Climate change and changing to suit the climate

Climate change.

Controvertial, no?

Is it real or is it just a hoax?

If it IS a hoax, what is the reason behind the hoax and who does it benefit?

If it is real, how do we sort the truth from the lies? How serious is it? Is it too late?

I only wish I knew the answers but I believe climate change, brought about by man, is real. If it is a hoax it benefits no-one that I can think of bar a few comparatively small companies producing environmentally friendly goods. If we believe it is a hoax however, I can think of a few industries that will reap the rewards (think of mining and drilling).

When I think back to what started my green journey I find it really hard to pin point any particular thing. I remember hassling my mum once about buying bleach and she ended up buying vinegar instead. I remember in grade 6 I think it was, doing an in class assignment where you answered multiple choice questions and it predicted a future scenario for you. Even then I preferred a large house in a small country town with an eco lifestyle. Ok, so I no longer want a large house (cleaning the house never entered my 12 yo mind šŸ˜‰ ) but the rest of the scenario has pretty much played out to be true. I’ve also had that dream of living on a small acreage in the country for as long as I can remember, interspersed with eco dreams too. For as long as I can remember there has always been some level of environmental sustainability or homesteading about my dreams.

So what kicked it all into high gear then? I’ve already mentioned some of my journey of how it’s not easy to be green but it was probably the film The Day after Tomorrow that really prompted me to start making changes. Now, do I think that there will be 3 big storms to plunge the world into a new ice age? No. Do I think that the film is very over-dramatised? Yes. Do I think that the film makes a good point though? Yes. It got me thinking long and hard about climate change and our precious planet. It got me thinking about the impact that my choices and decisions have upon the planet and although it doesn’t touch on even half of the issues out there (deforestation of our jungles, over fishing, landfill, fossil fuel usage and so on) but at least for me it got me thinking. It got me processing. It made me realise that there is a LOT more to the world than just my little piece of it.

Now as I sit here today it’s a predicted high of 38C degrees (about 29 inside at the moment). It’s still November! The average maximum temperatures for Melbourne in November is 22C although the highest on record is 40.9 on November 27 1894 (info found here). It’s a total fire ban in both the Mallee and Wimera regions of Victoria too – the far north and west of the state where it’s already at severe fire danger (info found here). This is unusual for November in Victoria in my memory at least and I suspect that the odd rumours I’ve heard of a long hot summer may well turn out to be true. And after what Ballan locals have said was a long cold winter… Well it just seems to me, in my very unscientific opinion, that things are changing.

I believe things are reaching some pretty critical levels as far as climate change goes. I mean, from a cursory glance at my dear friend Dr Google, it seems the average temperature of the earth has risen less than a degree C which sounds negligible… But is it? I know the last few years here in Melbourne we’ve had some stinking hot days. I remember the new years we waved farewell to 2007 and hello to 2008 it was still a balmy 35C or 95F at midnight. Just over 13 months later on February 7th 2009 and we saw our hottest day on record, now known as Black Saturday because of the horrific bushfires that raged across our state. It changed our hottest ever recorded Victorian temperature to a whopping 48.8C (that’s 120F) recorded at Hopetown (stats taken from here). Melbourne reached 46.4C Ā or 115.5F (stats taken from here). Even without counting the fires in, it was a pretty rotten day here. Including the devastating fires, it was horrendous.

What melting polar ice?

The point is, the climate is changing and we are going to have to change along with it.Ā I read a wonderful comment this morning on Narf77’s blogĀ The Road to SerendipityĀ about adaption. “I LOVE the positivity of permacultureā€¦no sitting around whinging about how we wonā€™t have citrus trees soon and isnā€™t it terribleā€¦just straight away looking at the possibilities and adapting. Thatā€™s what I prizeā€¦adaptation and the ability to look on the bright side. Thatā€™s what is noble about the human raceā€¦” and it struck a chord. Even if we stopped burning each and every fossil fuel today and set everything right in one fell swoop I don’t believe the climate trend will change overnight. Things have gone too far for that. Arctic ice melting is a prime example. From what I’ve read it works like this. When there is a large amount of arctic ice it reflects back the heat of the sun a lot more, being white it’s reflective, notĀ absorptive. However, when it gets hotter the polar ice melts and then there is less white reflective ice and more absorptive dark coloured ocean to contain the heat from the sun. This in turn melts more of the ice, which in its turn provides more dark ocean to absorb more heat and so on. I’m not sure how that is supposed to stop to be honest because it’s self perpetuating. The melting of the polar ice brings with it warmer temperatures, more water (the melting water surely has to go somewhere although I can’t seem to find anything but arguments about rising sea levels on Dr Google).

Tagasaste or tree lucerne

We MUST take more responsibility for the environment and try to stop the global warming trend but in correlation with this we need to adapt. I for one am glad we will be raising our elevation from about 17m above sea level to much closer to 500m… Just in case. I also plan to try to grow some plants that are not considered suitable for the Ballan climate – Tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis) or tree lucerne is one such tree. It’s a dry climate plant initially from the Canary islands and doesn’t like waterlogged soil but I am hoping by growing it in a raised bed in the chook pen that it will thrive and help provide food for the chickens. I am also going to try growing sweet potatoes next year. They’re not good in cold climates and not so great in temperate climates either (I tried to grow them a few years back) but I reckon it’s worth giving them a crack inside the greenhouse. I’ll probably also try ginger and turmeric too. The Tropical Hippy, a friend in both the blogosphere and real world who lives in tropical climes is giving sweet potatoes a go now if you’re keen to try them.

For me that adaption is to try and grow things locally so that I can reduce our food carbon miles. If I can’t grow it locally (bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other tropical fruits for starters) I need to weigh up the value of having access to these foods (bananas would be a big loss to my kids) versus their mileage. With many of our tropical fruits coming from Queensland they’re not as bad as they could be, but dates (which we use in cooking and as snacks – a huge loss to me) may well come from Iran or other local countries so their mileage is huge. I guess for me if I can localise as much as possible then buying some things with carbon miles isn’t so bad. I hope that the miles our tomatoes will travel will be about 20 metres from the veggie garden to the kitchen via shanks pony. šŸ™‚ They will then be bottled which will use some gas or electricity in the processing but it’s much less than buying a can of imported tomatoes.

Anyway, this is becoming a bit of an incoherent ramble which I’m going to blame on the heat frying my brain (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it šŸ˜‰ ) so it’s time to sign off. We’re having a tv day here in the interests of keeping the kids calm whilst being locked inside away from the sun (not my favourite kind of day but needs must).

How many sleeps? Part II

Yes, I am continuing to post on that dreaded date that is looming over all of our heads.

This time I want to talk about Christmas food.

Our day before we had kids would entail dragging our backsides out of bed at around 6:30, hauling over to Heidelberg where my parents live (a 40 minute drive around the city) and trying to be there in time for breakfast at 8 before hauling off to church at 9:30. We tried to keep up with that with the kids but it was hard enough to do without kids so we soon gave it up as a bad idea. In recent years we’ve aimed to arrive around 11ish after having opened gifts from Santa in the morning so we can meet up with my brother and sister-in-law who have a chaotic time fitting in seeing her extended family. We’d lunch to bursting and then after snacking throughout the afternoon on food we neither really wanted nor need and then inevitably stay and eat dinner with my parents before heading home with a car so overloaded with toys and gifts that we can barely see out the rear window and bellies several inches larger than they had been. Gluttony to the max.

They each came home with a bag like this FULL of toys last year

In our societies, we are very blessed to have access to food so readily and Christmas is a time that proves the point in fine style. Christmas dinner is usually enough to make the belt buckles need loosening, the shirt buttons pop and the mouth toĀ salivate at the thought of all the delectables reserved especially for this time of year… And that is just thinking about it! The meal itself often includes greater excess than imagined. Roast turkey, pork and glazed ham or some tiger prawns for the less traditional. Apple sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy or seafood sauce. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, corn, roast potatoes and pumpkin, carrots and parsnip, coleslaw, green salads and of course potato salad. And then there is dessert… Pavlova, trifle (loaded with grog of course), ice-cream plum pudding, plum pudding, brandy butter, brandy cream, custard, cream and ice-cream. Then there are the fruit trays. Being Summer here we have an amazing array of divine fruits. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, oranges, kiwi fruits, mangoes, pineapples, apricots, cherries and I know I have forgotten a heap. Have I forgotten anything else? Oh yes, the nibbles. Pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, chocolates, lollies (sweeties or candy), a ring of prawns as well as cheeses and meats, cocktail onions and other such pickles. *groan* I think I’ve just gained 5kgs simply typing it all out!

But here is something to think about. When are the fruits and vegetables actually in season which means they are then grown locally and not shipped from interstate or international locations.
Apples – in season from February
Nashi pears – in season from January
Nuts – mostly in season from March, if not April
Grapes –Ā in season from January
Figs –Ā in season from February
Kiwi Fruit –Ā in season from March

And the veggies:
Broccoli and cauliflower –Ā in season from July to November
Pumpkin –Ā in season from March
Carrot and Parsnip –Ā in season from April
Onions –Ā in season from February
Celery –Ā in season from January
Mushrooms –Ā in season from March to November

Now, these are just Victorian peak seasons taken from here and I’m sure there is room for variation depending on growing seasons but it goes to show that many of the fruit and veggies we source for our Christmas dinner may well not be fresh or local. And as much as I would prefer to buy something shipped from Queensland rather than overseas, there are still carbon miles that need to be considered.

PicturePrawns were to me growing up, a realĀ delicacy. You had a few baby shrimp or prawns in your Chinese Fried Rice take out and they were divided equally and to be squabbled over. I still remember my first ever taste of king prawns in a strawberry sauce when I was in my early teens – my grandmothers 70th birthday I think (she’s nearly 90 now). It was a special food allowed only for a special occasion. I was also allowed to try some barramundi then too. However, prawns and many other fish are over fished or farmed in a way that is damaging to the environment. Others are very slow-growing which means they take a long time to replace those we catch and eat. Check here, here and best of all here for more information on fishing practices and good seafood choices.

What about the meat we eat. Turkey, ham, pork, chicken, beef or any other meat is, at least in our recent history, usually factory farmed. I cannot recommend enough watchingĀ this video about factory farming. Factory farms traditionally raise limited breeds which have been bred selectively for fast growth and may have been pumped with hormones to increase that rate of growth. They’re fed corn and soy instead of their natural foods of grass, insects and other free-range available foods, and both soy and corn can be GMO. They are raised en masse and slaughtered en masse too. And due to their crowded conditions, any diseases or infections will spread en masse too so they’re often routinely fed antibiotics to prevent this. The cycle continues when antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria arise and I know in the USA there have been outbreaks that have caused people to die from eating meat products infected from these antibiotic resistant strains. Kevin’s story is one that is more well-known due to being shared through the movie Food Inc. So, how can we enjoy our Christmas meats but not eat foods that are treated with cruelty and disdain? Well, there are options like not eating meat and having a vegetarian or vegan Christmas but this is not for everyone. Restricting your meat intake can go a long way too. Do we really need 6 different meats on our plates? If you do still want the variety and traditional Christmas meats then buy organic and free-range. Certified organic foods will contain neither hormones nor antibiotics. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s slaughtered in a way that is different to the usual processing plants but from the research I have done I’m not coming up with much good news. If you can source direct from the farm itself where the processing has all happened on site it may be different. The best option I can think of if you do choose to eat meat is to raise and harvest it yourself.

Our Christmas meal plans will be for 1 meat only – home raised duck and it will have free-ranging access either in the chicken run which we plan to be of a goodly size, or indeed truly free ranging around our garden. When we do slaughter it we plan to do so as humanely as possible (yes I understand the oxymoron of ‘humane slaughter’) and we plan to not gorge ourselves to excess either so 1 duck will sufficiently feed the 5, or possibly 7 of us and I suspect we will have leftovers for dinner too. I’m planting carrots this weekend but I’m not sure they will be of a size to harvest, even as baby carrots and the peas will go in too along with the rest of our seedlings. Hopefully we get some perfect weather for an early harvest of just a few items. Whatever we haven’t grown in time will be purchased from the Ballan Farmers Market or possibly the Trentham Farmers Market in the 2 weeks before Christmas. At least then it will be locally sourced, keeping the carbon miles low.

Well, that’s enough from me today. Just some food for thought if you can excuse the terrible pun.