Respect nature in every decision

Photo courtesy of Nature Conservation Society of South Australia

Red Reflection is now available as an Audiobook! Up to the end of December, The Third Fuse Project will support the Nature Conservation Society of SA by donating $5 from every audio and e-Book sale of Red Reflection and $10 from every online paperback sale. You can also donate direct to NCSSA by visiting their website here.

by Third Fuse writer, Phil McNamara

Respect nature in every decision – the problem

I’ve always liked the general idea of John Elkington’s 1994 ‘triple bottom line’ economic framework because it gives an equal footing to environmental, social and economic considerations in decision-making1. It’s a nice concept but it also showcases the simple reality that we have seldom given the environment a sufficient voice. If we had, we would not be witnessing modern problems of biodiversity decline and climate change.

Too often the environment has been sacrificed in the face of a social or economic pressure. And too often our response to environmental decline has been very slow. For example, we have theorised about the warming effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for over a century. And we have measured the effect of human activities on the atmosphere since the 1950s. This is well before there was demand for clean energy2. And we knew the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation on biodiversity (e.g. by proving Island Biogeography Theory3) decades before the introduction of native vegetation clearance legislation.

The Drum and Cable Ties!

And it is not just something of the past. As a very point-in-time example, I recently watched an episode of The Drum on the ABC about Queensland’s 12-billion dollar surplus on the back of overseas demand for coal (14 June 2023). The panel discussion focussed on the current cost-of-living pressures for Australian families and ways the Queensland government could use that surplus to ease those pressures. The brief references to the dilemma of protecting bushland versus opening it up for housing and supporting a transition to clean energy were significantly overshadowed by a recognition that the community absolutely demand services that keep up with population growth in the face of a population boom.

Associated with this demand is the rhetoric that environmental protection is a barrier to progress. There is a great lyric in the song Hope by Australian band, Cable Ties [YouTube video here], that exemplifies this problem4, ‘…my uncle Pete, he’s, complaining ‘bout the greenies. He says they have gone too far. I say, Pete, they don’t go far enough…’. Even though most Australians care about environmental issues5, this rarely translates to an adequate voice for the environment in legislation, policy or even in everyday conversations in our community. And it becomes even more complex when we try to address one environmental issue at the expense of another (e.g. the impacts on biodiversity from wind farms).

NCSSA – a solution story

One of my favourite non-government organisations is the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia6 [NCSSA]. Their purpose is to ensure native species and their habitats are given a voice in decision making and conserved throughout South Australian landscapes. They address the lack of regard for the environment by making advocacy a priority of their work. And this advocacy comes on a background of scientific knowledge. Where there is a lack of science, they conduct research to be as influential as possible.

Photo (courtesy of NCSSA): Kirsty Bevan, NCSSA CEO, at a Parliamentary Briefing for an inquiry into the proposed rocket launch facility at Whalers Way.
Photo (courtesy of NCSSA): NCSSA volunteers undertaking survey work on Kangaroo Island.
Photo (courtesy of Eyre Peninsula EPA): Whalers Way on the Eyre Peninsula is an environmentally sensitive area that needs a voice in decision making.

Most admirable of all, the NCSSA engages with the decision makers and others, even those with opposing views. They have a rich history of influence and creating change using this approach. They were heavily involved in advocating for the protection of the western end of Kangaroo Island, the protection of Deep Creek Conservation Park and the cessation of broad-scale clearance and the introduction of the Native Vegetation Act 1991 in South Australia. That work continues today, sixty years after they formed, with advocacy on issues like the proposed private experimental rocket facility at Whalers Way on the Eyre Peninsula.

We must continue to advocate for the environment

Advocacy by environmental non-government organisations is so important. In the face of ongoing environmental crises that impact human populations and ecosystems, there is a strong argument for advocacy that is well informed and communicated via the most influential means. This will ensure nature is respected in every decision we make. The NCSSA is one of the best at doing this.

How important is it to you that the environment is given equity in decision making in the face of economic or social pressures?


  • Triple Bottom Line: (n.d.). The Triple Bottom Line: What Is It and How Does It Work? [online] Available here.
  • E‌arly measures of climate change: Le Treut, H. and Somerville, R. (2007). Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Coordinating Lead Authors: Lead Authors. [online] Available here.
  • Island Biogeography Theory: Helmus, M.R. and Behm, J.E. (2020). Island Biogeography Revisited. [online] ScienceDirect. Available here.
  • Cable Ties Hope: (n.d.). Cable Ties – Hope (Official Audio). [online] Available here.
  • Australians concerned about climate change: Colvin, R. (2020). New polling shows 79% of Aussies care about climate change. So why doesn’t the government listen? [online] The Conversation. Available here.
  • Nature Conservation Society of South Australia: Anon, (n.d.). Who is the NCS | Nature Conservation Society of South Australia. [online] Available here.

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