Thursday, February 13, 2020

Valentine's Day Thoughts - Share the love

While I was waiting at the bus stop yesterday there was a young man promoting Dolly's Dream and  the  'Be Kind' Postcard (below) caught my eye. It was a lovely thought and something we might be in great need of over the coming months as people come to grips with their losses and try to rebuild shattered homes, businesses and lives. Tempers are already fraying because of the slowness of relief efforts and lack of decisive government action.

Expecting it to be about someone's lifelong ambition to attend the Olympics or something, I took a closer look, but it turned out that Dolly's Dream was an organisation dedicated to preventing youth suicide and the memory of a 14 year -old girl, Dolly Everett, who committed suicide after sustained bullying and cyber -bullying.

Dolly's Dream seeks to end the bullying and the cyber bullying which cost Dolly Everett her life

So far, with the help of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation the group has taken their fight to the NSW government which has now made it a criminal offence to send threatening or abusive messages, repeated unwanted emails or posting offensive photographs or messages, with penalties of up to five years in prison. Victims also have recourse to apprehended violence orders if the behaviour persists.
The group also raises awareness in the community and schools about suicide prevention and provides support for parents.

Why it matters

In Australia more than 2,500 people die by their own hand each year and around 65,000 try to kill themselves. Globally (2017) the number is around 800,000 per year and it remains the leading cause of death of young people especially in Australia, more than road accidents and homicides combined. Even worse, while other figures have remained more or less stable, the figures for young women, both here and overseas are generally on the rise, though other subgroups are also at higher risk. Veterans for example, are currently in the news as family and friends are calling for a Royal Commission because of their higher than average suicide rate, 18% higher in the 35 -54 year old age group which is already higher than most other age and gender cohorts.

Unfortunately the petition regarding a Royal Commission into Suicide by Veterans closed yesterday, but it may not be too late to write to your member of parliament.

Though veterans and young people are currently in the spotlight, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are also overrepresented, having a youth suicide rate four times greater than the general population. For all groups, especially older men unemployment is thought by WHO to be a major factor, along with social welfare and judicial issues. I hope to discuss those more fully on RUOK Day (Short for Are you Ok?) which falls on September 10 this year to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day. Their website also has some excellent tips on how you can help if you think a friend or workmate might be having difficulties. The Government's National Centre Against Bullying also has an excellent website dedicated to prevention of bullying and suicide. Interestingly, it also has a section on the economic costs to the community estimated at around $2.3 billion over the thirteen years of compulsory schooling, not to mention lost potential, mental health issues and so on, for the victims. 

If you specifically want to help children, you may want to run a fund raiser for Dolly's Dream, these usually happen on May 10, but see their website for details.

If you are depressed or suffering yourself, below are some sites which may help:  

Suicide Prevention

In the meantime.........

By all means, buy the love of your life a rose or bake them some cupcakes, but let’s share the love to others too – to co –workers, to friends, to shopkeepers and anyone else in your life, not just once a year on RUOK Day,  and really, really listen to what they are telling you, even if they say "All good, mate" and do let's try to be kind

Monday, February 10, 2020

Time for some Good News

Climate Change on Wall Street?
-Photo by Chris Li on Unsplash

Things are looking a bit bleak in Australia at the moment and it’s not just about the landscape or the economy, so today I want to focus on some of the positive things which are happening around the world. Here are a few bits and pieces which have been in the news.  

In the first instance, did you know that there are in fact some wealthy people in the world with a conscience who are not opposed to paying their fair share. The group of 121 millionaires who signed their letter to the Davos Economic Forum “Millionaires against Pitchforks” called on world leaders to close the international loopholes which enable the super rich to avoid paying their taxes.

It reminds me of a man I met in Sweden many years ago when Swedes were among the most highly taxed. I asked him if he minded paying so much tax.
 “Oh we grumble about it of course,“ he said, “But in the end I am lucky to be in a position to contribute.  We have good schools with free education, good health care and low crime rates and so on. We wouldn’t have such a good society without those and my own life wouldn’t be better if I paid less tax. In fact, it could be considerably worse. Sweden wouldn’t be where it is today, without those things either and we all want to use the roads and be able to walk down our streets without fear.”

  •  In other good news electric car manufacturer Tesla's shares have gone up 36% in four days and may get state subsidies to set up a factory in Germany because the country is keen to encourage electrical vehicle and battery manufacture. Others can also apply. 

A Tesla -Electric cars are coming into their own
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

  • With respect to power generation Iceland already has 100% renewable energy, and Scotland is on target to reach 100% this year.  It closed its last coal fired power station in 2016 and aggressively pursued the building of wind generators.  It hopes to be completely Carbon Neutral by 2045.
  • Not that the rest of the UK isn’t trying with wind power already providing energy for as much as 45% of households
  • Even more astounding is that India is getting out of coal and into renewable energy. It has already doubled its capacity in three years and plans to increase it a further fivefold.  As well as helping to solve its energy problems, the shift will help to reduce its massive air pollution and allow its economy to keep expanding without increasing emissions. It will also create more employment. Renewables have also put pressure on electricity prices reducing the cost per Kilowatt to approximately 3 US cents.  
  • Even  stock markets are starting to care about Climate Change with Deutsche Bank reporting that companies with positive environmental news were up several percentage points.

From the above, it's evident that many countries far larger and far smaller than Australia are planning ahead and looking at ways to meet the coming challenges. They surely would not bother if they didn't believe that climate change existed, or that cutting emissions would not make any difference. Alas, in Australia climate change denialism still runs rife through much of our  media, despite growing evidence to the contrary. Today it's cyclones in the North West flooding in NSW and Queensland  and more fires in the South West. [Please note that this fire was also started by lightning!]. Instead of planning for the future, our government insists on investing in and subsidising more coal and gas developments.

Since my faith in human nature has been sorely tested of late, let's finish with something nice. I have tried to embed this a couple of times without success, so you will have to click here  and check it out for yourself. It will put a smile on your face.  

Monday, February 03, 2020

A bit about Wetlands and a lot about why we need to give logging the chop, at least for now

Today is World Wetland Day, but since I have written about the importance of wetlands several times and am in the middle of an online stoush with a gentleman who thinks trees won’t help to reduce global warming and that what we really need is more cattle, I won’t go into it too deeply today. I will say that if our wetlands were intact we would be less likely to be having such severe fish kills or flooding, because wetlands slow down water flow when it rains thus helping to prevent erosion and the release of sediment into rivers. This is especially important following any kind of land clearing and particularly in the wake of the terrible bushfires we have been having.  Of course wetlands also provide a niche for a great variety of birds and wildlife and act as filters to trap pollutants before they reach our waterways.

For similar reasons, we should not be rushing to log what is left of our burnt out bushland either as this too will increase erosion and remove any protection from harsh winds. Otherwise we will continue to see more dust storms like those which have engulfed parts of New South Wales.

Secondly, in the case of Eucalyptus forest, many of these trees will regenerate by themselves, thereby saving not only a great deal of carbon release, but greatly reducing growing time. If the ground remains undisturbed by the kind of broad scale mechanised logging and clear –felling which is practised here, the seeds (many of which require fire to germinate, will quickly recreate ground cover, protect new growth and seedlings and will provide shade and feed for stock and displaced animals far more quickly and without months and years of  hand -planting or aerial seeding. All these things will become more not less important as temperatures become hotter, the land becomes drier and the weather in general becomes more erratic.
Lastly, because of the huge toll on our wildlife and our forests there should be a moratorium on all logging until a thorough assessment has been done, because while the timber industry may be hurting at present and unable to meet pre -bushfire obligations, the net worth of our unique wildlife and forests intrinsically and to tourism etc.not to mention the environment in general and their usefulness in reducing emissions, will exceed whatever pittance we can get for remnant timber sold for wood pellets to Japan.  [The only exception I would make is for the removal of unstable trees in danger of falling on our roads, dwellings or power lines].  

What we never, ever want to see again is what happened in Portland (Victoria) recently where live Koalas were killed in the course of clear felling.  This was plantation timber on private property, but even then, the owners are legally obliged to properly take account of the animals thereon and ensure their protection. Do not watch this video if you are squeamish. If you do, make sure you let the companies concerned know what a travesty this is, especially at the present time.They should never be allowed to log here again and their contracts should not only be rescinded, but they should make immediate restitution e.g. such as immediately establishing a Koala plantation on that clear fell in the background and turning any unlogged parts into a Koala Sanctuary.