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Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. A missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill.   Plenty of room for street trees here

A while ago a reader wrote & asked what I thought of the NSW government’s plan to plant 5-million new trees across Sydney by 2030.  I was surprised that I had missed such a great commitment from the government & pleased that finally, something was happening to address Sydney’s canopy.

The issue is back in the news today, so I thought I would write about it for the people like me who missed this news.

Climate change is coming with a vengeance.  You just have to feel today’s temperature at a record-breaking 35-degrees for the third time this week in mid-Autumn to know something is going on & every year it gets hotter. Even the trees are getting confused putting on a second flowering when they are supposed to be shedding their leaves.

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative will cost $37.5-million over four years & will increase Sydney’s existing tree canopy from 16.8% to 40% over the next 12-years.  The former Marrickville LGA’s canopy was documented as “poor” by 202020 Vision at 16.3%.  Leichardt LGA was documented as 20.3%, & Ashfield as 19.8%.  

You just have to cross Parramatta Road to Leichhardt & Annandale to see a massive difference in the canopy compared to Marrickville, Tempe, Sydenham & St Peters.  The suburbs of Petersham, Camperdown & Stanmore fare much better & to my mind, have a much nicer streetscape because of the street trees. Even then, the comparison to streetscapes in the former Leichhardt LGA makes these suburbs look tree poor.  Dulwich Hill is somewhere in the middle depending on where you are.

Taking our canopy from 16.3% to 40% by 2030 will mean a substantial increase in livability for residents, though I do have concerns about how this will be managed with the coming over-development for Marrickville & Dulwich Hill.

Development generally means losing mature trees & token trees as a replacement.  Let’s hope the government forces developers to leave space for big canopy trees & not take the route of removing trees in one place & saying it is okay to plant trees somewhere else.  This is a terribly poor result for the community & especially wildlife.

This would be a good time to force developers to set their high-rise buildings back 4-5 metres to allow trees to be planted at the street front instead of building right to the footpath.  Trees in the front of set-back buildings could look so much better & be much healthier for the residents of these buildings.  I would be happy to give developers extra height to allow space at the front for trees & to avoid the tunnel effect of overbearing buildings.

380,000 trees will need to be planted by local councils across Sydney every year for 12-years to achieve the target & to minimize the urban heat island effect. 

I would love to know how many new trees Inner West Council will need to plant every year to meet this target. The improved canopy cover is expected to reduce temperatures when the sun is at its hottest by approximately 5-degrees Celsius.  That doesn’t sound much, but stand under a shady tree on a hot summer’s day & you will instantly notice how much cooler & pleasant this is. We will have people being neighbourly again & not trapped inside with the air-conditioning. This will be a good thing for community relations.

In 2017 the Inner West Council said they planted 1,000 trees across the municipality.  While I am pleased for any new tree planted, I thought that was a low number for what was, until recently, three municipalities.  They did not say where the trees were planted, so we have no idea whether each former municipality got one-third each or Balmain & Leichhardt lucked out with the largest number of new trees planted. Who knows?  You can’t blame anyone for wondering these things when there is poor information given.

I estimate that the Inner West Council will be required to plant more than three times that number every year from now on.  Perhaps, this will encourage council to include the community in tree planting, as happens elsewhere across the globe.  If the residents help plant the trees, there is a lesser chance that these will be vandalized.

The community will come to understand why trees are necessary & how these new street trees will improve their quality of life, their health, the value of their home & lessen their power bills.

You just have to see the work done by Blacktown City Council’s Cool Streets project to see how their community went from choosing small stature street trees to choosing a mixture of medium to tall trees.  They made the huge change because they learnt about the benefits to their health & their wallet.  Of course, there is always a chance of a roaming vandal, but hopefully, these people get caught up in the tree education and decide to vandalise inanimate objects (or their own home) instead of public trees.

The NSW government also plans to give away 15,000 trees to people who are building homes in new land release areas in Western Sydney.  This is a very good thing, but I wonder where they will find space to plant them. Having seen new estates, the blocks are almost all covered by the building’s footprint.   There also needs to be means to check that these trees have actually been planted.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said, “Planting this many trees across Sydney is equivalent to taking about 355,000 cars off the road each year.”

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative is part of the NSW Government’s Open Spaces package at a cost of $290 million.

  • $100-million will be to secure green space,
  • $20-million will be to build & renovate up to 200 playgrounds.
  • $30-million will be to create 81 school ovals & playgrounds for public use during school holidays.   I have concerns about using playgrounds as public green space. I may write about this on another occasion.

Marrickville streetscape. There was more concrete behind me.

Sitting in the shade at Steel Park

Sitting in the shade at Steel Park

If you have watched or listened to the news of late you will know that a massive heatwave is expected tomorrow Friday continuing  through Saturday & Sunday.  We have had excessive heat all week, but the weather to come is concerning the experts.

“The Bureau of Meteorology says a severe heatwave is moving through the southern parts of South Australia and much of Victoria, while spreading further east into New South Wales’ coastal regions and south-west Queensland.”  http://ab.co/2kpo3ay

Heatwaves can kill.  Babies, young children, older people & sick people are most at risk, but really, no-one is immune to being struck by heatstroke.  Those with kidney disease & diabetes, people taking medication (diuretics & beta blockers), people with alcohol or other drug misuse problems, pregnant & breastfeeding woman, people who are overweight & tourists from cooler climates are deemed especially at risk.

The following are some ways to help manage the heat –

  • It may be obvious, but stay inside. We have all seen someone running in sweltering midday heat.
  • Draw the curtains & close the windows. Opening windows may not help unless you are getting a cool breeze.
  • Run a bath of lukewarm water & get in & out as needed.
  • Cool showers can also help lower body temperature.
  • Eat light food.
  • Drink lots of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose non-synthetic clothing. Wet your clothes, wear a wet towel or a wet sarong.
  • A wet washer on your head can help too.
  • Sit down & soak your feet into a container of cold water.

Other actions –

  • Bring pets inside & ensure they have easy access to drinking water.
  • Put water out in numerous places for the wildlife.
  • Please check on your neighbour, especially if they live alone.
  • If you have air-conditioning, invite neighbours, family, friends over who don’t.
  • Never leave kids, adults or pets in hot cars. The temperature inside a parked car can rise rapidly to 30-40°C hotter than outside.
  • If it is too hot at home & the following are not far away, go to air-conditioned buildings like the local library, a community centre, the cinema or shopping malls.

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heat rash, muscle cramps, headache & fainting.  It can be helped with rest, cooling down & good hydration, including electrolytes.     The internet has many DIY electrolyte replacement drink recipes.

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can shut down the body’s ability to sweat. From this point, it is a short progression to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. Symptoms include dry skin, high temperature, confusion & if allowed to progress, unconsciousness & perhaps death.

Taking the heat seriously & being prepared can help save your life.

Friday  10th February 2017 – The temperature in my courtyard is a hefty 46 degrees celsius at 3:45pm.

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015.   Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015. Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

The Inner West Council planted a street tree in a pocket of grass in Myrtle Street Marrickville.  A tree was much needed at this location because it is bare & dare I say ugly.

I was very happy they planted at this location.  Then the tree had several branches snapped off.   The tree grew more branches & the tree was vandalised again.  I started to doubt that this was a random act.

The tree’s desire to live was strong, so it grew some more & started to look strong & lush.

I went by the tree today & its leaves are dry & crisp.  Its thin branches are still alive showing that whatever was done to this poor tree happened recently.

Unfortunately, this tree is dying.  To me it appears that some sort of chemical was fed to it to make sure this determined tree would not rise up again.

It is beyond my comprehension why people rob the community & the wildlife of street trees.   One tree may not matter much, but we have an urban forest classified as ‘poor’ in terms of percentage of canopy cover.  We need trees just to break even in terms of the norm in Sydney.  We also need trees for good public health & we desperately need trees in terms of climate change.

We need more trees in Marrickville & throughout the old Marrickville municipality.  We need bigger, more shade-producing trees.

2016 was the third year in a row of record-breaking heat.  “The average global temperature last year [2016] reached about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era, which has brought us extremely close to the 1.5°C target established at the historical December 2015 Paris climate summit.”

1.1°C may not seem much, but you only have to have been in Sydney this past month to experience what a heatwave feels like.  Heatwaves & extreme weather events are all part of this global rise in temperature.  The Arctic is the warmest on record, sea ice is melting at alarming speed, coral reefs are bleaching, the oceans are heating up….  There is more, but you get the picture.

Now here is where is gets really interesting.   “Australia is especially at risk as we are 8°C hotter than the world average” http://bit.ly/2kfCKAD

We cannot keep relying on air-conditioning.  One day there will be too many of us using too much power for the system to cope with & we won’t be able to turn on the air-con.  Then people will die.  Perhaps thousands of people.  Death in numbers like this has happened many times before.

We won’t be able to easily acclimatise to the heat either.   The following is part of a summary of research titled, ‘Limitations to Thermoregulation and Acclimatization Challenge Human Adaptation to Global Warming’ published in 2015.   They knew then that it will be difficult for the human race to adapt.   Thousands of us are likely to die in each heatwave event.  That will be a devastating experience for many.

Human thermoregulation and acclimatization are core components of the human coping mechanism for withstanding variations in environmental heat exposure. Amidst growing recognition that curtailing global warming to less than two degrees is becoming increasing improbable, human survival will require increasing reliance on these mechanisms. The projected several fold increase in extreme heat events suggests we need to recalibrate health protection policies and ratchet up adaptation efforts.”   You can read the whole paper here for free – http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/7/8034

I hope the Inner West Council plant another tree at this location.   Tree vandals cannot be the deciders on how the rest of the community live, their health, the level of pollution they live with, their ability to have a beautiful suburb, how cool their streets are or whether the wildlife can have habitat & food.  The culture must change.  The streets belong to all.

As I post this I am listening to the weather forecast on the TV news.  They are forecasting a heatwave two days from now on Tuesday.   That will be the third heatwave for Sydney in 2017 & it is only January.

Very large rain garden in  Alice Lane Newtown

A very large rain garden in Alice Lane Newtown. This new development also planted numerous trees.  

Just published research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science called, Future increases in extreme precipitation exceed observed scaling rates’ (http://go.nature.com/2iFybub) This research says we can expect “strong increases in rainfall during extreme precipitation events in Australia as a result of global warming.”

A 2°C rise in global average temperatures, is expected to cause an 11.3% to 30% intensification in rainfall from extreme precipitation events in Australia.  Other areas will be more susceptible to drought.

The researchers looked at the likely outcomes of a 4°C rise in global temperature & found “a projected increase in rainfall for extreme events of 22-60%.”  A 4°C rise in global temperature “is a likely outcome based on current increases in the rate of carbon emissions.”  See – http://bit.ly/2jlUfMs

More intense rainfall extremes will likely cause a problem with stormwater, so it is just not an issue of sea-level rise, but also more rain, which has to go somewhere.

Nature did not expect that our cities & suburbs would be covered in vast amounts of concrete & other impermeable surfaces like roofs & roads.  If rain water cannot seep into the ground, it will flow over the hard surfaces following the slope of the land until it reaches an area where it collects.  Many of our streets do this naturally & become hazardous areas during a heavy downpour.  Imagine what these will become during “intense rainfall extremes.”

In the Inner West, our sewerage / stormwater infrastructure is aging & “at capacity” – or so I once read in a Marrickville Council paper on the subject.  The level of new development, predominantly high-rise, will significantly add to this load, so I guess we need to expect more flooding.

Inner West Council (nee Marrickville Council) has done quite a bit of work building swales & raingardens around the Cooks River.   Once water is in the swale or raingarden, it can seep into the ground naturally.  This process cleans it of pollutants such as oil, grease, particulate matter, litter, heavy metals & fertilizers before the water reaches the river or replenishes groundwater stores.

Until I read about it I had never considered that litter tossed in the street at Newtown or Enmore could reach the Cooks River & I am sure most people don’t think about or know of this either.

Council has also been slowly creating verge gardens for a number of years.  These not only cool the streets & add beauty & pockets of habitat, they also help capture stormwater.

Things we can do to help with stormwater management –

  • Choose to have as much ground surface available on our property. This means not creating large expanses of concrete driveways or concreting our back & front gardens.  All water that runs off your property causes a problem somewhere else.
  • Depave any unnecessary concrete in your property. Every bit of depaving helps.
  • We can agree to a street tree out front if Council asks us & look after it if one is planted. Trees are very good at capturing the rain & holding it in the canopy. Rainwater either slowly drips to the ground or is absorbed into the atmosphere by the process of evapotranspiration.
  • Create & look after a verge garden.
  • Plant tree/s & add living plants to everywhere we can – ground, roofs & walls.

With all the development happening or about to start across Sydney, local councils & planning bodies would do well to insist that developers retain as many mature trees as possible on development sites.  Instead of installing underground pipes to take stormwater from the site to the collective sewerage system, it would be better if they did not over develop the site & planted more big canopy trees & other vegetation as these would help slow down some of the stormwater.  Adding a raingarden would be good too.

Our city is changing rapidly.  Climate change is happening & expected to worsen.  How well we live & our quality of life very much depends on how we create our environment.   We will be much better off if we depave, if we plant medium to large growth trees & if we add living plants to everywhere we can – ground, roofs & walls.  We need to start to plant to keep cool & to help manage stormwater.

I do not understand why new high-rise developments are allowed to build right to the front footpath.  Not only is this unsightly, but it also subjects residents of the building to all the health issues connected with particulate matter & other air pollutants from the passing traffic below.  It would be far nicer & healthier for everyone if a 2-5 metre space (depending on the size of the property) were left to plant shrubs, trees & other vegetation.

I do not understand why new high-rise developments are allowed to build right to the front footpath. Not only is this unsightly, but it also subjects residents of the building to all the terrible & significant health issues connected with particulate matter & other air pollutants from the passing traffic below. It would be far nicer & healthier for everyone if a 2-5 metre space (depending on the size of the property) were left between the front footpath & the building to plant shrubs, trees & other vegetation. 

HIPPOCH

I’ve just discovered a great learning resource for anyone interested in climate change, that I think will be especially useful for teachers.

Called HIPPOCH, it explores the ‘HIPPO phenomena.’  That is habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population & overharvesting & breaks this information into short lessons.

At the moment there is only one short course – Climate Change.  This consists of a 5-minute video created by NASA explaining climate change.  Then individual lessons –

  1. What is global warming
  2. Climatic effects of climate change.
  3. Ecological effects of climate change &
  4. Ecosystems & climate change.

Each lesson comes with full information, easily adaptable for teachers.  There are maps, diagrams & short videos.  I read a lot about climate change, but came across information that was new to me.

Best of all, it is a free resource available to anyone over the internet.  See – http://www.hippoch.com

Stunning Eucalyptus street tree in Hurlstone Park.  Trees will become immensely important as climate change progresses.

Stunning Eucalyptus street tree in Hurlstone Park. Trees will become immensely important as climate change progresses.

In Australia this day could pass you by because there isn’t much happening.

What I think is important to think about on this Earth Day is climate change because it is moving at an unprecedented rate with scientists thinking that it is too fast for ecosystems & humans to cope & adapt.

And it’s the rate of change that’s the big problem here. Human activity is profoundly changing the planet in a geologic blink of an eye—which is why scientists are worried that everything from migrating birds to fracturing ice sheets to coastal cities won’t have time to adapt.  If climate change were slow—playing out over millennia, as in times past—it wouldn’t be much of a problem.  Instead, in our world, climate change is happening very, very fast. As the United Nations’ leading climate diplomat said on Tuesday after seeing the latest NOAA data, the most recent record is a “stark reminder that we have no time to lose.”  http://slate.me/1NEJD2z

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration said that, “for the 11th straight month, the globe was record warm” with March 2016 the warmest March in recorded climate history.

Scientists from Australia’s James Cook University, University of Queensland & the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch Program found that sea temperatures are rising so fast that corals cannot cope leading to severe bleaching.  See – http://bit.ly/1QrjhB1   The Great Barrier Reef is in real trouble no matter Greg Hunt the current Environment Minister’s optimism.

93% of the of the reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef have experienced bleaching.  “…with as many as 81% of reefs north of Port Douglas experiencing severe bleaching.”  “We’ve never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before. In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once.” See – http://bit.ly/1Ql3Nyr

Loomis Reef, about 270km north of Cairns is dying right now. See – http://bit.ly/26gGOjz

Coral reefs in the northern hemisphere are also experiencing bleaching.  See – http://bit.ly/1T2uw4L  It is important to note that about one billion people rely on coral reefs for their food.

The NASA-supported National Snow & Ice Data Center says that Arctic sea ice “appears to have reached a record low wintertime maximum extent for the second year in a row….with air temperatures up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above average at the edges of the ice pack where sea ice is thin.”  See – http://go.nasa.gov/1V542Fr

In March 2015 atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa were 401.52ppm.  Just a year later in March 2016 they had risen to 404.83ppm.  In April 10th 2016 atmospheric CO2 levels reached 409.29ppm.  I remember when 350ppm was deemed the upper safe limit of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.  That seems like a dream now.

Watch this short video if you want to see the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 800,000 years ago until January 2014.  http://bit.ly/1VKqJyU

“Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.” ~ NASA

The Australian Museum says “An average temperature rise of 2°C may result in the estimated extinction of 20-50 per cent of the world’s species by 2030.  If this current trend continues, the figure could reach 50-60 per cent by 2100.”  See – http://bit.ly/1TmfJEz  Stop reading & imagine that just for a moment.

Finally, what is Australia doing about it?  The Climate Change Performance Index for 2016 is an interesting read.  Unfortunately, it shows Australia’s performance is “very poor.”  We rank last at number 59 for OECD member countries & third last at 59/61 countries for the Climate Change Performance Index performance rating.

So do we sit back & wait for the end to come?  I don’t think so.  Even though the bulk of emissions in Australia are caused by industry, we can create change by voting with our wallet & taking simple actions to lower our carbon footprint.

I know these lists can be boring & most of us know what we need to do, but how many of us do this all time time as a matter of course.  I don’t & a reminder serves me well.  Here are some things you can do –

  • Buy only sustainable products & ignore those that are not or have excess & unnecessary packaging.
  • Stop using plastic bags & carry your own bags to the shops.
  • Change to low energy light bulbs.
  • Switch off lights when you leave the room.
  • Turn off appliances when not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. It’s just as good.
  • Try not to waste water.
  • Install a water-saving showerhead.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Wash up or use the dishwasher only when full.
  • Choose energy efficient appliances.
  • Hang your washing out to dry instead of using the dryer.
  • Install solar power when you can afford it.
  • Install a solar-powered hot water system as well.
  • Reduce air leaks to seal in heat or cool air in your home.
  • Insulate your home.
  • Draw the curtains to keep out the hot sun.
  • Choose your energy company wisely.
  • Reuse & recycle as much as possible.
  • Compost what you can.
  • Eat less meat.
  • Buy locally produced food.
  • Walk, use public transport or cycle as much as you can.
  • Drive smoothly when in your car.
  • Keep your car tyres fully pumped up.
  • Travel locally without getting on a plane.
  • Clean your air-conditioning filter regularly.
  • Use air-conditioning & heating only when necessary & set the thermostat a couple of degrees higher for cooling and a couple for degrees lower for heating. A jumper or a quilt helps one to keep warm.
  • Start a verge garden to help cool the street.
  • Plant a tree or shrub on your property if you have the room.
  • Get involved in local events to green up the area.
  • Lobby local councils to force developers to design green apartment buildings.
  • Lobby local councils to significantly increase the urban forest.
  • Lobby our governments to take meaningful action on climate change.

Remember, every change or action we take we are doing it for future generations.  Our children, grandchildren & their children deserve an earth that is hospitable.  We cannot be the last generations that failed to do something.  Life on earth is far too important to ignore.  The planet can survive without human beings, but it would be far better if we did not push the situation so far that we caused our own extinction.

Kookaburra in the grounds of Newington College Stanmore.

Kookaburra in the grounds of Newington College Stanmore.

 

A Galah - Nearly half of 200 Australian species are threatened by climate change.

A Galah – Nearly half of 200 Australian species are threatened by climate change.

Warning: This could be depressing reading for some. I have posted about this report as I believe climate change is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore, even if what the scientists & researchers predict is scary.

The US Global Change Research Program has released ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A scientific Assessment,’ which looks at how climate change is affecting human health & the changes that may happen in the future. Reading through this document it is easy to see how the changes can be similar for Australia.

There is a lot of information in this document, so I have cherry-picked what I found particularly interesting. I recommend reading the whole document. See – https://health2016.globalchange.gov

“Climate change can …. affect human health in two main ways:
• by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors;
• by creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places where they have not previously occurred.”

The researchers believe heat-related deaths will increase, especially in children, the elderly & economically disadvantaged groups.

“Days that are hotter than usual in the summer or colder than usual in the winter are both associated with increased illness and death. Mortality effects are observed even for small differences from seasonal average temperatures.”

The researchers expect “…an increase of thousands to tens of thousands of premature heat-related deaths”, however, tolerance to extreme heat is expected with the increased use of air conditioning.  So we will be stuck indoors & hoping the power stays on without a problem.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that March 2016 was the hottest March on record & the 2nd March was Australia’s hottest day on record. Two records broken in the same month!

February 2016 was the hottest month globally & 2015 the hottest year since records started. Keeping with breaking records, today was the hottest April day in Sydney since records began with temperatures reaching 36.6C in Penrith & 34.2 in Sydney CBD. See – http://bit.ly/1N87KX6

Increases in outdoor air pollutants are expected (ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide & fine particulate matter). Just released research has shown that any type of particulate matter is bad for human health. See http://bit.ly/1pVLiuM

Indoor air quality is expected to deteriorate. “Poor air quality, whether outdoors or indoors, can negatively affect the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems.”

Wildfires are expected to increase, again negatively impacting air quality & “increasing the risk of premature death and adverse chronic and acute cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes.” Bushfires are a major threat in Australia. Asthma & allergic illnesses are expected to increase.

Increases in extreme weather events are expected such as drought, flooding the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires & hurricanes. We can expect similar in Australia.

“Climate change is expected to alter the geographic and seasonal distributions of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases.”   These are mosquitoes, ticks & viruses like Malaria & Dengue Fever. Some may be new, some may resurface & their impact will be up to the human population in how they control them, as well as how well they protect themselves.

Across most of the United States & I would assume the same for Australia, we can expect waterborne diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa, harmful algae, human-produced chemicals & through “ingestion, inhalation, or direct contact with contaminated drinking or recreational water and through consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish.”

“Increases in some extreme weather events and storm surges will increase the risk that infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater will fail due to either damage or exceedance of system capacity, especially in areas with aging infrastructure.” A couple of years ago I read that Marrickville municipality’s aging stormwater & sewerage infrastructure is at capacity & this is before the significant increase in population planned.

The recent report ‘Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System’ found that “climate change is very likely to affect global, regional, and local food security by disrupting food availability, decreasing access to food, and making utilization more difficult.”  See – http://1.usa.gov/1OxfV3c  So we will be hot & hungry.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide reduces the concentrations of protein and essential minerals in most plant species affecting food staples such as wheat, rice & potatoes. Rising sea temperatures is expected to increase mercury levels in seafood.

“Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidality. Other consequences include effects on the everyday life, perceptions, and experiences of individuals and communities attempting to understand and respond appropriately to climate change and its implications.”

Think PSTD as a result of the Brisbane floods. “People whose households were directly impacted by flooding had a decrease in perceived overall health, along with increases in psychological distress, decreased sleep quality and probable PTSD. Residents were also more likely to increase usage of both tobacco and alcohol after flooding.” See – http://eprints.qut.edu.au/50883/

“… populations of concern, include those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.” That’s a lot of the community.

As I interpret it, you have a better chance at managing & adapting to climate change if you are a young adult, have no health issues or disabilities, are not Indigenous or an immigrant, don’t work outdoors, have a secure & sufficient income & lastly, not pregnant.

In reality it is the big industries that cause the bulk of the carbon output. Research by Richard Heede titled ‘Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010’ found that “the climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age.”  See –  http://bit.ly/1gCaHA0
& http://bit.ly/1nuungL

This may be pretty shocking & somewhat overwhelming, but we as individuals can make changes to our lifestyle choices that have a significant impact, particularly if enough of us do it.

Australia’s level of consumption & ecological footprint needs 4.8 planet Earths. We are ahead of the United States of America who need just 3.9 planet Earths. See – http://bbc.in/1Sk4oE5   Today 6th April 2016 the resident population of Australia is projected to be 24,037,142, while the USA started 2016 with a population of 323,572,160 almost 13.5 times greater than Australia.

The bottom line is that human beings cannot keep on living as though we have infinite resources without getting an enormous payback from the planet & unfortunately that payback is at its minimum, lots of suffering for people, & at its worse, partial or full extinction & I am not including non-human species here. We have to wonder whether we are actually destroying that which keeps us alive.

To end on a positive note, I believe that we can stop runaway climate change, but we all need to work together & start now.

Ascrete road surface in Cecilia Street Marrickville.  I've never inderstood why Marrickville Council has not planted a tree in this island in this very wide intersection or in the very large area of footpath in partially visible in the foreground.

Ascrete road surface in Cecilia Street Marrickville. 

Something interesting is happening in Cecilia Street Marrickville, a short street off Petersham Road directly opposite the Marrickville Town Hall. Marrickville Council has covered the road surface with ‘Ascrete,’ a solar reflecting road surface with the aim to reduce the urban heat island effect in this street.

Monash University, working through Marrickville Council’s ‘Water Sensitive Cities’ partnership, took temperature measurements over one-week in January 2016. The City Of Sydney & Canada Bay Council are also trialing the product.

Ascrete road surface - a closer look

Ascrete road surface  – a closer look

Climate stations were still attached to poles on both sides of the road when I last went a couple of weeks ago.

“Resealing Cecilia Street with Ascrete pavement cost approximately $90 per m² (finished product, for a project sized 810m²).” http://bit.ly/1XW2dZu

As a road surface it looks good. If the product is deemed effective, it will be a positive approach to combating the urban heat island effect. We have so many hard surfaces in Marrickville municipality, with much of them being roads.  It is well known that dark surfaces & asphalt roads collect & retain heat. Any surface that reflects heat & does not retain it will help keep our environment cooler & livable.

One of two climate stations in Cecilia Street Marrickville

One of two climate stations in Cecilia Street Marrickville

The Cooks River Valley Association is once again holding their ‘Floating Candles’ event to celebrate Earth Hour.

Earth Hour was started in 2007 in Sydney with people turning off their lights for one hour. Twelve months later it became a global event.

In 2016, Earth Hour in Australia will celebrate the places we love that make our outdoor lifestyle and the Aussie way of life so great: our breathtaking beaches, forests, reefs, national parks, snow-capped mountains, rivers and farmland which uniquely distinguish Australia as the “lucky country. Yet these iconic places are under threat from rising temperatures and more extreme weather. Small changes to our climate as a result of increased carbon pollution are messing up the delicate balance of nature that we enjoy so much.” https://earthhour.org.au/

The Cooks River Valley Association will be holding Earth Hour in Kendrick Park Tempe & local group ‘The Hungry Trio’ will be playing live jazz.

You are asked to bring chairs or blankets, a torch & a paper boat, plus your picnic dinner. I’d recommend some mosquito repellent also. You can also bring your own paper boat, which will be dipped in wax to make it waterproof. Candles to go into your paper boat will be supplied.

The River Canoe Club will be out on the water to collect the paper boats after the event, so the boats will not be left to add more pollution to our river.

WHERE: Kendrick Park Tempe.

WHEN: this coming Saturday 19th March 2016.

TIME: 6pm to 8.30pm.

COST: Gold coin donation.

PARKING: There is parking in Kendrick Park, but not much, so either ride your bicycle or park in the Tempe Railway Station car park & walk down the path to Kendrick Park or in Holbeach Avenue Tempe & cross the Princes Highway at the lights.

Make your own paper boat - easy

Make your own paper boat – easy

Marrickville streetscape.  There was more concrete behind me.

Marrickville streetscape – photo taken last week. There was more concrete behind me.

The news has been very tree-orientated in the last few days with Greg Hunt the Federal Environment Minister announcing that the government will have a vision for improved urban tree coverage within 18-months. See – http://bit.ly/1KvzEuO

The federal government’s plan for cities is to increase the urban canopy every decade to 2050 to “reduce heat within city environments and improve health outcomes.”

“Green cities — cities with high levels of trees, foliage and green spaces — provide enormous benefits to their residents. Increasing urban canopy coverage decreases heat, which improves health and quality of life.”

Finally the urban canopy is being acknowledged as a health issue!  Recent research has found an increase in respiratory & cardiac illness with more fatal cardiac arrests in areas with a poor canopy. Add increased depression & obesity & you have an unhealthy, unhappy community, which ultimately has a cost on all of the community.

Unless there is a change of culture, I believe these problems will only increase with the current trend of high-rise housing with little or no green space or access to peaceful green space, as many of our parks are being transformed into entertainment areas.  Therefore, an Australia-wide initiative driven by the federal government to increase the urban forest canopy can only be applauded. We can have high-rise & green space. Green walls & green roofs can be incorporated into new designs just as easily as a pool for example.

The federal government’s announcement might be alarming for those state governments which are removing trees at a fierce rate in the push for development.  In Sydney alone 400 trees, many of them large Fig trees that are iconic to Sydney are being removed in Randwick for the eastern suburbs light rail project. This is despite Randwick Council saying that the light rail line can travel the same route without removing the trees. A whopping 760 trees will be removed along the entire light rail route.

The NSW government’s response to criticism about the tree loss has been that eight new trees will be planted for every tree removed. Sounds good, but I will watch with interest at what species of tree is planted, how many survive & what the canopy looks like in a decade. I highly doubt the canopy will ever look like it did in the beginning of December 2015.

Even closer to Marrickville LGA is Sydney Park at St Peters where 350 trees are being removed to establish a construction depot for the WestConnex Motorway.  See – http://bit.ly/1OpHg63.  It seems that trees & green spaces are fair game for development, even when there are other options. Bushland at Wolli Creek is also threatened for WestConnex. The most expedient & cheapest way is to remove trees, yet the impact of doing so has far reaching consequences on both the community & the wildlife.

Then there is the 10/50 Code that allows for any tree to be removed within 10-metres of a home & remove underlying vegetation within 50-metres of a home without seeking approval because of bushfire risk. The North Shore & Pittwater areas of Sydney have been losing trees like they have no meaning.  The 10/50 Code offers a giant loophole for landowners to remove trees for any reason they like & according to Lane Cove Council, bushfire risk in the area is minimal. Still their urban forest has been decimated.

Globally 2015 was the hottest year since records started. 2011 to 2015 have been the hottest 5-year period world-wide since records started.  Sydney is expected to be like living in Rockhampton in subtropical Queensland by the turn of the century. See – http://bit.ly/1DM40tk Therefore, what is planted also needs to be taken into consideration if local councils want the trees to survive more than a few years.

Part of greening our cities, which also includes suburbs, requires a culture-shift of the community itself. Many areas of Sydney are defined by their trees – the North Shore, Pittwater, Eastwood area & Sutherland Shire as examples. Then there are suburbs with few trees, both public & private.

I took this photo in Bexley today.  This was one of a number of other street trees pruned like this.

I took this photo today in Bexley. This street tree has negligible amenity, except for the person who pruned it.  It adds no benefit to the wider community or to managing climate change

I think it may be a battle for a while until the prevailing attitude towards trees changes. To change public perception of trees, the government will need to embark on a strong multi-media education program. Twice in the past week I passed individuals in Marrickville who were casually pruning street trees into small stumps with no canopy.   That they do this in broad daylight shows that they believe that it is their right to do so & that they have little care or no conception that the street tree belongs to the whole community.

With luck, tree vandalism will become a rare occurrence, street trees will be planted in better conditions & the community will embrace the care of the tree by watering it while it is establishing & also during dry periods.

What will be wonderful in my opinion is that large canopy trees will become the norm because it is these trees that provide the most benefit & utility in cooling the streets & also in carbon sequestration.  It is also these types of trees that the federal government is talking about. I will be very pleased to see spindly street trees only used in spaces where there is no room for anything larger.

I will also enjoy the resultant beauty along our streetscapes when trees become more of a feature than buildings & where landscaping is used more often than concrete. Green walls & green roofs will be wonderful as well.

Lastly, greening our suburbs will bring wildlife in & support wildlife already here. Instead of the constant noise of traffic & planes, we will listen to white noise of bird song during the day & crickets & frogs at dusk. I know this to be true because the simple addition of some native trees & an under-storey has brought much wildlife to out place, whereas it was almost bereft when we moved in.

We have to change as individuals & as communities. Local Councils need to change as well. Much needs to be tossed out of current tree policies if they do not support increasing the canopy or the tree species chosen & placement does little to lower the urban heat island effect.  I suspect local councils will rapidly get on board with federal government directives, but I fear some in the community may find it hard to embrace an environment full of trees. We all have much to gain from a greener environment, from large canopy trees, to areas of under-storey filled with shrubs & plants & grasses & from being able to walk around without dashing from patch of shade to patch of shade.

Climate change will demand that everyone cooperates with the greening of our cities or we will suffer, cause our community to suffer & make it unlivable for future generations.

 

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