Category Archives: Sustainability

Senator Ludlam’s take on the Abbott government and his vision for WA


I can’t say I align with the Greens or any party in general. However, Ludlam couldn’t have hit the nail on the head more perfectly.

‘Urban Australia; not built for the 21st century’

Here are two real world experiences from my own life.

Firstly, four years ago, a friend and I visited Melbourne for a short holiday. After a night out, we caught a cab back to our hotel on the fringe of the inner city.

I am notoriously bad with names, but entirely opposite with directions. One of my favourite warnings to others is, “I never get lost, but I can’t tell you where I am”.

With that in mind, I had to apologise to the driver for not being able to give him an address, but I could easily direct him.

Without a detour, we quickly made it the short distance back to our hotel. The driver was by far the worst driver I have ever come across, rude and unpleasant for the entire trip, with a few snide remarks when we reached the hotel. My friend can be a little hot-headed and the two of them nearly ended up in a physical incident.

I later learned that the driver’s attitude most likely reflected being caught into taking a small fare. They apparently have the reputation for rejecting fares under a certain amount and, by not giving him the address, he might have felt that it was a deliberate attempt to avoid this.

The second experience occurred with the same friend, however this time in his home province of Sichuan, China, this previous April.

We were there for his wedding and on one of the days he wanted his Aussie friends to experience a typical Chinese weekend recreation. This in basic detail is a lazy day in the countryside, playing Mahjong, perhaps doing a little fishing, all while drinking copious cups of tea and enjoying the delicious food of the region.

Again my friend found himself in a war of words with a cab driver. The driver was annoyed by how far we went out into the country, thinking that we would stop at one of the closer country tea houses. It ended with the driver demanding twice as much as he outlined at the start of the trip.

Yet, the drive out from the centre of Dujiangyan to the tea house was less than 15 minutes in total.

While on holiday there, at any hour of the day or night, if my family required something, it was a short walk from our hotel room to all sorts of goods and services. By comparison, in suburban Australia, for most people, without a vehicle, there is a significant separation from even essential goods and services.

More than this, the attitude of the taxi drivers in both cities speaks volumes of the contrast in urban design.

Australians largely are subjected to poor quality, inefficient urban design and yet, when you speak to them about this, the defensive response illustrates just how ingrained into the cultural identity this phenomena actually is.

We Australians have been sold the urban sprawling landscape for so long that anything else seems foreign. However, it’s not the image of suburbia that we really buy into, but rather the semi-rural feel; the escape from the “rat-race”… our little oasis, overlooking parks and golf courses by sunset.

Of course, when we all move there together, value of land increases, driving further development and soon we find ourselves again stuck in peak traffic, far from any open spaces.

How different would it be to live and work within a short commute from one another, with all goods and services within a walking distance? How about having the countryside a relatively short drive out of town, for the weekend getaway?

Throughout Asia and Europe, this is normal for most people, where urban design still reflects times without widespread fast vehicles, yet in the sun scorched Great Southern Land, we are fixated in converting sun-buffering green space into concrete and bitumen, where we waste a lot of our life in commute.

With the cost of petrol and electricity on the rise, this lifestyle already hurts Australians and will increasingly in the coming decades, ultimately devaluing the urban landscape and local economies. It is unsustainable and will, sooner or later, be rejected, either by choice or by necessity.

I have a feeling that, if provided an alternative, innovative urban designers could set the scene for a new urban landscape for future Australians that would be adopted by many and over time, most. This would not be like Asia or Europe, nor would be what most Australians are currently used to, but a combination of both to develop something new, distinctive and unique.

With a changing climate and increasing costs in traditional energy, to act sooner would be timely.

I have a few ideas myself on this and would love to see an increase in this dialogue in an urban landscape already stretched too thin.

A Robust Green Sector Supports Everything

Early last week, I had an article published in the Independent Australia journal. The feedback was a little surprising, I didn’t realise that others would take it as a lament. The article was only based on my personal reflections as a professional ideally suited for a green sector that has failed to eventuate in Australia.

If anything, the difficulties created by this has been valuable to my career. It has provided me avenues to develop a far more diverse skills set in a short amount of time and prove myself time and time again to be highly adaptive within roles with different policies and objectives and to be innovative.

There are no laments personally. I’ve made the most of my skills and managed to navigate a difficult career path to many personal benefits. The article instead expressed concern, based on my observations; concerns for budding professionals who may not be as resourceful (or at least, still trying to find their feet) and concern for a country that seems stuck with cultural preferences that are ever increasingly unsustainable.

This second point was the many focus of the article I had previously appear in the Australian science journal, Solutions; A Viking Legacy and Australian Cuisine.

We have a preference for primary food production that lingers on our largely European and Asian heritage that does not suit the low quality soils and harsher climates of Australia. All while other options are readily available and have proven themselves better suited to Australian agricultural landscapes.

The same must be said about our preference with urban design, which continually impacts and degrades landscapes while increasingly putting peoples lives and properties at risk from flooding and fire events.

For such reasons, the promised green sector should be front and centre in all we do. It’s not a debate about the reality or certainties of climate change, but simply doing what we do better. The green sector is, what I’ve found to be a taboo word in some corners; efficiency. It’s also resilience.

These two lead to increased prosperity. But no-one wants to talk about culture. This is why the failure of the green sector to take off in Australia has little to do with the political debate over climate change or the left-right / environmentalism discussions more broadly.

We lack the vision, the innovation and the confidence to tackle the necessary changes pro-actively.

Interestingly, a few days after I had this article published on IA, my manager approached me to say that with the current budget constraints, my contracted position needed to be downsized for the short-term, with the hopefully expectation that they may be able to offer me something full time in the coming months.

Being the sole earner, with a wife and young baby at home, this conversation was the death knell for this role. I simply couldn’t offer my family enough on a part time wage. Again, it would seem that I have to clean up my CV and hunt around. But, just as with this post and my article; sure, there are negatives and uncertainties ahead, but lingering on such misses the point and potential entirely.

The necessary conversations will not be had unless someone is willing to start, and persistently start, them. Each time I’ve had to move on, it had brought with it new faces, new challenges and exciting opportunities to improve and demonstrate my value. I haven’t had a single employer happy to see me go. Each would happily keep me if the certainty of the role hadn’t been exhausted.

In a small way, it’s a good sign that I’m doing my job well.

I’m certain I’ll do the next one well, as well, all the while seeking out avenues to press the point that Australia is a great place, but luck shouldn’t be expected and indeed runs out; we need to work at the core foundations of our way of life if we want to continue to consider ourselves the lucky ones. The foundations are of course embedded and supported by our landscapes. Having a robust green sector therefore supports everything.

Where are all the green jobs in Australia?

The Independent Australia kindly posted the following article;

 “…hopefully you will have a job next year.”

This has been the chorus of the past six years of my work history. Each chapter ‒ and there have been a few ‒ has ended with a shocked expression above a notice of resignation.

Back when I was contemplating my choices for university courses in the early 2000s, I fell for the promise that the “green sector” was the next big thing, soon to demand suitably qualified people for these roles.

This pitch has left me with a specialised degree in science that few appreciate and I have largely not applied in any role.

That isn’t to say that my career thus far has been all bad.

I have excelled in every role where I have been given some genuine autonomy and ownership, including designing new and unique research equipment, educational or otherwise public engagement media and even successfully being published within professional media.

Please keep reading here.

5 Alternative Fuel Companies Spearheading the Green Energy Agenda

By Zeke A. Iddon

The inconvenient truth about global warming has thankfully spurred a large number of environmentally-conscious companies to research, develop and commercialise alternative fuels that enable and empower us all to make a difference by playing an important part in aiding the planet.

1Alternative fuels can be created from all manner of materials, ranging from waste cooking oil to waste plastic. A vital part of the combined worldwide effort to lower Co2 emissions and reduce the global carbon footprint by finding alternatives to the non-renewable fossils fuels oil, gas and coal, the innovations within the alternative fuel sector drive the green energy agenda forward.

LS9, Inc.

Based in San Francisco, LS9, Inc is committed to producing renewable and cost effective fuels and chemicals to the world markets. Their innovative biotechnology converts a diverse range of feedstocks into biofuels and green, sustainable chemicals for industry through a cost and time effective single-step fermentation process.2

LS9, Inc also carries out commendable work to promote a worldwide culture of eco-friendly commerce.

Poly2Petro

Fresh to the alternative fuel sector is the innovative technology created by US company Poly2Petro. Founded in 2013, Poly2Petro has developed a technological process that converts waste plastic materials into clean, renewable biofuels. Given the large volume of waste plastics that amass in our garbage landfills, this is a crucial development that will reduce the demand of valuable virgin oil supplies used for other biofuel products.

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Poly2Petro is focused on providing an extremely useful alternative to sending waste plastics to landfills that will save money and be very beneficial to the environment, reducing global garbage pollution and alleviating oil scarcity through cost efficient recycling and biofuel production.

Alternative Fuels Americas, Inc (AFAI)

 Alternative Fuels Americas, Inc (AFAI) is a green energy company that has developed and widely implemented an advanced stage multi-feedstock ‘seed-to-pump’ process, establishing grain fields to produce biofuels throughout North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

4AFAI uses the grain from the fields to produce clean, renewable biofuels in their own specially designed oil refineries. Not only is their biofuel less environmentally harmful than fossil fuels, it can be produced at 32% less cost.

Abengoa

Based in Seville, Spanish sustainable fuel company Abengoa has a diverse portfolio of innovative green energy projects that span the globe.

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Their commercial eco-friendly projects include large-scale biofuel plants, solar-thermal plants, solar-gas hybrid plants and desalination plants that can produce clean drinking water from sea water, a vital initiative for third world countries. Abengoa has extended its vision for greener commerce to more than 80 countries around the world.

Green Fuels

6Green Fuels is a British biodiesel company and the world’s leaders in the manufacture of biodiesel production equipment. It has 25 large-scale bio-refineries dotted around the world and an impressive global map of thousands of independent biodiesel processing plants. Every day the eco-friendly commercial technology created by Green Fuels produces more than 350 million litres of clean, renewable biodiesel, which saves approximately 2,500 tonnes of Co2 emissions.

For their next project, Green Fuels is developing technology to create biofuel for the aviation industry.

The Importance of Alternative Fuels

The alternative fuel sector is plays a vital role in the global green agenda. The companies above are working steadfastly to drive technological progress and commercialise alternative fuel production around the world, striving to promote a vast culture change within industry towards more eco-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels. This is important work as climate change caused by Co2 emissions is one of the most pressing threats to our planet.
Take the time to visit the websites of these five companies whose excellent work is spearheading the green agenda in industry and providing effective and efficient alternative solutions to the use of harmful fossil fuels.


“Zeke A. Iddon is a British entertainer and advocate of improving global thinking on climate change and sustainability issues. In his capacity as a writer for Poly2Petro, he hopes to help educate the public’s understanding of plastic recycling (and its current failures), if only in a small way.”

To learn more about what Poly2Petro aims to do in pursuit of this – as well as to solve other environmental and consumption problems at the same time – see this page on ‘Our Solution’.

Hot 2013; adaptation to climate change is no longer trivial

Firstly, thank you to all followers of NewAnthro. I hope you have enjoyed my work here over the past year and will continue to do so into 2014.

My only hope for the coming year is that, with the heat waves over the past autumn, the warmest winter on record, incredible bush fires of this past spring and the first day of the new year threatening to break records for maximum Australian temperatures, the dialogue will shift away from trivialities in certainty of expected climatic change and to what matters; making Australian communities more resilient in any case.

Energy companies were once telling us that price rises were likely if Abbott removed the carbon price and now they’re telling us the opposite. The only thing I think Australian families can bank on is ever increasing prices for electricity, gas and fuel. For this reason too, the dialogue needs to shift towards making the Australian economy more resilient (which starts with those who do the work – the wage earners).

Looking at heat stress, losses in primary production, human respiratory health (air quality in relation to dust, smoke and smog), economic stress on families and direct damage to communities due to bush fire and flooding should be enough to change the tone of the conversation in Australia towards activities that would otherwise be considered to both mitigate from and adapt to future climate change. It’s a niche market that is only likely to grow and we can prosper from leading the way or pay through the nose if we lag.

Apart from this, my silence over the past few weeks is due to a few factors.

Firstly, I have been writing. I’ve produced a number of articles that I’ve provided to various outlets and been undertaking some revisions to suit their platforms. This is in the hope of increasing my audience (I’ve produced more than 600 posts now on this blog – I know it is of value from the feedback I receive, so I’m hoping to maximise the impact of my work).

I’ve also started a few projects, more or less as a hobby. I’m interested in learning more about a lot of technology. This has led to building an 115W, 12V solar panel thus far which I’m very happy with. All up, I managed to build it for under AU$100.

I have a lot of experience with off-grid systems, so I’ll make good use of it and have since moved onto other projects.

This recent activity has been spurred by the common point that a lot of climate aware commentators make; we currently have much of the technology required to decarbonise human activity.

I want to know more about what this technology actually is, how practical it is, how we can adopt, adapt and improve and what potential setbacks actually exist. I started with solar because it’s what I’m most familiar with. I hope that all of this experimentation will both help my writing and eventually shift my career into something I’m highly motivated about.

On that note, I must admit that reading and writing are among my greatest passions, which makes me feel a little disappointed with myself for leaving NewAnthro idle for so long. Hopefully, I can find a new groove into the new year and return to a better pace of writing.

Landfill Harmonics

Sorry for my quietness this past week. I swear, I have good reasons.

I hope you all have a great time over this season with the people you care most about.

I just stumbled by this which is a great reminder of how easily we tend to overlook value in material goods… but not all of us. [h/t to my father]

Happy holidays!

Retail shopping; does it really help local economies?

With the annual season of mass spending back upon us, I’ve noticed a number of pop-news articles playing up to business. The general theme being that online shopping is killing retailers and that this is bad for local communities.

While I would agree with the principle argument, reality already fails to align with this point and so I’m drawn to implore to my readers to in fact shop online in the interest of preserving local wealth.

The money trail

Take a given CEO, say Bernie Brookes from Myer, in the fiscal year, 2011-12, he grossed more than a cool $3 million. Assuming a full time employee grossed $40k, which for memory was about the going rate a few years ago, this one bloke, in one city, makes more than 75 times as much as the general store staff.

And then there are the shareholders, that play their part for a share in the profits wherever they happen to be in the world.

Another massive overhead is the products themselves. These are sourced wherever they are cheapest and to get them the cheapest, manufacturing is done where people are poorest and obliged to accept whatever lousy wage on offer.

And then there is the tendency to maximise growth through the amalgamation of companies. Take, for instance Unilever. Look on the package of a range of competing products, say frozen food or hygiene products, and see how many are owned by Unilever.

Regardless of which you buy, the profits largely feed back to international shareholders and disproportionate wages heavily weighted to a handful of individuals, with a comparatively small amount staying local in wages (which themselves are then fed back to this process).

Shopping at retail outlets locally this season is largely draining local wealth away through the lion share of the profits distributed internationally, not locally.

And Brookes shamefully complains about holiday wages!

No, these retailers are not the least part interested in local wealth, except for what they can bleed from it.

Don’t shop at retail outlets if it’s cheaper to shop online. Keeping your bank account healthier means that more wealth is kept local.

How to buy special and buy local

There are also other ways you can give special gifts that helps to keep money in the local economy.

For instance, there are small retailers and farmer markets that sell their own goods, especially treats. These can make a great and unique gift. Another personal favourite of mine is experiences. Be it classes in cheese making or baking, dance classes for the aunty and uncle who have been married for decades and might not think about spending time like that together…

There is always something suitable for anyone and these opportunities can be life changing while supporting local business and, being not a material focused gift, can help reduce our tendencies for landfill

More in the video below that I made for last xmas.

(more thoughts to follow..)

 IMG_3834718605003

A Viking Legacy and Australian Cuisine

A perspective piece I wrote for the Solutions Journal has now been published.

In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond provides us a chilling historical anecdote of the Greenland Vikings: faced with an increasingly harsh climate in the early fifteenth century, a large swath of the population died out from starvation. Greenland Inuit, however, continued to live during this period. Unlike the Vikings, they harbored no cultural taboo restricting them from eating fish, which remained abundant as the climate became too cold for the grazing herds maintained by Vikings.

In very much the same way, cultural preferences in Australia, concurrent with changes in climate, may limit local capacity to maximize long-term prosperity. So-called heritage preferences livestock—that is, cattle and sheep—are resource-intensive species. With increasing anthropogenic climate change, the cost of this investment may prove too much to sustain Australian populations, just as natural changes in climate proved too much for Greenland Vikings.

Read more here.

Carbon dioxide; the pollutant

There’s three permanent intertidal rock pools teaming with life.

In the first, you pour bleach. The bleach kills everything in the pool. You deem it an environmental pollutant.

In the second, you pour crude oil. Slowly, but surely, the oil kills everything in the pool. You deem it an environmental pollutant.

In the third, you pour in fresh water. Even slower, you find that the freshening water kills the life in the pool. This fresh water you deem is not a pollutant…

Wait… What? Why?

Well, you can drink it. In fact, you need to drink it to survive.

However, you’re not a marine organism living in the pool. All three experience a change to the chemical composition of the pool which alter it so much that life, as it had existed, could no longer function in the same manner.

As far as each pool is concerned, each one, including the freshened pool, has been polluted.

In the same fashion, increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 leads to environments no longer functioning in the way we have experienced them throughout the Holocene. Just like the freshening pool, this is effectively polluting the atmosphere, regardless of previous times where life (species that no longer exist) thrived under different atmospheric compositions.

We are digging up long trapped carbon, which has not been part of the biosphere or atmosphere for many millions of years and converting it into CO2 emissions, measured in the gigatonnes in annual atmospheric addition.

It is a slow process, but we are already witnessing coral bleaching, die back in drying / warming forests, parasitic species getting the edge on host (due to heat stress), shifting timing of breeding, blooming and migration; all of which negatively impact on ecosystems as they currently function.

Enough of any chemical is detrimental.

We are changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere in such a way that the resulting climate is less accommodating to current ecosystems and, if it’s difficult to appreciate just how dependent upon ecosystems we really are, also our current agricultural practices. Sure, it doesn’t mean death, but it means otherwise avoidable hardship.

Even CO2 can be a pollutant.