Climate Change is Old News

Treehugger shared an interesting video yesterday that really shows how long concerns about climate change have been around. This film called The Unchained Goddess was made by Frank Capra (you might recognise him as the producer of It’s a Wonderful Life). It provides the same message (nearly word-for-word!) that we hear so often today.

Have a look at this excerpt:

I love the doom-inspiring music when the ice caps start melting, and the Hanna Barbera-style animated version of Miami. The numbers are frightening though – they were nervous about climate change in the late ’50s, when about 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were being emitted globally. Today, China alone emits more than that, not to mention the rest of the world. And look where we are, still doing nothing.

The fact that some Hollywood bigwig produced the film suggests that the ideas about climate change were not just the stuff of science, but everyday popular culture, like now. So what happened in the 70s and 80s to make us forget that? Think where we might be now if we hadn’t had to spend so much time learning the same lesson all over again.



Spotlight: Transition Towns

Hands up anyone who’s heard of a transition town. Anyone? No-one? Nah, me either, until the other day when I was freaking out about Peak Oil. I came across thsee articles on Treehugger about transition towns generally and in Australia.

What’s this? I thought. Gotta find out some more about this shiz.

So I did some looking around and here’s what I found.

Transition towns started in the UK (things always start in Europe!). They’re groups of people within specific towns that are focussed on transition to a permaculture-based way of life after peak oil. These folks recognise that with energy descent (the downward slope of the peak oil bell curve) life is going to change, pretty dramatically, for all the reasons I outlined the other day. So instead of freaking out about it, they’re doing something about it, from growing organic food and saving the seeds for the next season to beekeeping to local living to environmentally appropriate water management. The basic tenets are outlined here on the Sunshine Coast Energy Action Centre site. Alternatively, have a look at this flash animation.

passionfruit vine

Passionfruit vine on the side fence - really local food! (I took this pic in early spring and it's now summer, so this vine is waaay bigger now.)

A big bonus for me is that Queensland, and South East Queensland in particular, are well represented as far as transition towns go. There is a Brisbane hub that I’m definitely looking into further. It doesn’t seem as organised as the Sunshine Coast hub, but it’s clearly more local. I like that while they’re not waiting for the council to drive initiatives, they’re also hoping to eventually work with the council to go even further with the transition.

I’m simultaneously excited and nervous about contacting people in real life. I’ll keep you all updated.



Newsflash: UK Goes Electric

Awesome news! Treehugger has announced that the UK government is funding new Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations across the country. This is a fantastic step forward! I hope we get these in Australia soon, but of course the Europeans are first.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

It makes so much sense to introduce EV charging stations in this way. Electric cars rock – check out my review of the movie ‘Who Killed the Electric Car‘ to find out more about why they’re superior to cars powered by other fuels (including biofuel). However, I’m wary about getting one because I wouldn’t be able to travel too far – there’d be nowhere to charge it except my own house. Considering how large Australia is and the kinds of distances you have to travel if you want to go somewhere, charging stations are important.

As the Treehugger article says, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg – which comes first? People want to buy electric cars, but won’t because there’s nowhere to charge them. Conversely, no-one will build charging stations because no-one owns electric cars. But no-one will buy electric cars because there are no charging stations. No-one will build… yeah, I think you get my point. The only way around this is for the government to step up and fund either or both of these options, to sort of kick start the industry. Kudos to the UK government for figuring that out and taking that big step forward.

Sometimes I think it would be cool to live in Europe and benefit from all these cool kinds of laws and politics. Then I remember how cold it is… nah. I like living in a place where, when it’s not even summer yet, there’s more of my skin exposed than covered. Sunshiny warm goodness. Perfect for the solar energy I would buy to charge my electric car with. If I had one.



Spotlight: Population Growth

Population growth is such a dilemma for me… I know that if I have more kids I want to have more than one. I have had the experience of raising an only child and wouldn’t want to do it again – siblings are so important to a child’s social growth. But is it worth giving a kid a sibling if doing so could damage the planet they will have to live on after I’m gone? This is especially relevant if everyone thinks the same way and wants lots of kids too. I’m so unsure about how to move forward with that.

I found the most awesome simulation of population growth/decline, relative to CO2 emissions. Check it out at breathingearth.net.

Screenshot of the Breathing Earth simulation.

Screenshot of the Breathing Earth simulation.

Basically, it shows how many people are dying and being born, and how much CO2 is being emitted – by country, as you watch. You can hover your mouse pointer over different countries to get statistics at the bottom left. The key at the bottom is pretty easy to follow, and there’s an explanation of where the data came from below the simulator.

This is a stupendous way to really see the impact of population growth and CO2 emissions and how they’re linked. I was surprised to find that even small, apparently eco-friendly countries (like New Zealand, for example) often have something like a birth rate double that of their death rate. And I really thought Australia was at Zero Population Growth (ZPG), but maybe stupid Costello’s 2006 census speech, imploring Australians to have more children – ‘one for mum, one for dad, and one for the country’ – has reversed that. What a twit. Alternatively, maybe I confused ZPG with a downward trending birth rate percentage – it’s still higher than the death rate, but not by as much as it was some years ago.

In fact though, I’ve been hovering over lots of countries in the simulation and Sweden is the only one I’ve found with a ZPG. I’ve found none with a negative growth. It doesn’t seem to matter if the country is rich, poor, at peace or experiencing war, which continent it’s on…

CO2 emissions are consistently high across the board as well, but of course they are higher for larger countries, and particularly larger countries in the west. Although Australia’s seems quite low, when you compare it to the population, it’s actually pretty significant.

This brings me back to the question of what to do about having more children.

  • Do greenies (and ultimately everyone) have to be altruistic and give up their dreams of multi-child families? We’ve seen how that works in China, with the One-child policy. Now there are significantly more boys than girls and impacts such as decreased marriage prospects, increased crime and social difficulties are becoming obvious. I don’t think this is the best choice.
  • Perhaps international adoption needs to be made easier and more socially acceptable. For example, I would love to adopt, but in Queensland, you need to have been married for at least two years to even be eligible, and since gay marriage is illegal, that’s not going to happen for me. Plus, Australia has limited adoption arrangements with other countries, and many of the countries with an abundance of orphans (such as war-torn countries) are also very conservative and against sending children home with same-sex parents. Even so, in an ideal world there would be no war, no illness and thus much fewer orphans, so ideally, this wouldn’t be a long-term solution.
  • Do we need to revisit the idea of a kibbutz, so children get to grow up with ‘siblings’ without the corresponding population increase? I’m not the biggest fan of the way the ‘Children’s Societies’ were managed, but some kind of communal living and financial/social equality appeals to me. A lot of eco-villages work similarly, but based on the experiences of similar living situations in the past, it seems that many of these places work well in theory but not so well in practice.

It’s not an urgent issue for me, but dudes, if you have any ideas, I’m open to suggestions.



In Vitro Meat

In Vitro Meat (IVM): bring it on.

Check out this article from H+ magazine (ok, number 6 is gross and sensationalist, but otherwise…).

It’s cheaper, healthier, better for the animals, better for the planet… I think we should go for it. I also think governments of nations highly dependent on agriculture (like Australia) need to start diversifying, stat. Build an IVM factory, start farming hemp, build some solar or wind farms, something… cos those huge cattle stations are going to dry up with the drought.

Yikes. Creepy but cool.



Newsflash: Avaaz prioritises climate change

I’m a bit of an online activist. As far as environmentalism goes, I keep up with the latest things Get Up!, Avaaz, change.org and The Wilderness Society are doing via email. I’m a bit of a petition signer. Sometimes I write letters and fill in surveys. Occasionally I rally. I never donate because I can’t afford it, unfortunately.

The latest petition from Avaaz is an important one, I think. Avaaz works to help globally in lots of different ways (attempting to overthrow regimes in Iran and Burma, victims of natural disasters, calling for action on climate change and so on). Avaaz is global, so they have a wide reach. The petition is asking whether they should make climate change activism the priority coming up to the UN climate summit in September and the big event in Copenhagen in December. We really need to get world leaders off their arses, so I think the answer has got to be a resounding YES.

Sign Avaaz's 'Tck Tck Tck' petition to call for action on climate change.

Sign Avaaz's 'Tck Tck Tck' petition to call for action on climate change.

Here’s the scripted email Avaaz is encouraging us to send around.



I’ve just signed a petition urging world leaders to support an ambitious, fair, and binding global climate treaty. Please sign the petition here, and the campaigners at Avaaz will deliver it to leaders at key moments in the build up to December’s vital UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen.



So dudes, go sign.




Newsflash: Hopenhagen

Later this year, most of the governments from around the world will be meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark for a summit on the environment. They might do the equivalent of a Kyoto Protocol kind of thing – but more stringent, maybe? Average folks want to have some say so – the environmental movement is picking up speed faster than ever. So how to do it?


Hopenhagen logo.

Leave a message of hope!

(I said Urban homesteading gives me hope. What gives you hope?)