Nice one Ma'am

When the British (and Australian ... go figure?) Queen decides that it is her turn to do something about reducing her energy footprint, she shows us how it is done:

London: The Queen is to go green after full planning permission was granted to run Windsor Castle on hydro-electric power.

The $2.3 million, four-turbine plant will be built at Romney Weir on the River Thames.
Charles has obviously been chewing on HRH's ear. His green credentials go way back.
The 56-year-old supported organic farming as far back as 1984, long before it became a mass consumer issue and his vociferous belief in conservation has often been ahead of the times

The Queen has her own army of devoted fans, and her going green in this way is a powerfull message to them.
Buckingham Palace said the royal household was pleased the project had been approved. "We're constantly looking at ways of saving energy," a spokesman for the Queen said. "We use energy-efficient lightbulbs at Buckingham Palace and recycle 99 per cent of green waste."

The electricity from the new plant will be fed straight into the Queen's Berkshire castle and not into the local grid. The plant will be the biggest of its kind in southern England.
HRH gets my vote, even though she does not run.


Why doesn't Carr Govt. consider recycling?

The opposition is gaining ground on the water recycling opion. It makes sense to me as this seems like a smarter place to look for a solution. Selling the idea of drinking recycled water should not be hard, if you know what research questions to ask.

A private survey two years ago by the group commissioned to explore attitudes to recycled water for the State Government found 87 per cent support for the concept.

Phone polling this month by the same company on behalf of the Government showed high levels of discomfort with drinking recycled water, but the survey did not ask about using recycled water for other purposes
The politics behind is starting to emerge
The survey two years ago by UMR Research was for the recycling proponent Services Sydney, which is locked in a legal battle over access to Sydney Water's sewerage system. It wants to supply sewerage services to big companies in competition with Sydney Water, treat their sewage and then sell the recycled water for non-potable uses.

The State Government is refusing to support the proposal because it says there is an insufficient market for non-potable recycled water.

The 2002 UMR research, based on telephone interviews with 900 people in three marginal state electorates, found that 76 per cent said they were worried about the amount of waste being discharged out to sea. After prompting they expressed concern with Sydney Water's plans for the future, and 87 per cent said they wanted recycling.

Greens MPs have said the latest UMR study used loaded questions. People were asked about their comfort levels with drinking "recycled sewage including toilet water treated to drinkable standards".

Anne Davies
I am to understand that the drinking water in London has already passed through 9 sets of kidneys. It tastes fine.

Sydney - home of desalination nation?

The spot where English explorers first set foot on Australia is potentially set for the rebirth of a new Australia - the desalination nation.

I must admit the supposedly green NSW Premier's proposal for a carbon intensive desalination plant at Kurnell, Sydney caught me by surprise.

Yes we have a water crisis, an immediate one and a bigger looming one, but I am just not sure that putting more carbon into the atmosphere is the way to go. Bob Carr knows this, right?

For the green premier who once called desalination "bottled electricity", it's a potentially poisonous issue because recycling is a kind of motherhood concept, and desalination is an energy-intensive option that will increase the state's greenhouse emissions.

What is really needed is a dialogue with the locals.
Going to Dubai last week to announce the home of Sydney's first desalination plant may have provided Bob Carr with a telegenic backdrop, but it has also proved a politically expensive stunt.

As the Premier travelled to the Middle East and London, the desalination issue spun out of control.

Local groups at Kurnell were not happy; environmentalists branded it a breach of his promise to tackle carbon emissions; and the Opposition gained ground on its preferred option of a recycling plant .

My first question is, 'why, when the Sydney basin is geographically designed as a smog trap, do we want to increase the amount of emmitants into the atmosphere?'.


Study: Those bullied by life bully nature

Let me get this straight. So the rich (in Sydney) don't chop down the trees in their areas because somehow the notion of watching the jungle reclaim their upsized backyards helps ease their consciences about having too much power? And the poor get to take their powerlessness out by dominating nature with the backyard chainsaw?

Wealthy Sydney professionals live in leafy North Shore suburbs because the trees on the streets make them feel comfortable with their power in society, according to a new study.
This week's Institute of Australian Geographers conference will hear that tree cover in city suburbs is closely related to authority and alienation.
Jamie Kirkpatrick, a geographer at the University of Tasmania, thinks less affluent urban dwellers often feel powerless in their work and personal lives, so they exert authority by removing the flora around their homes.
Middle-class home owners, on the other hand, want a break from being in charge, and enjoy returning to a wilder, more out-of-control environment.
What bizzare behaviour ... I usually find that getting a jolly good flogging from Mistress Amanda to be a surefire salve when I start fretting about the heady power (courtesy of this blog) that I wield.

Interesting theory, but I don't think this applies where a tree comes between a property owner and their harbour view. The Sun Herald reported on 29/10/2000 that
Professional hit men target harbour trees
WEALTHY residents in Sydney's eastern suburbs are allegedly using "hit men" to poison trees and enhance their harbour views. One of Australia's wealthiest suburbs, Point Piper, has had 41 protected trees poisoned, lopped, or removed without permission over the past 18 months.
This must have galvanised some sort of action because there has been only one newspaper report on the subject in the Fairfax press since:
$110,000 fine threat to harbourside gardeners with view to a kill
Harbourside residents have been put on notice that they face hefty fines if caught cutting trees to improve their water views.
Sydney Morning Herald 20/09/2001

Karl Rove - what a snake!

It looks like Karl Rove is up to his armpits. Good, it makes me ill to think that he compromised one of his country's intelligence agents, Valerie Plame (I suppose it is OK I use her name now), for the noble end of protecting a conjured up casus belli:

Only the Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, and his staff have all the facts on their investigation at this point, but there is increasing evidence that Rove (and others) may have violated one or more federal laws. At this time, it would be speculation to predict whether indictments will be forthcoming....

Site Review: Ecological Footprint Quiz

The Ecological Footprint Quiz (©Redefining Progress) seeks to give you its best answer to the question of how much "nature" your lifestyle requires?

The Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard. After answering 15 easy questions you'll be able to compare your Ecological Footprint to what other people use and to what is available on this planet.

The concept behind an ecological footprint has been around for at least a millennium and a half; back in 5th century Anglo-Saxon England environmental footprints were known as 'hides' and 'hundreds'. A hide describes the amount of arable land it takes to feed a single family for a year, and a hundred describes how much land it would take to feed a hundred families.

I digress. I answered the quiz questions. They break down your Ecological Footprint into Food, Goods, Shelter and Mobility footprints. Press the button and Bob's your uncle:
CATEGORY --------------------- GLOBAL HECTARES
FOOD ........................................................ 3.1
MOBILITY ................................................. 1.9
SHELTER ................................................... 0.9
GOODS/SERVICES ....................................... 2.9
TOTAL FOOTPRINT ..................................... 8.8
8.8 hectares distributed globally in little furlongs, plots and parcels - so I'm not doing too badly, right?



Alright already! I hear you. It's not enough that they admonish me, they graphically drive home the point by whipping up 5.9 planets side by side. So? At least I have room to improve. Multiple global room it seems.

My Food Footprint has the biggest global hectarage (3.1) of all my categories. That's because I eat a lot of meat and dairy. Love it. I am a southern hemisphere born and bred carnivore who emigrated from one barbecue culture to another. I didn't spend evolution clawing my way up the food chain just to eat carrots and pumpkin forever. Nevertheless there are a few sound reasons to cut back on meat and dairy, including the looking after your heart and bowel. I wonder, how many global hectares could I cut back on if:

I cut back on rate of meat and dairy consumption to something more healthy, from Almost always to Often
A. How often do you eat animal based products? (beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products)
  1. Never (vegan)
  2. Infrequently (no meat, and eggs/dairy a few times a week) (strict
  3. Occasionally (no meat or occasional meat, but eggs/dairy almost daily)
  4. Often (meat once or twice a week)
  5. Very often (meat daily)
  6. Almost always (meat and eggs/dairy in almost every meal)
and conscienciously cut back on processed and packaged food, especially that from far away and thus reducing the impact of transportation?
B. How much of the food that you eat is processed, packaged and imported?
  1. Most of the food I eat is processed, packaged, and from far away
  2. Three quarters
  3. Half
  4. One quarter
  5. Very little.
  6. Most of the food I eat is unprocessed, unpackaged and locally grown.
Well my Food Footprint reduced a whole global hectare, from 3.1 to 0 2.1. And this seemed to have a positive effect on my Mobility Footprint, down from 1.9 to 1.8 (please explain?), and my Goods/Services Footprint, down from 2.9 to 2.8. I guess here I generate less landfill. Best of all I bring my Total Footprint in line with the national average of 7.6, a full 1.2 global hectares improvement. I am instantly rewarded from my aspiring good global citizenship by knowing that:
I rate Ecological Footprint Quiz 4.9 planets out of a possible 5 (I'm taking .1 off for being rude) assuming it employs an accurate methodology in its calculations. It does get one thinking, and potentially acting. You could find yourself involved in an email campaign to your local council to get them to consider commissioning an Ecological Footprint index for the community from the good people at Redefining Progress.

Breakthrough could make biodiesel commercially viable

What's all this about? In today's Letters to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald:

I read of various politicians pressing for the legislated inclusion of ethanol in petrol. Shouldn't they instead be calling for the use of the new technology announced by the University of Wisconsin that produces high-grade diesel from plants?

It was reported to be twice as efficient as ethanol production.

Chris Horn Summer Hill

I Googled myself up some encouraging news. It seems these University of Wisconsin scientists believe they are not far off the point where producing biofuels will be cost competitive to petrofuels:
Eco-dreamers have long hoped for a way to drive around without contributing to global warming, but the slow pace of progress in alternative fuel technologies has kept that vision from materializing. Now, a promising new process, designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and outlined in a paper that appeared in the journal Science on June 2, could be a significant step toward turning that dream into a reality.

The paper details a new way to produce biodiesel fuel, which is made out of plant matter. Traditional biodiesel refining uses only the fatty acids of a plant, which typically make up less than 10 percent of the mass of dried plants. Rather than converting only the fat, this new method promises to turn all of the dried plant material, including roots, stems, leaves, and fruit, into biodiesel or heat energy.

Ethanol, the most popular and commercial biofuel, has long been refined out of plant matter, but it requires the costly, energy-intensive step of distilling every molecule of water out of the solution. In contrast, the new biodiesel process is based on aqueous phase reactions, which don't need to go through the expensive distillation phase.

"The biggest advance we have to offer is the lack of that distillation process," says George Huber, one of the paper's authors and a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin who will soon be teaching at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "That means that our process is exothermic." In other words, it doesn't need a lot of extra energy. And that's important, because the largest cost in the current biofuel refining process is energy.


Measure your ecological footprint

I found this little gem; a website that will work out your annual impact on the planet. Tomorrow I'll have a closer look.

Food-chains: it's poisonous at the top

Peregrine petral poo pollutes pristine parklands:

Washington: Seabirds can spread pollutants such as mercury and pesticides across the Arctic in their droppings.

The finding, published in the journal Science, surprised experts, who had presumed that the chemicals were being spread only by atmospheric winds.

It could help explain the high levels of such pollutants found in the bodies of people living in and near the Arctic region, far from the industries that produce them.

The birds eat fish, squid and other animals that concentrate the chemicals in their bodies. The chemicals are concentrated even more in the bodies of the birds.

The birds, some of which range for thousands of kilometres, then rain polluted guano onto once-pristine environments, Jules Blais of the University of Ottawa and colleagues found.

"The effect is to elevate concentrations of pollutants such as mercury and DDT to as much as 60 times that of areas not influenced by seabird populations," said John Smol, a biology professor at Queen's University in Ontario.

Aren't we humans on the top of our food chain and thereby subject to the same problems of toxic accumulation?

Mercury; a planet, an ancient Greek god, or gum rot?

To answer my own question:

Aren't we humans on the top of our food chain and thereby subject to the
same problems of toxic accumulation?

A quick google reveals that gold mining is a mercury intensive activity. Patterns of high mercury accumulation have been showing up in people directly affected, by mining, and people indirectly affected, by eating contaminated food. As this abstract by Marcello M. Veiga and John A. Meech University of British Columbia, Department of Mining & Mineral Process Engineering explains:


Mercury accumulation in humans has two main pathways in the Amazon: a) occupational exposure to vapours and b) methylmercury transferred by the fish.

Inhalation of mercury vapours is more significant for "garimpeiros" and gold shop workers. Once in the lungs, Hg is readily oxidized forming Hg (II) complexes which are soluble in many body fluids. As well, metallic Hg is also soluble in lipids allowing a rapid diffusion through the cell membranes (alveolar walls) followed by transport by blood lipids to sensitive tissues, such as the brain. The ultimate effect of Hg and related compounds is the inhibition of enzyme action.

From knowledge of metabolism and human experience with Hg inhalation, the critical organs are: (Suzuki, 1979)

lungs in short-term exposure to high levels,
kidneys in an exposure of moderate duration to considerable levels
brain in long-term exposure to moderate levels

Total elimination can take several years. The half-life of mercury in the brain is longer than in the kidney, thus urine Hg levels would not be expected to correlate with neurological findings once exposure has stopped. Short-term exposure to high levels causes clinical symptoms which mainly involve the respiratory tract. Hg levels in the urine of new workers should be lower than those of workers with a longer duration of exposure. (Suzuki, 1979; Stopford, 1979).

The symptoms usually associated with mercurialism are erethism (exaggerated emotional response), gingivitis, and muscular tremors. A person suffering from a mild case of Hg poisoning is usually unaware of the illness because the symptoms are psycho-pathological, such as irritability. Such ambiguous symptoms can lead to incorrect diagnosis (Jones, 1971; Cassidy and Furr, 1978).

A level of 60,000 µg/m³ was measured by Malm (1991) in the air when amalgam is burnt in pans. Urine samples have shown Hg levels >20 ppb for "garimpeiros" burning amalgam daily, whereas levels between 10 and 20 ppb were observed for those burning amalgams 2 or 3 times per week. Normal levels are below 10 ppb. Symptoms such as visual constriction, irritability, decreased memory and metallic taste were detected among the workers of gold shops in Alta Floresta (CETEM, 1991).

When intoxication takes places via food, in particular fish, most mercury is accumulated in methylated form (Huckabee, 1979, Padberg, 1990). High Hg levels (21 to 206 µg/l) have been found in the blood of individuals living distant of mining activities in the Amazon (GEDEBAM, 1992). Normal blood levels for unexposed people is 6 to 12 µg/l. A level of 200 µg/l (ppb) is reported as the lowest blood level observed in the Niigata incident in Japan, at which significant symptoms were observed (Nelson et al., 1971).

Fish caught in one Amazonian city showed Hg levels ranging from 0.009 to 2.75 mg/kg (ppm). If fish containing 0.5 ppm Me-Hg are eaten daily, the Allowable Daily Intake of 30 µg/day would be reached for a 70-kg person by the daily consumption of 60 g of fish. Considering the Canadian limit of 13 µg/day of any kind of Hg, 60 g of a fish with 0.2 ppm of Hg are enough to reach the limit (Kurland, 1973; GEDEBAM, 1992; CWQG, 1987).

Poisoning is not restricted to miners and high Hg concentrations in the blood of children (>100 ppb Hg) have been measured. Mercurialism symptoms are not clearly identified owing to differences in the amount of Hg burnt, fish consumed, fish origin as well other masking effects such as tropical diseases, alcohol consumption, etc. A level of 6 µg/g Hg in hair is reported as the typical concentration derived from weekly ingestion of 0.2 mg Me-Hg or a daily dose of 20 µg for adults. Fish-eating people living in remote areas in the Amazon not impacted directly by mining activity, show levels as high as 150 µg/g Hg in hair, but no classical Minamata disease has yet been recognized (Malm, 1991).

Fish and other seafood have long been recognised as sources of mercury, with the highest concentration confined to species that grow to relatively large size and/or have a relatively long lifespan,19 in particular, large predators such as tuna and shark. The government guidelines recommend that any shark over 18 kilo should not be caught, as it would contain mercury above the accepted safe level. Crustacea which feed on the sea-bed, where pollution tends to accumulate, may also have high levels. At present in Australia, the legal maximum limit for mercury content of fish is one half part per million (0.5 mg/kg averaged over a multiple sample of fish).

It's not easy being yellow on blue.

Once commencing the Blogger process they ask you for a name. Right at Step 2, actually. I just wanted to blog on like everyone else is. Mine? About how I would like to live a greener lifestyle.

A name? Bloody hell. How about one that connotes a blog devoted to valiantly 'winning back the environment? Something like "greenback"? One word. That's good, there's a conscientious consumer angle in it. It doesn't matter that people don't refer to $100 notes as 'green backs' anymore, I am at Step 2 and need a name.

greenback.blogspot.com is not available, Blogger tell me matter-of-factly; your wacko idea has already been taken mate. So then, something straightforward; like greenliving.blogspot.com.

Taken again. Just how feral is Blogger? Time to get lateral. Yellow and blue? My blog will be a broad green church. blueandyellow.blogspot.com is not available.

So ... yellow on blue it is! Hope you like it.

Step 3 is to write. They just push you out the door.