Showing posts with label grandma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grandma. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stick to your knitting

"Stick to your knitting" is good advice for modern distracted minds. When we stick to our knitting, we mind our own business and stay on task.

In Australia, Knitting Nannas Against Gas are minding the business of farming women and focusing their efforts in a campaign against the Coal Seam Gas wells that are damaging Australia's farmland. A convoy of women (calling themselves Knitting Nannas Against Gas) is visiting Queensland farming properties where gas wells and pipelines cross the countryside. At one farm they say:
They talk about not making judgements until you've walked a mile in someone's boots. Celia Makay doesn't have a lot, and certainly not shoes to spare. Today, Nannas and others walked a mile in the unnatural mud of the CSG pipeline dividing her property. I tremble with indignation.
A few days ago, I wrote about macho climate activists with visible tattoos and quoted Bill Clinton's call for salt-of-the-earth working men to stand up for renewable energy. Strong and energetic men are a powerful force in any community, and once they are roused to action they can move mountains.

Women have a different kind of power that is just as effective. When those patient women who knit intricate clothes, shawls, blankets and toys for their loved ones are roused to action, we REALLY take note. It takes a lot to stir our Nannas to hit the campaign trail.

Knitting Grandma by Antonia Lanik-Gabanek

Each of the 'tribes' that make up our community – macho workers, loving Nannas, students, tech geeks, policy wonks, minorities, parents, educators, hobbyists/club members and more – has its own style. Climate activism and environmental protection needs all of these different styles, from Knitting Nannas to Climate Haka and all the hybrids in between.

So, ask yourself, what is YOUR tribe? What is your style of activism? Who will you team up with to counter the lobbying dollars of the fossil fuel incumbents?

It is not our grandmothers' weather any more, fossil fuels will be stranded assets, and our governments need to hear from all the tribes in society.


UPDATE: 20 February 2013. Knitting Nannas had a big win this week when the State government announced new restrictions on CSG.  The new rules will protect homes and some agricultural activities, but the Nannas won't give up till the rules also protect water.


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here's a recent snippet.

The US Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank has signed an agreement with South Africa's Industrial Development Corp.  pledging $2 billion in finance for solar, wind and other clean-energy projects that use U.S. technologies products and services. South Africa has set a target to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and by 42% by 2025.   Source: SustainableBusiness.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Not my grandmother's weather

Grandma Blanche

When my Grandma Blanche was 70 years old, she came to visit me in North Queensland. She lived all her life in the coal mining villages and towns of Country Durham in the north of England. She was entirely used to the grey skies and bleak streetscapes of mining villages pictured in films like Billy Elliot and Brassed Off.


You can probably tell from her piled-up blonde hair and magenta lace dress that Grandma Blanche was not your usual storybook grandma. She had an appetite for life.

As you'd expect for somone who was a teenager in England in WWI, Grandma found North Queensland wonderfully strange and exotic. 

Ingham is in the tropics at latitude 18 S which is about the same distance from the equator as Jamaica. It sits in the fertile Herbert River valley where sugar cane is the main crop. We showed her around the local sights – the cane fields, the river and the cemetery, famous for its elaborate Italian family graves.

Ingham cemetery

My friend Ann and I took her along with us when the young men from the Sugar Mill invited us to a Champagne and Chicken Breakfast.  (It *was* the 1970s!).  After making merry on champagne and chicken and being very rude about one young man's brand new Holden Monaro, we drove home through the strange green light thrown by towering tropical storm clouds.

Just as we got home, large splats of rain started to pelt down, as big as eggs. We ran for the house – laughing, wet and a bit tipsy.

Then the heavens opened in a mighty downpour. Thunder crashed overhead and lightning zagged everywhere. We were glad to be indoors, safe from the deafening sound-and-light show. Grandma was a bit quiet.

Like most tropical thunderstorms, this one soon passed and sunlight sparkled on a wet world.

Then Grandma asked questions, and we realised that in all her seventy years she had never seen anything like it. We tried to get our heads around the different world she lived in. A world without thunder storms. She knew the quiet mystery of English snowstorms but she only knew of thunder storms from books and movies.

I think of my grandmother when I read scientists' predictions for future climate.
If we were to ... continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

Just as I had to work to get my head around the idea that someone could live their whole life without experiencing thunderstorms, so I also have to work to envision the inevitable climate change future. It's not a theory, it is a direct consequence of burning fossil fuels.

The coal mines of Country Durham fueled the Industrial Revolution. My Grandma lived opposite the first-ever passenger railway station. My ancestors dug that coal and worked on the world's first railroads.

Durham's coal mines are closed now because the coal has been used up. We are staring at a situation where working coalmines all over the world will need to close in order to reduce carbon emissions.

It is 25 years since Grandma Blanche died, and already world weather is not the weather she grew up with. If we don't reduce carbon emissions, Grandma Blanche's descendents in County Durham won't have to travel half-way around the world to experience tropical thunderstorms. They'll get them at home, and the tropics will be uninhabitable.

As James Hansen says,
The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Who to believe? Grandma or NASA?

I grew up in Queensland, the tropical State in Australia's north east. Apart from sugar cane, macadamia nuts, mangos and pawpaw, Queensland is famous for its distinctive houses, called Queenslanders. These timber houses emerged in the 1800s, influenced by the bungalows that were common in India (one of the world's oldest civilisations).

Quite a number of British Raj types chose to retire to Australia rather than go back to damp and dreary Britain, and they brought this tropical housing style with them. Here, it was interpreted in a uniquely Queensland way so that the more elaborate examples have fancy painted lattice or iron lacework.

The houses I grew up in had the four distinctive features of the typical Queenslander:
  • Wide verandahs for shade and sheltered outdoor living spaces
  • Lifted off the ground to allow cool breezes to circulate
  • Timber construction which allows the building to cool at night
  • High pitched metal roofs – the metal was reflective and cooled quickly at night

I remember lying in bed at night listening to the house creak and crack as it adjusted to cooler nightime temperatures. It was a friendly sound. And, oh! the secret adventures we had in the cool dark spaces under the house. Here's a poem about my sister's house.

Queenslanders were built from the 1800s through to the 1920s when Californian bungalows influenced the classic Queenslander. The climate-friendly features still prevailed.

After WWII, houses got wonderfully modern and all four climate-friendly features were ditched. Brick replaced timber, verandahs and window awnings were old-fashioned, houses were built on concrete slabs, and roofs became fashionably coloured. Increasingly, air-conditioning replaced ceiling fans.

All this came flooding back to me when I saw this Climate Progress article about an initiative in New York to paint roofs white.
A NASA survey of New York City’s rooftops last July showed that dark, heat-absorbing rooftops were up to 42 degrees F hotter than white rooftops. And that difference in heat can make a big difference in on-site energy use; painting a roof white can reduce air conditioning demand as much as 20 percent.
I slapped my head and stomped around the house for a few minutes, muttering,
We're going to hell in a handbasket! What have we come to that we need the Big-Bertha-gun-scientists at NASA to tell us to paint our roofs white?
It's not rocket science. It's common sense.

In Grandma's day, we listened to the traditional wisdom of our elders and made some sensible decisions. Now we get rocket scientists to tell us what to do (and then a whole bunch of people diss it anyway).

After I calmed down a bit, I took heart from a recent resurgence of the vernacular Queenslander house style. Lots of builders now offer Queenslander designs. You can even buy kit homes (exported world wide).

Here in New South Wales we don't build Queenslanders, but 12 years ago the State government implemented BASIX (Building Sustainability Index) to require all new dwellings and renovations to have climate-friendly features like insulation, window shades, and, yes, pale roofs. Roofing manufacturers now specify how their products comply with BASIX colour classifications.

NASA was not involved. All it took was dedication and commitment from a bunch of bureaucrats in the Department of Planning. Go bureaucrats! Grandma is proud of you!