Mini-Doc of the Week 7 – Sustainable Tourism.

Sustainable tourism?

This week’s mini-doc looks at one isolated aspect of sustainable tourism.  Millions and millions of people visit Niagara Falls every year.  This obviously puts an incredible strain on such a beautiful area but is no doubt essential to the local economy.

A big part of the experience is a cruise up river to view the falls close-up. The ticket price includes a plastic poncho.

I’m left wondering exactly what do they do with all those ponchos? While I am sure some get kept as souvenirs, the majority would end up in the bins at the end of the gangway.

Are there other options? I don’t know what the answer is beyond getting wet. What did they do before plastic ponchos were invented? I guess people brought their own raincoats. Could Maid in the Mist (on the US side) or Hornblower (on the Canadian side) have reusable ponchos? Or sell heavier duty ones which were not single-use? Perhaps there could be a discount for people who don’t use the poncho and bring their own?

 

The footage was shot in 2016 and repurposed for this clip in March, 2020. Shot with a Panasonic FZ1000 and edited using iMovie on my iMac.  Music from Purple Planet. 

Canada was a spectacular place to visit and I could happily go back again. I have shared other stories about my time in Canada in these posts:

The road-tripping photographer (one of my favourites!)

Canada – Just like Australia except with Mountains and Bears.

Winning the lottery at Moraine Lake – you never know who you’ll meet!

Five out of six ain’t bad  – AirBnB gone wrong!

 

Recycling Humans?

Chemistry as it applies to the human population.

Recent bush fires in Australia have had me thinking down some very black roads.  Some related to politics, capitalism and how the world could have been better if we had taken advantage of different “sliding door” moments.

I have reflected on climate change, sustainability, the death of native animals, destruction of houses and communities. I thought about the moments in history which have led us here to this time and place.

…And then I got to thinking about thermodynamics. About available energy and matter.  The fact that there is a finite number of atoms on this Earth.

The big question in my mind then became “How many people could live on this planet without ruining it?”

As a chemist, I have studied closed system reactions. Our earth is essentially a closed system.  A closed system only has a certain number of atoms available so once you use them up the reactions have to stop. Rearranging atoms usually uses up energy. Energy is also limited.

These limited atoms are used to make up all the things on Earth including humans. There are an estimated 7,656 million people on the planet. Let’s say the average mass of a human is around 80kg. That’s 612,480 million kilograms of humans. (1 kilo = 2.2 lbs)

If we wind back the clock just 300 years to the 1700s, the estimated upper limit[1] of the human population was 680 million. That means there is an extra 558,080 million (558,080,000,000) kg of human flesh on the planet now compared to then.

Most of those extra kilograms have come from other living things in our closed system because we eat them.  There has to be a time when we simply run out of atoms and energy to keep making more humans. The majority of the energy we are using now has come from the stored energy of ancient living things – a.k.a fossil fuel.

While some of the atoms in current humans may have come from recycled humans (i.e. the return of nutrients to the soil through decomposition) most of the time we don’t generally “recycle” humans. We put them in sealed boxes in burial grounds off-limits to agriculture where the nutrients can not be returned to the system. Cremation adds to the carbon in the air.

We waste and misuse so many resources. As consumers, we salve our conscious with the catch-cry,  reduce-reuse-recycle, but that is unlikely to be enough to stop or reverse climate change.

Is it time to stop being humans who recycle to humans who are recycled?

Is it time to start thinking about burial practices so the nutrients in humans are available for other uses? I’m of course not the only one thinking about this sort of thing; burial trees pods have been mooted for a while.

It’s all sounding like Soylent Green may not be such a bad idea after all! By the way, that movie, where people were recycled to make food for other humans was set in 2022.

I also believe that those of us in developed economies, who use a lot of resources, have a moral imperative to reduce the number of children we have. We need to seriously consider limiting our population through natural attrition so that some of the atoms can be returned to make other things.

Instead of “one [child] for mum, one for dad and one for the country” how about just one for the planet?

[1] https://www.ecology.com/population-estimates-year-2050/

Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day

Is Valentine’s Day even a thing in Australia? For some of us yes, for others it’s another capitalist plot to make us spend money.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Capitalism is fed

As Hallmark scams you!

According to a 2019 survey conducted by Relationships Australia, more than half of all adult Americans and a third of adults in the UK celebrate Valentine’s Day in some way. Eighteen per cent of the 1700 Australian respondents in this survey said they had never celebrated Valentines Day because they don’t believe in it. I am with that 18%.

Valentine's day

Another Australian survey conducted in 2015  by Canstar Blue says that of the 2050 respondents they questioned, 46% said they intended on doing nothing for Valentines Day. Of these people, 54% did not celebrate it because they didn’t believe in it.

I don’t think I have ever received a Valentine’s Card. Well, at least I don’t remember if I have. I don’t know of many of my peers who make a fuss over the day either. From my casual observations, it seems to be celebrated here by people who celebrate Halloween or who think Black Friday is a sale day and not a day to commemorate tragic bush fires in Adelaide!

On a personal note, I see it as another way to get people to spend money on things they don’t really need. Or perhaps spend money on things they should be doing anyway, such as spending quality time with people they love or have significant relationships with.

Approximately 131 million Hallmark cards were exchanged on Valentines Day in 2016 raising more than a $1 billion dollars.  Not to mention the money spent on roses and chocolates.

Valentine's Day

On the other side of things, it singles out single people. This might make them feel sad or SAD! A counter-movement called Singles Awareness Day (SAD) is ‘celebrated’ on February 15th and accentuates the positives of being single. I’m with them!

Maybe we should start another movement and channel all that money into showing our love for our planet. Instead of buying a single long-stemmed red rose grown in a greenhouse, think of ways to lower your own greenhouse emissions. Instead of giving a whole bunch of roses that will die in a few days, plant some trees which will last more than a lifetime. Instead of giving chocolate which leads to the destruction of rainforests, spend time with the people you love and volunteer together to help clean up your local area.

Make February 14th (and every day) LOVE Day. Love Our Valuable Earth Day

 


 

Mini-doc of the Week 2

Early Morning in Narooma

Continuing on the theme of fires on the NSW South Coast. Once again this clip is from Narooma, a village about 4 hours drive from Sydney. I used to spend holidays there in my early 20’s. I have plenty of fond memories.

These areas rely on tourism, especially in our summer school holiday period so they will be doing it tough. The main crisis has passed now, but the people in this area need to put their lives back in order.

Support them if you can.

 

All footage on iPhone SMAX edited using iMovie on my phone.

Disaster prepping: Are you ready?

Prepared for disaster?

With much of the south-east coast of Australia experiencing horrendous bushfires these last few months, I have been thinking a lot about my preparedness for a disaster. I live in a very urbanised area, a long way from any fire risk, but on the other hand, I do live in a zone that is affected by frequent flash flooding, and I am in the inundation risk zone for a tsunami if one ever hit.

The disaster may not end up weather-related, who knows? There could be a flu pandemic, civil unrest or an earthquake. Heaven forbid there could be a war or mass-scale terrorist attack. The IA bots might take over. At least in Australia, I don’t have to add nuclear meltdown to the list since our only nuclear reactor is small and is not used to produce electricity.

“We live in an era that, within 15 minutes’ notice, nuclear weapons could be crossing the continents bringing about great devastation. Yet we deny this, go about our business, we go on teaching, we drive our cars to work. We repress to the point where we don’t give it any real conscious thought.” Associate professor and author Mick Broderick in The Guardian 28/10/18 original article by Sarah Szabo

Endgame: how Australian preppers are bugging out and hunkering down

The disaster could come from anywhere and at any time, but there is very little gain in being in a constant state of high alert, that would be too mentally taxing. But it is worth thinking about what would you do to increase your readiness if anything does happen.

How to prepare.

You can’t be prepared for everything, but there are a few low-key non-stressful actions that could make a difference.

1. Know your risk

Where do you live? What are your local risks? Fire, flood, cyclone or earthquake? If you move to a new area, make sure you know what the most likely events are. Your local council should have Disaster Planning documents that you can read.

2. Have an alternate source of power for your devices.

In our increasingly technological world, many problems arise from power blackouts. We can’t communicate (for long), keep our food fresh, get fuel out of the underground tanks or even get cash if there is no electricity.

You maybe like me and run your car down to empty before you refill it. I heard reports during this current state of emergency this caused issues for residents who needed to be evacuated. Their fuel tank was near empty, and they did not have enough to get to the evacuation centre. As there was no power, there was no way to fill up at the local service station either.

It is vital to have a functioning mobile phone so that you can get fire alerts and other warnings. Without electricity, how will you keep your phone topped up? You can get hand-cranked chargers or make sure you have charged portable power banks.

If you have a BBQ with a gas cylinder, keep a spare or don’t let it run to empty. You might need it for alfresco meals and boiling water. You can at least fill gas cylinders up without power but not without cash!

So make sure you have some stashed emergency cash on hand – always! ATM’s and EFTPOS could be offline. No point having the Wallet App on your flat phone with no internet!

3. Have non-perishable food and a supply of drinking water.

Supermarkets on the South Coast of NSW were quickly denuded of fresh food. Deliveries could not get in to restock because the main roads were closed due to fire. Milk and bread were the first things to go. [After some thought, I wondered why people thought these were essential items. I’d be going for the canned baked beans, peanut butter and crackers.]

How long could you last on what you’ve got in your cupboard? I often joke with friends that I have enough food in my house to last several months. I would need to use it strategically, but I do have a bit put by. Not because I am prepared, but because I overbuy food. It turns out that may not be such a bad thing!

If you know the power is going to be out for a few days, make sure you use the food in the fridge first. Keep the freezer closed shut! The food in there will stay safely cold for a couple of days IF you don’t keep opening it.

Consider keeping a twenty-litre container of drinking water handy and refresh it regularly.

One of the things the “Being prepared for bushfires” pamphlet tells you to do is to fill the bath with water, this is not for you to get into BUT rather have a source of water ready to put out fires caused by ember attacks. For other sorts of disasters, it would also be useful to have a large, available source of water for drinking and hygiene. Consider filling up the bath in circumstances other than fires.

4. Have a prepacked emergency kit

An emergency kit contains things like a first aid kit, a flashlight, spare batteries, copies of important documents, extra clothes and a portable radio. This allows you to have everything in one place in case you need to evacuate or if you need to stay and shelter.

The contents will depend on the nature of the risk that you face. The NSW SES provides an example on their website, and there is a more exhaustive one on the Queensland Government’s site which includes a suggested food list.

5. Have a plan

It may never happen, and you may never need it, but have a plan. A “what-if” plan? Talk about it with your family and neighbours before disaster strikes. Write your plan down. Keep it in the emergency kit. Keep a copy on the side of the fridge.

If something bad does happen, you want to be able to act quickly and purposefully and not dither about what to pack or where to go. Make sure everyone knows where your plan is and what it says. Consider adding a visual/cartoon-like story if you have little kids. Teach your children how to ring 000.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has a 4 step planning tool on their website, which could be adapted for other kinds of disasters. The NSW SES also has a step by step online process for floods, storms and tsunami available (most relevant for NSW residents) which could be adapted for other areas. Once you complete the steps, you can print out your plan.

“Prepper’s” online resources aplenty

While preparing this post, I went down a rabbit hole exploring websites of various “preppers”. Preppers are people who are preparing for the end of civilisation. Some are even going to the extent of burying food/supply caches in rural areas so they can “bug out” when the apocalypse is nigh. They call it the “SHTF” moment.

Survival Mastery suggests you be able to survive at least 72-hours holed up in your own home giving time for the initial panic to pass and the emergency services time to move in.

The ChilliPreppers is an Australian site that seems to be a moderate voice which provides links to a good collection of downloadable fact sheets on preparing for disasters from various government agencies. They are available free, and there is also a link to a download of what is labelled “Federal Government Disaster” manuals for $3.95.


My take-home message, as an Emergency Service volunteer, is to do more than think about a plan. Talk about what you would do in an emergency with your family and then put a plan in place

You never know what may happen. Don’t let it cripple you with anxiety but believe me it’s too late when you can see embers on your lawn or when there is water lapping in under your door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launching Mini-Doc of the Week

Photo of the Week Challenge

Last week I finished up a full year of a Photo of the Week challenge. In the spirit of adventure, I am going to morph this into a video challenge. I am challenging myself to create a short (1 – 5 minute) mini-documentary each week. Or as I like to call them Chookumentaries! (It makes me laugh!)

To get a head start I will use some archival footage I have shot “on location”. Some clips will have already appeared on my Facebook page, so apologies to those who have already seen them!

I will most likely knock them together with my iPhone and iMovie so they may be rough and ready. I’ll use it as an excuse to experiment with a few other video creation apps as well.

Wish me luck! The theory is that I’ll get better with practice! Oh and I’ll make a new graphic for Week 2, I wanted to use the same one for this week before heralding the change in format.

Week 1: Ashes in the Sand. Smoke in the Sky

This clip was filmed in Narooma while I was on deployment for the State Emergency Service to support the local Rural Fire Service. This area, the Eurobadalla Shire, had been badly hit by fires on New Year’s Eve and was facing ongoing issues from falling trees.

Active fires were still burning in some areas.

 

 

How to reduce your reliance on fossil fuel.

People Power, not Petrol Power!

An off-schedule post today to add to the theme of reducing your reliance on fossil fuel. It might become a regular feature; it might not! I am very mindful of being that annoying blogger who is always pushing things into your inbox. It might just morph into my regular Friday posts, but I felt the need to share this today.


A few months ago, I found a video from Liziqi Art of Cooking in my Facebook feed.  After five minutes of being mesmerised by the process of making silk by hand, I hit that follow button. Today another came into my feed about making cotton doonas.

Amazing!

It’s worth watching for the hand-driven technology. This is the way we need to go to save the planet. Use people power, not petrol power. Except for the fact it has been videoed and subsequently uploaded to social media, not one bit of fossil fuel can be seen in use.  Of course, there is a lot of wood-burning happening. Perhaps you could replace that with solar or wind-generated electricity?

Her cooking videos are amazing. Her life hacks and kitchen tips are great too.

I could, unfortunately, watch for hours and hours! I’d love to spend a couple of weeks living like this! Without a radical change to my existing life, it would be impossible for me to replicate, but it is absorbing. I can dream about such a simple life filled with hard and satisfying manual labour. I bet Liziqi doesn’t have to worry about counting calories and scheduling gym sessions!

The mix of excellent camera work, social media presence and traditional lifestyle show that these people are not living in the past, but savvy entrepreneurs. She has an online shop and fashion brand as well.

She has a huge following, and I am sure many of you know of her already. Even if it is only 50% “real” and 50% marketing it’s still a delight!

If you have an hour to spare dive in!

 

See my other posts about planet-saving!

How can you reduce your climate change impact?

Earlier this week I dashed off a rather prickly post about getting angry with yourself about climate change flavoured heavily by the current bushfire situation in Australia. It was, in part, a reaction to the fact that I was going out for the 8th day straight to help the NSW Rural Fire Service as an SES volunteer. I was up to 100 % days for the year! While my role is in support and I am never in any real danger, it has been stressful and tiring, albeit overwhelmingly self-affirming. I am proud of myself that I am ABLE to be helpful in a second-line role.

I challenged you to make a contribution to reduce your impact on the climate. These actions will, of course, be too late for this particular crisis, but we need to start somewhere!

Here are a few suggestions.

Get politically active

As individuals, we can make changes to our life that will have an impact, but the big guns are held by the government.  They are the ones who decide whether we keep digging up coal and burning it or invest in renewables.  You, however, have the power to decide who is in government, so my first suggestion is to become more politically active. In Australia, we have a working democracy, and we get who we vote for. But unlike America and other places, we don’t vote for our Prime Minister. We vote for the party they represent.The Prime Minister can be removed without a change of government.

Make sure your local member knows what you think about their policies.  ALL of their policies. I am not going to tell you who to vote for because these fires have been a long time coming and are not the responsibility of one or the other of governments we have had. (Without going down too much of a rabbit hole when you think of it, it has been a growing issue ever since we placed more value on wealth than our environment… but that’s another story)

Ten things you can do to reduce your climate change impact

David Suzuki has been agitating for action in a moderate and persuasive way for a long time.  This site is easy to read and provides a very digestible listicle of the ten things you can do to make a start on reducing your impact on climate change.

Steel Street - Cringila
Stop and think about your impact

What’s the one ‘big’ thing you can do to reduce climate change impact?

The most useful thing you can do is not going to seem so palatable to many of you. It is to have one less child.  The per annum reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide by having one fewer child is estimated at 23,770 – 117,700 kg compared to 5 kg for using reusable shopping bags. (Source: Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024). Reducing the number of children reduces the number of resources they will use over their lifetime.

This article ranks personal actions as being high, moderate or low impact. 

It is an open-source, peer-reviewed article. You will need to download it to read the whole thing. I suggest you skip through to the tables that list the categories.

In summary, here are the high impact actions YOU can take

High Impact actions individuals can take for climate change reduction

  1. Have one less child
  2. Live car-free
  3. Avoid one flight
  4. Purchase green energy
  5. Reduce the effects of driving (eg with a more efficient car)
  6. Eat a plant-based diet

Moderate Impact actions individuals can take.

These moderate impact actions reduce carbon dioxide in the range of  0 – 370 kg/annum each. These actions are not painful at all. I bet you do some to a certain extent already but don’t sit on your hands, tackle some more!

  1. Home heating/cooling efficiency
  2. Install solar panels
  3. Use public transport or walk/bike as much as possible
  4. Buy energy-efficient products
  5. Conserve energy
  6. Reduce food waste
  7. Reduce consumption
  8. Reuse
  9. Recycle
  10. Eat local

Low Impact actions individuals can take.

These low impact actions reduce carbon dioxide in the range of  6 – 60 kg/annum each but if you do them all that’s a good start and if EVERYONE did them all that would be BIG!!!  For instance, if all 24 million Australian’s did these simple things it would add up to 1,440,000,000 kg of CO2!

  1. Conserve water – eg. run a full dishwasher
  2. Eliminate unnecessary travel
  3. Minimise waste
  4. Plant a tree
  5. Compost
  6. Purchase carbon credits
  7. Reduce lawn mowing
  8. Ecotourism
  9. Keep backyard chickens – I wish I could!! 🙂
  10. Buy bona fide eco-label products
  11. Calculate your home’s footprint (I’ll research this one some more to find out how and what they mean)

How many can you tick off? Even if you can tick off many of the things on these lists already, don’t get complacent.

Encourage others!

Conserve more!

Walk more!

Use less!