emergency.  Yet there is still a leap to be made about the confluence of environment with peace.  The Australian government’s commitment to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on warmaking may change that.  Either way, Clinton Fernandes, now Professor at Australia’s prestigious tertiary institution for the defence forces at ADFA, is showing us all the Pine Gap and Harold Holt in Australia’s defences.

(Photos: creative commons)

Wednesday 8th July 2020

Understorey: Patently Dangerous

While the federal government ringbarks its own environment department with budget cuts (see last week's Understorey), the government is spending up big on military - $279 billion over the next ten years to support Australia's  alliance with the United States.  It's not good economics: research shows that many more jobs are created in sectors like health and education, rather than in military hardware.  It's not good environment work: the environment could do with action on the climate emergency, biodiversity loss, renewable energy, or infrastructure.  But it is good for corporate interests, particularly those American majority owned companies like BHP, Rio Tinto, and Woodside: in fact, the majority of Australia's twenty biggest companies.  In this first episode, Professor Clinton Fernandes from the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra sets out how US military power and its commercial interests in Australia are two sides of the same coin, promoting US interests in our region while consigning Australia as a sub-imperial power skilful at providing basic raw resources, like any third world economy.  The former Army intelligence officer takes us through Australia's adherence to obscure patent laws and trade treaties which are not only subverting our sovereignty, but also making Australian social policy and innovation so much more difficult.  They cost us innovation in renewable energy, water technologies, and health.  The Morrison government's commitment to an extra $279 billion on missiles and extras may cost us a whole lot more.

(Photo: Robin Peak, US Navy; Clinton Fernandes, supplied)

Wednesday 1st July 2020

Understorey: Ringbarking the EPBC Act

Last week's independent Australian National Audit Office report on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act found that the government's regulatory approach is insufficient to deal with the environmental risks involved, and that the department is not being effective, efficient or in some cases compliant.  Understorey discovers why these flaws in nationally significant project proposals approval processes matter, from Yeerlirrie uranium mine to the Western Ground Parrot, to chronic offsetting, with the help of Nicole Sommer, lawyer with the Environmental Defenders Office.

(Images: WA habitats - EDO; Google Maps)

Wednesday 24th June 2020

Understorey: Invisible

Understorey's presenters take turns to speak about the invisible: Elizabeth PO' reflects on how the most important experiences of life can be invisible, and powerful - like rights, the rights of nature, and the power of the new Rights of Nature and Future Generations Bill 2019, should it become enacted;  Adrian Glamorgan talks about how the invisible "legal personality" of corporations is powerful though literally insubstantial, legal rights that in the history of the corporation have given rise to moral holidays, moral hazards, agency cost, and psychopathic behaviour.  Each presenter offers a perspective on the invisible and the powers given, or taken away, by Western Australian law.

(Photo: Covid Cockburn Sound, 2020, by A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 17th June 2020

Understorey: Mining Giants’ Social Licence Explodes

First it was Rio Tinto, and the destruction of rock shelters of Indigenous and global significance.  Then, Fortescue Metals Group, happy with the $280 billion it will make over 40 years, but planning to destroy three more rock shelters, including one stretching back 60,000 years ago.  Next: BHP, with the legal right to demolish 40 more Aboriginal heritage sites, temporarily paused. Three mining giants: Rio Tinto, FMG, and BHP, all lined up in the Pilbara with their Ministerial consent orders, not needing to consult any further, with Western Australians asking questions about how this legislation came about.  Companies can appeal Ministerial decisions, and yet the same "Aboriginal Heritage Act" denies appeals to Aboriginal people themselves.  A Minister: unable to rescind his own decision.  Significant sites: back in Premier Barnett's days, redefined out of existence.  Companies may operate within the law, says Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, but she says the mining companies have no social licence to destroy culture, deny Aboriginal people appeal rights, gag them with agreements, or ignore public opinion. While Aboriginal Heritage law needs changing in Western Australia, similar underwhelming legislation also exists at the federal level, the senator says.  According to Siewert, it's time for mining companies to hand back their approvals, offer their support for better heritage legislation (including strengthening whistleblowers inside companies), and create agreements with local Aboriginal groups which don't gag them.  Until then, Senator Rachel Siewert says, the mining companies operate without a 21st century social licence.

(Image: Pilbara: Google Maps, Black Lives matter, Rachel Siewert: Facebook)

Wednesday 10th June 2020

Understorey: Acting on the Rights of Nature

Last week it was Rio Tinto in the news, for its wanton destruction of two ancient Aboriginal heritage caves, 46,000 years old, despite efforts by traditional owners to stop the loss to their community and save the sites for all who share the global commons.  Come Monday, another media revelation:  Fortescue Metals Group has plans to mine an area in the Pilbara with more than 70 heritage sites, including a 60,000 year old rock shelter in the miner’s path. The Aboriginal Heritage Act turns out to give a good deal of scope for mining companies to meet their profit targets, but may be less active in actually promoting  Aboriginal heritage.  State Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Key Wyatt, has now called for a three part public consultative review before legislating a new Act. But will it be more of the same-same environmental and heritage law, easily cast aside if the project is big enough?  Or can we move to new ecological legislation,  which orients our community to the Rights of Nature and culture? The state government already has Western Australian Rights of Nature and Future Generations Bill before it, presented last year in the Western Australian Parliament by Greens MLC Diane Evers.  Michelle Maloney reflects on opportunties for a new Earth Law framework, as she works through various creative and inclusive vehicles such as Australian Earth Laws Alliance (ALEA), the New Economy Network Australia (NENA), and GreenPrints, to support earth-entered systems.  Understorey's second part of our interview with Michelle about these timely and, indeed, urgent new ways.

(Photo: FMG Solomon Hub, Google Maps)

Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Understorey: Juukan Gorge, Earth Laws, and Rights of Nature

One of the worst obliterations of an archaeological site anywhere in the world: that’s Rio Tinto blowing up two 46,000 year old Aboriginal cultural sites in the Pilbara.  The mining company was within the law, unrestrained by state or federal intervention, and well motivated to maximise profit interests of its shareholders, including the 65%  ownership held by American investors.

Michelle Maloney is working through various creative and inclusive vehicles such as Australian Earth Laws Alliance (ALEA), the New Economy Network Australia (NENA), and GreenPrints, to shift the defunct default goverance models to something more earth-centred, and more socially inclusive.  If an intangible organisation known as a mining company has legal personality, to advance the interests of the profit-seekers, why can't places in the natural world also have legal personality, to take legal action to avoid harm?  Could new ecological Earth Laws framework replace underperforming present-day environment and heritage laws ?

This follows Understorey's earlier episode on Western Australia's innovative Rights of Nature and Future Generations Bill, presented to the Upper House by Greens MLC Dianne Evers.

(Photo: Google Maps)

Wednesday 27th May 2020

Understorey: Bushfires Royal Commission

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements began hearings on Monday.  Understorey brings an edited interview tendered on the first day as evidence, given by Wiradjuri woman Professor Sue Townshend, from Charles Sturt University, whose home in Tumbarumba, New South Wales, burned down last summer.   It's clear that for those exposed to last summer's bushfires, the event is still not over.  There are many still homeless. There are many still traumatised by what they have seen. Many family and friends in mourning, not just for the 33 who died directly, but also for the estimated 445 people who died from the smoke alone.  While we plan for economic recovery, we do so in the wake of the health costs for the 2019-2020 fire season of $2 billion, and the insurance claims nationally have been another $2.2b.  So here we are, deep in a pandemic, yet still downwind from bushfires that destroyed 3000 homes, and more than 10 million hectares of bushland, leaving many questions smouldering in the burnt soil.  And experts from the Bureau of Meteorology are telling the Royal Commission that we are not looking at a one-off event.  Professor Sue Townshend is now convinced that capitalism doesn't have an answer for our relationship with the land, but the Wiradjuri way to "go gentle, go slow" offers a worthwhile way forward.

Photo: Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements

Wednesday 20th May 2020

Understorey: Western Australia, our South West Forests & the Rights of Nature

A bold proposal to protect the environment from corporate and government indifference is embodied in the private members' Bill before State Parliament: the Rights of Nature and Future Generations,  introduced late last year by Diane Evers, Greens MLC for the South West.

This an opportunity for Western Australia's remarkable natural environment to be given legal standing while also acknowledging our indivisible connection with life around us.  But already the South West Dalgarup Forest, west of Bridgetown, has been removed from the proposed Dalgarup National Park so that the area can be logged -  just by redefining what makes a block "old growth."  Within two weeks the western part of Dalgarup forest, destined for permanent protection in a proposed National Park, may be lost to the loggers.  Another day in Western Australia, but what about future generations, and the rights of nature?

(Photo: Diane Evers, supplied; SW forests, A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 13th May 2020

Understorey: Rethinking Options ~Healthcare not Warfare

Covid-19 has been forcing us to rethink our options.  During the last several weeks, the economy has had to be subservient to human life, and our common wealth has been directed towards keeping people alive and safe, to ensure that the covid-19 infection has not spread too fast, so that hospitals will not be overwhelmed by patients.  It's been a time for shifting priorities.  We have rediscovered our houses, our housemates, our loved ones, and found value in cooking, baking, gardening, singing, creating.  Keith McNaught's dog Molly is happy for the extra walks, while her master has rediscovered the beauty of the Canning River, and found wonder in spiders and their ingenious webs .  While we’ll all be relieved when the restrictions are over, many are reconsidering what we value most.  The Medical Association for Prevention of War Australia says it’s time to focus on healthcare, not warfare.  They endorse the United Nations Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  MAPWA President Dr Sue Wareham OAM takes us through the eight steps Australia could take to switch from our surprisingly militarised society, to one which focuses on conflict resolution at home and abroad, to favour our public health.

(Photo: Canning River, by A Glamorgan; Dr Sue Wareham plus campaign image, MAPWA)

Wednesday 6th May 2020

Understorey: Kimberley Culture and the Rights of Nature

Bidyadanga musician John Bennett sings of country - the Kimberley red dirt and blue sea, the wild places he grew up in and loves.  When we think of the land as important, of our country, wherever we are, as pre-eminently precious, we are laying a kinder path for whoever comes after us, and that includes all creatures. When the current global pandemic eases, and with it our social distance, we might develop better habits with and draw closer to the planet, a renewed chance to listen deeply and respond differently. Understorey spoke to John Bennett at the National Folk Festival in 2018.

As a first in Australia, Western Australia’s parliament is considering a “Rights of Nature and Future Generations Bill”, moved by Diane Evers, MLC for the South West, a Bill that would secure the Rights of Nature to “exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve,” and have its own legal standing to defend and enforce these rights. The Bill also recognises the rights of First Nations Peoples to speak for and defend their ancestral lands. A Rights of Nature and Future Generations Act would also recognise the rights of present and future generations to a healthy environment, and establish the “precautionary principle” by stating that “lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for denying or postponing the implementation, defence, or enforcement” of these Rights of Nature.

(Photo: John Bennett, at the National Folk Festival, Canberra, April 2018, by A. Glamorgan)

Wednesday 29th April 2020

Understorey: Chernobyl 2 ~Dancing with Elms

Novozybkov is an agricultural and light industrial city of about 50,000 people, just 160km east of Chernobyl.  The Bryansk town remains the most contaminated town in the Russian Federation: the area proclaimed unsuitable for human habitation is marked 1km west of its city boundary.  "Midnight in Chernobyl" author Adam Higginbotham speaks about how radioactivity spread across Europe, while former Nuclear Disarmament senator Jo Vallentine shares some stories of how people have been locally affected, and not least of all, how the globally performed Elm Dance (music by Ieva Akurātere) came into being as a Deep Ecology response to environmental grief, and an intention to heal.

(Photo: Novazybkkov, Archicon.rf Creative Commons 4; Map CIA 1996)

Wednesday 22nd April 2020

Understorey: Chernobyl 1 ~Demise of an Atomgrad

This Sunday is the 34th anniversary of the Chernobyl Level 7 nuclear disaster.  On 26 April 1986 Nuclear Reactor No.4 exploded, blowing the 1000 tonne lid off the reactor, sending deadly radiation across Ukraine, Belarus and then Europe, creating an environmental nightmare and exposing the secrets and lies of the Soviet system. Adam Higginbotham's definitive booklength account "Midnight in Chernobyl: The untold story of the world's greatest nuclear disaster" is the product of personal interviews with many who were there, from the control room to the firefighters and policy makers and KGB, showing the humanity as well as the severity of the disaster; Higginbotham also dug into the the archives, thereby correcting early misconceptions reproduced in subsequent accounts.  In this episode, Adam Higginbotham reflects on his genuine surprise that Pripyat, the "atomgrad" which housed workers at Chernobyl, delivered much that the Soviet system promised all.  But within hours of the radiation catastrophe, Pripyat was uninhabitable.

Photo: Adam Higginbotham (Penguin), Pripyat (Creative Commons).

Wednesday 15th April 2020

Understorey: Koort, Moort, Boodja & Koorlangka

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse are Western Australian stars who spread the knowledge and understanding of Noongar language and culture far and wide, adapting the four principles shared by Gina Williams' Ballardong Elder, Uncle Tom Hayden, namely: Koort (heart), Moort (Family/community), Boodja (land) and Koorlangka (children/legacy).  At the 2018 National Folk Festival the Understorey team spoke with Gina about her start and inspiration for singing and teaching Noongar songs.  Gina  invites everyone on Noongar Land to participate in the lasting, living language, of which very few people now hold full knowledge, but which may yet come to be valued as a way of connecting with the land. We also recall local author Thomas M Wilson's ancestor arriving by ship in 1830 and connecting with Noongar culture, including Noongar language.  Now might be time for all of us to embrace the mother tongue of our local environment!

(Song excerpt: Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse "Nyittiny Boodja" from their album "Koorlangka" supplied by the National Folk Festival.  Image: Gina Williams interviewed by E PO',  by A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 8th April 2020

Understorey: Yeelirrie and the Democratic Deficit

While covid-19 understandably dominates the headlines, important environmental news risks being marginalised.  Take the annual Australia-wide State of Environment Report, declaring 2019 “probably the worst year in a century.”  Conservationists warn governments are also weakening environmental protections, exactly at a time when the voters are too busy with a pandemic to notice.  Understorey dips into a pre-covid example, examining emails and letters obtained through Freedom of Information about the Yeelirrie uranium mine approval.  Hours before the 2019 election was called, from her Geraldton electoral office the Minister for the Environment signed off the necessary federal approvals for Cameco to mine uranium until  2043.  Apart from casting aside scientific concern for threatened species protections, the Minister took into account the advice given by a Resources Minister.  The government's current review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 could widen the democratic deficit.  Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation hopes people will make submissions, now open until April 17th, to call for more EPBC independence.

(Photo: Dave Sweeney, Yeelirrie proposal; by A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 1st April 2020

Understorey: Horizons~UXO

Soon it's United Nations’ International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

The Australian Department of Defence has a webpage all about UXO - unexploded ordinance.  But it’s about UXO in Australia.  The page says nothing about lethal Australian unexploded ordnance left behind in other countries we've been at war with.  Not Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq. All of these wars are closely linked to our engagement with ANZUS, but without any enduring sense of responsibility for the damage caused to civilians by our involvement.

The environmental and public health issue of UXO,  just like Agent Orange, reminds us that wars can remain lethal for generations after the conflict has apparently concluded.  In Vietnam UXO is still taking lives and limbs more than forty years later.  In Laos, worst hit by the USA's illegal bombing war in the 1960s, there remains an ongoing need for de-mining.  But the relatively small amount the USA has been offering may have just become a bargaining chip in the United States' and Australia's attempt to slow down the signing of  the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Understorey speaks to American Quaker Lady Borton and ICAN co-founder Tilman Ruff.

(Collage: Project Renew, Mai Lan, Gergyl [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Understorey: World Water Day 2020

This year the United Nations is asking us to think about fresh water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked. So how does this global call for action feature in our action on freshwater in Perth?  Jason Pitman, from Perth Natural Resource Management (Perth NRM) briefs us about their work across landscape restoration and climate action in our water catchment.  Alongside the science, do the stories of the river offer us favour that needs to be offered back?

(Photo: Friends of Bull Creek, supplied)

Wednesday 18th March 2020

Understorey: Corona Special

Understorey offers a simple Covid-19 backgrounder, to answer some basic questions about the environmental beginnings of the coronavirus, remind ourselves of the symptoms of covid-19, recount that thing about washing hands, consider fear and choose facts, and hear from the World Health Organization about what to say to young people, and generally how to be less anxious about this new normal.  We start with what a virus is, consider the Chinese wildlife trade and challenge a few myths, check in with the 45th President to hear why shutting down the White House global pandemic NSA committee wasn't his responsibility, and in the light of all this, with perhaps more to come, suggest the answer to all these questions is simple compassionate connection.

Wednesday 11th March 2020

Understorey: Palestinian Threads

What does it mean to belong to country?  Understorey joins the opening of an art exhibition in Midland on International Women’s Day, 2020; and the theme, Palestinian Threads and Stitches: A Tapestry of Home and Diaspora, takes us further back, to 1948, to the Naqba, the Palestinian exodus.  Seven hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, fled or were expelled from their homes, most never to return. And we can look further back, to 1829, the time of European invasion, which began the dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land, often ending a relationship with country that had gone back tens of thousands of years.  Two groups, made stateless: diaspora Palestinians, and Aboriginal people, both grappling in different ways to find their identities, and making their own adjustments, to life as they had known it.  Featuring Noongar Elder, Uncle Ben Taylor, Palestinian Association chair, Samya Jabbour, former MP Melissa Parke, who worked in Gaza with the United Nations (2002-2004), creative writing facilitator Samiha Olwan, and MC Hiba El-Farra. (At Midland Junction Arts Centre until 11 April).

(Photo: Samya Jabbour, Palestinian tatreez; by A. Glamorgan)

Wednesday 4th March 2020

Understorey: Solving Soils Regeneratively

What do healthy soils offer us? Inaugural Regenerative Agriculture conference in Perth brought together active farmers including author Charles Massy ("Call of the Reed Warbler - a New Agriculture, a New Earth") and Dianne Haggerty, as well as champions for the movement, such as Alannah MacTiernan MLC - all three here speaking from the podium about food security and practicalities. To view the complete presentations from the RegenWA conference, they are available on the Perth NRM  YouTube page.

In Western Australia we have ancient fragile soil structures, and our agriculture since European settlement has caused extensive problems. Now the Regenerative Agriculture movement is looking to practise techniques which are far less dependent on chemical additives and more robustly reliant on other, perhaps gentler, ways of creating food and managing farms.  In a world of rapidly changing climate and need for reliable quality food, regenerative agriculture could be an important step into our best future.Regenerative Agriculture aims to conserve and restore topsoil, biodiversity, water, life processes and food production so that we can deal with habitat loss, climate emergency, and support the vitality of the food we eat.

Associated programs are from our interviews with Charles Massy at his farm on the Monaro Plain, east of Mount Kosciuszko at https://rtrfm.com.au/story/understorey-call-of-the-regenerative-farmer/ and https://rtrfm.com.au/story/understorey-journey-of-the-regenerative-farmer/ 

Wednesday 26th February 2020

Understorey: Remember the Embers

This wasn’t just a matter of a few thousand people.  Millions of Australians have been affected by this year’s summer fires.   Moss Vale resident Amanda Morphett reflects on the eerie circumstances that touched many towns and villages up and down the coast and hinterland of New South Wales and Victoria. While last month residents in the Southern Highlands wondered whether to stay or go, this month's question for the country at large might be: Will the federal government act on the new normal, or will its promised carbon roadmap simply be a route for coal to continue?

(Image: Collection of rained-down burnt leaves, Moss Vale, Amanda Morphett, photo by A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 19th February 2020

Understorey: SW Hotspot of Inspiration

An hotspot within an hotspot is a vulnerable place, so our South West is drying and heating, yet many people living there are working out how to improve the situation. One long-time champion of the steady positive processes being set in place is Basil Schur, from Denmark’s Green Skills, recipient of this year’s Landcare WA‘s ‘Individual Landcarer Award’ and a Denmark ‘Citizen of the Year’.

Wednesday 12th February 2020

Understorey: Birds in the Wild

More than half the world’s birds evolved in Australia, including its parrots, pigeons, and passerines (songbirds). They are essential to the pollination and distribution of plants here, and are often more intelligent, longer-lived as well as louder and more aggressive than birds from other continents.

Understorey travels with keen bird photographer Ken Glasson to one of his many favourite spots, at Woodman Point. When the news is disastrous and extinctions are mentioned as possibilities, that's when we get outdoors and find renewal in the diverse wonders of nature.

(Pic by A.Glamorgan & E.PO')

Thursday 6th February 2020

Understorey: Fighting Fires

What's it like to be a volunteer firefighter in New South Wales?  Understorey reporter Adrian Glamorgan speaks with Paul Cockram, volunteer firey with the Mongarlowe, NSW, Rural Firefighter Service (RFS), in an interview recorded 14 January.  We hear a little of what it might be like to head off to a fire, smell the smoke, hear the eucalypts crashing down as flames engulfs one tree after another, and work as a small team to prepare the backburn ahead. Australia's worst summer season of fire has meant some volunteers have contributed 60 days at a stretch, which is why there's now a payment system for volunteers who've worked more than ten. Australia part-compensates the volunteers who go out on a call, knowing the wrong conditions could make it the worst day of the firefighter's life.   But the federal government's policy throws up anomalies: it means the richly salaried will receive compensation of up to $300 a day, and the Newstart or pension recipient with nothing.  Part 3 in an ongoing series, to resume in a few weeks. (Photos supplied by P.Cockram)

Wednesday 29th January 2020

Understorey: Fiery Reality Bites

Today, as a bushfire burns less than ten kilometres away from Canberra's southernmost suburbs, Understorey picks up more of the story from Alison Sexton-Green (further east towards the coast) who shares stories about the waiting and strain and permanently packed car that represent the daily experience of living in fire-threatened district.  We learn about the state government's neglect of national parks, the Murdoch media's enthusiasm for coal at the very moment the bushfires gathered power, and what the community can do to help bushfire-affected areas. (Image: Alison Sexton-Green, 4 January, Monga looking to Deua)

Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Understorey: Fire on the Mountain

Understorey returns for 2020, wondering what’s it like to face a bushfire coming towards your property?   This week we bring part of a conversation with Alison Sexton-Green, on the road out of Braidwood, New South Wales, just before the majestic Clyde Mountain drop, the very place where the fires were heading towards Alison’s small and beautiful rural hideaway, just before Christmas…

(Photo: NASA, International Space Station view of the Australian bushfires, 4 January 2020)

Wednesday 11th December 2019

Understorey: Climate Emergency 2019~The Premier, Rockingham & COP25

Premier Mark McGowan's enthusiasm for the fossil fuel industry, particularly LNG, puts its undermining effects on Australia's carbon emissions in the shadows.  Further overlooked is the climate emergency's impact on the Premier's own Rockingham electorate.  According to the government's own findings, within a handful of years it's likely we'll witness rising waters, more energetic tides and salt incursions bearing upon the seaside city.  Paddy Cullen from Clean State Campaign is helping voters get this important message across to their own representative, the Premier.  Meanwhile, in Madrid, young people at COP25 have been calling for meaningful action from all national governments.  From the Marshall Islands to the Mississippi, from The Philippines to the burning farmlands of Australia, humanity's climate emergency has well and truly arrived.

(Image: A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 4th December 2019

Understorey: Wild Kimberley Threat

Tensions between usage rights and culture on the Fitzroy River are at another tipping point in the Kimberley, Western Australia’s remarkable wild north. Environs Kimberley Director, Martin Pritchard, speaks with Understorey about preventable devastation, as criitcally endangered species collapse. With a tiny electoral population they need our help adding voices to the push for better environmental policy to protect the precious ‘boom and bust’  Fitzroy River. More information at https://www.environskimberley.org.au/saving_the_fitzroy_river  (Photo: A. Glamorgan)

Wednesday 27th November 2019

Understorey: A Tern for the Better

Terrestrial and marine ecologist Dr Nic Dunlop has just had his longstanding work with seabirds and climate, and wide support of environmental issues, recognised through the Conservation Council's prestigious Bessie Rischbieth Award.  Dr Dunlop’s researches indicators of marine ecosystems and island, bat, climate change and landscape ecology.  He has championed multi-decade projects protecting and tracking the population dynamics of fairy terns, identifying stable populations here in WA, but elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand finding it vulnerable and even critically endangered.   Understorey interviewed Dr Dunlop on Saturday, just before Dr Carmen Lawrence announced the award, to learn more about the canny and beautiful traveller around our shores.  (Photo: E PO')

Wednesday 20th November 2019

Understorey: Climate Emergency 2019~ER and our bushfire catastrophe

Many people around the world are concerned that time for action on climate and species extinction has almost run out.  Following Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John's impassioned speech last week decrying the lack of attention being given by government and opposition alike, Understorey asks Extinction Rebellion’s Leila Folland about the concept of replacing our parliamentary system with a Citizen Assembly, at least for addressing difficult issues, so that in complex issues like climate, that the facts and issues can be considered without corporate influence tabloid alarm, or party politics, so that democratic actions can be better deliberated.

(Image: Leila Folland, by A Glamorgan)

Wednesday 13th November 2019

Understorey: Climate Emergency 2019~LNG: the Damage Done

We've had fires since time began, but never like this. All listeners will wish the people of New South Wales well, and especially the brave firefighters risking their lives to protect people and property.  But with the fierce new conditions risking lives and property, it’s surely time to look again at Western Australia’s contribution to the climate calamity.  This week the Conservation Council and its Clean State Initiative produced an important analysis on the contribution of WA’s Liquiefied Natural Gas (LNG) to global heating.  According to the hard evidence, LNG makes a massive contribution to Australia's greenhouse gases, nullifying many other efforts within Australia to try to meet the Paris Agreement. LNG makes little contribution to state revenue, meaning we are missing out on further expenditure devoted to climate offsets. But what damage is being done to our political processes?  Adrian Glamorgan is speaking to chief researcher Chantal Caruso.

Wednesday 6th November 2019

Understorey: How Australia got the Sydney Opera House

If art can help us understand ourselves, the parabolic sails and interior of the Sydney Opera House might tell us a little about how Australia finds and makes beauty.  The place wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been championed and built by working people for working people, but in a power struggle under a different government, the professional man with vision, Jørn Utzon, was more or less told to go back home where he came from.  Journalist Helen Pitt, winner of the 2018 Walkley Book prize for “The House,” recounts a few of the people behind the making, and near-unmaking, of one of the world's design icons of the twentieth century.  (Images: Sydney Opera House profile; Studio Roosegaarde Waterlicht, Fremantle; Helen Pitt; by A. Glamorgan)

Wednesday 30th October 2019

Understorey: Artists’ Ways

Lynne Tinley and Angela Rossen, both local artists and much more, are well known for their artistic works, engaging with the art of living things, and with our world at this time of massive change.

Lynne Tinley’s artistic work spans more than 50 years of creating and teaching, inspiring and learning in some pretty remote and wild nature places, alongside her remarkable ecologist husband Ken Tinley. She has had a lifetime of observing, firstly in her native southern Africa, and her recent decades here in Australia.  Lynne's love of the living world grows and expresses itself through her vivid art, and through a warning in her dreams, and continues in her hopes for reconciled relationships with the natural world.

Angela Rossen works from and with nature, her passion for the natural world spills into her artworks and consultative processes as a biodiversity educator. That work brings communities, some far-flung from the city environs, to lived understanding of whole systems ecology.

Globally there are more artists responding to the wonders of the environment, the disasters that face us, and the ecological approach that is essential for our survival. (Photo: E PO')

Wednesday 23rd October 2019

Understorey: Poison Papers Revisited

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans in 2015”. Then in March 2019 in the US a man claiming Roundup was involved in his cancer case was ultimately awarded $26 million, leading to Costco to stop stocking that product on their shelves. While the Judge in the appeal case said the evidence was equivocal, he found that it also “easily supported a conclusion that Monsanto was more considered with tamping down safety inquiries and manipulating public opinion than it was with ensuring its product is safe.”   The judge also said that Monsanto showed “a lack of concern about the risk that its product might be carcinogenic.” Major issues have grown around pesticides and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).  Understorey reports on the food and pesticide industry and The Poison Papers: a vast online resource revealing a secret history of poor regulation, research misdirection, and toxic health and environmental effects.  Adrian Glamorgan speaks to Dr Jonathan Latham, Director of the Poison Papers, about what this database of once-buried documents means for citizens, the scientific community, regulators and the environment. (Photo A.Glamorgan)

Wednesday 16th October 2019

Understorey: Learning the Nuclear Lesson

Another nuclear energy inquiry, this time held by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy: for many environmental campaigners, it’s back to basics. revisiting much of the same territory involved in responding to the 2016 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.  That earlier report attempted to argue that nuclear power plant disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima were something Australia could positively learn from; and that governments could take these design and technical lessons into future nuclear energy policy.  However, public health professor, Tilman Ruff AM, believes the design, technical, and governance failures of Fukushim persist to this day.  Moreover, these policy failures have significantly damaging and negligent public health impacts.  The Japanese Govenment continues to conceal the scale of the health risk, and predictable harsh consequences.  Even if nothing has been learned from this, Western Australia may still not ever get nuclear power here: Shadow Minister for the Environment, Steve Thomas MLC says that our South West electricity grid simply isn't big enough to warrant a nuclear power plant. (Image: US/Japan Survey Data; Professor Tilman Ruff, by E PO', IAEA CC2)

Wednesday 9th October 2019

Understorey: Abuzz with Native Bees

Inhabiting the Perth Region are around 80 species of native bees, highly dependent on native flora. Still more bee species are being identified by science and catalogued, with some fascinating bee behaviours being described. However, rapid destruction of local bushlands means that some species are becoming scarce, and without adequate conservation of the diverse vegetation systems of the region, are at real risk of extinction.

Dr Terry Houston is the author of last year’s publication, A Guide to Native Bees of Australia for CSIRO, a beautiful coverage of the estimated 2000 species of Australian bees. He has studied Australian native bees for more than 50 years, both in the field and in state museum collections. He served as Curator of Insects at the Western Australian Museum in Perth for 34 years and, although now retired, Dr Houston continues his research in an honorary capacity there.

Wednesday 2nd October 2019

Understorey: Climate Emergency 2019~Intergenerational Theft

Inaction on Climate Change spurred 10,000 peaceful protestors to converge on Perth CBD, where they strode and sat together on the streets of Perth, with chants and signs and music, and briefly in silence, all protesting the lack of responsible climate emergency responses from our political and corporate leaders. Understorey met many of them. The call was clear and kind and creative - all ways of insisting our future be considered as a result of our current actions in ways that don't beggar our next generations.  Photo by Angela Rossen.

Wednesday 25th September 2019

Understorey: Climate Emergency 2019~Ten Thousand People, Maybe More

On Friday 10,000 people marched through the streets of Perth’s CBD, calling for genuine action on climate by both state and federal governments.  The striking school students are the local chapter of a global movement of young people unimpressed by decades of indecision and business-as-usual planning, that pays lip service to rising temperatures, vague emission targets, and corporate influence over democratic processes.  The Understorey team joined the march to hear from the young students themselves, and those who supported them, on this historic day of action, their words joining others and echoing around the world.

(Photo A. Glamorgan)

Wednesday 18th September 2019

Understorey: Climate Emergency 2019~ Rising Temperatures and Issues Papers

Western Australia’s Shadow Minister for Environment Dr Steve Thomas MLC is an advocate for action on climate change, in the community and within his own Liberal Party.  The upper house MP does not condemn young people going on strike on Friday - as long as they are not catastrophising the future of our planet; he says he hopes they will act respectfully, follow the science, and find a lot of reasons to be hopeful.  Steve Thomas is enthusiastic about individual and corporate action, like BHP aiming to go carbon neutral, but he is not as enthusiastic about the McGowan Government's new "issues paper" on climate change, which he regards as "inconsequential," and he finds the Premier's treatment of the Environmental Protection Authority wanting. Australian politics hasn't managed climate change well, Steve Thomas acknowledges: the democratic deficit is a problem still unsolved.

(Photo - A Glamorgan; inset - Parliament of WA)

Wednesday 11th September 2019

Understorey: UnSustainable ANZUS? Part 4~Talisman Sabre

Where better to deploy 30,000 military personnel, storming beaches along 1500 kilometres of eastern Australian coastline, but in or near World Heritage Areas, national parks, and other environmental wonders?  Through their biennial exercises, US and Australian forces grow more  "interoperable", deployable and combat ready.  Can their environmental awareness in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park make the world's greatest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States' military, more sustainable, or Talisman Sabre's ultimate objective more convincing?  Peace activist Jo Vallentine and Friends of the Earth Robin Taubenfeld question the rationale of the ANZUS alliance and the biennial Exercise, highlighting the risks to environmental values, and challenging Australian troops practicing the defence of their country through rehearsing amphibious invasions.

(Photo: Public Domain/Australian Army, 2019.  Use of image as well as audio from the US or Australian Department of Defence, and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, naturally does not imply or constitute their endorsement).

All live musical performances are included in our podcasts with the express permission of artists, who reserve all other rights in their music. All music used in our podcasts is licensed under an APRA Community Broadcasting license agreement.