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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Biggest Threat to the Great Barrier Reef is . . . Ice Cream?

The Biggest Threat to the Great Barrier Reef is . . . Ice Cream?

The Biggest Threat to the Great Barrier Reef is . . . Ice Cream?

Ben and JerryOn the political front, things have been rather ridiculous in Queensland for some time now, but as Kate O’Callaghan writes, it’s just got even more ridiculous.

The Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell yesterday urged
Australians to boycott the much loved American ice cream company, Ben
& Jerry’s. What is this lunacy, you ask? What possibly could these
old, smiling purveyors of frozen goodness have done to become the focus
of such political vitriol? Well, they like the reef. They like it a lot.

Ben & Jerry’s recently teamed up with WWF (the World Wildlife
Fund) to raise awareness of the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef,
particularly from industrial projects being approved by the current government. Together, they embarked on an Australia-wide free ice cream tour urging fans to “Scoop Ice Cream, Not The Reef”.
The company has a history of championing social and environmental
causes, so this is hardly surprising. They have previously protested
against oil drilling in the Arctic, support mandatory GMO labelling, and
promote the use of Fair Trade ingredients.

Minister Powell lashed out at the company for their anti-dredging,
pro-conservation stance on the reef. Powell argued that Ben &
Jerry’s is damaging the reputation of our national treasure,
jeopardising jobs and the tourist industry which is so crucial to the
Queensland economy. This is interesting, given that these are the exact
same arguments conservationists and opposition groups are using against the government’s development plans. According to Powell, “another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that’s been propagated by WWF”,and
he’s not happy about it, warning that parent company Unilever will be
getting a strongly worded letter very soon. Despite the political
controversy, Ben and Jerry’s Australian spokesman stood by their
position on the reef stating that “dredging and dumping  . . . threatens the health of one of Australia’s most iconic treasures”.

Ben and Jerry 2One
has to laugh at the Liberals promoting a secondary boycott against Ben
& Jerry’s, given that they’ve been chomping at the bit to ban environmental secondary boycotts
since they came into power. It seems that boycotts are fine, as long as
the targets are not the Liberal Party’s mining and logging mates.

The government is clearly feeling the heat of the global spotlight on
the reef and their environmental record. Along with the Ben &
Jerry’s campaign, the poor health of the reef was also the focus of
Earth Hour 2014. In June, UNESCO will release their report on the Heritage Status of the reef which may be downgraded to ‘In Danger’.
The government is also fighting multiple lawsuits against the proposed
dredging projects at Abbot Point, ushering in a new era of conservation
though legal means.

With such international attention, the government and fossil fuel
industry are using increasingly desperate measures to defend their
actions. Mining Australia’s failed ‘Australians For Coal’ campaign
became the focus of online ridicule
and the ice cream boycott is sure to meet the same fate. The Queensland
Government’s ‘Reef Facts’ website has been deemed a misleading “political document” by scientists and are sure to contain similar misinformation.

If the government and mining industry are trying to gain public
support for fossil fuels, they are in desperate need of new PR people.
Their anti-reef/anti-ice cream stance is alarming. Saving the reef and
ice cream versus coal and environmental destruction? Tough call . . .

This article was first published on Kates’s blog and reproduced with permission.

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