Monday, April 30, 2012

Climate Matters. Z is for Zero

This post is for Z in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Zero population growth
Zero economic growth
Zero waste
Zero carbon emissions.

How difficult it is to choose only one of the above to dip in to for the last letter of the alphabet. There's so much left to blog about, so much left unsaid.  I began back at the beginning on the month looking at the power vested interests, the media and the advertising industry have over our perceptions and understanding of climate change. I've dipped into different aspects of this immensely complex and challenging subject with each subsequent letter of the alphabet.

Here we are at the end of the month, and not much has changed; forests are being felled. Creatures are being made extinct. Lands are being eroded. Arable land is being mined at an alarming pace. People are dying from climate related issues; lack of clean drinking water, malnutrition, flooding and drought. Australia is as tardy as ever in tackling the issue proactively, creatively and with courage, commitment and vision. Our politicians seem to prefer the "business as usual" scenario; "Let's not rock the boat, people might get a bit agitated when they understand the mess we've created and allowed to continue".

But there's one thing that could happen, relatively easily and economically that would make what is a potentially disastrous situation just a little better.

Zero population growth.

It took around 200,000 years for the population on Earth to get to 1 billion, but only just over another 200 years for it to reach 7 billion. An astounding 6 billion people were born in 200 years. That’s incredible! It’s the greatest population the world has ever known, and it brings with it challenges never before imagined or experienced.

China tackled the issue of overpopulation with determination
 and an awareness that to ignore the problem would be disastrous.
How to adequately sustain, shelter and feed the sheer volume of people is mind boggling to consider. Added to this is the goal of maintaining the Earth’s habitability so that future generations can breathe the air, till the earth, drink fresh water and enjoy a reasonable standard of living. We have a challenge of such magnitude and complexity that many people choose to ignore it.

Our changing climate with new patterns of drought, flood and storms is going to take some getting used to. Our habit of relying on easily accessible, cheap fossil fuels for energy will need to be addressed. Ideally this will be done creatively, proactively and without malice or obstruction from those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of an addiction past its use-by date. 

Companies are made up of individuals. Individuals have choices. Companies have choices. My dream is that every employee in every company around the world looks at the impact of their current policies with seeing eyes. That they raise their voices if there is coercion, bullying, unethical, cruel, inhumane or immoral behaviour. My nightmare is that they don’t have the ability to do this, and that our children, grand children and great grandchildren will suffer horribly as a result. The worst case scenario is that current policies and actions could lead to the final zero for humankind.

To honestly and courageously face these challenges will take vision, wisdom and the creativity and collaboration of peoples from all walks of life from all countries in the world. This is not a time for bullying, coercive tactics, manipulation and lying.

Both genders should be involved. At present, women are too often silenced by groups intent of maintaining their own power and the subservience of women. One way this is achieved is to deny women access to adequate, modern methods of birth control. “Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” is the reality for billions of women worldwide. Or perhaps more accurate is “barefoot, underaged, uneducated, pregnant and malnourished”. It's an insidious way to keep much of the world's population silent and compliant.

Few of us would choose to be born into poverty, into lands where food and water supplies are intermittent, where death in childbirth is common, where girls are taken as brides when they’re still children themselves and where education is a dimly heard of luxury.

However, unless we address the issue of our Earth’s rapidly increasing population and assist it to drop to near zero, poverty, disease and malnourishment will be commonplace. More mouths to feed means more crops to be grown on less arable land, (see D - Desertification here). There will be more carbon emissions, if our energy and food (see E  -Eat here) sources remain unchanged - and more garbage in general. (P - Pollution here).

Conversely, it’s been shown that population stabilisation has enormous benefits to all aspects of health in the communities where it is adopted. Women and girls, their family members their lands and food systems are healthier and more productive. There’s more food and water to go around, less stress on health services and infrastructure and equally importantly, arable land and fishing grounds are able to recover and become more productive.

Reducing birth rates eases the pressure we place on natural resources, food systems, water sources, biodiversity, forests and the atmosphere.

Contraception and sound family planning are vital components of the complex issues we face in the years ahead as we try to balance the population with what can be maintained by our Earth’s resources.

In a recent discussion, Naomi Oreskes said something along the lines of: Resistance to accepting there are challenges ahead is related to not liking the implications on political, social and economic levels. Climate change is rejected because it has consequences for how we live our lives and what it means for us. These changes will be very significant and require a complete transformation of the energy system. (Link here.)

If we aren’t proactive, and consider the repercussions of inaction in a calm, measured thoughtful way, we will be reacting as events unfold which is neither wise nor desirable.

Have we got the courage, wisdom and humility to face the future with eyes wide open or not?

Last year I wrote - A-Z "An incomplete journey of workplace bullying" for Z, here, and Zero here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Climate Matters. Y is for Yesterday

This post is for Y in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Yesterday, metaphorically speaking, we thought ignorance was bliss. We figured tomorrow's weather would take care of itself in much the same way as has happened relatively reliably for the last few hundred years. Then somewhere around 15 - 20 years ago, or significantly longer in scientific circles, conversations would begin about climate change and human influence on it - not only amongst scientists studying the area, but amongst everyday people as well.  These conversations didn't involve nasty 'pointing the finger' vicious comments, but an acceptance that we have a problem, and we need to address it in a rational manner.

It's been referred to using different terminology in different countries over the intervening years, but in essence our unusually stable world climate is changing, both as happens naturally, and in response to our enthusiasm for putting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than it can comfortably cope with.

Sadly, in the intervening years, governmental and public concern about climate change got hijacked. We all face these challenges, they're not going to affect only those of a particular political, religious or ideological persuasion. The challenges are to do with water, health, fuel, biodiversity, deforestation, food and security and all are related to our changing climate. There is no debate. There is solid data from reputable scientists worldwide who have spent their professional lives researching this issue from many different angles. Science doesn't play favourites, it isn't in the business of gathering tv or radio ratings by using deliberately divisive language and attention seeking infotainment tactics which attract high paying advertisements. (Links to reputable information here and an interesting insight with short video here)

Yesterday we respected our most highly trained, intelligent, dedicated scientists. We respected them for their calm, considered language, their rigour, their honesty, their integrity, their diligence. Yesterday we forgave them their awkwardness and accepted the demanding, clinical, reasoned, language of their profession with its lack of 100% absolutes. Today it seems that if the words climate, change and science are connected,  many people will choose to trust an advertising agency or highly paid shock jock instead. That's tragic.

Someone said to me last week "Watching infotainment makes me feel like I'm watching the news. It's fun. I feel like I'm being informed, but I'm not. I'm being entertained." At least this person had the insight to be aware that the consumption of this type of media isn't remotely similar to understanding complex issues.

If watching infotainment, or listening to shock jocks is your only source of information there will be no balance, just a constant force feeding of a particular bite sized dogmatic view laced with drama, simplification and hyperbole.

Climate, Change, Diet
The human impact on climate change is a little bit like overeating excessive amounts of processed foods laced with sugars, fats and salts. As a result of over indulgence you feel too queasy to sleep deeply or exercise adequately. You begin to put on weight, your ankles might swell, possibly diabetes will be diagnosed, arteries clog, your heart becomes stressed and you begin to experience other more complex health related problems. Your doctor will prescribe assorted medication to address the most pressing issues to prolong life and ease the most uncomfortable symptoms. It's not simply one single food that caused the problem, but a complex inter-relationship of different foods and additives which fill various needs - from eating to allay hunger, but also including binge eating to cope with stress or depression.

In a similar way, it's not one single thing we're doing to exacerbate the problem of climate change, but a complex network of seemingly unrelated human activities. Each looked at alone may seem almost as insignificant as eating a donut - after all what harm can felling a few acres of trees in Australia do to the world's climate? To the particular community, the mangroves being uprooted to make way for a marina makes sense. Likewise people in Indonesia, and elsewhere around the globe, fell rain-forests, uproot mangroves, eat meat, fish and grains, drive cars and allow toxic runoff to seep into waterways oceans. Yet, as with an unhealthy diet, these individual decisions result in a complex inter-relationship of many different climate related issues with a worldwide, rather than individual, impact.

Cows fart, cars emit carbon-dioxide, fishing grounds are depleted. More cars are built, requiring more fuel and more cows are bred to satisfy the changing dietary desires of more and more people. We're demanding more and more from our Earth; more food from less land, more water for crops to feed more people. We're depleting fossil fuels at an extraordinary rate, shipping them around the globe, then using them to transport goods from one country to another to be manufactured into different things and shipped back again. When you actually take a moment and stop to think about it, it's crazy. And so often unnecessary ... do we really need plastic toys from fast food chains that break within minutes? Is this a wise use of precious resources?
Yesterday we didn't think about these things, but today we do. Hiding your head in the sand hoping it will all go away or feeling guilty, angry or denying it's happening isn't the answer. My suspicion is that thinking deeply about your values is the basis for acting. When you've worked out what you value, it's easier to make life affirming decisions based on those values and be proud of your decisions as a basis for action. (see V Values here )

As individuals, we can't change the world, but we can have an effect in our own small sphere. An eating habit gone wrong leads to severe ill health, but the habits and choices that led to the situation can be positively addressed with sustained, careful, dedicated management. In a similar way our lifestyle choices related to climate change can be adapted to be healthier not only for us as individuals but benefit others as well. Some choices are easy - to read labels and choose items without palm oil for instance. Others could be more challenging, such as with choosing to resign from a highly paying job that promotes unethical and inhumane treatment of people and their lands for the acquisition of fossil fuels. (see K, out of Kilter here)

It's a challenge indeed, one which it will take courage to face, I wonder if we're up for it.

Last year I wrote about what You can do if you're being bullied at work for Y in my theme of workplace bullying here and Yolanda's Yellow Yacht here.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Climate Matters. X is for eXtreme Weather

This post is for X in the A-Z BloggingChallenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Unseasonal snow, high winds, heavy rains, increased heat, damage to property, increased hospital admissions and deaths. Around the world reports of damage from extreme weather events are heard - "unprecedented", "rainfall deficits", "longest drought",  "crop devastation", "unseasonal weather", "homes without power for days", "highest known temperatures exceeded", "all time high"; this it seems, is the new normal locally and globally. 

In recent human history, extreme weather events have, statistically, been relatively rare. Due to our changing climate, the atmosphere is warmer due to complex inter-relationship of events.  For instance, warm air is able to hold more water whilst being less stable, leading to more volatile weather patterns.

Worldwide, heat waves are longer and hotter, heavy rain and flooding is more frequent. Severe storms are increasing in frequency and severity. As is expected, variation in weather patterns is evident and affected seasonally and by local geography such as rivers, lakes and mountains.

Seafront properties take the brunt of severe winds, rain and storm surges.
Computer modelling showing expected range of naturally occurring temperature variations both with and without human contribution shows that human contribution has increased the likelihood of hotter overall temperatures. (For why scientists talk about probabilities rather than certainties see A Advertising here) Upper atmosphere jet streams, swirling ocean currents, the melting of glaciers and permafrost all play a complex and interlinked part in our global weather systems.

People around the world are experiencing the effects of increasingly severe and more frequent storms. The insurance industry is already factoring extreme weather damage into their premiums; they understand that damage will be significant in years to come and have been proactive in encouraging governments to adapt and prepare. They've also been working with industry to address future needs as a result from climate change and the impacts on property and threat to life from global weather instability whether it be preparing for increased heat waves, snow, wind, cyclones or hurricanes.
Low lying industrial areas are at risk of flooding and damage during severe stormsToxins, oils and other contaminants run into surrounding waterways creating havoc for shipping and poisoning fisheries and marine life to say nothing of loss of work and income by those affected. Cleanups are costly and can take many years leaving affected areas uninhabitable.

The heart break from rebuilding shattered lives is impossible to calculate in financial terms.
Remote areas are affected with roadways being washed away leaving farm properties stranded and creek beds susceptible to increased erosion from vehicle traffic.
Financial aid is finite and decisions need to be made whether to replace infrastructure in remote locations after flood damage.
In the recent past, communities affected by storm damage have relied on governments to assist with rebuilding and other support, but that appears to be less reliable as governments are increasingly stretched financially and decide how to most effectively divvy up their budget.

They may choose not to assist as more and more regions are impacted and infrastructure will be left to local communities to manage as best they can. Food security, transport breakdown, water impurities and general displacement impact on communities worldwide and will continue to do so as we experience this change.

Encouragingly though, communities around the world are planning with hope for the future and coming together to share information, resources and ideas to improve the resilience of their towns and regions. They're working together to create a vision for their new communities based on common goals related to making their communities vibrant places to live post Peak Oil. See also H Health here. More detailed information on the Energy Descent Action Plan here.

Last year I wrote about the X-factor that enables some people to speak out and stand up to workplace bullies. Here


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Climate Matters. W is for water

This post is for W in the A-Z blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Water is vital for our continued survival on our Earth - for drinking, cooking, manufacturing, mining and farming. Without clean water to drink or to grow crops we can expect negative health effects from malnutrition and other health impacts and further loss of life worldwide.

Arguments about who owns water rights is already a major bugbear between nations where major river systems travel through many countries - the citizens of each country naturally demand their equal share of this vital resource. "Ownership" and "rights" are fragile and hotly contested; those upstream are accused of taking more than their "fair share" and dumping pollutants, debris and toxins in for others down stream to manage as best they can.

Increased demands on water from irrigators, communities, mining and farming is creating tension and an underlying bitterness in country Australia.  Conflicting needs and divided communities can leave scars that will be hard to heal. Unfortunately thrown into the mix is the willingness of the  powerful, high profile, influential, subsidised fossil fuel industry to use well funded persuasive techniques to convince policy makers that their way is the only way.  These techniques are sometimes referred to as 'obstructive', when electricity companies are unable to purchase power from suppliers using renewable energy, such as wind or solar farms, due to contractual obligations.

In Australia, users downstream in the Murray-Darling Basin are left without enough water for their farms and communities, with towns struggling to remain viable. Signs along one of our major river systems show a waterway experiencing enormous stress.
We have such a deep emotional and spiritual relationship with water that it's seen as desirable to build homes over-looking rivers, lakes and bays. The ever changing vistas are a delight, and landowners in wealthy areas often choose to build mansions to benefit from cooling breezes and glorious views. The light from a stormy sky reflecting in water can be mesmerising, moonlight shimmering and plashing waves delight all our senses.

However, many waterside locations are increasingly viewed by insurance companies as somewhat negative, and insurance premiums reflect that industry's acceptance of the impact climate change will have on homes and industries built in 'problematic' areas. Increasing sea levels, the damage from storm surges, erosion and pollution from on land and via ocean currents, are having a disastrous affect on home prices in formerly desirable, wealthy suburbs.

The impact of stressed water systems affects not only home prices by the oceans, but recreational activities inland as well; entire communities and regions are suffering.
In Australia, bitter legal fights between councils aware of the impact of sea level rise, and developers and home owners wanting to recoup costs for subdivisions and low lying homes are ugly and acrimonious. Iconic surf life saving clubs are suffering from storm related erosion and need to relocate at huge cost to communities - yet some people still deny that we are experiencing unprecedented climate change while simultaneously demanding compensation or that infrastructure be built to protect their investments.

Venice is well known for flooding. Enterprising souls now sell single use waterproof boots ... Now that's looking at a problem creatively and making it into an opportunity! How will other cities respond when a similar problem unfolds?
Thrown into this mix is the need to address the issue of the amount of water needed to produce food.  All foods need water to grow and processed foods use extra in the production process. Some foods such as wheat are said to need about 1,000 litres of water per kilogram; in comparison, beef needs about 8 times more than that per kilogram.

See P for Plastics and Pollution (here) - Apparently around $100 billion is spent on bottle water annually world wide. Surely in countries where tap water is safe to drink, we can do better than using bottles for purchased water, especially given how many of those bottles are discarded and end up in waterways and our oceans.

Last year I wrote about Why me? for W in my theme on Workplace bullying here, and Weirdo here


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Climate Matters. V is for Values

This post is for V in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Values are often considered to be the basis for ethical actions, they reflect an internal sense of right and wrong and influence behaviour. When a group of people share a common set of values and ideals of social expectations we refer to them as cultural values - they add meaning and value to life. Values generally reflect how we choose to live and ideally won’t be arbitrarily imposed by another group or more powerful person.

Values are different to goals which can be achieved or completed, then ticked off a list. They're often deeper and create an internal reference for what may be good, beneficial, important, desirable or constructive and lead to both individual and community behaviours and actions.

Many values revolve around family, marriage and close relationships, friendships, employment, education and personal development, recreation, the environment and health.

It’s certainly beneficial to reflect quietly on the place of values in your life particularly when you're stressed and ill at ease. It's easy to lose sight of some of our values in the hurly burly of our frenetic pace of life. We're so busily connected and on-line that the illusion of being together can mask a deep loneliness and distance from what gives our lives meaning.

It’s often when people are unhappy at work or in relationships that they find the need to take stock and reconnect with their core values which they may have been ignoring. There's benefit in reflecting on unhealthy attitudes that lead to a feeling of being ill at ease, and questioning whether for instance, your work-life, which may have evolved over many years, is now at odds with deep inner needs.

Some people find it confronting to thing about deep questions, but discover a sense of empowerment when they discover that they’ve been guided by other people’s judgements and opinions which don’t reflect who they truly are. They find it liberating and enriching to acknowledge and consciously choose a course of action in line with their own values rather than those of another person.

Living according to your values isn’t the same as being thoughtless, flippant or glib. Values need to be concrete, positive and proactive to give our lives a healthy, meaningful structure, leading to richness and fulfilment.

How do Values relate to Climate Matters?
Many people are concerned about food security and are putting a higher value on becoming more self reliant rather than being increasingly dependent on food being sourced from across the world.

Food and many other goods are transported in container ships using depleting fuel supplies through unstable weather systems during times of political and economic instability. Many waterways are at the mercy of well resourced and trained pirates intent on destabilising international commerce. As our climate changes individual and community values will be challenged and reviewed in light of unfolding events locally and internationally.

There is an emerging focus on issues such as sustainability, well-being, community building and civic engagement that needs a clear cultural values based perspective to be successfully implemented. Addressing these issues by acknowledging the role of values in communities would reflect common values and ways of life of the communities on which they impact.

Acknowledging the vital function of values both individually and at the community level is increasingly recognised as a critical aspect of social and human development. Individuals and businesses might ask "Does this decision I am about to make support and lead me in the direction of a value I hold? Or does it lead me away from this value?"

See Q is for Quadruple bottom line here and T is for Trees here.

What can you do right now that leads you in the direction of a core value?

Last year I wrote about what makes people Vulnerable to workplace bullying for the letter V. Here and a drabble about Valiant volunteers here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Climate Matters. U is for Urban heat islands

This post is for U in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Central business districts in cities and dense industrial zones store heat in the buildings, roofs, roads and paved surfaces during hot days. This is called the urban heat island effect. As a result, these areas can be up to 10 degrees Celcius hotter than surrounding areas. The heat may be released slowly overnight, so they’re often warmer than less densly built up areas or parks and gardens and rural environments.
Summer heat is absorbed by dark buildings, trapped and
released back into the city at night, preventing cooling.
When we have cloudy nights, this acts as a blanket, because the tall buildings are crowded together, there are less breezes to disperse the heat, so it's trapped.

In addition emissions from vehicles, industrial activity and air conditioning vents contribute to the warming in cities. This can be welcome in cold winters, but during the summer it can leave citizens sweltering uncomfortable and for many including the elderly, young and ill it can be extremely dangerous.

It’s been suggested that reading temperatures from these unusually heated areas could distort climate data, but although some weather stations are located in cities, many are in remote locations, small towns and regional centres as well. The extensive data collected balances out any localised anomalies, and when added to data collected worldwide, there is evidence of consistent change in climate patterns over an extended period.

There’s a saying in Australia on extremely hot days “It was so hot you could cook an egg on a shovel”, and whilst that expression is unlikely to be used during a New York heat wave, it has been reported that temperatures reached on some asphalt roofs during one heat wave were almost hot enough to cook a chicken – that’s hot!
Green spaces in cities are cooling and create areas to meet friends and relax.
One simple and effective ways to cool cities, lower electricity usage and reduce the city’s carbon footprint is to plant rooftops with grasses or paint them white to reflect heat. Replanting city and urban landscapes with appropriate trees and plants is known to reduce the unpleasant sweaty and stifling effects of living in cities during heat waves. They not only add an immediate cooling effect, but encourage birds and insects and create a positive place for people to meet.

Some enterprising apartment dwellers create rooftop vegetable gardens and others use their balconies for vertical gardens for fresh herbs and vegetables giving them somewhere to use the output from their Bokashi bin and supplement their diet with fresh home-grown produce. 

Last year I wrote about the importance of Underestimating the Unrelenting nature of workplace bullying for U Here and a drabble about Unwanted attention here.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Climate Matters. T is for Trees.

This post is for T in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Trees are integral to our life on earth: 
"The tree breathes what we exhale. When the tree exhales, we need what the tree exhales. So we have a common destiny with the tree. We are all from the earth. And when the earth, the water, the atmosphere is corrupted, then it will create its own reaction."
(More complete quote below)

Yet, despite the understanding that we need trees to provide oxygen and clean the air we breathe, deforestation is increasing at an extraordinary rate.  People the world over are concerned at the rate at which the Amazon and other rain-forests are being felled, displacing native peoples and decreasing viable habitat for native animals. We've been warned that not only is this devastating to those peoples and their traditional lands, but that it has negative consequences for the whole planet.

Forests of all types, from the apparently insignificant Mangrove (see M here) to towering Mountain Ash  to the vast tropical areas with their astoundingly rich biodiversity, all play a vital part in removing carbon-dioxide from the air we breathe. As forests worldwide are felled, not only are they unable to continue removing the carbon-dioxide we have emitted into the atmosphere, but they release that which they have been storing, adding to the dangerous levels that so concern the bulk of our Earth's best regarded climate specialists.

When forests are clear felled, it impacts on everything nearby. Fruiting trees, glorious flowering plants, nesting birds, animals and fish are all impacted. Where there was a cacophony of diverse birdsong, hoots, chirrups, coughs and vibrant colour, there is less stable soil, burned acres, muddy runoff, pollution from the burning and increased erosion.

Whilst rain-forests appear rich, the soil itself needs the constant addition of falling leaves and debris to maintain the amazing growth. Mono crops, often palm and corn, are planted in their place and generally need the addition of complex fertilisers and pesticides to be viable. The runoff poisons waterways, impacting peoples and their lands many kilometres downstream. The diverse plant, animal and fish communities are unable to return to what is, in effect, barren land.

Why are we continuing on this path which has been of concern for years? In its simplest term ... money. Palm oil is a remarkable substance. Soaps and shampoos wash extremely well when it's added. It's added to sweets, chocolate, breakfast cereals, margarines, laundry and kitchen detergents and moisturisers and more recently added to some fuels. When you start looking it seems to be everywhere, possibly under a different name, but it's there, and it's cheap to produce and valuable to multinationals.

What can we do? Becoming a savvy consumer can be time consuming and it's frustrating to untangle the web of names that are used for palm oil. One local site I use for information and products is chooktopia here.
Indigenous peoples throughout the world have had an understanding of the principles of sustainability, and have lived sustainable lifestyles, for millennia. Floyd Red Crow Westerman, a Hopi Indian elder described the sustainability relationship as one based on an understanding of spirit and the transience of human lifespans. He describes the problems of sustainability as humanity’s inability to live on earth in a spiritual way. He describes that if humanity is not spiritually connected to the earth and does understand the spiritual reality of how to live on earth, it is likely humanity will not survive. “Everything is spiritual. Everything has a spirit… Water is sacred. The Air is sacred. Our DNA is made of the same DNA as the tree. The tree breathes what we exhale. When the tree exhales, we need what the tree exhales. So we have a common destiny with the tree. We are all from the earth. And when the earth, the water, the atmosphere is corrupted, then it will create its own reaction.” The recognition of spirit and the sacredness of our ecology and interconnectedness with the earth and each other is the first bottom line of a quadruple bottom line principle of sustainability. 
 Quadruple Bottom Line 
 Spirit + Social + Economic + Ecological 

More on the Quadruple bottom line for Q here.
(quote from here. My bold)

Last year I wrote about Targets and Teachers for T for my theme on workplace bullying Here and a Tense drabble here .


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Climate Matters. S is for Soil

This post is for S in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

This trailer is only about 3 minutes long. It's fascinating!

Loss of topsoil is a massive worldwide problem but it rarely receives much mainstream media attention. And whilst some people are scathing about groups concerned with environmental issues, without healthy soil to grow food, we have a serious problem.

Most of the world's food comes from cropland which is being degraded an an extraordinary rate by such things as overuse, clearing, mono-crops, salinity and erosion, which leads to a massive loss of soil productivity. It's estimated that in the US alone, this is in the vicinity of $38 billion each year.

When soil erosion occurs, the soil is unable to store water or support plant growth which leads to an escalating problem of increased erosion, and decreased food production.

Eroding top soil washes into waterways, taking toxic pesticides and fertilisers with it. This eventually finds its way into human water sources leading to an increased need for filtering or chemical purification.

It's estimated that 30% of the worlds' arable land has become unproductive over the past 40 years. With increased extreme weather events occurring as a result of climate change, this may occur more frequently in the future with the result that malnourishment will increase accordingly.

Australia has experienced devastating loss of cropland both as a result of drought and flood. At times Melbourne has been blanketed with rich topsoil blown across hundreds of miles from cropland upwind, leaving those areas depleted and less productive. People downwind experienced a rise in airborne health issues - difficulty breathing, eye irritation and skin problems were prevalent. Traffic was affected as visibility decreased and driving became hazardous. In addition to direct loss of income and production on farms was indirect loss of income and production from those affected downwind. More recent flooding has eroded rich farmland and left farming communities stressed and with many livelihoods in tatters.

Recently there has been concern that coal seam gas has been discovered below Australia's most rich farmland. The push to extract it further erodes farming communities and could eventually force Australia to be reliant on other countries to supply food. Being reliant on others to regularly and happily supply food could be problematic as arable lands become more scarce worldwide and the producing countries choose not to sell.

Composting to make soil for your own garden:
A bokashi bin in a workplace kitchen encourages employees to compost rather than discard lunchtime food scraps. If they're thrown in a regular bin, they eventually end up in landfill where they release greenhouse gases. In this workplace, however, every Friday evening, one employee wins the jackpot and takes the bin home to add to the soil in the garden to enrich it! The smell is not like "off" food at all, but similar to fermenting bits and pieces and not at all disgusting.

Last year I wrote about Sociopaths and Serial bullies for S for my theme of workplace bullying. Here and Shilly-shally here.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Climate Matters. R is for Responsibility.

This post is for R in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

We've all heard the motto; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and they are well worth remembering, however there is far more to our consumption of goods that needs to be addressed for us to regain a balanced, happier way of life.

Our addiction to a hyper consumptive lifestyle is a modern ailment, and as we all know, addictions can be very hard to break. However, our privileged lifestyle comes with responsibilities, and for our wellbeing, as well as for our planet and the other peoples who call this Earth home, this addiction needs to be tackled with courge, strength and the confidence that breaking it will bring us many benefits.

This excerpt comes from Kristen Kiluk at the Michigan Daily here

(my bold) "Retailing analyst Victor Lebow wrote in 1955, as the post-World War II consumer society was really taking off: "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life ... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate." Even Consumer Reports, the bible for buying quality, long-lasting goods, advised us to replace, rather than try to reapir, a broken laptop it is's more than four years old."

If you haven't watched this video, please try to make a point of setting aside a mere 20 minutes. If you have children watch it with them. It is simply remarkable. I can almost guarantee you won't be disappointed. In an upbeat, interesting way, in pictures and words, it covers the story of goods from extraction to production, distribution, consumption and finally disposal. It discusses the impact of our consumptive habits on societies, cultures, the economy and our environment.

We've been encouraged by manufacturers and with the assistance of the advertising industry to seek inner satisfaction and feed our souls with consumption of goods that aren't necessary for health or survival. And so over a period of around 50 years or so, we've gone from being respectful of the amount of time it takes to earn an income and being resourceful, careful and thrifty to experiencing an almost constant lust for new, shiny things. We've been encouraged to be dissatisfied with ourselves for living within our means, to see having "enough" as inadequate. As when we overeat and, as a result feel bloated and ill, over consumption of goods is initially satisfying, but ultimately leaves us feeling emotionally empty and dissatisfied.

We are resourceful beings, and with a bit of time spent reassessing values and priorities it is possible to wean ourselves off the consumption band-wagon and remove the leash that has kept us tethered to it, and ultimately live a more balanced life.

Related posts: No thank you!  (here) and P is for Plastics (here).

Last year I wrote about Responsibility for R in my theme on workplace bullying Here and Reliable here.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Climate Matters. Q is for Quadruple bottom line

This post is for Q in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the Sidebar.

For many years large businesses focused only on the bottom line accounting practice of returning a profit for their shareholders, often at the expense of their employees and local communities. Acting with integrity, and responding to moral, social, cultural and environmental responsibilities had frequently fallen by the wayside.

The triple bottom line refers to the practise of including three aspects: environmental balance, social inclusion and economic growthto describe a sound business model.

The quadruple bottom line includes culture. 
More recently however, there is a growing awareness of the need for businesses to achieve economic, social and cultural growth without irreversibly damaging the ecological systems that support that growth. Culture is recognised as the fourth pillar of corporate responsibility in a sustainable business model and is considered to be where values, meaning and purpose in life originate and gel, to form a healthy society.

Whilst this model began in the government sector, businesses at the forefront of its adoption are working towards being sustainable and responsible by looking towards a future where growth in one area creates positive benefits in all areas. They are aware that it's valuable for employees, shareholders and management to acknowledge that they're part of something bigger than themselves.

Sustainable development is often referred to as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Increasingly local businesses and councils are leading the way in proactively addressing climate change and sustainability. They’re taking responsibility for the environment through waste minimisation, energy analysis and taking an interest in social and cultural responsibility to increase morale, reduce absenteeism and improve overall work performance. In short, they find that these efforts increase efficiency and productivity and therefore increase the bottom line, not decrease it!

Ideally, governments worldwide will begin to confidently pursue cultural responsibility through good governance and a wider understanding of people's needs, desires and goals in life. This would undoubtedly facilitate wise and effective long term planning rather than focusing on the short period between elections.

Of interest is recent research showing that businesses offering Mindfulness Meditation or similar training for their employees is having a positive benefit. Employees have found that spending time on these practices increases job satisfaction, enhances focus, decreases absenteeism and the number of job related accidents, decreases stress and generally improves their lives both on and off the job. The research “presents compelling evidence that mindfulness-based practices may be a fruitful addition to organisational wellness programes.” (Glomb et al)

Businesses thinking more holistically are addressing new ways to produce services and products with an eye on our collective futures. They -
1. Recognise the human needs of employees, stakeholders and all other parties the business impacts on 
2. Protect the environment and are aware of the needs of all communities impacted by the company 
3. Use natural resources wisely 
4. Accept that constant growth may not be possible or desirable for the long term viability of the company.  
In these ways everyone involved with the company feels part of something with a higher purpose and vision than just making money. The company doesn’t extract value from employees or the environment, it adds value, and as a consequence all stakeholders are more deeply engaged and committed to ensuring the companies long term success.

Last year I wrote about the Qualities we instil in our children for Q for my theme of workplace bullying. Here and Quinces here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Climate Matters. P is for Plastics and pollution.

This post is for P in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Stopping the pollution caused by plastics is a choice. 

Plastic is an amazing commodity in our world, without it we’d feel lost. It can be strong, pliable, can be shaped and coloured, bent and broken. It’s used in everything from cars, planes, watersports, clothing, spectacles, books, to furniture and picnic utensils. It’s hard to imagine a time when plastic wasn’t an integral part of life. It’s a by-product from the discovery of oil; and a most remarkable and useful byproduct it is!

In its production phase, plastic can be blended with other chemicals to improve its performance for a specific use or to make it cheaper or more attractive and colourful to beguile children as a cheap “throw-away” toy in a fast food take away meal.

Unfortunately, some of these chemicals leach out over time when the product has been discarded and find their way into waterways, rivers, groundwater and oceans. Individually, the casual “fling” of a disposable item doesn’t seem much, and when it’s out of sight, it’ll most likely be out of mind. Gone. Away. Forever.

But disposable isn’t the same as biodegradable. Biodegradable plastics may eventually break down in sunlight and water, but they don’t disappear entirely and the process can take hundreds or thousands of years.

Interestingly, even items like plastic take away food containers may contain toxic compounds which assist in the production phase. Apparently it doesn’t affect food quality, but may leach out when they begin to degrade.

Many people find the vapours released by synthetic carpets, pillows or furnishings leads to nausea and in extreme cases shortness of breath or dizziness. They find that their bodies react more favourable to natural products and fabrics.

Drink bottles are now marked as being BPA free as it is feared that when it leaches into fluids or food stuffs, it could be carcinogenic or lead to insulin resistance or heart disease. Tin cans are often also lined with BPA but they haven’t received the same attention as yet.

Recycling of plastics can be problematic because there are so many varieties. It’s a labour intensive process, as workers need to read the code saying what each sort of plastic is. Some products are made from a number of different plastic compounds which need to be recycled in different ways, making the process somewhat complex which may not be an economically viable proposition.

Landfill is then energetically filled with polystyrene, bottle caps, and incinerators are fed with other non recyclable materials, belching toxic fumes into our atmosphere.

Plastic is an amazing substance, but it’s not something you’d want to eat. It has no nutritional value, is often impregnated with toxins and doesn’t pass through the gut easily. Unfortunately, as some discarded plastics break down, fish and animals including turtles may mistake them for food. Whereas a dog may be able to regurgitate plastic, or have it pass through their gut with little ill effect, many other creatures don’t have this ability. Cows and turtles are two types of animal that will die if they consume plastic bags. They can’t vomit, and the plastic clogs up the intestine or stomach, leading to death.

Other creatures are curious by nature - a plastic bag floating in the ocean may become a toy for a juvenile seal or dolphin, but if they happen to ingest it, it can lead to death.

Predators consume prey which has eaten plastic - if that animal is eaten before it dies of starvation, the predator could well aslo suffer from malnutrition or starvation in turn.
To watch a bird, animal or sea creature slowly die from being entangled in plastic and not be able to help by untangling or killing it quickly is distressing. A bird with fishing line and debris tangled around its foot is unable to land. A platypus caught in a 6 pack ring can’t feed and slowly starves. A juvenile seal tangled in discarded fishing net drowns; not one animal, but hundreds if not thousands. Parents turn away in disgust and hurry their children away from the unpleasant sights.

If you can’t see it, it’s easier to pretend it's not happening – but in there is a lesson: Whether the plastic is fishing line, plastic bag, 6 pack rings or whatever, it’s our laziness, carelessness or belief that “it’s not my problem” that has led to this outcome. It’s hard to find places in the world that aren’t affected with plastic debris. In countless parks and beachside picnic areas you can wade through assorted plastics including straws, plates, cutlery, drinking vessels and plastic containers thrown “away” by family picnickers after a cheery, sunny weekend. Our Earth, our Shangri-La has become a toxic, plastic filled waste-dump.

This is our problem...

and that of those who may inhabit the Earth thousands of years in the future.

Last year I wrote about PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & workplace bullying for the letter P - and Penguins here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Climate Matters. O is for oil.

This post is for O in the A-Z blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Oil is one of those things we used not to think about very much until we saw more and more on the news about the cost of oil rising above $100US a barrel. When the cost of filling the fuel tank in your car rises, it begins to hit home that something unpleasantly out of your control is happening.

In a nutshell, it was only about 150 years or so ago that oil came to be routinely used for more than as a fuel for lamps as people worked out how useful it was for cheap apparently limitless energy. It was abundant and the byproducts came to be used for all sorts of things beyond the obvious. Nylon for clothing, medicines, plastics and many, many other everyday items as well, all owe their existence to oil. Just looking around me now, I see book covers, chairs, curtains, an iron, plastic around my computer, cables, toys, floor coverings, a purse, artificial flowers, containers that plants came in, shopping bags, buttons, shoes - and the list goes on and on and on......

Image from Amazon
In The Transition Handbook (which is a very readable, positive book) Rob Hopkins discusses both peak oil and climate change when sharing some options he sees for our future. They are inextricably linked and to think of one without the other only gives half the picture.

Cheap, plentiful oil has enabled our society to be structured as it is. Many things around us use oil in their manufacture and for their transportation around our Earth, and naturally it’s hard to imagine any other reality. When the cost of oil rises, so do many other commodities and we struggle to make ends meet. Eventually we have a choice - either work longer hours and take a second job to continue our current rate of consumption - or change our habits to consume less.

Why is the cost of oil rising? Oil is a finite resource, and in approximately 200 years, we’ve extracted all the easy to get at reserves. Whilst it’s hard to get reliable data on production figures and reserves, those in the know estimate that production has already peaked (ie the oil glass is half empty and being consumed at ever increasing rates) and that there will inevitably come a day when demand outstrips supply and prices will begin to rise sharply. This is irrespective of which political party is in power, and however much the oil companies try to sugar coat the situation.

Naturally enough, oil companies have used the easy to get at reserves first. There are less discoveries now, and the companies are doing their best to extract every last drop from the most challenging areas of our Earth. Tar sands oil is very dense, it can be dug out of the ground with massive machinery and the sand is then washed to extract the oil. This process produces carbon-dioxide (one of the greenhouse gasses), uses vast quantities of water that then needs to be treated before being dumped back in the ground. (see also F Fracking)  Caribou herds, wolves and native peoples are deemed inconvenient and removed often forcefully and with little regard for their welfare.

We're encouraged to believe that we can't survive without plentiful fossil fuels. However, there will come a time when we have to. Common sense would say that to begin seriously looking at and promoting investment in all alternatives would be a reassuring way for communities to face our future post oil. Unfortunately (at least in Australia) we're encouraged to believe that the only way forward is to use all deposits of oil, gas and coal before we build the infrastructure for renewables. Unfortunately this black and white either/or attitude discourages investment, research and innovation and thus has a negative affect on jobs growth in the sustainable energy sector. In addition, the ongoing jobs created by the mining of fossil fuels are minimal and growing at a painfully slow rate in comparison to other sectors.

The excitement about pockets of difficult to extract oil and the frantic insistence that all is well, obscures the need to reassess our reliance and addiction. The investment in advertisements and obfuscation point to a defensive industry on attack rather than one that is genuinely secure, adaptable, innovative and comfortable.

A word I heard used recently about the negativity and undermining practises surrounding renewable energy was "obstructive" - unfortunately it seems to be an accurate word.
Shale Oil production at Newnes, near Wollemi National Park. NSW.
This complex operated in the early 1900's. Info here.

Last year for the letter O, I wrote about Obstructive and Outrageous Behaviour associated with Workplace Bullying. Here and Outrageous here.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Climate Matters: N is for Notice

This post is for N in the A-Z blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Notice what changes you can make in your immediate environment to become more sustainable - to become aware is empowering!
An old postcard found tucked into a book.
Poems by John Hepworth, sketches by Leunig.
That cheaper plasma TV that cost next to nothing to purchase could be slurping power in the most greedy way. It's easy to get sucked into a purchase because an item is cheap to buy - but often what is cheap at the register is more expensive to maintain day to day. They're energy sucking vampires. If you purchase a new TV, choose an LCD or LED screen, they're far more energy efficient.  As an aside, if you're using TV as a form of anaesthesia consider going for a walk either alone or with others, our bodies like to move and will thank you for it.

Was your refrigerator banished to the garage or basement when you upgraded to a swishy new one?  There it is keeping a few bottles of beer cold ... have you checked how much energy it's consuming? I know of one person who saved over $300 per year simply by getting rid of the beer frig and elderly TV! An alternative could have been to only turn them on as needed ie, don't leave them on standby. Many electric items on "idle" consume more power than you might expect! Standby, or idle is not the same as off. It's not unusual to reduce electricity consumption from 29 kwh to 9.32 kwh just by turning off those items - that represents money in your pocket!

Leaving white-goods on standby can seem petty and insignificant, individually it could be as little as $12 per year, pfft, that's nothing!! But when you add the different items around an average home, it all adds up - maybe it still seems a bit pointless, but when push comes to shove, who would you rather had that $160, you or your power company?

What else to do? Cover downlights with little special igloos to stop winter heated air escaping - many types of downlight create a tiny vortex sucking out your warmth and can double a heating bill in the blink of a wintery eye.

Insulate, insulate insulate - we have chopped up wool and it acts as a cosy blanket for the house.

Double glazing could be too expensive for many of us, but there are stick on alternatives that are affordable and good if you're renting. These products can cut down loss of heat, or prevent it getting in, in hot climates.

Heavy curtains over windows prevent sun getting in where the temperatures are hot, or heat escaping in cold climates. Pelmets over the top of windows stop heat sneaking out - if you're renting it's possible to make simple cardboard ones. It helps create a snug cocoon.

There's a neat little gizmo that you can buy to see how much power is being consumed by appliances when they're on idle. A remote kill switch or power board, again seems insignificant to cut power from standby, but add it to the other savings so YOU get to enjoy the benefits NOT the corporation

Turn off lights when you're not in the room - how simple can it be!

Door seals, don't have to be dorky, and most of us are aware of drafts around outside doors, but I'd never thought of using them indoors. If your toilet or bathroom has a window and vent to the outer world, it could be worthwhile to use a draft sausage and door seals there. It seems picky, but you could be heating the air outside rather than snuggling in it inside.

You can use an Incense stick to check for drafts - just light one then wander around and see how the smoke behaves - is it being sucked upwards towards light fittings or toward door surrounds?

When you buy a new light globe try the LED ones, they're more expensive to buy, but will last an amazing length of time, more than making up for the initial outlay. Some of them shed a cold light, the same as regular light globes, so check before you buy.

We used to hear the saying "a penny saved is a penny earned " meaning  don't throw your hard earned money into the abyss. Millions of Australians earn around $20 per hour, if you leave 5 items on standby (eg washing machine, toaster, computer, printer and bar frig) that equates to working 10 hours and you're not getting any personal benefit. You might be at work and notice that the first hour of each day for two weeks every year you're working to pay for items sitting at home on standby. Isn't that worth noticing?

Only run the dishwasher or washing machine as needed, ie when full! Unless you're running a hotel, only wash towels once a week, it's easy to dry them either outdoors in summer or on a clothes horse in winter. Clothes dryers can be used as a back up when all else fails, but line drying is the preferred option - the smell is invigorating and as a hay-fever sufferer I can honestly say I've never sneezed when wearing clothing straight off the line.

You might also become aware of the common unsustainable ingredients in foods. Palm oil is produced from plantations where natural vegetation has been decimated, biodiversity has been thrown out of balance, native peoples forcible removed from traditional lands and animals squashed into pockets of land that are unable to sustain them promoting spread of disease due to overcrowding.

As we learn to notice things such as where goods come from, the ethics of companies, and think about sustainable lifestyles, we find we have choices. Rather than reacting through habit, when we notice we realise we have the power to choose in accordance with our values (see V) - it can help make decisions simple - it's empowering.

Last year for N, I wrote about Nurses and other Nice people for my theme of workplace bullying. Here. and Nincompoops and Napalm here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Climate Matters. M is for Mangroves

This post is for M in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Mangroves are often seen to be an expendable part of the marine environment. They don't have the majesty of towering Mountain Ash or the dramatic bark of Ghost Gums or Snow Gums. Westernport Bay in southern Victoria is home to the southernmost stands of our Earth's mangroves - the area is listed under the International Ramsar Convention for protection of migratory birds.

These mangroves are squat, insignificant, slightly muddy smelling and seem to have small crabs perpetually running around the air roots. If you happen to carelessly step off the nearby packed earth, you'll sink to your knees in none too pleasant mud which is difficult to remove. There is a strange musical sound as air pockets pop in the greyish mud.
Mangroves at Tooradin on Westernport Bay. Victoria
So, why bother agitating for them to be saved when developers move in to reclaim land or sea for refineries, housing, harbours or fish farming?

Mangroves are a salt tolerant plant and are concentrated along many coastal areas. They store a huge amount of carbon, up to 4 times more than tropical rain-forests, so when they’re cleared, carbon, which is a green house gas, is released into the atmosphere. Their complex root systems which anchor the plants into the underwater sediment and slow down the incoming tidal waters, allow organic and inorganic materials to settle and decay extremely slowly, making them in effect, a high carbon storage tank.

We need mangroves to store carbon, not to release it. 

Many animals and other creatures are dependant on mangroves to survive and are threatened with extensive clearing. Crabs, birds, insects and fish may be reliant on each other for survival, and many have adapted to the salty environment and inter-tidal changes. Mangroves provide safe breeding grounds for fish and their leaves break down providing nutrients for a variety of other creatures.
Mangroves at Tooradin on Westernport Bay. Victoria
Increasingly in Indonesia and Thailand, mangroves are being cleared for aquaculture. Many varieties of imported prawn (shrimp) are farmed in ponds and tanks, which can be fed from already stressed and overfished wild populations. Unfortunately, environmental regulations may not be stringent, so there is the potential for untreated run off and pollution being released into the already degraded local areas.

Rising sea levels, extreme weather events and storm surges impact more dramatically when the mangrove buffer has been cleared, destabilising the sand and mud. Sound planning guidelines need to be implemented to safeguard communities along these important coastlines.

By protecting mangroves, we not only capture carbon, prevent erosion, and safeguard communities, but encourage fish breeding and maintain the habitat of endangered and migratory birds, local reptiles and mammals which are threatened with extinction if the current rate of mangrove loss continues.

Last year I wrote about Mind, Mates, Movement and Manipulation for M for my theme of workplace bullying. Here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Climate Matters. L is for Leadership

This post is for L in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

With so much doom and gloom surrounding corrupt corporations, stick in the mud politicians and belittling of sound scientific research, it’s possible to lose sight of the innovative leadership that is happening around the world. Wise leaders in neighbourhoods, communities, and towns as well as in many industries are working together to mitigate the unsettling and damaging effects of dramatic climate events.

As part of overall change, many businesses have experienced the need to adopt more sustainable  practices and are connecting with suppliers, service providers and customers to promote their achievements. They're finding that improvements to reduce energy and water usage have paid for themselves and simply make good business sense. Simple things like fixing leaking taps and turning off lights are an obvious start.

Assessing waste and doing some basic sorting to reduce disposal and landfill costs and increase recycling can be a real saving. Some industries are ideal candidates to reuse materials, others benefit from reducing waste at the initial stage of production. These businesses are providing leadership and forging the way to achieve cost savings through cutting consumption and addressing their environmental impact.  Many are conducting research and focusing on innovation to reduce their carbon emissions.

More and more small and medium businesses are promoting their achievements not only in their own communities but around the globe. By example and encouragement they help others to address the need to become industry leaders.

Those who are managing well, have discovered the benefit of collaborating with others in different professions as well as being committed to self management and self leadership. They've embraced change and found it caters to their ability to be creative and think laterally.

Consumers have enormous power to effect change. Individually choices and decisions may seem insignificant, but collectively the weight of these choices has an effect. When we purchase goods from quality providers who are already supporting sustainable change we’re having a positive effect.  Our choices can encourage businesses to provide better, more detailed information regarding their environmental impact on their websites and in promotional literature. This is resulting in more providers improving the quality, longevity and sustainability of what they are offering to the market. As consumers become more aware, it’s easier to make informed choices and boycott companies that pursue unethical practices and make unsustainable products.

As the global economy has contracted, many people have also become self employed either by choice or as a result of redundancy or under-employment. Their worklives have changed as they adapt to the need for managing their careers in a new way. They’ve found they need for understanding and communicating their strengths and the benefit of being creative, resilient and adaptable as they negotiate and forge new pathways and unfamiliar worklives. Many are emerging as a new style of leader. Not grandiose or self important, but going about their business quietly and having a positive impact in their communities.

Many have become resilient, self reliant and supportive leaders as they acknowledge that large corporations can’t be relied on to act with the needs of future generations in mind.

Wise leaders choose to take time out of meditate, exercise and immerse themselves in nature.
Tidal River. Wilsons Promontory. Victoria.
Cape Schank. Victoria.
Last year for the letter L, I wrote about Lies for my theme of workplace bullying. Here.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Climate Matters. K is for out of Kilter

This is for K in the A-Z blogging challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Many of us are acutely aware that the world as we've known it is changing. It's evident in the unsettled climate and unpredictable, extreme weather systems which are out of kilter leaving many of us feeling acutely uncomfortable.

For the past 40 or so years, we've focused on working excessively long hours, maybe at jobs we don't particularly like, commuting long distances in heavy peak hour traffic, negotiating aggressive, abusive drivers, becoming tense and irritable not only with ourselves but with our frazzled time poor families. Trucks, noise and fumes assault our senses while we mindlessly scoff sugary snacks simply to get us through the stress and as a "treat" for surviving. Out of kilter indeed.

The words temperance and moderation are considered old fashioned, as we've been encouraged to consume more and more at a faster and faster pace, forcing us to work crazy hours a two or three jobs simply to make repayments on "essential" goods we often have little time to enjoy. Houses large enough to double as a boutique hotel are considered normal, purchased with borrowed money and astronomical repayments that can feel more like a stifling life sentence.

Some of my male clients confess that they're empty inside, life feels futile and pointless, yet they appear to have "everything". It's often only when their marriage falls apart that they stop and question the vortex they've become caught in.

It can be confronting to realise that the lifestyle we've fallen into isn't meeting our fundamental human needs: happiness, time for relaxation, and making space and time to feed ourselves with wholesome food and nurture ourselves and those we love.

Many of my clients say they've forgotten what it's like to slow down and just be...
  • that they're not sure who they'll find
  • if there's anyone even there any more
  • that they don't know who they are
  • what they want
  • what they believe in
  • and whose values they're following anyway
  • and when they stop they feel empty, unsure, afraid - so it's easier not to stop 
  • like they've sold their soul and are feeding an addiction that they weren't aware they had 
This out of kilter habit can be broken, and whilst it might initially seem outrageous, a complete break to take stock and visit or revisit your values alone, then with your partner can be be a first step in looking at what makes a rich, full and meaningful life for you.

It's generally not something we do when we're young and may have fallen into a job without examining what it is that we value in life. We may have plodded along for years feeling vaguely dissatisfied and frustrated. Sometimes it's only when crap happens that we're confronted with the need to question and perhaps change unhealthy patterns.

Often in the act of stopping, sharing and reflecting, a new way of thinking is permitted to grow. You might choose to attend a class on sustainable living, learn to cook your own fast, nourishing foods, explore a long ignored desire to learn a language, or enrol in further study for your career.  All of these things feed into our capacity as humans to be creative learners, to be revitalised and to adapt better to a changing world. We become more flexible, less rigid, more independent and enthusiastic and less willing to follow the advertising machine blindly and without question.

In the process, some people decide that having less will actually lead them to have more. They realise there is a choice and choose to downsize and make purchases mindfully.

We've become so accustomed to being out of kilter living at breakneck speed, that it's easy to forget that having an enormous mortgage, constant pressure and irritability isn't written into our DNA. It doesn't have to be the blueprint for the future.
Borrowed money can feel like a crushing burden.
What single step will you take today in the direction of your preferred future?

Last year I wrote about the Known triggers for bullying for K in my theme of workplace bullying. Here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Climate Matters. J is for Jellyfish

This if for J in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Jellyfish don’t strike me as being the most appetising creature in the sea. In fact, I think they look decidely unpallatable. But I’ve been told that with overfishing and the changing pH levels in our oceans that they will become more abundant and we might need to start finding some tasty recipes as fish stocks plummet and species become extinct.

One indication that ocean pH levels are changing and becoming unbalanced is when Jelly fish “blooms” occur. Pollution and overfishing affect jellyfish – they adapt quickly to take advantage of the changes and breed very quickly creating a bloom or infestation.

Overfishing in oceans worldwide has resulted in less predators. Because there’s less competition for food, jellyfish thrive and can reach plague proportions. The overfished species struggle to recover as the jellyfish feed on fish eggs and small fish.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
As the temperature rises, as is happening with climate change, the ocean chemistry changes. What happens with warming waters and the dilution from arctic and antarctic ice, is a bit similar to when you put cold milk in a cup of coffee, creating currents within and between the different temperature liquids. They mix at different rates. When you add winds, heated land, ocean currents, storms and tides, it enables warm water jellyfish to migrate along with the warming waters and reach new environments. 

At times jellyfish which have adapted and survived in plague proportions become a pest to shipping when they clog ship filters. Beachside holiday locations become undesirable and local economies suffer.
Algal blooms occur when algae die in vast quantities, stripping oxygen from the water. Jellyfish can survive in these low oxygen dead zones which can also be created by urban pollution and agricultural run-off. The rising levels of carbondioxide in the oceans affects the brains and central nervous systems of fish which increasingly interferes with their ability to survive and evade predators but which doesn't affect jellyfish.

Urban runoff occurs when we put fertilisers and pesticides onto crops, and in our gardens. When it rains, the residues run into waterways, rivers, lakes and eventually into the oceans as a polluted soup - along with garbage, cigarette butts, and litter, affecting the breeding cycles, breeding ability and health of whole fish populations.

Heavy metals get into the oceans, from smog which is absorbed by the water, and from other sources of pollution (think oil spills, run off from mines etc.) This is absorbed by little fish, which is then eaten by bigger fish, which is then eaten by bigger fish again which are then eaten by us. These bigger fish are the Tuna, Salmon, Flake etc. of the oceans. This is a form of bioaccumulation where we essentially eat the fish with the highest density of heavy metals.

The Australian Marine Conservation Foundation has noted that overfishing and destructive fishing practises have led to “An incredible 80% of the world’s fish stocks are now over-exploited or fished right up to their limit. Once considered inexhaustible, our oceans are now in a state of global crisis, and they need our help.”

The Australian Marine Conservation Society has prepared this excellent guide for the many Australians who love seafood but also love their oceans. "it’s not enough to simply buy what is fresh. If we want to keep eating fish we’ll have to learn to buy what is sustainable.” Tim Winton, Australian Author, AMCS Patron.

Last year I wrote about the importance of keeping a Journal for J in my theme of workplace bullying. Here.