Monday, November 30, 2009

Some pictures from Totnes, birthplace of Transition Towns

Recently, Marion Forrest from TTKD visited Totnes in the UK to attend a course at Schumacher College.
Following is her description of some Transition initiatives being undertaken in the Totnes area.

Transition Town Totnes is focused on creating a vibrant, local, resilient community. The movement, in my opinion, has been lucky to be associated with Schumacher College with its holistic teaching and out of the box thinkers as well as The Dartington Hall Trust which owns 1,200 acres of land and buildings thus allowing a relatively small community to be firmly in charge on the community land and infrastructure. That has enabled them to forge ahead and create their own future

Some positive outcomes which I saw in the Totnes area are:

Water wheels are being recommissioned to produce some local electricity

Greyfield Timber Business, a carbon and waste-neutral integrated wood business, is being constructed with of the main building and a kiln to dry the wood both being made with straw bale. It aims to be fuelled by its own waste and hopes to supply local markets with quality, locally sourced timber products.

A small low-carbon farm has sprung up on unused School ground and uses minimum tillage and low mechanization practices. It is now supplying directly into the local area a few boxes of food per week plus quality vegetables, fruit and cut flowers.

A demonstration Research Plot has been set up attached to the Schumacher College by Martin Crawford. Martin has 20 years experience of Organic Horticulture, Agriculture and Agroforestry and advised us that with climate change challenges ahead, he has found he can provide an abundance of food by growing a variety of fruit & nut trees plus perennials as understory but not necessarily with natives at all – just what can/might be grown with increasing temperatures on the way.
He is hopefully that in the future, with good plant choices and minimal cultivation we could feed ourselves. He has another much larger plot elsewhere in Devon where he also does research.

New businesses are being subsidized by the Darting Hall Trust until they can stand alone.

Can we learn from some of this here in Brisbane?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Community Climate Network Queensland now has a website

A few months ago, representatives from a number of climate action groups in Qld (including TTKD and the SEQ Transition Town Network) came together to form the Community Climate Network Queensland (CCNQ).

CCNQ now has a website

Currently it is in a very basic and initial form, but eventually it will help to bring together all the various climate action groups and provide a one-stop-shop for news, events and information on climate action and climate change in QLD.

Check it out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Climate Change Science: Resources part 2

In part 1 of this series I listed some websites that provide useful information on climate change. In this post (part two) I will provide links to specific figures and graphs on areas of climate science.

Please note that many important climate science figures come from the IPCC reports and scientific papers which are often not available to view online (although the IPCC reports are free to download) so some figures necessarily come from websites which have copies.

One website that collates scientific images in one place is: Global Warming Art. Other links are provides in the drop-down boxes below.

+/- Temperature and temperature trends - click to expand

Graph of the surface temperature record (land and ocean) from NASA GISS
-Technical note: Green bars are uncertainty estimates, base period ie: temperature anomaly of 0 is 1950-1980

Temperature trend calculator (Hot-topic website)
- situated within an article (so scroll down to find) this interactive gadget displays the temperature trend of the instrumental record.

Recent temperature trends (RealClimate website)
- heard skeptics claiming warming has stopped, what does the science actually show? Graphic show upwards temperature trend over the last ten years.

Statisticians reject global cooling - another rebuttal to skeptic disinformation

NCDC - State of the Climate
-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) gives all the climate information you could want to poke a stick at (surface temp, atmospheric temp, rainfall, ice extent etc etc).

+/- Carbon dioxide levels, comparison with temperatures and humans vs volcanoes

Carbon dioxide levels over the past 400 000 years (NASA)
-shows the steep rise in C02 since industrialization

Comparison of CO2 emissions from volcanoes vs. human activities (US geological survey)
-another skeptic favourite, to bad "Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes". To find, click on the "effects" tab and then scroll down.

Correlation of C02 and temperature (Skeptical science)
-Show graphical relationship between C02 and temperature over 450 000 years. Plus explains (rather technically) why C02 changes lag temperature changes during iceage- interglacial transitions.

+/- Sea level rise and ice melt (Glaciers, Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic)

Recent sea level rise (CSIRO)
Last few hundred years (CSIRO)
- note that the average 20th century rise was 1.7 mm/yr. While in the last two decades it has been 3.3 mm/yr. It would appear sea level rise is increaseing in speed.

Accelerating ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland (Skeptical science)
- Review results of a recent scientific paper which shows rapid increases in ice loss from Antartica and Greenland

Melting of glaciers (Sketpical science)
-Combines results from several papers to show how almost all studied glaciers are melting

Melting of arctic ice cap
-shows how both winter ice extend and especially summer ice extent have decreased. Scroll down to figure S2.

Solar activity vs temperature rise
No correlation between solar activity and global warming (Skeptical science)
-summaries scientific papers on solar activity.

Attribution of climate change - two slightly different ways of looking at it
Effect on radiative forcing (IPCC FAQs)
Effect on temperature (Global warming art)

The Earths energy balance and how we know global warming is occurring
(Skeptical science)
-summaries several lines of evidence to show how we know the earth is warming due to greenhouse gasses.

Comparisons of emissions from different countries (Washington Post)
-shows levels of emission per country and per capita up to 2006. Australia is the 15th biggest polluter worldwide per total emissions and the 2nd biggest per person.

C02 abatement cost curve
. Created by McKinsey and Co. Shows the "cost" and effect of various emission reduction strategies by 2030. Note that many ares especially in efficiency save money.

Friday, November 20, 2009

From now till Copenhagen - What you can do

It is now literally just over two weeks to the UN Climate meeting in Copenhagen, where nations will attempt to thrash out a treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The main object inhibiting a strong global deal is a lack of political will, especially on the part of the rich, polluting nations. So now is our last chance to apply political pressure and spur more political will.
Here are some ways you can do this:

1) Write to Kevin Rudd
The Queensland Conversation Council (QCC) have an online petition/letter to Kevin Rudd you can send from their website. Use their suggestions or formulate your own message and remember than individualized letters get more attention.

Oxfam also have online letter writing tools at their site A Climate for Change. They are pushing Kevin Rudd to provide finance to developing countries so they can develop cleanly. If I fair deal for developing countries is important to you, tell him.

2) Write to the Liberals and tell them to get serious about preventing dangerous climate change and start supporting a clean energy economy.
Send a message to Malcom Turnbull

3) More powerful than emailing your local MP is to call their office and speak to them, or even meet with them. Although there isn't much time to set up a meeting, you could still give them a call. The ACF has some information here to help you do this.

4) Talk to your local or a visiting MP at a community event.
MP's attend community events all the time, providing an opportunity for you to speak with them and such events will often be on their website/ in the local paper. For example Independent Senator Nick Xenophon will be visiting the Ryan federal electorate in just over a week. Perhaps a few people from TTKD could have a chat with him?

5) Protest outside your local fedreal MP's office
Get a group together and stage a protest outside the office of your local MP telling them to get serious about preventing climate change. Such a protest would be more effective if your MP is in the electorate and not in Canberra. If actions 3&4 (above) doesn't work this should get your MP's attention.

6) Sign one (or more) of the many international petitions.
eg: Survival Pact
: Seal the deal! The UN campaign on Climate Change
: Tcktcktck - "I'm ready" (for a fair ambitious and binding climate deal)

7) Attend the Walk Against Warming. On December 12th, during the Copenhagen conference, there will be a world wide day of climate action with people calling for a strong deal on climate change. In Brisbane there is the Walk Against Warming starting and finishing in King George Square followed by speakers and a concert. Event starts at 10am. Be there!

8) And most importantly, talk with your friends, family and neighbours and if they are concerned about preserving a safe climate and avoiding dangerous climate change ask them to take these actions too. If they are confused about climate change, you can always tell them to start here.

That's a few off the top of my head. If you have more ideas please leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Climate Change Science: Resources part 1

Following on from our successful Climate Change Q and A, here are some resources where you can find out more about climate change science, the effects climate change is having now and the predictions for the future.

I'll be splitting the resources post into two parts. This (part 1) will contain links to websites with lots of information on climate change. Part two will be links to specific graphs and figures on areas of climate science. I'll also add some links to the sidebar on the blog.

Websites with information of climate change:

NASA - climate change. Brief easy to understand descriptions of evidence, causes, effects etc.
UK Met office - Your guide to climate change. Lots of information here.
RealClimate - "Start here". RealClimate is a website/blog run by climate scientists, the Start Here page is full of links to climate change information graded by your amount of knowledge (from complete beginner to lay informed)
Coby Becks' - How to talk to a climate skeptic. Debunks common myths about climate change.

IPCC 2007 (AR4) Report - The consensus science on global warming.
There are three long working group reports and a synthesis report tying it all together. Mostly available as PDFs only.
Start with the Synthesis Report's: Summary for Policy Markers (SPM) which is written for a lay audience. Then try the synthesis report itself or the SPM from the individual working group reports.
The IPCC does provide online FAQ's. These help to explain a lot about the climate and climate change.

NASA - Temperature Record (GISTEMP) - Lots of informative graphs showing temperature changes since the instrumental record began.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week - Peter Sinclair's produces short, easy to understand Youtube videos to explain climate science and rebut deniers.

RealClimate and Skeptical Science. Two websites that provide commentary on the scientific literature so that it is understandable to an informed lay audience. RealClimate also allows you ask working climate scientists questions, however it is recommended you gain a reasonable understand of climate science first. Their Start Here function can help you with this.

Update 25.11.09
A group of leading climate scientists have just released the "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" which updates the climate science since the IPCC AR4 in 2007. This report is written for a non-technical audience and be downloaded or read online.


PS: I have tried to keep this list brief and link only some of the most reputable sites. However if you think there are other sites that deserve to be on this list please leave a comment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Moggill Markets - Bringing farm fresh produce to the western suburbs

Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a growing number of people interested in buying fresh, locally grown fruit and veges these days. For those of us who live on the west side of town, the Moggill Markets allow us to do just that.
Run fortnightly the Moggill Markets provide an authentic farmers' market which is closer by and less like being in a sardine can than at other popular markets such as at West End.

The Moggill Markets focus solely on food with a large number of stalls selling fresh fruit and veges as well as cheeses, meat, fish, yoghurt, breads etc.
In our experience the stallholders are friendly and happy to have a chat about their wares, give tips on how best to keep the food and help you pick out the best produce.
If you're hungry you can also grab something to eat at one of the food stalls.

The markets are located at Moggill State School and easy to get to, just a minutes walk from the 444 bus stop and with parking available if you drive.
The markets are run as a not-for-profit with the organizers donating all proceeds to the local school. Waste is also kept to a minimum as vege scraps are composted by the children at the school as part of their school garden.
Next market day is this Saturday the 21st of November. For more information see the Moggill Markets website.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

TTKD Nov Meeting. Understanding climate change: Spotlight on the "skeptics" and Climate Change Q & A

The November meeting is an opportunity to bring along friends, family, neighbours who are either inquisitive or skeptical to our

Q & A on Climate Change.

As we move closer to the important decision making event at Copenhagen we need to assist as many people as possible to be as fully informed as possible.

Dr Philip Machanick will be giving a short presentation
"Understanding the science by being skeptical of the skeptics." Looking at some of the "skeptics'" arguments and asking, how well do they really stack up? And, would a true "skeptic" believe their "evidence"?

Followed by a Q & A on Climate Change with our panel to help answer your questions and arm you with the knowledge to discuss climate change with friends and family.
On our panel are Dr Philip Machanick, Dr Doone Wyborn and Mike Clark.

If you have ever wondered.
Whats a tipping point? How do greenhouse gasses work? What's the lastest science telling us? What sort of a world are we leaving for future generations? How do we know it's not the sun? Then come along and find out.
Be informed, Be there!

Wed Nov 18th 7:30pm
Uniting Church Hall
982 Moggill Rd

Update: Following on from the meeting, a summary of reputable online resources on climate change has been posted here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vote for the best science blog

A site has been set up to vote for the best science blog. Go there to vote. Note the instructions: click on a "+" next to a site you like, don't nominate it again.

Three I recommend voting for:


I also modestly submitted my own for consideration; I don't know if it will appear because that is subject to moderation.

Search for each occurrence on the page. I'm not sure what effect multiple nominations have but the system allows you to vote for more than one, so you might as well vote for your favourite every time it's mentioned (click on the "+").

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recycling Fest - Sunday 15th November

The local pièce de résistance of national recycling week (9th to 15th of November) is Recycling Fest put on by the Cubberla-Witton Creek Catchment Network in Moore Park, Indooroopilly.

The theme, naturally, is reduce, reuse, recycle, as well as wider aspects of sustainability.
There will be heaps of stuff on the programme including:
- An art show of "waste" products
- Sustainable fashion
- Food and Music
- Op shopping
- Our mates from Food connect
- Storytelling, theatre and face painting for the kids
- Recycling, composting and wormfarm info
and a whole lot more including Transition Kenmore

So head on down, should be fun and you'll no-doubt learn something new about the three R's and hopefully the fourth - repair.

For more info see the Cubberla-Witton Creek Catchment Network website

Where: Moore Park, Indooroopilly
(access from Western Freeway bikeway, Russel Tce or Taringa Parade)
When: 10am to 3pm Sunday 15th of November

Friday, November 6, 2009

National Recycling week 9th-15th November

Continuing our waste and recycling theme lately (see here and here), next week (9th-15th of November) is National Recycling Week.

The best place to find all the info about the week is Planet Ark's National Recycling Week Website. There really is a plethora of info on the website including:

Fact sheets on recycling all different types of products.

A short recycling FAQ that answers some of those nagging recycling questions like, can I recycle bottle caps? and how much food on my pizza boxes makes them un-recyclable?
Answers: Metal caps yes, plastic caps no and as long as you have scrapped all the food out of the
pizza box and it's not too greasy, yes (otherwise give your worm farm a treat).

A list of National Recycling Week events, including Swap Meets and Parties as well as Recycling Festivals.
A recycling quiz, with prizes
Information on and link to various organisations that promote reuse and recycle in your local community through Trade and Exchange . For example LETS and Freecycle.

Another neat resource offered by Planet Ark is the Recycling Near You website.
Got an item you want to recycle but don't know how or who to send it to? Well try here, you can search by area or product.
For example did you know you can recycle X-ray films in Brisbane? Neither did I, but you can send them to Siltech Pty Ltd. So if you have stuff sitting in the cupboard or garage that you don't want to pump in the garbage because you think it really ought to be recycled, then check here, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Phthalates and PVC – the not good, the bad and the ADHD

At our last meeting, TTKD set up a packaging group to encourage companies to use less packaging, recyclable packaging and as this post will detail, non-toxic packaging. The case in point being the presence of Phthalates in PVC plastic.

Phthalates are added to some Polyvinylchloride (PVC and no.3 plastic) to make it more flexible and soft. However the phthalte molecules are not bound to the PVC and are able to leach or evaporate out. Some products made from PVC include food packaging, vinyl flooring, children's chew toys, pacifiers and children’s bottles.

Phthalates are also found in a wide range of other products (see the Wikipedia page of phthalates for an overview). While daily exposure to phthalates from a single product may be quite low (1), exposure to all the phthlalates that find their way into indoor air, foods, dust etc, from the many products containing phthalates, means the cumulative daily dose may exceed the safe maximum daily intake. Eg: In one study it was found that the "tolerable intake of children is exceeded to a considerable degree, in some instances up to 20-fold" (2).

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which essentially means they are reproductive and developmental toxins. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to a number of different adverse effects including:

Autism in children (3).
Asthma and allergies in children (4).
ADHD in children (5).
Obesity (6).
Abnormal sexual development due to prenatal exposure in males and because of this effect phthlates have been linked (along with other toxins) to the observed decrease in male fertility (7).

While many of these studies are very recent and need to be replicated they show a growing concern about the safety of phthalates and how they might “synergise” with other endocrine disruptors to cause significant deleterious health effects. Countries are now putting bans or limits on phthalates because of this and it would be sensible at an individual level to avoid products containing phthalates, which brings us back to PVC.

Currently PVC products are not marked at to whether or not they contain phthalates, meaning all Plasticized PVC (PPVC or just PVC) should be assumed to contain them and should be avoided.

So to summarise, products containing phthlates (of which PVC is one) are not safe, with children (both post-natal and pre-natal) being most sensitive to their deleterious effects. Because of this household use of PVC (no.3 plastic) should be avoided.

References (click to expand)

(1) Corea-Téllez KS et al 2008 Estimated risks of water and saliva contamination by phthalate diffusion from plasticized polyvinyl chloride. J Environ Health.
(2) Heudorf et al 2007. Phthalates: toxicology and exposure. Int J Hyg Environ Health.
(3) Larsson et al 2009. Associations between indoor environmental factors and parental-reported autistic spectrum disorders in children 6-8 years of age. Neurotoxicology.
(4) Jaakkola et al 2008. The role of exposure to phthalates from polyvinyl chloride products in the development of asthma and allergies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environ Health Perspect.
(5) Kim et al 2009. Phthalates Exposure and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in School-Age Children. Biol Psychiatry.
(6) Desvergne et al 2009. PPAR-mediated activity of phthalates: A link to the obesity epidemic? Mol Cell Endocrinol.
(7) Hu et al 2009. Phthalate-induced testicular dysgenesis syndrome: Leydig cell influence. Trends Endocrinol Metab.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A new month begins - so don't forget to calculate your GreenStreet Score

One of the best tools for helping us to individually reduce our carbon footprints and to help get our neighbours and communities involved as well is GreenStreets (for a run down on what GreenStreets is and how it works see here).
Part of keeping up to date with GreenStreets is to fill out a monthly 2 minute carbon footprint calculation to get your GreenStreet score for the month which you can compare with those of your friends, street, suburb and so on.
As per last month I will again be offering a prize for the TTKD member who gets the best (ie: lowest) score.
So if you havn't yet joined then I recommend you click here (it really is quite easy) and if you already have don't forget to calculate your score for the month. Feel free to post it in the comments, bragging is accepted but the moment of truth will of course be at our next monthly meeting.
Good luck!