Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reduce and Reuse, or what happened to the other 'R's?

Over-consumption in our culture has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been reflecting on what and how much we buy, the energy needed to produce, package, sell and use what we buy, how much we waste, and what impact all this has on our environment, communities and our social relationships.

Previously, I have thought about how the choices I've made about my 'career', time, role as a father and my income relate to my consumption of 'stuff', but I have been more preoccupied about the impact our consumerist society has on energy and resource use and global warming.

I've been wondering a lot lately about what happened tothe other two 'R's of the environmental mantra of the 90s: 'Reduce,
Reuse and Recylce'. 'Recycle' has taken off in Australia, but there is less attention on 'reduce' and 'reuse'. I get the feeling that recycling has let us off the hook - we are not required to think about what we buy so long as we remember to carefully sort our metal cans, glass bottles, PET (plastic) containers, and paper from our rubbish and remember to wheel it out to the curb for collection.

Because of the greenhouse gas emissions from the energy we use – and waste – we must give more attention to our overall consumption habbits.

On WorldChanging recently, there was an interesting exchange triggered by WorldChanging contributor Vinay Gupta's reflections on how working less and getting the same amount of work done could translate into other ways of using our resources less or using them more intelligently - thus helping to reduce our energy consumption.

While the discussion there focussed on what to call such an initiative ('use less' vs 'use smarter'), it still boiled down to the idea that using less than we already do, including being smarter about our use to minimise waste, is something we must all do to respond to the crisis of energy and resource wastage and its impact on global warming. And I found myself asking about 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' there as well.

Of course, these aren't new ideas. People have been arguing over consumption and over consumption, consumerism and our preoccupation over 'stuff' for ages. But, I do think that the environmental problems
that put the 3Rs on the agenda in the late 80s-early 90s are now being focussed more and more around the crisis of global warming. And bringing a new urgency to our consideration of these changes to our relationship with 'stuff' in our lives.

I've pooled some interesting links I've come across lately that consider the over-consumption, 3R themes here:

Mike Bogle considers the 3Rs, e-Waste and computers

WorldChanging post again

ABC Radio National podcast on religious (Christian) responses to consumerism here (MP3 link)

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Greens say dump the tip of nuclear iceberg

ABC News Online reports that the Greens criticise proposals to build a nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in Northern Territory as paving the way for Howard's nuclear agenda. Greens Senator Christine Milne says:
"What we're going to end up with, if the Government goes down the enrichment line, is huge, virtually militarised waste dump facilities in Australia."

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Greenpeace anti-whaling protesters arrested at IWC meeting

Greenpeace activists have been arrested by St Kitts (the Carribean island where the IWC has been meeting) police while conducting a peaceful protest. This from an ABC online news report:

The [ten] Greenpeace protesters had been placing about 1,000 cardboard whale tails on a beach outside the meeting.

The cut-outs represent the number of whales that will be killed under Japan's "scientific whaling program".

The police were armed with batons, some with M-16 automatic guns, and tear-gas grenade launchers! Talk about overkill!

Before he was arrested, [Greenpeace spokesperson] Mike Townsley pointed out to the police the IWC meeting had explicitly given its support to peaceful protests over whale hunts.

"What could be more peaceful than 1,000 cardboard whale tails?" he said.

There have also been calls from some environmental groups for a consumer boycott of products of whaling countries. Personally, I support a boycott of products by companies that profit from whaling, but I'm not sure about this tactic. I understand why some would call for a wider ban when you consider the big resources these countries' governments put in to winning their arguments in the IWC, so perhaps it is worth considering holding the governments and nations accountable.

However, we shouldn't just focus on Japan's products. Norway has defied the morotorium for many years, and Iceland is one of the big players in the pro-whaling bloc. So, no more Norwegian smoked salmon and sardines? Boycott Björk, anyone? This is where it could get ridiculous. Let's focus on targeted boycotts of companies or industries involved: fisheries, shipping, processed foods. I would welcome suggestions and links to resources for this.

You can listen to an mp3 of an ABC radio report about the call for a ban. Mp3 link.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Crunch time for 'immigration' detention laws

Today is World Refugee day. It is a good day to do something helpful for refugees and assylum seekers – stop the Howard government's anti-assylum seeker legislation!

Their appaling legistlation to ammend Australia's immigration and assylum seeker law is at a crossroads. The key thing the Howard government wants is to have all those arriving in Australia by sea without formal immigration papers or approval to be shipped off to Australia's 'off-shore processing centres' – in reality immigration detention centres on Pacific Islands near Australia.

This proposal will see any assylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat - such as the West Papuans who fled Indonesian repression in their homeland and came to Australia in a giant dug-out canoe, seeking assylum – autamatically shipped to somewhere such as Nauru for 'processing'. Many camapaigning against this legislation have focussed on the children - pointing to how this new move is counter to the government's recent undertaking that children will not be kept in mandatory detention.

I've posted on GetUp!'s online petition about this previously. They are now calling for urgent responses to swell their petition campaign:
It's crunch time. This week, Parliament is scheduled to decide whether to throw out our existing refugee laws to suit Indonesia or whether to stand firm for chidren and human rights.

In a rare moment in Australian politics, representatives from every major party in the country stood together last Wednesday to receive [a] 32,000-strong GetUp petition to stop this legislation. They have told us they urgently need more support to stand firm in these final days. Can you help us get to 50,000 signatures before the final vote this week?

The stakes are high. Remarkably, a Government-controlled Senate Committee has recommended this law be rejected entirely, or at least seriously amended. Politicians from all the major parties - including 10 Coalition backbenchers - now have serious concerns. But in order for these decision-makers to stay strong, they urgently need a groundswell display of public support.
Got to the GetUp! campaign website to sign the petition, or if you have already, pass the word around:

[Photo: Michela]

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Japan's pro-whaling vote win on IWC

For those following the anti-whaling debate here (and elsewhere), I thought I'd post a quick follow up: Japan won some votes at the IWC conference in St Kitts and Nevis, including one declaring that the morotorium on whaling was no longer needed. Ouch! A bad day for whales! It made the headlines in Australia, including this ABC News online piece: Japan wins symbolic pro-whaling vote.

However, the whaling lobby also lost some key votes – including their move to introduce secret ballots at the Commission, which was seen as a move to enable Japan's small-nation allies to vote in its favour without being accountable to the rest of the conference.

The ABC News online article has excellent coverage of the IWC outcomes, (including audio-on-demand) so I suggest checking it out.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Death in Iraq

The number of US troops killed in Iraq has reached 2,5OO, the US administration has announced. Each death is an agonising thing for families of dead soldiers, but will this be the magic number that further tips US public sympathy against Bush's war?

Tragically, we can barely know how many Iraqi civilians have been killed to date. ABC news has reported "Each month now [Baghdad's] morgue receives about the same number of gunshot deaths every month that it received during the whole of last year."

They don't know how many dead are brought to other morgues. How can we accurately know the toll this war is having on Iraqi civillians?


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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The myth of nuclear power's greenhouse benefits

I was told a while ago that generating nuclear energy emits far more greenhouse gas than coal power – along its whole process: from digging uranium out of the ground, to purifying it, and more. It is nice to see this reality check making it in the media. Check out this excellent piece from The Age Debunking nuclear myth of greenhouse friendliness:
"…nuclear power isn't neutral when it comes to greenhouse gases. On the contrary, greenhouse gases are emitted at every step along the way to generating nuclear power."
The authors are Alan Roberts, a physicist and former member of the (advisory) nuclear safety committee of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, and Christopher Scanlon who's a researcher with RMIT University's Globalism Institute and a co-editor of Arena Magazine. Yes, it is possible for scientists and social commentators to make educated, informed and critical contributions to the nuclear debate!

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Greenpeace anti-whaling advertisement

In the comments to a previous post on whaling and the IWC, Mike Bogle posted the link to the Greenpeace television advertisement against whaling. I'm not sure what the hoo-ha was, I didn't think it was that gruesome (though I agree, young kids shouldn't watch it, Mike). I thought the reference to whale watching clever though.

I thought I'd post the link here for all to see. Here is the link to the Greenpeace webpage – check out the video ad yourself.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TV advertising sucks

It's worse when it's on public television! Barista has covered the move to have advertising during programmes on SBS television very well, so I thought I'd plug it here. (Also, see his earlier post here.)

Barista notes that while industry insiders are appalled at the move, they are:
…desperate for money, and culturally valuable television in Australia is deep in crisis caused, simple and entire, by the federal government’s brutal refusal to fund it properly at a time of huge surpluses.
I was appaled to hear it, but strangely not as appalled as when I heard the rumour (quickly quashed) earlier this year that advertising was to be introduced on the ABC. Perhaps that is because we have gotten used to ads between programmes on their chanel. The early critics of advertising on SBS were right: it was the thin end of the wedge.

What is so frustrating is that we are getting more and more dismayed at the consumerism and advertising on TV - especially when our five-year-old son watches commerical television. We already try to limit his television viewing – especially how much commercial TV he watches.

We felt that at least ABC and SBS could be our family's shelter from the belowing crassness and jingoism of advertising, our last footholds against consumerism. That's what makes this latest move so frustrating. What next? Turn off the TV?


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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"We breathe it out and plants breathe it in"

RealClimate, a great collaborative blog by climate change scientists, have posted this report on a PR campaign by an industry lobby group trying to debunk climate change that is runing ads on US TV. (The ads can be also viewed online.)

One of their adds includes this breathtaking observation about CO2: "we breathe it out and plants breathe it in." It therefore surely can't be dangerous, goes their rationale.

Uhuh. A regular reader, David, had alerted me to the adds on earlier, but I was just too flabbergasted to post on it. Take a look, laugh, then worry about how idiotic and scheming the global warming sceptics are... Interestingly, RealClimate drew a parallel with the kind of PR stuff the tobacco industry ran.

This beaut graphic is also via Real Climate. I love it.

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Now this is a whale of a branch stack

"For the first time since the 1970s, the IWC would be under the control of the whalers," says Vassily Papastavrou, a marine biologist with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The BBC News website reports that the pro-whaling nations are set for a majority on the International Whaling Commission when it meets this year. They report that:
A pro-whaling majority could lead to the scrapping of conservation and welfare programmes, though not a return to full-scale commercial whaling.

…a simple majority would be enough to end IWC work on issues which Japan believes to be outside its remit, such as welfare and killing methods, whale-watching and anything concerning small cetaceans such as dolphins.
Basically, whaling nations have been lobbying their 'mates' to join the IWC in order to get the numbers in their favour. Some countries, such as the Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Cambodia, joined at Japan's behest. Some of these are what can only be called 'client states'. There have been past reports that a number of South Pacific island nations have voted in favour of Japan's whaling stance on the IWC because they are heavily reliant on Japan's investment and aid money. This, however, is taking branch stacking a little too far...

This reminds me that whaling is an issue all year round, and not just at hunting season, and that the campaign should continue…

[Thanks to David for the tip.]

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Howard's nuclear hypocrisy

I heard Greens Senator Bob Brown on ABC radio last night strongly rejecting nuclear power as a response to global warming (as consistent with his environmental record). He argued that increasing energy efficiency would have greater impact on CO2 emissions than nuclear power ever could.

More interestingly, he also exposed Howard's hypocrisy for opposing Iran's nuclear plans whilst advocating Australia's!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The anti-nuclear response grows

I concurr:
"to stand up and trumpet nuclear power as though it is on par with truly environmentally friendly options that - though sometimes less aesthetically pleasing - don't make our children glow in the dark is nothing short of idiotic." Acoustic Dad's Blog
It's nice to see the response in the Australian blogosphere is growing. And it is nice to see the Australian blogs tagging tool works! It led me to Acoustic Dad.

For reference sake, the trumpeting is being done by Howard and nuclear industry cronies. See Howard himself, and here and here.


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Monday, June 05, 2006

12 pm Sunday, Camberwell Market

Flea markets (known as second hand markets here in Melbourne) were a passion of mine when I first arrived in Melbourne. A piece from a Susan Sontag novel rekindled that interest and inspired me to visit Camberwell market on Sunday to take some photos. I'm posting them here with exceprts from the Sontag piece that inspired me:

It is the entrance to a flea market. No charge. Admittance free. Sloppy crowds. Vulpine parking. Why enter? What do you expect to see? I’m seeing. I’m checking on what’s in the world. What’s left. What’s discarded. What’s no longer cherished. What had to be sacrificed. What someone thought might interest someone else.

But it’s rubbish. If there, here, it’s already been sifted through. But there may be something valuable, there. Not valuable, exactly. But something I would want. Want to rescue. Something that speaks to me. To my longings. Speaks to, speaks of. Ah…

Why enter? Have you that much spare time? You’ll look. You’ll stray. You’ll lose track of time. You think you have enough time. It always takes more time than you think. Then you’ll be late. You’ll be annoyed with yourself. You’ll want to stay. You’ll be tempted. You’ll be repelled. The things are grimy. Some are broken. Badly patched or not all.

… Some I will caress with my eye. Some I must pick up, fondle. While being watched, expertly, by their seller. I am not a thief. Most likely, I am not a buyer.

…A game of recognitions. To know what, and how much it was, how much it ought to be, how much it will be. But perhaps not to bid, haggle, not to aquire. Just to look. Just to wander. I’m feeling lighthearted. I don’t have anything in mind.
From Susan Sontag, ‘Prologue’, The Volcano Lover – A Romance, Vintage 1993

I didn't come away with any goodies – this time – but took a few half decent photos. My son found a matchbox car he liked. The photos are also on Flickr here.


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Friday, June 02, 2006

Nuclear power is not the answer

In response to the 'debate' on whether Australia should pursue: 1) mining and exporting more uranium; and 2) developing a nuclear power industry in Australia; as 'solutions' for dealing with global warming resulting from the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels, I say:


I hope to add more to this as the 'debate' wears on. Meanwhile, you are welcome to use this piece of agit-prop to support the argument against nuclear power. I'm releasing it under a creative commons license (see below). Basically I ask that you give me credit when you use the agit-prop, don't make a buck out of it, and don't manipulate it or rip it off.

This image is based on one by rev_bri and I credit him under the terms of his creative commons license.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

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Howard backs down on Snowy Hydro privatisation

"Now John Howard has backed down."
These words are so rare, they're priceless! They can't go unmarked. It seems that the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian governments' plans to privatise the Snowy Hydro scheme has collapsed.

It's nice when these things happen, especially when all the other instances of privatisation have gone so horribly wrong for the public!

It seems the Greens are taking credit for the back-down, arguing the legal opinion they sought on the privatisation triggered the crisis. Perhaps they deserve it. Along with the Victorian independent MP Craig Ingram, of course. Though, oddly, the NSW Nationals party (conservative farmers etc) are claiming people power!

Odd when left and right converge on these things...


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