All Things Sustainable

ecology, economy, community

Canberra – a well kept secret?

GEI am sure that Canberra must be Australia’s best kept secret, there are often groaning sounds of boredom when the name is mentioned but I really enjoy it and always find interesting things to do and places to visit.
My most recent visit was a weekend in August, I had arranged it with family members and travelled up the Clyde Mountain road on a Friday afternoon, we met for drinks and dinner that night at The Pot Belly in Belconnen. The Pot Belly is something like a local pub with overtones of an old fashioned jazz cellar and a bistro with live music. It has good food and a great atmosphere, I had fried peppers stuffed with feta cheese coated in a tempura type batter. Really good, mild at first and then a warm chilli taste as you reach the last bite, No photos of this dish (which is a shame because it was served on a bread board) nor of the venue I’m afraid but they do have a Facebook page you can check out.
The next notable event was a visit to Geoscience Australia, the national agency for geoscience and geospatial information. Does this sound boring? Well it isn’t. This establishment opens its doors to the public for one day each year and offers an insight into their work.

Geoscience Australia opened its doors to the public and it was a great success

Geoscience Australia opened its doors to the public and it was a great success

The open day is really successful, engaging children and awakening their curiosity and their interest in science. However there is also plenty of information and activity interesting and complex enough to engage the enquiring adult as well and the day included several 30 minute talks on diverse subjects covering some of the ways that geoscience is being applied to important challenges such as managing ground water and refining GPS to centimeter accurate positioning. There was a tour of the Tsunami Warning Centre, a tour of the laboratory and something called “Fossil Fun” (bookings essential for this one) and around 35 or 40 displays.
This was a demonstrate of how a volcano erupts, it was very popular but the timing was a bit unpredictable

This was a demonstration of how a volcano erupts, it was very popular but the timing was a bit unpredictable

One of the displays included seismic surveys – it had sensors set up outside along the fence line and a pad near an instrument centre housed in a tented enclosure. Children were invited to hit the pad with a mallet and look at the effects on the instruments. I didn’t get to see the instruments or hear exactly what was being revealed below the ground because the display was popular, the queue was long and there were so many other things to see.
The activities aimed at children and families were just brilliant, everything from a “GPS geocache adventure” to an appearance by a TRex dinosaur on the balcony.
T Rex appeared on the balcony with great snapping teeth and a loud roar.

T Rex appeared on the balcony with great snapping teeth and a loud roar.

And then it got out
T Rex escaped into the grounds.....

T Rex escaped into the grounds…..

And attacked a visitor. Who said science was boring?
After all this excitement my next Canberra experience was a complete contrast, I went to the Art Gallery with a pre-booked ticket to the Turner From the Tate exhibition, peaceful, calm and colourful this magnificent exhibition was a wonderful counterbalance to the immediacy of the Geoscience experience. I wandered through gallery complete with the hired audio tour which I felt was of limited use although it did draw my attention to one or two things I might otherwise have missed. I have long admired and enjoyed Turner’s work and this exhibition was a joy. Amazingly we were allowed to take photos as long as a flash was not used. Never the less I somehow felt constrained not to photograph the works until I saw the very last watercolour at which point I overcame my reticence and photographed just this one.
An exquisite Turner watercolour.

An exquisite Turner watercolour.

But my wonderful weekend had not yet ended. Without my being aware of it high tea at the Wedgewood tearoom had been booked so the afternoon ended with Champagne, Earl Grey tea and a selection of delicate sandwiches, savories and sweets served on fine china.
I love Canberra.


South East Harvest Regional Food Festival

South East Harvest Festival in Moruya 2013

South East Harvest Festival in Moruya 2013

I spent the last Saturday in July at the South East Harvest Regional Food Festival in Moruya, it was a great day which concentrated on gathering local producers and creating a family friendly event. As usual I managed to leave the camera at home and had to rely on the mobile phone for photos which made life a bit difficult as it was a really bright sunny day and as a result I was shooting blind. It was a perfect day for the solar panels that grace so many of Moruya’s rooftops, the winter sun was warm but not hot and there was no wind, a great day for pumpkin rolling and sack races, for drummers drumming, choirs singing and dancers dancing all of which happened through the day.
Pumpkin rolling competition at the SE Harvest Festival

Pumpkin rolling competition at the SE Harvest Festival

ABC TV Gardening Austraia host, Costa interviewed stallholders, directed the childrens’ games and put in a word on behalf of small producers, many of whom are struggling with regulation changes that seem almost designed to put them out of business.

I was there to help with the SCPA South East Producers stall which showcased information about Bega Seed Savers, sold seedlings from NoDig Gardens and bushfood flavours and preserves from Karibara Bushfoods. The day was an interesting mixture, on one hand the rediscovery of the value of food grown locally for local consumption, a sense that maybe producers need to stand together, to use cooperatives or maybe community owned formats to claw back the autonomy that has been ceded to multinationals. A desire to end the “get big or get out” mindset which has turned food into a commodity, flooded the world with chemicals and given us an obesity epidemic that is undermining our health. On the other hand there was also a gentle nostalgia with seating near the food stalls and randomly located straw bales that made for a very relaxed atmosphere. The requirement for the bulk of the food sold at the event to be locally sourced helped this because suddenly everyone was eating real food well cooked and well flavoured.
A week later the election was called and now there is frenetic action by politicians with the two major parties trying to persuade us all that the other side are dangerous lunatics. Tony Abbott about to destroy renewable energy and Kevin Rudd trying to win the gold medal for being horrid to refugees and asylum seekers. Oh the joys of democracy. I just hope the Greens manage to keep the balance of power and bring some honour back into politics.

Our World under threat

There are so many places now being raped by the short sighted greed of various fossil fuel industries and every project that is approved will contribute to the collapse of the world’s ecosystems. The International Energy Agency, an advisor to these very same industries, has said that if we are to keep the rising global temperature below a 2 deg celsius increase then between 60% and 80% of the known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, highlighting risks of stranded assets and falling values.
It is likely that we have already exceeded our carbon budget and all the credible science tells us that we are on the road to collapse. What form this collapse will take is not yet clear but what is clear is that if we burn the existing reserves of oil gas and coal global warming will spiral out of control. Meanwhile we have engineering idiots who think they can control everything fighting about how to further pollute and damage our life support system in a bid to make money from geoengineering the atmosphere.
Enough is enough already.
Lets stop oil, coal and gas exploration and development.

Now we are hearing that the sea ice in the arctic is so reduced that the methane held captive in the permafrost is in danger of release into the atmosphere and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas although it does not persist in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide. The melting of the arctic sea ice is undoubtedly due to carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels.
At least here in Australia our emissions are no longer growing, thanks perhaps to the falling consumption of electricity which is causing considerable angst among power generators who blame roof top solar and talk about increasing the service delivery charges to offset consumer savings on power use. Now we are hearing that Queensland is preparing to open some of the most fragile country to open cut mining, oil and shale gas exploration. Farmers have no say in what will happen on their land. The rest of us have no say either as these vandals claw the oil and gas from the earth damaging ground water and destroying the atmosphere as the fuels are burned.