Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop is a passionate environmental advocate. In 2010, as a Principal Scientist with Queensland state Department of Environment and Resources Management, Gerard ended 37 years of remote sensing, surveying and mapping in federal and state government. He now works for NGO Beyond Zero Emissions on their Land Use Plan, a plan to take Australia’s land use and agriculture emission beyond zero, and for London-based environmental NGO World Preservation Foundation. He also conducts a climate-friendly building design service.
With the federal government he worked with the team that mapped the Great Barrier Reef for its World Heritage listing. This involved serious work, although living and working on boats, and diving on remote pristine reefs in the 1970’s was a lot of fun. He has held a lecturer positions at the University of Queensland and the University of Canberra, and seen much of Australia’s landscape while doing field verification.
He became an environmental advocate after witnessing great environmental destruction – watching forests cleared at the rate of 1,000 hectares/day (2,500 acres/day) for over 20 years. His team was responsible for mapping this deforestation using satellite and ground data, literally experiencing the subject of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song. The timber was not even used – the forest was pushed over and burnt, and almost all of this was for ‘clean, green’ beef pastures. He took heart from the fact that this work led to tighter tree-clearing laws, but resigned in 2010 when his group produced a report ‘greenwashing’ the state beef industry (Queensland and other government agencies regularly receive funding from beef industry organisations). Once freed of the government ‘gag’, he embarked on further research and publication on environmental and climate impacts of livestock agriculture.
The facts are scary: agriculture, particularly animal agriculture, plays a dominant role in humanity’s overstepping ‘planetary boundaries’ – each of which is crucial to our survival on planet earth. These facts are plentiful, but rarely assembled or debated, leading him to believe that this is a major ‘blind spot’ in our civilization’s consciousness. He then decided to do his best to help stimulate a robust global debate. Recently becoming a grandfather, and watching his grand-daughter grow provides him strong motivation to help our world back to sustainability.