An Island Full of Sand

Singapore is a tiny island with minimal resources, and so it’s been importing sand for land reclamation for 50 years. At first it purchased from its (poorer) Southeast Asian neighbours; those neighbours have since banned sand exports to Singapore. This has resulted in SAND PIRACY.

If you’ve been following my travel tumblr, you’ll already know a little bit about this, but today’s post here at NA builds on my blogging there and includes SANDING BY for SAND UPDATES so it’ll be a new adventure even for you!

Continue reading “An Island Full of Sand”

Clearing up some common misconceptions about Australian dragons

Totes real dragon not at all drawn in Paint, curled around a skyscraper.
Here, we see a European Red, also known as the St George, claiming Bourke Place, Melbourne, as its perch.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths about Australian dragons, both those native to the continent, and those that were introduced — deliberately or otherwise — by human activity.  So we thought we’d throw together a quick listicle, outlining things more people should know about draconis Australis and other dragons one might find in Australia

Continue reading “Clearing up some common misconceptions about Australian dragons”

wind farms, ian, and you

Hello, No Award. Today we’d like to talk to you about a very serious topic. That topic is: wind farms.

Have some background reading from First Dog on the Moon: Dr Onthemoon’s self diagnosis windfarm syndrome check list! and And now, a statement on groceries from the prime minister.

iced vovos will no longer be permitted to act as investment advisers to the elderly

Thanks, Ian! You’re so thoughtful!

Ian the Climate Change Denialist Potato is just looking out for you on behalf of our Prime Minister, Australia. Wind Farms are ugly, noisy beasts. They give you a headache, they take away sleep, they cause fan death on a national scale, and of course they pollute the air and clutter up the landscape with, like, all the fumes they exude and shit.

As a result, it’s very important that wind farms not get any financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (and not get any RETs), and a coal mine be approved for an area of NSW that provides agricultural value to the entire country. That the Liverpool Plains has, on occasion, been described as one of Australia’s food bowls is clearly hyperbole. We’re a big country! There’s heaps of room for coal mines! Anyway everyone knows we import all our food and nothing is grown here except grapes. The installation of a Wind Farm Commissioner is just Tony and Ian trying to protect us for our own good, especially from the ugliness on the commute to work in Canberra and that insubordinate wind turbine on Rotto. And all that guff about wind farms being good for the country and for us is all just guff, did you not read what I just wrote. Denmark is probably just lying, anyway.

Be grateful we have a Prime Minister who, despite being conservative, is deeply into state control of the public interest. We’re a better nation for it.

That word: L-I-N-K spam

The ABC brings us an important fatberg update from Brisbane.  (Maybe not safe to read if you’re eating.  A key quote: “We always get corn.”)

Official rebuttal from Noted Fatberg Zoe: #NOTALLFATBERGS

The Breakfast Clubbing Season – In which an intrepid ABC editor inserted talking ex-prime ministerial heads into the trailer for The Breakfast Club.  Many thanks to Friend of No Award Sarah B for bringing this to our attention.

Why Grandma’s Sad, tales from the olds who need youths to get off their lawn, pay attention to grandparents, prioritise boring adults, etc etc. Steph laughed her way through this whole thing, it’s so great.

Kids spend an enormous amount of time looking at a type of device that didn’t really exist ten years ago. Among some young people, looking at these devices is the central animating activity. This is weird. Truly! Younger people are cyborgs and older people are meat, more or less.

At The Conversation: Coles: Not So Good For Humanity, Particularly If You’re A Truck Driver. We’re not saying Steph spent her birthday phonecall from her sister lecturing her sister about not going to Coles for strawberries, but Stephanie has long-term frowned at Australia’s supermarket duopoly (whilst occasionally still using it).

WA, no: WA’s Department of Culture and Arts under fire for ‘turning hoses’ on homeless.

This post was great: Why I’m Done Defending Women’s Sports.

While I’m being asked why “no one cares,” the Women’s World Cup is getting ratings that would make the NBA or Major League Baseball weep with joy. While ESPN Radio self-parody Colin Cowherd says that men are stronger and better athletes and we appreciate greatness in America and that’s why men’s sports is more fun to watch, his radio contract appears in peril because fewer and fewer people care what he has to say.

Steph loves Mount Zero Olive Oil, she can buy it in bulk (pouring it directly into her oil bottles) from Friends of the Earth and it tastes lovely and it’s from Victoria. But I probably wasn’t this thief. Thieves steal almost 600 litres of extra virgin olive oil from Grampians grove Mount Zero Olives.

Liz notes: “probably”.

Plastic Free July update: Steph almost had a meltdown in the aisles of Minh Phat in Richmond, when she realised her choices were the following, as a Chinese-Malaysian in Australia:

  • Don’t cook Chinese food, keep plastic free status
  • Cook Chinese food, don’t keep plastic free status

Reader, she bought her oyster mushrooms grown in Victoria, wrapped in plastic and on a polystyrene board; she bought her noodles fresh made and wrapped in a plastic bag. She is going to make tofu tonight at home, so at least she has that. Anyway, cultural elements of Western society concepts that are about individualism and clash with other things, etc etc.

On a related note, here is Naomi Klein talking about the western emphasis on individual action as a vehicle for change, versus the collectivist perspective of sweatshop workers in developing countries.

You see, for him and his colleagues, individual consumption wasn’t considered to be in the realm of politics at all. Power rested not in what you did as one person, but what you did as many people, as one part of a large, organized, and focused movement. For him, this meant organizing workers to go on strike for better conditions, and eventually it meant winning the right to unionize. What you ate for lunch or happened to be wearing was of absolutely no concern whatsoever.

Invisible Australians: Life under the White Australia policy.

Finally, Melbourne is about to enter a cold snap, so here’s a pattern for a penguin hot water bottle cover.  Stay warm!

No Award Reads: The Courier’s New Bicycle

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood is a 2011 Australian SF novel set in a grim dystopian Melbourne approximately a generation into the future.  A bird flu pandemic ravaged Asia and Australia, and an untested vaccine rendered most Australians infertile.  (All we know about the impact in Asia is that Singapore went bust.)

Five years ago, the Generic Christian Oppressor Party (okay, they’re called Nation First) came into government, and along with their dodgy co-religionists (…something-or-other First), they have imposed an oppressive theocratic regime that bans artificial fertility, non-binary gender identities, and queerness in general.

The story follows agender bicycle courier Sal Forth, whose day job is making deliveries for the underground artificial fertility industry, and who is an animal rights activist in zir spare time.  Sal becomes embroiled in a set of mysteries: who is trying to destroy zir’s boss’s business; who is responsible for the beating of a surrogate mother; and who has poisoned zir previously only-once mentioned bestie with a contaminated T-shot.

Spoilers: the answer is, STRAIGHT PEOPLE, but especially STRAIGHT WOMEN, because if there’s one thing this book has, it’s spades and spades of misogyny.  Trans-misogyny, cis-misogyny, unexamined misogynistic treatments of women of colour, it’s all straight-up woman hatin’ here.

Suffice to say, Steph and Liz didn’t care for it.  Which is sad, because lots of people whose taste we normally share loved it!  But by coincidence, we started reading it at the same time, and sent colliding text messages going, “I’M READING THIS BOOK AND IT’S AMAZINGLY TERRIBLE WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT FOR NO AWARD”.

There’s some really awesome stuff around gender and sexuality. Lots of queer relationships and people, and a real consideration of how that impacts peoples’ lives. And so much of the book’s underlying messages are about found family and how great and valid they are. It’s a great look at different conditions and different situations, and the way in which Australia might change in our climate change dystopia (the proliferation of bike couriers, the constant warm weather, the creation of glow in the dark pets, good work CSIRO).

But despite the awesome stuff, Liz and Steph had to take turns encouraging each other to get through the book. And that rarely ever happens.

Spoilers. So many spoilers below.

No Award Disclaimer: When we go on rambles like the 3500 words within, it’s not because we want nobody to write anything new or fun or intersectional. It’s just that we have feelings about the respectful way to do these things, and everybody, even people we love, makes mistakes.

Continue reading “No Award Reads: The Courier’s New Bicycle”

Pro-environment media Liz was banned from consuming as a child

Now, I love my parents dearly, and they gave me a strong grounding in the humanities and encouraged my intellectual curiosity and desire to read e v e r y t h i n g.  But they were also quite strict, not only in terms of discipline, but in the sense of the media they encouraged me to consume.

As it happens, I agree with them that a young child’s reading should be steered a little, and an older child should be encouraged to recognise discuss the ideas and morals behind a piece of media.

It’s just that my parents were a little bit idiosyncratic.  They belong to a right-wing Catholic tradition which, while strongly anti-capitalist, is coincidentally in lockstep with certain capitalist ideas.  Specifically, the environment.

Guys, I was raised by climate change deniers.

I mean, back then we called it global warming and talked about the hole in the ozone layer, but the point is, my parents didn’t believe in it.  (These days, they’ve conceded that climate change exists, but not that it’s caused by human activity.)

Suffice to say, I’ve been looking forward to the Pope’s Encyclical on the environment with no small amount of curiosity and schadenfreude.  And in honour of that Encyclical (probably not a phrase No Award will get to use very often), here is a list of media I was either forbidden or strongly discouraged from consuming:

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

I had a copy, and I vaguely recall Mum loving it, but Dad was not a fan.  Native animals = STEALTH ENVIRONMENTALISM.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

This Australian classic is problematic in many ways, but what gave my parents pause was the knowledge that Gibbs (1877-1969) was something of a socialist and early environmentalist.

An illustration from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
I don’t think I appreciated how WEIRD these books were.

They discussed the problem (within earshot of me?  Was I a childhood eavesdropper?) and decided that the books weren’t likely to cause any damage to my long-term development.  Which, indeed, they didn’t.  Only confusion.  So much confusion.

(Steph’s aside: No Award will be publishing a post on the issues with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in the near future)

Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeanie Baker

I think I need to find a copy of this book, because clearly I didn't appreciate the art enough as a child.
I think I need to find a copy of this book, because clearly I didn’t appreciate the art enough as a child.

1988 picture book about a boy visiting his grandfather in Far North Queensland, admiring the beauty of the rainforests, musing on their history as a home to Indigenous peoples, and wondering, “But will the forest still be here when we come back?”

It occurs to me that my parents probably disapproved of this, not just because of its environmental message, but because it’s specifically critiquing the pro-development policies of the immensely corrupt Bjelke-Petersen government, of which my mother was a strong supporter, and which, even now, she still remembers fondly.  (Note: by coincidence, she didn’t actually live in Queensland during the Fitzgerald Inquiry.)

I was an early reader, and grew out of picture books pretty fast.  And by the time I was into chapter books, I was … not precisely self-censoring, but mentally distancing myself from any pro-environment/pro-sustainability plots I came across.  Suspending disbelief, basically: “I know the environment is nonsense, but just as I believe in faster-than-light-travel when I watch Star Trek, I’ll put up with this for now.”  Chapter books I distanced myself from in this way:

My Sister Sif by Ruth Park, already discussed here at No Award.

The Lake at the End of the World by Caroline MacDonald, in which Australia is devastated by chemical bush clearance.  The heroine’s parents had a long scene where they explained that, in their youth, “Conservation became a dirty word” because everyone was getting rich, and by the time people realised the land could no longer support (much) human life, it was too late.

“Typical left wing propaganda,” I didn’t think at the time, not having a well-developed political vocabulary, but that was my nebulous and unformed feelpinion.

These days, I think about that scene a lot, for some reason.  I bought a secondhand copy last year and fully intend to do a No Award post on it one day.

But it wasn’t just books my parents were wary of!  It was television!  And song!

WARNING: Earworms dead ahead!

This is a terrible song, and was therefore much beloved by my year five music class.  My parents didn’t share the affection, and not just because they have ears.  They were very pro-woodchipping on the grounds that timber and paper mill staff are completely incapable of training for any other work, and the entire economy of Tasmania would collapse without the tree destruction industry.

As it happens, the value of the timber industry was vastly distorted by government subsidies, and it employed far fewer people than even the unions realised, but that all came to light later.

Why is Captain Planet so much bigger than the Planeteers?
Why is Captain Planet so much bigger than the Planeteers?

Good reasons to hate Captain Planet and the Planeteers:

  • the theme song
  • the tokenistic nature of its multi-ethnic group of smiling young people
  • terrible puns
  • Wheeler is the worst
  • what kind of power is heart anyway?

Reasons my parents hated Captain Planet and the Planeteers:

  • it was produced by Ted Turner
  • who was/is(?) married to Jane Fonda
  • something something Hanoi Jane?
  • please note, my parents were children when the Vietnam War ended
  • environmentalism
  • there’s an episode about population control
  • Mum is very anti-superhero
  • terrible puns

Reasons I loved it and watched it whenever I could, even though I knew it was terrible:

  • like, two-thirds of the cast were Star Trek: The Next Generation actors
  • I wanted Wheeler and Linka to kiss

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Okay, this one’s stretching it a bit — my parents didn’t know it often had environmental messages, and neither did I.  It was banned for containing “imitable violence”, ie, martial arts.

I don’t know why my parents were so concerned about this, given that the only television I was interested in imitating at this time was Star Trek: The Next Generation, but there you go.  They also forbade Power Rangers.  If it had been around when I was young, they would have also banned me from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, too.

The Adventures of Blinky Bill

The original Blinky Bill stories (about a cheeky koala and his friends) were published in 1933, and had mild conservation themes.  The Adventures of Blinky Bill, the animated series of the ’90s, ramped these themes up, the series opening after Blinky’s habitat is destroyed by humans, forcing him and his friends to befriend the Dingos.

Mum and Dad thought it was strange and terrible that modern political issues were being forced into light entertainment.  Something something something Puppies.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest

Such an amazing, terrible movie.
Such an amazing, terrible movie.

This is an odd one — I wasn’t forbidden to see this (in fact, Dad took my brother and I to the movies, and really enjoyed it!), but I was convinced I’d get in trouble just for asking to see it.  I got the novelisation via a Scholastic book fare, and it came with a poster that I put up behind my door, where I was sure my parents wouldn’t see it.

(A few years later, I did the same with a pair of ATSI art posters I got from school as part of Reconciliation Week. Apparently I was quite secure in my belief that my parents would never enter my room, close the door behind them and then look at the door.)

Anyway, I was really into FernGully at the time it came out, and was quite amazed when I recently learned that (a) it’s known outside Australia and (b) its international audience is largely unaware that it’s set in real Australian places.  IDK, maybe because all the fairies are white and European-looking?

A few days ago, I mentioned the leaked Encyclical to Mum.

“What is it about?” she asked.

“Climate change, and the need to take responsibility for addressing it,” I said.


prepping for our well-powered dystopia

Last week Elon Musk, probably secretly a cyborg and/or Iron Man (ETA have just been told his secret identity is ElonMan), revealed Tesla’s new battery storage system, the PowerWall. In brief, in combination with a 2kWh or a 5kWh PV system (super common sizes in Australia), means cheap, long term, accessible renewable energy at an individual level. One of the problems with PV has been an inability to store enough to get through the night, when there’s no sun out recharging the PV, and it’s a peak energy usage time. A great battery would change that, allowing charging and storage to happen through the day.

Renew Economy thinks it doesn’t mean the end of coal, and the removal of houses from the grid, but it certainly changes shit up.

PV panels. It's so beautiful.

In Australia, it definitely makes PV incredibly affordable (when the battery gets here), and makes PV super competitive, what with all the sun we have. And it changes the payback period, which has long been one of the bigger concerns around installing solar power. Origin recently calculated wasted roof space across Australia, and comes in at 5.3 million homes and businesses wasting their roof space, which doesn’t even take into account other spots to put PV (or roofs on which to put gardens, but this is a solar discussion, quokkas!). Basically it’s all our dystopia dreams come true, and I wish I’d known about it last week before I handed in my latest story (more on that when it comes out, but there’s PV and Australia’s dystopia involved).

The Conversation has a great article about the ‘winners and losers’ in this situation; what’s especially great about it is how it clearly highlights that sometimes distribution companies might not allow installation to happen because there are too many systems installed in certain areas, and if that doesn’t sound like a perfect BigPower conspiracy I don’t know what does.

Related, there’s a floating solar-powered waste water treatment plant under construction in South Australia, which is going to be awesome.

And at wired, a solar powered plane. Yes. Give it to me.