Tag Archives: Australia

Botanic art – the Beckler Project

I’ve been a fan of Anne Lawson’s work for a long time now – I’m the proud owner of one of her garlics – but I didn’t realise that the work she and her colleagues do is real ‘citizen scientist’ stuff that will help in the longitudinal study of Australia native plants in the Minindee area. The following is a small snippet from her post:

‘If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember the annual trips that the Fella and I make up to Menindee, a little country town about an hour out of Broken Hill. If you are new to the blog, or have forgotten let me briefly explain.

I am part of a group of botanic artists who go up to the semi-arid area of Outback New South Wales to collect and paint the plants that were found on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Dr Hermann Beckler was the collector as well as the doctor on the Expedition. Our Project began in 2010, and the Fella and I have gone up since 2011.’

You can follow the link below to read more about the project and admire some of Anne’s work:

https://annelawson.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/an-update-on-the-becklers-botanical-bounty-project/

cheers

Meeks

 


Australian invention for the micro-grid

“In distributed power generation, rather than having a massive centralized grid, you’re talking about much smaller micro-grids,” says Moghtaderi. “This system, in the Energy on Demand mode, has been designed for a micro-grid application. So essentially, if you deploy to a retirement village, and you hook it up to natural gas, that retirement village would be entirely independent of the national electricity network, and they can produce their own power and other utilities, 24/7.”

That quote comes from an exciting article I read in New Atlas today. Essentially, an Australian university – the University of Newcastle – and an Australian company called Infratech Industries have together developed ‘…a Chemical Looping Energy-on-Demand System (CLES)’ which not only generates electricity, but can store it as well.

CLES is the brainchild of Professor Behdad Moghtaderi of the University of Newcastle, and could well be the answer to Australia’s energy woes. Despite being a major exporter of natural gas, Australia has somehow mismanaged things so badly that now we are the ones likely to run out of power. It’s happened already in South Australia and is likely to happen in other states as well in the near future.

Tesla has offered to create a battery-powered fail-safe for us before next summer, but I’d much rather see Australia embrace a homegrown product, especially as it could lead to a rapid uptake of distributed power generation. If we get that right, we could export the technology to the rest of the world instead of continuing to rely on the export of resources. We have so much inventive talent here, let’s celebrate if for once instead of forcing it off-shore through lack of interest.

You can find the New Atlas article here:

http://newatlas.com/energy-on-demand-redox-home-electricity-generation-storage-system/49568/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=127a37fcfe-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-127a37fcfe-92416841

And now an apology. I’ve been missing in action a bit lately, and it’s due to a number of things. First, my teaching schedule exploded unexpectedly. Second, I’ve been trying to complete the print version of Innerscape, and that has required upgrading some of my most critical software to ensure that the finished product is commercially ‘legal’. [For ebooks I use Storybox, which is fine, but for print I have to use a commercial version of Word, and I only had a ‘Home and Student’ version before]. Finally, I haven’t been well. Since about June last year, I’ve had recurring infections in my teeth which have resulted in having one tooth pulled and root canal treatments on three others.

Despite all the treatments, and the associated cost, I developed another infection last week, and I now have to go see an endodontist. Endodontists are dentists who specialise in root canal treatments [amongst other things]. My first appointment is next week. Until then I’m on antibiotics that hurt my stomach and anti-inflammatories that also hurt my stomach. Not sleeping very well either so…those creative juices just aren’t flowing. I will try to catch up with your creativeness though. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Pod accommodation – in India

I first read about capsule accommodation in the 1970s when the first one opened in Japan. The amenities were pretty basic and that memory informed the creation of ‘short term transit pods’ in Innerscape. But time moves on, and the humble, claustrophobic pod has become high tech, finding takers in some of the world’s largest, and not so large, cities.

If you follow the link below it will take you to an article about the new pod hostel that opened in Mumbai, India. The photos look quite amazing with push button everything:

https://scroll.in/magazine/834487/a-night-at-indias-first-capsule-hotel-shows-that-mumbais-space-crunch-is-now-a-hospitality-fad

The article also gives a nod to the ‘Tiny Homes’ movement which I’ve featured before. And just in case you thought this could not happen in your city, think again. Pod hostels have now sprung up in China, Iceland and…ta dah…Australia, amongst others. You can find some interesting titbits in the video clip right at the end of the article.

I’m still not sure if I’d be able to lock myself in and sleep in a pod, but I’d love to try one on for size…just for fun. Then, I’d traipse off to a nice big hotel room and thank my stars I can afford it. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


Pesticides in the US and Australia

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides on American farms, sprayed on everything from strawberries to soybeans. It’s cheap, and it works well; chlorpyrifos is derived from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, and kills insects by attacking their nervous system. But exposure to chlorpyrifos is also linked to brain damage…

via The US government is ignoring its own scientists’ warning that a Dow pesticide causes brain damage in children — Quartz

This article talks about a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, and the harm it can cause. Something that jumped out at me was this:

Pregnant women who lived near agricultural fields where chlorpyrifos was sprayed during their second trimester were three times more likely to give birth to a child who would develop autism, according to a study out of the University of California, Davis.

If there really has been a rise in autism, then perhaps chlorpyrifos is at least part of the problem because the residues on common food can do damage as well. A search for what kinds of foods are sprayed with chlorpyrifos in Australia led me to:

These are the worst offenders when it comes to pesticides, including chlorpyrifos. These are commercially grown foods that we all eat. I almost cried when I saw strawberries, grapes and sweet bell peppers [capsicum] in that list. And potatoes?

I strongly recommend that you read the entire article, including the ‘Clean Fifteen’. These are fruits and vegetables that have the least amount of pesticide residue:

http://www.sgaonline.org.au/pesticides-in-fruit-and-vegetables/

As a final word, the EPA in the US wanted to ban chlorpyrifos, but new Trump appointee, Scott Pruitt, chose to ignore his own agency’s recommendation. Here in Australia we haven’t even gotten to that point yet. Pathetic.

Meeks

 


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

 


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