Dec 162008

I’ve just read through an article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Drive section about ethanol blend fuels that totally misses the point.  Are they deliberately trying to manipulate the general public?

It is extremely frustrating to find misrepresentation and manipulation like this in the media, as it seems hard to convince people that what the read in the paper might be wrong.  Ironically, those same people are often simultaneously eager to mistrust Wikipedia.

Richard Blackburn’s article in the SMH is primarily about the financial cost of various types of fuel, but it opens with the ambiguous statement:

A fuel derived from plants might appear to be a cheap and green alternative but exclusive Drive research proves this is not the case.

Does this “exclusive” research prove biofuels are not cheap or not green?  It seems the agenda is to claim both.

The point of plant-based fuels is that when they are burnt they only release carbon that was recently part of the natural carbon cycle.  This is in stark contrast to burning fossil fuels, which release carbon that has been stored away from the natural carbon cycle.  In short, biofuels release no “new” carbon into the atmosphere and thus cause no systematic increase in carbon dioxide.

Quite obviously, this makes them a whole lot more environmentally responsible.

Oct 152008

This morning I took the 10,000th photo with my Nikon D70. In the old days, that would have been about 278 rolls of film! This is significant, since it means rolling over the 4 digit sequential count in the filenames back to “0001” (for some reason it seemed to skip “0000”). I purchased my D70 second hand, and the exif metadata for my 10,000th photo shows a “picture number” of 31640 – so the previous owner must have taken 21640 photos before selling.

In a striking coincidence, my cycle computer ticked over to 1000 km on the odometer today as I rode to University. It started counting when I got the bike at Christmas, and most of those kilometres have been clocked up simply commuting to and from Uni. Cycling is such a regular mode of transport for me that I even forgot it was National Ride to Work day!

Both of these “milestones” are merely artefacts of our base-10 numbering system. In base-8 (octal) notation all I’ve done is ridden 1750 km and taken 23420 photographs, neither of which sounds particularly special. There are other milestones which should be taken much more seriously.

The Millennium Development Goals, which all 189 member states of the United Nations signed on to in September 2000, include halving poverty by the year 2015. Half of that time frame has already gone; how far are we towards reducing poverty? How many people are even aware of that goal? Continue reading »

Jul 142008

Last year I wrote a letter to Bob McMullan as part of the Australian Conservation Foundation’s WhoOnEarthCares campaign.  I received a fairly prompt reply, but its hard to tell just how much impact a letter like that really has.

Australia is now approaching another milestone, with the federal government preparing to set a target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  The draft report of Professor Garnaut’s Climate Change Review has given a new opportunity to write a letter through WhoOnEarthCares, and just in case it can actually have an impact, I’ve posted one off.

I strongly encourage you to say you care too, and again here is a copy of my letter to inspire you. Continue reading »

Nov 302007

I have deliberately avoided writing much here about the recent Australian federal election. I did, however, follow the process and ensuing events with interest.

A few days ago I read a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by former Prime Minister Paul Keating, arguing that Howard squandered the opportunities provided to him. Obviously Keating is somewhat biased, but the article made me think about the legacy left by the outgoing Liberal government.

Even more interesting was an article I read today predicting the demise of the Liberal Party. Psychologist and author Steve Biddulph argues that: Continue reading »

Nov 192007

Just before popping in to pre-poll vote this afternoon, I spent a minute in the adjacent newsagent scanning some magazines.  One seemed focussed on sustainable development, and thumbing through it I was introduced to green roofs.  They are literally made of growing vegetation, and there are plenty of reasons why green roofs are a good idea.

A few years ago, when I read Tom Robbins’ “Half Asleep in Frog Pyjamas“, I was enthralled by the idea of growing enough food on the roof of a bowling alley to feed the surrounding blocks.  Continue reading »

Oct 252007

My credit union, MECU, is committed to environmental and social sustainability; it was a primary factor in my choice of banking institution. This morning when I logged on to check my account balance I saw the link ACF is asking the question: Who On Earth Cares?

This Australian Conservation Foundation initiative is very nicely thought out. You can add yourself to the map, and show that you really do care by sending a letter to your local representative in parliament. In 5 simple steps you fill out a basic profile and a personal letter is automatically generated for you to print out. Their system is beautiful – you can even edit the auto-generated text of the letter before creating a pdf copy to print.

So here’s a challenge: put yourself on the map and see who else cares. To help inspire you, here is a copy of the letter I’m sending to Bob McMullan MP, my federal representative: Continue reading »

Oct 162007

Cake day Today is Cake Day, and for the first time ever this auspicious event was celebrated in Canberra. Clansi and I had our official shirts arrive in the morning via express post, and wore them all day. Late in the afternoon we took our shirts along to Parliament House for some photos. Even the main course of our evening meal (an asparagus flan) was as close to a cake as possible! Needless to say, dessert was exotic. Continue reading »

Sep 132007

My good friend Luke Webster recently pointed me to an article in The New Yorker about the problem of light pollution. Its a well-written and enjoyable read that not only informs about the issue, but also manages to inspire a sense of loss and nostalgia over the disappearance of darkness.

Light pollution is a serious issue on many fronts, but suffers a fairly low profile. Continue reading »