Paper Cuts

Newspapers in Australia, the UK, Ireland and the USA have sacked hundreds of staff recently, and all are blaming the digital age – higher printing costs, reduced ‘hard-copy’ readership, and, therefore, reduced print advertising revenue. But is Homo digitalis really the culprit? Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism and ex-newspaper editor, thinks otherwise.

Whatever the reason, it’s making me mighty anxious. The journo in me is just downright teary, while my ecologist side is sad that the poor old Environment becomes an eco-blackmail pawn yet again.

Many people eulogise the benefits of reading news online –tablets and internet-friendly mobile phones make it so thrillingly easy (and oh, so trendy) to catch up with the news on the bus, on the toilet, or even hanging off a cliff face in Patagonia. Also, you’re “saving trees” by doing so! Continue reading

Our fractured future

This post started as an embryonic thought in my mind nearly a year ago. It’s about coal seam gas (CSG) mining and hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ – terms that are even more of a conversation-killer than the topic of my last post.

There is still a great deal of vagueness around the CSG industry, and I think the exploration companies prefer it that way.

Yet there is enough information out there if you look for it. I won’t list all the (reputable and rational) discussions of evidence that fracking or CSG mining is bad for the environment and bad for people – if you’re interested, they’re not hard to find. DeSmogBlog, Yale environment360 and Mother Jones are a good start. Also a must-see is the movie Gasland, by Josh Fox. Continue reading

Clean Out the Closet

I was reading about a study published last year that highlights the kind of scientific sleuthing that got me hooked on research in the first place.

A group of researchers sampled marine shoreline habitats across six continents and found that shorelines near densely-populated areas had higher levels of microplastic debris. This type of debris is not often considered in pollution debates, usually because we’re too caught up with the obvious Uglies like plastic shopping bags and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which I have discussed in ‘All Hail the Goddes Disposability’ (see also ‘A Ghost of an Idea’ and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’). Microplastic debris, on the other hand, includes tiny polyester or acrylic fibres that escape from their parent bodies through normal break-down processes … or from household laundry. Continue reading

Candlelit Carols

My favourite part of Christmas as a child was Christmas Eve. Christmas Day itself always tumbled by too quickly – a turbulent mix of torn wrapping paper, long distance car-sweat, swollen stomachs and heated tempers. In contrast, Christmas Eve was quiet, peaceful and candlelit – my family would sit around our decorated pine tree and sing carols with a little portable keyboard, enjoying my mother’s delightful fruitcake. I absolutely loved it.

The traditional carols hold so much more connotation and imagination between the notes than our modern day ‘pop carols’. And by ‘traditional’, I mean those that don’t talk about Santa Claus or our modern Christmas traditions of over-indulgence, over-spending and overwhelmed. Traditional carols are those that conjure up images of the true nature of Christmas. Continue reading

The Hare and the Tortoise

Æsop’s fable of the reckless, over-confident hare and the far-sighted tortoise is one of my favourites. For those of you who can’t remember it, the moral is that although the hare got going fast and almost reached the destination first, his cockiness got the better of him. As the hare took a pre-finish line nap, thinking he had the result in the bag, the tenacious tortoise, moving more slowly and methodically, plodded straight past him and over the finish line…proving that slow and steady wins the race.

These days we seem to have evolved into Hares. Always rushing around, jumping off the springboards of our rash desires without checking what we’re diving into, or what the consequences will be. What with work, meetings, worry, offspring-advancement activities and snatched coffee dates with our friends, we’re constantly on the move and racing against time…which incidentally seems to have sped up. But that’s another story. Continue reading

A Ghost of an Idea

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

– William Morris

There is so much STUFF in the world.  Once upon a time newspapers were printed once a week.  Magazines (or periodicals) were mostly available through the post by subscription, or a small amount of copies were sold at city newsstands. Clothes and shoes were made on demand, only when they were needed.  Milk was delivered only to customers that ordered it.  Gift-giving occasions (Christmas, birthdays, Mothers Day, Easter etc.) were more tradition and family-based than present-based, and one or two thoughtful, quality items were considered more worthy of a ‘gift’ than multiple, cheap and useless items. Continue reading

The Modern Nomad

Once upon a time, humans were nomadic.  Our belongings were limited to the skin wrapped around our hips, a weapon or tool or two, and maybe some animals, rugs or random pots thrown in too.  We roamed free through the forests and across the plains.  We didn’t have to be home by nightfall, we just slept under the stars, wherever we were.

Then we got sick of roaming and settled down, building walls around us to shut out the night…or shut ourselves in.  We began to collect things—furniture, clothes, books, pianos, fine china dishes, cushions and crystal glasses.  A home quickly changed from a safe place to pass the night and spend time with your family to a showroom of your life, full of advertisements of your wealth, status and style.  Furniture was once built to last generations, fine china dishes were family heirlooms and clothes came in two sets—Good and Everyday. Continue reading