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.

I DO…care about the planet.

I DO love you, I DO care about you, and I DO care about the planet. For that reason, I want my wedding to be as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Why should I make my special day as sustainable as possible?

It’s all about sharing the love. Embrace the love for your partner and those around you, and share that love with the planet. Plus, your marriage will likely create a family, and it is vital to leave a healthy, liveable planet for your children.

How do I make my wedding as sustainable as possible?

The Ring

The materials which comprise a wedding or engagement ring include precious metals, gemstone and diamonds which are often mined destructively and on such a large scale that it inspired the movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio – and his failed attempt at a South African accent.

Thankfully, ethical wedding jewellers can be found online. They source recycled or conflict-free diamonds and materials, or even lab grown diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are increasing in popularity as they are equal to mined diamonds and have a much smaller environmental and social impact, as well as being less expensive. You’re not only saving the planet, you’re also saving the world from another Hollywood actor butchering a ‘foreign’ accent.

The Venue

Indoor or outdoor

To narrow down the choice of venue, decide whether you and your better half want to wed indoors or outdoors.

Outdoors

Outdoor venues tend to be more sustainable as they require less lighting and air conditioning. Locations such as vineyards, botanical gardens, lakes, refurbished farm properties and eco-lodges are beautiful locations with stunning backdrops. In the right season, they can be simply blissful. Modern outdoor venues also provide modern conveniences, so you can celebrate in comfort.

What about a barefoot wedding on the beach?

Indoors

Indoor venues can also be green. Choose a venue which catches natural light, and book the right venue in the right season. Search for reception venues which recycle and use energy efficient appliances, solar and biodegradable products.

Hold the ceremony and the reception at the same place, or next door. If you plan to marry in a religious ceremony, host the reception nearby, and if you plan to exchange vows in a civil ceremony, organise both events at the same place.

Transport and Accommodation

Holding the reception and ceremony at the same place can reduce emissions. You could also arrange accommodation at the same place. Destinations such as vineyards are not only spectacular places to tie the knot, but often provide a location for the ceremony plus the reception and accommodation, all at the one site.

Of course, vineyards are expensive and while you may be prepared to bear the cost, some of your guests may not. How about DIY? Host the celebration in a more humble location and do the decoration yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of your imagination and ingenuity.

Ask your guests to car pool. This not only saves on emissions, but allows friends, workmates, relatives and former classmates to mingle on the way to the reception, so that by the time they arrive, everyone is ready to party.

You can also recommend accommodation providers near the venue which have proven environmental credentials.

Flying

Many families and guests fly to weddings, and air travel is the most environmentally destructive form of transport. If you must fly, encourage your guests to offset their carbon emissions. For a few extra dollars, the airline will contribute to a project which benefits the planet, such as tree planting, and neutralise the emissions of the flight.

Catering

Support local

Eating local reduces the carbon footprint of a meal. Look for caterers who source their food from local suppliers. Also ask caterers whether the food waste will be composted after the wedding. You can also plan a menu which uses ingredients that are in season. What’s more, the Farm-to-Table movement has made fresh, locally-sourced ingredients more commonplace, and many of them are organic, which is even more sustainable.

What about the cake?

It is a centrepiece of the reception. How was it made? Can you find a cake made with locally-sourced eggs and diary products?

Why not replace conventional table décor with herb plants in terra cotta pots? Guests can then add basil or cilantro straight to their meals.

Avoid plastic plates and utensils

Disposable plastic plates and utensils are easy, especially if you’re planning a casual, low-budget DIY wedding. They are harmful though. Plastic cutlery and dishes end up in landfill. Instead, use compostable or reusable dishware. Try to avoid plastic straws, as the next time you see them could be in the belly of a turtle.

If you’re hiring a catering company, ask if they can avoid using plastic, disposable items. You could go even further by giving each guest their own glass or cup for the reception, which cuts down on washing and the use of water and detergent. You could also customise the receptacle and they can take it home with them.

Put on a keg

Skip the individual cans and bottles at the bar and serve drinks in a keg, and favour bottles of wine over cute rose cans. This will help to reduce packaging and waste.

Gifts

Traditional Bridal registries were created for a certain time. A time when newlyweds would move into the marital home and thus required new household items. These days, many couples are already living together and have accumulated homewares. This means you can be more creative with your registry.

Request non-tangible gifts.

Register for items such as gift cards or vouchers for experiences, or ask your guests to contribute to the cost of the honeymoon flights, transport, accommodation or restaurants, as these require less harmful packaging.

Fortunately, almost every item you might like to list on your register has an eco-friendly alternative. Search for the origin and materials of the items, and consider alternatives such as organic bedding, cloth shopping bags, reusable bamboo plates and natural kitchen and bath products.

Donate

Do away with tradition, and encourage guests to donate to a charity as their gift to you, and send this money to an environmental organisation.

Flowers

Flowers are synonymous with weddings, but what happens to them after they’ve decorated the venue?

Donate

Various online organisations arrange for flowers to be donated to places such as health care facilities. Encourage guests to take flowers home if possible, or arrange for the flowers to be composted. Plants can be more easily composted if they are sustainably sourced in the first place, so do some research before ordering the flowers.

For decorative flowers which do not end up in landfill, also consider potted plants and succulents. Plants in pots can serve as favours as well as décor. These types of plants will last longer and can provide a reminder of the special day for years to come.

Invitations

When considering invitations, you have a number of choices:

– Eco-conscious stationery

Many brands are now producing beautiful paper products with minimal impact on the environment.

– Plantable paper

This is paper made without harm to trees. It is made with post-consumer materials, and it is embedded with seeds. When planted, the paper composts and the seeds grow.

– Electronic invitations

Embrace the electronic age and send out digital invitations which require no paper. Let’s face it, most guests will text you their confirmation and will use their GPS to find the venue anyway, so go paperless.

The dress

It’s all about the dress, and why not. It’s your day, and you want to shine. So how do you protect the planet while choosing your wedding dress?

Research sustainable wedding attire designers (for the bride and the groom – or both brides and grooms). Maybe ask your maid of honour or groomsman to help do some of the leg work in finding an outfit sourced and created ethically.  Many eco-friendly options exist, using materials such as organic cotton, silk, hemp or even pineapple leaves.

Secondhand or pre-loved dresses are more sustainable. Secondhand conjures up images of poor-quality items sold at charity stores, but this is not the case with wedding dresses. Remember, a wedding dress has only been worn once (hopefully) and most are kept in great condition. Online stores and organisations sell pre-loved dresses, often much cheaper than a new dress, and some donate part of the profits to charities. A friend claims she filled half her wardrobe with clothes from charity stores in wealthy suburbs – it’s amazing what rich people throw away.

Vintage dresses can also be found online, so you can celebrate with a unique look.

Of course, you could always wear your mum’s dress, and this is a popular tradition. Get out the bobby pins and the sewing machine if you have to, and watch your mum beam with immense pride as you walk down the aisle.

Also be sure to check vintage clothing shops and consignment boutiques. Try renting the gown, or fit out the entire wedding party in their own clothes. With a bit of planning (over a glass of wine) you can all put together a great ensemble for the day.

Don’t forget to encourage the groom to get on board with an eco-friendly outfit as well.

Some more handy hints

Reuse

Reuse décor elements throughout the day, as this will save the planet and save money. For example, a ceremony backdrop can become a photo booth backdrop and bouquets can become décor for food stations, the bar or the cake table. The décor can also come home with you. Place locally-grown flowers in glass bottles and use them to decorate your home.

Get rid of balloons, floating lanterns and sparklers. They look pretty, but balloons are very harmful for the land as they are not biodegradable, and they can be consumed by animals.

Sparklers end up in landfill, and while floating lanterns look beautiful, they can be a fire hazard at the wedding itself and as they float away, they could spark a bush fire.

A grand exit.

How will you leave the ceremony? In style of course.

Remember that sparklers, glow sticks and confetti are harmful to the environment, so consider biodegradable confetti or an alternative element for your grand departure.

Favours

You’d love to thank all of your friends and relatives who made your day special. Do so without the footprint. Offer favours such as small plants or seed packets, which can start a small garden. Give them consumable favours, such as coffee beans, chocolate, jams or preserves in reusable jars, or send the guests home with some of the flowers from the wedding day.

Bride or groom?

Are you the bride or the groom? How many people who read this article will be men? In heterosexual relationships, it is a long-standing tradition that women take on more of the planning of a wedding. It is important to involve the groom in creating a sustainable wedding because he makes up one half of the equation, and because his friends and family also need to enter into the spirit of the wedding to make sure it is a special day for both of you.

Be Cheeky

You know that relative you don’t like? The one you’re obliged to invite because they’re a blood relative. You could prevent them from coming. A cheeky friend of mine hosted an outdoor and largely sustainable wedding but cheekily exaggerated some of the eco-friendly elements of the wedding weekend on the invite, hoping that it would deter certain people from attending. It worked. The unpleasant relative was invited so awkward family conflict was averted, and the ‘conservative’ relative declined the invitation.

It’s a lot of work…

Planning an environmentally sustainable wedding may seem like a lot of work – but planning any wedding is a major undertaking. Do your planning and preparation well in advance, involve your bridal party and groomsmen in the organisation of the wedding, then enjoy a wonderful day devoted to a celebration of love.

Image: Adrianna Van Groningren

Save Centennial Glen

Centennial Glen is under threat. The parcel of natural bush land to the west of Blackheath in NSW could be turned into a scenic highway if authorities choose this option for the expansion of the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains.

The construction of the highway would destroy the local ecology and rid the residents of a popular local hiking trail, as well as adversely affecting many other groups such as rock climbers, school students and teachers, and local businesses.

Part of a whole

The proposed highway expansion is part of a larger project to expand the Great Western Highway all the way from Katoomba to Lithgow. Many residents between Katoomba and Lithgow are not in agreement with the project, as they believe it will be destructive in so many ways. They are also not convinced by a project which the government itself says will save only 10 minutes on the journey from Katoomba to Lithgow. 

Economic mistake

The official document from the NSW government claims the entire Great Western Highway Upgrade;

“Supports regional economic growth”

I would argue that the proposed scenic highway could harm the economy of Blackheath.

The proposed scenic highway could reduce the amount of money injected into the local community. The scenic highway would essentially act like a bypass of Blackheath. According to Transport NSW, which is responsible for the highway project, the scenic highway option would require the building of an outer bypass with bridges crossing over Shipley Road, Centennial Pass, Porters Pass Track, and over the rail line at the north.

Shipley Road is a suburban road at the southern end of Blackheath, before the main shopping area. Centennial Pass is a section of the bush land that includes part of the popular hiking trail, and Porters Pass is another section the hiking trail that winds its way through the bush.

Motorists would not pass through Blackheath. They would enter the scenic road before the town centre, and they would exit after the town centre. The road itself may become an attraction for some visitors looking to enjoy the view, but it won’t bring more money into the local economy.

Common sense tells us that motorists will not drive past the entry to the scenic road and into Blackheath for a coffee and cake, before backtracking out of Blackheath to join the proposed road. They will also not backtrack into town after exiting the scenic road. There is even less incentive to enter Blackheath, and spend money in its businesses, when perfectly acceptable coffee and cake is offered at many other towns in the Blue Mountains, including at the famous Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath, which is just a few minutes drive away.

This is a region that has already suffered from the drop in tourists numbers due to the bush fires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rock Climbing

Walls Ledge and nearby rock faces are enormously popular with rock climbers, from near and far. The new highway would ruin one of the most popular rock climbing sites in Australia. Rock climbers not only climb in Blackheath, they also eat, drink and relax in Blackheath, and this income would be lost to the community if they went elsewhere to climb.

School

Mountains Christian College sits atop the ridge of Centennial Glen, with fantastic views and an amazing playground. The scenic highway proposal would be built very close to the school’s facilities and the construction work, and the highway itself, would cause endless noise disruption for students and teachers.

Why build a scenic highway?

Official justification for the scenic highway is that even though “…. There are likely impacts on the existing environment through the valley…” There is “…the potential to create a scenic route for locals and visitors.”

The scenic route already exists, in the form of a hiking trail. If locals and visitors want to enjoy the beautiful views over bush land and farms, they can do so on foot. You don’t need a highway or a car to admire the scenery of Centennial Glen, just a pair of sturdy walking shoes.

The hike to the viewpoints is not even particularly long or hard. From various entry points, visitors can walk along relatively flat paths across the top of the ridge, and within a few minutes enjoy the views. A longer and more strenuous hike exists down below the cliffs, and this does require walking up and down steep and slippery steps, crossing over some boulders and trudging through mud, but the famous views are accessible on top of the ridge, just a few minutes from Blackheath.

The paradox

Who spends money in Blackheath?

Who would use the scenic road?

Probably the same people.

Tourists spend a lot of money in Blackheath and throughout the Blue Mountains, but tourists are most likely to drive on the scenic road. Locals would probably drive it once or twice out of curiosity, but why would they if they’ve already seen the view on foot?

Thus, the scenic road, which is supposed to attract more visitors to the region, would prevent those same people from visiting Blackheath.

Truck drivers won’t use the scenic road. They have a set schedule and need to arrive at their destination on time in order to keep their job and their income.

Locals won’t use the scenic road. If they use the highway regularly they do so to go to work, school the shops or an appointment, and they want to arrive at that destination on time. The scenic road would only add time to their journey.

How is it possible?

Centennial Glen is a possible site for highway expansion because it is not national park. The land is council land, managed by Blue Mountains City Council. The other side of the existing highway is part of the Blue Mountains National Park, including sites such as Govett’s Leap, and this area can not be built on.

Short-term thinking

Like many government-endorsed infrastructure projects, three of the four options for the highway expansion will deliver only short-term benefit. The project is apparently designed to cater for:

“Increased transport capacity to meet future growth.”

This means more traffic. The government boasts that the highway expansion will reduce congestion and traffic jams. It will in the short term, but experts tell us that building or expanding roads does not reduce congestion in the long term. Eventually, new roads fill up with cars and traffic jams return.

Alternative transport

Like many government-endorsed infrastructure projects, it could be replaced, or at least supported, by alternative transport.

Improvements to the train service between Central (Sydney) and Lithgow (then to Bathurst) could take many cars off the road. New trains running on a modern timetable could encourage people, especially weekend tourists from Sydney, to take the train instead of driving. New trains which allow for passengers to bring luggage (for a weekend away) strollers, bicycles or other large items would cater for the large number of people who would prefer not to drive to and through the mountains, but are put off by Sydney’s outdated and insufficient public transport network.

Once on the train at Central, the trip is not that much slower than driving from Central Station/CBD to Blackheath. The train trip to Katoomba is even quicker if passengers can get the express train which continues to Bathurst.

Locals are continually advocating to save Centennial Glen. They are following accepted channels and communicating with local and state government to try to save this beautiful section of bush land. Their efforts, and updates, can be see at http://www.savecentennialglen.org 

Ripe Near Me

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Ripe Near Me is a web-based app which shows people the location of fresh, home grown or naturally growing food. The website highlights the location of fruit, vegetables or herbs which are growing in a local area and allows everyday people to sell, swap or give away their homegrown produce.

Why?

Ripe Near Me was established to encourage and enable people to source food from their local area. It taps into the tradition of growing food or foraging for food close to home, and is designed to reduce the carbon footprint created by the storage, refrigeration and transportation of food in the modern era.

The site also aims to increase the amount of food that is grown sustainably, and to utilise more public and private space, even the humble balcony, for growing fresh food. Members can also source a greater variety of food, and expand their palette, and eat food that is in season.

Eating food grown at home or in the immediate local area was commonplace until not so long ago. Ripe Near Me plans to revive that tradition for the good of the planet. Micro farms are also provided with a platform to make their operations profitable while improving the health of people around them.

Is it free?

Membership yes, food…sometimes.

Registration for the website is free, and once registered members can find food and give it away, sell it or swap it.

Each member chooses whether they give away, swap or sell their food. Members will often give away excess food. They swap this for an item that a neighbour has in excess and thus save food from rotting or ending up in the bin. Sure, you can put excess food in your worm farm or compost, but it’s always better to eat it – after all that’s why food is grown. If you can’t eat it, the next best option is to give it to someone who can.

Ripe Near Me also alerts people to food that is growing naturally in public spaces. Remember the old choko tree that most Aussies used to have, or still have, growing in their backyard? The tree that sprouts from nowhere, in unsuitable soil, with no care or attention, and produces consistent fruit…that’s one example of a naturally growing food that might be posted on the site. And before you deride the humble choko, try adding it to a dish. Sure it has no taste, but it’s filling, and if you prepare a tasty sauce you can negate the choko’s inherent blandness.

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Why not just go to the supermarket?

Supermarket shopping is convenient. You can buy everything you need at once, and the shopping is done. However, shopping for fruit and vegetables at major supermarkets, and even some local fruit shops, is problematic.

Chemicals

Fruit and vegetables sold at major supermarkets are almost never organic. Heavy chemicals are used to grow and preserve the food. It won’t kill you, but it’s not as healthy- for you or the planet.

Waste

Major supermarkets create enormous amounts of waste. They still demand that the majority of their produce conforms to standards of size, shape and colour, and this forces farmers to throw out perfectly good food just because it doesn’t look nice. This creates waste, because the enormous quantity of food that is rejected makes it near impossible to compost. It also creates financial strain for the farmers, because they earn nothing for the ‘ugly’ fruit.

Some supermarkets are selling a small amount of ‘ugly’ fruit, but still insist on putting ‘pretty’ fruit on the shelves. Ugly or pretty, it all tastes the same.

Furthermore, major supermarkets source their food out of season and from many different locations, and are forced to store, refrigerate and transport all produce, at great cost to the planet.

Is it safe?

Yes. Members post reviews of people who are giving away, swapping or selling food, and you can browse these reviews before obtaining the food. Also, the system normally allows you to meet the grower in person and see their garden. You can ask them about their farming techniques and ascertain whether the food is healthy or organic, as well as exchanging ideas. You see more of the growing process through Ripe Near Me than you do when shopping at a supermarket. After all, at a supermarket you know the apples come from Batlow, but from which orchard? How are they grown and harvested? Plus, do you know what happened to the fruit from the time it was picked to the time it ended up on the shelf?

How does it work?

Everyone’s produce is posted on the website’s map. You type in your local area and are shown what is available in your neighbourhood or region. It’s basically online foraging.

Growing or Ripe?

Red and green symbols next to the food explain whether it is ripe or still growing. Members can subscribe to any produce listing by clicking on a button, and collect the item if it’s ripe. If it’s still growing, they’ll be sent a notification when it’s ready.

Does size matter?

No. Any food item can be listed. From one tomato to a garden bed full of silverbeet, it can all be listed on the site, even that tiny amount of herbs you have growing on your window sill.

Is it like a food swap?

Yes. It is an online service which helps to set up a food swap. It is different because it allows people to swap food at any time, rather than waiting for the designated time and day of the local food swap. It is advantageous in the current reality, where the pandemic has restricted the number of social gatherings that can take place. It also allows people to swap their food before it goes off. Food swaps share a similar philosophy to Ripe Near Me, and stop food from becoming waste.

If you do go to a food swap, avoid the mistake that I once made. I arrived at the food swap on the designated day, only to find one other person there. It was the final weekend of school holidays so locals were either on holidays or getting their kids ready for the new school term. The other attendee had seeds which I didn’t need, and I was offering silverbeet – a tonne of silverbeet. She didn’t want my silverbeet, so I walked around town on a Sunday afternoon trying to give away a massive bouquet of silverbeet wrapped in a towel. I felt like a wedding planner or a blushing bride.

The founders of Ripe Near Me, Alistair and Helena Martin from Adelaide, South Australia, envisage an urban landscape overflowing with food for all. They aim to incentivise people to grow food sustainably and to distribute that food locally, as well as encouraging people to pick food off a plant, not a shelf.

For more information or to sign up, go to http://www.ripenear.me

Who’s Protecting Our National Parks?

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Australia’s National Parks are under threat, and the culprits are not those you might imagine.

I enjoyed a morning walk on the Grand Canyon trail near Blackheath, NSW, recently and finished the hike at Evans Lookout. As I gazed upon the spectacular view and weaved my way between tourists taking photos, I noticed something very out of place. A woman was walking her pet dog at the lookout point.

Evans Lookout lies within the boundary of the Blue Mountains National Park and is therefore strictly off limits to pet dogs. Lookout points, picnic areas, trails and any other spaces within National Parks are all off limits to pet dogs, because pet dogs damage the ecology and threaten the wildlife that is protected within these parks. Despite this, the woman was happily walking the dog, on a lead, as she admired the view from the lookout.

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I then looked for a ranger or a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)  employee, someone who would remind the woman to take her dog out of the park. I didn’t see one. Despite being a busy, sunny Sunday just weeks after Sydney HAD lifted its coronavirus restrictions, there was not a single park ranger patrolling the lookout or the trails.

I wanted to know why.

I therefore emailed NPWS to ask how a woman could freely walk her dog inside park boundaries.

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I was informed, via an official response from the NPWS service, that:

“We are aware that some people use various tracks in the National park to walk their animals.”

On the one hand, it was encouraging to learn that the regulating authority knows what is happening within its parks, but it was also distressing to realise that they were not able to prevent it from happening. Then I was told why:

“We do not have enough resources to patrol and regulate all these areas.”

“If you report it at the time, it would likely take our Area Ranger at least 30 minutes but likely 2 – 3 hours to investigate, depending on where he needs to travel from.”

In government speak, ‘resources’ means money. Thus, there is not enough money to protect the plants and animals in our National Parks, even though National Parks were established to protect plants and animals.

I was then advised to record a rego number, car make and model and the time and date of the incident and make a formal statement which could then be followed up by the relevant authorities.

Should I?

The email from NPWS advised me that:

“Community pressure directly at the time can be an effective deterrent. You can advise them that the scent of a dog drives native animals away…”

Should I go to the trouble of reporting the person? Would anything actually happen? Would the person actually be punished? If I chose to report the person and make a statement, would I need to provide photographic or irrefutable evidence that the person took a pet dog into a National Park? If I took a photo of a person without their permission then passed on that photo to the authorities would I be charged with illegally disseminating an image? If that were the case, I would be punished far more severely than the person who was actually in the wrong.

Should I?

Would it make any difference? Dog owners throughout Australia flaunt rules on a daily basis to ensure that their dogs are happy and content. They take their dogs into off limit areas and are never punished.

Should I?

Should I ruin my Sunday bush walk, through a beautiful patch of bushland to engage in an argument with a dog owner. The owner has no compulsion to listen to me. I have no authority, I’m not a ranger, I’m just another visitor. Plus, do I want to invite this stress into my morning hike? Anyone who takes their pet dog into a National Park is selfish, arrogant, ignorant or illiterate, or all of the above. Do I want to engage in a futile conversation with someone like this when I am undertaking an activity for fun and relaxation?

Why does it matter if a person takes a dog into a National Park?

Pet dogs harm native wildlife.

“Some ground birds and mammals will leave their young (children) to die at just the smell of the dog. Lots of people just do not know.”

A more detailed explanation is provided on the parks website and even on tourism and council websites. It’s true that some people don’t know why they can’t take their pet dogs into National Parks. It’s clear that many just don’t care. For that reason, relying on the good sense of dog owners will not protect native wildlife. National Parks need extra resources, as is evidenced by the response to my email.

When will National Parks be adequately funded?

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Why do cafes give disposable coffee cups to customers who dine in?

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I enjoyed a nice cappuccino this morning at a nearby cafe. I’d run out of milk and used this excuse to justify a cappuccino and a snack for breakfast, instead of a boring bowl of cereal and a cup of instant coffee.

When I ordered the coffee, I was given the option of three sizes, and the options of two containers; a mug or a disposable cup. I’d already told the waitress that I would be dining in, and I’d been handed my table number, but she still offered me a disposable cup.

I didn’t think much of it and took my seat. As I was flicking through a magazine, I saw other customers receive their coffees in disposable cups despite the fact that they were dining in, and I recalled other occasions when disposable cups had been offered or given to customers dining in.

Why?

I thought disposable cups were designed only for take away purposes, and only for people who are too lazy, ignorant or apathetic to bring their own re-usable cups.

Disposable coffee cups are causing enormous damage to the environment because of the plastic lining and the frequency with which they are used. Furthermore, surely its better to put zero cups into landfill than to put a largely biodegradable cup into landfill.

So why give disposable cups to people who don’t need them?

According to Cafe Bambini, in Townsville, Queensland, which offered me the disposable cup, take away cups are given because…

“A percentage of customers order TA cups when dining in. They believe (sic) stays warmer longer or they want to take it away as they will not finish it on time. So only if requested by the customer.”

Keppel Bay Sailing Club, in Yeppoon, Queensland, only gives disposable cups to customers who dine in. According to the club, 

“…our cafe is designed in a ‘grab and go’ style so we find the disposable cups to be the most useful option for our patrons. Breakages in china cups and mugs (more than normal due to through traffic and the concrete floor) was proving costly and wasteful so we found the bio-degradable, compostable BioPak cups the better option all round.”

The BioPak website claims its products are

“The most sustainable coffee cup solution after reusables…” and that the cups are

“…Lined with Ingeo™ bioplastic – made from plants, not plastic. Certified commercially compostable to AS4736. Designed to be part of the circular economy.”

Thus, there are many reasons why cafes give disposable coffee cups to customers who dine in. Customers can choose the ceramic mug, and take responsibility for the impact they are having on the environment. Or, in the case of venues such as Keppel Bay Sailing Club, they may have to take their own reusable cup when dining in at a cafe.

 

 

Courage: Berta Caceres.

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Berta Caceres personified courage.

The Honduran environmental activist devoted much of her life to campaigning for the protection of the natural environment and indigenous people of her native land, and only stopped fighting when she was assassinated during a campaign.

Caceres fought for the protection of the natural environment in a country and a region plagued with corruption and impunity among politicians and big business, especially resource companies whose projects threatened the land she worked to protect. International organisation Global Witness once declared Honduras the most dangerous country in the world for protecting forests and rivers.

Caceres knew she faced enormous obstacles and danger. She knew she faced corruption at the highest levels. She knew she faced multinational companies operating with impunity and enormous budgets. She was reminded of these obstacles on a regular basis, throughout her activism, when she received death threats.

She was once quoted as saying;

“…When they want to kill me…they will do it.”

During the lengthy campaign for the Gualcarque River, the Honduran military opened fire on the group of protesters, killing one member. More protesters would be killed. Still Caceres fought.

Courage is encapsulated in the famous quote from Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, when Atticus says to Jem;

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Unfortunately for Caceres, and the land and the people she protected, the man with the gun in his hand had the backing of many powerful organisations. The company behind the proposed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, Desa, was eventually ruled to have organised the squad of seven men, yes seven, who carried out the hit on Caceres. A number of the hit squad had been trained by US Army special forces. Thus, it took seven armed men, some with specific military training, to silence one woman.

Caceres utilised her intelligence, her dedication and her courage to peacefully defend the natural environment. Not only did she fight, she often won. The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras which she co-founded and led staged many grass roots campaigns to protect the environment, indigenous people and women, before the action for the Gualcarque River.

Berta Caceres knew she faced enormous obstacles and danger, but she fought anyway. That is courage.

Image:www.goldmanprize.org

 

The Australian government will help pay for your next bicycle.

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The Australian government will contribute to the cost of a ‘Therapy Bike’ for Australian citizens in a push to improve the health of the nation.

The government announced the ‘Therapy Bike’ scheme during its campaign for the federal election, to be held on May 18, and boasted of the anticipated benefits of the new policy.

“The Therapy Bike policy is a major breakthrough for Australia,” boasted a government spokesperson.

“This exciting new initiative will allow every Australian to receive funding to help them purchase a bicycle, because bicycles have been proven to improve people’s physical, mental and emotional health.”

The scheme allows Australian citizens, of any age, to apply for a percentage of the total cost of a bicycle. Applications can be submitted for road bikes, mountain bikes, children’s or adult bikes – in fact any form of bicycle- and citizens will receive the funds once their application has been approved.

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The beaming spokesperson then outlined the motivation for the scheme in greater detail.

“There are so many reasons that we are proud to announce the Therapy Bike policy.”

“Regular use of a bicycle is known to increase outdoor exercise, improve one’s physical health, decrease peoples’ reliance on medication, reduce anxiety and stress, decrease levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure, increase enthusiasm and emotional well being, delay the ageing process and reduce the risk factors of heart disease, which is still Australia’s #1 killer.”

“Of course, this is on top if the other benefits of cycling, such as improved air quality and less pollution, less congestion and traffic, less road building and destruction of the natural environment and quieter, more peaceful urban spaces.”

The majority of Australians welcomed the scheme on social media, but some reminded the government that the initiative will only succeed if a network of bicycle paths is built throughout the country, to allow people to ride safely, especially those who ride to work.

Other respondents also suggested making public transport more user friendly for cyclists, by adopting bike-friendly practices already in use in places such as the Netherlands, Canada and Taiwan.

Australians, meanwhile, were encouraged to start searching for a new bike and wait for the applications to be available following the federal election.