Climate Change Bill

Dear BEAM members

People power can make change happen. In 2008, the UK voted in favour of a Climate Change Act that was introduced by an Independent member of parliament.

As you know, on the 23rd of March, Zali Steggall will introduce the Climate Change Bill to Parliament and demand a conscience vote on the Bill.

To support Zali’s Bill, join the 74,000+ people who have already signed a petition that you will find on https://www.climateactnow.com.au/

In Nicholls, you also have a chance to influence change by writing to Damian Drum. As your representative, he has a duty to respond to his constituents’ demands to vote in support of Zali’s Bill.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider writing, emailing and/or phoning Damian Drum and demand that he vote in favour of this Bill. Let’s flood his office.

Use the text of this BEAM email and use it for your letter to Damian Drum 
Please forward this email to friends who vote in Nicholls.
You can contact him by:

Peter Lockyer
President
BEAM Mitchell Environment Group

The fires – humanity and science

This season’s bush fires have affected most people – some directly and many indirectly through personal connections or broader concerns for people, animals and the environment.  Reading Annemaree Docking’s article on her personal experiences with fire raised some memories of my past experiences with fires.  The risk of fire is escalating with the climate crisis, and we all – personally and collectively – need to decide how to respond.  And our responses, as Annemaree says, should be based on the best available evidence in these extra-ordinary times.

Our personal responses to the direct threat of fire will depend on the circumstances.  After 2009, I visited many fire-affected properties to support the recovery efforts of the landholders.  And heard many awful and amazing stories.  Before that fire, I had not fully realised how massive and overpowering such a fire could be.  After the fire, we decided that, in similar extreme conditions of ferocious hot winds blasting across the dry landscape, we would leave that morning (or night before) based on the forecast and not the imminent threat of fire.  Even though we only lived on the edge of a town, not in the forest, we did not want to take the risk. 

The Mickleham fire in 2014 may not have been as big and ferocious as the Black Saturday fire but it was big enough to spread widely across farmlands in the district and take a huge effort by fire crews and several days to quell.  18 houses were lost and – significantly – 16,000 livestock were killed.  Annemaree stayed and successfully saved her animals.  But could all the animals have been saved?  In 1978, a hot, fast-moving grass fire near Bairnsdale killed two people who were trying to save their livestock, and  I spent the following week assisting in the shooting of hundreds of badly burnt survivors of the more than 6000 sheep and cattle killed in that fire.  It is often impossible – and very risky – to stay and try to protect or move livestock in front of a fire.  But what an awful decision to have to make.

How do we – collectively – protect people and animals and assets from fire.  This is already being hotly debated with some simplistic solutions around the reduction of fuel in the forests.  To some extent, this is a problem of our own making – more and more people are moving out of cities into forested areas – very attractive places to live but also very dangerous in summer.

So do we burn – and graze and mulch and trample – the forests to reduce fuel loads?  From my readings on this, the evidence is very confusing.  Are controlled burns effective in moderating fires and making them easier to control?  Hard to imagine in extreme crown fires in forests.  But also, how much does the regular burning of forests affects the biodiversity and ecological functions of forests and even possibly increase fire risks with the regrowth? 

The Royal Commission after the 2009 Black Saturday fires recommended that 5% of crown land be burnt every year.  This 5% rule resulted in inappropriate burns in sensitive and remote country, at least in part because it was more possible to get to 5% within the verynarrow window for controllable burns in Spring and Autumn and with the limited resources available to do the burns. 

But a real concern from ecologists was about the impact of regular burns on forest environments.  Regular fire is good in some ecosystems such as grasslands and heathlands), but is disastrous in others.  For example, three fires from 2003-2013 near Mt Feathertop has wiped out a lot of species including Alpine Ash that didn’t have time to recover between burns.  And fuel reduction burns are often very hot.  There was a lot of damage in Tallarook Flora Reserve and the Cobaws (including big loss of old trees) after “controlled” burns and it will take a long time if ever for full recovery.  In some forests, there is a period of higher fuel loads as trees and shrubs come back more densely in the first phase of recovery. 

But other scientists – and popular demand from some sectors – are saying that we need to burn even more.  So lots of different opinions from people coming from different directions and in different situations.  No one rule will work in all bushland environments.  And what is the purpose of fuel reduction burns – to reduce fire intensity and spread (but with climate change and extreme weathers, how much can we really do?) or protect people and assets with more strategic burns?

One of my favorite parts of Victoria are the alpine areas.  And alpine grazing is one of those issues that come up after fires.  Annemaree deferred to “greater minds” on this topic, but I want to state my position more strongly.  As with climate change denial, inconvenient science is easily dismissed by many people with opposing interests.  Grazing has caused a lot of damage to fragile ecosystems in the alps, particularly the wonderful bogs and waterways.  From 1939, exclusion plots on the High Plains were studied to assess the long-term impacts of grazing.  Despite the evidence, it took until after fires in 2003 and a lot of polarised debate to halt alpine grazing – and there have been efforts to reintroduce grazing since then. 

“Alpine grazing reduces blazing” was a popular car sticker but where was the evidence?  In December 2002, I walked through mobs of cattle, cow dung and polluted streams around the Tawonga Huts on the High Plains.  One month later, it was all burnt.  Dick Williams and others looked at the wider evidence, and found that grazing did not stop blazing.  (Williams, R. J., Wahren, C., Bradstock, R. A., & Müller, W. J. (2006). Does alpine grazing reduce blazing? A landscape test of a widely-held hypothesis. Austral Ecology, 31(8), 925-936. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2006.01655.x.).  So fuel reduction (if any) from grazing had little effect, and I think the catchment and biodiversity values of the alpine areas are a far more important consideration, especially with the serious impacts predicted for climate change on alpine ecosystems and species.  I wouldn’t want to go back to that grazing debate again in this world of populist politics rather than earlier evidence-based decision making that finally excluded grazing in the alps.

One final concern.  After 2009, many areas of the central highland forests were logged before “dead” or damaged trees were no longer useful as timber.  Instead of allowing natural recovery from the surviving plants and the seed bank released after the fire, the ground was disturbed by machinery and by the removal of a significant component of the habitat – the large trees.  Work by David Lindenmayer and others have shown that there are many losses after two successive major disturbances, with increased runoff from disturbed ground, loss of soil nutrients, and impacts on the recovery of plants and animals (including some significant threatened species).  Conservation groups are trying to persuade the government to halt logging in forests burnt this season.  But on March 1st …. Logging is due to start in fire-ravaged forests this week. It’s the last thing our wildlife needs

I am very thankful that this summer has ended with a whimper, but we need to be alert and support all efforts to protect our bushland environments against hasty, ill-informed and populist policies.

Peter Mitchell

4th March 2020

2019 in Review – Climate Protests and You

2019 has been a bleak year with the worsening climate crisis and proof that we are also facing a major extinction crisis comparable with the great extinction episodes of the distant past.  And we have already begun a very frightening fire season.

“Climate change is super-charging our natural disaster risks. I wish we were wrong, but we’re not.” – former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner, Greg Mullins.

It has also been a bleak year due to the failure of politicians in Australia and around the world to even acknowledge the crisis we are in.  The federal election set the worst agenda we could have had. 

But it has also been a great year for people – particularly young people – strongly voicing their concerns about the future.  On Friday 20th September more than 100,000 people joined the Climate Strike in Melbourne and hundreds of thousands around the world. 

The wonderful thing about the Strike is that it was led by young students – with flair and enthusiasm.  Just look at the photos here. As several signs pointed out, they were too young to vote for their future (some of the kids led chants with voices that hadn’t broken).  But the decisions made by todays failing leaders will have awful consequences for them, not the lucky generations of parents and grandparents.  BEAM was there.  But, as a grandparent and after seeing all those great young people, I had mixed feelings of exhilaration and deep grief for them all.  We in Australia have been the luckiest generation there ever has been – and probably ever will be.  We owe them something – and not just spend the inheritance as we have been doing.

Photos:  Melbourne September 20 #ClimateStrike photos_credit: Julian Meehan

Since then, Extinction Rebellion has been a strong voice for action on climate, run by young people – and many older supporters – across the world  The protesters are demanding governments tell the truth about the climate and ecological crises we are now in, act now and listen to their citizens on climate and ecological justice. 

Sadly – and predictably given the current political climate among both major parties – the response to all this has been abuse and threats.  Can’t they see that they are the extremists trying to shut down democracy rather than listening to the voices of science and the voices of people around the world.  

Many people feel very strongly about this.  500 people went on hunger strikes around the world on 19th November, including Daniel Bleakley in Melbourne – see articles on ABC and The Age.  On Saturday 29th, I dropped by;  Daniel was at the doctors and not well after 11 days.  He finished his strike that day, along with 500 other hunger strikers around the world – although at least one person in USA is continuing their strike (see here).   We applaud their heroic actions – but hope their health is not affected as we need young people with their strength of purpose.  Whether they have an impact on politicians is far from certain.

Many other groups are also calling on government to act now, set out emissions targets and strengthen not weaken environmental laws, and provide the resources that this crisis needs to reverse the current trajectories of two degrees plus warming and massive extinctions.  Rallies were held at Parliament House for biodiversity on 28th November with a follow-up student strike for climate action on 29th November.

What can we do?  BEAM’s mailbox is full of warnings and requests from the many groups we are directly linked to or indirectly through our shared philosophies and concern.  In the last couple of weeks, for example:  

  • Victorian National Parks Association and Environment Victoria sent us the notices of Nature for Life Rally and the Student Strike for Climate Action that happened last week (sadly we missed getting this newsletter out in time).
  • Wilderness Society is asking “Are we eating deforestation” and seeking support to put pressure on where the supermarkets obtain their meat – see here.
  • Environment Victoria is asking us to spread the word on how  Energy Australia (as owners of the very polluting Yallourn Power Station) is undermining climate action in Victoria – see here.
  • Environment Victoria is also asking for action from us to persuade the Victorian State Government to set strong climate targets.  They are due to decide on targets by March.  See here and here.
  • The Climate Council is calling for everyone to sign a petition NOW calling on the Australian Government to acknowledge the link between climate change and the catastrophic fire conditions – see here.
  • Environmental Justice Australia is asking for everyone to contact their State and Federal ministers about their actions (or inaction) on national air pollution standards – see here.
  • GetUp and the Greens also regularly seek support for their initiatives around climate and extinction – check out their websites.

If you want to help but don’t have time to act, you can still keep informed through these groups, support them financially, and add your voice to the growing swell of concerned voices across the world.

Peter Mitchell

Seymour Show and the Myths of Recycling

11th to 17th November was National Recycling Week.  You could be excused for missing this one among all the emails – thanks to Cr David Atkinson for the prompt. 

As part of the week, Planet Ark explored the myths around recycling.  It is worth reading – here – about what is and what is not recycled. 

It’s not simple, as we found at the Seymour Show:

Results from surveys of the recycling bins at Seymour Show confirmed that Seymour people do use recycling bins if they are available.

Local group BEAM Mitchell Environment Group took on the challenge for increasing recycling at the show and divert re-usable materials from landfill. 

The group worked with the A&P Society, Mitchell Shire’s Regional Waste and Resource Recovery Education Officer, Grace Davis-Williams, and Cleanaway.  Ten recycling bins and one skip were provided for the show, with recycling “caps” and signs on the bins.

Sorted rubbish in the recycling skip. Just having the skip available to stall-holders diverted a lot of waste from landfill.

To encourage show visitors to recycle their waste correctly, BEAM volunteers then very publicly sorted the contents of the recycling bins. 

Most of the waste in the bins was cans, plastic and glass bottles, and cardboard, all fine for recycling.  There was clearly confusion about what else can be recycled.  In particular, BEAM volunteers found lots of coffee cups and straws – these are not recyclable. 

Small amounts of carelessly discarded food scraps and soggy tissues were put in the waste bins – they  are good for compost worms but contaminate recycling bins and affect recycling processes.

In comparison, waste bins without a nearby recycling bin did contain a lot of recyclable material.

At the end of the day, a full skip bin of recyclables was collected – that’s a lot of waste that didn’t get sent to landfill.

Based on waste volumes generated at last year’s show, this great initiative by BEAM achieved roughly 50% diversion of waste from landfill!

BEAM had several other themes at the stall in the green shed – and has even bigger plans for the Show in 2020.

BEAM at the Seymour Show, October 2019

Bonza bush dance to celebrate 30 years!

A great time was had by all at the 30th anniversary of both BEAM and Landcare. It was fantastic to catch up with some long time supporters and welcome new ones. While bookings were low until the very last minute, 40-50 people turned up to share food and dance. It was the perfect number of people for the space, as we all needed some room to move on the dance floor.

The Guinness Bros bush band was brilliant! If you didn’t make it to this event, make sure you do for the next one. We will be sure to organise another before too long.

Bulk Food Scheme news- online ordering system now live!

We have been busy finishing our new BEAM Bulk Foods Scheme Online Store, including testing the ordering system and updating the catalogue. There will be a number of changes with this new system.

To access the store will first need to become a site member of the food eXchange, which is a one off request. You sign in by going to www.exchangefood.org/shop. You will be asked to provide your email address and a password. Please ensure you familiarise yourself with the new BFS TERMS OF USE & INSTRUCTIONS

The main change is that all BFS members will need to place their own individual order online and pay for their items via direct deposit to BEAM. If you are part of a Pod you will need to invite all your POD participants to become site members as well by forwarding this email. You will be given your own Pod Code at checkout to access the discount. There will be a combined pod order sheet created which can be provided to the pod administrator to know who is involved. 

The other change is that prices will appear higher as there is no longer a levy or freight to add at the end. They have been incorporated into the item price. There will however be a discount at checkout, depending on whether you’re a Divvy Day Helper (10%) or part of a Pod (15%). Those who don’t help won’t receive a discount.

Please bear with us during the initial trial period to see how things work, there could be a few hiccups which we can’t predict until we make a start. We might have to refine the pricing too. If you notice anomalies please let us know. 

The collection end will remain the same and assistance by members to deliver empty containers or collect filled containers from the Bulk Foods HQ is still very much appreciated.

If you have any queries or have know of others who should be informed of this change please get in touch. Next order closes on 23 October and the next divvy up day will be held on 13 November 2019.

Seymour Show a success!

BEAM again had an impressive display at the Seymour Show this year, in the back end of the Green Shed (a point of some contention) shared with Landcare, Mitchell Shire’s Recycling unit and the Catchment Management Authority publications (nothing contentious with all of that).

The design for our display was around “the paddock tree”, and we had a couple of fairly large dead trees as a focal point. This worked well and we plan to do this again- big and bold.

Our live garden display and natives display (for sale) gave us a green edge. The Bulk Foods display turned out well (see the photo).

BEAM took our recycling message out into the public arena. This was the first Show that has had recycling bins, and we were keen to see how diligent Seymour showgoers were at recycling. So….we upended bins around the place on a blue tarp, and with a aloud hailer and some sorters….we found a lot of coffee cups (not able to be recycled because of the plastic inner film) and little contamination. Grace the Waste Management officer from MSC was impressed.

WE think recycling has some distance to travel, but it was a good start. And we had some fun into the bargain.

Sustainable House Day – Seymour walking tour

10am – Sunday 15th September 2019

Bookings via Eventbrite here

Come and join us for a fantastic morning learning first hand how several houses in the Seymour area have retrofitted their properties to make them more comfortable and more sustainable.

This a casual walk around Seymour looking at 4 older Houses and various energy efficient upgrade options explored.

Start at 10.00am    at 20 Heywood Crescent Seymour.   Allow a 3 hour walk in all.

House 1.

A 3 bedroom timber dwelling with poor orientation, but a good opportunity. The Living Room was re-located to gain winter solar access, and a Trombe Wall added for a passive boost. The existing roof, walls and part of the floor were insulated. Water tank, solar water heating, and a rooftop PV was added.

20 Heywood Crescent at the front gate

 

House 2.

A 2 bedroom timber dwelling with the back facing north. A north-facing Living Room on a mass floor was added, with provision for underfloor solar air heating. Water tanks, good low water native garden with intermixed vegetables.

House 3.

No work has commenced on this newly purchased timber dwelling with some orientation challenges. This property invites an on-the-spot design workshop…what is possible?

House 4.

12 months on from last year when only a rooftop PV system with battery storage was installed. A Victorian timber cottage with recent Upgrade works to the Kitchen + Dining + Bathroom have since been completed.  

 

We will be invited for soup and toast after House 4 inspection and discussion.

Hand-out summary notes will be provided.