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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Become a proactive protector of paradise

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Story & photo Mary Gardner

There are ways for our local communities to renew our economies. We can align them with the core values we hold in these places that sustain us. As a biologist, I get a lot of my news from reading the tide line on the beach and listening to birds and bats as well as people. Here’s the latest.

The future looks grim for many species as well as for our children and grandchildren. So let’s flex our clout as both citizens and consumers. Let’s look ahead and redirect the finance, effort and goodwill that swirls around here into a program that improves our legacy. Let’s begin a process that keeps going year after year, improving the way we do things here.

How? My proposal is very simple and has three parts. It’s based on models and projects you can review on my website. The first part is to set up a way that anyone and everyone can participate: visitors, residents, businesses, creatives and farmers. Custom-tailored memberships will have fees that match varying levels of cash flow and socio-ecological impacts.

Your membership declares you’ll participate as a proactive guardian of our paradise. Holding this ‘ecopassport’ offers certain privileges: access to a network of information and skills, use of a logo, discounts, etc. Membership also brings challenges and responsibilities. Some could be ‘best practice’ projects. A few weeks keeping a logbook about your use of consumables, such as water, power, plastics, petrol. Watching your production of wastes such as food or rubbish. Making properties friendlier for other species.

Members can also contribute to building local knowledge. One project lets you upload your photos of other species to a dedicated website. Another takes you on walkabouts, monitoring or historical searches. Daytrippers and residents alike can ‘spot the logo’ and join in something new, exciting and valuable.

As our communities transition to what we hope is sustainability, we must adjust in every way. What’s important will alter, as the climate changes and transport options morph in ways we cannot anticipate. At its heart, ‘ecopassports’ help a wide range of members – and other species – become flexible and resilient.

The second part of my proposal is that the membership fees are collected and held by an independent entity. The most progressive model is a hybrid trust, a blended community group and commercial enterprise. Unlike a levy caught in political winds, this exciting voluntary fund will be a stable, public way to enact the third part of my proposal. We finance our projects, employment and initiatives in the community-minded ways we value. In a neat twist, the fund can include pro rata mechanisms to contribute to council funds about infrastructure and green assets.

Economic jargon says we’ll finally be accounting for negative externalities and tracking opportunity costs. In plain words, this process addresses negative costs that our places bear because of the way we and our visitors live. The process also continues supporting what we avoid doing: keeping trees instead of building parking lots, planning for long-term viability instead of cashing in on speedy money spinners.

This proposal isn’t a ‘bed tax’ and doesn’t single out visitors or residents, big or small business. With tourism down 11 per cent, we need to develop our own creative industries and services. These exports – art, film, texts, music, research, products – also allow would-be tourists to visit using their imagination. What if we set up a nature discovery centre? They can visit online and dream to visit someday.

Every proposal needs discussion. Meanwhile, the daily headline from our beaches is that the natural flotsam is full of our plastic wastes. How much longer can we ignore our impacts in this precious tangle of life? Read more at the website Tangle of Life www.tangleoflife.org.

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