You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.

Today the Climate Commission released its report The Critical Decade looking at the evidence for climate change and what we need to do in response.

For those still debating whether climate change is for real, the report answers questions such as

Are we confident enough about:
(i) our understanding of the climate system,
(ii) the human influence on climate, and
(iii) the consequences of contemporary climate change for societies and ecosystems to provide a reliable knowledge base on which to base policy and economic responses?

One of the report’s main messages is that

This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience.

It refers to a 2 degrees Celsius ‘guardrail’ and identifies that once we go over this temperature increase we are in the territory of “dangerous” climate change. Currently we are well on track to striking and tipping over this ‘guardrail’.

In response it suggests a ‘budget’ approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, if we wish to have a 75% chance of observing the 2 °C guardrail, we can emit no more than 1000 Gt (one trillion tonnes) of CO2 in the period from 2000 to 2050.

Finally it states that if the 2 degree guardrail is to be achieved then there is no time for delay in investing in low and no-carbon technologies for energy generation, built infrastructure and transport.

So what is our response going to be in this ‘critical decade’ and do we really care enough about future generations to get into gear and meaningfully respond?

For more information on the report and the Climate Commission see http://climatecommission.govspace.gov.au/2011/05/23/the-critical-decade/

Back to the Past – How revisiting the knowledge of our grandparents will help our future

I don’t know about you, but I am noticing a discernible trend towards recapturing past skills. Old crafts such as crochet and knitting are coming back into vogue, home-made items are becoming increasingly fashionable and understanding how to re-use and recycle items is an area of growing interest, with terms such as re-fashioning (remaking old garments into new clothing items) becoming more commonplace.

Where has this trend come from and how will it help our generation into the future?

My perception is that there is a growing tiredness with our consumerist society. Off the rack, mass produced items have become so commonplace and lacking uniqueness, that we are hungering for personalised items, handcrafted, home baked, we desire the time and relationships that these things represent, something that many of us lack in our busy 21st century lifestyles. There are also deeper concerns that this growing trend represents.

  • Climate change – how are we trying to slow this down and what are the contributing factors? The pointless use and disposal of petroleum-based goods, plus the transport needed to ferry these goods.
  • Justice for other peoplefair trade items consider how goods have been produced. Are these people being treated fairly and paid fair wages?
  • Buying local, living local – related strangely to the points above, people want to understand more about what impact there consumerism is having on others. Do they want to support mass produced goods from China, or a local home based craftsperson? How can you understand the ecological footprint of what you buy, if you don’t even know where it was made, or can’t understand the list of ingredients?
  • Recognition that our current lifestyles are unsustainable – we are getting fatter and our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life span than ourselves; making money merely to buy more stuff doesn’t actually make you happy.

So what are these not so ancient skills?

  • Home grown – kitchen gardens, organic vegetables, market gardens, seed saving. The trend towards growing your own produce or purchasing locally grown produce is a return to our grandparents era where most people grew some of their own veggies, had backyard chooks and didn’t expect to buy everything they ate from Woollies grocery stores.
  • Home-made – many of this current generation do not own, let alone know how to use a sewing machine – why would you when it is easier to buy cheap clothes from a chain store? However the advantages of home-made, or individually hand crafted items are that they are generally better made, will last longer, are more likely to be unique and more highly valued by the owner.  
  • Reuse, recycle – my grandparents were major hoarders, or at least I thought so, they saved everything. Go through a world depression and world war(s) and this is what it teaches you. It also means you don’t have to purchase something new every time you need an item and drastically decreases the amount of rubbish going out of your home and workplace. Apparently these days 60% of what a person buys ends up in landfill 7 months later.

So how can revisiting the knowledge of our grandparents help us into the future?

Unlike our grandparents, or great-grandparents, we (in Australia) are living in a time of great wealth and affluence however it is not bringing us the personal prosperity and fulfillment that economic growth promised. We have bigger houses, can move longer distances faster, yet this current generation is more likely be divorced, suffer from depression, obesity, diabetes…the list goes on.

Returning to, or learning these skills our grandparents were familiar with, can reactivate local communities, build relationships and simultaneously reduce our environmental impact. Have you experienced shopping at a farmers market versus a large chain grocery store? Talking to local producers about their product, chatting to friends you run into, versus being pushed through endless aisles, with hundreds of variations on the same product.

How about making something yourself? Cooking from scratch with ingredients you have grown or sourced yourself? This can take longer, but the satisfaction that comes from the effort is immensely greater and the compliments you receive mean so much more!

As the older generations have always tried to tell us younger generations – everything new is old.

I have just bought myself a BPA free drink bottle. If you are wondering what the heck is that? You are probably not the only one.

BPA  (acronym for Bisphenol-A) is a building block chemical used in polycarbonate, a type of plastic that is commonly used in water bottles. Apparently scientific research indicates that BPA may be potentially harmful if ingested in certain quantities.

From what I have discovered:

  • The use of BPA is so profound that it was detected in the urine of 93% of the (U.S.) population over 6 years of age.
  • The highest estimated intake of bisphenol A occurs in infants and children. Their intake is greatest because pound for pound they eat, drink, and breathe more than adults.
  • One thing that many people seem to agree on is that high temperatures can cause BPA to leach into the food or beverage.
  • This concern has led Canadian retailers to pull all baby bottles made with BPA from the shelves. In the United States, many manufacturers and retailers are beginning to do the same.
  • “Food Standards Australia New Zealand has evaluated the safety of BPA and plasticisers in baby bottles and concluded that levels of intake … are very low and do not pose a risk to babies health.”
  • However Australia’s major retail chains have agreed to not introduce new stock of the bottles which contain Bisphenol A (BPA), as part of a voluntary phase out (June 2010).
  • Other sources of polycarbonate (apart from water bottles) are food and drink packaging, including infant bottles, toddler sipping cups, tableware, and food containers. Epoxy resins are also used to line metal products such as canned foods, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.

TIPS FOR USING

  • Keep the heat away from BPA – Don’t warm bottles made with BPA in the stove or microwave, don’t put boiling water in them, and do not place them in the dishwasher.
  • Recycle, do not reuse – Use the product only for what it was intended for. Do not reuse bottles or microwave trays if they were not made to be reused.
  • Buy BPA free – If you buy BPA free products then there is no need to worry about the potential dangers!

For more information see:

MedicineNet.com          

Food Standards Australia New Zealand