Thursday, July 8, 2021

Can Upper Hunter Shire afford another year of climate inaction?

Do we care about intergenerational equity?

At the June 2021 Upper Hunter Shire Council Ordinary Meeting I could not and did not support the 2021/2022 budget.

Its lack of meaningful action to halt climate change and to mitigate the already damaging impacts we are seeing all around us as a result of climate change only goes to show that the Upper Hunter Shire Council plans to continue ignoring the signs of climate change already impacting our lives.

The 2021/2022 budget reveals that the Upper Hunter Shire Council is able to find funding for all kinds of projects including climate wrecking ones but is unable to adequately fund a climate emergency response.

Unquestionably a climate emergency response should be embedded in all of council's decision making processes: putting climate first in every single decision of council is essential and needs to be implemented.

Speaking to the world on World Environment Day 5 June 2021, Antonio Guterres (UN Secretary General) said:

"We are rapidly reaching the point of no return for the planet. We face a triple emergency:

  1. biodiversity loss; 
  2. climate disruption
  3. escalating pollution

Science tells us the next 10 years are our final chance to avert a climate catastrophe, turn back the deadly tide of pollution and end species loss."

... yet here in the Upper Hunter Shire we are 'picking the colour scheme for the family room' rather than doing anything about 'our house on fire' and the real emergencies steadily enveloping us.

We don't have time to be carrying on with the business as usual approach. 

Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, seas on fire from gas pipeline leaks, couldn't be clearer in demonstrating that business as usual is no longer ok.

We need a climate emergency response and we needed it last month.

Monday, May 17, 2021

A voice for children & nature - a voice for you

With my granddaughter at the SGS fete

 Quick update on me since I last posted ... I am running as the Greens candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election which is to be held in five days time (Saturday 22nd May 2021). I have been 'beatleling' around the electorate meeting up with people and participating in Meet-The-Candidates for the past three weeks. On Thursday 13th May 2021, I attended the Dungog Meet-The-Candidates forum at the Dungog RSL, and the following is the speech I gave to crowd in the allocated 10 minutes candidates were given.

Good evening, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we meet tonight and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I am a first generation Australian because of "Love"! 

But let me go right back to my beginning. I was born in Germany, and for the first 18 years of my life I grew up in Germany, Holland, Cyprus and England. 

Then at 18, I started my registered nurse training at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. And it was there at the back of the Barts' Hospital bicycle shed that I met this gorgeous young Australian doctor. Upon being asked whether it was 'Susie or Sue,' with me thinking it's neither but I might run with Sue, there followed a whirlwind romance with us getting married in England and then heading out to Australia at the end of 1982. 

I arrived in this beautiful land I was to call home for the rest of my life like a GI bride having never seen Australia before! I fell in love immediately with this beautiful country, and we came to Scone in August 1983. Our four children were all born at Scone Hospital, and all four did all their primary and secondary schooling in Scone too.

But now I am here before you as the Greens candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election, and the most pressing issue for me is Climate Change.

Climate Change is here in the Upper Hunter whether we like to admit it or not. We see the impacts all around us with droughts, bushfires, floods and the increase in their severity.

We are facing an existential threat to nature which includes us too because we are nature.

Our children's future is bleak. In fact our children have reached a tipping point where they are eschewing their education and leaving the classrooms to take to the streets to protest about the inaction on climate action. Our children do not feel that they have a future so they are wondering what is the point of even getting an education.

It is imperative that we transition to 100% renewables quickly and eliminate our emissions in an emergency capacity.

But there is no political will to tackle climate change and undertake necessary climate action.

Recently it was reported that as a result of massive glacier melting across the world due to global warming, there has been a shift in the earth's axis of rotation. This is huge, yet still are leaders are not moved to do anything.

Biodiversity is plummeting, and this breaks my heart. Here in Australia we have the biggest mammalian extinction rate in the world - that is not a good record to have.

But right now I want to transport you to another state ... I want to take you to Tasmania where I follow the cutest little Instagram account, the "Hobart Rivulet Platypus ... you should too! A post was popped up on this account just recently detailing that we (that's us humans) are the biggest threat to the iconic platypus, and that the continuous concreting over of rivulets and tributaries in Hobart is causing platypus deep distress, and platypus numbers are starting to decline.

Now let me bring you back to Dungog, and your own concrete spectre of more dams being built in this area again. I met with some of you from Hunter Healthy Rivers a couple of weeks ago and you shared with me your concerns about the growing dam-building talk. 

With Dungog residents

We know that dams are hugely destructive of nature and the natural environment, and we know that they completely destroy wildlife corridors and key areas for wildlife potentially impacting your own iconic koalas which you have here in the Dungog Shire. 

The proposed Tillegra Dam was chased off a few years ago because of environmental reasons, and I must acknowledge the 'marvelousness' of Tracey Norman (independent candidate for Upper Hunter and former Dungog mayor) who successfully championed that cause to make sure the Tillegra Dam did not go ahead. Dams are dinosaur technology as you told me, and they destroy wildlife corridors, and rivers, and even pose a threat to the Ramsar-listed Kooragang Wetlands. 

We know that there are other ways to conserve water such as user education, behaviour-change, recycling, water conservation itself, demand management and yet dams remain the popular choice for ill-informed politicians.

Let's talk about your koalas and their core habitats. You have breeding koala mothers here in the Dungog shire with the necessary primary and secondary feeding trees - basically you have koala heaven yet this is under threat with all the dam proposal talk. We cannot let dam building go ahead here at the expense of Australia's biodiversity yet again.

With respect to transition, it is already underway in the Upper Hunter. But what worries me is that it will not be just and we'll get left behind or abandoned if we do not get on board now.

Three disruptions are converging:
1. energy; 2. transport; 3. food and agriculture

With respect to energy; wind, solar, pumped hydro and battery storage have won the race and the market is running with its wallet. 

All sectors across our electorate must de-carbonise from fossil fuels, to health and hospitals, from tourism and travel, to farming and transport.

Regarding transport, it took only 13 years for the last major disruption in transport in 1,000 years to totally shift how we got around. In 1900 city transport was all about horses yet by 1913 it was all about cars (what happened to the horses? ... we ate them). So it only took just over a decade for transport to be completely disrupted and upended, and no-one saw that coming.

And with food and agriculture, it is projected that the dairy and beef industries will be totally disrupted by 2030. Precision fermentation and food-as-software are changing existing food paradigms, and quickly.

If I were to be elected I would advocate for a just transition to 100% renewables so that we are not left behind or abandoned, and I would insist on emergency elimination of our emissions.

I would be a voice for children who don't have the vote, yet who are terrified, frustrated, scared, and suffering from climate anxiety because they think they may not have a future.

I would be a voice for community organisations and neighbourhood-centres which all too often get overlooked when big money is being splashed around for the big ticket items.

I would be a voice for nature who now more than ever needs a voice and an advocate at the ready.

And I would be a voice for you.

Thank you

Friday, August 21, 2020

MOTHERLOAD (Official Trailer)


These are crazy times. 

It's hard to imagine how everything's going to play out, and I have to admit to feeling more than a little glum quite a lot of the time what with precious family members and friends scattered all around the world and wondering when I'm going to see them again. 

So when I read about 'Motherload' on Treehugger I knew immediately it was going to be a film for me - and boy was I right! 

I got myself all set up with my laptop and headphones, 'rented' the movie, made a cuppa and was basically swept away on a magical carpet ride of emotions and plans and pure joy. 

It was heaven! 

I wept, I smiled, I even took notes!!!!! 

It was so beautiful and it made me feel really alive, and also incredibly lucky that I have a beautiful bicycle which I get to hop on a lot notwithstanding Australia's ridiculousness with its insane devotion to its insane helmet law. 

Essentially anything to do with bicycles always makes me feel happy, alive and about six years old ... basically right in the moment. 

Liz Canning's moving and insightful documentary has reminded me that I love bicycles way more than cars, and truly no matter the weather I need to be on one (ok, if it's 37 °C and upwards I'll probably give myself a leave pass!).

So I'm back on my push-bike big time, completely head over heels in love with it again, and ...

... really looking forward to my other bike (my Christiannia) undergoing an e-bike conversion with the fabulous folk at Sydney Electric Bikes in two weeks time ... then I may have to just ride no matter how hot it is!!!! No kidding, there'll be no more excuses as I'll have two bikes to choose from with respect to Australian weather.

Thank you, Liz Canning, your documentary was a tonic and utterly inspiring, and I'm recharged and ready to take on the world again one revolution at a time!

Monday, April 6, 2020

So that’s that

Yours truly with gorgeous granddaughter
The second half of March 2020 has been like a whole decade and now here we are in April.

To keep you up to speed with my matters helmet, which right now seem so incredibly pointless, I attended Scone Local Court on Thursday 19th March 2020.

However because of all the new social distancing measures in place as a result of covid19, none of us (apart from lawyers, police and magistrate) were allowed into the courtroom.

I did actually have a lawyer this time, so he was permitted to step into court, and from what he has told me I understand that my matter of riding a bicycle without a helmet was withdrawn and dismissed.

So there we have it!

And with the lovely weather we're having right now in the Upper Hunter, I'll be back on my bike (my most favourite of wheels) in next to no time!

... and needless to mention, minus the helmet!

Oop la here we go again no doubt!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

National Parks, 1080 and indiscriminate cruelty

Why is the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) joining in with the Department of Planning Industry & Environment to be part of this reckless destruction of animals? How does such a poisoning programme fit with their brief? And done from the air too? How can an aerial programme be carefully targeted and administered?

What about protection for dingoes?
What about protection for wedge tail eagles?
What about protection for quolls?

How does National Parks plan on protecting them during this deadly two weeks?

Why are we still obsessed with protecting sheep farming to the lethal cost of Australia's native animals?

I am so sad about this unnecessary indiscriminate killing and I worry about the dreadful effects on both the targeted and non-targeted animal species.

Furthermore 1080 (sodium fluroacetate) taints water supplies, food chains and the general local environment, and death from 1080 is slow and painful and torturous.

But let's just think about the unintended lethal effects on non-targeted native reptiles, birds and insects? Between 2008 and 2015 New Zealand recorded 24 kea deaths caused by 1080 from a population of 199 that were radio tagged.

Surely there are alternatives?

I called that number on the poster and I expressed my dismay, and I was informed someone would ring me but that has not happened. No-one has called me.

If National Parks actually did an audit on all the 1080 they have chucked around our national parks how would it stack up? Has the 1080 programme been successful over the decades? Biodiversity still flourishing? Forests any better for it?

So cynically done as a 'post fire pest relief program' as though that will make our forests safer. I have never seen foxes or wild dogs here in Mount Royal, but I have seen dingoes and quolls and eagles and I feel sick with worry about their safety.

We do not deserve our beautiful country

Sheep - it's time we only counted them to get to sleep - I cannot see the justification in destroying dingoes, eagles, quolls and all the other Australian carnivores. 1080 is so old school, and such a hammer with no finesse, and just a lot of toxic poison that takes out so many animals.

I am so disappointed with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Monday, March 30, 2020

In Scone we've been given the proverbial hospital pass

Scone, NSW, one of many Australian towns with no ICU

We are ill prepared for covid19 yet we really ought not to be in this position when you consider that our state and federal governments have known this was coming since January this year. 
The message from China could not have been clearer.
In fact early on in the covid19 crisis, the federal government even called the “pandemic” for what it is today but then they all went off for a nap. 
Essentially, our political leaders wasted February despite the fact that they knew that this disease  came with a high mortality rate.
March saw a complete breakdown in both border-security and bio-security with the Ruby Princess docking in Sydney, then being permitted to allow all passengers to disembark and melt into communities across Australia, unbelievably underpinned by the arrival of many air travellers doing much the same with vague promises that they would ‘self-isolate’ … oh yes of course.
And so today we suffer unintended consequences 
(a) because of the rising rate of covid19 cases, and,
(b) because our leaders did not order in ample amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses, doctors, ambulance personnel and police, nor vast amounts of testing kits so crucial in flattening the dreaded curve. 
Our governments should have been ready but they were not and many deaths that were arguably preventable may inevitably eventuate. 
So now we have been informed that it is up to us to do our bit to socially distance ourselves in order to minimise transmission, and that we need to be deadly serious about this strategy given that it is really the only one left in the box now. 
We need to quarantine and self-isolate ourselves as though our lives depend upon it because they do … and if we do need to go to the shops or the doctors or the hospital, we need to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from people we meet at those places, we must not sneeze or cough on them, and we must keep on washing our hands and wiping down supermarket trolley handles. 
Basically, we need to drastically curtail outings and stay home.
It is worth bearing in mind that Scone hospital does not have its own doctors per se but is staffed by doctors from Scone Medical Practice. There are no intensive care beds at the hospital and there are no facilities to care for ventilated patients for more than a few hours.
If the system is overwhelmed people will die in our hospital because we do not have the resources to look after them. 
Prior to the covid19 pandemic, patients who required further treatment other than treatment Scone Hospital could provide, would be transferred down the valley but if hospitals in Maitland and Newcastle are at capacity because of the covid19 crisis, access to their units will be blocked because they will be full.
Wondering how our public health system, which is already stretched to capacity, will respond to the covid19 pandemic has left me 100% certain that we need to quarantine (or self-isolate) ourselves as dedicatedly as possible … because if we do not do our bit we are on track for our hospitals to be completely sunk.

Please stay home.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

We Are On Fire

(Photo: Jimmy Abbott @mostlymountains)

Yet again my ‘Shire Notes were blocked by Upper Hunter Shire Council management - apparently not up-beat enough and apparently the Scone Advocate would not approve ... sigh. Sometimes I truly despair - anyway Council Comms were wrong about the Scone Advocate because the editor ended up publishing them in letter format! (see below post)

Australia is on fire. Millions and millions of hectares have burnt, at least 25 people have died, more than a billion animals have perished, and we have lost our homes, our trees, our grasses and our unique bees and so much more. The losses from these fires are unfathomable and have plunged the nation into the depths of despair. Communities have been ravaged and will never be the same again.

Yet our leaders remain disconnected from the Australian people and the natural world, and they continue to refuse to listen to our fire chiefs who between them all have decades of experience and wisdom and knowledge. Instead ridiculous conspiracy theories are being pedalled as to where the fault lies in an attempt to distract from the complete lack of political action in relation to climate change adaptation and our desiccated continent. Despite three hundred and fifty million metric tonnes of CO2 having been belched into the atmosphere by these Australian bushfires (the worst bushfires ever), water is being carted to coal mines to keep them operating.

Without trees we cannot breathe; without soil we cannot eat; without water we cannot drink or fight fires ... and yet none of these have been considered important enough to protect and cherish. Instead we have a backbencher remark that 'footpaths don't burn' as though that kernel of an idea might shed some light onto where to now.

Many fear that these unprecedented catastrophic fires are indeed our new normal yet

Australian rural fire-fighters on the frontline are an ageing unpaid 'permanently on-call' voluntary workforce with meagre government support. Unquestionably these women and men are the nation's heroines and heroes; but they are exhausted, and they are injured and too many of them have died defending us.

Right now all levels of government in Australia need to park the politics, and roll up their sleeves and work alongside each other because if we are going to have half a chance we need policies that protect and respect the natural environment more than ever.

Australia as we know it depends on it; our very existence depends on it.

Shire notes initially prepared by me for Shire Notes in Scone Advocate, then blocked by Upper Hunter Shire Council then published anyway by Scone Advocate as a letter ... such silly and unnecessary shenanigans