From australiana

Wildlife in Sydney

Late last year, we visited Sydney for the bright lights and the wild life.

We saw this poster very close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Someone has expressed his or her genuine appreciation for the tip off.

Bread kills lorikeets poster

Warning! Bread kills lorikeets

The centre of Sydney’s CBD is marked with the City Wilderness Trail. After seeing signs for birds, rats and insects, the final sign we saw was for a human. Click the photo to read.

Human (Long Pig) wilderness trail sign in Sydney

Human (Long Pig) wilderness trail sign in Sydney

 

Small things such as this sign in the Blue Mountains bring us much amusement. As you can see, Damjan and I can be inexpensive to entertain.

Lookout sign near the Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park

Lookout sign near the Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park

Joan and Damjan look out!

Joan and Damjan look out!

Scale: no longer a problem

We finally bought a kettle. It’s a Russell Hobbs, which is meant to be the leading brand in the UK.

This warning made me chuckle.

Descaling warning

Descaling warning

In Cambridge and London, I had to regularly cook my kettles with lemon or vinegar to get rid of the build up of greyish white scale.

I’ve now escaped hard water. In Melbourne, our water is sweet, our soap lathers and the only particles that float in our cuppas are tea particles.

The ‘indefensible’ 5% target

Since the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper was released on Monday, I have been perplexed.

It had all been going so well. Kevin Rudd (my Facebook friend) fulfilled my little heart’s desires when he ratified the Kyoto Protocol. After seeing Penny Wong speak in London, I was so impressed that I adopted her as my hero.

But now this — the unconditional 5% by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. Five per cent? Did I hear correctly?

On the face of it, it seems so pitiful, so unambitious. I didn’t understand! And until I understood Kevin and Penny’s rationale, I would withold condemnation.

Today, I read through the executive summary and selected chapters of the White Paper.

Now I understand.

Before anyone protests or supports this scheme and its target, please, please take the time to read at least the executive summary to understand the key details. (In fact, I beseech you to do this for any issue on which you wish to express an opinion.)

5% from what baseline?
My first question was what the baseline year for the 5% reduction was. The Kyoto Protocol and European Union policies (with which which I am most familiar) are based on 1990 emissions. So when the UK says it’s aiming for a 26% reduction by 2020, it’s compared to the 1990 baseline year.

Our 5% target is from a 2000 baseline year. After looking through our greenhouse inventory and the ABS, it turns out that this is not much different to the 1990 year (although the Australian Government have argued that 2000 is a more challenging baseline).

Year Net greenhouse gas emissions
(tCO2e)
Australian population Net greenhouse gas emissions per capita
(tCO2e/capita)
1990 552 648 000 17 million 33
2000 552 813 000 19 million 29

tCO2e — tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Other greenhouse gases are converted into the same global warming impact as a tonne of carbon dioxide. For example, over 100 years, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide so one tonne of methane is 25 tCO2e.

Why our 5% is worth their 20%
The Government believes that a 5% cut by Australia represents the same effort as the European Union’s 20% cut because of this key point: Australia’s population will grow by 45% between 1990 and 2020, while the EU’s growth has flatlined during the same period. You can see how it is harder to stabilise (or reduce) emissions while your population grows. Each additional person will produce additional emissions through his or her direct consumption (electricity, heat, food, goods) and employment activitiy.

So the logic is that if Nations A and B set the same target, and Nation A’s population doubles, then Nation A has to work twice as hard as Nation B to achieve the same absolute reduction in emissions.

Table E1 of the White Paper executive summary compares Australia’s total and per capita reduction commitments with those of the EU, the UK and USA. I’ve reproduced it here.

Country 2020 targets 2020 per capita reduction

2050 targets

Australia 5-15% below 2000 levels (4-14 per cent below 1990 levels) 27-34% below 2000 levels (34-41% below 1990 levels) 60% below 2000 levels (60% below 1990 levels)
European Union 20-30% below 1990 levels 24-34% below 1990 levels 60-80% below 1990 levels
United Kingdom 26% below 1990 levels 33% below 1990 levels 80% below 1990 levels
Proposal      
United States (proposal of President-elect Obama) Return to 1990 levels 25% below 1990 levels 80% below 1990 levels

60% by 2050
The White Paper states that the Government is still committed to reducing emissions by 60% by 2050 (presumably from the 2000 baseline). This is in line with the EU and, until recently, the UK (who just this month set itself an 80% target by 2050). I am not sure how the Government expects to ramp up from 5% to 60% reduction over 30 years, and I will be looking at the strategy if/when it is released. However, I believe that getting the emissions trading scheme established is an important structural change to the economy. It could be the thin edge of a giant wedge of change.

20% renewables by 2020
I was worried that the 5% target would not be big enough to transform the energy market to support competitive renewables. Although emissions trading is the Government’s main climate change mitiation measure, I am relieved that there is a separate target for renewable energy — 20% of electricity supply by 2020. This isn’t as ambitious as it could be but at least the commercialisation of renewable energy is recognised as a strategy to be specifically managed.

Credit where credit’s due
I wish to give credit where credit is due. When it is implemented, Australia’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) will the broadest in the world. Below, I’ve compared it to the world’s first scheme, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

  Australia CPRS EU ETS phase 1 (2005-2007) EU ETS phase 2 (2008-2012)
Coverage of greenhouse gas emissions 75% 40% 46%
Participating sectors Energy activities, transport, leakages/losses, industrial processes, waste and forestry* Energy activities, ferrous metal and mineral industries, pulp, paper and board activities As for phase 1, plus a number of new industries (e.g. aluminium and ammonia producers)
Greenhouse gases included All six Kyoto Protocol gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons Carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbons

* Excludes agriculture and deforestation (17% and 10% of emissions in 2000, respectively)

It is useful to note that the aim for Phase 3 of the EU ETS (post-2012) is to cover all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including aviation, maritime transport and forestry.

In non-conclusion
My quick review of the White Paper has led me to conclude that the Government’s proposal is defensible in terms of international standards for action on climate change.

However, please note that I have made no comment on:

  • the justness or effectiveness of relying on a (single) market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • the adequacy of the targets set by the EU, UK and US (to which Australia claims parity); or
  • the reliability, desirability or controllability of the population projections that have led the Government to its small absolute target.

But I am relieved that there is a logical basis for the 5% target, which I can now explain to those people who are equally perplexed as I was.

Bibliography
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2001), ‘A century of population change in Australia’, Year Book Australia: 2001, catalogue number 1301.0, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2002), ‘Population size and growth’, Year Book Australia: 2002, catalogue number 1301.0, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Carbon Trust (date not given), ‘The EU Emission Trading Scheme’, last update not given, Carbon Trust website, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Carrington D (2008), ‘Australia pledges to cut emissions by up to 15%’, The Guardian, 15 December 2008, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Department of Climate Change (2006), ‘Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts’, 2006 inventory year, online emissions database available here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Department of Climate Change (2008a), Carbon pollution reduction scheme: Australia’s low pollution future, White Paper, 15 December 2008, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Department of Climate Change (2008b), ‘Australia’s renewable energy target’, Department of Climate Change website, last updated 17 December 2008, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

Dimas S (2005), ‘EU climate change policy’, speech at the Conference of National Parliaments of the EU and the European Parliament, 21 November 2005, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

European Commission (2008), ‘Questions and Answers on the Commission’s proposal to revise the EU Emissions Trading System’, press release, 23 January 2008, available online here, accessed on 18 December 2008

A walk in the park

The mysterious sign from the previous post in this series is now spelled out in English: bird hide! Maybe it should be a ‘human hide’ because from inside the wooden shelter, people can do covert bird watching.

This is the view from within that bird hide. This large suburban park is dominated by a large man-made lake.

It’s hard to take photos of a lake without being a bit high up. If you’re at the same level, your photo is filled with sky or foreground and a thin, boring strip of brownish lake. I tried to take a more interesting photo by focusing on the lake edge. Although perhaps more interesting, this photo doesn’t show anything of the lake’s size.

It was a beautifully sunny day, though, with white fluffy clouds. Ah, it’s a nice memory while I sit here in my room, rugged up for London’s winter. I didn’t leave the house all day today. I’m like a hibernating bear.

I spotted the rusty pump wheel(?), which was some distance off the path. I wonder what it’s for? I’ve posted a few photos of the wheel. Although I tried, I don’t think I produced a photo that made full use of the interesting subject.

I know much of this is overexposed. I was trying to make it look like a hot dry day. I haven’t had the chance to look at this on a CRT. On my LCD laptop screen, is lightly sepia in tone. I suspect this is too pink on CRT screens.

This version has the same tone as the last one and is probably more ‘correctly’ exposed and therefore more detailed. Sigh. I don’t know. I don’t know if this is an interesting photo.

This photo is even less interesting. The colouring is more correct here. I think some people will like the sky. There’s no creativity in taking a photo of a pretty blue sky.

Anyone got any ideas about how to take a photo of this pump wheel?

This bird is a purple moorhen, very common at this park.

Awful lot of birds crossing the road.

Some of these birds migrate between Victoria and Japan every year.

I think this is a messmate stringybark because of its messy stringy bark. I’m not sure, though. I learned about messmates on a first year ecology fieldtrip to Sherbrooke Forest. It’s a beautiful cool temperate rainforest of Eucalyptus regnans. Only now, reading the Wikipedia article, do I realise (remember?) that E. regnans is the same as Mountain Ash.

Last time I said I don’t like animals. Some people probably think this is strange for an environmentalist. Instead of animals, I love forests, more specifically, trees. I think I trace my environmentalist roots back to bushwalking with my family in the Grampians. I wish I could go back soon.

This sign reminds me of one I took a photo of at Dove Lake in Tasmania. Let me see if I can find it…

…Here it is!
This photo from Tasmania was taken on 23 January 2005. It was one of the first photos I took with my Olympus E-300 camera. By the end of this month, I will have had my camera for three years.

In those three years, I’ve figured out how to take photos of myself.

The end!

Paddocks

After the last two episodes, we’ve made it through some Aussie bush and are now at the paddocks.

Here is the general vista for the next two kilometres: paddocks on the left, bush on the right.

I was here on a work day. There was a large group of walkers here too. I know why I wasn’t at work, I wonder what their excuse was?

These paddocks aren’t the pastoral paradise that much of England is. The paddocks on our left are owned by Boral and just beyond the paddocks, the company is carving out the hills to make bricks or something. I don’t have a photo of the mine but here are some electricty pylons in the middle of the field.

In the same field, animals graze. As promised, here are horses.

The Melbourne Spring Carnival this year was threatened by EI — not emotional intelligence, but rather, equine influenza. I don’t really know what the drama was. The horse gets a cold, right? Doesn’t it get better? Anyway, the Victorian gambling industry was on the verge of disaster but luckily, signs like this one helped save the day.


Look! Baby horse! Isn’t it cute? Cuuuuuute… Actually, I’m not big into horses but lots of little girls are. In fact, I don’t really like animals much in general. I like them in a theoretical way. I want them to exist and I feel bad about extinction. But I don’t like to pat them. Well, maybe pandas, I like pandas.

More horsies.

Sometimes, there is water in this channel. It doesn’t happen so much now, I think. The Victorian drought has been going on for almost ten years now.

This is typical Australian grass, sparse, dry and yellowish. When I first visited England, I remember being on the bus from the airport to Damjan’s house. As I watched the lush landscape go by, I felt anxious. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘They’re wasting so much water! Look at all the green grass!’

Australian flora (and fauna) is well-adapted for the dryness. You can recognise European trees because their leaves are fat and round. Such leaves are a liability in Australia! The big surface area means that all the water is sucked right out. Australia trees have thin leaves with less surface area for evaporation. Leaves also droop down to reduce exposure to sunlight. Aren’t they clever?

We are now approaching the park, which will be our final blog stop. This sign is at the park entrance. You know you’re in Australia when you see a sign that says: welcome to the park; shared pedestrian and bike path; dogs welcome; pick up your dog’s poop; beware of snakes.


Here is another sign with the same warning. However, we also have a new message here. What’s that third symbol mean? Can you guess? I’ll show you what it is in the next installment.

There will be a proper photo of me in the next installment. In the mean time, here is a preview!

Going bush

Continuing on from last time, these pictures are from the main track of a bush conservation area about 1.5 kilometres (a mile) from my house.

This is what it basically looks like. I especially like coming here on a hot day because the path is shady and cool. It smells nice, like gumtree and onions (I think the onion smell comes from some kind of wild onion grass). However, right next to this scrap of nature is a golf course.


The air here is full of bird sounds. I brought my camera, hoping to photograph a flock of cockatoos that I’d seen here a few times. Unfortunately, there were no cockatoos when I went walking that day (there were two when I went out today, though!).

I did photograph this little bird. The following two photos come from the same snap. I don’t know which crop I prefer. I like the branches but compositionally, I’m told it’s often good to leave space in the direction that the subject is looking. I explained this to dad and he suggested using the computer to flip the bird around so that it was looking at the branches! Dilemma solved, eh.


Also, the photo isn’t very sharp. I don’t have steady camera hands. My photos often come out a bit fuzzy :(


Here’s a tree that caught my eye. You can’t see how big it is. I’d say it were four storeys high, so maybe 25 metres.

This is my favourite part of the walk. I am standing on a bridge over the creek I wrote about three years ago. It has been very dry for years. It used to be that I didn’t see those rocks on the riverbed at all.

Over the weekend, we’ve had thunderstorms and flooding rains. When I visited the creek this morning, it was serenely full. It was a happy sight.

Being full means that this sign by the creek is finally of use. On other days, the sight of the riverbed rocks themselves should be enough to warn even idiots off.

When I snapped that sign, I heard a voice behind me, which said, ‘Do you want me to smile?’

This couple was happy for me to take their photo. The gentleman told me that he had spent hundreds of dollars on a camera some years ago and now it was worthless. While we were talking about photography, a woman walked by with her dogs and the couple said hello and introduced me. It turns out the couple enjoy meeting new dogs.

The next lot of photos will be from the path going from the bush to the park. There are paddocks along the path so I promise there will be horses.

Pavement pounding

Near my house, there is a big suburban park. Sometimes I walk there in an effort to avoid degenerating into a lazy house slug. If I walk quickly, the return trip takes about 100 minutes. I go from my house, through a bush conservation area, beside some paddocks, then around the park lake.

Last week, I brought my camera on the walk. I thought it would be good to get photos of my favourite part of (tame) Australian bush. I ended up with about 180 photos. I want to share about 40 of them with you but so that you don’t fall asleep with boredom, I will spread my photo posts out over a couple of days.

The first bunch of photos are of the section of the walk that goes from my house to the bush conservation area. It’s about 15 minutes of pavement pounding.

Look! It’s the letterbox from almost two years ago. Strangely, the block is still empty. The grass has grown and the letterbox is a shell of it’s former self. I’m afraid its days of loyal service are over.

Coming back to Australia, I was bemused at how water conscious everyone is, even more than I was when I left. My parents and relatives use buckets to capture cold shower water — you know, when you’re waiting for the water to warm up before you jump in? My parents use the water to flush toilets. I’ve heard other people using it to wash dishes and water plants. It gives me hope that huge cultural change can happen very quickly, given enough government advertising.

You may have heard that a few days ago, a man was killed by a jogger who was upset at him watering his garden. I took photos of these signs in our neighbourhood. These signs are probably a sensible defence against against water rage.

I also spotted four or five of these huge backyard satellite dishes. If my grandma didn’t have one of these, I might have thought my neighbours were spying on each other. My grandma gets satellite TV from China and Taiwan.

These are mulberry ‘multiple fruits‘. There’s nothing special about them except that they always remind me of silkworms (Bombyx mori). Isn’t it amazing that a moth can turn these leaves into something that people will wear? I can’t imagine how anyone would have figured out that the cocoons of larvae could be made into beautiful material.

Do you know what this is? It’s a leaf from a really big cactus I saw in someone’s front yard. It looked like a slide.

You can tell that my writing is rusty. I can’t express myself with any sophistication, which is why I’m using phrases like ‘really big’.

The last photo is of two fire hydrants stacked on top of each other under a tree. I wonder why they’re like that? Was it vandalism or are they waiting to be picked up by a council maintenance worker?

The next lot of photos will be from the bush conservation area, which I mentioned three years ago.

An Australian treat

I’ve been visiting country bakeries. I’d say 20% of the reason I put my hand up for this job in Shepparton was because I wanted to buy baked goods from small country towns.

One of our favourites is the Nagambie Bakery. We’ve tried their apple cakes, carrot cakes, iced coffees, hot chocolates, foccacias and pizza bread, roast beef sandwiches, vanilla slices…

One day, Jamie recommended a particular sweet. It had a biscuit base, a lemon/vanilla cream cheese type-filling and a layer of red jelly.

“That’s a jelly slice, Joan,” Jamie said. “A great Australian treat. You’ve never had one? You should definitely try it, then.”

So we bought the jelly slice and it was, indeed, a treat.

That weekend when I got home from Shepparton, my mum and dad told me that Aunt Tuty was coming for dinner. Aunt Tuty grew up and studied in Indonesia. She came to Australia to do a Masters in Information Technology. She met a nice Australian bloke called Graham and they got married and bought a house in suburban Melbourne.

“Hello Joan,” Aunt Tuty said when she arrived. “How are you? When are you off overseas?” She was carrying a large white tray with a semi-transparent lid.

“What’s in there, Aunty?” I asked.

“I don’t know what it’s called,” she said. She placed it on the kitchen bench and lifted the lid. “Graham’s mother taught me how to make it. It’s very yummy and easy to make too.”

I looked inside to see an ordered array of cake squares with red jelly tops.

“I know what they are!” I cried. “Jelly slices! I had one the other day!”

“Jelly slices,” Aunt Tuty repeated. “Probably. I think Australians like them.”

Cane toad bioinvasion

Over lunch time, I watched a Landline feature story on cane toads. Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 to reduce the population of cane beetles. They’re now out of control: “The population is increasing at a rate of about 25% a year.” We’ve watched on in apprehension for years and they have finally invaded Kakadu National Park. They are now poised on the border of Western Australia.

The Landline story interviewed some Northern Territory residents who have banded together to fight the cane toad invasion on their community. On the outskirts of town, someone has set up a ‘detention centre‘. Each time a resident captures a toad, he or she drives to the detention centre and deposits the toad into the cage.

The detention centre manager comes along regularly to pour all the toads into a big clear plastic bag. As the toads wriggle over each other and frantically try to leap above their fellow detainees, the man inserts a short green tube and seals the bag around it. The bag quickly fills with a colourless gas. As the the bag expands, the toads gradually stop moving.

I thought it was hysterical.

Also hilarious is that staple of environmental sciences course, Cane Toads, the movie. It’s very funny and very Australian. My favourite bit is the scene with the swerving four-wheel drive. Go see it!

Updated 1:24 PM
This short animated film looks interesting. I haven’t seen it yet but I will download it — St Kilda Festival Best Comedy 2003, Cane Toad: What happened to Baz?