Beautiful Melbourne (capital of Victoria),  that vies with Vancouver and Vienna for being the most liveable city in the world,  is threatened with  a fiscally, morally and environmentally perverse  $16 billion super-highway North East Link (NEL) project that is set to carve a swathe through its beautiful , tree-rich City of Banyule (aka Heidelberg), the former home of the famed Heidelberg School of Australian Impressionist painters, with 25,000 trees to be felled including an ancient River Red Gum  that I adore.

Although local government councils of the adjacent Cities of Banyule, Whitehorse, Boroondara and Manningham, have taken legal action in an attempt to constrain the NEL project, this super-highway  project is supported at both the State and Federal level by the 2 major political groupings, namely the conservative Liberal Party-National Party Coalition (in opposition in the state of Victoria, but in government Federally)  and the centrist Labor Party (in government in Victoria   but in opposition  Federally).  Accordingly, this monolithic monstrosity seems unstoppable and indeed the Labor Government of the state of Victoria has announced that works  are set to start in 2021.

What will it take to stop this atrocity? Puja Mondal writes of Gandhi-inspired villagers in north India peacefully  embracing trees to stop their destruction: “The Chipko Movement was launched in the Garhwal hills of north India for the preservation of the forests. Inspired by Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s Sarvodaya Movement, it was led by Sunderlal Bahuguna and first began with the villagers embracing tree trunks to protest the felling of ash trees by a sports goods company. This movement now has global dimen­sions” [1].

As a scientist I faintly hope that science, reason and empathy for truth and beauty will win out. Indeed as stated by Rabindranath Tagore  (Bengali writer, poet, musician and artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913):  “We have come into this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful through knowledge, but we attain fullness through sympathy” [2]. However in this instance of the North East Link atrocity,  both knowledge and empathy are missing.

To understand the geography of this proposed atrocity that is set to start in 2021,  Melbourne (population 5 million) is spread out around  the roughly circular Port Phillip Bay (264 kilometer shore, area 1,930 square kilometres) from Werribee in the north west to Portsea in the south (the City of Geelong and adjacent suburbs  is located in the south-west of the bay). The narrow entrance  to the bay (The Rip) separates Port Lonsdale on the Geelong side from Port Nepean several kilometres away on the Melbourne side [3]. Melbourne is demarcated by a ring of low mountains to the north, of which the biggest is Mount Dandenong. The River Yarra rises in the mountains and runs from the north to eventually enter Port Phillip Bay [3].

Heidelberg  (now called the City of Banyule after the homestead of first settlers)  is located within about 11-17 kilometers north of the CBD of Melbourne. The west of the City of Banyule (population 130,000)  encompasses Bellfield, West Heidelberg and a ridge called Heidelberg Heights with views west to the small mountain You Yangs (en route to Geelong) and Mount Macedon. East of Heidelberg Heights are the adjacent suburbs (north to south)  of Greensborough, Watsonia, Yallambie, Macleod, Rosanna, Viewbank, Banyule Flats, Heidelberg, Eaglemont and Ivanhoe that are located on the western side of  the River Yarra, variously  with views of Mount  Dandenong  and other mountains to the east [4-6].

This beautiful area was the home famous  Heidelberg School of Australian Impressionist landscape painters who started painting in this area in the late 19th century. The best known of these artists were  Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Walter Withers, Charles Conder, Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern (to see their work simply Google their name in inverted commas  together with the word images) . Indeed the Banyule City  Council has erected reproductions of some of their famous paintings at the spots at which they were painted. The City of Banyule abuts the Bundoora campus of La Trobe University (see my huge painting “Bundoora Arabesque” [7])  and  encompasses the Mercy, Austin, Repatriation and Warringal Hospitals. Indeed the Warringal Hospital  has named its various sections after Heidelberg School artists.

Melbourne (population of  about 5 million) is expected to shortly  overtake Sydney as Australia’s most populous city. Successive post-WW2 Australia Governments have had a policy of endless growth with annual  immigration (presently about 200,000 per year) feeding this economic model. However infrastructure has failed to keep up with population growth,  and traffic in Melbourne has become increasingly congested. A major super-highway is the M80 Western Ring Road in the north of Melbourne that runs 38 kilometers eastwards from Laverton in the west to the Greensborough exit in the east [8].

The Victorian  Government rejected proposals  to extend the M80 eastwards into less intensively inhabited country to link up with highways of the vast south east of Melbourne. Indeed this route could have been also used for a major northern railway  ring that would have crossed the railway line spokes presently coming out of the centre of Melbourne. Instead the Victorian  Government decided to build  a North East Link (NEL)  that would run southwards from the present end of the M80 at  Greensborough, successively through Watsonia,  Yallambie, Macleod, Viewbank, the Banyule Flats and thence under the Yarra River to Bulleen. Much of the Greensborough to Yallambie section would be in a huge, wide,  deep  and exposed open trench that would cut Watsonia in half, with the remaining half an underground tunnel from Yallambie under the Banyule Flats to connect up with the existing  easterly Eastern Freeway super-highway from the city at Bulleen [9].

The NEL means that 25,000 trees will likely be felled, including my beloved, 300-yearold River Red Gum,  and their uplifting beauty and  beneficial carbon sequestration replaced by greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and deadly pollutants associated with oil and petrol combustion from a predicted 100,000 vehicles every day [9]. Air pollution presently kills about 9 million people globally each year, including 10,000 Australians and the  75,000 people killed world-wide through the long-term effects of toxic pollutants from the burning of Australia’s world-leading coal exports [10].

Science-informed people know that we are badly running out of time to deal with a worsening Climate Emergency.  The goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement – endorsed by all countries except climate change denialist and criminal Trump America –   is to ideally keep global warming below plus 1.5 degrees Centigrade (+1.5C) and certainly well below a catastrophic +2C [11].  However the latest IPCC report says that +1.5C will be exceeded within 10 years [12, 13]. Indeed +2C is already  implicit in present circumstances because  of the cooling effect of sulphate aerosols deriving from coal burning. Thus  paleoclimatologist  and earth scientist Dr Andrew Glikson: “As the globe warms, to date by a mean of near ~1.5 oC, or ~2.0oC when the masking effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols are considered, and by a mean of ~2.3oC in the Polar Regions, the expansion of warm tropical latitudes and the polar-ward migration of climate zones ensue in large scale droughts in subtropical latitudes such as in inland Australia and southern Africa. A similar trend is taking place in the northern hemisphere where the Sahara desert is expanding northward, with consequent heat waves across the Mediterranean and Europe. Since 1979 the planet’s tropics have been expanding poleward by 56 km to 111 km per decade in both hemispheres. A leading commentator called this Earth’s bulging waistline” [14]. It gets worse – the carbon pollution mitigation promises of national governments to the Paris Conference mean a +3.2C of global warming by 2100 [15].

This heating and drying has been associated  with horrendous bushfires around the world and most recently in south eastern Australia in which  20% of Mainland forests were destroyed and the consequent GHG pollution of 750 Mt CO2-e was 50% bigger than the Australian Government’s asserted (but hugely under-estimated) annual Domestic GHG pollution of about 540 Mt CO2-e per year [16-18]. It should be noted that the south eastern Australian Eucalyptus forests are the best forest carbon sinks in the world [19].  As for tropical forests, they have reached or are close to reaching a tipping point of generating more CO2 than they sequester [20-22]. Nevertheless the climate criminal Federal Coalition Government and the climate criminal Labor Opposition have a bipartisan policy of unlimited exports of coal, gas and methanogenically-derived meat. In short, the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition and Labor MPs  (collectively known as Lib-Labs) that are publicly weeping crocodile tears over the horrendous Australian bushfires are actively contributing to the man-made  global warming underlying these horrendous and deadly disasters.

A Climate Emergency means (a) doing Good  things that decrease GHG pollution  (renewable energy, rail-based public transport,  vegetarian diet, decreasing population, decreasing consumption, atmospheric CO2 draw-down,  re-afforestation,  and truth telling), and (b)  cessation of the corresponding  Bad things done by speciescidal, ecocidal, omnicidal and terracidal Climate Criminals that increase GHG pollution (coal, gas, oil and carbon fuel exploitation, private vehicles, meat eating, population expansion, increasing consumption, deforestation, increasing atmosphere CO2, and neoliberalism-driven mendacity).

Set out succinctly  below are the key Bad things associated with the North East Link (NEL) super-highway project.

(1). Cost – A$16 billion for a dirty and deadly super-highway versus 5,246 new hospital beds.  The NEL will cost A$16 billion i.e. $16 billion spent on comprehensively Bad things (GHG emissions, deforestation, environmental violation and deadly pollution) rather than on key Good things such as saving the Planet and saving the lives of sick Australians.  The new, 800-bed Royal Adelaide Hospital cost A$2.44 billion [23, 24] and thus the $16 billion for the NEL corresponds to 800 beds x A$16 billion /A$2.44 billion = 5,246 hospital beds. Australia has an excellent Universal Health care system (Medicare) but is already stretched to the limit (i.e. before the likely huge impact of the coronavirus epidemic). Thus there are about 2.5 beds per thousand of population in Australia, but this ratio is decreasing in  all states and territories except for the Australian Capital Territory [25]. Diversion of A$16 billion  from the NEL to hospital  beds would increase the” hospital beds per thousand of population” ratio by 0.21 i.e. by 8.4%. In 2016-2017 the States and the Federal government spent A$69 billion on Australian hospitals, A$2 billion more than in 2015-16 [25] i.e. the cost of the NEL abomination is about 23% of Australia’s total annual expenditure  on hospitals. Over a decade  the A$16 billion cost of the NEL is equivalent to increasing the annual Australian health budget by A$1.6 billion per year (ignoring interest payments) or by plus 2.3% per year over 10 years. And of course this ignores inevitable huge cost over-runs on the NEL project and the likely huge medical costs associated with the coronavirus epidemic.

(2). Cost – A$16 billion for a dirty and deadly super-highway versus trying to save 85,000 annual preventable deaths in Australia. It is estimated that about 85,000 Australians die preventably every year from “life-style choices” or “political choices”, the breakdown  (including some overlaps) being as follows:   (1) 26,000 annual Australian deaths from adverse hospital events, (2) 17,000 obesity-related Australian deaths,  (3) 15,500 smoking-related Australian deaths, (4) 10,000 carbon burning pollution-derived Australian deaths, (5). 4,000 avoidable Indigenous Australian deaths, (6). 5,600 Australian alcohol-related deaths, (7) 2,900 Australian suicides (circa 80  being veterans), (8) 1,400 Australian road deaths, (9) 1,100 Australian opioid drug-related deaths with 570 linked  to US restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry, and (10) 300 Australian homicides (80 being of women killed domestically) [27-31].

A 2017 report on preventive medicine from La Trobe University states: “Chronic disease is responsible for 83 per cent of all premature deaths in Australia and 66 per cent of the burden of disease, making it our nation’s greatest health challenge. Conditions such as heart disease, stroke, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, lung disease and type 2 diabetes, are common in Australia. These conditions are largely considered preventable and are placing great pressure on Australia’s healthcare systems as they struggle to deal with the increasing flow of patients… Australia spends about $2 billion on prevention each year, or $89 per person. This is 1.34 per cent of all health spending, which is considerably less than countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand” [26]. Diversion of A$16 billion from a dirty, Australian-killing super-highway project to premature death prevention would mean a lavish and life-saving increase of annual prevention expenditure in 1 year to A$640 per person in Australia, A$2,500 per Victorian and A$3,200 per Melburnian, and over 10 years to A$64 per person per year in Australia, to A$250 per Victorian per year and to A$320 per Melburnian per year.

Overall health expenditure was 10.3% of GDP in 2016-17 [32] and the Australian GDP was A$2,047 billion in 2017 [33] i.e. Australian health expenditure totalled A$210.8 billion in 2017 and accordingly A$210.8 billion /25 million  = A$8,432 per person. Diversion of the A$16 billion to Australian health would increase the annual per capita  health expenditure in Australia for 1 year from A$8,432 to A$,9072 and over 10 years from A8,432 per year to A$8,496 per year .

(3). Cost – A$16 billion for a dirty and deadly super-highway versus sorely needed funding for free child education. The Victorian Government has summarized current funding  for the taxpayer-funded State School system that provides free, secular education to  about 2/3 of Victorian  school children: “The Victorian Budget 2019/20 invests a record $2.8 billion in our schools, as part of a sweeping $4 billion investment in education – from early childhood education and schools through to higher education and TAFE” [34]. About one third of school students in Australia attend typically religion-based private schools that charge fees and are also generously and disproportionately  funded by the Federal Government for political patronage reasons [35]. Thus the per student Federal and State Government funding of child education is $13,444 (non-fee charging Government sector), $11, 510 (fee-charging (Catholic sector) and $9,601 ( fee-charging Independent school sector) [35]. The Australian Government states that “While four out of every five school funding dollars comes from public sources, it is not evenly distributed across sectors. On average, around three quarters of funding for Catholic schools and less than one half of funding for independent schools is from public sources. In contrast, almost 95 per cent of funding for schools in the government sector comes from the Australian Government and state and territory governments” [35]. Using this data we can estimate that per student funding from all sources is A$14, 152 (impoverished State schools), about A$15, 347 (Catholic schools) and about A$19,202 (typically rich Protestant schools e.g. the annual fees for Geelong Grammar students in years 10-12 is A$41, 260 [36]).

Under Australia’s corrupt, inequitable  and child abusing Educational Apartheid system, the 2/3 of Australian school children attending  “95% free”,  secular  and grossly under-funded State schools are disproportionately excluded from top education, top universities and top university courses. However they do largely escape  the intellectual child abuse variously suffered by the 1/3 of students attending religious private schools that variously foist the following variously false or horrible  propositions upon them: sexism, misogyny, sexual guilt, unsafe sex, homophobia, anti-science faith rather than reason, biblical literalism, creationism, intelligent design, death for various asserted crimes (e.g. adultery, homosexual acts, blasphemy, and  apostasy), hell, hell fire, guilt, anti-science miracles (e.g. virgin birth, walking on water, rising from the dead, water into wine,  and bread into flesh) and the right to invade, occupy, devastate and ethnically cleanse other countries [37, 38].

Re-allocation of the A$16 billion for the NEL to State education would mean A$1.6 billion more each year for a decade for State Schools in Victoria i.e. for a decade the annual State expenditure  on State Schools would jump 1.6-fold  from a paltry and child-damaging A$2.8 billion per year to a much more adequate A$4.4 billion per year for 10 years.

(4). The A$16 billion  NEL cost adds a one-off A$8 billion to Australia’s horrendous  and inescapable Carbon Debt of US$5 trillion (A$7.7 trillion) that is increasing at US$0.7 trillion per year. Taking  fugitive CH4 emissions, land use and a 20 year-based Global Warming Potential (GWP) for CH4 (methane) into account (but ignoring bushfires),  Australia’s revised  annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is 3,438 Mt CO2-e. Assuming a damage-related Carbon Price of US$200 per tonne CO2-e [39-42] , that corresponds to  3,438 Mt CO2-e x US$200 /t CO2-e =  US$688 billion (A$1,058 billion) per year. The Carbon Debt for Australian is thus increasing at US$27, 520 (A$41,000)  per head per year for every Australian, at US$70,000 (A$105,000) per head per year for  9.816 million under-30 year old Australians [83], and at US$146,000 (A$218,000) per head per year for 4.7 million 0-14 year old Australian children  [84]. The annual increase  in Australia’s Carbon Debt of US$688 billion (A$1,058 billion) will ultimately be borne by these 0-14 year old children and is increasing at the rate of US$146,000 (A$218,000) per head per year [39].

One can crudely estimate the addition to Australia’s huge annual Carbon Debt of the A$16 billion cost of the NEL. The Australian GDP was A$2,047 billion for  2017 [33]. Accordingly the NEL cost is A$16 billion x 100/ A$2,047 billion = 0.78% of the annual GDP and hence 0.78% of Australia’s annual increase in Carbon Debt of A$1,058 billion i.e. A$8.3 billion.

(5). An extra 50 annual air pollution deaths from the NEL project. The NEL will add a  major 100,000 cars per day highway to the City of Banyule in addition to the 3 other major arteries of Bell Street, Rosanna Road, and Upper Heidelberg Road. On the basis that cars abhor a vacuum, one can crudely estimate that this could increase combined traffic on these arteries by  factor of about 4/3 = 1.33-fold.  Now scientists at King’s College London determined that 9,400 citizens of London (population 8.6 million)  die from the (long-term) effects of air pollution each year [43, 44]. Translating this air pollution death rate to the City of Banyule  (population 130,000) would predict 9,400 deaths per year x 0.13 million  /8.6 million = 142 air pollution deaths per year. A 33% increase in vehicles, pollution and such air pollution deaths would eventually mean an extra circa 50  such deaths annually in the City of Banyule. 18 million Australians (or  75% of Australia’s 2015 population of 24 million)  live in urban areas, personal car use is high (notably of diesel vehicles),  and crudely translating the London pollution-related mortality data to urban Australia corresponds  to 9,400 deaths x 18 million/ 8.6 million = 19,700 or about 20,000 urban Australian deaths annually from air pollution [10] (one hopes that it is much lower). The risk aversion-based Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) for Australians is US$4.2 million (A$6.5 million) [45] and the predicted extra 50 annual air pollution deaths would cost 50 air pollution deaths per year x $4.2 million = $210 million (A$323 million) per year.

(6).  Pollution deaths aside, rail transport can be 10 times more energy  efficient than the private car, ergo 100% renewable energy powered rail and not roads. A recent analysis of transport energy efficiency concluded: “A full bus beats a full car only on the highway, the difference being a factor of 2–3… The advantage of trains above buses is primarily the use of steel wheels, which reduces the rolling resistance considerably… The overall result is that the train is more energy-efficient than the average car by a factor of 3–10, depending on the speed and the average distance between stops” [46]. The Australian Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) cited a modern tram (100 passengers) that could have the same energy consumption per kilometer   (joules/kilometre) as a big 4-wheel drive car (5 passengers). Of course, aside from pollution deaths (10,000 such Australian deaths each year), road accidents (1,400 Australian deaths from road accidents per year [27-31])  and greenhouse gas pollution (Australia’s revised  annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is 3,438 Mt CO2-e), Australia is committed to the absurdity of transporting circa 80 kg people around in 2,000 kg vehicles. Science says “rail not roads”.

(7). 25,000 trees are planned to be removed or at risk of being removed by the NEL project. The council of the nearby City of Whitehorse has estimated that “Over 25,000 trees are planned to be removed or at risk of being removed throughout the project corridor. Approximately 5,500 of these trees are along the Eastern Freeway between Doncaster Road and Springvale Road” [47]. This mass arboricide will likely include a wonderful, 300-year old  River Red Gum [48] that I have loved for 50 years. Australia is among world leaders in land clearing as well as in 15 other areas of climate criminality [10, 17, 42].

Australia is among world  leaders for the following 16 climate criminal activities or parameters: (1) annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, (2) live methanogenic livestock exports,  (3) natural gas exports, (4) recoverable shale gas reserves that can be accessed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), (5) coal exports, (6) land clearing, deforestation and ecocide, (7) speciescide or species extinction], (8) coral reef destruction , (9) whale killing  and extinction threat through global warming impacting on krill stocks , (10) terminal carbon pollution budget exceedance,   (11) per capita Carbon Debt, (12) ultimately GHG generating iron ore exports, (13) climate change inaction, (14) climate genocide and approach towards omnicide and terracide, (15) increasing Domestic GHG pollution despite Paris commitments to lower GHG pollution, and (16) complicity in 9 million annual air pollution deaths from burning carbon fuels, Australia’s share being 75,000  overseas and 10,000 Domestically  [10, 17, 42]. Australia with 0.33% of the world’s population contributes 5.4% of global GHG pollution (including that due to the burning of Australia’s world leading gas and coal exports) [17].

Re-afforestation (with increased photosynthetic carbon sequestration) coupled with  sustainable exploitation of biochar (from forestry and agricultural waste) and cessation of deforestation are major mechanisms  for “net negative CO2 emissions” that is required to return the Planet to a safe and sustainable  environment for all peoples and all species. The heating and drying associated with man-made global warming has led to  huge forest  fires around the world,  most recently in California, the Amazon and in south eastern Australia (in which  20% of Mainland forests were destroyed with the consequent GHG pollution of 750 Mt CO2-e, this being 50% bigger than the Australian Government’s asserted – but hugely under-estimated –  annual Domestic GHG pollution of about 540 Mt CO2-e per year [16-18]). It should be noted that the south eastern Australian Eucalyptus forests are the best forest carbon sinks in the world [19].  As previously stated,  tropical forests have now reached or are close to reaching a tipping point of generating more CO2 than they sequester [20-22]. A possible 12 Gt biochar carbon annually  (from the anaerobic  pyrolysis of forestry and agricultural waste at 400-700C) can more than compensate for  the present 9 Gt carbon pollution  annually from industry [18].

(8). Steel and concrete use is hard to avoid for tall buildings – but potentially avoidable with green steel and green cement alternatives and readily avoidable by scrapping a climate criminal super-highway. Steel and cement production are major sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. However steel can be manufactured based on renewable energy using hydrogen as a reductant. Indeed Swedish steel giant Svenskt Stål AB (Swedish Steel or SSAB) is  to use renewable hydrogen to produce fossil- free steel by 2026  [49] . Replacing cement (a source of 5-8% of global GHG pollution) will be more difficult. Producing 1 tonne of cement from heating limestone (CaCO3) and other minerals (e.g.  calcium silicate)  yields  0.82 tonne CO2 in Australia. Global CO2 emissions from cement manufacture currently total 1.5 Gt CO2 per year. However a water-resistant magnesium oxychloride cement  (MOC) is being developed as a green  alternative to Portland cement [50, 51]. Of course steel and cement use is simply avoidable by scrapping a climate criminal super-highway in the first place.

(9). How necessary are these daily 100,000 vehicle trips on the proposed NEL? Numerous alternatives from using trains and staggered use  of highways to staying home and reading a book. Numerous low-impact  alternatives to a 6-lane super-highway include expansion by adding lanes to existing roads with noise and pollutant protections, staggered re-direction of  some lanes at peak times, elimination of parking, and  encouragement of  use at off-peak times. Train and bus use can be greatly encouraged by free public transport  travel, as in the prosperous Benelux nation of Luxembourg (population 614,000)[52]. Indeed there is a long-standing Australian proposal by Melbourne physics teacher Martin Mahy  for renewable energy-based, computer-linked mini-buses to take passengers from their homes to public transport, with this eliminating the need for private cars [53]. Many of the 100,000 trips per day on the NEL will be avoidable or unnecessary. The disastrous world-wide coronavirus epidemic illustrates the dangers of the modern mass obsession with travel for travelling’s  sake. Australian Literature Nobel laureate Patrick White condemned this,  pointless and indulgent movement in a 1988 speech at La Trobe University on the occasion of national celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the genocidal British invasion of Australia in 1788: “They are flogging camels from East to West and from West to East, and running from the  City to Surf and from the Surf to City.  Why don’t they just stay home, cook themselves a nice meal and curl up with a good book?”

On 5 March 2020 I sent the following personally addressed letter to all the Councillors of the Cities of  Banyule, Manningham, Whitehorse and Boroondara:


[START LETTER]. Dear Councillor [],

Re Climate Emergency, environmental vandalism and unconscionable destruction of up to 25,000 trees by the Melbourne North East Link (NEL) highway project backed by both Labor and the  Coalition.

(1). 2019 Victorian Tree of the Year, the River Red Gum in Bulleen, threatened by the NEL.

I came back to live in the beautiful Banyule (aka Heidelberg) part of  Melbourne about 50 years ago. Beautiful Melbourne is one of the most liveable cities in the world, and beautiful Heidelberg is renowned as the home of the famed Heidelberg School of Australian Impressionist  painters who painted the hills, trees, river scenes and the distant blue mountains (for my “take” on Heidelberg see my huge painting “Rosanna Madonna”: ).    For 50 years I have  loved a wonderful and inspiring local tree, an ancient River Red Gum  that is now threatened with destruction by the NEL. The National Trust (2019): “We are excited to announce the 2019 Victorian Tree of the Year as the River Red Gum in Bulleen. The River Red Gum is located on the corner of Bridge Street and Manningham Road in Bulleen. With a 300-year history, it measures 20 metres high with a canopy spread of 17 metres. The tree was originally saved by a local resident when the rest of the block was cleared to make way for the service station. The River Red Gum currently faces possible removal to make way for the North East Link Project” (“Victorian Tree of the Year”, National Trust, 2019: ).

(2). 25,000 trees are planned to be removed or at risk of being removed by the NEL project.

Whitehorse City Council (2019): “[Victorian Labor] State Government has committed to constructing the North East Link (NEL), which will connect the M80 Ring Road in Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen Road. The project includes the widening of the Eastern Freeway between Bulleen Road and Springvale Road. A number of Council resolutions have been made regarding NEL: 1.Council resolved on 11 December 2017 to oppose the State Government’s decision to adopt the alignment of the project (Corridor A) [page 67] …  12. Over 25,000 trees are planned to be removed or at risk of being removed throughout the project corridor. Approximately 5,500 of these trees are along the Eastern Freeway between Doncaster Road and Springvale Road [page 68]” (Whitehorse City Council, Ordinary Council Minutes, 15 July 2019, page 69: ).

(3). Stop this dangerous, deadly, anti-science and anti-environment idiocy – science says “rail not roads”,  “more trees not mass tree felling” and “stop air pollution deaths”.

The $16 billion NEL (how many hundreds of hospital beds?) will damage businesses in Watsonia (NEL start)  and Bulleen (NEL end), and is proposed to the exclusion  of the proposed $0.4 billion, 9,000 passengers per hour, Doncaster to City Light Rail Transit (LRT) that would take 5,000 cars per hour off the Eastern Freeway. The M80 Ring Road already suffers gridlock for several kilometres  before the proposed junction with the NEL. The energy expended per kilometre is the same for a light rail vehicle carrying 100 persons as for a diesel 4WD carrying 5 people i.e. a 20-fold higher efficiency for the former.  Air pollution presently kills about 10,000 Australians each year (“Stop air pollution deaths”: ).

Over 11,000 scientists have recently signed up to a World scientists’ warning of a Climate Emergency that sets out trends in 24 climate-related  areas over the last 40 years.  Scientists became aware of the serious climate change threat from greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in the 1980s,  but in 21 of these 24 areas the trends are (a) huge, (b) in the wrong direction, and (c) linear or quasi-linear functions of time, with this allowing extrapolation from the present climate emergency to a climate catastrophe in 2030. The present  global warning of 1.1C is already disastrous for Island Nations, according to the IPCC at present rates of pollution the Paris Agreement target of 1.5C will be exceeded within 10 years,  a “hidden” and catastrophic plus 2C is already implicit because of global cooling sulphate aerosols from coal burning, and national  Paris commitments mean a plus 3.2C by 2100 (see Gideon Polya, “Extrapolating 11,000 scientists’ climate emergency warning to 2030 climate catastrophe”, Countercurrents, 14 November 2019: ).

For any project the environmental impact  must at least be in the right direction, and hence “rail not roads”, “more trees not mass tree felling” and “less deadly air pollution not more” – we might not see the underground part of the North East Link as it goes from Yallambie to Bulleen but people and animals in the beautiful Banyule Flats adjacent to the Yarra River will breathe in the vented deadly exhaust fumes.

(4). Climate Emergency Declaration by Banyule City Council means resolute pro-environment, pro-Planet  actions and rejection of anti-environment, anti-Planet actions.

According to “Climate Emergency Declaration” (2020): “1,432 jurisdictions in 28 countries have declared a climate emergency. Populations covered by jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency amount to over 820 million citizens” (Climate Emergency declaration in 1,432 jurisdictions and local governments cover 820 million citizens”, 28 February 2020: ).

To its credit the Banyule City Council has recently joined numerous representative bodies in Australia and around the world in declaring a Climate Emergency, the Mayor stating: “Banyule Council is proud to join with the Climate Emergency movement and will continue to act to ensure a safe and sustainable world now, and in the future”  (Banyule City Council, “Climate Emergency: commitment and action”, 8 October 2019: ) .

To its further credit, the Banyule City Council has stated that: “Council is opposed to the North East Link through Banyule as it does not provide the best transport outcome for the future needs of Melbourne. As the state government has now decided to implement this route, Council will continue to advocate for changes to protect our natural environment, preserve our local neighbourhoods, avoid dividing our community and provide for real solutions to the transport issues in the north… Council has long recognised the need for the Metropolitan Ring Road to be completed so it can provide a direct link from the Greensborough bypass to Ringwood and ease increasing congestion on Banyule roads. Currently, freight and commuter traffic use Rosanna Road and Greensborough Highway to connect with northern, western and south eastern suburbs. Completing the Ring Road is a key priority in Council’s transport strategy, the Banyule Integrated Transport Plan. “, Banyule City Council, “Shaping Banyule”, 2019: ).

To its even greater credit,  Banyule City Council has joined with the neighbouring councils of Manningham, Whitehorse and Boroondara in legal action over the North East Link (“Manningham, Banyule, Whitehorse and Boroondara councils launch legal action over North East Link”, ABC News, 19 February 2020: ).

However, with bipartisan Federal and State  backing for the North East Link from both the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition and Labor (“North East Link”, Wikipedia: ),  I perceive (hopefully incorrectly) an awful inevitability about the North East Link project going ahead and the attendant insane and permanent violation of this beautiful part of Melbourne, home of the famed Heidelberg School of painters. I note that the Greens, State and Federal, oppose the NEL perversion.

Climate Emergency Declaration implies pro-environment, pro-Planet  actions and resolute rejection of anti-environment, anti-Planet actions i.e. pro-rail and anti-road investment, pro-tree and anti-deforestation policies, anti-air pollution policies, pro-emissions reduction and anti-concrete  policies, and in general pro-environment, pro-biodiversity, pro-Humanity, pro-heritage and pro-health policies.

I trust that the 4 councils involved will continue to resolutely oppose the environmental vandalism and sheer fiscal irresponsibility of the proposed North East Link highway.

Yours sincerely, Dr Gideon Polya [contact details], Melbourne, Australia  [END LETTER].

Final comments.

Many local government councils around the world, including the council of the City of Banyule (Heidelberg) in Melbourne, Australia, have declared a Climate Emergency. Indeed a catastrophic plus 2C of global warming is now effectively unavoidable as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase remorselessly under the impetus of neoliberal greed. Nevertheless we are obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” for our children and future generations.

Melbourne’s climate criminal North East Link (NEL) super-highway project is associated with  numerous Bad things in irrational contravention of the declared Climate Emergency – ignoring science, ignoring reason, increasing GHG emissions, road instead of rail, massive tree felling,  and deadly fiscal perversion that will contribute to the premature deaths of many Australians. No doubt similar Stupidity, Ignorance and Egregious Greed (SIEG as in Dr Strangelove and “Sieg Heil!”)  is driving similar huge, climate criminal projects in your country too.

What can decent people do? Decent people around the world must (a) inform everyone they can about the worsening Climate Emergency, and (b) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, politicians, parties, corporations, collectives and countries disproportionately involved in the worsening Climate Emergency and worsening Climate Genocide that existentially threaten Humanity and the Biosphere. We are badly running out of time. There must be zero tolerance for climate criminality.


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Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007:   ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see:  ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others:  ;  Gideon Polya:  ; Gideon Polya Writing: ; Gideon Polya, Wikipedia: ) . When words fail one can say it in pictures – for images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: and  .



One Comment

  1. Well said. I urge anyone concerned with this project to join ‘Say no to north east link option A’ on facebook