Tag Archives: plastics

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.


4. The course and the passions

The course I am doing is a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, and compared with my undergraduate degree there are many differences. This time around I have a passion in my belly, more time to focus on the subject (my study load is a quarter of what I was doing way back when) and I am less likely to spend hours at the uni bar or asleep on a pile of books in the library 🙂 I will be doing four subjects over four semesters.

The subject this semester SUS 101 covers seven modules over 13 weeks:

  • MODULE 1: Living in unsustainable times: sustainability and indicators of change
  • MODULE 2: Biodiversity, capacity and limits to growth
  • MODULE 3: Interdependence: ecological, social and economic systems
  • MODULE 4: Justice, equality and ethics
  • MODULE 5: Diversity, innovation and design
  • MODULE 6: Governance and power
  • MODULE 7: Agency and participation

When I started the course I had so many questions, I guess many naive, but they are slowly being addressed (answered?) with the course content, the reading and the related surfing I am doing on the web. Bless the www!

My current passions have to do with the overarching issues of sustainability with particular reference to climate change (a real biggie!), what drives us to consume, how food can become more sustainable and why we are addicted to plastics (hopefully the focus of my final piece of assessment).

Some stuff to go look at on each of the above:


One factoid that shocked me is that out of  9 measured areas that constitute a safe operating space for humanity, we have already exceeded 3: biodiversity loss, human interference with the nitrogen cycle and climate change. Originally reported in Nature (see: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7263/full/461472a.html) which is behind a paywall, it is also covered well in Solutions in the article ‘How Defining Planetary Boundaries Can Transform Our Approach to Growth’. (see: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/935)


The globe represents the proposed safe operating space for the nine planetary systems. The wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change, and human interference with the nitrogen cycle) have already been exceeded. (from Solutions)


I have only read the first chapter of Affluenza: when too much is never enough (Hamilton, C. & Denniss, R. 2005)but there are some gems here. For example:

“In the coming decade most of our income growth will be spent on consumer products the craving for which has yet to be created by advertisers. Our public concerns may be about health and the environment, but our private spending patterns show that the majority of Australians feel that they suffer from a chronic lack of ‘stuff’ … People in affluent countries are now even more obsessed with money and material acquisition, and the richer they are the more this seems to be the case.

… Rich societies such as Australia seem to be in the grip of a collective psychological disorder. We react with alarm and sympathy when we come across and anorexic who is convinced she (sic) is fat, whose view of reality is so totally distorted. Yet, as a society surrounded by affluence, we indulge in the illusion that we are deprived.”

Also, go have a look at:


I am fascinated that we accept that food is trucked for kilometres (and sometimes from one corner of the globe to another) and that we don’t seem to bat an eyelid. We are in an ‘entitlement zone’ that requires we have what we want, when we want it, even if it is not seasonal. We will consume food that has been picked when green, treated with chemicals to maintain it as it  is transported and placed on shelves and not seem to either know or care. Even worse, we will buy eggwhites in a carton and avocados in a plastic container.

I know that not everyone can grow their own and/or afford organic options. One article I read (US based) piqued my curiosity (see: http://www.cuesa.org/learn/how-far-does-your-food-travel-get-your-plate) and the fact that at my uni, USC, has a project based on the fact that students can no longer afford good nutritious food is both heartening but also a bit jaw-dropping. Called ‘The Moving Feast’ (see: https://www.facebook.com/USCediblegarden) it aims to provide a solution.


OMG where do I start? Probably here … and here … Suffice to say I am looking closely at my plastic addiction/dependence …

… but also some good news!