Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I get so excited when I see Allie from hyperboleandahalf has posted something new. I discovered her through my blogsurfing. I actually woke T up from a lazy Sunday sleep-in. He thought I was crying, but really it was tears from uncontrollable giggling. Enjoy :)

This one about the fish is my fave, Also must read here, here and here. Oh what the heck just go ahead and read all 200 of em. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does Australia have a population problem?

Well after having a look at the colour of Australia on this map, I think you would agree that compared to the US and parts of Europe, we're doing pretty well. Ok I apologise that the theme of this blog is becoming heavily weighted toward politics. I promise I will be more varied after the election this weeked. Its just that I keep learning all this stuff that I feel everyone should think about.

Recently I have heard a bit of talk on how population growth is a major cause of climate change. This is already playing out in federal politics, with Prime Minister Gillard dumping Rudds "Big Australia" policy in the name of sustainability. While this policy was far from perfect, we should be very careful in thinking about what Gillards "Little Australia" idea actually means, especially when this idea can justify the undermining of womens reproductive rights and fuel racist migration and border control agendas. We are getting into shakey territory now...

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Population size, growth and movement is not the cause of climate change. Climate change is a complex global issue driven by over-consumption, unbridled economic growth and our dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal. Restricting the flow of people into Australia does not address any of these global root causes of climate change. Australia's coal industry is the single biggest carbon emitter in Australia, not to mention other nasty side effects such as the impact on scarce water resources and the heath of communities across Australia and around the world. Even the most drastic population control policies will not stop climate change, because it won't stop the coal industry.

The main reason some people are calling for a sustainable population, is that when migrants come to Australia they often adopt Australia's carbon-intensive lifestyles, which increases our emissions as a whole. This is a dangerous argument, firstly because restricting the movement of people into Australia does nothing to stop unsustainable levels of consumption by Australians that is the root cause of environmental damage. More importantly, we have to recognise that our way of living in Australia (a rich, "first world" nation) has created the very reason people want to escape poverty, labour exploitation and environmental problems (see previous post) in their "third world" home lands. We cannot turn our backs on the very people we have exploited to build or carbon intensive lifestyles: we must recognise our carbon debt and act in solidarity to stop the global problem of climate change.

What I'm really worried about is that the people in these countries know that it is us in the richer countries causing the turmoil in theirs, and from their point of view us turning our backs on them is worse than rubbing salt in their wounds. Looking back through history books, wars have been started for reasons much smaller.

Because of climate change, have every reason to confront over consumption and share the worlds resources. Instead controlling the movement of people, what we need to talk about is how to share the worlds resources equitably and sustainably.

As a movement, we should reject population control policies, and instead fight for solutions to climate change that are not only effective, but also just for the global community.
Thanks to Friends of the Earth Sydney for their amazingly well put together articles :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

If you think...

With the election on Saturday, there's ads every comercial break telling you to vote Labor or Liberal. It seems a shame to me that the other parties don't have access to funding to get their message out to a wider audience.

This ad got air Wednesday night on ABC's Gruen Nation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics (2010)

Really interesting short vid on the chemicals we slather onto the biggest organ in our body.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Foreign Aid - Feeding starving kids in Ethiopia? Or the Packer kids?

A month or so ago I signed up for the independent online newspaper Crikey Daily Mail. Almost straight away, they ran a series of articles investigating into where exactly our foreign aid goes to. Now I would have thought most of our $4.3 billion worth of tax dollars for foreign aid funnels through companies such as Oxfam or World Vision to help poor countries. Is that what you would have thought too?

A lot of Australians would be surprised to know that for nearly a decade one of Australia's most successful, although little known, aid companies and it's biggest casino operator were owned by the same company.

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40 to 50% of this aid budget is spent on "Technical assistance". This is quite clearly a billion-dollar business funded by tax payers, and a small number of Australian firms have done very well from this:
  • Coffey International, the Chatswood, Sydney-based "global professional services consultancy", took more than $300 million in contracts in 2009 alone (from AusAid records)
  • Cardno ACIL secured at least $270 million, as did GRM, "a leading international development management company"
  • Queensland companies GHD and JTA international, both reaped over $100 million.
The idea that most (over 60%) of our "foreign aid" ends up back in Australian's pockets is called "Boomerang Aid", and has long been a basis of criticism of AusAID. But one thing I found quite interesting is the company GRM International Pty Ltd

Until December last year, GRM was fully owned by the Bahamas-based company Consolidated Press International Holdings (CPIH)- a key company in the private empire of one of Australia's richest families, the Packers. Many large companies are set up in a similar way to how GRM is linked in with CPIH for tax reasons, but the question is whether this is acceptable for major recipients of Australian government contracts. There are a number of main points Crikey journalists found in their investigations:
  • GRM international handles hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government contracts each year, yet according to its most recent financial statements, GRM International pty Ltd doesn't make a profit (it hasn't reported a single cent in over a decade) and hasn't had any employees since 2005.
  • These accounts are surprising because according to government records, GRM secured more than a billion dollars worth of AusAID contracts between 2001 and 2010, as well as income from its agribusiness actuvities.
  • The contracts are for "technical assistance" in the form of short-term contracts for expert advisers. This form of aid is more common in Australia than in other OECD countries and has been criticised by a recent review of Australian aid to PNG as often ineffective, wasteful and lacking in accountability.
  • All these contracts are published on the 'federal government's tender data base' but details are often vague, such as over $350,000 over two years to "strengthen accountability" and another million for "governance and related activity"
Decide for yourself, but this sounds quite sus to me. Stay tuned, I'll let you know what I find out...