Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thanks to all our readers - we promise plenty more good stuff to come in 2010

Sometime in the next day or so this blog will get its 500th unique visitor since we started counting a month or two ago. Obviously our total visits is higher than this due to all the folks who have come back multiple times.

So from the authors of the TTKD blog to our readers, thanks.
We hope you found some useful stuff in our articles this year, we'll have plenty more to talk about this coming year (in fact, despite all the posts I've written, my list of potential topics for posts only gets longer).

Some of our most popular posts included
Our climate change science resources posts parts 1 and 2
Alternatives to plastics bags
Comments on how to get in touch with OZ politicians regarding climate change
The latest smear against climate science and scientists

So if you missed these posts, give em a look

Happy new year everyone, here's to a good 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How to build a garden box

If you find, like we did, that your attempts to grow a garden are being sabotaged by marauding raiders in the form of hungry scrub turkeys (or opossums) then you might want to fortify your position to protect your innocent vegetables. Thankfully, stone battlements and boiling pitch are unnecessary to ward of these raiders and a garden box can be made in a few hours with a some pieces of wood, nails and chicken wire.
Our method was not necessary the best, but it does show anyone can do it.

Here's what we did.

Measure out a likely spot, be a little less optimistic than we were about how close to the brick path is reasonable.

Construct the lid, a lid may not be 100% necessary but does provide excellent protection. Crossbeams provided the flimsy wood with some strength.

Add the chickenwire netting. This can be attached with staple type nails, single strips of wire and by winding the chicken wire around the wood and back onto itself.

Attach chicken wire to your corner stakes for your sides. Leave plenty of stake to dig into ground. We only attached two (opposite) corner stakes initially and added others once the size and fit of the edge was confirmed.

Once sides are done, start planting. We added some stones that were dug out of the garden area round the sides to discourage tunneling.

Attach the lid and there you have it. If you wanted to be fancy you could add a wooden top to the side pieces and then attached some hinges between this and the top for easy opening, but a few bits of wire or string work as well.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If you want change - Follow up with your political representatives

There were a number of good speeches after the Walk against Warming. For its relevance to how we can create change locally the speech from Cr Helen Abrahams was quite interesting.
Similar to her message at the day of action, Cr Abrahams emphasised that if we want to create change not just at a personally level, but at a local level, turning out for events such as walk against warming is necessary but not sufficient.
We need to follow it up with our political representatives.

The BCC has a policy of making Brisbane carbon neutral by 2026, for now, I'll let you decide how well that one is going.
The BCC also has a policy of being carbon neutral council by 2026, which does seem to be making progress.

But as Cr Abrahams pointed out, if we want change at the rate we know is necessary, we need to tell our political representatives. Some semi-quotes follow.
"the council uses 50% Greenpower and plans to move to 100% Greenpower in 2010, tell your councilor you support this"
"everytime the council builds a bikeway, fill-up that bikeway and then demand more and bigger bikeways".
"everytime the council adds a new bus, fill that bus and then demand another bus"

So if you want change - Use the "green" initiatives provided by the council and follow up with your political representatives!

On its current trajectory it seems unlikely Brisbane will be carbon neutral by 2026, but this is council policy, if you don't want this otherwise laudable aim to be simply window dressing ...... well, you know what to do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Big turnout for Walk against Warming - Thanks to all those who went along

Thanks to all those from TTKD who went along to the Walk Against Warming on Saturday. Compared to previous years the turnout was massive, both the QCC and the Courier mail are suggesting up to 10 000 people attended in Brisbane (although 5000 might be a better estimate), while over over 100 000 people are believed to have taken part nation wide. Hat tip to the QCC, Greenfest and all the community groups who helped make the day a success.
Check out the video from the QCC below or for some photos check here.

Hopefully such a large turnout will remind our politicians negotiating in Copenhagen that ordinary people really do want action on climate change. But in case you think it still hasn't quite got through to them consider sending a email to Wong and/or Rudd reminding them how important a fair, ambitious and binding deal at Copenhagen really is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Visualisation of the "debate" on climate change

I just came across this (what I think is) impressive visualisation of some of the claims and counter-claims made by climate skeptics and scientists. The author (not an expert on climate science) approached this project from the perspective of someone just beginning to learn about climate chnage. He makes an important point at the bottom of the post: that even on (for example), specific rebuttals to skeptics' claims can be buried in jargon, at the end of long chains of comments. Because of this issue, I think projects like this one are really important.

(I'm sure there are many other such things out there - please link to them in the comments!)

As Mike mentions in the comments, he posted a comprehensive list of resources earlier.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New uses for coal?

The following is an abridged version of an paper written by geologist and TTKD member Dr Lloyd Hamilton that first appeared in The Australian Geologist.
Since any discussion of coal usage can be somewhat controversial it is worth pointing out that, (intriguing as they may be), the views expressed below are solely those of Dr Hamilton.

A New Age of Coal Utilisation

Coal is essentially transformed sunlight and is surprisingly complex at the molecular level. This complexity continues to intrigue scientists and no chemist yet seems to know exactly what it is. Coal has a wonderful internal structure, with great molecular porosity. It may be a good reactor in nanotechnology. It can be used for a great many things but currently we mainly burn it for its heat energy or use it as a reductant for coke making. It is time to consider other ways of using coal.


It is true to say that the coal industry has made great changes and has reached a great level of efficiency but the changes associated with this have not been very radical and the changes have more or less been forced onto the industry by economic necessity. Generally there is much conservatism in the industry.

Conservatives resist change whether it is in approaches to industrial innovation or attitudes to preserving nature. Everything changes and if we do not adjust we become the ashes of history. When wood became too valuable to burn in England the Industrial Revolution began with coal as a substitute. Now it is time to move on beyond that. Some houses are being built out of plastics now.


It seems unreasonable to think the industry can keep going on in a straight line in a conservative manner. Alternative markets can open up or close down. Australia has only 8.3% of the world's coal whereas China has 11.6%. USA has the most coal with 25.4% of the world’s coal (World Energy Council, 2005. The figures quoted relate to total proven recoverable reserves for the end of 1999).

Australia has been the world’s largest exporter of hard coal since 1984. China is now the world’s fifth largest coal exporter. Will China keep buying coal from Australia when it has developed its own infrastructure? Or will Australia develop its infrastructure while China develops her infrastructure so that when they are both ready Australia’s extra infrastructure will be redundant?

Alternative sources of energy are emerging. Nuclear power has its problems but who knows when fusion power will sweep these aside? Hot rock exploration is well underway with three companies in Australia. Wind power and other forms of renewable power sources are now being taken seriously.

Sooner or later, the wholesale combustion of coal will have to be curtailed and reduced to levels lower than those of the 1990s -- especially as the Third World countries become more industrialised.


The industry can keep fighting this trend, but it seems inevitable that it will lose. So what is to be done? Plenty! Coal has a whole range of uses which can be employed. The first plastics were made of coal, and there are other avenues to be explored

Coal can probably be turned into food, and there should be a big market for that as the world population increases and food resources decrease. Coal is unstable and therefore a potential food source for microbes. Coal seldom forms outcrops, but degrades to a sooty soil-like substance. Microbes, including slime moulds, come in a vast array of varieties. Could some of these feed on coal and be used as a feedstock for lower plant forms or animals, which in turn, going up the food chain, could eventually be fed to chickens, pigs and rabbits, and then to us.

In may not be easy to find microbes that break coal down, especially without oxidising it, but there is a vast array to choose from. Microbes can live in temperatures ranging from freezing to boiling, and under a wide range of pressures and chemical environments. Some can live in environments that are particularly toxic to others. The utilisation of coal with microbes also has potential other than that as food stocks, giving a wide vista of exciting possibilities.

Coal might also be used directly for making carbon fibres. Currently, carbon fibres are made from special graphitizing carbon compounds, but it is probably quite possible to make carbon fibres directly from certain types of coal. In particular, I am thinking of coking coals of very high fluidity or thermoplasticity. Such coals could easily be made to produce fine fibres, and these would probably graphitize easily. When carbon fibres become cheaper imagine the uses expanding for them. They are already used in making golf clubs and tennis rackets and aeroplane propellers. They could replace steel in many applications.


“Coals aint coals” and different coals will have different uses. Brown coal may be best for most sorts of microbial transformations for food use. Bituminous coal may lend itself to quite different microbial effects. Carbon fibres will initially be made out of rather special coking coal of high fluidity. Anthracites are closer to graphite in molecular structure and would lend themselves to a different potential range of uses.

Different components in coals may have different uses. Currently, macerals are not separated from parent coals as this adds unnecessary expense but if valuable uses were found, then it would be possible to use macerals separately e.g. resinite for plastics and inks, sporinite for waxes, vitrinite for carbon fibres, and inertinite for activated carbon.


Ultimately, coal is too valuable to burn. Imagine the future when your great grandchild grows up to use coal in a whole lot of new ways. Will he say ” why didn't my ancestors see the great value in this wonderful material?” ” Why have they squandered our heritage and resources?” “Why did they burn it to give us greenhouse problems?” and ”Why did they sell our coal at a price lower than that of crushed road aggregate when it is so valuable for other uses?”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Permablitzing Kenmore Part2

Well what a resounding success the first permablitz was! Fourteen enthusiastic and willing helpers turned out to transform a sad, weedy garden into a fantastic edible landscape. It was a very warm morning, even by 7 am, however the old saying 'many hands make light work' couldn't be more true - in just over two hours we had composted, mulched, planted and watered the whole site - and even had time to make a temporary compost heap out of the removed weeds. Not to mention the split logs generously provided by a couple of TT folk to make paths so that all plants are within easy reach - very helpful for watering already.

The mushroom compost I had delivered was great value - rich and fertile. Both the compost and sugarcane bales were delivered by Sapar Landscape Supplies at Mt Crosby (3281 7888). At about $48 m2, the compost was very reasonable - the delivery price to Kenmore is not cheap ($66 for 2m2) but on balance it was certainly a good trade off for me - I didn't have to worry about trailer hire, driving over to Mt Crosby, unloading the compost etc - so worth considering if you are time and equipment poor like me.

The amount of plants donated was incredible - seedlings, cuttings, seeds - of all different types. Rockmelons, watermelons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and corn went into the steep 'garage garden' (as I can't help but think of it). The narrow garden leading to the front door is now a fabulous herb garden with parsley, thyme, basil, oregano and lemon grass. In the front yard is some beautiful cassava, lettuce and galanga, not to mention one very special peanut tree. A young helper even pointed out a native tree species, a tuckaroo, already growing in the garden, which I would never have recognised and probably pulled out as a weed. Now I know better! There were even a couple of Madagascan bean seeds which I have potted out until they are ready for planting.

Best of all, the home-made lemonade, peach and iced tea ice-blocks to finish it all off were a very welcome treat. Let's definitely make that a feature of all our permablitz efforts!

Thank you so much Transition Town folk - what an amazing effort by all :) Just being able to enjoy a few moments each morning watering and wandering around the garden is truly lovely, and I can't wait to share the harvest. Next post - exploring water efficiency options. Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hackergate/Swifthack/Climategate and the war on science

Usually this blog doesn't focus much on the science behind climate change or the huffing and puffing of the climate denial industry, however the latest smear campaign against climate scientists has been widely (and often badly) reported in the media so I think a comment is warranted.

Recently a person or persons unknown hacked into the files of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK and stole over a decades worth of emails between the unit and other climate scientists around the world. These private files were then released on the internet. Unsurprising, after mining through thousands of emails, the hackers and the so called climate "skeptics" managed to find a few phrases in a few emails which they could take out of context. This is unsurprising given the candid nature of email between colleagues and the huge volume of emails stolen. The usual charges of "fraud", "conspiracy" "falsifying data" etc then emanated out from the climate denial machine.

What made this round of accusations different from the week before was the extreme lengths it is clear some people are willing to go to smear climate scientists and drag science itself through the mud. The timing of this action is unlikely to be coincidental and instead part of an effort to disrupt the current global talks on preventing dangerous climate change. A number of media outlets have picked up on this story and unfortunately have failed to dig a little deeper to see whether the "skeptics" accusations hold water when the emails are viewed in context, or with a basic understanding of what the scientists were actually talking about.

Below I have posted two very good youtube videos which do dig deeper to explain these emails in an accessable and entertaining way.
Recommend watching.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Walk against Warming - Dec 12th, 10am, King George Square

On Saturday 12th December rallies and concerts around the world will attempt to influence leaders at the UN Climate Change Meeting in Copenhagen to agree on a safe climate future. Support a safe climate future and add Brisbane’s voice to the global chorus on the 12th December by joining Brisbane’s Walk Against Warming.

When: 10am Dec 12th
Where: King George Square

There will be speakers and a concert after the walk starting at 12pm. Artists include Katie Noonan, Dallas Frasca and more.
The Community Climate Network Queensland which represents all groups working for action on climate change will have a banner that we can join under. The idea is to wear something blue or tie a blue ribbon as a unifying feature.

The best way to get there is to catch public transport. The King George Sq busway station is directly below the event location and the 444 Moggill to City bus stops there. King George square is also a quick walk from Central Station.

The walk against warming is our best and last chance to influence the Copenhagen meeting that we want a fair, ambitious and binding deal to prevent dangerous climate change.
Be there!

For more info see
Queensland Conservation Council

Friday, December 4, 2009

Action at Anstead

Well, we are definitely settling into our new patch here at Anstead. On the 4th Nov when the temp reached 36 degrees we had the insulation installed, thankfully early in the morning. The guys installing jumped into the pool to recover !

On Nov 5th we had the new 1.44KW (expandable to 2.5KW) PV system installed -temp 32 degrees. Our average output per day so far has been 6.68 kWh with consumption 9.5 kWh per day ( that swimming pool pump!) so by the time we add another 1KW to the system we should be self-sufficient. Doone only has one more panel to buy on ebay.

Fortunately the 2 rains we have had have nicely topped up the water tanks.
We have added a grape vine, 2 xfig trees, black zapote, guava,olive, lem
onade, pomelo, 4 passionfruits, 3x pawpaw, cassava, native frangipani, herbs, rocket, a few vegies, ferns, palms and bromeliads to our growing garden. The 3 mango trees are laden so we might have to have a mango drying workshop!

The aquaponics unit moved well. We didn't lose a fish and they are certainly having a growth spurt in this warmer
weather. We need more grow beds as there is too much nutrient for the amount of plants we have resulting in too rapid growth.

AND, the point-of -lay chooks have started laying AND they put themselves to bed on only the second night of residence. I wish I had trained my children that well when they were young!
We would love to hear what's happening at your place!
Carol & Doone

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Permablitzing Kenmore

You can see why I was more than happy to be the guinea pig permablitz garden! This garden is an exercise in the importance of planning, planning, planning. Check out the interesting ‘garage garden’. Apparently the driveway was too steep to use, so the then owners decided to turn it into a garden – rendering the double garage unusable without extensive renovation and waterproofing (the amount of water that raced through there back in the May floods had to be seen to be believed). The garden was planted out - with declared weeds. These then had to be removed, leaving unsightly stumps and not much else. An efficient drip and spray watering system was installed to water those weeds – unfortunately, because of current water restrictions this is not allowed to be used either (okay, that one was hard to foresee, but for anyone thinking of using one, well worth considering now!).

With all the benefit of these prior learnings, I thought the best thing I could do was to call in an expert to help me plan what to plant and where. Scarlett Patrick from Brisbane Local Food was fantastic with the help and advice she gave - even taking time out from her own house-painting to come out to my place to have a look. She has some awesome gardening tips on her own blog too - check out her no-dig gardening powerpoint, and the photos of her regular garden harvest - you can find it on her profile page at
I think she was a bit daunted when she first laid eyes on the site, but quickly advised composting, mulching and came up with some ideas for edible plants that are relatively easy to grow and will hopefully thrive. So a big thank you to Scarlett for her generous time and advice.

Next thing, I co-opted my eldest son and we got stuck in and started weeding – a very hot experience last weekend I must say. I concentrated on the herbaceous weeds whilst he applied muscle and machinery to the woody weeds that were sprouting up everywhere. The most common one appears to be chinese elm which seems to be rampant around this area. I think the cobblers peg has been unchecked for a long time and it has taken months of continuous removing and binning to even make a dent in it. I’ll keep you all posted as to how successful we are at keeping this down. We made great headway and finished the day off with a thoroughly enjoyable water fight (buckets only of course!). Next post, I'll upload the photos of the prepared areas and the types of plants that Scarlett recommended.