19. Years of Living Dangerously…

Polished and produced…well worth the watch!

Hollywood celebrities and respected journalists span the globe to explore the issues of climate change and cover intimate stories of human triumph and tragedy.

Link to the full episode is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ

18. Earth—global wind and weather


Earth—such an amazing yet fragile planet. This is a snap from an interactive website that tracks global wind and weather real time. In this screenshot you can see Cyclone Ita bearing down on the tropical north coast of Queensland, Australia (I live near Brisbane…)

This is one of the best websites I have ever seen…and I think it should be shared far and wide!


17. More on food…and waste…and…

For my final assignment (due in eight weeks LOL!) I am supposed to revisit my first assignment, which was a poster on Coal Seam Gas (and fracking). The final assignment is to take this information, and further research, and take it to a new level, and a new context and write a magazine style article, but I have decided to look at food and food waste instead—with permission of course!

I have been busy revisiting materials I had seen many moons ago, and indeed being drawn to look into new areas. It is a fascinating process. 😀

On food

I highly recommend hunting down and watching Food Inc by Robert Kenner. Here is a trailer for the film: see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjh5aZKgtSY

While reviewing this I also happened upon an interesting interview with Robert Kenner on a channel called Bring Your Own Documentary. It’s an interesting format and a nice discussion about elements from Kenner’s documentary. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oq24hITFTY

This led me to FixFood (I think also linked to Robert Kenner), a website that talks about many issues. Go have a look at: http://www.fixfood.org

I then got sidetracked (as I had read a fellow blogger’s comments about GM foods and Monsanto) and so spent a good hour watching a documentary called Percy Schmesiser—David versus Monsanto. Compelling viewing, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omtYlsG1P5U

On food waste

An interesting development on recovering home food scraps (the average person throws out the equivalent of 1 in every 5 bags of food they take home from the supermarket) has been tackled by the Leichhardt Council in Sydney, Australia. It’s a good interview, hosted by Natasha Mitchell on Radio National: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/food-waste/5375576

Dana Frasz has following her life’s passion to address the food waste issue in the USA. Here she talks to an audience as organised by Pachamama—it is well worth the listen. Honoring the Sacredness of Food by Reducing Food Waste by Dana Frasz: http://www.pachamama.org/blog/honoring-the-sacredness-of-food-by-reducing-food-waste-with-dana-frasz

Which bought me full circle to where I started at the beginning of the week, which was to watch a few online vids about William McDonough (under the banner of resilience, adaptive capacity and efficiency—for my course). McDonough is a very interesting character. To many he is a visionary, and he is … but from what I have read and watched, I would add that he is sadly misdirected, and very driven by the dollar—which is a pity. Anyways, go have a look at  http://vimeo.com/3237777 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoRjz8iTVoo for a taste of the McDonough vision—a vision of ‘cradle to cradle’ design and turning waste into food.

What have I been doing in my spare time, you may ask?

I am also hot on the heels of all things plastic. I have found an amazing source and downloaded some technical data/information about packaging from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Worth a visit: http://www.sustainablepackaging.org/default.aspx

I had better get off the content bandwagon and spend more time on what I am supposed to be focussed on—in the coming weeks—social justice and the politics of neo-liberal economic theory! Woo-hoo! Bring it on! 😀


16. Resources and all that stuff …

Right at the very start of this journey of sustainability learning and understanding I went looking for information and came across this amazing graphic … (original source is http://www.sustainableplant.com/2013/10/infographic-how-long-will-our-natural-resources-last/)


Do I need to mention, at this point, that the endless pack of TimTams in that iconic ad is a fiction?

If we use up all of the above resources, yes, some of them can be recovered and recycled, but in doing so there will be losses in both the original element and because of the amount of energy needed in the recovery process. We must question the need for the latest gadget/purchase, and start demanding longevity in the things we buy. With technology and hope, we may be able to recover the materials already used, with minimal residual pollution.

The reading I had to do for class this week was entitled Economics in a full world, by Herman E. Daly. It was published in Scientific America in 2005. It has helped me to start on my journey of understanding the economics side of things—definitely a space in which I am not particularly comfortable. The abstract of the paper simply states:

“The global economy is now so large that society can no longer safely pretend it operates within a limitless ecosystem. Developing an economy that can be sustained within the finite biosphere requires new ways of thinking.”

But probably my favourite snippet from the reading is:

“Because establishing and maintaining a sustainable economy entails an enormous change of mind and heart by economists, politicians and voters, one might well be tempted to declare that such a project would be impossible. But the alternative to a sustainable economy, an ever growing economy, is biophysically impossible. In choosing between tackling a political impossibility and a biophysical impossibility, I would judge the latter to be the more impossible and take my chances with the former.


15. Food glorious food?

Our current (group) assignment involves ‘food insecurity’ and sustainability. It is worth 10% … and yet I have read and read and read and I could indeed, just keep reading.

We are almost to the final draft, which I will then go and make pretty (as is my want) but it is safe to say that we have sliced and diced this thing to bits … all puns intended. In all honesty, instead of the 2,000 word essay, what I want to submit is something like the following:

On sustainability:

Just stop buying crap would be a good start. Oh, and listen to our climate scientists.

On food security/insecurity, I would borrow heavily from Michael Pollan of The omnivore’s dilemma (and other books) fame:

‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’.

but I would add:

Your food should grow or live as close to you as is practicable.

But of course this is far too simple for what is a really complex, multi-dimentional problem, but hey—I think it would be a damned good place to start 😀

As I have said, I have read so much stuff. For the purposes of a university paper, it has involved searching for and finding original research, and combining that with other papers, and segments from books. It is, after all, a piece of academic writing. I do struggle though to set limits as to what and how much I read, as the internet is both a blessing and a curse in the way you can find so much material. Mostly I am compelled to read it.

I cannot complain about my head being full—it is indeed a wonderful state.

What I have found to be truly inspiring is the material in TED Talks. I had known about TED Talks before I started studying, but I do turn to them, on the whole, for much more palatable information—most of the speakers are great entertainers as well as being very knowledgeable. A few gems I have watched recently on the topic of food and would recommend:

and just now, looking for, copying and placing these links I have found even more I think I need to watch (maybe today):

And just for fun, here is the graphic I made for our report—taken from some data (actually taken from two sources and melded). It shows the  results of a survey of university students: the amount of food they consumed from each of the five food groups is shown as a percentage, while the number of recommended daily servings from this group, is the big number at the top.


At the ripe old age of 53, I discovered so much about food groups and serving sizes and serves per population segment. And yes it is, or can be complicated—overly so, as also evidenced by the myriad diets on the market. It makes me think that Michael Pollan actually nailed it!

14. This is THE decade—a message from our Climate Council

Just in, a video just in from the Climate Council, I guess in response to the IPCC report.

Please watch and share.


13. …and the heat goes on

The IPCC (Inter-govermental Panel on Climate Change) released its latest report this week and it ain’t looking good. The summary can be found here (see: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf)

Here is a lift from a feed that came via FaceBook from the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Fiona Johnson, lecturer at the University of New South Wales. It outlines how the average person would personally notice the effects of climate change. It’s an interesting, and sadly familiar list (i.e. I am noticing many of these things already):

  1. Rising power bills from using your airconditioner: With temperatures set to rise between 0.6 and 1.5 degrees by 2030, your airconditioner use will become a significant expense. On the plus side your heating costs will most likely go down. Heating and cooling account for 15 to 25 per cent of a typical Sydney household’s electricity use.
  2. Warmer temperatures overnight: Pack away your doona as evening temperatures are also predicted to increase in the future. Since 2001, extreme heat records at night have outnumbered extreme cold records by 5 to 1, which may make sleeping more difficult for some.
  3. Crowded beaches: Rising sea levels will put extra pressure on our beaches. Storm surges will continue to cause erosion, adding to the reduced shoreline from higher sea levels. Where will you put your towel?
  4. High-speed windscreen wipers: Rainfalls are likely to increase in intensity. This will mean more flash flooding and need for the high-speed setting on your windscreen wipers as short, sharp downpours become part of life.
  5. Infrastructure chaos: City infrastructure struggles at the best of times but you can expect more rail outages due to extreme heat, water shortages due to failures in treatment plants from bushfires or floods and airport delays due to storms.
  6. Going on a holiday? You better visit some of your favourite local attractions soon because many  won’t stay the same for long. Ocean acidification and rising temperatures are expected to have a significant effect on the Great Barrier Reef. The Gold Coast has been identified as a hotspot of vulnerability due to the concentration of coastal development. The Kakadu wetlands may be subject to increased saltwater intrusion from higher sea levels, affecting the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
  7. Increases in food prices: If the driest future scenarios eventuate, there will be increased pressure on the Murray Darling Basin – where one-third of our food supply is produced.
  8. How does your garden grow? If you’re a green thumb, you’ve probably noticed changes to the flowering time of some plants. Warmer temperatures mean some species will bloom earlier and for longer, while other plants will wither and die in the heat. Last year in Sydney, the magnolias came into bloom about four weeks earlier than usual due to the mild weather.
  9. High fire danger: The number of days with very high and extreme fire weather is expected to increase. In Sydney the extreme values of the fire danger index have increased by about 2 per cent per decade over the past 30 years. Implications include increased building costs in bushfire risk zones and more pressure on already stretched firefighting services.
  10.  Staying out of the heat: An increase in heatwaves will most likely result in more admission to hospital and deaths from heat-related illnesses. In the 2009 Victorian heatwave in the week before the Black Saturday bushfires, the number of emergency call-outs to ambulances in Melbourne increased by almost 50 per cent over the three hottest days.

The whole article can be found here (see: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/ten-ways-you-personally-will-notice-the-effects-of-climate-change-20140331-35ta1.html#ixzz2xa6Mcpx9)

And Australia is the only country I know, where climate change has been made into ‘a political football’. We are in the process of rescinding the main tool of carbon abatement—’axing the tax’—the carbon tax—as established with the previous federal Labor government. The new federal LNP prefers a market based solution, where it seems like we will buy the polluting habits from the worst polluters—AKA direct action. It’s a farce and realising what is our rather meagre CO2 abatement target of 5% is indeed questionable.

And on the question of adaptation—AKA let’s stop focussing on the main problem and ready ourselves with a stack of bandaids? I am a bit lost for words. Yes we should engage with what may very well be the fallout of climate change—rising sea levels, food insecurity, readiness for severe weather events, and so on, but to make this the focus instead of addressing the main issue is just lunacy.

The following is an interesting interchange between two members from the opposite sides of Parliament (see: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/ipcc-report-finds-world-might-be-irreversibly-changed-20140331-35sth.html?rand=1396235161199)

This in a week where we are still looking in the oceans south west of Perth for Malaysian Flight MH370—where from the air we are spotting significant objects that keep on turning out to be huge (and not so huge) chunks of floating rubbish. Yes people, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—or gyre—has a growing cousin in the  Indian Ocean.