Australia, the green continent

The 'green' movement has come of age in the 1990s. Governments are gradually introducing environmentally considerate legislation, and people around the world are beginning to care more for the environment in which they live. Depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, nuclear waste, deforestation and the conservation of wildlife habitats, are modern issues that are discussed in every classroom and mentioned in every newspaper.

Australia is among the most environmentally thoughtful nations. It has had to be. The continent has a delicate ecosystem, highly susceptible to the influences of man and introduced fauna and flora. The ancient soils deficient in nutrients require prudent use and management, and water is still a precious commodity in most of the country.

The importance of water quality was recognised early in Australia's history, and ignoring pollution regulations had dire consequences for offenders. A General Order issued on 14 October 1802 to the inhabitants of Sydney read, "If any person whatever is detected in throwing any filth into the stream of fresh water, cleaning fish, washing, erecting pig sites near it, or taking water but at the tanks, on conviction before a magistrate, their houses will be taken down and forfeit 5 pounds for each offence to the Orphan Fund."

Considering the low average rainfall over most of the country, the rarity of major rivers and the immense size of the island continent, Australians today have one of the highest standards of water supply in the world, both in quality and quantity. In part, this is due to the large resources of underground water, such as the Great Artesian Basin which is one of the biggest in the world. It is also a result of good water management practices and conscientious conservation measures due to a historical appreciation of the value of water as a resource. The consumption of water per head of population is however one of the largest in the world, much of it being wasted on European style domestic gardens ill suited to the arid climate of most of the nation.

Nevertheless, the public participation in recycling programs is impressive, and the consumer is quick to respond to environmental issues with their wallets.

At government level, there have been a number of innovative schemes. In Western Australia, country towns must re use their effluent before being allowed to take new water from State supplies. As a result, some 34 towns spray chlorinated effluent on school and public sports grounds. Effluent is also utilised in other States for golf courses, drip irrigating wine grapes and tree growing projects.

There are also many examples of environmental care in the private sector. For example, Australia's long involvement in the mining of natural resources, has led to a number of measures and techniques for the rehabilitation of mine sites in sensitive areas. Mining companies have given high priority to the reservation of topsoil and its organic enrichment for re use, the replanting of native species and the use of fertilisers and chemical stabilisers, and the introduction of shrub and tree species. The base of knowledge in this field extends into many disciplines, and involves companies in natural resources, government agencies as well as the academic and research and development organisations.

Australia has made many contributions to conservation and the environment, through a wide assortment of products and technologies. Some of the most globally significant commercially available innovations are reviewed in the following pages. Because of the depth and diversity of the subject matter, the technologies included are by no means the only ones available, but are representative of the very wide range of products and technologies from Australia.

These include airborne scanners, asbestos removal and waste eradication technologies, water purification and sewage treatment systems, monitors, sensors and data loggers, as well as some ingenious products that are helping to save wildlife and the environment.

World first products and technologies in conservation and the environment

Public Notice: Due to an unresolved dispute with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), who copied and adopted as their own certain material from Tomorrow's World, the Australian Initiative, and published the material in their Australia Open for Business website, without remorse or recompense, access by Australian Government servers to this online edition has been blocked indefinitely.

Print Edition: ISBN 0646252119 - Paperback - 224 pages - 350 illustrations - $55.00 incl. GST.

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