Monday, January 31, 2011

Transition town member survey

Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand are conducting a survey of Transition Town members and have asked TTKD members to consider participating.

If you would like to participate you can here. Please note that Transition Kenmore is not providing any recommendation that you do so, just letting you know the survey exists if you would like to take a look at it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Paying for the floods: Rail devolution? and a billion dollar cut to solar power

Now that the flood clean up is well under way, governments are looking for ways to pay for all the infrastructure repairs that are needed, while I'm not planning on commenting on the federal government's flood levy I do want to look at some of the cuts.

In SEQ the biggest causality of the floods (so far) has been Cross River Rail, the $8.2B project to put a second rail link from Brisbane city across the river and so massively increase capacity on the "Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, Ferny Grove, Airport and Doomben" lines. This project had been seen as essential because the one current north-south rail bridge into the city, the Merivale bridge, is expected to reach capacity by 2016 after which there will be no room for extra peak time services. By delaying the four year long project for several years there is now no way it will be finished by 2016, assuming it is built at all (given that "several" years is a long time in politics). The implications for expanding the SEQ rail network are not good.

The cross river rail was to be the centerpiece of the State Governments long term SEQ transport plan, which ironically, had its main focus on a "rail revolution" and on increasing the sustainability of the transport network.

At the federal level things aren't any better with many the axe falling on many climate change and clean energy programs. While I'm not particularly sad to see the scrapping of "Cash for Clunkers" (an extraordinarily expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) what you probably didn't know was that this program was "funded" by raiding ~400 million from solar power programs in the first place. Now solar power has been cut again by the tune of another ~500 million. The net result is an almost billion dollar cut to solar power programs. Also cut was 230 million dollars from the Green car fund.

The government appears to be hoping the introduction of a carbon price will mean these clean energy cuts won't matter. This seems naive. Although a carbon price is widely regarded as the cheapest and most effective means to cut carbon we shouldn't consider it a magic bullet. In the short to medium term, even with a carbon price, the first installations of large scale solar will likely require some government assistance in the deployment stage. The Solar Flagships program is designed to do this and is now ~250 million dollars poorer.

Headslapping really begins when we consider the wider implications. Climate change likely played a role in exacerbating and/or increasing the likelihood of these floods. The government response to which has been to cut to climate change mitigation and sustainability programs to pay for the damage. I find myself in agreement with this commenter who said this is "like putting off a hospital visit for a serious wound to pay for some more bandaids".

Obviously hard decisions need to be made to find the money required for the flood recovery, actions, though, say a lot about priorities.

Not happy? You can contact the PM here.

PS: These are my personal opinions.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Foodconnect demonstrates the resilience of local food - business essentially unaffected by the floods

Listen to Foodconnect founder and local food visionary Rob Pekin talk on ABC radio about how Foodconnect was able to keep getting it's fresh fruit and veges from farmers to customers (including by boat and canoe when necessary) during the floods.

Pekin explains how the strong connections between local farmer, Foodconnect and local customer give it the agility and resilience to get food to people when the bigger players can't. Just one more reason to like Foodconnect, along with the benefits of getting fresh food from local farmers who receive a fair wage in return.

Listen here.

Esacalating food prices? Plant some Seeds!

Escalating food prices are a great impetus for us to take some steps towards helping ourselves by having some food in the garden. Its easy, fun and addictive. Just watch those seeds sprout!

We will be having seedlings for sale at our stall at the Moggill markets on Feb 19th, so if you any to spare & share please bring them along or contact Carol

One of our TT folk, Laura Willet, has taken the plunge and shares the following:

Some simple tips for growing your own

When sowing seed, add 1 teaspoon of epsom salts to the watering can.
This gives the seeds a growing boost. Save those cardboard egg cartons for sowing your seeds.

Save your own seeds. “The Seed Savers Handbook” - Michael & Jude Fanton, is a handy tool.

Save, share and swap seeds with family, friends and neighbours. How many of us throw out or compost seeds from pumpkins, pawpaws, tomatoes, cucumber, to name a few?

Join BOGI - Brisbane Organic Growers Inc. BOGI meets on the 1st Thurdsay of every month at the Peace Hall, 102 McDonald Road, Windsor. Ph: 33573171;
This is a great organization offering organic seeds, gardening books for loan and sale at cheap prices. Guest speakers, every month, speak on different topics, which certainly gets one thinking. Members are very friendly and helpful. Meet some long time members who have been gardening and growing their own for years, and also teaching others. The monthly newsletter is a great source of information and a very good read.

Join a community garden. (Yes Laura, we have been trying to get one locally for quite some time!- Carol)
The BCC website has links to various groups throughout Brisbane. There may be one just around the corner from your place. Like minded people, who are friendly and only too willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

BCC holds free workshops throughout the year on a variety of topics. Composting, worm farming, keeping chickens, growing organically, to name a few. Your local library will have brochures giving dates and venues.

It is very satisfying watching seed you have planted, emerge from the soil and grow into a plant. It is even more satisfying to eat your own, self grown produce.

More importantly, just have a go.
We all start somewhere. Not one of us is born an expert.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Resilience in electricity when the power grid fails

During the recent floods many were without power for 3 or more days. Some are still without. Here are a few ideas you might like to implement depending on your budget.

Five levels of security

1/ Recharge your mobile: In-Car charger <$10.00 or small solar powered charger $40.00

2/ Run a laptop from your car: Cigarette lighter inverter ~$80.00

3/ Run a small 12 volt camping fridge: Solar panel (120w), regulator and battery $800.00

4/ Keep your household fridge going: Solar array, regulator, battery bank, inverter

Solar panels (500w) $1500.00

Regulator (40 amp) $200.00 (available on ebay)

Battery bank (200 amp hour) $600.00

800w pure sine wave inverter $200.00

TOTAL COST $2,500.00

5/ Keep your house running with existing grid- solar system by adding a mini grid.

Add a generator change over switch $200.00

Extra solar panels (200w) $600.00

Battery bank (600 amp hour) $1,500.00

Regulator (20 amp) $100.00

800w pure sine wave inverter $200.00

TOTAL COST $2,600.00

Some alternatives:

1/ Buy a generator and use petrol or diesel which may not be available (use a changeover switch and connect up generator to house)

2/ Trade in your existing grid-interactive inverter for a Selectronics hybrid inverter and battery bank for around $9-10k.

2010: Warmest/Equal Warmest and Wettest year on record

Some of us may have been more preoccupied with flooding but several of the groups of scientists who take the earth's temperature have now reported back on 2010.

NASA reports that 2010 was the warmest year on record (going back to 1880), but so close in temperature to the next warmest year (2005) that the two are in a tie due to the margin of error in their measurements. The NASA graph below shows the steady warming of the climate since the 1970's.

NOAA, (essentially the American equivalent of the BOM) also find 2010 to be tied with 2005 for the warmest year of record. NOAA do more than just temperature though and also reported the interesting finding that 2010 was the wettest year on record globally, which is at least partially attributable to the El Nino and La Nina conditions experienced in 2010.

Both satellite datasets measuring the temperature of the lower atmosphere (which are separate to the surface temperature above) showed 2010 as the 2nd warmest year behind 1998, although again the difference was within the margin or error.
Why do the satellite datasets, but not the surface datasets above show 1998 as being part of the record hottest? I believe this is due to the lower atmosphere being more sensitive to the short term warming effects of El Nino and cooling effects of La Nina. 2010 was mostly dominated by an moderate to strong El Nino, 1998 had a record strong El Nino, whereas the 2005 El Nino was weaker. Given this, it is no surprise 1998 is more prominent in the satellite data. The fact that 2010 essentially tied with 1998 despite a considerably weaker El Nino hints at the growing warming influence of greenhouse gasses.
Overall, despite a bit of jostling for top spot between individual years, the different datasets agree very well and show similar long term warming trends.

And for the future? This prediction is from the head of the NASA group measuring the earth's temperature:
"If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long," said James Hansen, the director of GISS.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Improving energy efficiency: LED downlights

A 12V halogen example
I’ve been watching developments of LED lighting for some time, not least because my home has more than 20 of those stupid 12V recessed halogen downlights (illustrated, right), that are a fire hazard and not a very efficient way of lighting a whole room, even allowing that 50W of halogen lighting isn’t a lot of lighting compared with a few watts of LED. Why is a ceiling full of spotlights a better way of lighting a room than one or two lights with a wide spread, I ask with tears in my voice?

One of the obstacles to replacing them is mine have an electronic transformer creating the 12V DC these things need (a small fraction use AC, and I replaced those, though with LEDs that aren’t that bright).

Last night, one of the 12V models failed again, so I decided it was time to reopen my look at LEDs. Some have appeared on the market that have better electronics and can tolerate electronic transformers, but they aren’t cheap. On one web site with prices, replacing all of mine would cost over $700.

It would probably make more sense in terms of cost to pull all of them out and replace them with sensible fittings but I’d like to explore LED options a bit before going that way.

I will add to this article as I find out more, but if anyone has hints or insights, please post comments.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Editorial in The Age: Of droughts, flooding rains and climate change

Interesting editorial in The Age yesterday: Of droughts, flooding rains and climate change. Or as the subheading states: "We respond well to an emergency, but global warming is an emergency too."

An excerpt:

"The loss of life and property in Queensland and the resilience of those affected have gripped Australians. Victorians, too, pulled together during the bushfires, and will again during the current floods. We are good at emergencies, revealing ourselves a compassionate and resolute people. Yet dealing with longer-term threats is just as hard, and calls for different skills - political courage, patient explanation, refusing to be thrown by denialists and the self-interested. The time has come to devise a policy framework that will reduce our carbon footprint at a national and individual level."
Well worth a read as we begin to think about what we can do in the short and long term to prevent future disasters and adapt and build our resilience to those that will occur. I hope to have more to say on these topics in the near future.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Transition Kenmore Jan Meeting: Let's get together, take a breather and chat about the past couple of weeks

First off - we hope all our TTKD members, friends and families got through the floods ok.
As Carol said in her email, if you are in need of help, let her know and she can send out a call and gather some willing hands.

Our first meeting for the year is due next Wed 19th. As Carol outlined in her email, it feels appropriate to have a debrief from what we have gone through, to share experiences of how we coped and perhaps anything we can share with the wider community. So lets gather for a cuppa and a chat and celebrate resilience.

Usual place: Uniting Church Hall 7:30pm
982 Moggill Rd, Kenmore
Wed 19th of January

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The "study" linking MMR and Austism was a fraud

I realize this is a little off topic for the TTKD blog but this is an important health issue.

The study, conducted by disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield, claimed that the MMR vaccine was the “apparent precipitating event” for a syndrome of bowel problems and regressive autism. It is now clear that this paper was a fraud.

There was deep scientific skepticism about this study when it was first published. It involved only a small group of children (12) and the results were not supported by many subsequent studies looking at much larger groups of children.

In 2004 most of the other authors of the study retracted the supposed findings but Wakefield remained unrepentant. Last year the medical journal The Lancet fully retracted the paper after it was found that Wakefield had acted unethically, performing invasive procedures on children for which he did not have permission, which in most cases were found not be in the children's best clinical interest (amongst other things).

However, it gets worse, a long running investigation by journalist Brian Deer published in the British Medical Journal shows that the many of the papers results were falsified. Simply put, the conclusions of the study were not true. They were based on fraudulent data. Wakefield had changed diagnoses and misreported patient histories to create the data (and story) he wanted (see summary at the bottom).

And what of the consequences? Wakefield's fraudlent "study" lead to significant opposition to vaccinations, leading to falling vaccination rates and a lowering of the both individual and so called "herd immunity" we use to keep a number of diseases at bay. Hundreds of thousands of children in the UK alone are unprotected. Although we won't know the full impact for some time, some things are clear, lack of vaccination will lead to sickness (and death) from diseases which are completely preventable. And despite having his medical license revoked and being exposed as a fraud Wakefield continues to peddle his pseudoscience to venerable parents, seeking answers for why their child has autism. What a disgrace.

The summary from Brain Deer's article:

"How the link was fixed

The Lancet paper was a case series of 12 child patients; it reported a proposed “new syndrome” of enterocolitis and regressive autism and associated this with MMR as an “apparent precipitating event.” But in fact:

  • Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism

  • Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were “previously normal,” five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns

  • Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination

  • In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school “research review” to “non-specific colitis”

  • The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link

  • Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation"