Friday, August 23, 2013

The vital topic that's not being discussed this election

For a long time I've been trying to get my head around something that seems completely illogical and so far, I'm simply not getting there. Maybe you can show me where my logic is out of whack?

The role humans play in climate change is accepted in 97% of the world's peer reviewed climate papers, the burning of fossil fuels is a known factor in climate change. The scientists conducting the studies are experts in their field and have devoted their careers to the study of climate, and I accept and respect their expertise.

Health impacts
What is routinely overlooked are the health impacts from the extraction and burning of coal - coal dust makes people ill. Not just an itchy throat kind of ill, but debilitating, health destroying cancers, strokes and lung diseases - extremely unpleasant illnesses to have and all because of exposure to coal dust (also here).

At the moment those health costs are borne by the individual and community while our government subsidises the companies to extract the coal. Seriously, our government pays foreign owned companies to remove part of our country which can never be replaced to sell it overseas. And that's good because some jobs have been created. And any job is a good job. Even if it's slowly poisoning you. So they say.

But if the cost of personal and environmental ill health was factored in, and the generous subsidies removed, how viable would fossil fuels really be? 

"A major Chinese power company is in line to win millions of dollars in federal and state government grant money to develop Victorian brown coal." The Age

Development? How is it development? That implies to improve. I've tried to see where this is good and how we benefit, but try as I might, I'm at a loss. Not only are we paying a foreign company to rip out our coal and poison our communities, but it's also directly contributing to climate issues. That's not particularly smart is it? Or else I've got it all wrong. And so have the doctors, the scientists and every other trustworthy person involved.

We are only ever told that coal mining is good for the country. How is this good? Our taxes are at work to subsidise foreign companies to dig up our coal (which can never be replaced) and ship it away to other countries. We're not stockpiling it for future use, to use within a mix of sustainable technologies. It's gone. Forever. And we're left with the clean up bill. And we're told we don't want these companies to be taxed for polluting our land, our water, our sky, our communities. Really? Why not?

Some people have jobs with the fossil fuel companies. Some people get very ill. So more of our taxes are used to assist them with doctor and hospital visits, medications, nursing, maybe even palliative care. And funding is pulled from hospitals, there are cuts to nursing and beds are closed. What a lucky country!

We're left with the costs of pollution of land and waterways. With the loss of drinkable water. Loss of environment. With the ongoing expensive health impacts, not only for the people who made a conscious decision to work in coal dust, but for the innocent families and children living nearby. And this is good. So they say. But I'm not convinced.

Alternative energy
Then, in Victoria, we have the vilification of alternative energy, and in particular wind power. On health grounds. Some people report getting headaches and not being able to sleep. Really? And in its wisdom, the Victorian Government makes the wind industry jump over all sorts of hurdles that aren't applied with the same enthusiasm when it comes to coal and CSG.

The government listens to a cashed up, vocal minority who are repeatedly discredited and yet NEVER comment on the very real and negative aspects of reliance on coal. It's hard not to be cynical. The vocal minority who don't like wind power and with spurious claims have more clout than those suffering with real, genuine and identifiable diseases. It's as if the people living in and around coal mines and coal fired power stations are expendable. Their lives are of less importance. That seems to be the unspoken message from the government. And this is good. So they say. But it doesn't seem right to me.

Doctors warn of "the costly legacy unfolding for Australia from under-regulation of the pollution caused by many [coal and CSG] resource projects" (link). Yet simultaneously we have over-regulation and rejection of studies in the case of wind power. Who benefits from this inconsistency? ...
"It is clear that State government approvals of coal and coal seam gas projects are often influenced by potential economic gain without thorough assessment of potential harms," said DEA spokesperson, Dr David Shearman.  
"Permitting dangerous pollution is creating a costly legacy for Australia that is being picked up in the healthcare and other sectors."  
"The social and financial costs of this pollution are not being measured or factored in when projects are given the go ahead." (here
But 'no worries' says the government, and gives the green light to more and more coal and CSG operations - and people who live along roads and train-lines where the coal is transported continue to get ill. But this is good for the country. So they say.
My apologies. I don't have the source for this graphic.
The end of coal?
And while all this is happening (or not in the case of wind farms) ...
"Goldman Sachs this month produced an explosive report, titled "The window for thermal coal investment is closing." In it, the bank revealed that "thermal coal's current position atop the fuel mix for global power generation will be gradually eroded by the following structural trends:
1) environmental regulations that discourage coal-fired generation
2) strong competition from gas and renewable energy and
3) improvements in energy efficiency." 
and of a statement that should be of great concern to everyone:
"there is little evidence Australian Governments are acting to adjust our economic and social structure to the reality that coal is over: despite knowing this must be the case if we are to avoid dangerous levels of global warming and if emerging economies are to act on the health and water crises precipitated by their too-fast growth of coal power." (here) (my bold)
And so we come to an election where none of this is mentioned. Not climate change. Not our role in it. Nothing about building a resilient country. Nothing at all from the major parties about plans for the inevitable impacts of rising seas, changing and erratic weather patterns and the effect this will have on food production or communities and cities. Nothing about the clash of water requirements for people, farming, agriculture, mining. Nothing to do with the incredible heating of our country. Nothing. Not a hint that with climate change, we are currently facing what has been described as "one of the greatest threats posed to the future of human-kind and the world"- Stephen Hawking.

In the minds of Australian politicians feted by our embarrassingly mediocre media, these issues don't rate a mention, and in the case of Tony Abbott they're shunned. And I'm appalled because our changing climate affects us all whether we like it or not.

To date, glib politicians are showing a marked lack of understanding, wisdom, courage and leadership on climate change. Hiding their heads and continuing to support coal so generously doesn't appear to benefit Australia or the world. (For an Indian perspective on Australian coal being shipped there this is an interesting article.)

And if I'm wrong, could you please explain how. Nicely of course!

Or if you happen to also be uncomfortable about our reliance on fossil fuels, and the dreadful associated health impacts you can do something and encourage your super fund to divest from fossil fuels. (Are you the Vital Few) Because fossil fuel investments are seen as being increasingly risky and you wouldn't want to see your super go down the gurgler would you. (Forbes)


On the importance of voting thoughtfully: Why vote? Because if you don't vote, someone will speak for you.

Some of the articles used in the above spray:'s_pneumoconiosis

Australia’s legendarily irresponsible mining industry has a new plan: while the planet faces catastrophic climate change, build the world’s largest coal mining complex, and then build a shipping lane to that port straight through the greatest ecological treasure we have - the Great Barrier Reef!
Blogged by Sue Travers

Sunday, August 11, 2013

One simple way to get the community and ratepayers offside.

The photo below shows the area which is currently the subject of deep emotion and distress to the people of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria Australia. It's a disused quarry site nestled between arms of the Arthurs Seat State Park, organic farms and businesses, homes and schools.

In the background it's just possible to see a sliver of water which is part of Port Phillip Bay. Behind the hill, flourishing in the bay are mussel farms and the magnificent beaches are safe with little pollution. The bay is home to pods of dolphins and is occasionally visited by migrating whales. The state park is a sanctuary for eagles, owls, koalas, bandicoots and rare or threatened plant species.

In short it's a special place, but the Mornington council and the Ross Trust who owns the Pioneer Quarry site have decided this is the place for a tip with no recycling facilities. The proposed tip "would be servicing mainly other regions. At current figures, approximately 70% of the 150.000 tonnes annually would be coming from outside the Mornington Peninsula." (SaveArthursSeat)

The logic appears to be "It's a hole in the ground. Let's fill it up with unfiltered, un-recycled garbage and make this dumping ground available to businesses outside the Shire. What a good idea!"
photo - Melanie Cameron
Anyone would be excused for assuming that the Ross Trust isn't involved or interested in the environment. They'd be wrong. 

The following information comes from the RE Ross Trust website. 
The Trust will direct resources towards projects that will ...  "Protect and preserve Australian flora and fauna". It seems contradictory that a trust which actively supports environmental programs would not undertake to protect the Pioneeer Quarry site and surrounding areas including the creek which runs directly into Port Phillip Bay.

The Save Arthurs Seat community group have been working tirelessly to ensure that best practice guidelines are met:

The protection of environment and public health in waste management delivery is non-negotiable (State Government Vic)
“Encourage, promote and develop ecologically sustainable waste management” (Mornington Peninsula Regional Waste Management Group)
“Today’s landfills must not leave an unacceptable environmental legacy for our children to address” (EPA Vic)
The following is an open letter written by Francois Schamberger regarding his opposition to the proposal. (Edited and formatted for ease of reading)
The Proposed Landfill at the former Pioneer Quarry Site 

There are many very serious concerns about this project which we are going to come to light over the coming weeks. 

Tip Liners

The first one is about the liner for the proposed landfill. All manufacturer of liners stress the limited performance of their liners and clearly state that no warranty as to their performance is ever implied. When the bottom liner fails, leachate migrates directly into the environment. All reports ever written by environmental protection agencies on the performance of landfill, state that all liners being made out of clay, plastic, and composite will have some leaks. Even the most up-to-date and elaborate ones (compacted clay with a minimum required thickness and a maximum allowable hydraulic conductivity, overlaid by a 2mm high-density polyethylene geomembrane) do not pass the 10 year test. 

All liners will have some leaks, due to their limited performance parameters, and their degradation is usually the result of insufficient tensile strength, tear resistance, impact resistance, puncture resistance, and susceptibility to environmental stress cracking. 

The role of discarded household chemicals

Quite a number of common household chemicals will also degrade them. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated that all barriers "will ultimately fail," while the site remains a threat for "thousands of years”, suggesting that even the most modern, up-to-date landfill designs delay, but do not prevent ground and surface water pollution. 

Location - in a water catchment area

Let’s not forget that the proposed site is at the bottom of a substantial water catchment area and within a very short time the leachate, and its toxic constituents, would flow into the underlying aquifers, the nearby creek and into Port Phillip Bay. 

If this proposal goes ahead, it will be undeniable: the legacy of the Ross Trust will be that of a polluted Bay, creek and groundwater for hundreds of years. 

How are we going to explain to our children and grandchildren that the beach is closed, the creek fenced off, the groundwater polluted and The Ross Trust and Mornington Shire Council were part of that lunacy? 

From the R E Trust website we know that "Mr Ross was a keen bushman, had an extensive knowledge of native plants and trees and made a study of the habits of birds and their calls."  We can only imagine what Mr R E Ross would say to his Trustees: “You are fired, you are destroying my legacy."  

Technical Reports

The quality of the technical reports and analysis so far, tabled by the proponents of the landfill is very disappointing - notable for their omissions, their unsuitable comparisons which are very generalist, almost direct copies of reports compiled for other landfill sites. 

I would like to draw your attention to Mr Latham’s statement that “they are very keen to consult the community on the project.” 

“Keen to consult” No! Just a slap in our face. For 5 years the council and Ross Trust have been secretly planning to turn the quarry into a tip and now they want to establish a Community Reference Group, chosen strictly by them, to advise them how the project could work better. 

Another statement which merits our attention was made by Mr Maltby, The Peninsula Waste Manager “Mr Maltby predicted shire residents would see an extra $100 on their rates bill each year if the shire had to send waste out of the area.” To make such a statement, you would expect somebody in such a position of authority to have the figures on hand to back his claims. So Mr Maltby please can we see those figures? If you do not produce them, we can only conclude that it was a cheap self serving quote, totally inappropriate for a person in your position. 

So now for my predictions and I am very happy to back them up. 

The proposed landfill is going to cost the residents a lot more than if the waste would be send out of the area; 

Why ? 

1. The proposed landfill is going to be operated by a private company which wants to make a profit (unlike now, Shire operated for the benefit of the residents) 

2. The proposed landfill is going to be in the top 5% cost bracket. 

3. The proposed landfill is going to be viable only if it becomes a regional landfill for the Bayside and Southern Councils. Peninsula Link would see hundreds of rubbish trucks making their way down the Peninsula every day

What horrifies me the most, is to see the incestuous relationship between our Council and a private company - a council which has already factored in the proposed tip (since 2009) as a fait accompli, even well before the proposal has been lodged. A council which would accept any tipping charges Peninsula Waste would demand. A council also prepared to accept the private company’s reports as their own, by-passing the need to get independent expert reports. A council putting the wishes of a private entity well before their residents and ratepayers. 

If the Councillors have any decency they would resign now - if not, the Victorian Government should dissolve the Shire of Mornington Peninsula Council and appoint an administrator, as the Council is failing the simplest test of impartiality and decency. United we stand, to stop the biggest threat ever to our environment, to our beautiful Mornington Peninsula and to our cherished Arthurs Seat. 


Francois Schamberger.
It's cold comfort that "As a wholly owned subsidiary of the R E Ross Trust, 100% of the profits of Peninsula Waste Management will be distributed to community organisations through the Trust’s GRANTING STRATEGY." Loss of environment will remain lost, not just for this generation, but will be a toxic legacy for future generations as well, and no grant can fairly balance that out.

For detailed information regarding the poor location, lack of recycling facilities and outdated "technology" with the proposed tip see the Frequently asked Questions at Save Arthurs Seat

The Story of Stuff:The Story of Electronics, why designed for the dump is toxic for people and the planet - as it relates to the proposed tip site

On the contradictions in waste 'management' and being a transition town, "sustainable" and a UNESCO biosphere reserve.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where does e-waste go?

This is an excellent, informative 7 minute video by The Story of Stuff: The Story of Electronics, why designed for the dump is toxic for people and the planet

If all goes according to their plan, this is the sort of unfiltered, un-recycled, toxic waste the Shire of Mornington will allow to be discarded as landfill on a disused quarry on the beautiful Arthurs Seat, an area known for its peace, beauty and wildlife. 

There are other viable options and not surprisingly the local community is unimpressed and is energetically fighting the outdated and shortsighted plan.

There's more about the plans the Shire of Mornington has been working on behind closed doors here Save Arthurs Seat and  Waste Management in the Shire of Mornington.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Are facebook business pages a fad, or the future of social media marketing?

Well, I've finally taken the plunge (again) and relaunched my traverselife Facebook page. It's been a year and a half since my last post which is hardly something to crow about.

Honestly, you'd think that having survived the drama of having a web site constructed and starting a blog, (which involved a lot of internal angst) that it wouldn't be too hard to post on Facebook business pages. Not so. There's something I find very challenging about being "out there" in public with the potential to be torn to shreds by trolls - frankly it's unsettling.

But as I commented in my last post, Can blogging support your values? the benefits are there.

So when I was contacted by a young, keen and above all, knowledgeable, social media enthusiast regarding creating a business presence on Facebook I thought I should give it a go ... again.

This time, however, I wasn't alone, bumbling along, not really knowing what I was doing. Amelia (on Twitter: @AvidComms) walked me through such things as an over arching storyline, daily themes, the use of photos and using hoot suite to schedule posts.

In short she made a Facebook business page seem logical and achievable. Something that even a somewhat disorganised (cough, cough) person like me could do!

Like many people, self promotion doesn't come easily to me, so even letting clients know it was up and running was a bit of a challenge. However it's all happening over there, email invitations have been sent, received and acted on, and I have gone from a decidedly uninspiring 7 "Likes" to 30+ in a couple of days which feels very supportive and is extremely encouraging.

Armed with a bit more discipline and structure I hope to provide links to interesting articles, some posts I've written, and exchange comments and interact with current clients, as well as with people I may never meet in person; and I welcome you as well!! I'm not sure how it'll go, but I'll certainly do my best to provide interesting, informative and hopefully useful content.

I expect I'll refine this as I go on, but at present I've described my traverselife page as relating to further education, career development and workplace communication as well as using ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Training) and mindfulness techniques to support career transition, improve workplace happiness and assist overall wellbeing.

The current focus for weekday posts is:

  • Monday - Education
  • Tuesday - Job hunting
  • Wednesday - In the workplace
  • Thursday - Mindfulness
  • Friday - Working towards retirement
If you're on Facebook please drop by and say hello! ;-)

Interestingly, since I wrote this post I've been to a local small business networking meeting and the topic for next time is Social Media: Marketing and monetizing your company. I hope the speaker doesn't just focus on Twitter like one book I borrowed from the library did!


Posted by Sue Travers