“Adapt to survive”

The science of climate change is a new publication from the Australian Academy of Science which aims to address the public confusion created by contradictory ‘information’ coming from a variety of non-scientific sources.

The document clarifies the current situation in climate science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist. Importantly there are no uncertainties regarding the urgent need for adaptation measures in response to climate change that has already occurred. The fact that some additional global warming is now inevitable in the near future is also stressed. The more CO2 is emitted in the next few decades, the stronger the adaptation measures that will be needed in the future. There are also limits to the adaptive capacity of ecosystems and human societies:

Thus, the decisions we make today on emissions will affect not only the future requirements for and costs of adaptation measures, but also their feasibility”.

In other words, if we delay cutting CO2 emissions for long enough, adaptation will become less feasible. The most crucial message from the Australian Academy of Science is “Adapt to survive”.

The information in this new document is unambiguous. Climate change is a problem right now and for current generations (not ‘just for the grandchildren’). We must now adapt to a changing climate and urgently reduce CO2 emissions while leaving a large fraction of available fossil fuel in the ground. The inevitable conclusion is that business as usual is simply not an option.

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Food preservation & food security

These past few weeks were spent preserving the last fruits of summer – pears, peaches and nectarines. Our neighbourhood enjoyed a fruit glut and we received over 100 kilos of fresh-picked, pesticide-free fruit which would otherwise have gone to waste.

I started using the Fowlers Vacola bottling method  5 years ago when we ran out of freezer space and I now put up over a hundred jars per year. The method is energy-efficient and convenient (no need to defrost). The preserves are delicious and have a long shelf life.

5th dec '15 003 - Copy The procedure is relatively simple. It starts with a clean, uncluttered kitchen and a couple of hours of undisturbed time. The fruit needs to be processed within a maximum of two hours for safety reasons. The main risk is foodborne botulism (see Botulism, General Information), preventable primarily by proper food preparation and high temperatures. Instructions must be carefully followed and strict hygiene maintained.

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I prepare jars and rubber rings by washing the former and soaking the latter in hot water before fitting the rings on the jars’ rim. The fruit is washed, blemishes and soft spots cut out and stones removed before being added to the jars. I don’t use syrup and never add sugar to the bottling liquid, preferring to use filtered rain water. Once the lids and clips are in place the jars go into the preserving unit, are covered with water and processed according to instructions. I leave the jars to cool overnight and the next morning remove clips and check for air-tightness and bubbles. They are then stored in a cool, dark pantry.

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Food preservation is less about technique than it is about respect for food and the resources that have gone into producing it – human labour, water, land, energy. This point simply cannot be overstated. One important message from the 2010 Australian government report, Australia and Food Security in a Changing World, is the need to raise the importance and awareness of food in public consciousness.

In Australia food is often treated as a bulk commodity which is cheaply and readily available. Yet the report stresses the need to regard food as a valuable resource, to make the link between food and health, and to reduce the high levels of food waste. The report also emphasises we can no longer rely on increased water, land and energy use to drive the required transformation of food production systems:

 “The world is losing arable land at an alarming rate and inputs, such as phosphorus, are finite. Furthermore, future food production will be subject to the vagaries of geopolitical tensions and climate change.”

Although it takes time, forethought, commitment, knowledge and skill, the advantages of learning to preserve surplus food at home and in our local community are many. They include reducing food waste and food miles, making healthier food choices, providing variety to a local, seasonal diet, and enhancing our food security by adapting to shrinking resources and an unstable climate. Choosing to preserve surplus food rather than wasting it also reflects our capacity to value the finite resources on which our survival depends.

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Posted in Food, Food security, Preserving, Waste | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Autumn leaves in mid-summer

An unusual sight in the backyard this week – the leaves of ornamental pear trees, planted a few years ago for summer shade, are turning into striking autumn colours… in mid- summer. Could this be due to South Australia experiencing a cooler-than-average January?

In ‘why leaves turn brown in autumn’ one theory says that leaves change colour due to decreasing light availability and lower temperatures. Despite a few very hot days early in the month, January turned out to be the coolest in a decade for most of South Australia. Temperatures were about three degrees below average for more than a fortnight – Adelaide has mildest January in more than 10 years.

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How is this possible given global warming trends? Part of the confusion comes down to our understanding of weather and climate and the difference between the two. Weather is what we see on a day-to-day basis. It is unpredictable and explains changes in the atmosphere over short periods of time. Climate, on the other hand, describes the behaviour of the atmosphere over long periods of time. Rainfall patterns are another example of how weather and climate differ.

“We expect that extreme rainfall events across the nation are likely to become more intense, even where annual-average rainfall is projected to decline.” Kevin Hennessy, Research Scientist, CSIRO,  January 2015

Last month, in its most comprehensive analysis yet of the impacts of climate change, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) painted a worst-case scenario of a rise of up to 5.1 degrees Celsius by 2090 in Australia if there are no actions taken to cut greenhouse emissions – see Australia getting hotter, faster than climate change rate.

I wonder if deciduous trees are putting on their autumn coat in summer elsewhere. How will the trees progress now that this cool run is ending and the forecast is for temperatures in the mid-thirties and low forties over the next few days? There is one thing I am fairly confident about. I doubt the gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows will revert to green before next spring.

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February Share & Swap

Today’s neighbourhood Share & Swap took place in our backyard with a variety of summer fruits and vegetables changing hands as well as recipes and tips for looking after chickens. This month Rob is chook minding for two local households away on holidays. He is managing chicken politics with his usual aplomb, giving the harassed groups freedom to range in his backyard.

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Let’s see what’s on the table today… It’s a good year for peaches with Rob’s weighing in at half a kilo each instead of the usual 150 grams. Zucchinis are always abundant at this time of year and several kilos were shared around. Marian deals with the surplus by adding cups-full of grated zucchinis to her chocolate cake recipe. Meanwhile Heather, whose husband does not like zucchinis, has experimented with growing the yellow variety this year, surreptitiously adding them to baked slices. While she told her story, the rest of us were busy taking notes.

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Have you ever tried growing Golden Nugget pumpkins? It is rare to find a shop or market selling these yet they are very useful when you only want to cook a small amount and they are good keepers, remaining viable for months if stored properly.

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Ruth’s seven meter high pear tree produced an abundance of tasty pears this summer. Given its size the tree is impossible to net but, luckily for all of us, the parrots were not overly interested in this year’s crop.

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We also shared seeds, eggplants, kale, silver-beet, gardening magazines, capsicums, lemon-verbena and nectarines…

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…tea, coffee, home-baked muffins, cookies and pancakes, while I explained the Fowlers Vacola bottling method – an energy-efficient way to store surplus fruits and vegetables. Later today I plan to preserve some of the produce from this morning’s abundant and generous Swap & Share.

Posted in Community, Food, Gardening, Preserving, Share and Swap | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Brighton Jetty Sculptures 2015

This morning’s beach walk  included a gallery of surprising and remarkable sculptures.  Held along the Brighton beachfront in Holdfast Bay, the exhibition is managed and supported by volunteers. This year there are over a hundred exhibits of indoor and outdoor sculptures from local artists. Entries in the nine award categories are judged according to their creativity, innovation, technical expertise and standards of production. Entries in the Environmental Awareness category are also judged on the environmental message outlined in the artist statement.

Since I happened to have my camera with me here are a few of my favourite entries. One of the sustainable features of this exhibition is that most of the sculptures are  made from recycled, repurposed or found materials and objects. The exhibits can be viewed until the end of this week and there are more details about dates and opening times at Brighton Jetty Classic Sculptures Exhibition.

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‘Ghost Dingoes: Familia’ – Clancy Warner

Material: Re-claimed barbed wire and steel and welded using solar power.

“Ghost Dingoes portray a species on the brink of extinction. Dingoes, Australia’s native dogs, are top order predators; they are needed to balance this fragile eco-system. Within the next 50 years, the pure-blooded dingo will vanish unless things change.”

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‘Flipper’ – Marc Spurgin

Material: Recycled steel

“They call him Flipper, Flipper faster than lightning, no-one you see is smarter than he, And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder, Flying there-under, under the sea! Everyone loves the king of the sea, Ever so kind and gentle is he.” The environmental message is “… to a dolphin a pool is a cage… the mortality rate and abnormal behaviours of captive dolphins prove that a lack of stimulation causes them terrible stress…”

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‘Medusa of the China Sea’ – Rebecca Edwards

Material: found objects – shop manikin, mosaic, china, glass, mirror, pebbles, marble

“…Perhaps she is angry at the damage done to our oceans and waterways.”

 28 jan sculptures 031 - Copy‘Plastic reef! Better than the real thing?’ – Jacky Spencer

Material: found objects – plastic toys on steel and wire frames with weighted stone bases

“ Coral reefs and Grass beds, the nurseries of our oceans – breeding, nurturing and sustaining our ocean life. They are in serious trouble because of Global Warming and over-fishing, brought about by our relentless tsunami-like hunger for more; more money, more food, more sex appeal. More stuff! The environmental awareness message is about the nature of pointless consumerism and the direct effect on our reefs and sea grass beds.”

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‘Oceana Botanica’ – Carla Gottgens – Winner of Environmental Awareness category

Material: printed paper, wheat paste

“This work reflects the fragile nature of our oceans and brings to the forefront the small delicate inhabitants of our sea beds that we take for granted because they are usually out of sight. Everything is affected by what we do on land and even though each sea creature has a natural life span our non-actions towards environmental signals will increase the slow destruction of the oceanic world… This work reflects the fragile nature of our ocean… This is a site specific ephemeral piece that will slowly disintegrate over time to replicate the disintegration of our oceanic life.”

 28 jan sculptures 043 - Copy ‘Gaia’ – Marc Spurgin

“Gaia creator and giver of birth to the earth and all the universe.”

Material: recycled metal

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‘Spirit Time Keeper’ – Marc Spurgin

Material: recycled steel

 28 jan sculptures 098 - Copy ‘Rapacious’ – Jason Milanovic

Material: recycled mobile phones, car battery, housing aggregate, epoxy resin

“Our consumerism is represented by the mobile phone destroying our planet through the rapacious use of mineral resources and degradation through pollution related to waste disposal.”

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‘Hope’ – Tony Sedgman

Material: Old Moonta Bay jetty pylon, recycled steel

“Hope is a symbol and a statement of the greatest environmentalists of our time. Hope asks questions of you and me as well as highlights the greatest world and Australian environmentalists of our time. I believe in our future and hope people will look at the names and investigate what they are known for and pass forward this information.”

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Summer harvest

This summer’s harvest is abundant despite planting a smaller than usual number of vegetable seedlings and collecting very little produce from our young summer fruit trees. Several neighbours shared their surplus fruit. Mary gave us lots of apricots and Ray and Joy shared lemons. We collected plums from Steve and Betty, peaches and nectarines from Nadja and pears from Ruth. I have been bottling most of these over the last week, adding thirty-five jars to the pantry and another dozen to the freezer.

19 jan 15 011 - CopyThis year our summer vegetables are growing in seven new raised garden planters laid out last winter. Meanwhile, a green manure crop is taking over the main fifteen square metres vegetable bed where seasonal produce has been growing for the last six years.

16 jan '15 011 - CopyTwo yellow zucchinis plants are producing about six medium zucchinis a week. We enjoy these steamed or raw, or cubed in salads. They are also delicious baked with a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of fresh herbs.

16 jan '15 015 - CopyWarrigal Greens, an Australian native plant which tastes like spinach, provides daily servings all year round.

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Despite being uprooted and replanted in late Spring, these two Silver-beet plants have been producing non-stop since Spring 2013. There is enough for us and plenty more to share with neighbours.

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The ‘long sweet yellow’ capsicums turned out to be light green and five plants produce more than enough for daily snacks .

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Cherry Roma and Currant Tomato bushes have been prolific bearers producing a punnet a day for us and more to share around the neighbourhood. When we want a break from eating them in salads, I cook them up with fresh herbs and garlic for a pasta sauce.

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Madagascar beans need a strong trellis for support and produce for up to seven years. The pods are not edible but young beans can be eaten raw, tasting a little like broad beans. I usually leave the pods to dry on the plant before harvesting the dried beans.

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We are also harvesting spring onions, oregano, basil, lemon balm, thyme, sage, lemon verbena, passion fruits and figs.

Thanks to Rachel of A Kailyard in Adelaide!  I discovered The Garden Share Collective –  a group of vegetable gardeners from across the globe who share their gardens every month. If you are interested in joining this project email liz@strayedtable.com for all the details.

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This blue tongue lizard has taken up residence among the rocks surrounding The Pond. 

Posted in Food, Gardening, Share and Swap | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Australian attitudes towards Climate Change

What do Australians think about climate change, how do they rank this issue among others and how ‘green’ are they? How do your own attitudes, beliefs and behaviours compare with the 2014 survey participants’?

The fourth annual survey of Australian attitudes to climate change is part of a series of CSIRO publications examining Australians’ responses to climate change. The report outlines the findings from a survey of over 5000 Australians conducted in July and August 2013. Similar to previous years, the survey found 4 out of 5 people think the earth’s climate is changing, and people are more likely to think that human activity is the cause.

There has been an increase in the levels of responsibility individuals feel to respond to climate change and people have also become more trusting about information from environmental and government scientists. Yet, although more than 70% of people said they thought climate change was an important issue, the results show they were overall more concerned about issues such as health, cost of living, employment, water shortages and pollution.

The survey also found more than half the participants tended to overestimate how ‘green’ they really are and how much they are doing for the environment compared to others. CSIRO social scientist Dr Zoe Leviston  explains this result by refering to the “better than average effect”.  The latter describes our predisposition to think of ourselves as exceptional, especially among our peers, and reflects our tendency to think of ourselves as more virtuous and moral, more compassionate and understanding, and less biased than other people.

In the video below, Dr Leviston discusses some of the report’s findings. She also gives a summary with some of the results in graph form at Most Australians overestimate how ‘green’ they really are.

Download the full report here

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