Australian Geographic – July-August 2022
English | 133 pages | pdf | 97.27 MBTHIS EDITION’S major feature about problems afflicting seabirds, Trouble in paradise (page 70), might, at a superficial glance, seem like yet another tragic story of human behaviour adversely affecting the viability of a wild species, and it certainly is that. But a closer reading of Karen McGhee’s story firmly joins the dots on the interconnectedness of all species, including our own, when it comes to the grand problem of plastic pollution in the ocean. The consequences for young shearwater chicks of ingesting hundreds of pieces of
domestic and industrial plastic are obvious and horrific to see.
Harder to discern is the plastic that can’t be seen, and which now infiltrates every part of the vast global oceanic ecosystem on which so much depends.
Only this month researchers from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, detected microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow for the first time. It implies that if these tiny fragments are also now airborne and present in the farthest flung reaches of the planet, they are everywhere, including in the food and water we ingest.
We don’t yet fully understand what effects these microplastics will have on human health, but as Karen points out, it’s very much as critical a public health issue as climate change and requires the same levels of urgent action. Another area where we’ve failed to adequately clean up after ourselves is mining. The 80,000-plus abandoned legacy mine sites across the country are the subject of Jeremy Bourke’s story (page 92). The sheer number of these is staggering in itself, but the toxic state of so many and their proximity to population centres are also of major concern. Efforts are underway to ameliorate some of the worst of these, but it’s clear why end-of-life rehabilitation of mine sites is such a critical part of planning from the outset.
There’s nothing straightforward about fixing these critical environmental problems, but change can always begin at home. Your subscriber’s copy of AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC Magazine will now be delivered in a new bioplastic material that is compostable, but continues to keep your magazine clean and dry while in transit. To discover more, visit:

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