Having kittens

It is an embarrassingly long time since my last post but a large part of the reason is that I was busy doing other good things, so I don’t feel quite so bad about the gap as I would otherwise have done. My major project was setting up the website for Kittens for the Reef, a cute video which I think everyone should watch:

Kittens for the Reef was launched on May 31 by one of its stars, Dr Charlie Veron (Fluffy couldn’t make it) at Townsville’s Eco-fiesta, an annual event which brings together all sorts of greenies. I attended and enjoyed it, as I have in previous years.

There is usually a new gadget or idea which catches my attention more than the others, and this year it was a cleverly designed and engineered portable solar power system from SolairForce. As their brochure (pdf) says:

The Solairforce PPS is essentially a Solar charged battery system with a pure sine wave inverter which is portable and able to be used in a variety of applications. It is able to be charged via solar or a mains battery charger and has a deep cycle battery storage component. The Solairforce PPS has 12v DC, 240v AC and USB capabilities.

But that sells the engineering short. Everything except the panels sits snugly in a weatherproof, waterproof plastic chest that looks like a heavy-duty Esky, with air vents on each end and a row of weatherproof outlets on the front.

When it comes to applications, the brochure is much better:

The Solairforce PPS has a wide variety of applications which include but are not limited to:

  • Off Grid system able to be connected to domestic houses to save buying grid power
  • UPS system for computers and servers
  • Emergency power (including medical devices)
  • Remote area power supply?
  • Camping , RV’S, Caravans
  • Tradesmen and builders on job sites
  • Disaster relief?
  • Boating
  • Mining, underground or confined spaces
  • Power supply for transportable buildings

I have bolded the applications in which I think it is going to be particularly valuable and, of these, disaster relief is the stand-out. MSF, Red Cross, Oxfam, etc, please take note!  The developer doesn’t have a full web site devoted to the system but is on Facebook.

Postcard Art auction

artworks on wall
Some of the artwork to be auctioned on Friday evening

North Queensland Conservation Council has a Postcard Art auction coming up soon – this Friday evening, in fact. The venue is the Umbrella Studio, 482 Flinders St, Townsville.

There are 130 works on offer, from perhaps 30 artists including Marion Gaemers, Jo Lankester, Bernadette Boscacci, Gai Copeman and Jan Hynes. The only guidelines were “postcard size” and a connection to the environment, so there is something for every taste.

It starts at 7 pm but you might want to get there a bit earlier to choose the works you want to bid for!

Fish print
Laura Castell (mixed media)
watercolour
Alan Junior: Gabul the great carpet python takes on the corporations

Vote for the environment

My focus here on Green Path is the environment, both as something endlessly fascinating and as something worth protecting. I try to stay away from politics but it’s hard to remain silent during an election campaign so here’s a round-up of news and comment, beginning with local action.

Electoral activism, local and national

Vote for the ReefFight for the Reef is keeping the news flowing on FB and encouraging everyone to use their “Vote for the Reef” logo (left) as a social-media profile picture for the duration of the campaign.

GetUp! and The Wilderness Society Queensland are campaigning vigorously but Wildlife Queensland was still, unfortunately, in holiday mode when last I checked.

Local candidates explain their environmental policies

NQCC  (find them on Facebook)  is hosting Environment and the Election forums in two of our local electorates as follows:

  • Townsville
    Tuesday 20 January at 19:00
    Townsville Yacht Club, 1 Plume Street, City
  • Mundingburra
    Wednesday 21 January at 19:00
    Jubilee Bowls Club, 13 Burdekin Street, Mundingburra
  • A planned forum in Thuringowa for Thursday 22 January has been cancelled.

Save-Solar-TsvThere is also a forum organised by the Australian Solar Council, at which candidates and other politicians will present their parties’ positions on solar power. It runs from 6 to 8 pm on Thursday 22 January; click on the thumbnail for more details.

Cairns readers may like to get along to CAFNEC’s Reef Hour Election Special to meet local candidates, while their blog post, Our Great Barrier Reef is an election issue, is relevant to all of us.

Media

The Brisbane Times came out with an excellent overview of the key election issues on Jan 7:

Queensland Election 2015: The state of play

… If there is a uniform swing of 8 per cent, Cook, Townsville, held by John Hathaway (4.8 per cent) and Thuringowa, held by the LNP’s Sam Cox also near Townsville (6.6 per cent) are under siege.

If the swing against the LNP in North Queensland is higher than 8 per cent, Barron River on the northern outskirts of Cairns (9.5 per cent), held by Michael Trout and Local Government Minister David Crisafulli’s Townsville-based seat of Mundingburra (10.2 per cent) could also be in trouble.

Local campaigns influence voter outcomes more effectively in regional area and pundits expect the swing against the LNP to be lower in North Queensland than in South East Queensland. …

Most pundits expect the swing against the LNP will be higher in South East Queensland – where the LNP has 14 seats with a margin of less than 8 per cent – than in North Queensland.

But that is without considering how the environmental issue will affect results. A hard-hitting article in The Guardian makes up for that:

The Queensland election campaign might well turn on three issues: the environment, bikies and privatisation. On all three, the Newman government has polarised Queensland voters and put policy daylight between it and the Labor opposition. …

Environment

Campbell Newman’s regulatory reforms in favour of large mining corporations – most notably the removal of most people’s legal right to object to mining developments – go further than even the excesses of the Bjelke-Petersen white-shoe era, the veteran environmental activist Drew Hutton has argued …

It seems possible to me that the LNP’s Reef-trashing policies will attract enough opposition up here, where the Reef is central to our identities and to tourism employment, to make the swing greater than the state average.

Vote Compass is an ABC initiative. A questionnaire ascertains your own opinions and the software behind it compares them with the stated policies of the parties.

The primary result is a neat little chart placing you and the parties on a grid (social liberal-conservative graphed against economic left-right; more detail here, where I described it during the last federal election campaign) so that you can see which parties’ policies you’re best aligned with. There will be few surprises for most politically literate people but I must admit that I was surprised to find that the Katter Party was closer to Labor and the Greens than to the LNP.

The secondary result is that the ABC acquires masses of high-quality survey data (e.g. 30 000 respondents in the first day) which will contribute to accurate news about the campaign as it develops.

Introducing the North Queensland Conservation Council

Six months ago I resigned from Reef HQ over GBRMPA’s failure to stand up to government and protect the Reef from the miners. At the time I declared (a bit pretentiously, I know, but I was dramatising a point) that I wanted to, “take my skills, my knowledge and my undiminished passion for the environment to groups which are genuinely committed to minimising and mitigating damage to the environment,” and after a couple of months I started helping out at North Queensland Conservation Council because their aims and needs were the best fit with my priorities and skills. 

NQCC describes itself as “the voice for the environment in North Queensland.”  It was established in 1974 as a not-for-profit incorporated association with a broad mandate to endeavour to protect the “land, waters and atmosphere” of the region bounded by Cardwell and Bowen to the north and south, the Northern Territory border to the west and the Coral Sea to the east.

NQCC is an umbrella group, aiming to support smaller, often single-issue, local organisations at state level. (The region has a surprisingly large number of such small groups. There’s a list of them here but I’m sure it’s still incomplete; if you can add to it, please let me or the NQCC know.) Their main focus recently has been Abbot Point, reef dumping and, by extension, Galilee Basin coal.

screenshot of nqcc site
The NQCC site, 2014 edition

I have spent most of my time with NQCC working on their website. It was already a WordPress site like Green Path, which made the job easier for me, but had been somewhat neglected since being set up a couple of years ago. That’s a common problem with organisational websites, by the way. Most people seem to think of them as books – publish and forget – but they are much more like magazines, requiring a flow of new content and regular review of older content.

The redesign is now essentially complete but there is always more to do. My latest project is to add a wider variety of header photographs. If you have any suitable photos, as per nqcc.org.au/photo-credits/, please send them in!

North Queensland Conservation Council shares one trivial incidental advantage with Reef HQ: my easiest route home from both of them is along Queens Road so my collection of photos from the Ross Creek parkland has continued to grow; see my previous post for recent examples.