Smog is all around

The tales of London’s epic historical battles with air pollution are among the most classic of environmentalism sagas. Many of the case studies one reads when examining the development of the environmental movement and rise of environmental legislation stem from the United States, but the narrative of the London smogs and poor air quality equal any American environmental anecdote.

Regrettably, they’re not yet history.

…millions of people are suffering serious health effects from exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and myriad other pollutants in the air … Despite these warnings the public seem largely unperturbed.

The smog in London itself was originally dealt with through increasing the height of factory stacks. Then it turned out that directing the emissions away from the factories in cities doesn’t make it disappear: acid rain became the dominant topic of environmental discourses. It took the UK a while to recognise the issue; longer than other European countries. Finally there was change, a response, and the emissions from coal-fired power stations began to be regulated.

But the problem is not yet gone – it’s just entered another phase. And as this personal anecdote from an ex-PhD student highlights: it’s costing health, lives and dreams.

The air quality in London is shocking. I’ve never before felt the desire to get inside a building so I could breathe.

Acid rain might be gone but, as the Telegraph agrees: something still needs to be done about all the other emitters and polluters – the nitrogen emissions from cars, power stations and farms also needs to be curbed. Until it is, it’s costing the nation not just its wildflowers, but its people too.

Carlos ZGZ

A very London picture (taken by Carlos ZGZ)


Summer Ball

In a month, exactly 1 month, I will be going to a ball. Which is really to say, I’ll be spending an exorbitant amount of money on one night for no particularly convincing reason, other than that it will be an experience to enjoy and remember with friends. My point isn’t really about the questionable function of balls, however, but about the dresses.

The thing about a ball is, it’s rather nice to wear a dress to it. As in, I enjoy wearing a nice dress to a nice night out like that. In fact, sometimes it’s even nicer to wear a nice new dress. I.e. a dress I haven’t worn out before. A new look for oneself, a surprise for friends. And that’s where I hit the problem: what’s the point in buying a new dress for potentially just the one occassion, the one ball?

Why is it problematic to buy something and only wear it once? (Aside from the rather casual treatment of cash, that is) Well, there’s a massive waste in many countries which is not being produced from food (something else I can go on about for long lengths of time – food waste) but from clothes and textiles. Apparently, Australians are one of the worst at this: they buy an average of 27 kilograms of new clothes and other textiles each year. Each year? What are we Australians doing with all that stuff – eating it?

This constant, ongoing clothes splurging isn’t just problematic because of the massive waste problem it creates (very little of what we donate to charities etc can actually be used by them, and all the synethic fibres are no good at decomposing) – it’s also problematic because the massive demand for new clothes is driving toxic, damaging industries like China and India (read more here).

How do I try to solve this problem?

  1. Buy less clothes in general. A few pairs of jeans is probably more than enough already – I only wear one pair at once, after all!
  2. When I do buy new clothes . . . buy only what I really need. So no new dresses (a weakness of mine), but yes, new underwear when necessary!
  3. And when I want things like dresses? Go second-hand, go to the charity shops, see if friends are getting rid of theirs, buy something locally made and buy just one and use it over and over and over again – and if I don’t think I’ll get much use out of it, maybe just don’t buy it after all.

My latest discovery is the Oxfam online store for women’s clothing. A great place for browsing thousands of dresses. And after quite literally browsing thousands of dresses I finally found my ball item. The choices are endless on there – so when it’s time for that new ball gown, get browsing and give it a go! You’ll be the only one in that dress!


Need an extra special dress for that occassion? Treat yourself to some gorgeous number like this one – from the Oxfam Online Store! (Image from here)

A little bit of stuff to share

I like to talk about how much stuff there is in the world.

I have too much stuff.

I have a screwdriver I have used exactly twice – both times on my bike. I have (exciting, thrilling, mind-boggling) plans to use it a third time – not even on my bike! But is using a screwdriver three times sufficient to justify my ownership of it?

Another one: the big, prickly, happy-to-grow (maybe a bit too-happy-to-grow) shrub near the back gate is getting bigger than ever. He needs a lesson taught to him. He needs to be trimmed. But buying a secateur just for this one big bush? That seems a bit over the top.

And that’s the kind of situation for which a Library of Things would be absolutely great. A place where tools, gadgets and other, well, things can be borrowed and shared. The Guardian reported on the Library of Things and similar iniatives in London, speaking of a continuing rise in the sharing economy.

I hope they’re right –

Until then, the shrub grows on.

Vaults and house (2)



Winter’s End

Is this winter season coming to an end in the northern hemisphere? The UK’s Woodland Trust provides some tips as to how the spot the beginnings of spring. I’ve definitely seen some bulbs starting to peep up out of the soil and old leaves, and on a recent cycle saw multiple active rookeries.

Have you seen any signs of spring recently?


The sun – another sure sign of spring? (image author’s own)

Drones to prevent the dumps

Drones are absolutely taking off. And not just for military or consumer purposes, also to aid in conservation  and environmental management. This week there was yet another excellent example of drones being used to track down environmentally-damaging behaviour: the Australian (Victorian) Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has been using drones to track down illegal rubbish dumps.

What do you think? A good idea or too much technology in the sky?


Just droning about.

Homes for Horses

Horses are at the heart of many Australian stories. It was horses, after all, that led much of the exploration of the land by European invaders. A favourite childhood series of mine was that by Elyne Mitchell: The Silver Brumby.

Much like mustangs in the United States, everyone has an opinion about brumbies (Australia’s wild horses), and there are many different opinions to be had. Whether the animals are natural or not; do they belong in the Australia bush, the landscape? Whether something should be done to control their numbers, or get rid of them all together.

Chris Giles is a bit of a horse whisperer, who took part in the 2016 Australian Brumby Challenge. In this challenge, participants are given a certain amount of days (around 100-150) to work with a wild brumby, and then showcase what man and horse are able to achieve together at Equitana, a huge annual equine event in Melbourne. At the end of this process, the horses are then put up for auction to find them a new home. While this event clearly has a lot of entertainment-focus, it also plays an important role in raising awareness on the fate of Australian brumbies, who are not infrequently culled to keep their numbers down, and engage new people in a discussion as what form of environmental management is appropriate for the high plains the brumbies occupy.


Brumbies are not appreciated by all as a part of the Australian landscape, but if they are to be removed from it, at least let it happen with minimal culling – preferably none at all. (Image from Mick Stanic, Flickr)

2017: the Year of Conservation?

Will 2017 be the Year of Conservation? Might things finally look brighter rather than bleaker for the state of earth’s nature? According to Nicholas Harvey, there are hints that 2017 could finally be a better year, with China’s banning of ivory trade and the potential mainstream movement of conservation being two positive indications. The Conservation Optimism Summit, to be held in London in April, also suggests we should look to the bright side of conservation rather than get fixated on the failures.

Let’s hope they’re right, and each do our bit to help make it be so!


A moment of life, a glimmer of hope (image author’s own)

Guardian Top Tips

With Donald Trump about the step up to be the President of the United States of America, UK newspaper the Guardian is running a 24-hour bombardment of news on environmental and climate change issues. As a part of this, they published an excellent list of 15 ways to cut your carbon consumption!

Be sure to check them out in greater detail on the Guardian website, or else read my own similar suggestions on being more sustainable!

The Guardian’s 15 Carbon Cutting Tips:

  1. Fly less
  2. Eat less meat
  3. Be more efficient in heating your home
  4. Replace old gas/oil boilers
  5. Drive less
  6. Maintain your car properly
  7. Replace Halogen lighting with LEDs
  8. Don’t use home appliances more than necessary
  9. Consume less (less random shopping!)
  10. Become knowledgeable on the carbon costs of various good and services
  11. Invest in your own source of renewable energy
  12. Buy from and work with companies that support the switch to a low-carbon future
  13. Divest and support divestment iniatives
  14. Let your politicians know what you want
  15. Buy gas and electricity from retailers who sell renewable energy