‘Coronered’ by the global pandemic

Sadly, Starfish has been seriously coronered by the global pandemic. For the moment, the organisation has been placed into an hibernation-like state awaiting a possible positive return.

The impacts of Covid-19 on Starfish’s work program were severe.

By late March 2020, more than 80% of Starfish’s forward work had been either postponed indefinitely or cancelled outright. As an enterprise-based charity with freelance contractors, not employees, Starfish was not eligible for any of the government assistance that was available.

From April to September 2020, Starfish reset and pared back its operations to just three projects, so as to match work with capacity and resources.

Unfortunately, there was further wave of impacts which played out during this time, the affect of which was to undermine the financial viability of even this handful of projects.

As a result, all of Starfish’s sustainability initiatives and professional services have now been discontinued. The Starfish Associates program has been suspended.

Thankfully, Starfish remains still a going concern and has sufficient reserves to cover it’s fixed overheads for several years to come. The Board intend to initiate a new strategic planning process once a forward view of the situation becomes clearer, which they anticipate will be mid-to-late 2021 at the earliest.

During this transition period, Starfish’s Board will consider any new sustainability initiative on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that Starfish has the required capacity and resources. All regulatory and compliance requirements will continue to be satisfied during this time.

What makes us happy at work? A new report on job satisfaction in Australia clues us in.

Rural workers are happier at work than their city-dwelling counterparts, according to a new report by Rebecca Cassells of Curtin University. The report, jointly published with the organisation Making Work Absolutely Human (mwah), aims to demonstrate which factors are most important for job satisfaction among Australians in order to make work ‘as human as possible’.


Older workers are happier at work than younger workers, reflecting the fact that they often continue to work by choice

There is evidence that factors such as where we live can indeed influence how happy we are at work. For example, 38% of workers in remote or very remote areas reported that they were ‘very satisfied’ with their work as opposed to only 27% in major cities. The largest percentage of very satisfied workers live in Tasmania, whilst Western Australia has the least happy workforce. However, the reasons for this varied from state to state.

Interestingly, earnings only increase job satisfaction up to a point. Workers who are ‘satisfied’ with their job earn an average of $1,267 a week, whereas those who are ‘very satisfied’ only earn $1,183. This reflects the fact that those on a higher wage tend to work more hours which can impact on their personal life.


“The trade-off between happiness with certain aspects of a job and dissatisfaction with others is evident. It’s unlikely that any job will deliver everything that is needed to be happy at work, but certain things can help.”


Many other factors also make for a potentially more satisfying work life, according to the report. These include running your own business or working for a small, local business, who you work with, being able to work from home for some of the week and working outdoors.

Read more ~ Happy Workers: How Satisfied Are Australians At Work?

Sustainable food production for 9.6bn people in 2050 is possible (if we eat less meat)

A study in Nature has shown that it could be possible to meet the  nutritional needs of the predicted 9.6 billion people who will live on Earth in 2050, even without further deforestation.


A Western meat-rich diet provided the least number of viable future scenarios


The study modelled 500 different food production scenarios using regional forecasts supplied by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. It aimed to determine which scenarios would potentially provide sufficient food for the predicted global population.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Karl-Heinz Erb said:


“All the scenarios we have considered come with completely different ecological costs. Some of them have a high environmental pressure, and some of them have a lower environmental pressure, and we found that this is strongly determined by the diet.”


In the unlikely event of a completely vegan future, 100% of the scenarios modeled would provide sufficient food without expanding existing croplands and allowing for low-intensity farming methods such as organic farming. Vegetarianism also allowed for success in the majority of scenarios whereas the current Western meat-rich diet required high-intensity farming methods and a great deal of farmland expansion.


Feasability of various diets for sustainable global food production


Sustainable agriculture expert Professor Richard Eckard of the University of Melbourne reviewed the study cautiously and pointed to several potential practical limitations of some of the scenarios. He pointed to the fact that natural grasslands such as the African Savannah are unsuitable for cropping and that livestock provide much of the energy for farming in the developing world. According to Professor Eckard, these are important considerations that were not accounted for in the study.
The authors of the study point out that it is only intended as a starting point for further debate.

Wind and solar are crushing fossil fuels

Solar & wind crush fossil fuels

Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable.

While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

“We’re in a low-cost-of-oil environment for the foreseeable future,” Liebreich said during his keynote address at the BNEF Summit in New York recently. “Did that stop renewable energy investment? Not at all.”

Here’s what’s shaping power markets, in six charts from BNEF:

Chart of solar & wind

The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: It’s a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. What’s more, the price of batteries to store solar power when the sun isn’t shining is falling in a similarly stunning arc.

Just since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over. Even wind power, which was already established, doubled four times over the same period. For the first time, the two forms of renewable energy are beginning to compete head-to-head on price and annual investment.

Meanwhile, fossil fuels have been getting killed by falling prices and, more recently, declining investment. It started with coal. It used to be that lower prices increased demand for fossil fuels, but coal prices apparently can’t fall fast enough. Richer OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries have been reducing demand for almost a decade. In China, coal power has also flattened. Only developing countries with rapidly expanding energy demands are still adding coal, though at a slowing rate.

The best minds in energy keep underestimating what solar and wind can do. Since 2000, the International Energy Agency has raised its long-term solar forecast 14 times and its wind forecast five times. Every time global wind power doubles, there’s a 19 percent drop in cost, according to BNEF, and every time solar power doubles, costs fall 24 percent.

And while BNEF says the shift to renewable energy isn’t happening fast enough to avoid the catastrophic legacy of fossil-fuel dependence-climate change-it’s definitely happening.

Repost ~ Wind and solar are crushing fossil fuels | Sydney Morning Herald

Kelly Smitham rejoins Starfish Board

Kelly SmithamStarfish’s Board are pleased to announce Kelly Smitham’s return ~ which was approved late last year at the 2015 Annual General Meeting.

Kelly was one of the founding directors of Starfish (2012), however needed to resign to pursue a significant career opportunity in Western Australia.

Kelly is passionate about seeing rural areas thriving ~ with employment, services and education opportunities that are comparable to metropolitan standards. Particularly as a parent, and as someone who has grown up in the New England North West region of NSW, she would like for her family to have a few to all these things ~ and to stay in the area if they choose to!

With fourteen years experience in human services, Kelly is particularly interested in providing great services to our most vulnerable populations by way of building the capacity of service providers through strong business and quality management systems.

Kelly is currently NSW/ACT & QLD Operations Manager for St Ives Group and has previously worked as a Quality Improvement Coordinator for St Vincent de Paul’s nationally renowned Freeman House as well as a case manager with Uralla Shire Council (Tablelands Community Support Options) and the New England Brain Injury Service (NSW Health).

Kelly has a Master‘s degree in Human Services Management and Policy (Charles Sturt University) and Bachelor’s degree in Social Science & Psychology (University of New England). Her full profile is available on LinkedIn.

Carbon dioxide options for commercial greenhouses

Effect on temperatures

Schematic showing the effect on extreme temperatures when (a) the mean temperature increases, (b) the variance increases, and (c) when both the mean and variance increase for a normal distribution of temperature.

Starfish Associate Ian Gesch has been selected as the lead article for the current edition of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses.

The changing landscape of fossil fuels presents increasing business risks for Australian domestic industrial and commercial energy consumers. Rising costs and uncertain supply of natural gas and the existing high price of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) represent a significant portion of this risk. Adding complexity to this changing landscape is mounting international pressure on Australian policy makers to replace fossil-fuelled energy with renewable alternatives. Horticulturists use natural gas and LPG for greenhouse environment management and as a result are left exposed to an uncertain future.

The use of protected cropping practices is a form of climate change adaptation. However, these practices need continued modification to prepare for a changing climate, particularly in response to rising temperatures and increasing fuel costs. Modification of protected cropping practices to accommodate climate change has the potential to create opportunities for strengthening the business viability of horticulture and augmenting food security for domestic consumption and export.

Horticulturists have options for reducing reliance on fossil fuels and adapting to climate change. Most of these options, however, have low or no appeal due to relative cost (such as heat pumps and wind power), complexity (generating syngas from industrial or agricultural processes) or physical footprint (such as solar energy collection). Industrial symbioses (using waste CO2 from industrial processes) also have low applicability due to the continued placement of greenhouses in regional areas as opposed to locating them adjacent to sources of waste heat and carbon dioxide.

Those remaining options for adapting further to climate change require an innovative approach to testing and integration and include:

  • Using the combustion of natural gas and LPG not only as a source of CO2 but to also power absorption refrigeration plant. This would not only provide continued supply of CO2 for enrichment but allow longer exposure times without the need for venting greenhouses.
  • Cleaning the CO2 emitted from the flue of existing coal and biomass furnaces and using this for enrichment. This solution has the potential to make the combustion of expensive natural gas and LPG a secondary source of CO2 for enrichment.
  • Locate new greenhouses adjacent to sources of waste heat and CO2.
  • Perform an assessment of the total volume of CO2 consumed by commercial greenhouses (existing and potential) in Australia in order to inform climate change policy development and recognise horticulture as a legitimate consumer of CO2.
  • Develop tools and methods that simplify the calculation of the true cost of CO2 enrichment so that the efficiency of this practice can be improved.

Climate change will require a response from all commerce and industry. Horticulturists have the choice to either wait for the risks or prepare for the opportunities.

Read the full article ~ Sustainable energy: Carbon dioxide options for commercial greenhouses | Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses

Read more about the Green Glasshouses initiative

Next generation farmers

Dolphins surfing in unison of West Australian Coast

“Huge pods of bottlenose dolphins cruise the shoreline and surf the crystal clear turquoise waves.”


Register NOW for NCEF’14 ~ 70% tickets sold already

70% tickets sold so hurry to secure your place!!

The North Coast’s annual event for creating a sustainable energy system is just around the corner and it’s time to book your tickets to ensure your place.

Now in its fourth year, the North Coast Energy Forum brings together industry, government and community to learn, share and progress renewable energy in the North Coast.  This year’s forum has limited places so check out the jam packed program and book your tickets at North Coast Energy Forum.

2014 NC Energy Forum

Australia’s largest community-owned solar system

Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club Australia’s largest solar project would be financed by ‘everyday investors’ in an exciting community initiative which will bring  jobs, investment and solar power, through community involvement , to the Shoalhaven region.

Shoalhaven Heads Bowling and Recreation Club has launched on online campaign to raise $119,800 for the almost 100kW community-owned solar power system.

Installation of what will be Australia’s largest community-owned commercial solar system is set to begin now that the Shoalhaven Heads Bowling and Recreation Club signed off on the 99kW project.

The project, dubbed Repower One, is being driven by Repower Shoalhaven, a community group formed last year to spearhead the south-coast NSW town’s transition to sustainable energy systems.

Locals are now being invited to register their interest in the project. Repower is calling for an upfront investment of $5,990 per shareholder, for a 3.96kW share of the system. The rate of return projected for investors is 6.5% per annum, over a 10-year period.

Ultimately, the plan is for 80 per cent of the rooftop solar system to be funded and owned by community shareholders, with the remaining 20 per cent to be owned and funded by the Club. The Club will purchase the electricity from the solar power system, ensuring investors a healthy revenue stream, and at the end of the 10-year term, the bowling club will be ‘gifted’ the system.

Re-post of Shoalhaven seeks $120,000 for 99kW community otwned solar project | REnew economy