Monthly Archives: August 2010

Singing the CO2 Blues

A centuries old tree in Istanbul, Turkey

he Doofuzz Dudes books speak a lot about trees.
In fact there are a few very magical trees discussed in the stories. The main tree is the Moon Tree of course (Babbling Bottles, Cobra Curse and Blood Tree); then there is the Tree of Life (see The Planet Zok) and of course the Blood Tree (see The Blood Tree).

Well, unfortunately the reduced rainfall on our planet – Earth, combined with rising temperatures, are causing a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) takeup by trees.

CO2 causes plants to grow bigger but they need adequate water and soil nutrients to do so.

Scientists from the CSIRO have been measuring the leaf area of plants for the past decade and note that there has been a noticeable decline in surface area and hence their ability to absorb CO2.  A NASA satellite that orbits Earth every fifteen days has been building up a map of changing forest cover over the past ten years.

Although higher temperatures have increased plant growth in some parts of the world, the gains have been negated by drier conditions in rainforests which have caused an overall decline in CO2 takeup by forests. This reverses a 20 year trend of CO2 uptake by trees and plants.

Interestingly, I remember watching a documentary on the Amazon about five years ago in which a couple of scientists predicted that soon the trees in the Amazon, which is the greatest treed area on earth, would cease to take up CO2 and instead start releasing it into the atmosphere. According to them, we have in fact only been spared the consequences of our consumer driven lifestyle by the kindness of vast tracts of trees such as the Amazon Rainforest taking up our CO2.

Well, according to the CSIRO, their prediction is now coming to pass. But there’s more…

The next part of the Amazonian scientists’ prediction was that the release of the CO2 would increase temperatures on earth to an unbearable level and then we can expect huge and catastrophic fires in the Amazon and elsewhere. And that will definitely make things a whole lot hotter!

One would think that this might not be the right time to consider annihilating any vast tracts of rainforest. However that is exactly what Indonesia intends to do in Papua New Guinea when they begin their MIFEE Project which will involve destroying 1.6million hectares of virgin rainforest in Papua so that rice and palm oil and soy bean plantations can be cultivated. Read http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:OVbtdKQh5pQJ:tapol.gn.apc.org/press/files/pr100811.html+the+indonesian+rice+project+in+Papua+new+guinea&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au

to see the details and ponder how the suspicious death of a journalist this month might be involved.

To quote the last paragraph in this article –

Widespread licensed deforestation in Merauke would contradict the Government of Indonesia’s commitment to reduce green-house gas emissions by 26% by 2020.  It also raises questions over a recent billion dollar REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) agreement with the Government of Norway to preserve Indonesia’s rainforests, in particular in Papua.

And that was exactly what I was wondering. How can Indonesia continue on with this project when they have just received a billion dollars from Norway to stop their rampant deforestation? A case of take the money and run?

Although the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW advocates replenishment of cut down forests and the protection of old growth forests, they also blame the rise of CO2 emissions on human activity.

As increased temperatures and reduced rainfall is expected in the next few decades in Australia, the world cannot look to us for assistance in reducing CO2 output.

Let’s hope that the dire predictions espoused by the Amazonian scientists do not come to pass.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Well since part of the blame seems to be laid at the door of our rampant consumer driven lifestyles, it would not hurt to follow the advice of the website www.simplesavings.com.au

You’ll find out how you can turn your back on rampant consumerism and save money to boot! Learn how to clean your house without spending a fortune on cleaning materials and how to make your own presents. The list of ways to save money is endless.

Mind you, I have hens and I’ve found that given the cost of their feed it would be definitely cheaper to buy my eggs. However, I share with Jerry Hall the belief that there is something magical about finding an egg in the hen house.  The excitement of finding a little warm brown egg nestling in the straw is a feeling that can’t be quantified. Also I like to feel that I have saved at least a few hens from a life of abject misery in a tiny cage.

I love making cakes and face creams but unfortunately for me I have mastered the art of making all the products more expensive than the shop bought ones. I suppose adding rose essential oil at $120 for 5 mls wouldn’t help! At least I take comfort from the fact that there are no preservatives or chemicals in the things I make myself.

But don’t do as I do… read Simple Savings and learn.

A book which would also open your eyes is ‘Affluenza’ by Clive Hamilton.

Join the movement against consumerism and save the planet – I really am scared of those fires in the Amazon!

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Water, water everywhere… But not a drop to drink!

 

 What do we do about the water supply?

 It never rains, it’s really dry.

Turn off your hose, keep showers short,

 ‘til we get a favourable weather report.

 I wrote the above poem years ago and it can definitely be said that the current water situation around the world is just as dire and also very mysterious.

I wonder if there’s only a certain amount of water to go around and if it doesn’t fall in say three places where it usually falls then that allotment has to all fall somewhere else. It sure seems that this is the case. But I’d also like to make my prediction for the year 2025. That should give enough time for the world to accumulate another five billion people that it can’t support adequately.

 I predict that the new currency of the future will be clean water. Yep, we’ve had shells, salt and rum as currency, so why not water? I’d say the challenge will be locating it but that’s what a currency is all about, isn’t it? If it was easy to locate then it wouldn’t be worth anything!

 I read with interest that Queensland has recently purchased a drought breaking technology from Thailand. http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/thai-rain-maker-to-fight-drought-in-queensland/story-e6frfku9-1225902740744. The technique largely relies on cloud seeding using chemicals that promote the formation of water droplets within the cloud formations.

As a matter of interest you might like to see a graph of the global distribution of water and then you’ll see that there is water everywhere, but indeed, not a drop to drink – http://pndblog.typepad.com/pndblog/2009/12/water-water-everywhere-but-not-a-drop-to-drink.html

 I have recently travelled to a couple of countries where water (or lack of it) is most definitely a problem.

Firstly there was Turkey which is one of only a handful of countries that are self sufficient with regard to agricultural production. Turkey has a severe water problem and to counter this it has built a large number of dams. These dams are often controversial as they have flooded or are about to flood ancient ruins.

 The Ilisu Dam Project and the Yortanli Dam will both drown ancient Roman ruins when they are completed. Also, due to dry conditions in Turkey, soil erosion is a serious issue and has caused dams to break up. The Southeast Anatolia Project will harness the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and could well cause political problems between Turkey and its neighbours downstream who also depend on the waters from these rivers.

Then there is Israel.

 Well this one is no surprise really. Israel is a country that has been carved out of desert land. The Israelis have done a fabulous job making the desert flourish. Date, olive, almond and fruit tree plantations grow in extreme heat and in the middle of the most uncompromising desert land. I understand that Israel is self sufficient and we ate the most delicious fruit and vegetables during our trip.

However, they most definitely have a water problem. According to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/scarcity.html dated August, 2010, the situation has developed into a crisis so severe that it is feared that by next summer it may be difficult to adequately supply municipal and household water requirements.

Fears are held for the agricultural sector which has suffered most because of the crisis. Due to the shortage, water allocations to the sector have had to be reduced drastically causing a reduction in agricultural productivity.

 Placards around Israel feature a woman with a cracked face. The message on the poster warns about conserving water.

Tracts of water which have been in existence for thousands of years are now drying up. The Dead Sea is shrinking at an alarming rate and, according to the observations of a local, the Sea of Gallilee has also receded significantly.

 Israel is such a resourceful country that they might consider lassoing the huge ice island of 259 square kilometres which broke off from one of Greenland’s two main glaciers in August, 2010. Blamed on global warming, and threatening to become a hazard on international water ways, it could certainly be put to good use in an arid land like Israel.

 Jordan shares the Dead Sea with Israel and they are also very concerned. They have their own water problems.

The Dead Sea has shrunk so much that the Jordanians are planning to funnel water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. This plan worries environmentalists who are concerned about the effect of blending the two disparate waters.

There are of course other reasons for the drying up of the waters besides lack of rain. The number of locals depending on the water has also increased and this has placed strain on the water supply.

Given that water is such a precious commodity, you would think that we should cherish the water we do have and treat it with respect. Well apparently not so.

 The holiday resort of Herzlia in the Dan Acadia is a case in point. It is a favourite of Israelis on holiday and Americans on business. My friend tells me that while body boarding in the sea he found himself swimming in garbage. There were all sorts of plastic bags and items floating in the sea. It was so bad he couldn’t bring himself to go back in again.

Our next port of call was Kerala in India and we had specifically timed it to coincide with the monsoon season in July. Having been assured that there would be deluges of rain every day we were disappointed when it only rained heavily for three days in two weeks. The rest of the time the seas were rough and churning like a washing machine, but the weather was terrific – neither hot nor cold and with a pleasant breeze blowing. This of course was delightful for us, but since the Keralites depend on water from the monsoon season to fill their backyard wells, it can only be hoped that they will have enough water to tide them through the boiling hot summer.

The Hindu Times is also lamenting the invasion of the giant African snail which is devouring their crops. Apparently the snail has been in Kerala for many years but has only just recently begun to proliferate uncontrollably. An article in the newspaper was speculating that climate change was behind the invasion. Maybe the snails also like the lack of rain and the delightful weather?

stormy monsoonal sea in Kerala - Kovalam Beach

 Usually by the first week of July, the entire country experiences monsoon rain and on average, South India receives more rainfall than North India. If the monsoon rain fails then there are widespread agricultural losses and economic growth is affected.

 So if it wasn’t raining in Kerala, where was it raining?

While Kerala has been enjoying wonderful dry and balmy weather, 1600 people have died in extreme floods in Pakistan.

 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said today that, “this is the worst flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history.”

 According to http://www.news.com.au http://www.news.com.au/world/pakistan-flood-toll-nears-900/story-e6frfkyi-1225899710474 thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland have been destroyed in the northwest and Pakistani Kashmir. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where many poor families live in remote mountain villages, has been the hardest-hit province.  The floods have affected 14 million people, of whom at least 1600 have died and some 3 million have been left homeless. The World Bank said yesterday that an estimated $1 billion worth of crops have been wiped out, raising the specter of food shortages. Damage to irrigation canals, the bank added, will reduce crop yields once the floodwaters are gone.

http://www.news.com.au/world/experts-warn-pakistan-could-collapse/story-e6frfkyi-1225905207044

Also North Korea has been hit with devastating floods. According to http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/338264,floods-hit-north-korea.html Chinese media reported on Wednesday that the worst floods for up to 100 years have brought misery to hundreds of thousands of people near the country’s border with North Korea. The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin province was suffering its worst flooding for 100 years, with some 500,000 of its 2.2 million residents affected, the official Xinhua news agency said.

 In one of the Doofuzz Dudes books – the Space Spiders to be precise – I played with the concept of water rights in another world. However, water rights is a big issue in this world.

 In 1999 in Cochabamba in Bolivia, the mayor sold to a foreign company the rights to all the city’s water, including their rainwater. Thereafter, the price of water skyrocketed and since the inhabitants of Cochabamba are poor people, there were riots in the streets. The foreign corporation was driven out and they went straight into Ecuador to do the same thing there!

In fact water rights are now a big issue throughout the world and in particular in South America, India and Africa.

 In Australia, water rights are an issue particularly in regard to the Murray-Darling Basin. The worse drought since record keeping began in the 1890s has caused storage levels to fall so low that it will take many years for the Murray-Darling Basin to recover (http://www.waterforgood.sa.gov.au/rivers-reservoirs-aquifers/river-murray/drought-in-the-murray-darling-basin).

 This area is critical for agricultural reasons as the Basin provides one third of Australia’s food supply and much of its agricultural exports and also because the area feeds water into South Australia where it is used in irrigation for agriculture, horticulture and country communities. Low flows are also having an environmental impact on wetlands and wildlife.

 The Labor Rudd Government spent almost a billion dollars on water buy-backs but a relative pittance on improved irrigation infrastructure, even though this could more than pay for itself through the value of water saved.

According to http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/more-to-protecting-the-murraydarling-than-water-buybacks-20100114-ma0g.html too much money has been spent buying “rights” rather than actually saving water.

Meanwhile, along the Hawkesbury River, farmers are furious that the NSW Office of Water has released a draft water-sharing plan that will most likely slash the amount of water they can pump from the river for irrigation. The area affected is a prime food-producing area for Sydney and the plan which includes cease-to-pump days during peak summer times when water levels are low, threatens to destroy their crops and businesses.

This is I think, part of a concerted plan to destroy primary production in Australia. The old Maltese and Chinese market gardeners have moved on after selling their prime agricultural land on the outskirts of the Sydney Metropolitan Area to developers.

Sadly there just isn’t enough rain and hence enough water in the waterways to go around.

 Maybe the solution is to switch to something other than water. But is there something else that plants like to drink?

 In a number of carefully controlled trials scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 litre of water each day,  by the end of the year we would have  absorbed  more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. Coli) –  bacteria  found in feces. Yuck!

As Ben Franklin said:

 In wine there is wisdom,

 In beer there is freedom,

 In water there is bacteria.

                                                                                    You have been warned!

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Pigs to Ewe!

If mankind disappeared today

What would all the animals say?

Birds, koalas and even bees,

Would sing with joy – they’d now have trees!

Tigers, elephants, all kinds of bear,

Could now roam free- without a care.

Their rivers would run unpolluted

Man and Earth are so unsuited!

That poem is my catchcry. I want to hear something cheerful but it’s not often that you get to read some really good news about the treatment of farm animals is it?

So it is with great joy I read that in July, Jan Cameron, the founder of the clothing store Kathmandu, pledged $5 million to establish the Animal Justice Fund. The fund will pay up to $30,000 for successful prosecutions of cruelty relating to farm animals. The fund will also finance legal action.

It is also cheering to hear that a body called the Barristers Animal Welfare Panel exists.  This comprises a group of more than 100 Victorian and New South Wales barristers who offer their services gratis.  In 1997 Tracy-Lynne Geysen started BLEATS, Autralia’s first animal law practice. BLEATS can call on more than 150 lawyers providing pro bono services for animal welfare cases.

A lot of consumers are disgusted by hens being held in tiny, permanently lit cages till their claws become twisted and their feathers fall out. It worries us that most hens for eating live for only forty days and yet they weigh over one kilo when slaughtered.We are disturbed by sows being kept in stalls (https://roslynmotter.com/2010/05/04/happy-mothers-day-but-not-for-pigs/). We abhore the thought of live sheep being transported to foreign lands where they have been known (if they actually arrive alive) to have been purchased and then promptly deposited in the boot of a car. And so it goes on…animals in zoos and circuses, animals used in research… there is no joy in being a captive animal unless it is as a fluffy cat or doggy held by a doting owner.

When we read about research such as  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100727201515.htm which recounts a recent experiment which proved that pigs are capable of complex emotions, it is even harder to bear the thought of their suffering at our hands.

A hen's dream!

 It’s also not much fun being an animal in the wild as there seems to be either endless hunters trying to take a pot shot at them for fun or profit; or no end of farmers, developers and other greedy parties chopping away at their forests and jungles.

However, things are slowly changing.

Following a vigorous campaign by the RSPCA and other animals groups against sows in stalls, Coles said it would not buy pork from producers using sow stalls from 2014. And Tasmania has announced that from 2014 sows would not be able to spend more than six weeks in a stall at any one time. Furthermore, the stalls would be banned from 2017. I don’t know why these dates are so far in the future but at least there’s hope.

Furthermore, now Section 52 of the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act can be used against food producers who falsely claim that their animals are being well looked after. With this section of the Act and the monies provided by Jan Cameron, there is a much greater chance of obtaining successful prosecutions than previously. This is because powerful and well funded industry groups (and it seems the government),  have supported the primary producers and helped them to fight against meddling do gooders. In the past no one except the RSPCA or the Animal Welfare League has been able to initiate action under the NSW’s Prevention for Cruelty to Animals Act unless they had permission from the minister or director-general of the Department of Primary Industries. 

Another inspiration in the field of animal rights are Ondine and Brian Sherman, the founders of Voiceless.  In the space of 5 years, Voiceless has become renowned as one of Australia’s leading, influential and cutting-edge animal protection groups.

Photo of the Shermans and Hugo Weaving from Voiceless

Voiceless is a non-profit organisation which aims to promote respect and compassion for animals.

According to http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200507/s1415933.htm Voiceless says its approach is “mainstream”: they use a grants program to support the work of existing animal protection organisations, they have a legal arm which works on public policy and law and they have an educational arm which promotes compassion for animals to school-aged children.

“At Voiceless we don’t do raids, we don’t support any illegal activities,” Ondine said. “We are taking a very mainstream and inclusive approach.

“[We need to be] able to put out a very professional image so we can talk to the corporate sector, we can talk to the industry, we can attract people that perhaps aren’t as comfortable being associated with the more protesting style.”

Now these actions are occurring in Australia but don’t forget the great work done by Sir Roger Moore in the UK who managed to get Selfridges to agree to stop selling pate foie gras.

So animals still have a way to go before they can jump for joy but they can feel heartened that many people do really care about their rights. I suppose animals won’t feel totally comforted until they hear that everyone is going vegetarian.

PETS IN CRISIS IN GULF OIL CRISIS!

It seems that the BP oil disaster is a disaster in more ways than one. If it isn’t bad enough that native animals are losing their lives after ingesting gallons of oil, the pets in the region are also suffering.

Since most people in the region make their income in one way or another from the Gulf, the economic impact has meant that as locals lose their jobs they can’t afford to feed themselves, neverlone a pet. So record numbers of pets have been given in to animal shelters.

So if you can, please donate to the Friends of the Animal Shelter of St Bernard who are looking after many of these animals – http://sbpanimal.homestead.com/

Just this Wednesday 100 dogs were loaded up in a truck headed to a shelter in Madison, N.J. The Louisiana SPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and American Humane Association have teamed up for this big transport. The animals are from various shelters around the area including St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society. So you might also like to donate to these charities.

For more information on this disaster for animals see –

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/pawprintpost/post/2010/08/dogs-from-gulf-oil-spill-up-for-adoption/1

http://goodgriefpetloss.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/pets-are-victims-of-the-gulf-oil-spill-too/

http://www.ecosalon.com/the-forgotten-gulf-oil-spill-victims/

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