In 1989, CSIRO published Richard Eckersley’s report, ‘Regreening Australia: The environmental, economic and social benefits of reforestation’. The report was a preliminary investigation into a large national program to ‘regreen Australia’ through massive reforestation and revegetation over a period of 10 to 20 years. The report generated a lot of interest including A parliamentary committee inquiry into land degradation which recommended its adoption. However, the proposal was never implemented on the scale envisaged and necessary to realise the potential benefits.
In 2012, the Board of Australia21 agreed to re-examine the topic, using the 1989 report as a benchmark or reference point, given: almost 25 years had passed; greater recognition of the seriousness and urgency of climate change; and heightened global economic instability, making job generation potentially important to maintaining economic and social stability.
Australia21 conducted an expert roundtable at the University of Melbourne on 21 February 2013, attended by 27 farmers, foresters, researchers, business people, former government officials and others (and with input from several more invitees who could not attend). The central question discussed was, ‘What are the benefits of large-scale reforestation and revegetation, and how can they best be achieved?’.
The report argues that the benefits of large-scale landscape regeneration, reforestation and revegetation, include: preserving biodiversity; reducing soil and water loss and degradation; providing shelter, shade and fodder; a cooler regional climate; carbon sequestration; increasing soil fertility and productivity; more sustainable agriculture; more timber and other tree products; better pollination; production of biofuels; enhanced food, water and energy security; benefits to tourism; supporting rural communities; creating employment; bridging the cultural divide between city and country; promoting national reconciliation; improving people’s wellbeing; and higher civic morale.
Most importantly, the report asserts that there has been a failure of political philosophy: an inability to see and accept that focusing too narrowly on economic growth and material prosperity and opportunity is creating growing social and environmental costs that jeopardise our future as a nation.
Eckersley, R 2013, Repairing and preparing Australia’s landscapes for global change: Why we must do much more A report on an expert roundtable, held at the University of Melbourne on 21 February 2013, to consider the question: What are the benefits of large-scale reforestation and revegetation, and how can they best be achieved? Australia21, Canberra