by Ruth Hessey
posted 09/02/2017

Heat Waves – turtles, trump, trouble

loggerhead hatchling

This week as baby turtle hatchlings fried, and farmers buckled in the heatwave, we discussed how to stay cool, combat the heat island effect, and interpret the fiery debate about where our energy comes from, which erupted across the political and media landscape.

Scorched earth in the wake of the Trump Presidency’s latest shenanigans, felt close to home as temperatures climbed across Australia. Comedians around the world found satire made redundant by political reality. Over in a land where facts still matter, Sweden introduced a new climate law designed to ensure all future governments have a “credible climate policy”, and announced an ambitious target of achieving a net level of zero greenhouse emissions by 2045.

Up on Mon Repos Beach in Queensland, a whole generation of loggerhead turtle hatchlings, unable to pant, sweat or otherwise cool themselves, met death in the hot sand. Rangers, scientists and volunteers scrabbled to save uncooked hatchlings, erected shade cloth shelters and built new nests. Meanwhile in Moree, NSW, farmers battling a run of 30 degree days since Christmas, admitted they are keeping the aircon going in their utes so they can jump off the tractor for lifesaving breaks. They weren’t the only ones relying on air-con to make it through a day’s work. But this is just not sustainable. Air conditioners chew up power, add to greenhouse emissions, and push hot air back out into the environment. Even a small increase in temperature pushes up overall energy demand, which can lead to energy black outs when heat waves strike.


coogee bather 2

So it seemed like the perfect moment to get Tony Wood from the Grattan Institute on the line, to chat about whether Malcom Turnbull’s new passion for coal makes more sense than embracing a healthy renewables mix. Big energy generators such as AGL and Energy Australia have joined the chorus of scientists and environmentalists, warning that Turnbull’s “clean coal” plants will be more expensive to build and run than solar wind and gas, and will lead to higher electricity prices.  Analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that taxpayers will have to subsidise clean coal to make it viable. That’s because coal is a legacy technology, or as Fairfax columnist Ross Gittins called it, “a sunset industry”.

So why is the coalition government pursuing clean coal despite a warming planet and the ultimate cost of greenhouse gas emissions? To hear Tony Wood explain all of this and more, click here. And if you are worried about how green your power provider is, check out the TOTAL ENVIRONMENT CENTRE’s Green Electricity Guide.

Incidentally, another group of leading scientists, including Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty, published a paper in Nature Climate Change last week decrying the near total lack of funding for research into the health impacts of climate change. While $3.3 million was allocated by the NHMRC into studying the effects on wind farms on health, despite the fact that it’s own year long study found no evidence of a problem, the researchers warned that one of the major health issues of the century “has fallen through the cracks.” Read more here.

The recent beaching of a Cuvier’s beaked whale found stranded in shallow waters off the coast of Norway, brought tears to our eyes. This rare creature, whose diet should consist of squid and deep sea fish, was so emaciated, and in such pain, that wardens decided to euthanise the whale. Its stomach and intestines were later found completely plugged with plastic bags and packaging sporting Danish and English labels. How many sea creatures are suffering like this we don’t know, but it’s a crisis we must address. Not only is waste plastic wreaking havoc in the ocean, it is entering the human food chain via the fish we eat.  For all the facts, read this report from the Boomerang Alliance about an abatement plan for Australia’s marine ecosystems. There is so much we can do.

cuvierwhale stomach

One bit of good news we covered is the invention of an organic biodegradable “plastic” product range made from bananas, flower oil and corn by Indian company EnviGreen. The ingredients for the bags are sourced from local farmers in Bangalore. In a move which the Boomerang Alliance has been pushing Australian environment ministers to embrace, dozens of cities across India recently banned plastic shopping bags. Why can’t we? The Queensland government is currently asking for your input into their proposed ban on lightweight, single use plastic bags, to come into effect in 2018. You don’t have to live in Queensland to make a submission. Find out more here.

At 5.30pm we cheered up a bit and fielded a call from budding earth activist and dance floor diva Alphamama on her way back from Melbourne to launch her new single Stranger In Asia,  from her forthcoming EP Honey Fire. Pulling off to the side of the road, Alpha discussed her commitment to the planet, her recent experience visiting family in Indonesia, and female sexual empowerment. Quite a combo. You can find out more about Alphamama here.


rob stewart

Finally we addressed the recent tragic death of Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, 37, who has done more to halt the extinction of sharks than almost anyone else in the past 15 years. His 2006 film Sharkwater was the first mainstream documentary to expose the shark fin industry. Having swum with sharks since childhood, Stewart called for a major shift in our attitudes toward this extraordinary and ancient sea creature. In recent years Stewart had become a great friend and colleague of Captain Paul Watson who runs Sea Shepherd who called Stewart “a courageous and talented man of passion”. Stewart drowned after a day of deep diving off the Florida Keys. His latest film Sharkwater 2 Extinction, exposes the destruction of 150 million sharks every year for use in lipstick, petfood, fertiliser and even fast food. I met and interviewed Rob in 2007 and have never forgotten the intensity of his commitment to the ocean. His untimely demise is a great loss to the environment movement.

In his honour we played some ocean-inspired tracks including the hypnotic La Sirene from Laure Brise’s album Leaving Room; Crown a gorgeous piece featuring hang drum from Gabriel Messuti’s album Se7enchakras; and Lost Upon This Sea from Lily & Madeleine.


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