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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 –

1.  In a move to be proud of Chinese officials have ordered that barren hills be painted green to give the impression of trees. “This [painting hills into green] is the most advanced experience in our country. We learned it from the internet & then decided to do it.” Follow-up reports by Chinese media have found that it is quite a popular practice in some mountainous areas in Fujian province to use green paint to ‘reforest’ hills.” Sorry there is no photo.

I wholly recommend having a look at award-winning 2009 photos taken by Lu Guang – Pollution in China.  I think it’s the best example I have ever seen of why we need to care for the environment.  We are so lucky to live in Australia.

Lichen grows on a Casuarina

2. Progress Energy intend to chop down hundreds of large, old trees in the Seagate neighborhood in Wilmington US.  Trees targeted are those that might grow taller than 3.5-metres (12 feet) & are within 7.6-metre on either side of the power lines.  Trees have been living within this 152-metre strip since 1972, but times have changed. I find it interesting that with global warming comes the knowledge that we need to plant more trees, yet there is so much tree removal happening because of ‘new ways’ of doing things.   I wonder whether it is due to a fear that when global warming gets worse, companies will be prevented from removing trees & want to get in before any restrictions happen.

4. A recently published global study, Drought-induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000-2009 has shown that CO2 uptake by the world’s forest has declined. “It diminishes hopes that global warming can be seriously slowed down by the mass planting of trees in carbon sinks. Although plants generally grow bigger as a result of absorbing carbon-enriched air, they need more water & nutrients to do so & they have been getting less.”

5.  56 trees in Damrosch Park New York were chopped down to make way for Fashion Week’s tents.  This event followed the usual argument of “the trees were healthy, the trees were not healthy & we are going to plant a whole lot more soon anyway.”  First it was fur, now it is trees.   How about finding another location?

6. Massive tree planting led by Buddhist monks & nuns & aiming at 1 million trees will happen in Ladakh Northern India during October 2010. They plan to set a world record of planting the maximum number of trees in an hour. Ladakh was beset with flooding & landslides last August 2010 that washed away hundreds of houses, blocked roads & destroyed bridges. Thousands of people were affected & at least 170 people died.  The tree planting is hoped to prevent this from happening again.

7. In Dallas Texas, a new 5.2-acre park is being constructed above the Freeway. The traffic will still run as usual, but people will be able to use the green space above.  I think this is wonderful urban design.

8.  Kuala Lumpur authorities have requested NGOs & the private sector to plant more trees to support the effort of reducing global warming. 30 million trees to be exact. Makes me wonder why Australia doesn’t come up with these kinds of numbers.

9.  A UK Tree Surgeon chopped down trees, dropping logs, leaves & branches on to cars parked in a busy street beneath & wouldn’t stop. Bad day?

10.  A 15 year-old Maple tree was professionally removed by persons unknown in the grounds of a church in Leytonstone US.

11.  The city of Albany in the US is offering free trees to residents to plant in front of their homes or businesses. Street trees also add to the curb appeal of a building, which can increase its real estate value. What a great program.

Grevillea, favourite food of nectar-eating birds

12.  America’s & Canada’s Ash trees are being decimated by the Asian Emerald Ash Borer.  Like Australia’s Cane toad, the ash borer has no enemies in the US & Canada. Since being introduced accidentally into Michigan early this decade, ash borers have spread to 14 US states & Canada. The larvae burrow through the bark cutting off trees’ pathways for water & nutrients causing the tree to suffer a slow death.   In Sioux Falls US, an estimated 75,000 Green Ash trees as well as undetermined number of trees along the river greenway & at Great Bear Recreation Park in Sioux Falls US are at risk of this insect. The City Forester is recommending a program to create diversity by removing some of the Ash trees & planting different species in an attempt not to lose all the Ash trees to the borer when it arrives.

13.  America is also fighting another tree killing insect, the Asian long-horned beetle.  This beetle has caused tens of thousands of hardwood trees to be destroyed in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey & New York. The beetle has recently been found in Boston as well.  Community action days are regularly held to scope trees & find this beetle.  He is a good-looking beetle, but another tree-muncher who likes around 12 species of hardwood trees & shouldn’t be in the US. To see what the beetle looks like –

Reflection of Norfolk Island Pines along the Cooks River in Tempe

Banana 'trees,' perfect for rooftop gardens. For trivial pursuit fanatics: Bananas are not actually trees. Their trunk is a pseudostem that dies once a bunch of bananas have been produced

Right now in major cities of the world enormously good things are happening in regards to built-up areas & green space. They too have growing populations. However, they have made decisions to make buildings more green, sustainable, people friendly as well as environmentally friendly. They are doing this because these buildings are going to be there for the next few decades & rather than continue to build unimaginative buildings that only house people, they are making the buildings also improve the environment while they are standing there.

Melbourne just announced the winner of a rooftop garden competition, the first of its kind in Australia as part of its Growing Up project. The winning rooftop garden was built on top of an old 10-storey office block & included a lightweight polystyrene hill covered in soil & planted with drought-tolerant plants & permeable glass paving to collect rainwater.

The Growing Up project says 20% of Melbourne city’s available space is wasted on unused rooftops. If we see an increase in the number of green roofs in Melbourne, we could see a reduction in the urban heat island effect of up to 2 degrees Celcius. We can also improve biodiversity, air quality & they really are a fantastic aesthetic addition to Melbourne’s space.

An experimental rooftop garden at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus has shown an energy saving of up to 40% for cooling the building in summer. This is significant at times of high power prices & the serious issue of global warming.

Another benefit is better stormwater management as the rooftop garden catches & utilises as much as 80% of rainwater, meaning less water going down the drain, less stress on our often old & inadequate drains, less flooding of roads & footpaths & less stormwater running wasted into the sea.

Interestingly, the roof membrane lasts 2-3 times longer when there is a rooftop garden because the garden protects the roof from UV rays & temperature swings.

Green roofs combat the heat island effect dramatically without changing land use.  I’ve heard people query the relevance of the heat island effect saying they like heat, but when the surface of footpaths, outdoor cemented areas & roofs are 27-50 degrees hotter than the air, it becomes a major problem.  In built up urban areas, night time air temperatures can be as much as 12 degrees hotter due to trapped heat radiating out from the surfaces of buildings.  This makes for an uncomfortable time for those living close by as well as higher power bills, poor air quality from increased pollution levels because pollution gets trapped in the heat, as well as elevated greenhouse gases & ground level ozone.

If there is a heatwave, all these effects increase & can result in higher rates of respiratory problems such as asthma, heat stroke & heat-related deaths.

Although green roofs are not common in Australia, in other countries they are an established part of the infrastructure. For example, Copenhagen is about to adopt a policy that makes a green roof mandatory for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30%.

Chicago has a Green Roof Grant Program for a while & has over 200 green roofs, covering 232,257 sq metres (2.5 million sq ft). They have a very good picture of what a city could look like –

Nice photos of green roofs in Chicago from 2006 –

90 second tour of a green roof –

5 minutes video of research on green roofs & their benefits –

Finally, from the benefits of Green Roofs IGRA World

It is very difficult to find positive arguments for bare or gravelled roofs. Lower building costs for “Non-Green Roofs” in comparison to a Green Roof, are weak arguments considering it is only a short-term calculation. Long-term costs of maintenance & repairs of ‘naked roofs’ are much higher than that of Green Roofs. It has to be considered that roofs belong to the most strained parts of a building; if no precautions are taken & product qualities lack, problems arise quickly.

It would be wonderful if Marrickville Council adopted green roofs as a standard in their new Local Environment Plan, a draft of which is soon to be released for public comment. These types of roofs are likely to be commonplace in the future because built up urban areas are becoming very hot & costly in terms of power use. Businesses will want to save costs where ever they can. The initial outlay is going to be ultimately cost effective because of a 40% reduction in power costs & because a green roof is expected to last at least 20-30 years without maintenance.

Marrickville Council could build on their reputation as a Green Council by encouraging green roofs & green walls at all new major developments & set the standard for other councils to follow.  More on green walls in a future post.

car park reflection

A random view of the Pacific Highway, Sydney. There are just as many trees along most of its length to Hornsby.

In this post I am discussing 2 main roads: the Pacific Highway & Parramatta Road.  Travelling on either road is like travelling in different countries.  I cannot help but be astounded by the difference.

There is really no difference in the utility between the two roads except that Parramatta Road has many more shopping strips. However, I don’t see why this should mean there should be dearth of trees along its length.

The section of Parramatta Road that is under the control of Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils is ugly & getting visually worse as the years pass. The almost treeless state of Parramatta Road under the control of these 2 Councils seems to be a planning decision that was probably made decades ago & little has been done to change it.  Of course, there are other parts of this road that are just as treeless, but I am presently concerned with the section under the control of Marrickville, Leichhardt & City of Sydney Councils.

You can see the demarcation line between Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & the City of Sydney Council by looking for the presence of street trees.  Once they start you are in City of Sydney territory. Once they stop you are in Marrickville & Leichhardt territory.

A random view of Parramatta Road at Stanmore. The Palm belongs to McDonalds car park.

Sydney City has planted quite a number of Eucalypts along their section of Parramatta Road & the trees are already looking good.  Sydney Council’s action proves it can be done.  Interestingly they planted Eucalypts, trees which some regard as dangerous because of falling branches.  Mind you, the branch die-off is a slow process & is clearly visible to the naked eye. I’d guess that Sydney City Council chose to plant Eucalypts because they grow tall & straight, grow rapidly & also flower providing food for the birds.  I’d also guess they made a decision to check on the trees occasionally & prune any branches that die off as part of general maintenance.

The Pacific Highway is filled with a variety of tall growing trees along its length, again proving that trees can exist on a main thoroughfare.  The trees don’t cause visibility problems for the traffic & they certainly help keep pedestrians safer. The trees also provide a pollution barrier to local housing by capturing particulate matter from the exhausts of passing traffic.  People who live within a block of the Pacific will have much cleaner air than those who live along or near Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Road opposite McDonalds at Stanmore looking towards the city.

It annoys me that Sydney’s Inner West of has to be exposed to more pollution, including visual pollution.   What does it take to cut out concrete & plant trees in available spaces along Parramatta Road? If Leichhardt & Marrickville Councils followed City of Sydney’s lead & planted 3-4 metre high saplings, the effect would be to instantly beautify & green the place. The trees would also have a much greater chance of survival, as they are not sitting ducks to be vandalized.  The new street trees recently planted along Glebe Point Road are proof of this.

I know money is an issue, but is losing 95% of saplings planted each season due to dying for lack of water, accidents, vandalism & the like a wise investment?  Wouldn’t it be better to plant bigger saplings which do cost more, but if watered, are more likely to survive?

Couldn’t the nearest business owner be given a complementary watering can & asked to water the tree?  Council could give them a big bright sticker to put in their window saying that they are caretakers of the street trees with much thanks from Council & the community.  Something like I am a volunteer caretaker of the street tree/s outside this business.

View of the Pacific Hwy just before Chatswood. Even in this area street trees are regularly spaced & of a tall growing species.

People notice these things.  Couldn’t community appreciation awards be given each year to those people & businesses that kept the street trees alive?  Surely this type of recognition would be good for their professional reputation because a large percentage of the community cares about green issues these days.

My dream is that once businesses catch on to the fact that shoppers spend around 11% more where there are shady trees, they will be beating down Council’s door demanding trees be planted.

Parramatta Road is also a main route south of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Tourists travel along it daily & they will gain an impression of Sydney from this road.  As for the Princes Highway, straight out from the airport…….

The Princes is shamefully ugly.  The section from St Peters to the Cooks River always looked dreadful &, like Parramatta Road, is only getting worse.  Rockdale Council made their section look considerably better & more people-friendly by planting street trees every 3 metres along the whole length of the shopping strip.  Rockdale Council prunes & maintains these trees & although they are trees in cages, they look good.  It is the kind of care that is noticeable & makes people feel good, better connected in their communities & happier.

Trees have this extraordinary capacity to cause people to feel happier & peaceful. Research has been done regarding the effects of trees on peoples’ physical & mental health, so it is not just me banging on. 100 Tree Facts has more information regarding the benefits of trees.

Marrickville Council won’t do anything about this unless we let them know that we want more trees in areas like Parramatta Road where there is tree-poverty.  We should not need to get used to ugliness when the solution is so simple & good for us & our children. If we work or live in areas with a predominance of grey infrastructure, it will have a negative impact on our health & our quality of life.  Besides, the UN says we should be planting 14 billion trees a year across the planet if we are going to have a chance of holding back the thrust towards climate change.

the community does not want this road through Tempe

Today, around 300 people attended a protest walk across Tempe Reserve to the RTA’s community consultation about the planned 4 lane arterial road.  The walkers could be heard chanting as they approached.  Then with a roar, they came around the trees & stood facing the tent where about 20 people were listening to a talk by the RTA on the ‘road to nowhere.’

The ‘No WAY RTA’ banner carried by local residents led the walk closely followed by the Marrickville Council banner carried by Councillors O’Sullivan, Olive, Peters, Phillips, Byrne & Mayor Iskandar. State Greens MP Lee Rhiannon also attended.  Many people expressed disappointment that other State & local MPs were not in attendance.

After a few minutes the crowd progressed to the tent & listened to the speaker.  The protesters respected that the RTA staff had a job to do & did not interrupt.  Besides, the information about this road has been vague, so everyone wanted to know the details of what was being proposed.

I asked about the location & height of the 4 lane arterial road & how many trees will be chopped down to achieve this.  The staff member said he had no idea, acknowledging, “Some trees will have to go.”  He did however, show me the route of the road & said, “It will be at least 10 metres above the ground, higher in some places.”  He said the road could not travel along the Alexandria Canal because it will cross the flight path.  Another person pointed out that the intended route put the road on top of a hill travelling in the same direction & this would also affect the flight path so the rationale didn’t make sense.  I think there is a plan cooking somewhere to build units along the Alexandria Canal.

The details of the proposed 4 lane arterial road as I understood are:

  • The road will require the removal of many mature trees in a park on the Rockdale Council side of the Cooks River (do they care?)
  • It will cross the Cooks River & travel between the mature Fig tree situated on the point of Tempe Reserve & the Robyn Webster Sports Centre (the white building with the brown drawings designed & painted by Aboriginal artist Bronwyn Bancroft as part of the Marrickville Council Public Arts Strategy in 2004)
  • 2-3 mature Fig trees look to be in the way of the road, however the staff member said this was only a guideline & may change
  • The road will go through & above the seating in rotundas, the barbeque areas & the extensive & well loved playground
  • It will then follow the curve of the park along Alexandria Canal cutting off access to the water (I doubt people will want to sit under a 4 lane highway)
  • Then it will cut through the urban forest on the city-side of the park before it travels along the crest of the hill just above Tempe Wetlands, & beside a golf driving range.  It will overlook houses in Tempe & most certainly be visible from the Princes Highway
  • The road will stop at Sydney Park & much of the 15,000 vehicles/day will end up on King Street & Euston Road

at today's protest

This road is of great concern because of pollution, noise, impact on the community, respiratory illnesses, damage to Tempe Reserve & the park on Kogarah side & both the Cooks River & the Alexandria Canal & will increase traffic through Newtown, St Peters & surrounds.

Community group Tempe 2020 are there to provide details about how this road will affect their community (see What’s on page).  SoT is concentrating on the impact it will have on trees, wildlife, the river & the Tempe Wetlands.

The well-utilised beautiful park on the Kogarah side of the river will be massively affected.  Here, I have photographed cormorants drying off their wings on the banks of the Cooks River.  It is filled with wildlife that will be severely impacted by the making of this road & the addition of thousands of vehicles speeding past each day.

Tempe Reserve is a beautiful park in its infancy.  Marrickville Council have spent millions repairing it & creating biologically diverse areas such as a salt marsh & ephemeral wetland to provide habitat for flora & fauna.  In about 10 years it will look significantly more beautiful as the current works will have established themselves & the trees will have matured. It is used by many people 7 days a week & not just for sporting activities. I do not think the community can afford to lose either park to a major road.

impact on Tempe Reserve

Most people are attracted to the point of the peninsula & Marrickville Council knows this because that’s where they put the barbeques, the playground & the seating & this is exactly where the RTA intend to put the road.

I feel annoyed that the State government & the RTA have so little respect & appreciation for these areas.  I can only assume that they, as many people in Sydney, don’t realise just what a jewel this area is.  Friends glaze over if I mention the Cooks River.  Years ago they heard it was ugly & dirty & this has remained in their consciousness.  Now it is full of lovely regrowth areas.

The State Government should be doing everything in their power to protect Tempe Wetlands & the Cooks River, which is also highly visible as one of the gateways to Sydney from the airport.  Sydney also needs to keep places like this for future generations & for wildlife.  This is a densely populated area of the inner west with few parks per capita.

The wildlife in my opinion is quite stressed with the rapid urbanisation & the continued loss of where they can live & find food.  Stopping on the perimeter of Tempe Wetlands to take photos today, the air was alive with the sounds of insects humming away.  Walk inside & you could be in a national park.

Not everything of beauty should be destroyed for more roads.  In my opinion, the State government are continuing to build this city for vehicles, not for people. As long as you encourage cars, roads will always be filled.  Spend the money earmarked for this project on public transport, not for a road system that ends nowhere & is going to force drivers into crowded Alexandria and King Street that is barely coping now.  Let the wildlife have a little pocket for themselves.  Future generations will thank you for it.



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