Population concentration in major cities is more extreme in Australia than elsewhere

A new map graphically illustrates how Australia’s population is massively biased towards major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

“Australia has a weirdly large share of big cities for its size.”

 

In fact, an analysis carried out in the year 2000 showed that Australia had a greater share of urban population living in cities of over 750,000 people than any other major country, and that it has very few small cities for a country of its size.

This trend has continued, according to the latest census data, which shows that populations in major cities are still growing nearly twice as fast as elsewhere. This is despite the many potential benefits of life in smaller, regional cities such as cheaper house prices, less congested roads and greater life satisfaction.

The transport issue is something of a conundrum for city planners, as in most major Australian cities sufficient infrastructure was not put in place before development and high land prices made it a much more difficult proposition. Decision makers are now left wondering whether investment is worthwhile now, before things get even worse, or whether internet-led developments such as remote working and internet shopping will give people all the benefits of a city life wherever they are and mean the end of the big city boom in decades to come.

 

Re-post ~ Clever Aussie map raises serious questions by Jason Murphy on News.com.au

Massacre map will force Australians to re-examine our country’s roots

Researchers at the University of Newcastle are attempting to gain a clearer picture of events during the frontier wars by gathering evidence of massacres of Indigenous people which are seldom discussed and have never made it into most history books.

 

 

Lead researcher Lyndall Ryan and her team are going right back to explorer and settler records and using Indigenous oral history as their sources. Their strict criteria for inclusion in the map, and the difficulty of finding accounts due to the fact that the perpetrators usually covered their tracks well, means that their estimates are conservative. Nevertheless, they estimate that more than 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were killed in massacres or conflicts between 1788 and 1930 in Queensland alone.

The map was released on the 5th of July and will be added to over time. The researchers hope that others will contribute to the project so as to build the most accurate picture possible of the events during the frontier wars, changing the way this period of Australian history is understood and taught. However, Ryan acknowledges that this will be confronting, both for the researchers themselves and for the Australian pubic, who may not wish to face up to this brutal version of their country’s history.

 

“I would like to hope that over the next five or 10 years there will be a much wider acceptance that this was a feature of colonial Australia, and it will change the way we think about Australia,” she said.

 

Re-post ~ Map of massacres of Indigenous people reveals untold history of Australia, painted in blood by Calla Wahlquist in The Guardian

Climate change leads to huge infrastructure cost on Torres Strait island

The economic costs of rising sea levels due to climate change are beginning to hit home as a $24.5m sea wall is completed on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The small island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea has been suffering the effects of land erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels for years. At one point it was feared that its 350 inhabitants would have to be permanently evacuated. However, in 2014, under the Torres Strait Seawalls Project, the Australian Federal and Queensland governments pledged a total of $26.2 million to help the islands deal with the crisis.

$24 million has now been spent building only one seawall on Saibai and, whilst this sea wall is expected to protect the community and its livelihood for 50 years, it leaves little money for infrastructure on the other 5 islands in need of protection. Preliminary talks to try and secure more funding are now underway.

However, with sea levels rising by millimetres every year, inhabitants of the other islands can not afford to wait for beaureaucracy. They are at risk of losing land and culture in the very near future, despite adaptation plans which are being developed. This is especially true for the narrow coral island of Poruma, to the south of Saibai.

 

“Time is very critical in terms of getting some work underway so we can actually protect and combat erosion at Poruma — Poruma doesn’t have time to wait,” said Torres Strait Mayor, Fred Gela.

 

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The old, damaged sea wall on Saibai Island.

 

Sabai Island’s new seawall. which cost nearly $25 million and is a harbinger of the huge costs climate change could bring to governments and taxpayers worldwide.

 

Queensland Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mark Furner said that the Palaszczuk Government’s $12 million contribution to the Torres Strait Seawalls Project demonstrated their commitment to improving communities in regional and remote parts of Queensland.

 

“These are Queenslanders facing real risks to their homes and livelihoods as a result of the impacts of climate change, so to be able to provide a long‐term infrastructure solution is a great win for this community.”

 

However, it remains to be seen if government will remain so committed and optimistic as the inevitable economic costs of climate change continue to rise.

 

Read more ~ Saibai islanders celebrate new $24.5m seawall to fight rising ocean levels in Torres Strait by Emilia Terzon for ABC News

Read more ~ Minister Scullion: Saibai Island Seawalls ready to hold back the tide on indigenous.gov.au

Why the Paris climate deal is not enough without economic de-growth

Whilst the Paris climate deal has noble aims, it is based on shaky assumptions, according to a recent article in the Guardian. To genuinely put ourselves on a trajectory which avoids the economic crisis that climate change will force upon us, we need to embrace purposeful economic de-growth. 

The Paris climate deal relies upon data and ‘pathways’ modeled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The emissions cuts agreed upon in Paris will not sufficiently limit climate change unless the ‘negative emissions technologies’ the IPCC models rely upon are successful. Unfortunately 80% of the models are based upon BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) which is a technology which has not been proven at scale and which is being increasingly discredited by scientists.

This reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ has come about as the IPCC attempt to appease politicians and big business. Original IPCC models, which did not assume humanity’s ability to pull large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, required the slowing and reversing of economic growth in a way which would have been hard for those benefiting from the current economic model to stomach.

However, these original models, based on what we currently know to be possible, clearly called for economic de-growth.

 

“De-growth might sound scary, but it’s really not. All it means is easing the intensity of our economy, cutting the excesses of the very richest, sharing what we have instead of plundering the Earth for more, and liberating ourselves from the frenetic consumerism that we all know does nothing to improve our wellbeing or happiness.”

 

Humanity is now faced with a choice: to choose controlled economic de-growth or to allow the economic crisis which is sure to arise from climate change to choose us.

 

Re-post ~ The Paris climate deal won’t save us – our future depends on de-growth by Jason Hickel in The Guardian

Read more ~ In defense of de-growth: opinions and minifestos by By Giorgos Kallis, edited by Aaron Vansintjan

News in indigenous languages helps Aboriginal Australians connect with the world

The theme of this year’s NAIDOC week was ‘Our Languages Matter’ and to prove the point an ABC News article showcased three Indigenous translators who bring the Australian and International news to their language communities in their own language, through the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS). 

This adds huge value for Aboriginal people in areas where English may be their fourth or fifth language and may never be spoken at home. Hearing the news in their own first language enables people to connect with the issues facing the world at large.

 

“It helps them understand the news better when they hear it in their language — it gives them a better understanding of what it’s about.” Says Tyrone Holmes, who is a Kriol interpreter for AIS.

 

Tyrone Holmes says that reading the news in Kriol helps his community and others stay up to date with issues which affect them. He feels proud to keep the Kriol language strong as it is an important part of many people’s identity.

 

Nadyezhda Pozzana is from the island community of Galiwinku in East Arnhem Land and speaks five languages. She translates the ABC news into Ylongu Matha. “Even the elders and the senior members of my community say, ‘We listen to the radio more now because now we know what’s being said and what’s happening in the day-to-day national and international news.'” She says.

 

Maggie Burns grew up learning Warlpiri and Pintupi-Luritja from her mother and is fluent in both. One challenge is that some English words cannot be directly translated, but for Maggie another challenge is that some of the news she must translate is about such horrible events. However, she believes it is important for her to continue doing her job so that people can understand what is going on in the world. “I am very privileged to know how to speak my language and that’s a gift so it’s very important to me.”

 

Re-post ~ NAIDOC Week: News in Indigenous language enables understanding of local, global events by Mark Rigby on ABC News

Regional Cities Are Small But Great

The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is challenging the common misconceptions about rural cities through its Great Small Cities initiative. With a growth rate four times that of major cities and and and economic output on a par with that of Finland, encouraging investment in regional cities could provide huge economic benefits to Australia as a whole.

 

 

4.5 million Australians live in a network of 31 regional cities across Australia and these cities are a vital part of the Australian economy. The RAI plans to work with city leaders, governments and the Australian public to encourage policy which will make the most of the opportunities presented by regional city economies.

They take a two pronged approach. Firstly they aim to bust the myth that it is only worth investing in metropolitan cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. Secondly they have developed a blueprint for investment in City Deals to ensure that regional cities will be investment ready.

The Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Accelerator Program seeks to support regional businesses

If investment is successful, Australia’s ‘hidden metropolis’ of 4.5 million people spread across 31 regional cities has the capacity to produce $378 billion in output by 2031.

The Great Small Cities Initiative emphasises that regional cities are just that: cities, rather than the small rural towns revolving solely around agriculture that readily spring to mind when most Australians hear the word ‘regional’. However RAI are also keen to point out that regional towns often have less congestion, pollution and extreme property prices than their metropolitan counterparts.

In order to show the real demographic and skills base of regional Australia, RAI have teamed up with LinkedIn to examine the skill mix in five regional cities and how connected professionals are within, and outside of, those cities.

Read more ~ Great Small Cities – Regional Australia Institute

Wind power saves agribusiness expansion project and creates rural jobs

The largest hydroponic vegetable grower in Australia has been able to expand its operations thanks to a groundbreaking collaboration with a 196MW wind farm development.

 

Nectar Farms had planned to power its $565m expansion project with gas but almost had to abandon the project when costs proved to be prohibitive. However, after discussions with state government, local council and Neoen, the wind farm developer, they will now convert their entire operation to run on electricity from the wind farm and expand their glasshouses to 40 acres, creating 1,300 new jobs in an area which has recently suffered the closure of a goldmine.

 

Bulgana GPH Announcement from New Era Media on Vimeo.

 

Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio highlighted the fact that renewable energy can ‘unlock opportunities for large, energy intensive businesses, to create jobs in regional communities’.

“We’re delivering affordable, secure and clean energy, which is powering new jobs right across our state,” D’Ambrosio said.

The project will also incorporate 20MW of battery storage, meaning it is 100% powered by wind energy. Nectar Farms will only use 10% of the electricity generated by the wind farm, with the rest to be purchased by the Victorian government.

This is one of several wind and solar farms planned for western Victoria, which will help the state to meet its target of 40% renewable electricity by 2025 and also count towards the federal renewable energy target.

Re-post ~ Giles Parkinson – Victoria agribusiness turns to 196MW wind farm with 20MW storage in RenewEconomy

Report highlights importance of preserving Australia’s plant biodiversity

Kew Gardens has released its second annual State of the World’s Plants report. Last year’s report named Australia as one of the top three places in the world to discover new plant species, but also estimated that it is home to 12% of the world’s threatened plants.

This year’s report deepens the research from the previous year. For example it increases our understanding of the reasons why particular plants may be more vulnerable to extinction and which plant families contain the highest percentage of medicinal plants. It also maps the major traits associated with a plant’s resilience to climate change, which include thicker leaves, efficient water-use strategies, deeper roots and higher wood density.

The report also looks at threats to various plant species, including the increased need for food production and a particular focus on wildfires, seeking to understand how patterns of burning may be affected by factors such as changing land use and climate change.

Over 100 scientists are involved in preparing the report, which also highlights the good news on newly discovered plants.

Australia has been identified as one of the top three places in the world to discover new plant species, alongside China and Brazil. Dr Martin Taylor, a conservation scientist with WWF Australia, said Australia had about 21,000 plant species, making up 10% of the world’s total.

However, there are concerns that government policies may not be giving plants the protection they are due. An increasing demand for food production and housing mean more pressure to clear land. Dr Taylor singled out land clearing in Queensland as a major issue.

 

“Land clearing has accelerated, we’ve done an estimate that over 200,000 hectares of threatened species habitat was cleared in just the first two years of the Newman Government.”

 

When clearing laws were relaxed in Queensland, so much was cleared it looks set to completely undo greenhouse gas emissions cuts made under the federal government’s Direct Action policy. Photograph: WWF

 

There are concerns that new, more relaxed, land-clearing laws in NSW may lead to a similar trend in the state.

 

Read more ~

Syrian, Iraqi and Jewish women create friendships over food

The Shared Table Project is bringing Syrian, Iraqi and Jewish women together to promote understanding and friendship.

The project brings newly arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Emmanuel Synagogue in Sydney. With local Jewish women, they prepare a meal and eat together for five consecutive weeks. These occasions often include spontaneous outbreaks of song and laughter and give participants the opportunity to share aspects of their culture, such as the dishes they prepare, with others from a different background.

 

 

Project Director Mel Don Port points out that most of the Christian and Muslim women who take part will never have met a Jewish person before and vice versa. She remembers Hasna, a Syrian woman who was terrified and shaking when she first attended the group:

“‘At the end of that first week, she was the first one in class each week.”

“She was kissing us, and cuddling us and hugging ~ and in tears in the last week that she was saying goodbye to us.”

 

Sharing food, stories and laughter together breaks down barriers for these women and gives them a taste of the kind of harmony and love we’d all like to see more of in the world.

Dishes prepared and shared as part of the Shared Table Project

Re-post ~ Syrian, Iraqi and Jewish women creating friendships, harmony over food by Rachael Kohn for The Spirit of Things on ABC News

Dingoes: a farmer’s new best friend?

Whilst dingoes have traditionally been seen as a pest by farmers, there are some innovative land managers who see dingo populations as a good thing, and the evidence increasingly backs them up.

By law, land managers in Australia are required to take ‘all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with [dingoes] under their control’ as dingoes are considered a pest. However, individual case studies where dingo populations have been left alone show potential for this revolutionary farming practice to positively impact land regeneration.

The benefits of not managing dingo populations artificially include:

  • Smaller numbers of dingoes ~ when their social hierarchies are uninterrupted by poison baiting etc. dingo populations are self-managing, with only one breeding pair per group. The dominant group will scare off other dingoes who venture into the area.
  • Dingoes keep down kangaroo, feral goat, pig, cat and fox numbers, which allows pasture to rest effectively and protects native wildlife.
  • Even with some calves being taken, research shows a net financial benefit to having dingoes on a cattle property.

 

Dingoes are Australia’s apex predator and an essential part of a balanced ecosystem. They keep kangaroo populations in check, which in turn prevents overgrazing and land degradation. Photo: Angus Emmott

Dingoes are a bigger issue for sheep farmers than cattle farmers and this has created some controversy in areas where farmers are experimenting with allowing dingoes to live on their land. However, there are a number of potential ways of protecting sheep without killing dingoes, such as dingo-proof fencing and the use of guardian dogs, which have been shown to be effective dingo-deterrents in many locations across Australia. This, in combination with a longer-term move towards changing our eating habits” farming and eating native fauna, such as kangaroos, would allow massive regeneration of land that has been overgrazed and degraded for decades.

These experiments seem to back up what has been learned from other land regeneration efforts: that working with natural processes, rather than against them, is the simplest and most cost-effective way to live well on Australian soils.

 

Re-post ~ Why do some graziers want to retain, not kill, dingoes? by Euan Richie in The Conversation.

Read more ~ Predator-friendly farming—good for livestock, dingoes and the bottom line by Marea Martlew on Phys.org

Free manual on the use of guardian dogs for protecting livestock by Linda van Bommel

The virtuous circle: predator-friendly farming and ecological restoration in Australia by Johnson and Wallach in the Resotoration Ecology Journal