Greenfleet offers a Christmas present with a difference.

Not sure what to gift for Christmas? Sick of buying the same presents year after year only to see feigned surprise and excitement on the face of the recipient? Try a present with a difference, which will make a difference.

Make a donation to an organisation such as Greenfleet on behalf of your friend or relative.

Greenfleet is a not-for-profit environmental organisation which protects the world’s climate by restoring forests. You can help them to plant native biodiverse forests which capture carbon emissions and help fight the impacts of climate change. You can contribute to the growth of an entire forest even if you don’t have the time, space or opportunity to plant a tree. Greenfleet will do it on your behalf.

Since its inception, Greenfleet has planted more than 9.4 million trees in more than 500 forests in Australia and New Zealand. The forests generate many benefits for the planet, and for us. They address critical deforestation, absorb carbon emissions to protect our climate, improve water and soil quality, conserve biodiversity, and restore vital habitat for native wildlife.

Importantly, the forests are legally protected for up to 100 years through an on title agreement with the landowner. 

A forest guaranteed to grow for the next 100 years is better than the cheap plastic toy which will become landfill as soon as your nephew discovers the next fad. This is practical climate action. 

Greenfleet began in 1997 and planted its first trees in West Gippsland, Victoria. It reached two million trees in 2005 and combined with Scouts to plant their 1,000,000th tree for the Murray Darling Rescue project. The organisation has been a finalist in the World Environment Day awards and gained Greenhouse Friendly™ Approval for forest sink methodology.

In 2013, the organisation’s projects were registered under the Carbon Farming Initiative and it purchased its first property, Avoca, in NSW. Working with private landholders allows Greenfleet to secure guarantees that the trees planted on that land will be protected.

In 2015, Greenfleet expanded its operations to New Zealand and through donations from supporters, managed to purchase ‘Wurneet Laang Laang’ in Victoria in 2016. The latest of many initiatives is an innovative climate-change research project at Nardoo Hills Reserve in Victoria in association with Bush Heritage Australia.

Greenfleet receives Deductible Gift Recipient status and is listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations in Australia. 

Greenfleet draws upon the methodology outlined by Gold Standard for the Global Goals, an internationally recognised standard designed to accelerate progress toward climate security and sustainable development.  This methodology is based on six central principles.

Collaboration – Working closely with landholders and partners, including rangers, native nurseries, tree planting contractors, other not-for-profit organisations, Traditional Owners, local community and government. 

Location – The right place is chosen through a comprehensive assessment of each potential site to determine whether the land can support the growth of a biodiverse carbon forest. 

Species selection – Forests comprise of a mix of native species that would have been present prior to land clearing. The focus is on recreating multi-species ecosystems and not single species plantations. The Australasian Virtual Herbarium, DELWP’s Ecological Vegetation Class benchmark and other state and regional vegetation maps and classifications  are used to establish a list of native species that should be present on the site. 

Efficiency – Projects are delivered as cost-effectively as possible without compromising quality. 

Co-benefits – In addition to delivering nature-based climate solutions, Greenfleet strives to deliver additional social, environmental and economic benefits. 

Long-term thinking – Every project focusses on the lasting success in order to protect the climate, the environment, wildlife, people and the future.

One benefit of donating to an organisation such as Greenfleet is the assurance that the trees you help to plant will be protected. When a Greenfleet forest is planted, the landholder retains ownership of the land and the agreeemnt ensures the forest is secured for up to 100 years. This means the landowner must protect the forest by not damaging or removing trees for the duration of the agreement.  

Where an area of planting has failed, remedial action, like in-fill planting, is carried out.

Donating to Greenfleet is a constructive and practical way to protect the earth’s climate for the sake of the planet and the sake of humanity. A donation as a Christmas present on behalf of friends or family is also an original and long-lasting gift which is so much more beneficial than yet another boring gift from yet another boring store.

Plus, if you give your Dad socks for Christmas, what are you going to give him for his birthday?

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

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.

Cycling the Narrow Neck Trail.

Narrow Neck Trail is a scenic and challenging cycling trail in the Blue Mountains National Park near Katoomba which offers off-road cyclists a solid workout with some spectacular views.

The trail itself is a shared hiking and cycling fire trail which snakes its way along the Narrow Neck ridge for about 10 kilometres in either direction, and finishes at a lookout point which promises views of the national park, farm land to the west and even to Sydney on a clear day.

Cyclists weave their way in and out of bush land and exposed sections with beautiful views, and share the bush with birds and other native animals, which are slowly returning after the severe 2019/2020 bush fires which ripped through the Blue Mountains.

Evidence of the fires follows riders along the trails and the charred remains of trees contrast starkly with the bright blue sky and the striking green shoots of new growth.

Narrow Neck presents a solid workout. Short sharp climbs are scattered throughout the trail, and flat sections are interspersed with long, slow climbs. The halfway point features a few very steep climbs whose ‘whoa boys’, (water drainage humps), add an extra challenge to an ascent. They’re guaranteed to burn the legs – but they’re great fun on the way down.

Furthermore, Narrow Neck trail lies at about 1000 metres altitude. On some of the tougher climbs you can definitely feel the difference in the lungs.

Winter can be cold in the mountains – very cold. Its not uncommon to start the ride with the temperature hovering around 0, and the exposed sections get very chilly on a windy day. Don’t be surprised if you ride through patches of ice early in the morning.

An advantage of riding the trail in winter is the chance to see the valley covered in mist and to ride through clouds.

The trail head sits about 2 kilometres along the access road, which begins in the suburbs of Katoomba. It’s possible to drive right to the trail head, and the advantage of driving is that it cuts out a steep hill just before the trail head – a hill so steep it has been concreted to avoid erosion. This steep and nasty hill is quite a warm up.

For those who are not afraid of a little climbing, it’s possible to reach the trail from Katoomba town centre and from the train station. It lies a few kilometres from the station and can be easily found. Just head to Cliff Drive then keep an eye out for the sign to Narrow Neck trail and the dirt road.

A cycling trail also exists between Katoomba and Leura, and Katoomba and Blackheath and is a mixture of dirt, bitumen and suburban streets. At Blackheath, riders are rewarded with some genuine single trail.

Cycling to and from the trail also forces riders to climb back out to Katoomba, along the dirt access road. After a hilly 20km ride at 1000m, you’ll feel like a sprinter in a Tour de France mountain stage – just tap out a tempo.

Most cyclists tackle the trail on a mountain bike, but it would be achievable with a gravel bike and some decent bike handling skills.

Most importantly, the trail lies close enough to Katoomba for cyclists to finish their ride with a coffee.

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?