Friday, December 22, 2006

The end of another year. Successful for me in strange ways, and frustrating in many others. A lot to do in 2007 - we gotta get some ShoppingFix on yo' ass.

In the mean time go find a beach. Happy holidays and merry Christmas. See you in January.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"A price on carbon!" screams big business. Emissions targets for the aviation industry say many in Europe.

Now a British commentator calls for a carbon charge on food production. It's primarily a suggestion to seek control over how the big food corporates conduct business. It's a cry for local production and against the damage caused by industrial food monocultures.

The largest of emitters are involved in emission reduction initiatives. Some large food industry players participate in voluntary programs - maybe highlighting those businesses is a better way forward...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Summer is a great time to be in or near water but apparently it's becoming scarce. Or is it?

Last summer my kayak club crew couldn't find much to paddle on, yet the groundsman at the Basin would have been shitting himself a few weeks ago trying to prepare a wicket for tomorrow's cricket test.

Kapiti Coast is as dry as the proverbial in the height of summer, Canterbury has it's well publicised water issues, yet we all remember the plight of those in Westport last summer. It's either feast or famine.

So the question becomes one of managing the water resource - including looking at demand. I came across quite a handy lay persons guide to how much water an individual may consume. My jaw dropped. A pint of beer = 300 pints of water. Worse: a glass of wine = 960 glasses of water. The season to be jolly indeed.

I plan to get my hands on a copy of Sam Mahon's The Water Thieves for a holiday read. His is a story of agricultural water use in my homeland, Canterbury. Canterbury does have an allocation problem.

We may soon get to a situation where pressure is exerted on the price of our "watered" products. Our dairy exports are massive earners, yet their competitiveness depends substantially on continued irrigation in Canterbury (and other areas). We can be referred to as traders in virtual water - where countries with relative water scarcity import products of high water intensity. It makes absolute sense. For New Zealand, only so long as our water resource remains viable.

In many parts of the world the pressures are more complex. In China for example, water intensive production has tended to be where the money is, not the water. The Saudi government issues subsidies to alfalfa growers and California ensures water gets to their rice farmers. Market theory goes out the window when subsidies fly in.

Does all this mean our problems are tinsy? We're not likely to be at war for water, but we've got issues. While they're being worked on, enjoy some free fresh festive water.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas is the time to be unbelievably wasteful. And just like fake plastic trees wear Radiohead out, Christmas is accelerating the wearing out of our planet.

The fake plastic tree vs "real" tree argument has been well publicised over the years. In co2 terms it's better to go real. Which makes right now a very edgy time for young evergreens. Why not buy a living tree and plant it in January?

Shopping is of course rife at Christmas. This has led to an "end compulsory consumption" campaign and at least two "buy nothing Christmas" campaigns run out of the US (where I nicked the image, above). But I'm no killjoy. I need sox.

Be honest: your sister doesn't need a new ab-cruncher or a pair of spotted slippers. Tell her to go for a walk or to resurrect those ugly trainers she wore once. Either that or gift a pair of chooks on her behalf. The goat over on the right is from Oxfam who offer a range of gifts under the banner "unwrapped". It's simple and it's clever. You give where it's needed, your sister gets the warm fuzzies.

The list of festive excess is a long one - ridiculous packaging and wrapping, gaudi Christmas lights, gluttony, and beverages from single use vessels. There are many handy web guides for a greener Christmas, but the most important thing is awareness. Think about what you're buying. Preferably Kiwi or fair trade.

Christmas is a great time for fun with family and friends. Enjoy it with a clearer conscience.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Our Saturday Sensitivity series continues. Here's race, religion, the dairy industry... a superb scene from The Life of Brian.

Friday, December 08, 2006

There are empty bottles strewn everywhere. So the Greens and the NZBCSC have kicked up a stink about how tough it is for roading contractors to include recycled glass in road aggregate.

It’s the latest spat in trying to find a solution to the glass mountain that I’ve posted about previously. Just last month a beverage industry spokesperson scorned calls for introduction of a compulsory bottle deposit.

His was the classic short sighted economic argument: consumers should not be penalised for the fact that the recycling industry can’t make glass recycling work. No mention of the fact that councils and ratepayers typically subsidise beverage companies by footing the cost for disposing of single use packaging.

The argument is one of life cycle costing for glass. The Greens and NZBCSD press releases show that councils (and their roading contractors) are not prepared to factor in the saved landfill costs when deciding whether to mix glass with roading aggregate. And there's stacks of unused “recycled” glass available.

Late last year more than 2,000 people signed a bottle deposit petition that a Motueka community group submitted to local councils. Nothing substantial came from councils, but the same community group are now part of the Great New Zealand Bottle Drive – a campaign to establish container deposit legislation. South Australia has been operating under such legislation for many years, and so have 11 states in the USA. The Canadian territory of Ontario is considering it.

Of course the glass mountain wouldn't be an issue if there was no need to recycle bottles – if all beverage bottles were reused. Like those you use when drinking beer from a crate.

I’ll say it again: if you’re after a beer at a bar then ask for it from the tap. If there’s no tap don’t consider it your local. Your average sports or working men’s club, or your local RSA will probably have tallies (from the crate). They just happen to serve them at a fine new establishment upstairs on Cuba Street. Crikey, would you look at the time…!

Update: 21 March '07 - Duncan of Community Action has informed me that over 25 councils have now got behind their push for CDL - including Wellington City. Great work!

Further to posts back in June and September, Graeme Hart has completed the sale of the majority of his Rank Group forestry. According to the new owners the forests are "likely to be replanted when harvested".

Some central North Island towns had been feeling a little uneasy about the deal - their economies relying substantially on forestry employment. Replanting will likely mean ongoing employment. Replanting also means ongoing carbon sequestration.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wellington isn't only built on rock and roll, it's contained by its valleys. The Hutt was built on the quarter acre, and Auckland was built around the motorway.

Tom over at WellUrban has highlighted a problem with the amusing Hutt Valley advertising campaign. Like in the movie End of Suburbia, the Hutt is founded on the car and cheap oil. There's also some interesting commentary on public transport development on WellUrban. Take a browse.

Over on Frogblog, an informative short doco series (linked) highlights the car dependence of Auckland. It is a valuable illustration of the importance of public transport thinking in local and central government.

I've touched on this suburban car dominated madness before. These are more than useful additions.

I spent the weekend on the south Wairarapa coast with a bunch of friends. On Sunday we came across a dead sperm whale washed up at Whatarangi.

"JB" had been there before us. JB, whoever she or he may be, had seen fit to carve those initials in the thick sunbaked skin of the dead mammal. You may be able to make it out at the bottom of the photo (courtesy Dion Howard, photographer extraordinaire).

JB did not have the same experience standing beside that whale that I did. But how different is JB's world view to mine? Why did JB do this?

Until now only my girlfreind, my parents, the (then) local constable, and a childhood friend knew this: when I was a kid - 8 0r 10 years old maybe - me and a buddy ringbarked some young silver birch trees in a local park. We got nicked and I will be forever ashamed of that act. Ashamed then primarily because we got nicked, ashamed now as I can't believe I didn't appreciate the value of a tree. Why did we do this?

If JB was simply getting down with the whole tagging thing I can see that s/he may have thought "a whale's as good as a wall". By carving on the whale JB was making no lasting physical impact. I took the life of a tree.

My buddy and me were young, and no doubt so is JB. I an early post I wrote of some Cornell University research that found:

If you want your children to grow up to actively care about the environment, give them plenty of time to play in the "wild" before they're 11 years old

I now care, maybe the fact that JB was out "playing" on a remote beach means that s/he will one day care. Or is there something fundamentally different between JB and me? I found myself looking at the whale and feeling an appreciation of the scale of loss. It may have something to do with whales sharing human traits. The dead animal demanded respect.

I've implied that my killing a tree is of less consequence than JB's tagging of a (presumably) dead whale. My implication probably comes from the fact that you can simply rock up to a garden centre and pick up another silver birch plant - it is a commodity. Try picking up sperm whale at your fishmonger - you're not in Iceland now Dr. Ropata.

What prompted JB to "own" a piece of a whale? Is it nature deficit disorder? A simple dis-connect from nature? It's late and I don't know the answer - but it's sure worthy of some thought...