HomeAustralian PrehistoryHistory - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityAustralian animalsCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries

Share |

A true-blue battler

Unfairly judged?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Feral cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Perhaps not so adapted to Australia

Keg of muscle





Russel Drysdale The Ruins

The dark side of sustainability

Sustainability is a business concept that is often misapplied in environmental management. In truth, natural environments have always been in a state of dynamic change lacking in balance. As a result of that lack of sustainability, rainforests have become deserts, deserts have become rainforests, species have gone extinct and single cell organisms have evolved into humanity.  Trying to impose sustainable practices onto ecosystems in dynamic change has been a bit like damming tidal estuaries and seeing them turn in stagnant cess pools.

While sustainability is alien to the operation of a natural ecosystem, in business it is a practice that does have some value in regards to economic engagement with natural resources. In business, it generally includes ideas about governance, transparency and stakeholder relations. Such topics need to be considered to ensure that a firm doesn't go bankrupt, doesn't push its suppliers into bankruptcy, and doesn't destroy the environment in ways that decrease profitability, access to resources, or its public image. Because shareholders want confidence in the company's long-term future, discussion of sustainability is becoming increasing common in corporate reports.

Although sustainable philosophies are of great benefit in business management, the issue of culling of kangroos and camels are examples of the problems that can occur when they are being eroneously sold as environmental protection policies.

In regards to kangaroos, sustainable philosophies result in statistics being created that stipulate how many kangaroos should exist on a given piece of land. Such stipulations are completely alien to the natural population fluctuations of kangaroos that have occurred for millions of years.  In times of drought, populations of kangaroos have always dropped before rebounding in times of plenty. These fluctuations are reflected in the kangaroo’s evolution. At any one time, a female kangaroo can be caring for three children in various stages of development; one fertilised foetus that can remain dormant for up two years, a joey in the pouch drinking milk and a joey hopping alongside the mother. In times of difficulty, the foetus doesn’t develop and the milk to the joey can be stopped. Combined with the death of older kangaroos, populations of kangaroos thus adjust to the conditions of the time.

When a sustainable policy decides how many kangaroos should be on the land, kangaroo numbers are decided according to an arbitrary human figure, not a response to the land. Potentially, there are less kangaroos on the land that it can support, which in turn impacts other species that depend on kangaroos. What is often ignored when devising sustainable culling programs is that the humans that do the culling have bills to pay even in times of drought. As a result, they need to keep being funded to cull even when populations of kangaroos are low. A final program with sustainable culling is that it interfers with natural selection. Instead of the babies dying, it is often the big healthy males that try to attract the attention of the hunter in order to lead them away. In other words, the strongest are often eliminated.

Sustainable culling can be justified as a business policy but not as a conservation policy.

In regards to sustainable camel management, it is estimated that around 750,000 camels live in the outback where they compete with livestock on privately owned stations and native animals on crown land. At the present, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient market demand to make mustering and slaughtering the camels a viable activity.

Because most of the camels are on private land, movements to kill them are chiefly driven by economic agendas but sold with environmental arguments. Specifically, some private companies have been lobbying the government to provide them with additional funding to reduce (but not eliminate) camel numbers on the grounds that camels damage the environment. For example, in 2013, culling contractor Ninti One co-ordinated the creation of a report that proposed that it be funded to the tune of $4 million a year to keep the current camel population stable. Most of the carcasses were left to rot.

Rather than determining what a sustainable population of camels was according to the fluctuations of the landscape’s productivity, the culling of camels determines the sustainable figure on the basis of funding. The camel number needs to be high enough to make camels an environmental threat and high enough so that there are sufficient numbers to be funded to kill each year, but not so high that they degrade agricultural land, decrease profits for livestock owners or result in political pressure for the complete eradication of camels.


Environmental Issues

Environmental problems
The cultural basis of defining environmental problems

Climate change in Australia
Looking to the past to predict the future

Indigenous environmentalism
Differences between Indigenous and non-indigenous land management

The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

Bush fire prevention
To go native or exotic?