Local Biodiversity Issues on the Bellarine

We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change …….



Reproduced from David Suzuki Foundation -[]


Photo Credit: Paul Bica

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then – toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances – energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone – big cars that used lots of gas – so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

We’re now faced with ever-increasing extreme weather-related events and phenomena such as ocean acidification, which affects myriad marine life, from shellfish to corals to plankton. The latter produce oxygen and are at the very foundation of the food chain.

Had we addressed the problem from the outset, we could have solutions in place. We could have found ways to burn less fossil fuel without massively disrupting our economies and ways of life. But we’ve become addicted to the lavish benefits that fossil fuels have offered, and the wealth and power they’ve provided to industrialists and governments. And so there’s been a concerted effort to stall or avoid corrective action, with industry paying front groups, “experts” and governments to deny or downplay the problem.

Now that climate change has become undeniable, with consequences getting worse daily, many experts are eyeing solutions. Some are touting massive technological fixes, such as dumping large amounts of iron filings into the seas to facilitate carbon absorption, pumping nutrient-rich cold waters from the ocean depths to the surface, building giant reflectors to bounce sunlight back into space and irrigating vast deserts.

But we’re still running up against those pesky unintended consequences. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied five geoengineering schemes and concluded they’re “either relatively ineffective with limited warming reductions, or they have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change.” That’s partly because we don’t fully understand climate and weather systems and their interactions.

That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering.  Climate change is so serious that we’ll need to marshal everything we have to confront it, and some methods appear to be more benign than others. But geoengineering isn’t the solution. And it’s no excuse to go on wastefully burning fossil fuels. We must conserve energy and find ways to quickly shift to cleaner sources.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor



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The trouble with offsets – delusional at best.

Reproduced in full with the gracious permission of Background Briefing:

Sunday 16 March 2014 8:05AM



Environmental offsets are supposed to compensate for ecosystems and biodiversity that are bulldozed to make way for development. But there’s mounting evidence the policy is being subverted, as governments approve controversial offsets across Australia. Di Martin investigates.

A Senate inquiry has just been launched into claims a key environmental policy, offsetting, is falling over.

Under offsetting, developers have to compensate for what they’re bulldozing. They need to protect other properties that contain the same sort of vegetation and habitat as what’s being cleared.

To me it is akin to some guy going into that art gallery and pointing at the Mona Lisa on the wall and ‘saying sorry mate we need that bit … so the Mona Lisa has to go. But we will paint you another one’.


The promise of offsetting is that development can happen and biodiversity will be no worse off.

However offsets have always been controversial and an increasing number of scientists, ecologists and conservationists say there are many loopholes and the policy is being manipulated by governments who won’t say no to developers.

Federal Greens Senator Larissa Waters pushed for the Senate inquiry, listing five developments for investigation.

They include the Abbot Point Coal Terminal and Waratah Coal’s Galilee Coal Project in Queensland, the Jandakot Airport in Perth, and the Maules Creek coal mine in northern NSW.

Clearing has already begun on the Maules Creek mine site, destroying critically endangered white box gum grassy woodland which is down to 0.1 per cent of its original range.

The mining company, Whitehaven Coal, says it’s protecting large areas of critically endangered box gum woodland on its offset properties.

This article represents part of a larger Background Briefing investigation. Listen to Di Martin’s full report on Sunday at 8.05 am or use the podcast links above after broadcast.

But local ecologist Phil Spark says Whitehaven’s claims are wrong. He took Background Briefing to the two largest offset properties in an area marked as white box grassy woodland.

‘We are looking around us and we see the dominance of stringy bark, probably 80 per cent stringybark. And it’s not white box at all,’ Mr Spark said.

There are now four local ecologists who’ve looked at Whitehaven Coal’s offsets and found serious problems.

Dr John Hunter is a botanist who specialises in critically endangered communities and has helped develop offset plans for other mines. He has prepared a preliminary report on 1600 hectares of Whitehaven’s offsets, and says that 95 per cent of their mapping is wrong.

‘I think there’s at maximum, five per cent of what they are saying is box gum woodland there,’ he said. ‘All of the dominance that we found there, are actually trees that they haven’t listed as occurring.’

Instead, the dominant trees that Hunter found were stringybark, New England blackbutt, orange gum and Bendemeer white gum, which weren’t represented in the mapping.

‘The maps are patently wrong. They are just completely wrong,’ he said.

Another local ecologist, Wendy Hawes, sat on an expert panel that wrote the condition criteria used to identify box gum grassy woodlands. She has looked at four areas mapped as box gum grassy woodland, and found hardly any at all.

‘It is not the community they claim it is,’ she said. ‘There are within their offset areas … small patches that could potentially meet the [criteria], but they are very small areas, so they are a couple of hectares. Nothing like the hectarage they are claiming.’

‘So the majority of the stuff that they are protecting its stringy bark communities. Not white box,’ Hawes said.

Neither the state nor the federal government did on the ground surveys of the offset sites before approving the Maules Creek mine.

Whitehaven Coal’s CEO Paul Flynn was not available for interview, but the company said in a statement that it is committed to meeting its offset obligations. It also claimed that reports critical of its offsets are incomplete and deliberately distorted, and the company is protecting an area far larger than what is being cleared on the mine site.

The dissenting ecologists agree that Whitehaven’s offset area is larger, but maintain the vegetation it contains is not the same as what is being bulldozed.

When the Maules Creek mine was approved, Whitehaven Coal was required to complete an independent review of the offset sites. That report has been handed to the Federal government, but has not been released.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement saying he’s aware of the issue, and his department is now considering the independent review.

The department recently told a Senate estimates hearing that it’s investigating what it calls a criminal matter regarding the Maules Creek offsets. It is a crime to be reckless or negligent in providing false or misleading information about offsets.

The Environment Department said it could be some months before its investigation is complete.

The ANU’s Phil Gibbons, who helped develop offset policy for the federal and NSW governments, says the theory behind offsetting is very attractive.

‘A fair-minded person would agree that if a developer destroys some of Australia’s natural capital in making a buck, then they should really offset that impact elsewhere,’ he said.

‘But the devil is in the detail.’

Gibbons said he sees an increasing number of examples where governments are cutting corners. Some offsets are not like for like and others are not being properly managed or restored. Some sites have been approved that weren’t in danger of being cleared or lost in the future.

‘Anything that you do in terms of an offset must be a genuine gain, must be something that would not have happened anyway as under business as usual,’ Gibbons said.

‘I think what people are doing is getting very creative in finding biodiversity gains when really they are things that would have happened anyway.’

With less and less good quality bush to be found, developers are putting up old cattle paddocks and mine sites as offsets, land which they say will be restored to its original state.

However, according to restoration ecologist Professor Richard Hobbs, those sites can take decades to develop, and there’s no guarantee they will be the same as what was cleared.

He scoffed at the idea that Australia’s biodiversity will be no worse off under offsetting, and called the practice ‘a Faustian pact’.

‘I’ll say it’s a furphy. To me it is akin to some guy going into that art gallery and pointing at the Mona Lisa on the wall and saying sorry mate we need that bit … so the Mona Lisa has to go. But we will paint you another one.’

‘We run the risk of trading something irreplaceable for the short term development gains with the mirage of having a good conservation outcome in the future through the activities of the offset.’

IMPORTANT – Rural zone reforms – effective 5th September, 2013

15 Aug 2013

The final stage in Victoria’s zone reform has been announced with the release of rural zone reforms.

The reformed rural zones make it easier to start and operate rural industries and to give rural and regional councils much greater flexibility in managing their own municipalities.

Regional growth is supported by providing a greater range of housing options in the Rural Living Zone and less red tape for people in rural areas altering or extending their homes.

Some of the changes include:

  • encouraging agricultural use of land, particularly in the Farming and Green Wedge Zones
  • allowing councils to consider more ‘off farm’ income streams on farms, such as farm machinery repair businesses
  • increasing the permit threshold for extensions to farm out-buildings, such as work sheds, shearing sheds and dairy facilities from 50 m2 to 100 m2
  • removing the need for a permit for primary produce sales, rural stores and most rural industries in the Rural Activity Zone
  • removing onerous restrictions on crop structures, to ensure protection from hail and other elements
  • allow councils the ability to determine smaller lifestyle lots in the Rural Living Zone where land has already been taken out of agricultural production
  • allow greater consideration of tourism uses in all but Green Wedge zones; and
  • promoting farm gate sales such as the sale of fruit, vegetables and other produce.

Councils will also have greater flexibility to consider land uses that were previously prohibited like primary and secondary schools.

The rural zone reforms are the final component of Victoria’s sweeping zone reforms and will come into effect on 5 September 2013.

For more detail refer

To Bee or Not to Bee – a must read.

Saturday July 13 at 1 pm on CBC-TV

Related Video



Watch this film online.
45:05 min
Bees are all around us. And while some might consider them no more than a nuisance, the role that bees play in nature simply cannot be overstated – they pollinate many of the food crops that we depend on. A world without bees would be unrecognizable since they also pollinate many of the plants and trees in our gardens, forests and meadows.
When the news broke three and a half years ago that honeybee populations around the globe were declining at an alarming rate, it was no surprise that scientists took notice. What was happening to the bees, and could they be saved?
These are but two of the questions To Bee or Not To Bee explores, taking us headlong into a world of nature, science and big business.
Our story begins in 2006, when Pennsylvania beekeeper David Hackenburg went public when over half of his honeybee hives died from a mysterious disease. That disease soon had a name – Colony Collapse Disorder, and it rapidly led to record colony losses for beekeepers across the United States. At the same time, in other parts of the world, domesticated honeybees and wild bee populations were sickening and dying as well. A number of factors seemed to be triggering those die-offs. The search for a single cause and its cure has become more and more desperate over time.
As the problem becomes more severe, scientists and beekeepers in Europe and North America work tirelessly to find the cause of these deadly declines: is it genetic, a virus or pollution, or some combination of them? Today beekeepers are hanging on by a thread, food supplies are threatened, and the biodiversity of the planet itself has been endangered.

Could bees be an early warning sign of a larger problem with our ecology? Are they the canary in the coal mine for the health of Planet Earth?
Like many scientific mysteries, the answers are rarely found in one place. To Bee or Not To Bee takes viewers to France, Germany, Canada and the U.S.A., and into laboratories, bee yards, landfills, almond orchards and breeding grounds, all in search of clues.
The picture that emerges is at once hopeful and disturbing. The stresses bees face today are numerous – from the use of chemical pesticides, to viruses, to the loss of natural bee habitats. Although, these enterprising insects are resilient and adaptable, will they be able to change fast enough? Will science find solutions to the problems they face?
To Bee or Not to Bee is directed by Mark Johnston and produced by Natalie Dubois and Christine Le Goff, for Galafilm Productions.


Earthships are 100% sustainable homes that are both cheap to build and awesome to live in.
They offer amenities like no other sustainable building style you have come across.
For the reasons that follow, I believe Earthships can actually change the world. See for yourself!



When people hear about sustainable, off-the-grid living, they usually picture primitive homes divorced from the comforts of the 21st century. And rightfully so, as most sustainable solutions proposed until now have fit that description. Earthships, however, offer all of the comforts of modern homes and more. I’ll let these pictures do the talking…
earthship2 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome
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 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome
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Each Earthship is outfitted with one or two greenhouses that grow crops year-round, no matter the climate. This means you can feed yourself with only the plants growing inside of your house. You can also choose to build a fish pond and/or chicken coop into your Earthship for a constant source of meat and eggs.
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Even the most arid of climates can provide enough water for daily use through only a rain-harvesting system. The entire roof of the Earthship funnels rain water to a cistern, which then pumps it to sinks and showers when required. That used ‘grey water’ is then pumped into the greenhouse to water the plants. After being cleaned by the plants, the water is pumped up into the bathrooms for use in the toilets. After being flushed, the now ‘black water’ is pumped to the exterior garden to give nutrients to non-edible plants.
earthship2 625x377 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome


The most brilliant piece of engineering in the Earthship is their ability to sustain comfortable temperatures year round. Even in freezing cold or blistering hot climates, Earthships constantly hover around 70° Fahrenheight (22° Celsius).
This phenomenon results from the solar heat being absorbed and stored by ‘thermal mass’ — or tires filled with dirt, which make up the structure of the Earthship. The thermal mass acts as a heat sink, releasing or absorbing heat it when the interior cools and heats up, respectively.
The large greenhouse windows at the front of the house always face south to allow the sun to heat up the thermal mass throughout the daytime.
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome


Solar panels on the roof and optional wind turbines provide the Earthship with all of the power it needs. As long as you’re not greedily chewing through electricity like a typical first-world human, you’ll never be short of power.
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome


With all of your basic needs provided for and NO bills each month, you’re free! You don’t have to work a job you hate just to survive. So you can focus your time on doing what you love, and bettering the world around you.
Imagine if the entire world was able to focus on doing extraordinary things instead of just making enough to get by. Imagine if even 10% of the world could do this. What would change?


At a recent Earthship conference in Toronto, Canada, a married couple in their forties shared about how they built a 3-story Earthship by themselves in 3 months. They had never built anything before in their lives and were able to build an Earthship with only the printed plans. They did not hire any help, nor did they use expensive equipment to make the job easier.
If one man and one woman can do this in 3 months, anyone can do it.


Earthships are exorbitantly cheaper than conventional houses. The most basic Earthships cost as little as $7000 (The Simple Survival model) with the most glamorous models costing $70,000 and up, depending on how flashy you want to be with your decorating.
With these cost options, Earthships can fit the needs of everyone — from the least privileged to the most worldly.


Much of the materials used to build Earthships are recycled. For starters, the structure is built with used tires filled with dirt:
Earthship tyre walls1 625x416 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing AwesomeIf there’s one thing we’re not short of on Earth, it’s used tires! There are tire dumps like the one pictured here in every country in the world. There are even places that will pay you by the tire to take them away.
The walls (above the tires) are created by placing plastic and glass bottles in concrete. When the Earthship team was in Haiti after the earthquake, they employed local kids to both clean up the streets and provide all of the bottles required for building their Earthship. Plus, they look pretty sexy.
 10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are F!#%ing Awesome


The most powerful thing Earthships do is force people to think differently about how we live. If housing can be this awesome, and be beneficial to the environment, then what else can we change? What else can become more simple, cheaper and better at the same time?
It’s time for us to re-think much of what we consider normal.

Do assessments of fish stock sustainability work for consumers?

Extract from :


Colin Hunt Honorary Fellow in Economics at University of Queensland


As a consultant, Colin Hunt prepared the assessments of fisheries for the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide. The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.

We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, UTAS, UWS and VU.


Photo: Courtesy of Sea Bounty, Portarlington

The report, Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks 2012 is the first official report combining assessments of major Commonwealth and state-managed fisheries into one document. The report paints a rosy picture. Of the 150 fish stocks assessed only two are found to be overfished.

The two overfished stocks are southern bluefin tuna andschool shark.

How should consumers respond to this finding?

In the case of southern bluefin, the fattened fish are sent to Japan, so the Australian consumer is not faced with a decision. The inference is that only school shark, whose stock is fished to a very low level, is of concern. When we go to the market, they’re suggesting, we really don’t need to worry – all the other Aussie fresh fish on offer is sustainable.

Analysis reveals anomalies

A deeper reading of the report throws up some concerns. There are underlying issues with 52 of the 150 stocks assessed. The descriptions of stock status have become very sophisticated in the report. For example “transitional depleting stock” is code for a stock subject to overfishing, and this affects three stocks.

“Transitional recovery stocks” is actually an overfished stock, affecting eight stocks. There are also 25 stocks “undefined”, on which the report fails to express an informed opinion that would help the buyer.

Pink snapper (Pagrus auratus) is a rather worrying classification in point. This is a very popular fish with consumers and with recreational fishers, who take the bulk of the catch. Heavily fished virtually everywhere it occurs and vulnerable to over-exploitation, snapper stocks are generally recognised as precarious. In fact, in state assessments in Queensland, NSW and WA (Shark Bay and West Coast) the stock of pink snapper has been officially classified as overfished. In Victoria, stocks are officially in decline and in SA uncertain.

However, the report asserts that snapper in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria is “undefined”, while in WA it is in “transitional recovery”.

The treatment of the popular southern crayfish (SA, Victoria and Tasmania) is also debatable. The report’s assessment is “sustainable”. But catch rates in the fishery have been in steep decline and stocks have been depleted to a quarter of the previous levels, as acknowledged by the report itself.

The report says the cuts in catch quotas appear to have been successful in generating greater abundance of stock (author’s emphasis). However, lobster egg production as a percentage of virgin egg production suggests extreme caution (see chart).


An objective assessment should surely conclude that the fishery will need a long recovery period before it can be confidently classified as sustainable.

Consumers’ needs for information

While the report assesses Australian fish stocks with the greatest value and volume there are some notable absences. For example, not included are popular east coast fish jackass morwong, officially overfished; gemfish, subject to overfishing, and blue warehou, officially overfished and subject to overfishing in ABARES’ Fishery Status Reports of 2011. The same applies to the popular garfish in SA and Victoria: both were overfished in state assessments.

The consumer is helped to a limited extent by the classification of major Australian wild fisheries. At a local level, retail outlets carry many fish not covered in the report. Some of these would be locally caught and some raised in ponds or pens. But most of the fish on offer is imported – we now consume more cheap imports than we do domestic fish. Moreover, sales of canned fish are high – take a look at the overwhelming choice in the supermarket. But again the report is no help.

Apart from the sustainability of fish per se, consumers are becoming more aware of the bycatch and environmental problems associated with fishing. The recent banning of the super trawler Abel Tasman, largely because of seal mortality, is an example of the importance the public attaches to bycatch issues once it is informed.

The South East Trawl Fishery, responsible for much of the nation’s “sustainable” fish – blue grenadier, flathead and silver warehou – is notorious for its bycatch. Many more seals die in the nets of the 35 small trawlers than would have been killed by the Abel Tasman.

Again, prawns are listed as “sustainable”, but the level of bycatch is an issue. In Australian prawn fisheries between 300 and 500 other species are commonly trawled along with the prawns; and most bycatch is returned to the ocean dead.

On visiting the fish and chip shop this Friday, differentiating between the overfished school shark and other “sustainable” shark sold as flake will be a challenge. I am sure consumers would be interested to know that in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area many thousands of 40 species of these top predators, which are in serious decline globally, are caught in nets every year.

The sanctioned shark catch includes some 2000 scalloped hammerhead, which is listed as endangered world-wide by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Many consumers would also have qualms about buying Atlantic salmon if appraised of its problems. Fish pens are taking up a large proportion of some formerly pristine Tasmanian estuaries. Furthermore, there are ethical considerations – that some take seriously – over confining such predators at high concentrations.

An ecological assessment of key fisheries by the report’s authors is said to be two years away. Meanwhile, consumers would do well to consult the guides available from non-government organisations before they go shopping or, while they are shopping, using the apps available for smart phones. These cover the sustainability of imports, aquaculture and canned fish, while providing information on bycatch and the environmental effects of fishing.

Seawater greenhouse – just add solar

 Seawater greenhouse – just add solar

By Sophie Vorrath -RenewEconomy on 19 April 2012

South Australia’s Port Augusta, with its abundant solar resource, has recently been pegged as the ideal location for the development of a concentrating solar thermal power plant – and understandably so.

But what about a 2000 square metre greenhouse? It would seem an unlikely match for hot, dry Port August, yet while the region’s CSP plant proposal remains just that, an enormous solar-powered greenhouse has indeed been built – and it’s producing a fine crop of tomatoes.
Behind the project is Sundrop Farms: a group of international scientists (and an investment banker) whose goal has been to devise a system of growing crops that doesn’t require a fresh water supply. How does it work? “It all begins with a 70 metre-long stretch of solar panels,” says Pru Adam’s on ABC Radio’s Landline: a series of concave mirrors which focus the sun’s energy onto a black tube that runs through the centre of the panels. The tube is filled with thermal oil, which is superheated up to 160°C, then pumped through the tube back to a little storage shed, where its heat is transferred to a water storage system. Some of this stored heat goes towards greenhouse temperature control, some to powering the facility, but most is used for desalination of the tidal bore water. When the heat goes to the thermal desal unit it meets up with relatively cold seawater and the temperature difference creates condensation.
“It’s pretty simple to understand,” said Reinier Wolterbeek, Sundrop’s project manager and head of technology development, in a 2010 television interview with Southern Cross News. “If you have a fresh water bottle from your refrigerator, and you put it in a room, then condensation forms on the sides. That’s more or less what we try to mimic over here; the cold sea water, from the ground, we put it through plastic tubes, we blow hot, very moist air against these plastic tubes, condensation forms on the tubes, we catch the condensation, and that’s actually the irrigation for the tomato crops.” The brine ends up in ponds and the salt can be extracted as a saleable by-product.
Sundrop Farms Solar Desalination
So, while this large-ish commercial-scale greenhouse (they’ve tested a smaller version in Oman), perched, as Adams describes it, “in the remains of flogged-out farmland,” really is an incongruous sight in Port Augusta, it’s there for good reason.
“We looked on a world map, and funnily enough, Port Augusta is the ideal place,” Wolterbeek told Southern Cross News. “It’s really close to the sea, so we have a lot of seawater available, and it’s very dry, which is good for the process of the technology.”
Philipp Saumweber, Sundrop’s managing director who is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker with an economics degree from Harvard, describes the project as unique. “Nobody has done what we’re doing before and to our knowledge nobody has done something even similar,” Saumweber told Landline. “What we think is so unique about our system is we’re not just addressing either an energy issue or a water issue, we’re really addressing both of those together to produce food from abundant resources and do that in a sustainable way.”
David Travers – CEO of the University College London’s Adelaide office, who became Sundrop’s chairman after being convinced of the merit of its technology – agrees. “Well it’s unique in the sense that it’s the only example we’re aware of in the world where there’s that complete integration of the collection of solar energy, the desalination of water, the production of energy sources from electricity through to heating and storage and then the growing of plants, in this case tomatoes and capsicums, in a greenhouse environment,” he told Landline. “It’s the totality of that system that makes it quite unique.”
AND Below:

What are the future megatrends all Australians need to know about?

5 September 2012, 6.45am AEST
Extract from:
AUTHOR Megan Clark Chief Executive Officer at CSIRO
The CSIRO is a founding partner of The Conversation. The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.
We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, UTAS, UWS and VU.
clip_image001Founding Partner of The Conversation.
Flickr/Tim Donnelly
What are the compelling economic, social, environmental, political and technological changes Australia must grapple with over the coming decades?
If hindsight is such a wonderful thing, surely foresight would be better. What if we could see what was coming at us and could position ourselves, our organisations and society to make the most of it?
In 2009 CSIRO asked itself this question and came up with a set of global megatrends. A megatrend is a particularly important pattern of social, economic and environmental activity that will change the way people live.
That 2009 megatrends foresighting work has proven valid and this week we are releasing an updated version, Our Future World 2012, which details six megatrends. These six megatrends unveil economic, social, environmental, political and technological change over coming decades.

Read the CSIRO’s Our Future World 2012 report here.

The megatrends are: “More from Less” – the decline in resource availability while demand is increasing; “Going going gone” which addresses the risk of biodiversity loss due to human activity; “The silk highway” meaning the world’s economic centre is shifting to Asia; “Forever young” where the ageing population is both an asset and a challenge; “Virtually here”; the impact of increased digital connectivity; and “Great expectations”, reflecting the human desire for more intense personal experiences.
The six megatrends all have impacts on how we innovate, what we focus on and how we optimise our efforts.
The centre of gravity is shifting to our region, economically and in a research and development sense. Australia can’t meet the level of investment of our regional neighbours but we can be smarter and more focused about bringing the best we have together. We know we cannot compete on sheer volume of investment but we can bring the very best that Australia has together and we can connect with the very best in the world to ensure our innovation is visible from Shanghai, London, Frankfurt, Jakarta and New York.
Australia’s National Innovation System needs to continue to build collaboration, cooperation and trust in order to remain competitive. University colleagues of mine such as Vice Chancellor of UNSW Fred Hilmer and Vice Chancellor of University of Melbourne Glyn Davis have also called for innovation in the sector, allowing increased differentiation and increasing research focus and industry engagement.
The barbed wire approach to managing research and educational institutions is thankfully putting itself into extinction. But it’s not happening quickly enough. We still see these behaviours and they can cripple our ability to solve problems. However, when we do collaborate we know from experience wonderful things happen.
No one person has sufficient knowledge to build and fly a Boeing 747 from Singapore to London. Nor would one person have all the knowledge and skill to create a sustainable aquaculture industry. We can only achieve these outcomes by taking one person’s ideas and through collaboration, connection and trust, adding them to the ideas of many other people.
Major breakthroughs of the 21st century will come from this successful mixing of ideas and disciplines.
For example a group of CSIRO scientists in Melbourne has recently been contracted by a not-for-profit organisation called PATH to produce antibodies that could pave the way for safe, affordable and effective vaccines against rotavirus, which is a major cause of fatal diarrhoea.
Each year around 2.2 million people die from diarrhoea and most of these are children in developing countries. The story of this research effort is one of collaboration, trust and sharing of ideas.
The antibodies were originally prepared at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. They will now be produced in at scale our recombinant protein production facility in Melbourne.
The facility is Australia’s only non-commercialised laboratory that can produce proteins on a large scale and was initially funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy program and the Victorian State Government.
There is more we need to do so that success examples like this become the norm. This is not about investing more but changing the way we invest and work. We must bring together the very best that Australia has to offer in our research institutions, universities, industry players and connect them nationally and globally to the very best in the world.
One researcher can make a breakthrough but to have a profound impact on the challenges that face this nation and humanity it takes a team, or if you want to build the next Silicon Valley it takes a whole ecosystem. There is no reason why, as we head into what is undoubtedly the Asian Century, that Australia should not be a source of excellence in the region, in science, research and innovation.
CSIRO Chief Executive Megan Clark will launch the CSIRO’s megatrends update, Our Future World 2012, at the National Press Club in Canberra today.
The Conversation’s special megatrends series starts tomorrow.

Biochar: Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate

For full detail:

History & Industry
The Paleoclimate Record shows that Agricultural-Geo-Engineering is responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. The unintended consequence, the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now realized these consequences and has developed a more comprehensive wisdom.

Wise land management, Afforestation and the Thermal Conversion of Biomass can build back our Soil Carbon. [1]  Pyrolysis, Gasification and Hydro-Thermal Carbonization are known biofuel technologies.                                                                                                           What is new are the concomitant benefits of biochars for Soil Carbon Sequestration; building soil biodiversity & nitrogen efficiency, for in situ remediation of toxic agents, and, as a feed supplement cutting the carbon foot print of livestock.

Modern systems are closed-loop with no significant emissions.                                            The general life cycle analysis is: every 1 ton of biomass yields 1/3 ton Biochar equal to 1 ton CO2 equivalent, plus biofuels equal to 1MWh exported electricity, so each energy cycle is 1/3 carbon negative.                                                                                                                   Cutting edge, third generation companies, aiming for drop-in fuels report that 1 ton of biomass yields 75 gallons of bio-gasoline and 1/3 Ton Biochar. [2].                                        Another pathway is production of Ammonia and Biochar from biomass, making Agriculture Fossil Free Fertilizer , [3] In combination; Farmers can be Fossil Carbon Free utilizing less than 3% of their fields.
Beyond Rectifying the Carbon Cycle: Biochar systems Integrate nutrient management, serving the same healing function for the Nitrogen Cycle and Phosphorous Cycle.
A 50% – 74% reduction of NH3 loss when composting [4], Ag manure char absorbs phosphorus for nutrient credit income, CHP, Biomass Crop & energy grants.                                       When carbon comes to account, as Carbon Farming in Australia has, another big credit. In southwestern Ohio, a facility will be drying 45,000 tons of dairy manure per year, producing 3,000 tons of High Phosphorus Biochar via oxygen-starved gasification. The equipment for this project is being installed as we speak, and the facility should be fully operational in October.
Biochar feed supplements attend to the Carbon “Hoof, Paw & Fin Prints” of animal husbandry. The fostering of intestinal Wee-Beasties leads to improved husbandry metrics that run the gamut; less mortality, increased feed conversion rates, general health and product quality.                                                                                                                         In Aquaculture, with species of indeterminate growth, in shrimp, fish & clams, a doubling in size. Switzerland has 50,000 chickens and thousands of cows under carbon feed protocol, eliminating chronic botulism and manure odors. A cascading use of Biochar from silage, to cow, to compost, to field, closing the loop of nutrient management while building soil carbon.
Working to integrate the many applications of Biochar for enteric health, for mine scarred lands, as an in situ bioremediation for a host of toxic agents & pesticides, in addition to carbon negative energy, has been the most rewarding work of my life, networking and collaborating with a host of organizations across the globe.                                                   My goal is total symbiotic integration of nutrients, carbon and energy by the husbandry of whole new orders and kingdoms of microbial life. To recruit the Wee-Beasties from numerous biomes allows nature to do the heavy lifting, to solve many dilemmas in our macro world. There is plenty of room at the bottom, and Biochar has provided the tools to explore this vast unseen realm.                                                                                                                 The Delinat Foundation, Carbon Terra and Black Carbon DK. in Europe and SuperStoneClean Biochar in Japan, are the leaders in these integrated protocols. [5]
The compounding soil benefits; reduced nitrogen loss & soil CO2e emissions and a 17% increased water efficiency are documented in trials across soil types and climates. BlueLeaf, in Canada, has nine different trials, over the last four years, Vineyards and universities across Europe for five years, Virginia Tech now in their seventh year, the Australians are heading into their eighth year in broad acre study. [6]
Economies at all scales: Local economic stimulus is at all scales of development, from the Global Clean Cook Stove Alliance, to base load manure systems, to industrial biomass power production. My heroes are the engineers without Borders who have promoted clean cook stoves, Pyrolytic and Gasifing stoves that burn any biomass cleanly and 41% more efficiently. No black-lung, no emphysema, no deforestation, all the while building soil carbon for continually sustainable yields.                                                                                                   Please look at the work of the Biomass Energy Foundation. At scale, replacement of three rocks in a pot, across Africa would have the health impact equivalent of curing malaria and AIDS combined. [7]
Beyond nutrient management, Biochar hold high value for the remediation of heavy metals, mine scarred lands and Brownfields. Biochar Solutions has been a pioneer in these applications. DuPont initiated trials after I shared with them the pertinent papers from the ISU conference. A 95% reduction of Mercury uptake into the food chain was achieved in vitro, after one year the in situ pilot study is currently showing a 50% reductions and climbing. This DuPont and Oak Ridge National Laboratory collaboration is now being expanded, when taken to full-scale, showing these promising results, we could be eating fish out of the Shenandoah River within the decade.


Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
1047 Dave Berry Rd. McGaheysville, VA. 22840
Skype; Erichj11 (under my address)
Technology Adviser;
Eco-technologies Group;
Chairman; Markets and Business Committee
2010 US Biochar Conference, at Iowa State University

Local thoughts on food, water & energy security


As we discussed, below are a few thoughts around the topics of water, food and energy.

1. Energy

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet when it comes to transitioning to a carbon constrained future. Although some will argue that there is no evidence of man made climate change, this is just one of the consequences associated with the increase of CO©ü within the atmosphere. The greater effect will be the acidification of the oceans and the associated breakdown of oceanographic food chains. This will be become more evident as we discuss food security.

There will need to be a suite of energy sources, including coal in the short term, and will be dependent on geographical locations. Fortunately for the The Bellarine  there is a large variety of energy sources available. Wind, tidal, waste to energy and PV solar are all viable small scale solutions, and with the Otway basin natural gas field and nearby Geothermal projects under development, the region could be self sufficient and even a net generator of energy. 

Nationally the creation of large scale solar thermal plant will be able to provide 24 hour/day base load power. Although this will require the will of both the people and politicians to make happen as it will be a large infrastructure investment.

2. Water

I think it may have been Mark Twain or WC Fields who said "Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over." Although we may have plenty today and the water authorities are saying that they have enough for the next five years, this is based on us getting average rain fall over that period. The climate models are predicting that South Eastern Australia will be overall dryer over the next ten year. This is also born out by the current state of the Southern Oscillation Index that has been negative for the past three months and is continuing on that trend and other makers that indicate we are on the boundary of an El Nino event.

We need to learn from the Israelis and recycle water for multiple reuse purposes. This means cascading its use, drinking / eating, washing / showering, flushing, watering, and done on a small to medium scale within the home or local community. Pumping it all the way to the Water Reclamation Plant and back again is simply a waste of energy resources. This could easily be demonstrated within development projects, however what we see currently is multimillion dollar centralised ¡®A¡¯ class plants being built in order to return the water to the estates many kilometres away.

Water will become a rare commodity and although I have talked generally about its recycle use on a local small scale there is an opportunity on The Bellarine to take advantage of the Black Rock WRP which current has an average influent of 55ML/day.                                       A reuse strategy needs to be developed with community consultation to establish the best method of water use. This may require changes to crop locations and types to take best  advantage of the resource.

3. Food

Food security is linked directly to the two previous topics, however ensuring financially viable crop production is difficult when considering the price at the farm gate regardless of a plentiful water supply. As around the Werribee area, consideration should be given to vegetable growth production to take advantage of recycled water availability. Across the combined regions and access to Avalon Airport we should be able to be self sufficient for a large variety of vegetables and develop an export market.

I have attached a WHO report on food trends for your review. It talks about “the proteins derived from fish, crustaceans and molluscs account for between 13.8% and 16.5% of the animal protein intake of the human population”. The region has an opportunity to set up high value niche markets sending fresh and processed shellfish produce to Asia while again being self sufficient. Mussels, abalone and scallops are all native to the region and are ideal high value products. I have my original files from the preliminary concepts for scallop aquaculture that I would be happy to share.

World fisheries are in decline and an international cooperative is required to address this issue. Wild fish restocking by nations could be the answer. Free range fish? (I am not sure you can solve this on The Bellarine)

Here, however is my concern for the medium term viability of the ocean. The increased atmospheric CO©ü is being sequested into the worlds oceans (Daltons law of partial pressure). This is in turn altering the ocean chemistry thus increasing the acidity. The increased acidity is impairing the ability of calcifying organisms to develop shell and plate calcium carbonate structures. Research within this area is on going, however if the trend continues there will be a break in the food chain that will be devastating to ocean food production. The consequences of this situation has not yet been fully realised. This is the most compelling case for move quickly to a carbon constrained economy.

It’s not all doom and gloom there is plenty we can do. Work with like minded, passionate people to educate others and develop strategies and set direction for the region. A university base research and development town with niche businesses in high quality produce, biomedical engineering and specialty materials on the doorstep of an international airport would be a good place to start.

Talk soon,   Steve


PS:   All comments welcome