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A Quick Word from the Abyss

Hello loyal folks! You must be loyal if you’re still checking out my blog after all this time without a post. I promise I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve just been swamped and tired fatigued (apparently that’s what I’m supposed to say when I’m tired these days, since there’s a medical reason for it – except I don’t feel nearly as all-consumingly exhausted as other people describe, which makes me wonder if I am actually just plain old tired after all). I even wrote a catch-up post about a month ago – but I was interrupted before I could post it, then I got too busy to even log on for a while! I just posted it now, backdated, so you can go have a look at my thoughts from that time.

Following on from that post: clearly the first month of my new job did turn out to be a kicker. I don’t know why I thought it would be otherwise. Maybe because the job is easier and slower than my old job in so many ways.

However, you know what it’s like – anytime you start a new job you’re exhausted and overwhelmed for at least the first month. I was like that even when I started as a check-out chick operator at Coles as a teenager! (I actually used to hear the sounds of the cash registers in my head when I lay in bed after work.) I’m finally now coming out of the mire of newness… a little bit. To add to that, there have been a rash of health problems in my family – some very serious – so that has been occupying my mind too. For a while I didn’t have the mental capacity (aka space left in my brain) to think of new posts for little old Eco Lesbo Vego, but now they’re coming thick and fast. There are lots of things I want to write about – I have some really interesting topics that will hopefully be coming your way soon. Friday Feast recipes, too.

Queensland Rail (QR) train.

I work out of several locations now, and some are much further away than my old job, so I find myself doing lots more travelling. I'm looking into upgrading to a smartphone so I can post while I'm on the train. (I'm not being a terrible environmentalist by getting a new phone; I've had my current mobile for 6 years and it was second-hand when I got it. If I was to say my phone 'is on its last legs', it would be an understatement.)

Basically, this little note is just to say:

  • I haven’t forgotten this blog – or the people that read it (thanks for coming back time and again!)
  • I’m still vegan and I’m still cooking up new vegan recipes to share with you; they’ll be coming soon
  • Look out for new posts in the near future – I’m not finished writing about ELVish stuff yet!

I hope you’ll continue to stick with me and share your own insights. I’ll be right back!

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Spotlight: Apocalypse Soon

I read this article called ‘Why Wait Till 2012? 8 Quasi-Serious Ways to Ward Off the Apocalypse Now‘ on Planet Green the other day, and it really got me thinking. It’s about, essentially, the end of the world, due to peak oil, peak coal, peak dirt, war and climate change.

Are we facing the apocalypse? More to the point, is the apocalypse inevitable? This might sound pessimistic, but is all this fighting for climate change going to make much difference? Even though we might stop massive tracts of land from being swamped by the ocean, and huge numbers of people from being displaced or killed, people will still starve or freeze/overheat and subsequently die due to the aftermath of peak oil/peak coal. Read more about the impact of peak oil – it’s very sobering.

I don’t think it really clicked to me, before I read these articles, just how dependent on oil we are. I figured that as long as I mostly ate local, used green electricty and didn’t drive much, it wouldn’t affect me dramatically. It seems though, that even local food production will falter and electricity generally will become scarce. From a purely personal perspective, my current location probably does put me in a good position. I don’t heat or cool my house, so temperature fluctuations aren’t going to kill me. Even if the sea rises, it won’t cover Brisbane (according to the Sea Level Rise Explorer, we are about 4m above seal level, so safe in the near future). I do live in a location with a reasonable number of local food producers and in a climate where I can grow a significant proportion of my own food. I have plans within the next five to ten years to move to a more sustainable way of life (hard to do in a rental house), that will ensure my family is more self-sufficient. Heck, just the fact that I have an awareness of the issue puts me a step ahead. I’m less likely to panic when the time comes.

Will we have to harvest at home like this in the future?

Even so, I’ve been asking myself so many questions.

  • Is looking five to ten years ahead too long to wait to go really sustainable? (Will the economy and life as we know it collapse before then?) If so, how am I supposed to do it earlier than that if my finances won’t allow it?
  • What are we going to do for water? How will the dams run without coal-based electricity?
  • How will the food stretch to all the people we have to feed? Even though we are in a good location, we’re going to struggle to feed the millions of people living in South East Queensland in a local and sustainable way, without access to oil or coal.
  • Will I have to start eating meat again? I know how to fish, even if I don’t like to do it. Keeping backyard chickens for eggs is easy enough.
  • How will we manage from an electrical perspective? Even if I have green power now, most people don’t and there’s not enough for everyone (we don’t have the facilities). Will energy providers and governments work fast to get green energy up and running for all? How will they do that without oil and coal? The solar panels and wind turbines have to be produced and transported somehow.
  • What will happen to the internet? Everyone’s computers will become obsolete and there will be no replacements. Giant server farms won’t be sustainable due to the lack of energy to power them. People will have less time to contribute to the internet anyway cos we’ll all be out trying to grow food. How will we learn how to survive without the internet? Does the local community already have that knowledge, if we can band together to share it? How will we organise this knowledge sharing? How will we know who knows what?
  • What about money? Will I be employed? Will Yankee Elv be employed? My job is dependent on energy and telecommunications. If I am employed, how will I have time to do the things I need to to survive (like grow food and travel places on food/bike)?
  • Will hospitals still run? Will medicines be available? Some people in my family are dependent on medication. Will sperm banks still exist? I don’t know how they could with no energy to keep things frozen. How will Yankee Elv and I have more children if we want them? (The old-fashioned way really doesn’t appeal to me!)
  • If we’re struggling to find enough food to feed ourselves, how will we feed our pets? Will they have to hunt for themselves? How will this affect the local indigenous animal populations?
  • Will schools continue to exist as we know them? Will kids still get to go to university, or will the be expected to drop out and work to help keep their families alive?
  • Will we ever see our families again without oil to fuel the transport? Mine live close enough that I could travel there under my own steam (although it would take a while), but Yankee Elv’s family are on a whole ‘nother continent.
  • Will there be overcrowding as we take in refugees, or will there be no refugees after all because they will die from starvation? Maybe the refugees won’t be able to get to Australia because there will be no international transport anymore.
  • Will the world powers be upended? Current first world countries could become third world countries who can’t sustain themselves. Third world countries (already full of subsistence farmers who already live without oil/coal) would become first world countries, experts in how to survive. How will that work for Australia though? How will we be able to communicate with other countries if electricity and telecommunications go bust? We’re a giant island in the middle of nowhere. Will world travel still exist?
  • Will there be wars? How significantly will crime increase? Are we going to end up in a Mad Max/Waterworld style society?
  • How will we all cope?

Part of me thinks I’m completely insane for considering these things – they seem so far-fetched, like they’re some weird kind of alternate reality. Having read more about peak oil though, I’m starting to get the impression that these things are more and more likely. I wonder if I’m spending too much effort thinking about climate change and not enough on survival, on learning skills now so I know how to live later. At the same time, I think the things we can do to combat climate change and the after-effects of peak oil are very similar. I do think I’m going to start focusing more on:

  • Learning how to make my own clothes and other non-disposable cloth items (hankies, blankets, napkins etc)
  • Growing my own food
  • Preserving food
  • Cooking with unusual items that can be grown locally – things like quinoa and tropical fruits
  • Foraging for wild and/or native food
  • Capturing water to use to water plants
  • Creating compost to fertilise plants
  • Investigating homemade pet food.

As much as I’d love to live in a strawbale house with a rainwater tank, solar panels and an orchard, complete with vege patch, chickens for eggs and some pet sheep for wool (they’d be ever so grateful for a shear in summer – we already shave the dog in summer to keep him cool), it’s simply not achievable right now. I think Yankee Elv and I need to look into making it achievable sooner than I originally planned though. If peak oil and climate change get worse very rapidly, what I consider financially stable now may not apply in the future. Land grabs may occur, banks mightn’t lend money anymore, and there may be no more rainwater tanks or solar panels to be had. I also think I need to try to find some kind of community, something outside of the internet, where I can connect with skilled people to learn things that may be necessary to survival. For example, maybe I can help out if someone is constructing a strawbale house so I know how to do it, even if I can’t afford to do it myself yet. There are some Transition Towns located not too far from me – I’d be interested in seeing how I can get involved.

Finally, when I start getting into that disbelieving place where I feel like I’m on a sensationalist trip, reading this article kinda put it all into perspective. Maybe it’s not apocolypse now, but it very likely will be soon*.

*OMG I can’t believe I just said that, but OMG I think it’s true. Shit.

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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.

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Audi Ad Ticks Greenies Off

Check out this Audi ad for their new diesel-powered car (thanks to ecorazzi for posting and bringing this to my attention!).

30% fewer emissions than what… a bike? The bus? The vege oil car? Even the annoying guy on the footpath? (He really shouldn’t be riding there, and I would get serious pedestrian rage if he was telling me to get out of the way, but that’s beside the point.)

The point? I don’t think the new Audi has 30% fewer emissions than any of those. Maybe it has 30% fewer emissions than a regular petrol car.

Audi, is your target audience the greenies, or just the light-green greenies who wanna look like they’re doing the right thing without having to actually go to any effort?* Or maybe it’s the people who are sick of paying huge petrol prices. What are you really going for?

Cos I think you just pissed a lot of people off.

*I probably just pissed a bunch of people off too, cos that was pretty cynical. Oops, I’m sick, my brain-mouth/typing fingers filter is gone.

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Spotlight on Zoos: Good or Bad?

Last week, I was looking at some photos my mother-in-law took when she was in Australia several months ago. One of the things she really wanted to do was hold a koala, so we went to Lone Pine Sanctuary (it’s local!) and she and Mr Teeny-bop held koalas and had their photos taken. Lots of other photos were also taken, such as the following one.

Mr Teeny-bop feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Mr Teeny-bop feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

There were heaps of other animals there too – birds of prey, kangaroos, wombats, cassowaries, dingoes, tasmanian devils, parrots, cockatoos, galahs, lorikeets, bats, wallabies and farm animals (not sure what the farm animals were about, but anyway…), and Yankee Elv’s mom even took photos of the ugly wild scrub turkeys scratching around outside.

Yankee Elv feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Yankee Elv feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

It was nice to go to a place where it’s not overly tourist-y (like Australia Zoo is these days), but still get to interact with all the animals. It did get me wondering though – are zoos, sanctuaries and other places like that good for the environment? I’m not going to argue about whether or not they’re good for the animals – some will say keeping animals in captivity are never good, others will say places like this provide a service to all the animals hurt on roads or displaced by deforestation. Regardless, I’m not going to debate that. What I’m interested in today is: are these places good for the environment?

With a motto like, ‘The Earth is not only for humans’, you’d think Lone Pine would be into all that eco-stuff.  The Lone Pine Sanctuary website does encourage people to do environmentally friendly things like drive safely and be aware of wildlife crossing the roads, plant eucalypts as food trees for koalas and avoiding disturbing vegetation generally (but especially in National Parks). Although all of these are aimed at wildlife conservation, they are also good for the environment generally. There is no statement on the Lone Pine Sanctuary website, however, that indicates they are working towards reducing their environmental impact.

People and animals can live together!

People and animals can live together!

Ultimately, it seems like zoos are under the same environmental pressures as any other big business, such as:

  • Water use
  • Energy consumption
  • Waste disposal and recycling.

Taronga Zoo has a comprehensive page on their site that explains it all quite clearly.

As well as Taronga Zoo, some other places, like Australia Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo, are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and potentially become carbon neutral. Chester Zoo was the first UK zoo to be awarded ISO14001s status. Other zoos are following in their footsteps. Some new campaigns that service both the environment and animals are cropping up too. Answer the Call, for example, is a mobile phone recycling program that helps save gorilla habitat.

Granted, my research has been pretty minimal, but what I’ve read seems to indicate that zoos are no worse than many big businesses, and the larger zoos are taking measures to counteract their environmental impact. Considering most zoos get visitors thinking about conservation, I think the good these zoos do likely outweighs any negative impact.

Your thoughts?

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Update Again

I haven’t posted since the big dust storm, which seems ages ago now. We’ve had a couple more since then, but nothing like that first big one.

I’m sorry I’ve neglected the blog, but it’s just been a bit crazy crazy. Here’s an update on the latest goings-on.

Diva Princess broke two of her toes and has been stuck inside for a month with a bandage on her foot that she insists on trying to rip off. She looks so pathetic with the cone around her head that I try not to make her wear it unless she’s getting really crazy with the bandage pulling. She’s also had an ECG to check on a mild heart murmur we just found out she has.

Diva Princess is highly disgruntled that she is stuck inside with a bandage on her foot.

Diva Princess is highly disgruntled that she is stuck inside with a bandage on her foot.

There are new white Tim Tams. Yankee Elv is obsessed. There have been a lot of Tim Tams in our house. Yankee Elv’s mom is obsessed too, except she lives in America, so it’s hard for her to have lots of Tim Tams in her house. Fortunately for her, they’re staring to sell them in the US soon. There’s lots of excitement about that, on both sides of the Pacific. I feel bad that the Tim Tams come in a plastic tray, in a plastic packet. They need to make eco Tim Tams that come in cardboard and paper. Plastic or not, I still eat them. Bad hippy. Bad.

Dog/cat/turtle-sitting is over. A great time was had by all. We introduced the dogs to a new dog park, which is full of very friendly people and is split into a section for big dogs and another section for little dogs. Loodle was not very sociable with the dogs but wanted everyone to pat him. Everyone loved him. Pseudo-Marley was simultaneously scared of the big dogs and desperate to play tag with them. Everyone loved him too. I like how they supply all the dogs with biodegradable poo pick-up bags.

I got a long-awaited promotion, Mr Teeny-bop has become a Drama-king (lots of school plays) and Yankee Elv has gone back to school.

I walked to the supermarket last weekend (for exercise and to reduce car trips – I took my green shopping bags too). Loodle can’t walk that far with us anymore, but Mr Teeny-bop came on his scooter. It was nice to walk along with him. We’re keeping our eye on a mango tree in a park along the way. In a couple of months we may be able to score some free mangoes. Yum!

Mangoes!

Mangoes!

Loodle is getting into shaving season. He’s a North American dog all the way and doesn’t handle the heat, so we have to shear him like a sheep (although he ends up looking like a pink piggy when we’re finished). Shaving will occur this weekend. The first shave of the season is always very laborious, but not as bad as the weekly bath. The arthritis in Loodle’s hips is getting so bad he needs to sit down for his bath now. 😦

Yankee Elv and I celebrated (quietly to ourselves) a year of using menstrual cups and cloth pantyliners instead of disposable ‘sanitary products’. Going for reusuable menstrual items is one of the best decisions I ever made and I don’t just not regret it, I celebrate it – every month, every time I walk past tampons in the shop, every time I see an ad about pads and every time some poor girl tiptoes up to me at work and whispers “I don’t suppose you have an extra tampon in your bag, do you?” (I actually do keep a few tampons in case of emergencies so they are always lucky.)

Diva has figured out how to open the screen door and Loodle has figured out how to open the gates. I love having smart pets but this kind of extreme Houdini-style behaviour is a bit much. We’ve had to institute some counter-measures. Now our gates rival Fort Knox and the screen doors are always locked. That doesn’t stop Diva climbing them, and with summer coming we can’t close the wooden door all the time. Any suggestions?

Yankee Elv went blonde (partially). Anyone know what the ecological impact of bleach is?

I keep forgetting to water the herbs and veges regularly, so while they are not dead, they are not flourishing as they should be. The Spanish onions down the side of the house are growing best – they are out in the sunshine (but not too much sunshine) and the rain. I have had a tarp down beside the driveway for a couple of months to kill off the grass and hope to create a proper vege garden over the next couple of weekends. I think between exposure to the rain and my haphazard watering, they should fare better.

I got my empty witch hazel bottle refilled at the local organic shop. The cost was nearly three times what I pay for a whole brand new bottle in the supermarket. I don’t think I can justify spending that money to save buying a recyclable plastic bottle, which makes me really sad.

Yankee Elv has been helping me avoid buying lunch at work by cooking up big batches of food and freezing it. It’s like I have a restaurant inside my freezer that I get to go to every morning. I love that I’m saving money, eating super tasty food and not getting a bunch of disposable containers and cutlery each day.

Many, many grapefruit.

Many, many grapefruit.

We got rid of about 80% of our grapefruits from the fallen branch via Freecycle, which I love! There is no way those hundreds of grapefruits were going anywhere otherwise. There are still hundreds more on the tree – the possums and bats are stocked for the summer. The passionfruits and pawpaws will be out before we know it too (if the morning glory doesn’t choke them), and then they’ll have dietary choice. I hope this choice encourages them not to eat anything out of my vege garden-to-be though. My colleague tells some lovely stories about possums eating her herbs and capsicums and her mad spraying with garlic and chili water (first the plants in an attempt to stave off the eating, and then the possums in retribution).

Cheeky possums eat everything, including bread, grapefruits, passionfruit, pawpaws and people's herb and vegetable gardens. They especially like the flavour of chili and garlic.

Cheeky possums eat everything, including bread, grapefruits, passionfruit, pawpaws and people's herb and vegetable gardens. They especially like the flavour of chili and garlic.

We’re planning another local holiday – south this time, just after Christmas. It should be good! No tents for a change. I need a break from holey air mattresses and tarps. I really hate putting up tarps.

So that’s what’s been going. Life has been interfering with my eco-life, which kinda sucks. Why are there so many things I wanna do, that I can’t do, cos I don’t have time, energy or money? (Mostly the first two.) Has anyone managed to find a balance? I could really use some advice.

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Camping, Puppies and Work… Oh My!

We’re back from camping. It was stupendously awesome, except the air mattress got a hole and I had to sleep on the very hard ground. The ocean and the sunshine more than made up for it though. Gorgeous, relaxing, local – I loved it.

Beautiful beaches, so close to home!

Beautiful beaches, so close to home!

I’ll update more on that soon.

We’re currently dog/cat/turtle-sitting. So we’re currently responsible for one turtle, five cats, two ancient dogs and one very bouncy puppy. Think Marley from Marley & Me. Really. Bouncy.

Crazy puppy at Pride Day earlier this year... he hasn't changed much, just bigger!

Crazy puppy at Pride Day earlier this year... he hasn't changed much, just bigger!

I’m back at work (leave is over… alas) and it’s insane as usual. I’m working very long days. But we had birthday cakes today and I set the cake out on crockery plates with proper forks/spoons, in spite of some suggestions that we use paper plates and plastic cutlery. So it’s not all bad. No-one even really complained!

I’ll start doing proper updates again soon. O_o

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