Friday, July 25, 2014

Australia's New Coat of Arms?

David Pope drew this new coat of arms to reflect the Australian government's abolition of carbon pricing.

Parody of the Australian coat of arms after Australian renegged on carbon pricing

It's not often a political cartoon becomes a t-shirt, but this one has.

While this might represent Australia's place in the world at the moment, hopefullly we can do better in the future.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zero-cost Electricity

Well done Queenslanders. Last week the cost price of electricity got down to zero. And on other days it's been quite low.

Why?
In winter we have low daytime energy use - and lots of solar panels making electricity for free. Polluting power generators have to drop their prices to compete. It's another great thing about renewables, and inspired this cartoon.

Cartoon about solar helping the electricity price go negative

So thankyou fellow Queenslanders, for being energy efficient and making lots of clean energy from your roof.

Related video: Wind power makes energy cheaper - explains how renewable energy makes all electricity cheaper.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Hooray for Port Augusta!

Port Augusta is the community that's looking to replace it's dying coal power station with something else.

The took a town vote, and solar was the hand-down winner. Then they walked 300km from Port Augusta to Adelaide to let the politicians know.

They asked the company to consider building solar on the same site. And now it looks like the company also sees the benefits of solar-thermal technology, rather than burning coal or gas.

It's good news for the residents. For jobs, for health (previously the area had high lung cancer rates) and for clean energy for Australia.

This is one of the shareable graphics they made to spread the good news.

Solar Power for Port Augusta. A community voted. They walked for solar. They asked Alinta to make the right choice ... and they have.

Sorry for the extra-large graphic, but this is exciting news.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Palmer Party Details

Here are the contact details for the politicians from the Palmer United Party:

Clive Palmer: (07) 5479 2800, Clive.Palmer.MP@aph.gov.au
Glenn Lazarus: (07) 3001 8940, senator.lazarus@aph.gov.au
Jacqui Lambie: (03) 6431 2233, senator.lambie@aph.gov.au
Dio Wang: (08) 9221 2233, senator.wang@aph.gov.au

Why would you need the contact details?

This group of Senators, sworn in today, now have the deciding votes in the Australian Senate.

They've been criticised in the media for changing their mind frequently and having no set policies. But this could also be a positive. These Senators may be open to the persuasion of the general public.

As important issues come before the Senate in coming days and weeks, it may be worth making a call or email to your nearest PUP representative.


PS. The extra person in the photo is Ricky Muir. Technically not in the Palmer Party, but you'd be forgiven for thinking he is.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Happy 2nd Brithday

As of July 1, Australia's carbon price has been operating for 2 years. In that time, electricity pollution has dropped 10% - and renewables are up 37%.

No wonder people are urging the government to not drop the ball on climate action.

Happy birthday carbon price. Don't drop the ball on climate action.

On moral grounds, a group of multi-faith leaders have already called for bipartisan support for carbon pricing - and a recent survey showed more people favour carbon pricing than oppose it.

To me it seems the obvious thing to do is to keep it.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Brazil's Solar Stadiums

The venue for the World Cup final is Estádio do Maracanã (Maracanã Stadium). It features 1,556 solar panels - enough to to power 240 homes.

Quite a few of the stadiums now have solar. It's reducing the carbon footprint of the world cup - and also offering a solution to Brazil's energy crisis.

Brazil's world cup stadiums will provide more than 5.4 megawatts of solar energy - more than any world cup before

5.4 megawatts means a total of about 21,000 solar panels. Enough to power thousands of homes. Go Brazil!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Happy New (financial) Year!

To help the banks and superannuation companies celebrate the new financial year, some people from 350.org popped in with cakes and cupcakes.

350.org cake celebrating financial new year

These wonderful cakes also had a message - that the majority of Australians would prefer their bank and superannuation to not be investing in fossil fuels.

Majority of Australians would choose a bank or super fund that doesn't invest in coal or gas

Of course, another way to give banks this message is to move our business to banks that don't invest in coal. Same goes for superannuation.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Get Rewards for Recycling

They are reverse vending machines. You put in a recyclable container - a can or plastic bottle - and then choose your reward.

Envirobank reverse vending machine

They've been overseas for a few years, and now the idea has reached Australia. The Envirobank Locator can find the machine closest you.



7-Eleven franchises seem to be the main locations so far, at least in my city. Perhaps I'll contact my local 7-Eleven to see if they are going to get one.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Changing Gears

Greg Foyster quits his job in advertising to explore alternatives to the 'normal' living of long hours in unfulfilling work to pay for a big house full of stuff.

Changing Gears is the diary of his journey from Melbourne to Cairns by bicycle with partner Sophie, searching for more sustainable and more enjoyable ways of living.

Changing Gears book cover

It's a fascinating read. A few people they met seemed quite extreme (I guess that makes for interesting reading). But the ideas can be translated into our own lives. As the author reflects on the experiences of the trip, the reader (or at least this reader) also starts to look at society in a new way - and wonder if there's a better way to live.

Greg meets a man who builds himself a 3m x 3m home for $4,000. I'm not going to do that, but perhaps our houses (and mortgages) are too big for what we really need. I'm amazed to read that nearly 45% of Australian homes have 2 spare bedrooms.

Nor will I copy the Buddhist monk, walking up and down Eastern Australia owning only what he carries. But I do think that perhaps we gather too many material possessions - and become way too attached to them.

So what did Greg learn from the trip?
1. Face hypocrisy. If our values and actions don't match, it's a chance to improve our actions.
2. Money is time, and time is life. Everything we buy represents time we spent at work. Life is short enough without wasting it to buy junk.
3. Stuff breeds stuff. As a former ad man, he knows that for every necessity, there's another bunch of things advertising tricks us into buying. It's not good for our wallet, and it's not good for the planet.

In summary, less junk means less waste, fewer greenhouse emissions, more money and more leisure time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Video: Collaborative Consumption

Rachel Botsman, author of What's Mine is Yours, explains collaborative consumption - with the 'help' of Julian Morrow. Basically it's the concept that having access to something can be better than owning it.



The cordless drill is a classic case. On average it's used for only 12 minutes in its lifetime. It spends more times being made than it does being used. Yet it seems everyone has one. A better solution might be for a couple of people in the street to have one - and for other people to borrow it. Streetbank is a good site I've found for sharing a variety of things with your neighbours.

Added to the sites mentioned in the video, there is a directory of them on the Collaborative Consumption website - organised by topic.

All this sharing helps prevent wasteful production. Less energy consumed by factories and trucks - and less stuff eventually going to landfill. Aside from that, it's a great money saver. Now that's a Convenient Solution.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

G20 or G19?

I'm often impressed how cartoonists sum up a big news story in one sketch.


The Australian Prime Minister is currently touring the USA. Later this year Australia hosts the G20. There's been some talk about how the Australian government might explain it's lack of action on climate change.

In recent times, the USA has announced a 30% reduction to power station emissions, China will cap its emissions, and Finland has just announced an 80% emission reduction target. The latter receiving much less coverage.

I've written plenty about how Australia is far behind the rest of the world on climate action. But the cartoonist sums it up in an illustration.

PS. The US move will also reduce particulate pollution, and as a result will avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days. That's $93 billion in climate and public health benefits. Also, it will cut power bills by 8% by increasing efficiency. It's a shame those sorts of benefits don't seem to interest Australia.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thankyou, Bendigo Bank

Bendigo Bank, Australia's biggest bank (outside the major 4) has announced its opposition to coal, saying it will "not lend to companies for whom the core ­activity is the exploration, mining, manufacture or export of thermal coal or coal seam gas".


This is great news. Customers have a new choice for banking ethically, without worrying that their savings are being used to fund coal pollution. Also, it shows that banks can run just fine without the fossil fuel industry.

Why not join me in thanking Bendigo (it's an easy type-and-send). This might be the first time we've sent a thankyou to a bank!

PS. Compare banks at Market Forces
See Bendigo's full statement

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Optimistic Pessimist

I was listening to a podcast from ABC Sunday Nights (Sustaining Creation) and was struck by this comment:
"We have to have pessimism of the intellect and we have to have optimism of the will. And that sort of optimism as an act of will is a very powerful place to be... It's hope as an act of will. There's no point in pessimism at this time."

It reminded me of a quote a friend shared recently:
"When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data.
But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse."

That very much reflects my own experience - as you might have noticed here on the blog. Understanding the enormity of climate change can be quite disheartening, but seeing the kind of ideas and solutions that are possible is also very exciting.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Solar Freakin' Roadways

There's a great new video about the Solar Roadways I wrote about last week. With around 8 million views, it's already super-popular. Surely that has to be a record for a video about roads!



UPDATE: Now over 14 million views

Thursday, May 22, 2014

All You Need Is Less

In a book by a former sports star, I was surprised to find an anecdote on what he calls "possessions mania".
We set out to attain the things that we want, when and where we want them. Most of us do just that: attain, accumulate, collect. Enough is never enough. The more we get, the more we want.
The big crunch comes when we realise what all that comfort, convenience and "stuff" costs. We have to pay for it, keep track of it, protect it, clean it, store it, insure it and worry about it.

It turns out that this particular sports star is also an architect, and has seen it from that side.
I know people who have used the services of an architect to design elaborate storage spaces, in the form of a "house extension" for the sole purpose of housing excess possessions.

On top of the emotional and financial drain, there's also the impact of factories around the world churning out excess amounts of junk which just ends up in landfill.

All you need is less

All of this has inspired me to write about ways we can reduce the junk, and unnecessary possessions, in our lives. I read that Australians spend $10.5 billion dollars a year on things we don't (or rarely) use. That's a lot of cash - and a lot of pointless greenhouse gas.