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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The irony of Sydney’s richest suburbs pumping untreated sewage into the Pacific Ocean today is rich indeed! Yup, it’s true: three ‘outfalls’ are still dropping raw sewage from the cliffs behind Vaucluse and Diamond Bay into the ocean near South Head. The arse end of ex PM Turnbull’s Federal seat of Wentworth?

The resulting visible plumes of ‘brown fuzz’ on the surface are a cocktail of algae, high bacteria count, colonies of stinging jellyfish known as hydroids, and represent a high environmental risk. The ocean floor there is piling up with toilet paper, sanitary products, wet wipes and plastics.

Twice I have swum through this area in the Bondi to Watsons Bay ocean swim. Doubly dumb, heroic and also in a duo each time to share the 10kms course. Maybe my immunity came from decades of surf swimming in the dodgy water of eastern Sydney beaches, before the 1990-92 Deep Ocean Outfalls started carrying primary-treated sewage about 3 kms out on the ocean floor (where it’s feasted on by marine life). In those not-so-good old days, we sometimes swam in dun-coloured water with a smattering of unsanitary floaty objects.

But, there is good news on the horizon. The NSW government is finally dealing with these ‘legacy’ ocean sewer pipes from 1916,1932 & 1936. Our Gladys is right on to it, only twenty years after it was first raised, and has announced a $86m project to re-direct the sewage to the Bondi Waste Water Treatment Plant by 2020. Those feasting sewer fish are in for some upper-class treats!

sewage signpoh ocean swim

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During this interminable Australian Federal election campaign the Coalition has shortened their notorious three-word slogan format previously practised by the erstwhile Tony Abbott. Maybe due to the short attention span of voting punters, Coalition candidates have been parroting a two word catchphrase (exclude the joining word):  Jobs and Growth.

Its mechanical repetition by all their candidates has given rise to the idea that a messianic figure is coming to save our greedy asses, in the person of Jobson Grothe. Apart from the moronic and insulting nature of this tactic, my problem is that both those key words are so yesterday.

In reality the government has little control over jobs, apart from the public service, which it is busy down-sizing. Okay, it wants to reduce company taxes to encourage investment, trickle down effect, blah, blah, but critical economists have debunked that impoverished idea. In this post-industrial society, where are jobs meant to come from? Oh yeah, the services sector of call centres, hospitality, digital thingamajig, health, etc.  Hmm!

As for Growth, another impoverished concept well past its use by date, it has taken us on a merry ride of exponential destruction of our natural environment. Sorry, I meant operating environment for business, aka corporate profits. Folks, we’ve got to get our brains into some existential thinking: where will endless growth and despoliation of our planet and atmosphere get us?

In this marathon election campaign politicians of both major parties have ignored, to use econo-speak, the huge ‘externality’ of economic growth known as climate change, which is almost a euphemism for endangering our own life support systems. Ditto any mention of our renewable energy future. So, without further ado and need for explanation, I’m launching a new campaign counter slogan identity: Colleen N. Green.  Go girl!

coralbleaching

 

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The ostrich or emu-like resistance to renewable energy in Godzone is displayed by the contribution of renewables to each state’s energy supply so far this year.

Leading emu state by far is Queensland with 4.7% renewables, followed by NSW with 8.8%, Victoria 15.8% and South Australia 36%. The almost regular doubling of those figures from north to south and then west, struck researchers at Kookynie Lo-Tech University (KLOTU) as curious and worthy of closer investigation.

The technique used was to trace that trajectory with a thick black pencil. Lo and behold, a classic J curve! But our economists noted that there weren’t any trade or currency factors at play (apologies to non-economists), so other social scientists were called in to try and explain this mysterious J curve phenomenon.

Is there a perverse, inverse relationship between total daylight hours of the states and their interest in renewable? As in, the more sunshine you have, the more oblivious you are to its potential energy source, aka the Sunshine State, which also by the way, has recently approved a massive coal mine. The idea of a direct relationship with intelligence was discarded as too improbable.

However the hypothesis is refuted by the standout performance of SA with lots of sunshine, and the highest renewables by a long shot. So, what makes SA different? Could there be a positive relationship with wine-growing and refundable bottle deposits? Or less convict genes in the local free settler bloodlines?

No, an exciting clue to the puzzle is emerging in complex data-mining by our statisticians, who have noted the proportion of German ancestry citizens in the state. The KLOTU team has just retired to the pub’s back bar to further crunch the numbers over an Emu Bitter or three, but it’s looking promising.

And it certainly makes sense, as Germany is an early adopter of renewable energies, despite their uneven sunlight hours (but plenty of wind). Germans migrated to SA in the 1830s and Victoria in the 1850s, so the progressive renewables DNA arrived early and flourished there. Eureka!

Maybe all those German backpackers and other recent arrivals from the fatherland will over time help to raise the renewables intelligence quota in this recalcitrant coal-addicted corner of Gondwana.

Penong windmills 3

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Bad Oysters

Nah, I don’t eat ‘em, never have, and don’t get the gourmandise associated with these slimy concoctions of marine life. Unfortunately they colonise the littoral zones of the Wide Brown Land and abroad (lovely word, redolent of a bygone era when the colonies indeed knew their place), waiting silently for clumsy fools to submit to open-foot surgery on their scalpel-like shells. Dastardly molluscs!

Such was the fate of your KC culture correspondent while clambering around in bare feet trying to go fishing. Such hubris! Hence several weeks of enforced immobilisation ensued and an intensive reading program, the fruits of which are shared in these book reviews, with more to follow. And KC resurges from a somnambulant hiatus. Oh yeah.

IMG_0101

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The Abbott Australian government was quick out of the starting box in its environmental demolition derby. Any government body with climate or science in its name is good for the chop. As are annoying environmental protections, otherwise known as red tape. Which of course means that approval processes for development applications, aka mining, have to be streamlined. Already the Abbott Pack have an impressive list of all the above, but they ain’t done yet.

No Science minister in the Federal cabinet. Climate Commission abolished. Ditto the Climate Change Authority. Legislation to abolish the carbon price. Ditto Federal environmental safeguards for biodiversity. Murray-Darling off the threatened ecosystems list. Rolling back no-fisheries provisions in Australia’s marine national parks. Review, that is reduce, Australia’s renewable energy targets. Approval of the world’s largest coal port construction near the Great Barrier Reef. Cuts to CSIRO staff scientist numbers. Abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Extract 74,000 hectares of World Heritage listed Tasmanian forest for logging.

Wait till Abbott’s merry band of environmental thugs really get in their stride, and pull the whips. We’re all in for a rough ride, so this list will no doubt grow much longer. Unfortunately Abolish Abbott day is three years away!

Abbott abolition

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North of Newcastle (NSW) stretches a coast of lightly-inhabited, by humans at least, beautiful beaches and lakes, all the way to Seal Rocks. The ocean waters off Stockton, Port Stephens, Hawks Nest and the Myall Lakes National Park have been under study by the CSIRO. It turns out that there is a largely unseen additional population of great white sharks, also called white sharks or white pointers. This area is a key nursery for them, with up to 250 juveniles.

Check out SMH’s Damon Cronshaw report and photo. We now know that these shark youngsters, their parents and friends apparently spend a third of their time near the shore and in the surf zone, in water as shallow as a couple of metres. The scientists state the (bleeding?) obvious: “frequency of encounters between people and sharks can be high”. And they are a protected species, these sharks that is. Apparently unlike in WA!

On a camping trip to Myall Lakes your KC correspondent called in to the local Visitor’s Centre, where we were obligingly told without euphemism that it was indeed a known ‘sharky’ area – maybe good risk management policy for a tourist bureau, or just an honest volunteer staff member? Though maybe they need to update the beach signage for that extra danger. Here’s hoping the Great Whites keep minding their own fishy business.

Beach sign

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Going bush is of course all about getting close to nature and respectful admiration of her manifest beauty. Unless you’re one of the many bogans who seem to think that a free campsite is somewhere to have a party and trash as you see fit. The isolated access road to Abercrombie River National Park, west of Sydney and the Blue Mountains, is a steep fire trail definitely only usable by four wheel drives. Bogans love driving them too.

This second (see previous Bundy Bogans) photo reportage on bush boganism shows a total lack of respect for our fragile natural environment. The half-burnt table speaks for itself. The bubbly white smear of film on the waterhole results from happy campers’ oblivious shampooing and dish-washing waste. That dry country has not seen rain since October, and the river is reduced to a series of waterholes. Remonstrating with the young family concerned was met with a tiny sign of comprehension and culpability but no immediate expression of regret. At best, maybe they chewed on it on the way up the steep track home, and were embarrassed enough to change their ways. But don’t bank on it!

Bush bogans

Bush bogans 2

Just a short distance from this pollution are other pools with schools of hardy carp trying to survive their reduced habitat until the river’s flow is restored with sustained rainfall, which is unlikely for months to come yet. And the local red-neck, wallaby that is, enjoys some left-over human food from the bogans, which is not really best for him either.

Trout cod

Wallaby red-neck

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