The world needs a detox and Julian Cribb (AM), author of new book Earth Detox is on a mission to convey this message.
“Man-made chemicals move constantly in space and time. They travel on the wind, in water, attached to soil, dust and plastic microparticles, in wildlife, in traded goods and in – and on – people,” says Julian.
“They venture forth as gases and vapours, as liquids and solids, sometimes shifting between the phases. They combine and recombine with one another and with naturally reactive substances to form new compounds – at times more toxic, often less so; some more mobile and others immobile for a time.
“There are estimated to be over 10 million badly contaminated sites in the world’s cities, most of them leaking substances that threaten the lives and health of their citizens for centuries to come.”
The good news is that clean-ups are both technically feasible and, though costly in the short run, deliver major health and economic benefits in the longer term, he says.
One of the examples in Australia is our local area Curl Curl lagoon which used to be quite heavily polluted in the 1970s before the clean-up occurred in the 1980s by the local Curl Curl Lagoon Friends.
“Reports over the years about pollution leaching from the former Curl Curl tip site typify this sort of issue, which applies to every city on Earth,” says Julian.
Curl Curl clean-up was led by Curl Curl Lagoon Friends, a community-based organisation with a 40-year history of environmental protection and advocacy.
“The area surrounding this waterway is not just any park. This is a sensitive wetland area under restoration from a previous short-term economic decision to use the area as landfill. Generations of local residents have volunteered countless hours to plant reeds, remove litter, restore bushland, study the aquaculture, count birdlife, install fish habitat and keep watch for fauna under threat, says President Paula Cowan.
“Our strategy is to educate residents and visitors on the value of the ecosystem, partner with local council on initiatives to protect and enhance the area and instil a sense of pride in our local environment.
“It is critical to maintain local pride in the lagoon and surrounds as a focal point of our suburb. Complete rehabilitation of the waterway is several decades away and we believe enhancing and preserving the ecosystem during this time will ensure that the lagoon retains its value to the community,” she adds.
“By involving students early in learning about the science of the world around them, it switches on their curiosity and develops a life-long appreciation of where they live.“We know there’s a long way to go to solve chemical and litter pollution issues in Curl Curl Lagoon and we’re pleased that all levels of government are contributing to setting things right here.”
“Together with Council, we’re responsibly trying improvements on a small scale to get them right before testing in the lagoon itself. Early signs are really encouraging!”
“We welcome visitors’ appreciation of our natural waterway and surrounding bushland, however counsel that this needs careful social and environmental consideration,” she concludes.
For Julian, he hopes that clean-ups like this will happen worldwide.
“The opportunity is for Australia to be a world leader in Detoxing the Earth, delivering benefits to all of humanity – and doing well by doing good,” he adds.
Earth Detox by Julian Cribb is out now, available from Cambridge.org and selected bookstores.
Julian Cribb is an Australian author and science communicator. His career includes appointments as scientific editor of The Australian newspaper, director of national awareness for the CSIRO, editor of several newspapers, member of numerous scientific boards and advisory panels and president of national professional bodies for agricultural journalism and science communication.
Want to help participate in keeping Curl Curl clean? Check out Curl Curl Lagoon Friends and join their association to volunteer your services.