Wednesday, 9 July 2008

London calling

Good to see that there has been some response and interest in this topic. Where to from here?

It seems to me that the reality of life in the (extended) Bucketty area is such that many of the easy and practical methods for reducing emissions, and also supporting individual sustainability will already be a fact of life. Water, energy, recycling, and composting are clearly (and not surprisingly) already in hand.

So while suburbia struggles with the question of whether to install a small water tank and whether to tuck it away to the left or right of the rose bush next to the Hills Hoist, Bucketty residents already have one, two or three 20,000 litre tanks as the only water source. Similarly, the need to re-use water has seen some people already look to grey water capture and recycling.

Given the expense of grid electricity supply to a rural property, not to mention the relatively frequent power outages, alternative electricity supplies have also been a long term (if not primary) choice of supply for some.

I guess my questions around all that centre on whether the knowledge individuals have has been collected and made available as a source of community knowledge. The pros and cons of various approaches, and also practical real-world-tested knowledge of each approach. I am thinking that not only could this be useful for any existing (or new) member of the local community to be able to tap into; it would be also be a useful information source for those outside the local community. Across Australia (and beyond) such knowledge is being sought and it is very helpful to have practical advice available freely, which is untainted by the marketing BS from any commercial product supplier.

My second question is around the fact that the community, by the nature of its location and remoteness, is almost totally reliant on personal, vehicle baed transport. This is not just true to the individual properties and everyone's daily comings and goings, it is also true for the local economy. When I last lived in the area, a lot of the business in Wollombi revolved around capturing some of the dollars from the passing tourist trade - buses going to and from The Hunter Valley wineries etc. I have no idea what percentage of the economic base comes from that, but I suspect that the area would suffer some major economic hardships were it to totally go away. I am wondering if anyone has looked into that at all? Certainly it is a factor that I would suggest is very important to consider when looking at any plans for future business growth, whether on the large or small scale.

I am also wondering whether anyone has looked at commuting patterns. Some (like me) would live in the area full or part time but have a job that sees them needing to travel to and from Sydney/Newcastle/Gosford/other on a somewhat regular basis. That might be daily, twice weekly (if to get to a weekender property), or whatever. Anyway, that driving is getting less and less attractive as petrol prices go up, and efforts are made to reduce the resulting pollution. How much of an issue is that? How many people do that sort of regular or irregular commute? This has an effect in a couple of ways including on real-estate prices in the area. For some, being able to commute less would be attractive, even if they still have to commute sometimes. As I mentioned in an earlier post to this blog, the availability of cheap, reliable broadband is definitely related to the ability for people to work from home (meaning from Bucketty) and thus perhaps avoid a few more car journeys. Any one looked into this?

Hannah also correctly mentioned car pooling, local buses, and other ways of sharing travel. All good ideas to explore; perhaps someone can take a lead on that and look into what is wanted and also practical to achieve.

Sustainability also means the sustainability of the local economy. Supporting local business through choice, because it means money going back into the area, rather than into the pockets of companies outside the area. I am sure that this happens already to a large extent. Can more be done? What do the local business people think about this?

Anyway, again I am pleased that some interest has been shown in this and lets see if we can collectively help each other and help the broad community.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Giving and sharing

Thanks Simon, et all, for presenting an opportunity to have some neighbourly discussion about future sustainability in our area. We have digested some of the points brought up so far and we are heartened to see similar trains of thought to ourselves with "what lies ahead and how can we plan for it?" We could see the writing on the wall when we moved away from Sydney 28 years ago, deciding on an alternative lifestyle. We are very fortunate to be living in an area that has been a meeting place for milleniums for our indigineous cousins. There are already established principles of sustainability for this land from a long time ago. They basically call for sharing, not taking too much from the land, leaving something for the future and living with seasonal change. This is diametrically opposed to the rampaging greed and destruction being displayed by big business and goverments on virtually all levels. With peak oil approaching, obviously the time has come to plan ahead for the next step. The first stage is for our own sustainability, ensuring food, clothing and a roof over our family and a natural environment to live in. It's not rocket science. It may be hard work to establish but the rewards are enormous and spiritually satisfying. What we may lack in can be supplemented by trading - not today's "see how much I can get for nothing" mentality - but by giving what we may have surplus of and sharing. Hard to equate in these times of dollar dependance and planned obsolescence. Transport is the one element that will affect us all. Hanna has listed a number of initiatives for a sustainable community. Individually, we need to push the envelope for sustainable transport. Electric motors seem to be the better alternative at this stage, refueling at home. Solar energy is abundant in NSW. We have been on solar all these years and have recently also put grid power on. Solar to grid and thermal solar for grid generation can ensure power supplies, with some alternatives (geothermal, hydro, etc.) as backup. There was a scheme called solar neighbourhoods providing $12000 worth of solar to grid for $900 for each house if 50 houses in a community signed up. See
Funny how things go in life. It might get more difficult to drive to a meeting as time goes on with rising petrol prices, so the internet provides a better solution for us to discuss these issues, as with this blog. Well done all.
Claude & Bronnie

Response from Dennis Craney

I am delighted that people take the issues seriously and want to discuss and act on it.

There are (and always have been in environmental matters) two aspects to the discussion: What can I do personally to reduce the impact on climate change etc; and what will be the impacts on me/our society of the changes and what can we do to cope with them.

To put it simply, everyone in Bucketty could be acting sustainably, but it will have zero effect on climate change and peak oil.

That does not mean that we should not be acting sustainably, just that the problems are of enormous scale in physial, social and political terms. Even local political action, which in the past has produced some successes at a community and state level, is a drop in the ocean on this one.

The campaigns on ozone depleting chemicals in the 1980s are the nearest examples we have, and they are, with hindsight, miniscule to what we are now faced with. I retain some hope, but frankly I think humanity is in for a very rough time.

The Club of Rome report "The Limits to Growth (c.1972) got it right in structure, though not necessarily on the specifics. It was heavily criticised at the time by people without the imagination to do some projections. I wish I could shove it down their throats now.


Some ideas from Hannah

I acknowledge I live in Darkinung country and thank and honour the traditional caretakers of this place.

I am interested, but despite the importance of accurate and clear information, I would prefer to move passed discussion and go on to projects that we can actually manifest.

A food co-operative, for example, a bus service, growing crops to make bio-diesel, sharing and exchanging food that we grow/the modalities we teach, combined shopping trips for what we don't grow ourselves, local growers markets here on the mountain . . so I suppose I could ask via the Community News if anyone is interested along with me to get together on this, and take it from there.

Thank you for opening it up as far as this. If I get no response from the community, I guess it isn't ripe eh?

As serious and urgent as the climate change issue is, my experience is that is works best to focus on what to do here and now. The more I find out about what I can't do anything about, the less I can do to help myself and anyone else now and for what follows.

Blessings, Hannah

The spirit of the indigenous people, the first people, has never died. It lies in the rocks and the forests, the rivers and the mountains. It murmurs in the brooks and whispers in the trees. The hearts of these people were formed of the earth that we now walk, and their voice can never be silenced.

We are all from a first people

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

What do we do next?

Here in England (where I currently live) lots of people have been looking at this problem. What it boils down to is "how do we build a viable, and enjoyable economic model, community and way of life that is low emissions based". Please do not assume that this means commune living amongst bearded hippies and hugging trees.

It means viable local businesses, ways of transport, and ways of living that provide local jobs and meanwhile do so with massively reduced consumption of oil/gas/coal. Along the way reducing the amount of many spent on those. In England this is called "Transition Communities".

I recommend a book called The Transition Handbook as detailed reading on this. This book lays out practical steps to achieving community buy-in and a way forward.

Interestingly the author actually credits an Australian by the name of Bill Mollison as a principal inspiration for his work. Bill Mollison defined "permaculture" meaning a system that is self contained and thus permanently sustainable. Applying this concept beyond agriculture and you have the basis for "transition communities".

Transition culture is an attempt to move practically ahead, without waiting for federal government to solve all the problems. It is simply about taking responsibility for the future of our local communities, in consideration of the realities of what the next decade or two hold for us. "A decade or two" seems a long time, but personally I am mindful of the fact that ten years has gone in the blink of an eye since I left Australia in that amount of time again my daughter will be celebrating her 21st. For a rural community like the Kulnura/Bucketty/Wollombi area, all this has a lot of implications.

Fuel cost and availability effects commuters, weekenders, tourism, farming, transport of goods, farming, electricity costs and so on. Climate changes increase the bush fire risk, water supplies, as well as the mix of viable farming choices.

To give one example that relates back to something Paul Budde has been very actively involved in; one alternative to commuting is telecommuting, which requires cost effective availability of broadband internet.

Basically, the view that has emerged is that we collectively need to change the way
our economies operate. This begins at the local community scale. Communities are starting now by looking at how that change applies to them, and where planning is taking place that sets the tone for the coming decade or two, the realities of a low emissions lifestyle is being considered.

What does climate change and peak oil mean to us?

Basically just about everything we do in our live today revolves around the cheap and abundant availability of oil, gas and coal based energy.

Coal is used for electricity generation. Oil is used for cars, trucks, planes and other commuting/goods transport/tourism; as a basis for many of the things we consume especially plastics; and significantly as a source of fertilizers.

Burning coal, gas and oil all produces CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Peak oil theory says we're running out of cheap oil - this is certainly a real issue today in Australia and around the rest of the world.

Meanwhile if we are to avoid the dangers of climate change we need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

So in short the answer to the question is that both climate change and peak oil require us to change the basis of the current way of life, away from emitting a lot of green house gases, to emitting little. This is known as developing a "low emissions economy".

Monday, 30 June 2008

What's this all about?

For many people there is still a lot of doubt and debate concerning climate change, let alone the concept of what is called "peak oil".

While the former has been covered a lot in the papers, the latter has not got as much attention. Suffice to say that it is now expected that oil prices will not significantly move downward EVER, regardless of any short or long term actions taken by Kevin Rudd or any other politician.

Peak oil theory basically states that we are running out of easily extractable oil. For anyone who wants it, you can download a free document that explains this in more detail from my website here.

No cost, no strings attached. Have a read if you're interested.

Right now I want to avoid the debate about whether climate change is real or not, other than to say that every current serving leader of every major country around the world, and the leaders of the various opposition parties, as well as the CEOs of 100 of the largest companies have all completely accepted the reality of climate change. More details on that can be supplied if anyone is interested.

Finally, and for the record; I have no hidden agenda with any of this. I have nothing to sell, no political axe to grind, and no financial interest beyond the fact that I like everyone else would like a viable and enjoyable local community to be a part of.

All the best....Simon Perry