Australia develops the E-chidna to replace wild echidnas.

Australian scientists have created the E-chidna to replace echidnas in the wild once the country’s natural environment has been successfully destroyed, in what is being hailed as a world first in the creation of electronic wildlife.

The digitised animal looks exactly the same as a wild echidna, but will exist only in animated form. The first E-chidna is set to be released into the world wide web next week, and a female counterpart will soon follow. It is hoped the pair will breed and populate cyberspace with little baby E-chidnas.

“The E-chidna is a source of pride for all Aussies,” announced Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley. “It epitomises this country’s attitude towards and treatment of the natural environment, and it will replace wild echidnas when they and other native animals become extinct.”

The minister then outlined how successive federal and state environment ministers contributed to the birth of the E-chidna through support of the fossil fuel industry, traditional agricultural practices, land clearing and overdevelopment, as well as a general apathy towards the protection of Australia’s natural environment.

“They are all here with us in spirit,” Ley said of the ministers, “and their actions should not be forgotten today. Every minister could have chosen to spend the E-chidna budget on protecting the natural environment and saving the wild animals, but their dedication to environmental destruction has been vindicated today.”

Ley also boasted that the E-chidna represents a watershed moment in government and private sector cooperation. She explained that much of the research and development was funded by the donations from the fossil fuel industry, the farming lobby, property developers and large scale irrigators, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Observers have compared the E-chidna to the Tamagotchi, a Japanese electronic pet, but highlighted one major difference between the two electronic animals. The Tamagotchi had to be fed and cared for by its owner, or it would die, whereas the E-chidna will simply be neglected, just like its wild cousin.

Ley also boasted that the E-chidna is only the beginning of an exciting scientific journey.

“This country has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – which is another source of pride for Aussies, and means we have a backlog of wild animals to replicate in digital form. The Tasmanian E-Tiger is ready for release, and we’re also determined to wipe out species such as the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby, the Eastern Curlew, the Gouldian Finch, the Northern Quoll and the Black-footed Tree Rat. Our tech experts are already working on the E-versions of all of those animals, so they can be released as soon as the animals become extinct. It’s quite exciting.”

The E-chidnas will be visible to anyone searching the internet, anywhere in the world, so people will not have to visit Australia to witness this unique and fascinating creature. This created concern among the tourism sector, which relies heavily on Australia’s natural wonders to generate income.

In response, Ley argued that destroying Australia’s wildlife is further proof that her party is good at managing the economy.

Image: Jacob Dyer

The Environment Movement Needs Baby Boomers.

How can baby boomers be enticed into environmental activism?

They are an untapped resource for the environment movement and could be transformed from a barrier to change into a force for change.

For anyone who hasn’t heard the term, a baby boomer is a person aged 70 or older who was born during the post World War II baby boom. Most of them have reached the age of retirement, and in many countries they comprise a large percentage of the population.

Why should baby boomers be encouraged to act on behalf of the environment?

Because they’re bored.

So many baby boomers are bored. Once they’ve played golf, trimmed the roses and babysat their grandkids, they’re bored. You’ve seen them, sitting in cafes on weekdays, gazing at the ocean or scrolling lovingly through photos of their grandkids. You’ve seen them streaming up and down the highways in their caravans on seemingly endless holidays.

Of course, some of them fill their days with fun, constructive and meaningful activities before enjoying the spare time they have earned. Many of them, however, are searching for ways to occupy their time after leaving the workforce.

Why?

Because they are capable. Before retiring they raised families, ran businesses, managed organisations and worked in occupations as diverse as teaching, medicine, engineering, trades, travel…They still possess the skills and attributes which are required to perform those roles, and they offer so much to the environment movement.

They have time.

One great advantage of baby boomers is that they have spare time to devote to activism. Younger activists often have to make the choice between paying the rent and fighting for the environment – there are only so many hours in a day. Baby boomers have a lot of time.

Why?

They have grandchildren. Those grandchildren will inherit the planet that we are creating. Grand parents would do anything for their grandchildren and the environment movement would do well to link the daily actions of retirees to the state of the planet when their grand children grow up.

Why?

From hindrance to help.

Baby Boomers collectively stifle environmental activism. They generally vote for conservative parties which commonly reject sustainable practices and support destructive policies. If baby boomers become more involved in the environment movement, they might change the way they vote, and convince their peers to do the same. Baby boomers also consume conservative, mainstream media which often denies the climate crisis and supports destructive practices such as the use of fossil fuels.

They remember…

Retirees remember life before environmental destruction. They remember swimming in local ponds or rivers near their house, which are now too polluted for swimming.

They remember breathing clean air in major cities before modern machines choked these cities with smog.

They remember eating fruit from trees which grew naturally in their backyard. They remember a diet with far less processed food.

This is a reality from the recent past, and baby boomers lived it. They can also remind us of this reality and the fact that we can return many natural areas to their natural state.

Ironically, retirees might reject sustainability but they are the original conservationists. Baby Boomers are frugal. Frugality is akin to conservation because it embraces the philosophy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Baby Boomers have always found multiple uses for items and repaired them again and again before, if ever, throwing them out. They reject the meaningless consumption which drives environmental destruction and they already live the principles of conservation.

Perhaps the environment movement needs to adjust or target its narrative to demonstrate to baby boomers that some of their daily habits and their upbringing are already helping to protect the earth.

Similarly, the environment movement may need to debunk stereotypes of environmental activism in order to win over baby boomers. Many retirees associate the term environmental activist with a long haired, dreadlocked hippy chaining themselves to a bulldozer. However, activism can take many forms.

Existing activists.

Some retirees are already activists. They march in protests, sign petitions, contact local politicians and organise actions. Famous activists include the Knitting Nannas in Australia and indigenous activists throughout the world.

The Knitting Nannas call themselves “…an international disorganisation where people come together to ensure that our land, air and water are preserved for our children and grandchildren. We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against the greedy, short-sighted corporations that are trying to rape our land and divide our communities.”

That’s right. They’re a group of women who sit in a certain place (outside a politicians’ office) and knit…

Indigenous activist groups are traditionally led by elders. They hold the knowledge of the land and culture that is threatened by environmental destruction, and they hold the respect of the youth in their communities, who look to them for leadership.

How?

Baby boomers could be engaged in so many ways.

Letter writers.

Is there anything more powerful than a baby boomer with an email account?

They could be tasked with sending emails to politicians or local businesses to encourage positive action for the environment. They could compile and manage databases or develop educational resources. They could manage and coordinate local groups or hold small-scale events in their local community – or they could inspire national or international action which forces genuine and lasting change. They can do this because they employed similar skills during their working lives and they haven’t lost these skills.

So, how do we get baby boomers involved in environmental activism?

To help or not to help: sea turtles in Michoacan.

The sun beat down relentlessly on the coast of Michoacan in western Mexico. The humidity chocked the air and upon first glance, the shimmering ocean at Playa Ixtapilla looked enormously inviting. The current looked less inviting.

The visitors and volunteers took refuge from the midday heat under the palapa before selecting a site for their tents and arranging their accommodation for the evening. The first families to arrive had erected their Taj Mahal on the rocky, unforgiving ground underneath one of the palapas, thankful that the palm leaves allowed them to leave the fly off their tent and invite the soothing evening breeze into their temporary home.

It was pointed out the families that their tent pegs were not reaching far into the earth, to which the parents replied,

“No pasa nada”

This was a decision they would later regret.

Other volunteers moved away from the communal area and sought softer ground in which to force our tent pegs. Whether out of habit or foreboding, we hammered and stretched our tents until taut and affixed the fly, despite the afternoon heat.

We then gathered to hear instructions from the local community leaders on the rescue of baby turtles. This is why we were here. We had volunteered to help ensure that baby sea turtles survived the journey from their nests into the ocean. Once in the waves, they would have to fend for themselves.

At this time of year, the Tortuga Golfina arrive in large numbers to lay their eggs on the beach. After incubating, the eggs then hatch and the babies make a mad dash for the ocean. Turtle numbers have been declining in recent years in this region of Mexico, and local communities welcome volunteers from across Mexico, and the world, to assist in helping the turtles into the water.

Upon dusk we attached our headlamps and set out across the sands to locate the nests. We’d been instructed to follow a specific path along the beach to minimise traffic across the sand. With so many turtles hatching, you never know what is under your feet.

We followed the mother turtles and watched them shovel sand with their strong fins to make a nest. Then we waited. As the turtles started laying their eggs, we carefully removed them and placed them in buckets.

What did it feel like?

A slimy ping pong ball.

Other nests had already been occupied with baby turtles, and at those we dug slowly and carefully to remove the tiny turtles.

We’d been instructed to cautiously remove both eggs and baby turtles and place them in buckets. These buckets were then transferred to a number of shelters where the eggs were monitored and allowed to hatch in safety. Predators exist in every natural environment, and baby sea turtles are a popular meal for many sea birds. Due to dwindling numbers of turtles, efforts were made to protect the turtles from predators and ensure they reached the ocean.

Once the eggs released the hatchlings, the shelters were swarming with baby turtles.

We dug and collected for a few hours that night and carried a huge number of eggs and babies to the shelters. We would continue this work the next day when many more volunteers descended on the small beach. Tired but satisfied, we returned to our accommodation for a good night’s sleep and another day of turtle rescue.

In the middle of the night, shrieks were heard. Children and women’s voices echoed across the waves and could be heard over the roaring winds. We crept bleary eyed out of our tents to see parents dashing around madly in the driving rain trying to stop their tents and their children from being carried into the ocean. The sudden tropical storm had lifted the Taj Mahal off the ground with the children inside and it was now being carried towards the beach.

Enough frantic helpers were able to throw themselves onto the tent in order to stop it from blowing away and the children were eventually freed from a tangle of mosquito netting and tent poles.

Hastily assembled shelters were somehow erected in the midst of the storm and the shell shocked children were able to eventually catch up on some sleep. Sodden and sleep deprived the next morning, they were at least able to laugh off their misadventure.

The glimmering ocean beckoned during the heat of the second day, but the local community and the volunteer lifeguards advised us that the water was strictly off limits in order to respect the beach and the baby turtles, who we were after all trying to save.

To help or not to help

A young scientist from the local university had been studying the turtles at the site for many months, and raised doubts over the effectiveness of the human intervention. He suggested that the assistance may be counterproductive because even though it helped more of the hatchlings to reach the water, it accelerated the process and disrupted the natural process.

It may be better, he proposed, to let nature take its course. Yes, some baby turtles may be lost, but the mother’s lay so many eggs to pre-empt this loss, and enough of the tiny creatures survive the journey to the ocean for the species to survive. The species was willing to sacrifice some babies on the sand, and others in the shallows, in order for some to survive and eventually make it to adulthood.

That is, of course, before massive changes to the ocean and the beaches which have sustained the turtle populations for so long. Human activity at the nesting beaches, at nearby beaches and in the local waterways have reduced total turtle numbers in recent years. Global problems such as rising sea levels, changes in water temperature and ocean pollution have also caused the decimation of local populations.

Our discussions with the young scientist did not produce a definitive answer to the question of whether to help or not to help. What is clear is that human actions, near Playa Colola and the rest of the world, were to blame for the dwindling numbers of baby turtles emerging from nests at the beach.

If humans have caused the problem, do humans have to fix it?

I Thought You Were A Woman.

Someone I have never met told me they thought I was a woman. I’m not. They made this assumption based on my Instagram account.

The person is a friend of a friend and stumbled upon my Instagram account, as people do within the world of social media. They requested to follow, I accepted, and they perused my photos.

The person then messaged me in surprise and told me that she thought I was female.

Why?

Because of the content of my Instagram posts.

Essentially, all of my posts depict nature or books. Once I’ve read a book that I like, I take a photo of the cover and maybe and excerpt from the book and I post it on my account. Actually, I haven’t done this for a while, I think I just forgot.

Otherwise, my Instagram account contains images of nature. When I go hiking, cycling, camping or into nature, I like to take photos of sunsets, beaches, plants, trees, skylines and animals. I’d like to have more photos of animals but they’re hard to capture with a basic smartphone lacking a decent zoom. If I do capture an animal it’s always a bonus.

Almost every one of my posts depicts lakes, rivers, mountains, trees, rocks, sand, sun and surf, because I love nature and try to spend as much time in it as possible. My account contains almost no images of myself.

I don’t like appearing on camera and I’m not vain or beautiful enough to be an Instagram model, so I don’t take many selfies. I do appear in other people’s photos or have friends take photos of me, but I just have no interest in posting them online.

I explained to the woman that I am in fact a man, and we had a good laugh about it. It did make me think, however.

Why would someone think that I was female after seeing photos of books and nature?

Have we been conditioned to think that an interest in or respect for nature is feminine? Can only women appreciate and express an appreciation for nature, and is this linked to a woman’s role as a nurturer and care giver?

If this is the case, does it explain the current state of the world’s climate and the natural environment?

Mother Earth, as we often call it, is in trouble after years and years of human abuse, and this abuse is continuing even though we now know better. We now know that previous practices are harming the planet upon which we rely for our survival but we continue with these practices.

Is this cycle of destruction perpetuated because men still rule the world? Certain organisations, businesses and countries have a woman in the top job, but the system which was created by men is still controlled by men. If a man is not expected to love nature, even via an Instagram account, protecting the environment into the future will be very difficult, because men are still making most of the decisions which determine the state of the planet.

Is it time to give women a turn? Really give them a turn. Not just appoint a few women to the position of national or corporate president, not just vote women onto boards or executive positions, but replace men in large numbers at every level of government, business and other sectors of society. Men had their turn running the world, the planet is in very bad shape, so maybe it’s time they were replaced.

If the men running the world were the starting players on a sporting team, their results suggest it’s time they were taken off and replaced by those who have been waiting their turn on the reserves bench.

Can you love nature and still be a man?

Do we have to change paradigms of masculinity to include respect for nature and pride in publicly expressing a love for the natural world?

Do we need to reach a point at which assumptions cannot be made about someone’s gender because they display images of nature on a social media account?

What’s the difference between a koala and a paedophile?

What’s the difference between a koala and a paedophile?

Nobody wants to hug a paedophile.

True, but there is another difference. In Australia right now, some paedophiles enjoy more protection than koalas.

Child molesters are currently receiving protection form religious organisations such as the Catholic Church. Historical records have revealed that many guilty child molesters were not prosecuted for their crimes, and were simply moved to another parish or district, where many of them offended again.

These facts came to light during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Another revelation was the protection paedophiles receive within confession. The law of the Catholic Church states that anything that is said by a person to a priest in confession is between the confessor, the priest and God. Therefore, if a person admits to committing child abuse during confession, that crime will not be reported to police.

The Royal Commission attempted to change this law. A recommendation attempted to force priests to report admissions of child abuse to police in order to help reduce or eliminate acts of child abuse in the future. Senior figures within the Catholic Church have since publicly stated that they will refuse to pass on admissions of crimes to police, even though this is blatantly breaking the law.

Church authorities are adamant that they will protect the sanctity and secrecy of confession – rather than protect victims of child abuse.

Koalas, meanwhile, are being offered very little protection in Australia. Such is the state of the koala population throughout the country that experts claim our national symbol could become extinct by 2050.

Koalas suffered massively during the most recent bush fires, and will not get their homes back until the charred bush land regenerates, which could take many years. Further habitat is being destroyed by rampant land clearing throughout the country.

The animals are regularly killed by feral animals such as wild dogs and are victims of road accidents, especially at night. Shrinking habitat due to urban expansion has caused a shortage of food and damage to their gene pool which provokes diseases. Drought leaves them with insufficient water to drink and excessive, unseasonal heat kills them.

The cuddly and lovable animals are also under threat from specific resource projects, including:

Brandy Hill quarry extension in Port Stephens, NSW

Shenhua Watermark coalmine near Gunnedah, NSW

Blueberry farming around Coffs Harbour, NSW

Land clearing in north-west NSW.

Child abusers, meanwhile, are also receiving financial support. Australian taxpayers fund religious organisations and religious organisations often pay no tax, because they are religious organisations. Koalas, meanwhile, are losing their habitat and their lives because countless programs and organisations designed to protect them are being de-funded or under-funded.

Current environmental policies in Australia, and the refusal of church organisations to report child abuse to authorities, indicates that some paedophiles are more of a protected species that koalas.

Perhaps we need to dress koalas in a cloak and collar.

RSPCA raids Parliament House.

The Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (RSPCA) has carried out raids on Australia’s federal parliament in response to repeated reports of animal cruelty.

The animal welfare organisation carried out the raids in Canberra after mounting evidence linked the destruction of Australia’s wildlife to the actions and policies of politicians.

“Australia is killing its native animals,” stated a spokesperson for the RSPCA “This is the direct result of decisions made by politicians from all sides of politics.”

“Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world, despite the fact that non-indigenous Australians have only been here for about 230 years.”

The raids uncovered deliberate policies and gross inaction from the major political parties which have contributed to the decline of native animals across the country.

Documents, archival records and electronic communication revealed that native animals are disappearing due to the presence of feral animals, the climate crisis, bush fires, reliance on fossil fuel, land clearing and drought.

Feral animals such as cats, foxes and cane toads have wiped out many native animals, and feral horses continue to cause widespread ecological damage in alpine regions, despite decades of requests from numerous groups to have the brumbies removed.

Feral and domestic cats are still the most destructive introduced species in the country, but domestic cats are still allowed to roam freely day and night, and cat breeding is still a legal and lucrative business.

The climate crisis was also discovered to have detroyed many of the county’s native animals, and Australia has played a large part in this ongoing disaster.

“Australia has the highest per-capita carbon footprint in the world,” explained the spokesperson, “…and scientific evidence tells us that this is caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels and traditional agricultural methods. Despite this, politicians from both parties insist on opening new fossil fuel projects and neglecting renewable energy.”

The RSPCA is itself heavily involved in the rehabilitation of native wildlife which suffered due to the most recent bush fires, and found that a comprehensive plan to prevent further destructive bush fires has still not been developed.

“Habitat loss is another major contributor to native animal deaths, and some experts believe Koalas could become extinct in the near future. Despite this, politicians are drafting new laws to allow more land clearing, or failing to enforce existing laws which prevent land clearing.”

The raids also uncovered gross incompetence and corruption in the management of water resources in the world’s driest continent, particularly along the Murray-Darling basin.

“The Murray-Darling debacle has caused yet more native wildlife to perish, and this network stretches across various states. For this reason, we will also conduct raids on state and territory parliaments in the near future if the country’s water resources, and other natural resources, are not properly managed to give native wildlife a fair dinkum chance to survive and prosper.”

In response to the raids, Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a photo with a wombat.

How to clean your hiking shoes

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Hiking shoes get dirty, very dirty.

They slosh through mud and trudge through dirt. They scrape and scratch and scorch in the sun. They sink into snow and slide down slopes, collecting dirt, mud, stones and blood.

 

But cleanliness is the last thing on your mind when you’re hiking. You’re too busy admiring the view or anticipating the next climb. You’re distracted by the sound of rushing water over cliffs and watching the sunlight tickle the drops of water as they fall from above.

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You’re charging through puddles once into the hike, because your shoes and socks are already soaked after you braved the mini waterfall charging down the stairs. You were too busy trying to stay upright to worry about cleanliness or staying dry.

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The state of your shoes matters little while you count the scars on your shins as you bash through yet more bush, and remind yourself that a sprained ankle halfway through the hike would make the climb out even harder. Onwards you hike, over tree roots and rocks and boulders until something captures your attention – the sound of gushing water, and soon the roar of rushing water, such that this hike has never produced before. Onwards you hike, drawn to the sound of the thundering water and thankful for the grip on your hiking shoes as you cling to the slippery rocks further into the canyon. Then you see it; the origin of the roar, and what a sight.

Your mind is never on your shoes as you catch a glimpse, yes just a glimpse, of that beautiful bird before it flies away coquettishly. I’ll capture it for posterity next time. That’s what you said last time.

You push on up the steep and slippery stairs, sodden but satisfied and hoping that you packed the chocolate as well as the scroggin.

The encroaching clouds cause you to ponder whether you’ll make it home before the rain arrives, and whether the Scots would be bothered by a ‘wee spot of rain’ on the moors.

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As you turn for home, your’e forced to confront the condition of your squelching shoes.

There are various methods for cleaning your shoes. You can scrape them, soak them and scrub them. It’s always a good idea to remove the laces, for a thorough clean. Hold them up and squeeze the water from them – it’s amazing how much dirt they collect.

The trusty old toothbrush comes in handy when cleaning off all manner of debris, especially from the sole. The toothbrush helps to dislodge tiny stones and decidedly less savoury items. Be sure to return the dirty toothbrush to the laundry and not the bathroom – that would be highly unsavoury.

A scrunched up ball of newspaper inserted into the soggy shoes helps soak up the dampness, before you subject your footwear to yet another beating.

But in the end, what’s the best way to clean hiking shoes?