Andrew’s interest in conservation started during his high school years in Bendigo, when he would often explore the surrounding Box Ironbank forests, and go on hiking trips to places like the Victorian Alps and Wilson’s Promontory.
He became actively involved in conservation issues in the late 1980’s while at University at Melbourne, after seeing the destruction being caused by industrial scale clearfelling and woodchipping.
But while these big threats still exist, Andrew says that much has changed since then.
“Community groups and government have paid greater attention to nature conservation across private as well as public land, and at a whole catchment level. This is a good thing and important new reserves have been established. However, some of the big threats, such as industrial scale clearfelling and incremental clearing and degredation of remnant vegetation, still have to be tackled.”
“Climate change is the big new threat on a scale most of us had not envisaged in the 1980’s.”
Andrew said that as a voluntary activist, often the biggest challenge was generating public awareness and community voice on issues like clearing controls and Melbourne’s native vegetation, but said he thought it was important to put things in perspective.
“As an individual, it’s good to be part of a team of conservationists working towards the same end. As an environment movement, I guess we need to be pragmatic about stepwise gains that we can achieve given the political constraints of the time. While this might fall short of what is needed on the ground for nature conservation, things would have been much worse without community environment campaigns.”
Andrew said he hoped that governments around the world would take big steps to tackle climate change into the future, and had some advice for those wanting to do more.
“Find out if there is an established campaign dealing with the issue or threat that you’re concerned about, and if so link in with that. If not, then link up with other local groups and individuals who are concerned about the same or similar issues and seek advice from experienced campaigners.”