Category Archives: making a difference

Happiness, depression and coping in general.

How many times have you heard a variation of this?

  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Having an “attitude of gratitude” is something we can foster.
  • You make your reality
  • We can influence the way we [ think | act | feel ]
  • You choose to be positive.

If you are a natural cynic, a sufferer of depression or otherwise jaded with the world then your immediate attitude and response to being told to “choose to be happy” may very well have been the same as mine, namely “go fuck yourself” or some form of derivative invective thereof.

Continue reading Happiness, depression and coping in general.

We need to foster change. We need an end to victim blaming.

I have always been someone who believes in egalitarian equality. Which is why years ago someone was surprised by my response to a rape allegation in the news with a comment I made about how I hoped it’s “not a case of false allegations” and challenged me on it.

Now before everyone jumps up and down, it was a genuine concern. However It was not built from some misogynistic viewpoint but was actually based on a fear of authority.

You say what now? Continue reading We need to foster change. We need an end to victim blaming.

Now Seeking to Hire: Eco Architect – Victoria, Australia

We’re ready to design our dream home. Now we’re looking for an Architect.

The concept:

Environmentally friendly and functional house designed to blend into the environment while allowing for an entertaining lifestyle predicated around the culinary focus of the owners with a view to provide a community feel and open sharing home with friends and family and potentially lend itself to small scale commercial venture such as B&B and/or Osteria.

What we expect from an Architect

What we really need to know first and foremost, is this the sort of project that you would have definite passion for?

Passion is really what I am after. Yes, your creativity, your experience and your insights are what we pay for, but passion is what will make me hire you.

I can say that there is only one certain aspect I don’t like — being told I will need to pay for an architect to learn something.

This is the reason that I chose not to use family members and related architects. They did not have the experience in some of the aspects of this project and expected that I would pay for their time to go out and study. It is a luxury that I am not afforded in my career. It is a luxury that is not afforded to my wife’s career. It is a luxury that I am certain most people would baulk at if it came from any other trade or professional person.

Does this make me a client from hell? Maybe.

I do not begrudge paying the fees. I simply do not want someone who is neither interested in the job as anything other than a job. Neither am I interested in anyone who perceives me as a line of credit.

Design Elements we’re seeking:

  • Aesthetics:
    • Integrated into landscape
    • Makes best use of the views
    • Design to maximise daylight
    • Floor plan allows engagement with views and responding to the path of the sun
  • Renewable and Sustainable Aspects:
    • Water:
      • maximising roof area and form along with rainwater tanks to collect water and utilise it in the house for toilets, showers, laundry and kitchen
      • Grey water filtration system treating all greywater on site through a reed bed and sand filtration system which is integrated into site landscaping and into a reclamation pond
      • Sewage treatment on site using worm farm system with casings and liquid feeding the crop yard
      • Utilise water efficient appliances and fittings
      • Storm water from the site collected and retained via reclamation dam
    • Energy:
      • Full use of sustainable energy sources allowing autonomous energy production including (where appropriate): photo-voltaics, solar hot water, wind turbine, geothermal heating and cooling and micro-hydro generators, heatsink walls, highly efficient wood burners – no idea is a bad idea.
      • Full use of passive heating and cooling
      • Aim to produce a thermally efficient building envelope with high R-value materials
      • Aim to provide 6 or 7 Star energy rating
      • Utilise 12v Electrical Systems throughout; Inverters where required; LED lighting where possible with compact fluorescent where not
      • High performance thermal insulation and double or triple glazing

Rooms:

  • A “Great Room” taking in the views of the property
  • A “Classic” Library and reading room
  • Combined office/study – either off the library or integrated with library
  • Small Scale ‘Commercial Kitchen’
    • Cool Rooms : a 4 carcass meat maturing room; Walk in Fridge and Freezer
    • Charcuterie Cure and Store Room
    • Small Wine Cellar
    • Walk through larder
    • Butlers Pantry
  • Entertainment area centred around the food – community style tables, “outdoor” area by opening up the room and taking in the country side but easily closed and returned to “indoor” room without sacrificing the views
  • A private retreat for the master bedroom with hidden panic room/firebunker access
  • A guest wing:
    • Three Guest bedrooms each with their own ensuite, hotel style kitchenette and robe.
    • Each with individual single carport and access ways
    • A common lounge/TV room for the guest rooms

Wish List:

  • Victorian Styling
  • Tall (12 foot) ceilings
  • Storage room
  • Laundry chutes are a good thing
  • Rubbish chutes are a good thing
  • A theatre room seating 6 people

Issues past houses have always had:

  • Never Enough Storage
  • Materials have been difficult to clean or maintain

The Land:

  • located out at Sugerloaf Creek, Victoria
  • is flat to undulating
  • was previously used as a bluestone quarry in the 1800’s
  • still has bluestone remnants scattered around the lot
  • has a creek frontage
  • will be used as a combined beef, sheep and poultry property
  • will also sport self-sustainable garden
  • Will retain scatterings of native vegetation to encourage wildlife.

I need someone who wants to complete this kind of project. To work with me and my silly ideas. To help achieve the vision knowing that there isn’t a million dollar pot of gold behind this. The design has to try and take into consideration 3 main financial aspects:

  • Designed as much as possible for owner/builder
    and/or
  • Designed for a Modular or staged implementation
    and
  • Designed to keep all costs down both in the initial capital and then the ongoing operational.

The expected budget for the building is approximately $350,000

Interested? Leave me your contact details.

One way to change the way you eat is to be informed.

Everything You Need to Know About Fast Food
Via: Online Schools

While you’re at it … make sure you go off and watch Food, Inc.

Food Inc Flyer

I forgot how well compiled and powerful the message in this feature was put together.I think it should be required viewing for everyone.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a pro-vegan campaign – It’s not about scaremongering. It really is about understanding what is happening to the food and why. It’s understanding that you as a consumer must demand certain things – demand fresh food, demand gmo free food, demand that the provider of your food tells you what they are serving you.Oh, and you can do all of this at the arches or the southern gent’s or even at the hut. Demand it of ALL of your food providers, and they will change.

Finally, You should check out Pollan’s food books, In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. where he seeks to explain why we eat the way we do, why the industrialized Western food system is the way it is and why that’s not necessarily the best thing for our health.

Teenager Wins Science Fair by Solving Massive Environmental Problem

Researchers have been wracking their brains for years to figure out a solution. But leave it to a Canadian high school student to leave them all in the dust. Daniel Burd, an 11th grader at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, has discovered a way to make plastic bags degrade in as little as three months—a finding that won him first prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, a $20,000 scholarship, and a chance to revolutionize a major environmental issue.

— source

So, umn … yeah, now I really feel like I’ve done nothing with my life.

Denying recycling just won’t hold water

I wrote about this very thing (Water Crisis, June 25, 2007) but without the hard facts or elequant prose of Mr Davidson, so I will not sully his message, rather allow you to read it for yourself.

Denying recycling just won’t hold water

WATER Minister Tim Holding is a desperate man representing a desperate government. His press statement last week claimed that a business case undertaken by or for the Government found major recycled water projects too expensive. Rubbish.

In 2002 Melbourne Water found that recycling sewerage water from the eastern treatment plant at Carrum was cheaper than building a dam. It also reflected the growing policy of using where possible recycled water, which flows into 25 per cent of Melbourne’s drinking water.

Even so, avoiding recycling was part of the justification for the Wonthaggi desalination plant, which was sprung on the electorate just after the 2006 election. This is despite Labor campaigning on the promise of no desal because it was too expensive and no north-south pipe because it would take water away from the already distressed farmers in the Goulburn valley.

Many international reports say that any government prepared to negotiate with the desal finalists, Veolia and Suez, to privatise water services without fully understanding the implications, is likely to find consumers ripped off and the Government losing popular support.

The Government has just dumped Veolia/Connex as franchisee of Melbourne’s rail network. Now Veolia is considered favourite over Suez for the desal contract. Connex hasn’t complained about losing the transport contract. Is this because it expects to win the desal tender?

Irrespective of who wins the tender, it is clear that the decision to abandon Melbourne Water’s economically and environmentally sensible plan to recycle water is connected with the desalination plant.

Holding’s press statement last Friday said, “The Latrobe Valley option, to substitute recycled water to cool power stations, would have cost approximately $3.8 billion.”

This claim is so wide of the mark that it could be seen as a cover-up for an even bigger problem. It has long been Melbourne Water and government policy to upgrade the Carrum treatment plant. A long-standing statement still on the Melbourne Water website states: “The options for using the ETP (Carrum) recycled water and the requirements for this business case were foreshadowed in Our Water Our Future (2005). The business case compares the costs and the benefits of taking tertiary treated Class A water and recycling it for … substitution of recycled water for river water being used by the power generation industry in the Latrobe Valley, which currently uses about 100 gigalitres of river water a year … This would secure water supplies for this critical industry as well as release water for the environment, Gippsland and Melbourne.”

The commitment to the desal plant led to the junking of this policy. The generators are the excuse. They have a long-term contract for river water. The contract must be varied to take the water from Carrum. The Government is using the excuse that water from Carrum would risk damaging the generators to justify a lower price even though the water would be quality controlled for power station use, unlike river water, which the power stations must treat at their cost.

This has not stopped the Yallourn generators claiming the recycled water would create unknown risks to their equipment. The Government has fastened on to this dubious argument, aimed at getting cheaper water for the generators, to claim this destroys the case for upgrading the recycling plant to class A water and, even more fantastic, makes desal water cheaper.

Back to reality. If the recycling project is completed in line with the original business case, 100 gigalitres can be pumped to Yallourn, freeing up an extra 100 gigalitres of water from the Latrobe River for Melbourne’s use. This is equal to a quarter of Melbourne’s water demand, currently 380 gigalitres a year, and it is not dependent on rainfall as it recycles existing water.

This makes the 150-gigalitre desal plant redundant. The only additional expenditure needed for recycling is the cost of building the system of pipes and canals to get the water to Yallourn. The distance is 140 kilometres with a rise less than half the rise from Wonthaggi to the Cardinia Reservoir.

The capital cost of pumping water to Yallourn is about $1.3 billion, although the cost could be reduced to $600 million if it used the pipes purchased for the north-south pipeline. In any case, it’s likely there won’t be any water to pump if priority is given to the river, irrigators and the cities of Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton. The claim that the Foodbowl Modernisation program will create water “savings” is proving to be a charade.

By comparison, the capital cost of pumping water from Wonthaggi to Cardinia will be in the order of $1.7 billion without including its share of the new capital expenditure needed to bring power underground to the desal plant.

The mind boggles: $3.8 billion to pipe water to Yallourn and only $3.1 billion to build the desal plant and pump water to Cardinia. Even if they gave the Carrum water to the generators for nothing, it would still be cheaper than going with desalination. It could be argued that the Government’s preferred business case is possibly a fraud on the taxpayer and the environment.

Kenneth Davidson is a senior columnist.


Choosing Charities

For a number of years, I used to give to every charity that held out it’s hand – I have the pins, ribbons and thank you brochures to prove it too … but after a while, I started feeling like I was being raped and pillaged on every street corner. I felt bad that I couldn’t give to them all. I felt that I was being made to feel guilty for not putting money into every bucket, box or envelope that was thrust at me every ten metres. The absolute worst part was, my money was going out – but I didn’t see how it was changing anything. The only thing that seemed to be changing was the amount of collectors and number of causes. Apparently, this is a known phenomena, one that I was being affected by – one known as Charity Burnout.

So, a few years back, I decided to follow a simple plan to still meet my philanthropic desires while reducing the effects of the charity burnout. The plan was to choose just three charities a year and give each a regular (monthly) donation. The idea is that it will allow the charity to plan and budget ahead.

In the beginning, I started by choosing the common and popular charities. But after a while I started re-questioning my choices and the impact that they actually made. So, I started examining the charities, scrutinizing their missions and where the money goes. All of a sudden, my choices became far more important – why donate money to charity X, when only 30% of the donation makes it to the end goal? Or support Charity Y when their support is based on religious conversion? Continue reading Choosing Charities