Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Massive Summer Storm

At the end of the Rotary meeting in Hall last night and on the drive home, a major lightning storm was beginning and just before going to bed it was starting to rain heavily. As things got louder and louder we had to get up and have a look out the window to see what was going on. Golf ball sized hail was slamming onto the house and piling up on the ground! This morning we started to hear of the damage.

Apparently ANU got hit the worst. There was damage to 70 buildings on the campus, some of it quite extensive as in entire roofs caving in. My department has water damage and the office I just moved out of had the skylights cave in! Classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week and you can't even in get in to the buildings.

I cannot convey to you how surreal today has been. It is summer in Canberra and we just had a massive ice storm. It doesn't even snow in the winter!

The most appropriate bit of news is that John Howard is in Parliament today to discuss climate change...

For some pretty interesting media coverage of the event with storm footage see the following link:

Its actually starting to rain and hail again as I write this! Brian is due to be cycling home from work in about a half hour....

A few images to convey the scene. It may not seem strange to those of you in MN and OH especially but just remember, its been about 90 degrees the last few weeks.

An image from the Bureau of Meteorology showing just how hard Canberra got hit...

A scene from downtown....

Water at ANU...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hall Rotary

I spoke last night at the Rotary Club of Hall, one of Canberra's outer suburbs. Had a lovely evening once again, as we always do when visiting new clubs. Though I have to say that this one was distinctive in that my speech was met with varying responses. Usually people are right on board with my arguments but last night I got some interesting and direct comments expressing doubt about the reality of climate change. Climate change isn't even the topic of my speech - I discuss my background and research on educating for sustainability. But, certainly as the current hot topic, climate change is relevant. Perhaps I'm a bit sheltered these days but being in a scientific academic department most of the time, I forget that people even question this issue. Someone suggested that we must be cautious about our approach in case we are wrong about climate change and someone else suggested that the planet is always changing and why is this particular event of any more significance than any other change? I won't go into the extensive reasons here why I think these arguments are faulty (maybe I'll tackle that some other day or you could see An Inconvenient Truth which I think dispels the doubts of even the harshest critics). I will point out the fact that the human induced changes we are seeing today are on a scale completely beyond any other changes in history. We can gauge climate history pretty well from ice cores and tree rings and we are doing some serious damage to the atmosphere. Caution, I would argue, is necessary in order to prevent serious disruptions to ocean temperatures, agriculture, disease vectors, and weather patterns. Speaking of disruptions to weather patterns, see next post, Massive Summer Storm for one of the most surreal weather events I have ever experienced.
I was however, pleased that people freely shared their thoughts with me and had some interesting conversations afterwards as a result. In fact, one of the guys who was questioning the impacts of climate change is actually involved in developing a solar powered housing community because he sees it as a good business opportunity.

London Going Green

Well Minnesota is on the right track and now the mayor of London has declared that the city will attempt to slash its carbon emissions by 60 per cent within 20 years and is dedicating £47 million to the effort.

The article makes a good point, one that I've been stressing more and more over the last year, that many environmental issues can be addressed through simple changes in individual behaviour. Its the collective impact of all of our actions that leads to the environmental problems we are seeing today. Of course our political system needs a massive overhaul and industry needs to do its part as well. It is encouraging to me however, that people are starting to realize that we have human problems more than environmental problems, which are just a consequence of short-sighted or careless human action.

My favorite quote from the article by the mayor of London:

"All of us have a responsibility; actions taken at an individual level can have consequences that are unacceptable for society as a whole. Buying a gas-guzzling 4x4 vehicle is an 'individual choice' but it creates carbon emissions that contribute to global warming and harm everyone. It should be no more socially acceptable than to claim the right to dump rubbish in the street."

A nod to my lovely mother-in-law who just bought a Prius.... :)

Minnesota Commits to Renewables

"Minnesota moves to the head of the pack of states with renewable energy standards today with Governor Tim Pawlenty's signature on bipartisan legislation that sets a renewable energy requirement of 25 percent by 2025."

Also attempting to reduce use of fossil-fuel energy 15% by 2015. Much of this should come from ethanol and biomass which makes sense in a farming intensive state.

This legislation gives MN the strongest renewable energy requirement in the nation!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Murramarang Weekend

Had a lovely weekend camping on a south coast beach in Murramarang National Park. Here's Brian with our friends Sarah and Matt at our camp kitchen.

It was good to get away for the weekend because I've hardly felt like I've had a vacation even though I submitted my thesis two weeks ago. I've been catching up on life and laundry and cleaning and settling in to the new place. I did manage to hang up the hammock in the backyard and get some quality reading time in. Fiction that journal articles for once! And the annual Multi-Cultural Festival was last weekend so we got to hear some good music and eat good food so that was fun as well.

I am supposed to be starting on the new project mentioned in a previous post but I'm having trouble motivating myself to get started. Plus my wrist is hurting lately (not the one that was injured in the accident-that one is perfectly fine). My right wrist is experiencing some strain from my close relationship with my desktop in the last few weeks of the thesis. So that's not helping me want to go back to the desk....

I've been doing a few Rotary engagements as well now that I have a bit more time. Spoke at my host club last week and am speaking tonight at another local club.

Haven't had any photos of creepy crawlies or any critters lately so thought I would include a photo of a really cool spider that has taken up residence on our back patio. Its an orb weaver and it doesn't bite so we can be friends.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Master Jenn :)

It's been five weeks since we've been home from Tasmania and I've been glued to my computer for most of that time. All of that hard work has paid off and on Friday the 9th of February I submitted my master's thesis! As the result of one year's work, I am very proud of it! Now I am taking a one week holiday before I will start working for ANUgreen (the campus environmental management organization) on a project very closely related to my research. I'll be working on getting students more involved in hands-on environmental projects on campus and will be expanding the organic garden and planning events through the Sustainability Learning Community.

And as if studying and writing my thesis weren't enough to keep me busy, we found a new place and moved in the last month. It's in a great location and still very close to campus. It's furnished as well and near the local shops in a little suburb called Lyneham. It has been ridiculously hot which makes it all the more strange to hear about how cold its been recently back home. Thinking I may go and hang up my hammock in the back yard now...