Issue 6

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Letter from the Editor

The editor enjoying a sunset in the park - Michelle Hiscock

Dear Reader,

As the plague year draws to a close, the proverbial dust begins to settle, and people and businesses can, at least in some countries, begin to take stock of the damage, it's worth taking some time to reflect on some of the positives which have come out of this period which has been such a nightmare for so many. In even the blackest of nights, it is possible to find the faintest glimmer of light, and if we don't hold onto that light, we will be lost entirely. That’s why, in this issue of Green News Australia, we're bringing you some of the cutest critters imaginable in Creature Corner; a humourous respite in Comic Relief; and a few fun suggestions to ensure your Christmas and New Year can be as environmentally friendly as possible.

But of course, as always, there are serious issues to discuss. So brace yourself for a gripping account of the August floods, a summary of the largely inadequate environmental initiatives promised in this year's budget speeches, and a piece from the Sea Monkey Project's very own Sydney Steenland, corresponding from Penang, on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on plastic waste in Malaysia. And before you watch Craig Reucassel's two newest additions to ABC iView, read the special double feature review of Saving Planet A and Big Weather, which, in Craig's trademark style, mix grim data and personal anecdotes with investigation, public stunts, humour and irrepressible optimism.

Whether you need some cheering up, some eco advice or just want to learn something new, Issue #6 has got you covered. With eight different sections, you can't fail to find something that interests you.


We're thinking of trialing a new technique on the website - audio recordings of the newsletters, so that you can listen to them like podcasts. Go to the Contact page and write to us if you like this idea!

Happy New Year from Green Force,


Nicola Allen

Green News Editor

Green Force Founder


Please be mindful that all photos used in this newsletter have their sources cited underneath. Many of these photos are not taken by Green Force members, and belong to their respective organisations. If you wish to reproduce these photos anywhere else publicly, you must use the citations. Thank you.


Instagram

Facebook

 

Review

Double Craig Reucassel Feature - Saving Planet A and Big Weather


In the year of the pandemic, with environmentalism and Black Summer seemingly forgotten by the majority of the Australian population, there was one man who was determined not to let us get away with complacency. Most of you will know him from his renowned ABC miniseries War on Waste; others will remember him for his comedic presence on 'The Chasers.' But I would hope that, by now, every Australian would at least have heard of Craig Reucassel. And apparently he wasn't going to let us forget about climate change, even if a global pandemic stood in his way. This year, he gave us two new gems of environmental awareness: Fight for Planet A and Big Weather. Since both of them are important in different ways, I will review both series, and hopefully convince you to visit ABC iView to watch them. Beginning with Fight for Planet A, I'll try not to spoil too much, but simply offer some examples of what you can expect from the programs.

Fight For Planet A banner - ABC iView

After the eye-opening phenomenon that was War on Waste, it would be impossible to offer anything better. But Fight for Planet A (which I will now refer to as FFPA) definitely gives it a red-hot go. The tried and tested Reucassel formula of jokes, stunts and evidence-based criticism is just as engaging as ever, and his enthusiasm for action is infectious.


FFPA follows the journeys of five different Australian households to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, under instruction from Reucassel, as well as his own travels around Australia to see relevant locations and interview residents, and a range of experts, on various aspects of the problem, from the science to the health impacts to the economics. In the first episode alone, he speaks to Dr Zoë Loh PhD, of the CSIRO; Taryn Lane, Manager of Hepburn Wind Co-op; Richie Merzian, Climate and Energy Director of The Australia Institute; and the Singleton GP Dr Bob Vickers. And then, every so often, there's a public stunt, to brighten the mood. These are some of my favourite parts of his series, and he always does them with the natural flair of an experienced performer.

Ever the joker, Reucassel can't resist throwing a pun or sarcastic comment into the mix, even as he is visibly upset by what he's seeing. Speaking to an elderly member of a regional community affected by coal dust, he tries to keep her spirits up in the following conversation:

Wendy: Our underground water is just virtually, practically all gone in these two shires. The government has allowed the mines to do whatever they want to do.

Voiceover: And then there's the dust. Doctors have told Wendy that she's lost 20% of her lung function because of it.

Wendy: [Wiping dust from a table on her veranda] It's just not normal dust, is it?

Reucassel: No. I don't want to think about that being in your lungs, Wendy. That's kind of brutal.

Wendy: It's quite frightening, isn't it, when you think of it?

Reucassel: Does that make it harder for you to make the choice to stay here? Because you're trying to stay here to protect the community, but it also means you're kind of exposing yourself to it?

Wendy: I know. I know it does. But at my age, it doesn't matter, I think.

[Both laugh]

Reucassel: At 29? Really?

Later, on the way to a stunt at Parliament House, he jokes that, "the Minister for Emissions Reductions doesn't like things like wind farms or renewable energy targets - or things that reduce emissions, but does like things like fossil fuels." And while these snippets of humour might seem out of place in the face of such a grave crisis, the reality is that bringing his skills as a comedian to a documentary series on climate change is the best possible thing he could do. It keeps people interested in things which might not otherwise appeal to them, and lightens the burden of depressing facts which it is necessary to include.

"The Minister for Emissions Reductions doesn't like things like wind farms or renewable energy targets - or things that reduce emissions, but does like things like fossil fuels."
Craig Reucassel

And about those depressing facts… Australia is one of the worst emitters per capita on the planet. Each Australian emits 2.6kg of CO2 per hour (which, of course, our host showed in a public demonstration involving black balloons, instead of stating it as the average human being would) and although we only contribute 1.3% of global emissions, this is completely disproportionate considering we only have 0.3% of the world's population. As Reucassel said, "We've got a massive amount of coal in our electricity, heaps of gas… some of worst, least efficient cars, we travel heaps… low public transport: we smash it."

Big Weather banner - ABC iView

While FFPA is rather like a sequel to War on Waste, Big Weather was entirely different. The level of seriousness which Reucassel brought to the topic of natural disasters was astounding. The program was the one thing I wasn't expecting: deeply moving. Instead of a light-hearted, positive show which is a borderline comedy, it was a heart-felt retrospective on the tragedy of Black Summer and the reality of the worsening climate crisis.


The original idea for Big Weather was to create a program Australians would be interested in - as Reucassel noticed that many people, although bored by climate change, loved talking about weather and watching TV shows about natural disasters, because of the drama and the exciting visuals. So, when Black Summer began, he and his crew started filming the bushfire season, not realising how incredibly catastrophic it would become. In doing so, they captured the entire chain of events, from the early fires in October to the toxic smoke shrouding cities in November, and from the firestorms of December and January to the tragic aftermath and horrendous flooding in February. A sense of dramatic irony emerges as tension builds because, of course, the audience already knows what's going to happen, although they're seeing it from a different perspective.

The jokes are fewer, but what it lacks in humour it more than makes up for in emotional impact. Reucassel meets with various people: farmers, suburbanites, scientists, government officials and firefighters, both the veterans and the trainees. He challenges ordinary people who live in fire-risk areas to discover how prepared they actually are, and tries to get as close as he can to natural disasters.

Having come quite close to the fires myself (see previous Issue) I understood the stress of the situation to a certain degree. But even though I had been watching the news and listening to the emergency updates throughout the whole experience, I was still shocked, watching the footage captured for this documentary. I am glad I was fortunate enough not to witness those things personally, and I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been for the people who did. The terrible events were also juxtaposed with the tireless efforts of the volunteer fieries and the total lack of an adequate response from the federal government.

As a series, the three episodes carry on logically from each other, and are well-made: the editing is snappy and effective; the music is excellent; the anecdotes are incredible; the storytelling is compelling. And the main character, Reucassel, is the one through whom we see it all.

The thing which made me the most intrigued was Reucassel's personal reaction to the situation - both the bushfire season unfolding before his eyes, and the inaction of Australian politicians. It's as if, with each series he produces, he is growing as a person and understanding climate change more and more clearly, even though he's the one who's supposed to be teaching us about the issue. And this impression allows the audience to connect and sympathise with Reucassel, and go on the journey of conservation with him, rather than simply being instructed by him. And this was what, at the end of the day, made Big Weather the definite winner of the pair.


Fight for Planet A is a perfectly respectable package of Craig Reucassel and climate action, and well worth a watch. Big Weather is a compelling portrait of humanity striving to escape a destruction of its own creation, essential for every Australian to see. As the comedian wittily commented. "Unlike coronavirus, we actually know the cures for climate change." The question remains… will we take advantage of that knowledge? Will we realise that there is really no Planet B, before it's too late? And will we be able to collectively save Planet A, and avoid the disastrous effects of big weather?

 

Action

Turning this ship around, Part 2 + A note on Project Sunset

One of the Instagram posts promoting Project Sunset - Nicola Allen (Editor)

7:48am, on the Shoalhaven River. It's the last day of 2020, the 31st of December. And as I draft this, the last article in Issue #6 of Green News, I check on the global death count. Realise I haven't checked it in six months. And find a staggering 1,796,768 people who have been killed by the novel coronavirus, of the 82,282,392 people who have been infected so far. A million deaths. Eighty-million cases. Is it any wonder that all other issues have been made secondary priorities in light of such a horrific catastrophe? In fact, the laser-focused concentration is what has helped many governments to stay on top of their virus numbers. In Australia, billions of dollars in funding has been allocated for JobKeeper and JobSeeker, and the threat has been attacked on all sides: scientific research, increased unemployment benefits, extra medical equipment, public awareness campaigns, and the full national attention. Because this is a crisis that's clearly visible. It's killing people every single day and the population is terrified. I'm scared as well.

With that in mind, let us remember, counterintuitively, that the ongoing threat of anthropogenic global warming is the greater enemy by far. Why? Here are a few reasons. You can't see climate change, and there's no website where you can track its daily death toll or economic burden worldwide. But, by subtly altering weather patterns, every natural disaster is worsened. Longer droughts. Hotter summers. More vicious floods and hurricanes. More hellish bushfires. And this results in longer famines, longer food and water shortages, more violent conflicts, more suffering and death around the world, and millions more refugees. And did I mention how billions of animals are threatened or going extinct, due to disturbed migration patterns, rising sea levels and intense storms? And while we have known the vaccine for climate change for decades, almost no one allocates government funding to fix it. Because people are profiting from this unique 'virus'. It's not some obvious enemy - an evil mastermind or a foreign government. No. It's all of us. We all depend on fossil fuels in some way, although many of us would be willing to shift if the people with the power to create systemic change encouraged us to do our part on an individual level, and helped us do it, as they have with coronavirus.

Climate change moves slowly, and over the years the human psyche has had a chance to adjust to the worsening crisis, explaining how no significant reduction in emissions has been made since we first discovered that it was happening, over half a century ago. It's like growing. Every day you look at yourself, you don’t notice an extra millimetre you put on this week. You get used to yourself, and before you know it, you're grown up. Or in the case of climate change, before you know it, it's too late. We can't wait for the crisis to get so bad that we can't do anything to stop it, and even those who thought it was a hoax begin to panic. We can't wait to pass the tipping points of no return which scientists have placed around the year 2030. No. This is a problem which needs to be addressed now. And the good news is we can do it while tackling coronavirus at the same time.

In my previous article, (see Issue #5) I described the inherent connection between the virus and environmental issues, beginning in its source in the illegal wildlife trade, manifested in a Wuhan wet market. I also explained how animal monitoring has been affected by lockdowns, and projects to protect species impacted by Black Summer have been put on hold. In this, the second and final part of this article, I will attempt to give a wholistic overview of the good and bad impacts of the virus on climate change, as well as how we can learn from our response to coronavirus to better understand climate action. The problem is, the body of research that I accumulated on this topic became so large that I decided to simply insert a PDF of the notes I made - all properly edited and formatted for maximum retention, of course. Click below to have a look at some of the data I collected, and then return to read the conclusion.

Issue 6 of Green News - effects of the p
.
Download • 220KB

I hope you enjoyed reading my list, and that you learnt something! In the near future, all research conducted by Green Force will be available separately under the Resources tab - including an upcoming 'Climate Starter Kit', Project Sunset in full, a log of environmental martyrs, the full list of all Green Tips mentioned in our newsletters, a PowerPoint about the Climate Denial movement, and several speeches given over the years on environmental issues.

There are quite a few lessons to be learnt from this pandemic which may prove useful in dealing with climate change. Firstly, it is evident that governments who cracked down on the spread of the virus sooner and harder, and anticipated future waves of infection, rather than burying their heads in the sand about it, had the best results. In these countries, we have been able to flatten the curve and prevent millions of deaths. Investing in scientific research, and listening to the advice of professionals, have been critical. Sound health advice has been necessary to inform the public of the appropriate course of action.

Almost all of these measures are mirrored in the ideal climate action plan: governments take the threat seriously, invest in scientific research, actually do what the scientists tell them, financially support people who are transitioning from a job in the fossil fuel to the renewables industry, and plan ahead to ensure future disasters can be avoided or mitigated. The public is also informed of how real the crisis is, and those who don't believe that it's real are rightly called conspiracy theorists, not given airtime on national television. Those who think that the coronavirus vaccine will inject us with microbots aren't paid any attention - why should climate deniers be?

So why aren't governments taking the climate change threat seriously, even after it's been called the greatest challenge humanity will ever face? As I mentioned previously, the slow progression of climate change means that people don't perceive its acceleration. But surely governments are capable of dealing with threats even when massive corporate interests are at stake, and it's not always obvious? Well, throughout history, humans have always taken a 'crisis management' rather than 'long-term-planning' approach to tackling threats. This normally works pretty well, but climate change is uniquely dangerous and deceptively unalarming. Until our fundamental system of governance shifts to one of long-term-planning, our politicians won't be able to see past the next financial year.

Another important point to remember is that future pandemics may be caused by climate change, due to the impact of changing weather patterns on the spread of viruses, especially those spread by animals like bats or mosquitoes whose migratory and breeding patterns are affected. (I included a fuller description of this process in the previous article.)

South African climatologist, Francois Engelbrecht, explains these two points in the following interview. (22nd March 2020): Right now, we are seeing our governments across the world taking decisive action, and at immense economic costs, they are protecting the health of their people against the impacts of the spreading coronavirus. Now the climate change crisis… you can think of it as a very, very big and steadily increasing health crisis. And what we've always been calling for as scientists is for the size of action from governments in terms of mitigating climate change. So it is possible that if we can move out of the current crisis around the coronavirus, that spirit of decisive action and coordination and collaboration across the countries of the world can be a decisive factor…


News anchor: …to your knowledge… is there some kind of study that has proven that, as a result of climate change, there possibly is a link to that with the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus?


Engelbrecht: Well for the coronavirus itself, as I've mentioned I think that's a question to be asked to an epidemiologist… across the world, there is of course a great deal of concern about a variety of infectious diseases that can spread to larger regions than in the past, because of a change in climate. Now in this case it's often because of the climate system getting hotter in many parts of the world, and in some parts of the world, for example in the tropics, and the most northern part of the subtropics, also wetter. And that of course favours many types of diseases spreading. Malaria is one of them… But in this case I think the science is still unclear and it needs more than a climatologist to answer your question.

Federal-state partnership, communication and cooperation are needed to tackle both COVID-19 and climate change. Without the states heeding the advice of the federal government and the government learning from the experiences of the states, chaos is created. The two entities cannot ignore each other, nor can they pass responsibilities back and forth.


On a more individual and personal level, we need to trust each other and work together for a common good, no matter our differences, with another global enemy looming on the horizon. In his sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore said, "Fear can be paralysing." This has been evident as many people have met with an overwhelming sense of defeatism, especially in countries where the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly bad like America, Brazil, Italy and the UK. However, if we can overcome fear about coronavirus to conquer it, it's possible to do the same for climate change.

And finally, a note on Project Sunset. If you haven't already read it, the full version, with an introduction and cover letters, can be found here. Essentially, it's an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister, which I forwarded to everyone else in the current ministry, and some other politicians: fifty of them in total. Writing the letter was easily the toughest mental challenge I have ever undertaken - harder by far than any school assignment or exam. If the months of research and writing and editing and rewriting sections aren't visible in the finished product, then let me assure you that the letter did not magically appear. But I'm glad that I did it. I think it's the biggest single achievement of Green Force so far, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my fellow members, so thank you to everyone who taught me about social media, offered to help post the letters by hand and most of all, to those who have read the entire thing themselves. It's 2,000 words long.

So, to end this article on a more positive note than that on which it began, I truly believe that if one human in the world can do something, there's no reason why anyone else can't do it to. It requires commitment, dedication of time and energy, and a strength of will I wasn't aware I possessed. But world-threatening-disasters can bring out the best in people. So thank you to everyone who helped us make it through 2020. Frontline medical professionals, research scientists, social workers and every individual person who did the right thing, even when it meant making a sacrifice. We depend on each other's continued support to get to the other side of this pandemic, as we do with climate change. As Jane Goodall said, "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

 

Political Correspondent

Budget Speeches Summary - Angelica Philips, @__angelicaa.___

Federal Budget banner - Federal Parliament

This year's budget and budget reply speeches proved just how dramatically the COVID-19 pandemic ­­­­has diverted attention from the climate crisis. 2020 has given us an opportunity to rebuild the way we deal with the climate crisis; it has allowed us to rethink how we respond to the threat of climate change. COVID-19 has dragged attention away from the most important and pressing issue facing us today. Only a very small section of both the budget and budget reply speeches discussed climate issues, demonstrating just how much the climate crisis has been sidelined.


In the budget speech given by Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg, he allocated '$1.8 billion in funding for the environment.' This sounds quite promising, until you hear what it's being investing it in.


The budget 'provides $67 million in further funding to protect our oceans,' and '$250 million to modernise our recycling infrastructure, stop more than 600,000 tonnes of waste ending up in landfill and by doing so help create 10,000 jobs.' Frydenberg explained what he meant by this: 'The Morrison government is banning the export of plastic, paper, tyres and glass waste.'


This ban has been proven ineffective by experts, and it is likely that a ban of this nature would only increase internal landfill and pollution levels. Addressing the proposal, Gayle Sloan (chief executive of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association) said, "There is still a real and imminent risk that the ban will do nothing more than mandate landfilling as there continues to be a significant lack of focus and funding for remanufacturing and procurement of post-consumer recyclate, particularly for packaging..." In other words, a large part of the environmental budget focused on an ineffective recycling plan, and no mention was made of climate change, or preparing for future bushfire seasons like Black Summer.


"There is still a real and imminent risk that the ban will do nothing more than mandate landfilling..."
Gayle Sloan, WMRR
Josh Frydenberg's budget speech left much to be desired - AAP

Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech focused a bit more on the environment, but only a small part of the speech centred on ecological issues. Albanese’s speech mentioned Labor’s 2050 target: 'Labor has a clear target to tackle Climate Change – net zero carbon pollution by 2050.' This target has been supported in some form by every state government and a similar target is a key feature of Zali Steggall’s Climate Change bill which aims for net zero emissions by 2050. The budget reply speech also criticised the Morrison Government for their inaction on climate change: 'The Liberals have had 22 energy policies in 8 years. And all they have to show for it are higher electricity prices and higher emissions... the Morrison Government... is frozen in time while the world warms around it.'

"...the Morrison Government... is frozen in time while the world warms around it."
Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Opposition
The Leader of the Opposition was critical of the Coalition - News Corp

The budget reply speech also discussed energy, first criticising the current network - 'The current network takes no account of the rise of renewables as the cheapest new energy source, and doesn’t help link these new sources up to the national grid,' - and then proposing a solution: 'We will establish a new Rewiring the Nation Corporation to rebuild and modernise the national energy grid… Rebuilding the grid will create thousands of jobs – particularly in regional Australia – and deliver up to $40 billion in benefits.'


The budget reply speech prioritised the climate crisis far more effectively than the Budget speech, gave more explicit ideas for what the opposition would do if in government, and clearly explained its energy and environmental plans.


To summarise, while neither speech discussed climate issues enough, the budget reply speech was clearer about its position on environmental issues and gave more attention to them. While 2020 has been a year like no other, it has given us an opportunity to reconsider our response to the climate crisis, but both the budget and budget reply speeches missed this opportunity.


Bibliography:

 

Awareness

Experiencing the August floods

Trailer where the road meets the river

It took me a few seconds to fully process what I was seeing. An entire field and road submerged under a swollen river, rushing past with the velocity of a charging elephant and the strength of a typhoon, carrying uprooted trees and broken branches. That road had been our only way out of the property, on the Shoalhaven, back to school and work in the city. It was Monday morning, in the middle of term three, and we were utterly marooned.

Let me take you three days back in time, to show you how, exactly, we got into this mess.

____________

On the morning of the 7th of August 2020, which was a Friday, it had been raining continuously all week. The skies had not shed their grey mourning shroud for the last few days, and the late winter sunshine people had been hoping for remained behind thick banks of storm clouds. In school the tennis court and lawn, usually frequented by many, were almost entirely deserted, and the cafeteria and sports halls became the most popular destinations. I loved the rain. It felt refreshing, revitalising and wildly unpredictable. I took every opportunity to listen to the rain, watch the rain, feel the droplets of water falling on my head and, of course, sing giddily in the rain. After all, on the driest inhabited continent on earth, you don't get many such opportunities.

But there was no time for any of that on Friday. Mum had decided that we should take a sort of midterm break down at her mother's place on the Shoalhaven river. I hadn't been to Nanny's bush property, which is called Bundundah, in ages. My dad was away that weekend, reviewing an exhibition in Canberra, so it would be just the three generations of women together in the country, weathering the miserable forecast of rain, wind and storms. In other words, fun.

To make the three-hour-journey worthwhile, we decided that we should leave as soon as school ended on Friday afternoon. But that morning, I was hit by a fierce attack of stomach cramps, meaning that I wasn't able to come into school. So we decided we might as well leave early and try to get there before the storm reached the property. By 3:30pm, we had been travelling for 2 hours, and it was already raining fiercely, the highway wreathed in thick fog. We arrived at the house at 4:30pm.

Rain on our car window on the way down - Nicola Allen (Editor)

The weekend is a dark, wet blur in my memory. The only thing I remember clearly is Sunday night. We were hit with gale-force winds and torrents of incessant rain. Thunder shook the sky, and we were concerned about trees falling on the roof. The wind howled through the treetops, everything was completely soaked by the rain, and, abandoned by the moon and stars, it was impossible to see anything in the utter blackness beyond our house.

We didn't return on Sunday afternoon for the simple reason that, by then, we were already flooded in.

We had not yet seen the flood for ourselves, but heard about it from neighbours whose properties had clearer views of the river. Not until the morning of Monday the 10th of August, when the rain finally stopped, the wind died down and the skies began to clear at last, did we venture to leave the property. It was at this point that I quickly wrote the following on the Notes app of my iPhone, to immortalise the moment…

I woke to the soft pattering of rain drops, the horrendous wind having finally died down, and was informed that we were going to inspect the road and the river. "We've only got a brief window of clear weather this morning, before thunderstorms set in for the afternoon," mum explained, as she shrugged on a jacket and wrapped a scarf around her shoulders. "Get up and dressed, or you'll be left behind."

Once I was dressed and had eaten quickly, the three of us piled into the car, backpacks hastily filled with emergency equipment, binoculars, water bottles and phones. The four-wheel-drive Toyota pulled out of the parking shelter and rumbled up the road, the two women in the front, mum's steady hand guiding the wheel. I rolled down the window and took a deep breath of the fresh morning air. It was damp, and smelled of the toxic spices of familiar and unwelcome weeds which flourished in these conditions - the sickly sweet aroma of lantana dominated these. But the air was warmer than it had been for months.

Everything around us spoke of the wild, rainy night we had just endured. The trees were drenched, water seeping from every pore in the banks of the road and collecting in little rivulets which spilled over into miniature waterfalls, tumbling, gushing, trickling and pouring with the unbounded urgency of nature, seemingly pulled by some invisible force down to the bottom of the valley and the swollen river. I had never seen a flooded river in the flesh before, and was eager to catch a glimpse of the Shoalhaven. The trees zipped past, water splashing up as the wheels ground through deep puddles of water, tinged red with the minerals of the clay…

That was all I had time to write before we got to the bend in the road which overlooked the river. And I couldn't believe my eyes.

The river from the top of the hill - Nicola Allen (Editor)
The pipeline - Nicola Allen (Editor)
Flood under the pipeline - Nicola Allen (Editor)

Swollen was the perfect, perhaps the only adequate word, to describe the river. With the downpour of rain it had spilled over its banks and crept towards the forest like a hungry beast, swallowing everything in its path. Twice its normal size, it was the colour of brown silt, and still made a sound like the roar of rapids as it flowed majestically past in the valley. I saw, with a shock, that whole trees were being carried along, the tops of others only just poking out of the water while the trunks were submerged.

So, this was what a flood looked like.

But that was before we even reached the bottom of the road. When we did, I was even more astonished. The road was completely gone. Or at least, the lowest section of it was submerged in water deep enough to swim in, for at least five hundred metres in every direction. There was no question of trying to cross this temporary lake. Two neighbouring fields were also submerged. We stood, in awe, and on my part delight, on the river shore. Delight because… no school until Wednesday! I was ecstatic. No school for today or tomorrow. Meant missing a tokenistic mental health incursion on Tuesday which promised to be dreadful. (My friend later confirmed that it had been.) It also meant missing school in general, which was always a plus.

The river through the trees - Nicola Allen (Editor)
The swollen river - Nicola Allen (Editor)
Me where the road meets the river - Nicola Allen (Editor)
At the same time, I couldn't help feeling a sense of foreboding. This flood, although happening to be fortuitous for us, was a forerunner of worse to come. When you think about everything in terms of global anthropogenic climate change, it tends to put a lot of things into perspective.

By the next morning, the flood waters had receded enough that we were able to safely make our way home. As you can see in the photo below, however, the river was still quite full, with many trees partially submerged. I returned to school on Wednesday, and proceeded to dramatically recount my story to all of my friends, using visual aids of course.

The next day, the flood wasn't completely over - Nicola Allen (Editor)

When we returned to the Shoalhaven a few weeks later, the damage was plainly visible. This beach was under two metres of water at the time of the flood.

Alf's landing after the floods- Nicola Allen (Editor)
Michelle Hiscock surveying the Shoalhaven - Nicola Allen (Editor)

The August floods 2020 were not so kind to all whom they affected. The south coast of NSW was on high alert for flash flooding for several days as the state was lashed with deluges of up to 300mL a day and 90 km/h winds, resulting in the worst flooding in 3 decades. The NSW SES was inundated with more than 1,600 calls and conducted 18 flood rescues. 2000 people were left without electricity and at least 20 homes in Berry were cut off. Our own Shoalhaven River peaked at over 4 metres on Monday at 9am - almost exactly when we arrived to inspect it - but that wasn't the worst by far, with the Deua River peaking at 8 metres. Thanks to Nanny's precipitation measurements, we know that our area received a total of 324mL, or 13 inches, from Friday to Sunday morning.

To make matters worse, many communities affected by the floods hadn't fully recovered from the impact of the 2019/2020 bushfires. As Bega MP Andrew Constance said, "We've gone through fires, COVID, recession… and now these very heavy rains." All in all, the floods were a terrible burden in the year of the virus and in the wake of Black Summer. But they could have been so much worse. And the scariest part is that, in the future, they probably will be.

 

Creature Corner

Animals in lockdown


We have a lot to cover in this issue's edition of Creature Corner. Firstly, beavers have finally returned to England! The mammal was once a common sight, but due to hunting for their fur, the Eurasian beaver went extinct in Britain over 400 years ago. Now, thanks to the incredible efforts of wildlife conservationists, the animal can now be seen in the wild once more.


Read more here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cumbria-54972840

Eurasian Beaver, from Getty Images, via BBC

Beavers are back in Cumbria - The Wildlife Trusts: Cumbria, via YouTube

Next up, an inspirational flamingo. After smashing into Odette Doest's hotel window in 2016, Bob was adopted, due to his evident domestication and foot disease, both of which made it unlikely that he would survive in the wild. Since then he has helped many young people interact with the topic of conservation, by accompanying Odette to her environmental talks. Take a look.

Flamingo Bob stretches his wings - Jasper Doest, via Nat Geo
Flamingo Bob preens his feathers - Jasper Doest, via Nat Geo

Read more here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/02/meet-flamingo-bob-the-poster-bird-for-conservation-feature/

Tasmanian Devil, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

New hope emerges for the threatened Tasmanian Devils, as they are loosed on the Australian mainland, to hopefully restore balance to the natural ecosystem, and rejuvenate the species' population. The devils disappeared from the continent over 3000 years ago with the extinction of the megafauna.


Read more here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/10/tasmanian-devils-return-to-mainland-australia/

And here: https://www.fodors.com/world/australia-and-the-pacific/australia/tasmania/experiences/news/9-places-where-you-can-find-an-actual-tasmanian-devil



Grey Wolves have returned to Colorado! After being hunted to extinction in the 1940s, voters in the state have just approved the reintroduction of the apex predator into the state where they once roamed uninhibited.


Read more here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/11/colorado-approves-gray-wolf-reintroduction/

Grey Wolf - Jeff Richter

Many good changes have come out of 2020 for cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade. Pangolins have been protected in China following the connection between their capture and the origin of coronavirus; a flying squirrel smuggling ring was busted in Florida; and according to National Geographic, "Between September and October, global law enforcement bodies and wildlife officials seized thousands of wildlife products as part of Operation Thunder 2020. Included in the contraband were scales representing some 1,700 pangolins and... more than 30 [live] chimpanzees and 1,800 [live] reptiles. The effort, led by Interpol and the World Customs Organization, involved more than a hundred countries and was the fourth annual operation of its kind."


Read more here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/06/pangolins-receive-new-protections-traditional-medicine-in-china/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/09/florida-flying-squirrels-smuggled-abroad-exotic-pets/

https://www.interpol.int/en/News-and-Events/News/2020/Wildlife-and-forestry-crime-Worldwide-seizures-in-global-INTERPOL-WCO-operation

Pangolin - AsiaOne
Flying squirrel - Tony Campbell

Additionally, zoo elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have been retired to a reserve in Florida, and private zoo owners in America, such as those featured in Netflix's Tiger King, who often abuse the animals they are responsible for, have faced legal action.


Read more here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/09/ringling-bros-circus-elephants-get-new-home/ and https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/03/captive-tigers-joe-exotic-tiger-king/


In Australia, two pieces of good news: two Norfolk Island morepork owl chicks have made it to the fledgling stage, and it turns out that the Black Summer bushfires didn't totally destroy the little pygmy possum population on Kangaroo Island.


See more here: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-australia-52572967 and https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-australia-55240839

Adult morepork owl - tumblr
Pygmy possums - Ashlee Benc from KI Land for Wildlife

In lockdown, I also managed to find some cute critters of my own to photograph. They are shown in the slideshow below. Best seen in full-screen-view. Take a look.

Many of these photos feature beautiful frogs which we found in the pond on our bush property. (Very small but very, very loud!) I recently came across an article in The Conversation about the different and extremely interesting vocalisations of frogs in Australia. Definitely worth a read! Recommended by @karenpearlman.

 

Foreign Correspondent: Malaysia

Plastic Waste in lockdown - Sydney Steenland, @sydsteenland_

Sydney Steenland on a surfboard in Malaysia - Sydney Steenland

Hi there!


My name is Sydney Steenland. I will talk to you about the plastic pollution crisis in Malaysia. But first, let me introduce myself a little bit.

I am 15 years old; I am the founder, marketer, educator, speaker, and face of The Sea Monkey Project, in Malaysia! My family and I are Australians, but we have lived on a sailboat for the past nine years, after sailing away from Australia five years ago. We have seen a lot of epic and terrible stuff in the world, one awful thing being plastic pollution (which prompted us to start this project). Today I will tell you a little bit about how COVID-19 has made the problem even worse.

We’ve all heard stories about nature bouncing back while humans retreat indoors, and I think that is amazing. But what I don’t see a lot of coverage on that I have seen in the world with my own eyes is the rise of plastic pollution. The cheap and easy to manufacture material known as plastic is having an ever-increasing demand in the world during this pandemic for its dispensability, to keep people safe. When I’m out in the streets or on an island, I see masks, more plastic packaging, gloves, and other protective gear that we have been using to prevent the spread of this virus.


Here in Asia, many places have not had the funding and education to implement waste bins and proper disposal management places. Therefore, many of these materials have not had a chance to be disposed of properly and have, thus making it into nature to harm innocent wildlife.

We hope to change this.

I know that there is nothing we can do to slow the usage of protective gear during this time; it is crucial and needed everywhere in the world. But what is also so important and necessary in the world, is that we all realise this issue and address it wherever we can. Educate yourself, your friends and your family to take little but significant steps in helping the environment.

Such as:

  • Sterilise your reusables after every use

  • Use reusable face masks

  • Sanitise your hands frequently, only use gloves when essential (try reusable ones,

  • Carry your reusable utensils whenever you go out

  • Bring reusable bags when shopping

  • Try to get restaurants to accept your reusable cups when getting takeaway drinks

  • Educate whoever you can, whenever you can on the issue!

There are things we cannot change during these difficult times, but that doesn’t mean we are entirely powerless. As you know, no matter how small you are, from little things, big things grow.


Sending good vibes,

Sydney Steenland

The Sea Monkey Project.

 

Comic Relief

Climate Change vs COVID - Eleanor Purcell and Ivy Rush

@definition_of_bread and @rushymcrush

Scientists', the government's and the public's response to Climate Change vs COVID-19
 

Green Tips

An eco-friendly Christmas and New Year


In this Issue's Green Tips section, I have attempted to compile the ultimate list of guidelines for a sustainable holiday season. I have used many different websites, all of which are listed below for your perusal.


The list is divided into four parts: Food, Decorations, Presents, and Other Waste. The basic and most commonly mentioned tips, which appeared across multiple websites, appear in blue. Whereas the unique and perhaps more advanced suggestions appear in green... Let's begin!


Food

  • Eat less meat if you can. If you don't want to go full vegetarian, then just buy a smaller Christmas turkey or chicken. Avoid serving beef and lamb, as they have a higher carbon footprint than chicken, pork and fish.

  • As a general rule, try to buy organic, sustainable, in-season, free-range and locally-grown food.

  • In particular, make sure seafood is sustainably sourced, as destructive fishing practises are devastating to our oceans around the world.

  • Plan your shopping trips ahead of time, so as not to buy more food than necessary. Make lists, considering the number of people who will be coming and the dietary requirements of each person.

  • Make sure that in the leadup to Christmas you eat a lot of leftovers so that your fridge is more empty on the day and you can put the Xmas leftovers in there and have them for dinner and lunch on Boxing Day.

  • Or, send guests home with some leftovers - tell them to bring their own reusable containers beforehand.

  • Buy in bulk to limit packaging, but only if you know you'll need it.

  • Use the Olio app to share excess food, or donate it to Foodbank, OzHarvest or SecondBite.

Decorations

  • Find Christmas decorations which are durable and made of natural materials, like wood or cotton - or use ones you already have, instead of buying new ones.

  • Use fruit, nuts and candy as edible decorations, or use leafy branches or flowers for wreaths and to the brighten up the table and sideboards.

  • If you don't already have a Christmas tree, either get a real one which you can keep year-round, or rent one for the holiday season.

  • Don't use glitter, as it is completely non-recyclable.

  • Use LEDs or candles for light instead of incandescent bulbs, to save energy.

  • Buy eco-Christmas crackers, or don't use them at all. Two good, sustainable brands are 'Nancy and Betty's,' and 'Keep this Cracker.'

  • Buy a re-usable advent calendar and fill it with chocolate yourself (or get someone else to fill it for you so that it's a surprise - or fill it for them!)

  • Instead of a full-scale Christmas tree, for an apartment or a small gathering, consider creating a mini tree from collected sticks and branches of leaves, and then decorating it with paint, tinsel, or whatever you have on hand or can make.

Presents

  • Wrap gifts in recycled paper, cloth, newspaper or magazines. If you started a roll last year, finish it this year and if you have any pretty gift bags in your house, use them instead of wrapping. Alternatively, use Furoshiki. Craft activities can be family time!

  • Recycle wrapping paper if it's too damaged to be reused.

  • Use string, twine or brown tape instead of plastic tape and ribbons, to hold the wrapping together.

  • Handmake cards, and artworks or items of clothing for gifts.

  • Donate money to a charity, or buy something for charity, on their behalf, e.g. adopt an animal like a koala, plant a tree, or donate to the education of girls or bushfire relief.

  • Send e-cards instead of real cards.

  • Buy a 'plantable' seed card which can grow in the recipient's garden.

  • Buy things you know people will want to use, not throw out, and things you don't buy in plastic wrapping, e.g. a bike, or a book from an author they like.

  • Give experiences - e.g. tickets to the zoo, a sports match or a concert, lessons for a skill or sport, a membership, or a subscription.

  • Op-shop for pre-loved gifts, in person or online.

  • Donate or upcycle presents you don't want rather than throwing them out.

  • Again: in general, remember to buy locally and sustainably. When shopping for presents, investigate companies' environmental credentials.

  • Other gift ideas: potted plants, or vouchers for clothes, books or food.

  • Buy a present which will help people become more environmental, e.g. a Keep Cup, or a portable set of bamboo reusable utensils.

  • Use cards which plant a tree when you buy one.

Other Waste

  • Use reusable utensils, plates, napkins and cups.

  • Use pieces of old fabric, like worn-out sheets, for napkins, or recycled ones.

  • Use a worm farm to deal with wasted fruit and vegetables.

  • Put out bins in the kitchen which are clearly labelled where people can put different kinds of rubbish - especially if you live in an area where paper and other recyclables are collected separately.

  • Be mindful of energy usage in general.

  • Use natural cleaning products which don't contain harmful chemicals, when cleaning up after a party.

Sources

Stay positive and COVID-safe in 2021. We all hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.


Much love from the Green Force Force team,


Nicola Allen

  • Instagram