Every year, for one hour, a movement of people turn out their lights in recognition of climate change. This is a global event that first started in Sydney Australia which reduces global power by over 1 gigawatt saving thousands of tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.
Australia made some strong promises at the 2015 Paris Agreement, but Australia will miss its 2030 targets.
Climate Change is real, and Australia needs to demonstrate to the world that it’s serious about the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
Human activities have caused global CO2 to rise to its highest level since the Tertiary period, over 3 million years ago. Stopping the CO2 levels rising further is an almost impossible task since we need to make radical changes to industries and how we live.
Records show that global temperatures have been rising steadily since the 1950s, and marine records show that the sea level has also been steadily rising throughout the last century. Scientists have linked the causes of rise to our CO2 output.
A group of Hervey Bay children and adults have become part of a global grassroots network calling for climate change action. On Friday, March 15, local families and other concerned members of the community joined an estimated 1.5 million young people in 125 countries calling for world leaders to move away from our fossil fuel dependency and transition to renewable energy.
The global strikes were inspired by 16-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg who has protested outside the Swedish parliament every Friday since August 2018.
At a local level, our school strikers have three demands for Australian political parties: stop the Adani coal mine in 2019, commit to no new coal and gas projects, and transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Organiser of the Hervey Bay strike Charmaine Savage, who is not aligned with any political party or environmental group, said time was running out for politicians and parties to rise above their differences and listen to the climate scientists.
As an applied scientist with a career in environmental management spanning more than 26 years and a Masters in Climate Change Adaptation, Charmaine said she felt compelled to step up to help the children.
“I can’t look at this next generation of people and not do anything. Adults and politicians need to listen to our young people’s demands, otherwise we are leaving it to them to fix our mess,” Charmaine said.
“Modern young people have unlimited access to information and many are aware of the effect that the burning of fossil fuels, current agricultural practices and land clearing are having on our environment.”
A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated human activity had already caused 1°C of global warming. The IPCC’s team of climate scientists have outlined the climate impacts resulting from a 1.5°C increase and the significantly more severe impacts resulting from a 2°C increase. The IPCC believes at the current rate, and doing business as usual, the planet’s temperature will sail past the 1.5°C limit by around 2040.
“We are already experiencing the effects of global warming. In Australia, a 1.5°C increase will result in more extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, bushfires and storms, plus rising sea levels. At this point, 80% of coral reefs will have disappeared.”
In 2015, Australia joined almost 200 other countries to sign the historic Paris Agreement, making a commitment to keep global warming well below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.
“The IPCC believes limiting warming to 1.5˚C is possible but this would require a global shift towards renewable energy sources. It’s an unprecedented challenge but it is possible if we take action now,” Charmaine said.
“It’s heartening to see the groundswell of support lead by community, but unfortunately we’re not seeing enough action from our government. Ten years ago we appeared to be moving towards renewable energy sources, but I thought we would have implemented more changes by now.”
Countries such as Sweden, Germany, Scotland, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are leading the way by embracing solar, wind and geothermal energy. Sweden is on track to achieve its goal of eliminating fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2040, while Costa Rica has produced 95% of its energy from renewable resources over the last four years.
“Obviously Australia is much larger than these countries and we would have to adapt differently, but we have our own unique geography – we just need our government to make a commitment to our environment,” Charmaine said.
“The young people who are taking part in the strikes have done their homework and are wondering why we aren’t limiting fossil fuel and moving over to renewable energy.”
Our young people are just getting warmed up – the 2nd Global Strike For Climate is scheduled for Friday, May 24, 2019. Community members of all ages are invited to attend. Follow the School Strike 4 Climate Facebook page for more details.
Vox Pops – Why is this strike important to you?
“I want our planet to survive and be healthy.” Sam, 10
“I think it is important to let politicians know about climate change so we can change the future and make sure it doesn’t get worse.” Iluka, 9
“I am going to be a vet and I care about all creatures. We need to help the world’s creatures and also cut down on plastic use.” Tahlia, 9
“I care about animals and I want to help them.” Jemima, 9.
“I think it is ok to use plastic now and again but we need to be better people.” Dailigh, 12
“Plastic doesn’t break down and its around for a long time. If it gets inside turtles they die.” Taliesin, 10
I am often asked from where I source my inspirational stories. Is it from my worldly, educated grasp of current affairs? My uncanny ability at reading people, or maybe my remarkable knowledge of science, arts, animals….…and….stuff? Well I know what all of you are thinking right now… it’s all a bit unreal, you’re feeling out of your depth, awe swamping your senses as you contemplate what mind blowing event started me down the path of writing this article. In answer I have just one word..
Yes undies! In my annual trek to find that elusive spectre… a pair of underpants that would not ride up, not pinch, keep me cool in this hot humid weather and not burn too much of a hole in my budget, I found myself encountering again and again a question that I had in the past barely given consideration.
Cotton versus bamboo?
As I delved further into this never ending pit trying to extract the science from reams of marketing blurb, I found my quest became one not merely of fashion and comfort but also one pertaining to greater issues such as sustainability and the effects on environment.
Fashion is one of the largest industries in the world and has always been plagued in controversy, from human right issues relating to child exploitation in third world countries, too low wages, to excessive pollution caused by chemical runoffs from factories. Fast, cheap, mass-produced fashion, mostly consisting of cotton mixed with synthetic fibres is quickly becoming one of the largest pollutants today. Often finding their way into our waterways and landfills, these too readily disposable synthetic products take over 200 years to breakdown.
Price has always been a factor in determining which products we buy, but with climate change rearing its ugly head in daily news coverages, more and more people are looking for natural alternatives, with the cost to environment being an important determining factor. Synthetic clothes may be cheap but they are not environmentally friendly. With this in mind there has started much debate over which natural fibres are the most sustainable.
Cotton has always been the most popular natural fibre and is often boasted as being the cheapest to produce. But cotton is generally heavily subsidised by governments to keep its price down. Cotton though we love it, however has a staggering cost to our environment. It takes 20,000 litres to produce one kilo of cotton, which in layman terms is one tee shirt and a pair of jeans. Cotton also requires an excessive use of pesticides which often end up finding their way into soils and water tables. Another issue is that the plant itself on harvest is dug up from the root making pesticide infiltration and soil stability an even greater problem. Cotton however is the toughest of the natural fibres being discussed in this article.
Bamboo on the other hand requires minimal water and can be grown in the most diverse of environments. It is also self-sustaining as it grows fast and is harvested from its base, leaving root systems established and soil stable. Bamboo also has other amazing advantages such as its ability to minimise carbon dioxide and produce 35% more oxygen than trees. The bamboo plant is indeed a remarkable thing to grow, but how does it measure up in producing environmentally friendly fabric? Much of the argument against bamboo is the chemical usage required to breakdown the incredibly tough stalks into the sludge required to run it through the spinnerets to create the thread for fabric. The process is quite extensive, but it must be noted that this is the same process used to breakdown cotton and wood for making rayon. The bamboo fibre is the weakest of our three and is usually strengthened with cotton.
Hemp, our final plant under focus, requires more water than bamboo, but significantly less than cotton. Hemp can produce two and a half times more fibre over the same acreage as cotton. It grows fast and requires little to no pesticides. Its large and complex root systems also remain intact during harvest thereby minimising soil erosion. Hemp also does not require the extensive chemical treatment to reduce it to fibres. It is however a very tough, coarse and strong fibre that limits its use in the making of clothing. It is a much more suited to producing tougher and more durable items such as bags and tea towels.
Providing they are not mixed with synthetics, all three are totally biodegradable.
So what does all this mean?
Buying 100% cotton though cheap, soft and natural has strong environmental and sustainability issues that cannot be ignored. The mix of this with synthetics is also becoming an environmental nightmare.
Buying 100% bamboo would see you spending more for a soft natural fabric that, because of the weaker fibres, may not last as long as cotton.
Hemp is great for bags but too tough and coarse for clothes.
In short we need all three of these natural products and we need to reduce our reliance on synthetics. Cotton being the softest yet strongest natural fibre is needed to boost the durability of bamboo. It’s cultivation however should be environmentally controlled so it is grown in regions with excessive water and not in areas where waterways are unnaturally diverted to meet the crops extensive water needs. Cotton use should also be restricted in areas where hemp can be substituted.
As consumers we drive the markets, our choices have the ability to change even the biggest of industries. Being more conscious of our decisions and buying will influence the way things are made. Anything we do to get back to more natural fibres and reduce the synthetics in our fabrics is a positive move. I ended up buying 96% bamboo 4% viscous underwear which are incredibly soft and durable, though not exactly cheap. It is hoped the durability and comfort will over time make up for the price.
Your choice may have been different, but as long as we all go into making our purchases with eyes wide open I think the world will be a better place, don’t you?
Story by Kelsey Corcoran
Photos provided by Paul Aurisch
Next time you see a dolphin in Hervey Bay, take a good look because it could be the newly-named Sousa sahulensis.
Local marine biologist Yvonne Miles said our local humpback dolphin is actually a different species to other humpback dolphins. She said it had been identified as a third species, so had been renamed from Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin to its Latin name, Sousa sahulensis.
The discovery was made by researchers who came to the Fraser Coast to conduct studies into dolphins a few years ago.
“There was a young lad who came and did some work for the Southern Cross University and was looking at dolphins in the area,” Yvonne said.
“It was noted that this dolphin in Australia didn’t have a prominent hump compared to those which are more easterly. After looking at that, and looking at the mouth, the research and team counted the number of teeth and realised the number was different as well. Their dorsal fin is central, its one-third of the body and their beak is quite big, and they have a prominent melon, which is a very different head shape to a dolphin. They realised that the species perhaps didn’t belong to the family they had put it in.”
So Yvonne joined the team when they went out to take some DNA samples. Using a dart they took a small sample of skin. Unfortunately, people on the beach had seen them ‘shooting’ the dolphins in Tin Can Bay. The incident made the news and it was reported that they had been killing dolphins. Yvonne said it was all eventually straightened out. Importantly though, when the tests came back they realised that the dolphins were from a different family and they had to restructure the family tree.
The humpback dolphins which were found in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean were then split into three species – the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin, the Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin and now the Australian Humpback Dolphin or Sousa sahulensis.
Yvonne, who is the managing director of the international marine mammal observation organisation Scanning Ocean Sectors, spoke about the newly-named species during a lunchtime wildlife talk at the Fraser Coast Regional Library. She travels the world observing and monitoring marine mammals and training others to do the same.
During the talk, she also spoke about the threats to coastal marine animals. She said they faced habitat loss and degradation, being caught as bycatch, water pollution, damaging underwater noise, vessel traffic, overfishing of their prey and some pitfalls from wildlife tourism. She described dolphins as ‘children of the sea’ and said they had complex family relationships. The females don’t reproduce until they are eight to ten years old and are strong enough to give birth. They are pregnant for about a year and then look after the calf for two years.
Yvonne described a scene she’d witnessed where hundreds of dolphins greeted a whale with a newborn calf. She said the mother whale and calf were circled by the massive pod of dolphins which appeared to be welcoming the newborn, and singing to it.
She said that if anyone found a marine mammal washed up on the shore or in distress, you should contact RSPCA or Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast.
Bats have always been the objects of stories and movies. You either like them or loathe them, but much of their stigma once you really think about it comes from fantastic stories- stories in particular depicting Bats as evil blood sucking vampires for example, that have not exactly done much for their reputations. People fear and often shudder at the mere mention of the word bat. So imagine my surprise on meeting Mr John Parsons, bat expert extraordinaire, his hand eagerly out in greeting, face alight with joy and excitement and all because we were about to spend the next hour or so talking bats…. Micro Bats in fact. Never heard of Micro Bats? Well let me tell you, you’re not the first! But before we go any further, and your bat sensory shudder mode clicks in to prevent you from reading further I thought I’d give you an idea of exactly how small and cute a Micro Bat actually is.
Have you noticed the finger joints? This little fellow is a full grown Eastern Freetail Bat and measures between 2 and 3cms in length. So now is the time to ‘oh’ and ‘ahh’ because you have to admit he really is very cute! Another indicator of just how small Micro bats are, is their weight. Micro Bats weigh between 2 and 8 grams and to help you conceptualise this, a 5 cent piece weighs 3 grams. There are even some types of Micro Bats that are as small as the nail on your little finger!
I must have you at least a little intrigued by now!
We are going to spend the next few hours talking and learning about really, really tiny….bats and in truth I am really quite excited to hear their story.
My first question to John before we got too far into the interview was to ask him,
‘What is the exact message you hope this story gets out to our readers?’
John looked at me and said simply ‘We are losing them in droves!’
Australia has 76 species of Micro Bats and due to urban sprawl and significant land clearing resulting in the loss of native trees and habitation our bat populations are decreasing rapidly. Once a female bat loses her home it can take her anything between 4 and 6 years to find a new one. The female bat will not breed without a secure home. It is important to understand that Bats only have one baby a year. So if you take this into account and multiply it by the number of trees and possible homes lost each year, then multiply this again with the no breeding time of between 4-6 years, and then this again by the number of bats not being born during this period that should have given birth to others over those years, it is not difficult to see why our bat populations are decreasing so significantly.
So why does losing these Bats matter so much you might ask, and the answer is one that will certainly surprise you!
Did you know that Micro Bat’s can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes each a night and are far more effective pollinators than bees?
Imagine a world where mosquitoes had no native predators. Where Malaria, Ross River fever, Dengue and Zika viruses ran rampant. Imagine the effect on our health systems, our lifestyles. And it is just not mosquito numbers that these bats help keep in balance. Being meat eaters they are also very useful in helping control crop eating insects such as cicadas, moths, and grasshoppers. In addition from a more domestic perspective, Micro Bats are also very useful in helping to control the bane of most homes- the dreaded fly and cockroach. Without Micro Bats helping control these insect numbers, it is not only farmer’s insecticide costs, but also everyday household insecticide costs that would increase greatly. And let’s not mention the effects that the increased chemical use would again have on our health.
There has been much publicity about bee numbers decreasing worldwide and of the effect that the loss of their pollination abilities would have on both our flora and fauna. But did you know that Micro Bats are a far greater and more effective pollinator? As a meat eater, Micro Bats burrow deep into the heart of all types of flowering flora searching for the small insects that reside inside. By doing this the whole of the bats face is covered with pollen. The bat will then flit from flower to flower in its search, effectively pollinating as it goes. As most pollination happens at night, more particularly after midnight – this perfectly times with the habits of our quiet achievers – the Micro Bat.
So these little creatures are more than important to us, they are vital, not only to ensuring our sustained wellbeing, but also that of our flora and fauna. It is a big responsibility that rests on the wings of these tiny creatures! A responsibility that is becoming more difficult to maintain as through no fault of their own, their native habitats and breeding grounds are slowly being eradicated by urban sprawl and unprecedented land clearing.
It’s all a bit daunting isn’t it?
But this is where John Parsons along with his fellow researchers and the program created through Fraser Coast Micro Bats, a fully licensed and insured entity, come into play. Working closely in conjunction with the Sunshine Coast University the program devised by Fraser Coast Micro Bats is one that is quite unique and hopes to recreate thriving artificial Bat environments that work within community consensus and constraints and helps restore Bat populations by creating new homes in places where they have been lost.
John and his fellow researchers have spent years investigating Micro Bats, in particular looking into a way to create a sustainable living environment for them in a world ever decreasing in trees. His investigations have discovered incredible facts such as variant temperature levels in bat habitations, and that a female bat likes high perspiration and requires a humid environment to nest in while breeding. This research is vital as the projects main aim is create effective bat homes that can be attached to poles, trees, bushes…anything really to replace those homes lost through tree felling.
There are three main types of bats- forest bats, grass bats and cave bats. As such bat homes must be able to fit into the respective environments and need to offer the kind of protection that caters to all forms of habitat ie: holes in trees, burrows in the ground as well as in fallen trees and crevices in caves.
The homes that John has designed range from non treated timber boxes made from recycled pallets, all painted bottle green with water based paint, to plastics tubes of various lengths, some painted, others not. The plastic tubes are particularly important to help maintain the humidity levels that a breeding female needs. The boxes are non intrusive to the environment and can be placed anywhere. The Group have set up 6 projects in different locations throughout the Fraser Coast all slightly variant from the other. With different mixes of bat boxes and tubes- painted and unpainted on either timber poles or metal ones, the Group monitors these sites regularly to note the effectiveness of each of the different mixes. John is proud to say that his boxes have not only become homes to Micro Bats but also to other native animals.
For this project to be successful, not only research and observation are vital, but so is educating the local community not only with the results of these studies but also with the intent to dispel myths that do Micro Bats disfavour. For example Micro Bats do not smell- they have no odour due to their tiny size and small family communities. Micro Bats are generally unobtrusive in all ways. They are the small unsung Heroes that work diligently to keep our world safer. They are so good at being obscure that many of us before this article did not even know they existed.
John’s passion to increase Micro Bat populations and grow awareness of these tiny creatures stems from knowing the importance these bats have to the sustainability of our environment and to our overall health and wellbeing. John has even created a study program for kids to learn in school in conjunction with the instigation of a bat home settlement of 6 boxes within Urangan school grounds, and 20 boxes in Fraser Coast Anglican College, so that our children will learn from an early age through their own observation and study the importance of Micro Bats and as an extension of this, the fine balance of our environment. This part of the project has been going for 4 years and been made possible with the support of The Burnett Mary Regional Group who donated funds not only to publish a book on Micro Bats, but also to print the study pack that both teachers and students use in the teaching program.
The next step in the projects research is to create an artificial forest. This has never been done before and will consist of 50 timber poles with 50 boxes and 50 tubes being installed for bat habitation on a local sugar cane farmer’s property. The farmer sprays his crop with chemicals 3 to 4 times a year at a cost of around $30k annually. It is hoped that the Bat boxes will encourage bats to migrate onto the farm and eat the insects that currently threaten the crop. The study intends to be a year by year one that records not only Bat population numbers but also how much money is saved annually on the purchase of chemicals. The research will also factor in a dollar amount for time saved by not having to do the spraying as well as fuel savings etc from less use of farm equipment.
It is a sad thing to say, but without putting a total dollar figure to the amount of money an active and thriving Micro bat population can bring to our agricultural industry, it is feared that community and government support to save this vital species will not happen.
We will be following up how this program is working by talking to the teachers and kids from Fraser Coast Anglican School in our next edition as well as some of the results of John’s research. John also lectures regularly at the Discovery Centre in Hervey Bay should wish to hear more about this incredible Bat. Also If you would like to learn more about these fantastic little creatures please go to www.allaboutbats.org.au