Tag Archives: Australia

New genetic modification techniques – Australia

The following is a quote from an email I received today regarding the approval of new GM tech in Australia:

Next week Dr Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics at King’s College London School of Life Sciences will be visiting Melbourne. He is here to discuss his concerns with a range of new genetic engineering techniques that the Federal Government is currently proposing not to regulate.
If the Government deregulates these techniques anyone from amateur biohackers – to industry – would be free to use them to genetically modify plants, animals and microbes. And they could enter our food chain and our environment with no safety testing and no labelling. The results could be catastrophic.

The key phrase is ‘proposing not to regulate‘, closely followed by ‘no safety testing‘ and ‘no labelling‘.

Genetic modification is here to stay and we have to accept that, but we do not have to accept a wild, wild west style free-for-all. Surely an ethical approach is not too much to ask from our government, even the Liberals?

The ‘GM 2.0: What the Government isn’t telling you’ forum is being held next Monday:
6.30 (for a 7pm start) – 9pm, Monday 20th March
William Angliss Institute: Rm. A337, Building A, 555 La Trobe St., Melbourne

Please email Louise Sales <louise.sale@foe.org.au> for a ticket if you can attend [they’re free].

If not, please get people talking about this issue. Isn’t it time our opinions were heard? Corporations may stand to make a lot of money out of this, but you and I will be the bunnies who have to live with it.

cheers

Meeks


24 ways Trump is making America great again

I really did have good intentions about not posting for a while, but this…this was just too good to ignore:

A new forward going around:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone’s forgotten he’s kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert’s “Late Night” finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today’s Jon Stewart.
16. “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.

– Susan Keller (Copy and paste to share.)

I will be going to work with a smile on my face today because many of the points above can just as easily apply to Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull here in Australia. My thanks to Lucky Otter for sharing this great list. I love irony. 😀

cheers

Meeks


Foxes and Magpies in Warrandyte

I scribbled this down yesterday, just before racing off to work:

Monday 9:40am. Saw a smallish brindle fox sprint across the back yard, pursued by 4 magpies. They were our resident magpies, and they chased that fox right off the premises…theirs & mine.

Just before jumping over the side fence the fox stopped & seemed to look straight at me, despite being inside the house & 40 metres away.

I think it heard the whistle of my kettle as it came up to boil. Whatever the truth of it, by the time I turned back to the window from the stove, the fox was gone.

I wish I could have taken a photo for you, but it all happened too quickly. Instead, I went looking for photos online and found these:

fox-brindle

The image of the brindle fox is courtesy of http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox.html and is exactly the odd mottled, brownish colour of the fox I saw. I love foxes but know nothing about them. Is this colour a seasonal thing? Or is it perhaps a sign of immaturity?

magpie-swooping

The image of a magpie swooping is courtesy of http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/09/how-to-survive-magpie-swooping-season/.

When the Offspring was little, we were both swooped by magpies while out for a walk. I was terrified [for the Offspring], but since moving out to Warrandyte I’ve learned a lot about magpies. I’ve seen them swoop the dog and the cats, but only during breeding season. The rest of the time the maggies ignore them as creatures beneath contempt. And I’ve seen maggies hound a young possum out of a tree [where there was a nest?] so I know these birds are fierce when they want to be.

But I’ve also seen my maggies conscientiously feeding and teaching their young:

baby-magpie

This image is courtesy of https://www.trevorsbirding.com/baby-magpie/

And believe me, maggies are smart. When I throw out stale bread for them, or some scraps of meat, the first one on the scene will warble an alert and in moments, their young will come to feed. Maybe that’s why they treat me like a member of the family. In loco parentis?

I’ve never been swooped out in the garden. Not even once. Somehow, the maggies whose territory I share know I’m a friend, and as the story of the fox shows, they know when to protect ‘our’ domain. Much as I love foxes I don’t want Mogi, my tiny chihuahua-cross dog to be snatched up one day when the hunting has been poor.

So yesterday I went to work with a smile on my face. There are times when I love Warrandyte so much it hurts. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Letter of resignation from Climate Change Authority

I promised myself some good news posts this weekend, and in a strange sort of way, this is one. It’s a resignation in response to the ‘clean’ coal bullshit of the Libs.:

climate-change-resignation

My thanks to Metan for tweeting about this, even if it made me angry all over again. And hats off to Professor Clive Hamilton for putting his principles first, but what a sad indictment of the man-who-once-supported-the-ETS. It seems our PM has decided that his reputation and legacy are of less value than his continued presence as our leader.

If the above sounds as if I’m taking Malcolm Turncoat’s defection personally, you’re right, I am. Despite being a Labor supporter, I did harbour a secret admiration for the man. He was what I thought all good politicians ought to be – a man of honour and integrity who became a politician to serve us, the people.

No fool like an old fool. In betraying his own principles, Malcolm Turncoat also betrayed me and every other voter who believed in him. The man who should have resigned was not Professor Hamilton, it was the PM.

Not happy, Malcolm,

Meeks


#Australia – new climate change predictions

Sitting here with the aircon turned on, and a hot north wind blowing outside, it’s hard not to be afraid, especially after seeing this graph:

climate-change-temperature-graph

The graph charts temperatures over the last 100 years – from 1910 to 2010. Not surprisingly, blue represents years of below average cold and red represents years of above average heat. And no, it wasn’t your imagination – summers really have been getting hotter.

My growing up years [1950s to 1970s] were mild. We did get the odd hot day in Melbourne. We even experienced the odd heatwave, but they were unusual events. I know, because we did not even own a fan back then! Now, I can’t imagine living without an air-conditioner.

Unfortunately, heat is not the only thing that’s changed. Nor will it be the only thing that gets worse. I highly recommend reading the complete report from the Climate Council:

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1b331044fb03fd0997c4a4946705606b.pdf

You can also read an abbreviated, ‘highlights of’ article about the report here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/longer-hotter-summers-predicted-in-extreme-weather-report-by-climate-council/news-story/958f45a1141453664fcb5933921b4c14?utm_source=Daily+Carbon+Briefing&utm_campaign=4b550aee94-cb_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_876aab4fd7-4b550aee94-303473869

Now think about these facts – every year for the last three years has been the hottest on record. That means since we’ve been measuring and recording temperature.

According to the Climate Change deniers and skeptics, what we’re experiencing is just another ‘cycle’ in the earth’s climate history. We’ve had ice ages, now we’re having a period of heat. The one thing they’re not ‘having’ is that this period of heat might be caused by humans rather than natural fluctuations.

So let’s take that perspective to its natural conclusion: the world may be getting hotter and climate may be getting more extreme, but it’s not our fault so there’s nothing we can do about it except ‘suck it up’ [and hope we all survive].

To me, that is the most terrifying, defeatist outlook possible. Yes, it does allow for ‘business as usual’, but only because disaster is inevitable so we may as well make money while we can.

By contrast, almost all of the actual climate change scientists say that this distopian outlook is not inevitable. It will take a lot of work, and things will get worse before they get better, but there’s a good chance that we’ll survive…if we clean up the mess we’ve made.

As one of the canaries in the coal mine, I much prefer the optimistic outlook, don’t you?

But why do I imply that Australians are canaries in the coal mine? Isn’t that fate reserved for the island nations of the Pacific?

Um, no, actually. Australia has quite a delicate climate. Yes, I know, how can deserts and bushfires be delicate? What I mean is that we already experience extremes thanks to our geography which means that climate change will have less work to do to make extreme turn into unbearable.

But it is the Australia inhabited by this generation’s grandchildren, 2090, where the heat will really be on, if greenhouse gas emissions worldwide fail to meet current reduction targets.

By that year the report predicts Darwin will have a staggering 265 days each year above 35C.

That quote was taken from the news.com.au article, but the data comes from the Climate Council report [linked above].

Melbourne won’t fare so badly in terms of temperature, but we’ll have other worries – such as increased droughts and a great many more bushfires. If we continue with business as usual, life will be close to unbearable for our children and their children. This is not some dystopian, science fiction plot line I’ve come up with to give you all a good scare. This is real, my friends, and becoming harder to fix with every day we procrastinate.

Back in 2009, eight years ago now, Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party because he supported the Rudd, Labor government, in its attempts to get a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme up and running. Many Australians honoured Turnbull for that, seeing him as a politician of integrity. Many Australians supported his return to the leadship of the Liberal party for the same reason. I know I did. 😦

But where is Turnbull now? Shackled to the idiology of the ultra Right, that’s where. These Conservatives do not believe in human induced climate change. As a result, they fight tooth and nail to keep Australia from shifting to a low or neutral carbon economy [read renewables instead of coal]. If Turnbull wants to stay in power, he has to appease these deniers and skeptics.

Well guess what? Turnbull has been appeasing these deniers and skeptics. The latest ‘clean’ coal proposals are the greatest betrayal possible because Turnbull must know that the holy grail of clean coal will never be achieved. Even with the most stringest technologies currently available [which would make electricity from coal more expensive not less], coal fired power plants would still produce more emissions than gas fired power plants. Yes, gas. Not solar, not wind, not wave or geothermal, but gas.

I no longer believe that Malcolm Turnbull is a man of integrity. He has what he wanted all along – the Prime Ministership – and he’ll betray everything he believes in to keep it. Thanks, Malcolm. I hope your stay at Kirribilli House is short.

Meeks

 


GMOs – currently in Australia

Some time ago, I sent a protest email regarding genetically modified wheat [via Change.org??]. To my great surprise, I was put on a database to receive notification of various field trials etc.

To my great shame, I did not look into these trials the way I should have. I guess I assumed others with more knowledge would ‘do something about it’. 😦

Today I received notification of one field trial I could not ignore. It had to do with Monsanto. At first, I was worried that knowledge of this application was secret, but I found that information, and a whole lot more, on the government’s own website. Here is a portion of it:

australia-current-gmo

Clicking on the screenshot should display the image in full.

And just in case you can’t read the web address, here it is :

http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/ir-1

The reason I’m posting about this is because:

  • I was shocked at how many field trials and commercial applications there are – the list literally goes on and on, and
  • I’m pretty sure that the general public hasn’t got a clue how much is going on behind our backs – notice the genetically modified banana???

I’ve always believed that there is a place for gene engineering, so long as:

  • it is properly controlled with all possible safeguards in place
  • and is for the benefit of humanity in general – such as a new vaccine.

The problem with genetic engineering carried out by Monsanto et al., is that they do not use genetic engineering for ‘altruistic’ purposes, and they do not have to apply the same rigorous and expensive testing as do GMOs destined for drugs/medicine.

Given the length of the list on the government website, I suspect the horse has bolted, but we may still be able to protect our organic growers from cross contamination…if we show that we do care.

Please spread the word about this list as far as you can. 😦

Meeks

 


Widow-makers, compost and a tooth

It’s been an odd week, starting with the widow-maker. And no, in Aussie parlance, a widow-maker is not a psychotic gigolo, it’s a tree, or tree branch that falls without any apparent warning. You can see it in the pic below with my foot for perspective:

fallen-tree-branch

I don’t have huge feet, but they’re not tiny either, so that should give you some idea of the size of the damn branch.

The tree it fell from is that Red Box there at the back. Red Box are tall, eucalypts with spreading branches as long as some smaller trees. The next pic shows where the leafy bits landed. I still can’t believe that they missed my roses by less than a metre. Roses on the left, the tips of the branch on the right:

fallen-tree-branch-roses

As the branch fell, it tangled with a second Red Box and stripped it of a couple of big branches as well:

fallen-tree-branch-2

It took a man with a chainsaw most of the morning to cut up the widow-maker and cart it away. Twas not cheap. And then this afternoon I had to have a tooth extracted. Not counting my wisdom teeth, it’s only the second tooth I’ve lost but I still feel rather depressed. I’d hate to end up having to gum my pork crackling. 😦

On a brighter note, I did manage to make a compost container yesterday. It sits in a corner between the fence with my neighbour and the side fence that keeps the dog from running out onto the road.

new-compost

It’s a very simple, three-sided structure made of corrugated iron held in place with star pickets. Star pickets are those black metal posts you can see. They’re kind of ubiquitous in Australia.

Back to the compost bin, I’ve left the front open to make it easier to wheelbarrow grass clippings inside. The hardest part of the whole project was banging the star pickets into the ground. As anyone who’s every tried to dig a hole in Warrandyte will know, the soil is mostly clay and shale. Not the easist soil to dig.

Luckily the editing is going really well so I’ll leave you with a track from ‘Sun’ by Thomas Bergersen [of Two Steps From Hell fame]. It’s called ‘Cry’.

 

cheers

Meeks


Innerscape promotion – change of plan for Episode 2

Innerscape, Episode 2 goes live tomorrow – November 21, 2016 – and there will still be a competition, but it won’t be based around music. Instead, I’ll be offering one lucky person a $20 Amazon gift voucher as the prize for the next competition.

For those who missed my outraged tweets, I made a most unpleasant discovery when I logged on to Amazon.com to send David and Honie their prizes [for the Episode 1 competition]. Apparently, Australians cannot buy, or even gift, MP3 music albums from Amazon.com. I have absolutely no idea why my country faces such a restriction, but there it is. As a result, I had to do a last minute switcheroo and send the winners gift cards instead of the promised music.

In some ways, this snafu with Amazon may turn out to be a good thing; just because I love a certain kind of music doesn’t mean that everyone else is going to love the same music. A gift voucher, however, is a more flexible prize as the winner can choose their own reward.

I like the word ‘flexible’ so I’m going to try to be flexible in other ways as well. Starting with Episode 2, I’ll be posting the ‘Look Inside’ right in the blog to make it easier to read… and to tempt people to enter the competition. See how flexible I am?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the free download period. Episode 2 will be free for five days as well. At the end of that time it will revert to 0.99 cents until the last episode is published.

And now for some more music. This time, Heart of Courage from the Invincible album by Two Steps From Hell:

Have a great Sunday,

Meeks


#Solar power changing the face of poverty in India

Large, corporate power suppliers often cite baseload [the amount of energy needed to satisfy the minimum energy demands of a given society] as the reason for dismissing solar power. Solar panels/arrays don’t work at night so solar must be useless for baseload.

On the surface, the need for baseload power does appear to leave solar out in the cold, but…all baseloads are not the same. In India, there are tens of millions of people for whom baseload equates to just one light bulb. These are the people living in distant rural areas, or city slums, or simply on the pavement. They are poor in a way we in the West cannot even imagine because, despite their poverty, they have to spend a significant portion of their tiny monthly incomes on kerosene for their lamps, or batteries for their torches. All because they are too poor to tap into the electricity grid.

And this is where Piconergy comes in. Founded by a group of young, well-educated, clever young men, Piconergy has created a super small-scale solar power plant called the Helios [from the Greek word for ‘sun’]. This is the product description from their website:

Product Features

–  Strong and sturdy Power Box which can be easily carried around and/or wall mounted, housing our battery management system & a 6V 4.5 Ah Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology based sealed maintenance free battery.

–  5 Watts-peak Solar PV Module with 4m cable & connector.

–  Three LED Light Bulbs producing up to 200 lumens each with 3m cable & switch to cover maximum area for illumination.

–  USB port for charging mobile phones.

–  Optional SMPS Adapter to charge battery from grid supply.

And this is the product:

helios-product-piconergy

Piconergy are making the Helios available to families in the slums of Mumbai:

  • so the children can study at night,
  • so cottage industries can make more products to sell,
  • so families do not have to live in the dark

I cannot tell you how much the dedication and commitment of the young men at Piconergy warms my heart. They are not just talking about social inequality, they are doing something practical to help. But my admiration for them goes beyond questions of social conscience – I want a Helios for myself!

Why? Why would a middle class woman in Australia with solar panels on her roof already want such a small-scale solar device? I’ll tell you why. I want my own Helios because the solar panels on my roof are tied in to the grid. When the grid goes down, my solar panels are turned off as well. In a word, they become USELESS.

I cannot tell you how many times we have sweltered during a 40 degree day because the grid was down. No aircon, no fan and no landline telephone. If our mobile phones aren’t charged then we are literally isolated from the outside world. And then there are the nights when we need torches and candles just to get to the bathroom. Again, because the grid is unreliable.

After the fire that destroyed homes south of the river a couple of years ago [in Warrandyte], SP Ausnet is finally putting in heavy duty powerlines and some underground cabling, but for now we continue to lose power, and I continue to keep torches and candles dotted throughout the house.

For us, the potential for sudden, energy poverty is very real, and I intend to do something about it. More on that later.

For now, though, if you care about those less fortunate than yourselves, may I suggest you give Piconergy a boost in social media. After all, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’

cheers

Meeks

Piconergy:

http://www.piconergy.com/

https://piconergy.wordpress.com/about/

care@piconergy.com


The Code – brilliant Aussie thriller

The Offspring and I just finished watching the finale of The Code. This was season 2, and it was even better than season 1. If you hurry you can still watch at least some of season 2 on ABC iView.

So what made The Code so special that I’m reviewing a TV show? -shock horror-

Brilliant writing, acting and directing, that’s what.

The story revolves around two brothers – Jesse a young man with autism who also happens to be an absolute computer whiz, and his brother Ned, a journalist. Ned has looked after Jesse pretty much all of his life and the love between them is palpable. But that kind of love involves a huge sacrifice, and that provides the tension in their relationship.

And then Jesse’s hacking gets them both into trouble. That is the core of the story and everything builds from there. It is the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat drama that we are starting to get very good at. I am so proud of our tiny film industry. It is punching so far above its weight, it should be in outerspace.

Congratulations to everyone who helped make The Code. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. 🙂

Meeks


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