What happens in 'Sustainability' sessions? Group members usually discuss well written and researched articles or documentaries selected by convenor John Lloyd, which this month included 'Action now’: the farmers standing up against ‘wilful ignorance’ on climate' Gabrielle Chan in 'The Guardian' July 2 2019; 'We only have one planet, but we're still using it up too fast' Gareth O’Reilly in the Age July 28, 2019; 'The new electricity boom: renewable energy makes staggering leap but can it last?' Adam Morton in The Guardian 29/7/2019. News of current developments related to sustainability in Benalla is shared, such as Renewable Energy Benalla's current workshop series Reduce Energy Bills and Increase Thermal Efficiency, which is being held on alternate Tuesdays at the Uniting Church Meeting Room in Carrier Street from 7.30 to 9.30pm. Places are still available - Lighting & Windows (Sept 2) Efficient Hot Water Systems, Heating and Cooling (Sept 16) Appliances & Cooking; Transitioning from Gas (Sept 30) Energy Monitoring, Solar Power & Batteries (October 14). Registrations - phone/SMS Peter on 0418 135 330. Members also share ideas about living sustainably and introduce sources of information they find useful, such as the 'Energy Insiders' podcast by Renew Economy's editor Giles Parkinson and industry analyst David Leitch. Just ask your Google Home Mini (or other home assistant) .... "OK Google. Play latest episode 'Energy Insiders'". All welcome!
‘Action now’: the farmers standing up against ‘wilful ignorance’ on climate
Gabrielle Chan writing in 'The Guardian' Tuesday 2 Jul 2019
We only have one planet, but we're still using it up too fast
Gareth O’Reilly writing in The Age, July 28, 2019
The new electricity boom: renewable energy makes staggering leap but can it last?
Adam Morton writing in 'The Guardian' 29th July 2019
The following information published on the Benalla Rural City website is likely to be of particular interest to members unable to get to the Benalla Landfill and Resource Recovery Centre, particularly those downsizing! "Small items can be disposed of at the Council's Customer Service Centre at a cost of $1 per item. These include the following items of e-waste - Toasters, Kettles, Mobile phones, Clock radios, Irons, Hairdryers, Drills, Saws, Laptops, Remote controls, Radios, ...Any similar sized electrical items" Source: http://www.benalla.vic.gov.au/Your-Community/Landfill-Waste-Recycling/E-waste
"At the Sustainability session on Friday 21st we will be having a presentation from Godfrey Marple and Frank Dunin about coping with drought, particularly in relation to caring for sheep".
I would also like to follow up last sessions discussion about the support for action on climate change, particularly in relation to the ABC's Vote Compass figure of 80% support. We will draw upon the findings of the Perceptions of Climate Change survey conducted by Sustainability Victoria 12 months ago (refer below). I think there is some interesting data in there.
I also expect many of you will want to talk about the Adani approval."
See you on Friday.
Following class discussion about e-waste this month further clarification was found on oon the Benalla Rural City website, along with some information about batteries.
"From 1 July 2019, the Victorian Government has banned all e-waste to landfill. This means that you can no longer put electronic waste in your red bin.
What is e-waste?
E-waste is any item with a plug, battery or power cord that is no longer working or wanted. This includes large appliances, such as fridges and washing machines, to batteries, watches, remote controls and old lamps. You can find more examples of e-waste at sustainability.vic.gov.au
What should I do with e-waste?
Is it still in working order? You might be able to donate, sell or give away your electronic waste.
If not, you can dispose of it at the Benalla Landfill and Resource Recovery Centre. We have specific e-waste cages available for you to dispose of e-waste materials. If you’re coming with other items, we recommend you separate your waste first.
How do I dispose of batteries?
We can't accept household batteries at the Benalla Landfill. However, you can dispose of these at our local ALDI supermarket. You can find out more on ALDI's battery recycling page.
Large batteries, such as automotive batteries, can be disposed of at Benalla Landfill."
In our last newsletter, President Dorothy Webber wrote "We have received news from Benalla Rural City that solar panels and new internal and external light globes will be installed before the end of June". A Sustainability group member captured the action as solar panels were installed on the roof recently. Another contribution towards Renewable Energy Benalla's vision of Benalla becoming ‘100% renewable energy by 2028’!
John has set two thought provoking articles on the theme 'Capitalism and Climate Change' as prereading for class on Friday 17 May. Here's the link:
John's links for today's class included a recent Foreign Correspondents report 'Climate Hackers' (available from ABC iView until 27 May) and the following videos.
The Sustainability group is now well underway. It is wonderful to be able to welcome new members as concerned about sustainability as members who have attended this group for many years.
During the first session we looked at "The Concept of Sustainability" which was first discussed in The Limits to Growth, published in 1972 by the Club of Rome. This report concluded that the finite nature of the natural environment meant that the world economic system could not expand indefinitely. An issue that is constantly raised today in discussions about that state of the planet we are leaving for future generations. We also heard how Sir David Attenborough reiterated this theme at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In his opening address he urged political and business leaders from around the world to make a renewed push to tackle climate change before the damage is irreparable.
January's extreme heat was an obvious topic for discussion and we were not surprised to hear that Australia sweltered through the hottest month in its history in January, with scientists concerned that extreme heat is hitting faster and harder than expected. We also read about a senior Australian firefighter who says climate change is contributing to bushfires so horrendous that homes and lives cannot be protected with fire seasons that are much longer and more severe.
When discussing sustainability and climate change there are so many negative stories however John does also look for positive stories. To our surprise we read about an Australian 'start-up' that hopes to have its electric engines propelling light commercial aircraft within three years, while promising flights that are cheaper to operate, better for the environment and more comfortable for passengers.
Australia's energy system was also another obvious topic for discussion and we focussed on an article titled, "What would Australia look like powered by 100% renewabl-e energy?" Obviously big on wind and solar but also lots of different technologies in different locations, such as pumped hydro, wave and tidal energy, solar thermal with storage, batteries, sustainable bioenergy and more. Industry and transport would need to go renewable too.
An article about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage activist who has inspired 'School Strikes 4 Climate Action' all over the world, led to a thought provoking discussion about school students taking action about climate change. We will be continuing to monitor the nature and impact of student engagement and activism related to climate change.
This month we discussed the future of our group. We decided that it was sustainable and would continue, albeit with a change of title to the ‘Sustainability’ group. ‘Towards a Sustainable Future’ can be rather a mouthful! Included among the many topics discussed this month– a look at the take-up of electronic vehicles in Australia and an article ‘Australian students plan school strikes to protest against climate inaction’, an issue young people in the United States have mounted legal action in the courts to address.
A particularly engaging discussion was held in response to an article titled ‘Our No 1 Recycling Mistake? It’s in the bag’. Apparently the number 1 mistake is to throw soft plastics, which get caught up in sorting machines, into the kerbside recycling bin. Soft plastics such as bread bags need to be dropped off at Coles and Woolworths stores in the REDcycle bin. Another common mistake– putting recyclables into bags, which get picked out manually and put into landfill. We should keep items loose when placing recyclables into the recycling bin. It seemed from the article and our discussion that we all get rather anxious about some of the decisions we need to make regarding ‘red’, ‘green’ or ‘yellow’ bin contents!
We also talked about two events being supported by BSFG’s Renewable Energy Benalla action group, a Solar and Battery Offer by Mondo Power which closes on December 7 and an upcoming seminar ‘Electrifying Industry--showcasing how industry can move to 100% renewable energy’.
It's almost time to think about classes for next year!
Towards a Sustainable Future has operated for the past 11 years as a ‘readings’ based class in which our facilitator, John Lloyd, presents articles for discussion selected on the basis of sound research on current developments.
The group isn’t an activist collective, however it is very clearly made up of older people concerned about climate change and a sustainable future for their grandchildren.
Members talk about strategies they use which work towards sustainability, practices including installing solar panels; reducing use of single use plastic; retrofitting homes, and more.
While sometimes John laughs that the group gets rather 'grumpy', we do look for good news stories and find many of them!
John has asked us to consider the future of this group – is it sustainable with some of our long term members now finding it more difficult to attend meetings on a regular basis?
When our convenor John Lloyd is unable to come to class he always provides articles for us to discuss, however we sometimes become distracted! At our last session, with John in Melbourne at a conference; our ex-VFL player Frank attending the football finals and Kathy ‘leading some birdo and plant people from Alexandra at Reef Hills’, the remaining members covered many topics. Most related to our focus area of sustainability!
Two of our newer members were asked why they had become interested in and so highly value a sustainable environment. A love of nature developed during childhood featured in their responses—a common theme amongst our members. Group members were also asked how they felt their grandchildren were responding to climate change, whether they appear to be depressed or worried about it, resulting in an interesting discussion.
Did you know that BSFG’s action group ‘Renewable Energy Benalla’, is ‘for Benalla to become a zero net energy town by 2028 by reducing and balancing energy demand with 100% renewable energy supply’. It is approaching its mission from three angles – ‘Reducing 1/3’, ‘Replacing 1/3’ and ‘Switching 1/3’. You can find out more at the new Renewable Energy Benalla website https://reb.org.au
Our meeting on 17 August 2018 included a discussion of the difficulty of achieving political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The latest policy proposal, the National Energy Guarantee, has been discarded since our discussion, and that was just the start of the tumult that ended Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership.
On a positive note it is encouraging that the Coles and Woolworths supermarkets in Benalla both now have REDcycle bins in their foyers to collect soft plastic items for recycling. A Melbourne-based company RedPlas has been collecting and recycling soft plastics for a number of years now, and turning them into products such as benches, signs, boardwalks and bollards. They collect plastics that cannot be recycled in our yellow bins, and that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Items they want include bread bags, silver lined chip packets, clean cling wrap, frozen food and fresh produce bags, bubble wrap, plastic Australia Post satchels and zip lock bags to name just a few. But they DON’T WANT plastic bottles or containers, drinking straws, glass, polystyrene, paper or cardboard. The REDcycle website shows what plastics can be recycled through the REDcycle bins at Coles and Woolies. Basically if it is soft plastic that can be scrunched up into a ball, it can go in the REDcycle bin. A detailed list of what and what NOT to REDcycle is attached below.
John is unable to be at class on Friday 17 August but has sent us the following articles to consider--the first three recommendations relate to the NEG:
Baldwin, Ken (2018) 'The renewable energy train is unstoppable. The NEG needs to get on board' 15 August 2018 Ken Baldwin is the Director of the Energy Change Institute, Australian National University.
Murphy, Katherine (2018)'Claimed power price cuts from energy guarantee are 'virtually meaningless' The Guardian 15 August 2018
John also recommended that we watch Renew Economy's video of the day for August 14th the video link on the Renew Economy article 'Counting Frydenbergs NEG Lies' by Sophie Vorrath:
Foden, Blake (2018) 'Many parts of the earth could become uninhabitable--Study's grim warning' Sydney Morning Herald 7 September 2018
If we have time, we will listen to a lecture Frank saw presented and highly recommends,The Changing Face of Agriculture and Food System into the 21st Century a lecture by Professor Mark Howden, tracking the accompanying slide show as we do.
This is the lecture in audio - you can listen and scroll down the slide show as you go.
As we follow current developments in relation to a sustainable future we pick up many new ideas and concepts related to sustainability. The concept of the circular economy was used in an article read in July titled ‘Rethinking recycling: could a circular economy solve the problem?’. (Naaman Zhou, The Guardian, 15 July 2018).
A circular economy is one in which everything used in an economy is recycled within it, an economy in which everything which enters recycling is ‘reincarnated’. A particular example cited is that of glass, which can almost be entirely reused if crushed back into sand. We read that the circular economy is job creating, with the chief executive of the Waste Management Association of Australia stating “Studies have found repeatedly that, for every one job in landfill and 10,0000 tons of waste, over four are created by resource recovery”. The article also considered the concept of ‘end of life product stewardship’ important, with onus being put back on the manufacturer, and included the need for government procurement to be made from recycled materials.
John has often suggested that our sessions could be produced as an ‘episode of ‘Grumpy Old People’! However, we do look out for good news and were pleased to read in July’s edition of ‘Council News’ that Benalla is doing well in terms of reducing landfill; that our organics composting has saved more than 3 million kilograms of carbon dioxide (the equivalent of 27,210 tanks of petrol); and that Benalla Rural City has received a grant for $440,000 as part of a $900,000 upgrade for the construction of a Transfer Station and improvement to the internal road structure.
The role of community energy in Benalla is continuing to be discussed, with a Community Energy Forum to be held at BPACC on Friday 3 August at 7.30 pm. All welcome.
Over the past month the topics of plastic and recycling have featured among the articles we have read and our discussions. ‘Plastic Free July’ is almost here; the new series of ‘The War on Waste’ is just about to appear on the ABC and the community will soon be adjusting to the new single use plastic bag free practices of the major supermarkets.
In our ‘third age’ we find ourselves reverting to the plastic bag free environments of our ‘first age’ when string bags and baskets were the order of the day! You may have seen Plastic Wise Benalla’s ‘upcycled bags’ being made at the Drill Hall by volunteers, including a number of our U3A members. The bags cost $5 and are available at Fruits ‘n Fare, the West End Post Office, One Wild Apple, Benalla Aquatic Centre and Blooms on Bridge. The change from single use plastic bags by the supermarkets is just the start – it is quite possible we’ll soon be taking our own containers with us when we purchase take-away, meat from the butchers, and more.
As well as reading and discussing articles of interest, we’ve kept abreast of local news related to sustainability, including the Church Street Surgery receiving the Benalla Business Networks’ Environmentally Sustainable Business award this year; the monthly building efficiency workshops being held by Renewable Energy Benalla; the uptake of the Mondo battery ready solar bulk buy offer; and the proposed solar farm at Winton.
Many U3A members attended the Swanpool Environmental Film Festival recently - our class members will no doubt be discussing the excellent speakers and films shown with John at our next session.
John was in Melbourne at a conference related to Community Energy Projects at our last session in May, however left some articles and the comment 'No doubt the group will find plenty to talk about'. We did indeed! Decision making about solar energy featured, with Bill pleased that his decision to update an evaporative cooler and install a heat pump on his solar hot water service had led to a significant reduction in the electricity bill and generating significant renewable energy for the grid. Another member reported that, while keen to become involved in the REB/Mondo Power battery and microgrid ready bulk buy offer, he had been ethically advised by the assessor that their current array of was sufficient for their needs and to add more could become quite expensive with recent changes in requirements re cabling. Another member wondered whether he should make any changes to the array of 18 panels on his house with a rate for selling to the grid of 70c a day to 2025 –the group advised him against making changes as he might lose this rate.
Agriculture and biodiversity also featured, with our environmentally aware farmer summing up his concerns as ‘’We do need some trees”. He is deeply concerned that soon the only trees near where he farms will be along the roads; that even those strips are being cleared and trees being trimmed up to make easy access and manoeuvring of big machines. He’s worried that the trees are being singed badly when stubble is burned; that bird life and shade for cattle are being lost; and is worried that many croppers ‘Just don’t like trees’.
We talked about what people were reading, with books discussed and shared including ‘Dark Emu’, ‘Cry of the Reed Warbler’ and 'The Biggest Estate on Earth - How Aborigines made Australia' and 'The Hydrogen Economy'. Kathy’s contribution of handouts comparing the services of Wangaratta and Shepparton's recycling transfer stations created lots of interest.
Reading of John’s recommended articles 'Who are Australia's largest carbon emitters?'; 'Solar and Wind could ease Australia's water shortage' and 'The new 100% recyclable packaging target is no use if our waste isn't actually recycled' followed the break. We left with Frank's recommendation to listen to The Changing Face of Agriculture and Food System into the 21st Century a lecture by Professor Mark Howden, which is available on line and a reminder about the Swanpool Environmental Film Festival on Saturday 16th June.
We all look forward to meeting up each fortnight to update our understanding of current concerns and developments in relation to a sustainable future, with reading selected by our convenor underpinning our learning. There is always much to cover and our discussions are well informed and thought provoking.
This year we have been following the steps being taken towards a zero net energy future for Benalla by Renewable Energy Benalla. During the month a number of members of our group and other U3A members attended information sessions held by Renewable Energy Benalla and Mondo Power regarding their battery ready solar bulk buy offer for Benalla residents and businesses. We understand there is still some time register interest in this offer, with information about the Benalla offer available on the Mondo Power website.
Wearing his 'other hat' as President of the Benalla Sustainable Future Group and member of Renewable Energy Benalla, our convenor John Lloyd will be the guest speaker at Meet & Mingle on May 16, John will present ‘An Update on Renewable Energy in the Benalla Area’
This month an article headed 'Shipping First as Commercial Tanker Crosses the Arctic Sea Route in Winter' was among climate change topics discussed in our group. Warmer waters in the Arctic Sea were accompanied by severe freezing in Europe.
We continued to discuss topics such as water policy; the reality check resulting from the decision by China to slash imports of recyclable rubbish; the need for the introduction of meaningful reuse programs; and more. There has been much to debate, much to be concerned about.
There has also been much to celebrate, with good news stories regarding the success of the TESLA battery in South Australia; the potential for Australian wind power turbines to play a role as active participants in the National Electricity Market; developments in proton batteries, and more. Frank Dunin reported on a development in energy retailing by 'DC Power' which is aiming to become a crowd funded, dedicated solar company. To find out more, check out https://www.dcpowerco.com.au
Good news on the local front - Benalla Renewable Energy and Mondo Power are running information sessions on their battery ready solar bulk buy offer for Benalla residents and businesses - BPACC Tuesday 10 April at 7 pm & Sunday 22nd April at 2 pm.
A synopsis prepared by John of the multitude of issues relating to a sustainable future which appeared in the papers in January formed a fertile base for discussion during our first session. Issues raised by members added to the mix, with ‘local interest’ generated during discussion of the recent rejection of recycled waste from regional municipalities in Victoria by China. Class members who have lived in Benalla for many years reported that some decades ago a furnace was built in Benalla for just this purpose and that the building, long unused, is still standing.
A major focus at our second session was the Murray Darling Basin and the government’s plan to reduce by 70 billion litres the amount of water that irrigators must return to the environment in the northern part of the Murray Darling Basin. The plan was blocked in the senate by Labour supporting the Greens. A lively discussion followed about the pros and cons of the Murray Darling Basin.
We are always keen to discuss positive stories and are sure many will emerge as a result of the work of the Renewable Energy Benalla group. Among other strategies, Renewable Energy Benalla is promoting a session by Mondo Energy in early April regarding a bulk buy offer to the Benalla community of panels, monitoring systems and eventually batteries, with the potential to develop microgrids throughout Benalla. Many U3A members resident in the Ascot Court area have solar panels, at least one of whom has expressed interest in being part of a microgrid.
The Benalla Sustainable Future Group quarterly Newsletter is now available on the BSFG website, a great place to catch up with the ideas and work of the local sustainable futures oriented community, including current concerns about the future of the Greater Glider with the intended logging of the Barjarg coupe in the Strathbogies.
John Lloyd and Bev Lee
This month saw the return of John Lloyd from his overseas trip. John had only been back a week and said that he’d already attended five meetings relating to various roles in working towards a sustainable future! While keeping an eye on shifting policy sands and environmental politics each session, we continue to be excited by good news stories. These can overcome the despair which at times overtakes us. An interesting development we heard about was that see-through solar cells have been created which could turn windows into small scale solar plants. Researchers at Michigan State University have developed thin, transparent, plastic-like material that can act as an energy-generating coating on windows, and provide additional power when coupled with a rooftop solar installation.
We have often discussed the plight of people having to leave low lying Pacific islands due to rising sea levels and it was interesting to learn that the New Zealand government could become the first in the world to recognise climate change as an official reason to seek asylum. If implemented the plan could see up to 100 refugees per year admitted to New Zealand on a newly created visa category. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention, written long before there was such a thing, does not recognise victims of climate change.
We also seek a response from John about the current work of Renewable Energy Benalla which will be conducting a community forum and workshop on Tuesday 28th November to launch Benalla's Renewable Energy Transition Strategy - a plan for how all Benalla's energy can come from renewable sources. It was good to welcome new member Brian Feeley recently – Brian clearly has a deep interest in working towards a sustainable future and asks many engaging questions.
John Lloyd and Bev Lee
With John Lloyd overseas, Peter Maddock from the Benalla Sustainable Future group and the Swanpool Cinema was invited to our most recent session. Peter brought with him ‘Two Raging Grannies’ ‘a documentary about two raging grannies which challenges the idea that we must continue to shop, consume, amass and keep the economy growing’. This engaging film creatively draws upon the dilemma facing two older people who felt they needed to support the economy while at the same time were concerned about having too much ‘stuff’. Cameras followed them as they sought to develop understanding of the nature of economic growth and the different positions taken regarding ‘the Limits to Growth’. We found ourselves identifying with their dilemma; benefitted from hearing the perspectives of the economists they interviewed; and celebrated with them at the end of the documentary as they found a way to demonstrate their concerns using megaphones at their local university campus. We also identified with other challenges faced during their adventures, including health and mobility problems! We’d certainly recommend this touching and thought-provoking film to older people interested in the topic of a sustainable future.
With John Lloyd overseas, Brian Howard took responsibility for shepherding us thoughtfully into our most recent session, commencing with a Lateline segment in which 'Bob Katter and Anthony Albanese visit Bob Katter's electorate on a renewable energy 'power trip' . If you would like to know more about pumped hydro as an alternative option for baseload energy, this extremely watchable video (available on the Lateline webpage) is a good place to start.
Kathy brought along two excellent articles on demand reduction, which we followed up with a recent Leigh Sales interview with Christina Figueres, former UN climate chief, discussing the Government decision to pressure AGL to stay in coal. Bev then introduced an article which described climate change as a highly complex ‘super wicked’ problem. Frank, a scientist, put the view that climate change is clearly happening and must be dealt with, whether or not time is spent philosophizing about it as ‘a super wicked problem’!
Our final video for the day – from 'The Business' on electric vehicles, included discussion of the impact of the growth in demand for batteries for electric vehicles on Western Australia’s lithium mining capacity.
Our next session will include ‘a touching and thought provoking documentary about two grannies which challenges the idea that we must continue to shop, consume, amass and keep the economy growing’.
On a final note, ‘Spring into Sustainability’ was celebrated at the Library last week with a screening of the ‘Before the Rains’ documentary narrated by Leonardo Di Caprio. Our own ‘Spring Into Sustainability’ elephant stamp was awarded via the website to U3A Vice President Bill Parris for always keeping the reusable cup he acquired during a walk at Cradle Mountain on hand!
The human impact on our planet has, in recent times, become the concern of governments and ordinary people world-wide and has resulted in many questions about the sustainability of our present lifestyle. This course aims to explore topics such as global warming and climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy options, the challenge of population growth, sustainable agricultural practices, water use, sustainable use of resources, sustainable and energy efficient building design and various economic and lifestyle issues. From time to time we might also focus on the politics of climate change – a topic that can hardly be ignored. Our sessions during the year will examine different aspects of these major topics with a focus on looking towards a sustainable future. No prior knowledge of these topics is required just a general interest in the issues around climate change and sustainability. With discussion of these topics throughout the year you will find that you become better informed about these issues.
1st and 3rd Friday
9.30 to 11.30 am
U3A Meeting Room, Fawckner Drive
Convenor and contact details
John Lloyd 5765 2476
Renewable Energy Benalla - website
Economists for Equity and the Environment
The Future Economy
Population Matters-For A Sustainable Future
Strathbogie Voices Seminars on Climate Change in Euroa (YouTube)
Frank Dunin's paper 'Fire reduces water harvest from Melbourne's water supply catchments'.
Frank Dunin's response 'Chemistry Lesson for Scott Morrison'