Half a flush

A newcomer to Australia is usually surprised that the toilet bowls here are different from those found in most countries. And no, I’m not referring to how flushed water spirals in the opposite direction here in the Southern hemisphere compared to those in the Northern hemisphere. That is a myth, by the way. If the design of the toilet bowl is the same, the flushed water should spiral in the same direction regardless of hemispherical location.

I’m actually referring to the fact that toilets here don’t have one flush button or lever but two! That’s right, you have two options here. One for the full flush (usually indicated by a full circle) and one for the half flush (usually indicated by a circle with a diameter line).

A few people are confused by the concept of the dual flush system though. They are afraid of underestimating the amount of flush they need after going to the toilet (and consequently, leaving evidence of their usage). In case you are one of the confused, the half flush is for Number 1’s and the full flush is for Number 2’s.

Kidding aside, I think the idea of dual flush toilets is pretty clever, not to mention environment friendly. It boggles the mind how much clean drinkable water is wasted flushing down toilets. With this innovation, imagine all that water saved from using the half flush instead of the full flush. Here is a quote from the Australian Government’s environment website:

Studies conducted in 1993 simulated the estimated projected water savings in Australia, over time, of a 6/3 litre dual flush system compared with other flushing volumes. The study addressed total current population, projected population, total current number of households, projected number of households, number of toilets per household, and flush volumes in current use. The results of the study showed that water consumption from toilet cisterns (litres per person per day) has fallen from 55 litres in 1982 to 18 litres in 1993.

Data from the study clearly showed that, for Australia, the amount of water used for toilet flushing in the year 2020 was anticipated to be less than the amount used in 1991. This result was achieved even with a projected population increase to 26,707,000.

We’re lucky that we have dual flush toilets here, specially now that there is a water shortage crisis. If we didn’t, we could have run out of water a long time ago. Now, if only the flushless urinals take off in Australia, too.

Published in: on November 15, 2007 at 12:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Environment and jobs

I try to avoid posting about politics in here as much as possible but a recent statement made by Prime Minister John Howard really troubled me. He said, “It’s a plan for reducing Australian jobs and not reducing Australian emissions.”

There are already a lot of arguments amade about how reduction of emissions meant those people who work for coal and oil would lose jobs and how introduction of alternate power sources will generate new jobs.

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this: If we don’t act now to save the planet we live in, everything else won’t matter as we would all be dead anyway. It should be a no-brainer. Saving the environment should be the top most priority. Our very lives (and our children’s) depend on it.

Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 12:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Recycle that PC

Where do electronic goods go to die? Well, my first guess would be in the rubbish tip either brought there by their previous owners or collected and deposited there by the council during scheduled rubbish days. It’s sad that these gadgets which were once so much a part of our lives and could even have held pride of place among our possessions are now deemed worthless and are now landfill.

Another option would be to recycle them and some companies accept old computer equipment to be recycled. The problem however is that it’s not as easy as kerbside recycling. You really have to make a concious effort to haul your equipment to your car, drive all the way to the recycling facility and you sometimes even have to pay a small fee for them to recycle the thing. For most of us, it’s enough to discourage us from recycling these equipment.

In our case, we have a desktop computer that had gone toast since a year a go and a monitor that would do real damage to your eyes if you still attempt to use it. We were planning to have it recycled but never got around to it. Which is why it’s still in our study, languishing on the floor and taking up space. The solution to the problem of what we should do with it came when we were at the public library last weekend. I noticed a large poster on the notice board about Apple sponsoring a free recycling program in our area. Click on this link for locations where this program will be held as well as the date/time. For Wyndham residents, here are the details for the recycling program near our area:

When: July 28 (Saturday) 10am – 4pm, July 29 (Sunday) 10am-2pm
Where: Wyndham City Council Depot 241-253 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing (next door to Mitre10)
What to bring: Any old computers, laptops, monitors or computer related peripherals
What NOT to bring: Copiers, TVs, overhead projectors, batteries not integral to computer systems, cracked or broken CRT monitors, UPS units, contaminated equipment of any kind, or any other universal or hazardous waste prohibited by local, state or federal government.

Published in: on July 27, 2007 at 12:25 pm  Comments (2)  

Excuse me while I de-clutter my life

I know, I know! I’ve been missing from this blog for over a month that you’d be forgiven in thinking that I’ve disappeared off the face of the planet. What’s my excuse? The weather of course! It’s the middle of winter here in Australia and like most everyone else, I’m sort of hibernating. It’s so cold outside on most days that all I want to do is stay at home and keep warm.

However, that does not mean that I’ve been idle. Staying at home gave me the opportunity to have a good look at our home. Since moving in about 2 years ago, we haven’t really done up the place, we basically just moved our old stuff in and forgot all about it. We still had our old mis-matched furniture, the living room was a drab place and every room is really very messy and cluttered.

The first step was to sell off some of our old furniture on Ebay. I’ve managed to sell a rug, recliner, a set of tables, floor lamps, an old TV and even the lava lamp from hubby’s bachelor years! I won’t get rich with the money I got for them but at least I’ve made some space, got some lunch money with the stuff being carted away by happy buyers at no cost to me and I was also able to help the environment in the process (less landfill). Not a bad deal overall, if you ask me.

Next, I had to go through our old clothes. We’ve been keeping tired, frayed clothing in the hopes of re-purposing them but I realised we’ve been keeping a lot of them and not going through them fast enough. We also had some clothes that were still in good shape but just won’t fit anymore (and probably won’t ever again). Most of them went to the charity bin with some pieces put away for use as rugs or work clothes. With less clothes in forgotten boxes and closet corners, I was also able to reclaim some closet space. I’m still not done re-organising the closet and yet it’s already starting to look neater and things are now way easier to find. This exercise also made me realise how much weight I’ve put on! And I thought I was fat then! What should I call myself now?!? Maybe I should watch what I eat this winter as I usually get bigger during the winter and never really lose most of it when warmer weather comes around.

Now, a clean-up won’t be really complete if it does not involve some papers. Bills, magazines, newspapers and even promotional materials are strewn about in almost every corner of our house. To tame the paper monster, I bought several binders from Officeworks and tried categorising them and organising the bills. Owner manuals and instruction booklets were kept together in a box for easier access and to avoid the ever-frustrating search for them whenever the need for them arises. Old magazines, newspapers and promotional materials went straight to the recyclable bin. The study certainly looked a lot less cluttered when I was done and I was able to free up some space in the bookshelves as well.

Purging our house of such unnecessary things has been quite therapeutic. It’s good to have a set place for things and looking at (or even admiring) the neat shelves after I’ve gone through them. Maybe I’m a touch obsessive compulsive, no? Nonetheless, I still have quite a long way to go since I haven’t even gotten to the kitchen pantry and cupboards, linen closet, bedrooms and the garage (where all our junk currently lives). As you have probably guessed by now, I have my hands full till summer comes around again.

Published in: on July 12, 2007 at 12:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Free Trees!

In these days of global warming, it’s nice to see local council’s doing their bit to help stop climate change. Yesterday, we took advantage of the Wyndham City Council’s Free Tree Giveaway Program during the Wyndham Water Wise expo. The program was only open from 10 am to 5 pm and each household was supposedly allowed a maximum of two free plants.

We got at the venue pretty late at around 4 pm and was afraid that there wouldn’t be any free plants left for us. We were glad to find out that there were still some plants left. Even better, they were the plants we wanted to get in the first place, Rock Correas (Correa Glabra). It’s supposed to be ideal for the Australian climate (as in dry) as it is a native flora and could even be used as a low screen.

That’s good news for us since we’ve inadvertently killed off two of our backyard screen plants already. That’s right, we aren’t good at gardening. Anyway, we were hoping to replace those with the two plants we would be getting from the giveaway.

We were only supposed to be eligible for two plants of our choice but we ended up with half-a-dozen of them! At the time, I was very hungry and wasn’t thinking straight so I just accepted all six plants thinking I could probably plant the other four somewhere around the house.

We only realised later that we have no place to put the extra four plants we have. So now, we are stuck with four rock correas we don’t really need. I will probably just give them away. And if nobody wants them, I hope they’ll be able to survive in pots.

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 12:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Shower head exchanged

We finally got around to exchanging our old, water-inefficient shower heads for new, shiny ones last weekend. Gj was expecting to have a difficult time installing it but it was pretty painless. We’ve been using the new shower heads for several days now and would have to admit that we’re glad we made the exchange. We love that it has 3 settings (heavy spray, light spray and trickle) and matches our bathroom’s colour scheme.

Hubby was curious as to why the water company would give these shower heads for free, especially since we discovered that they sell for about $75 bucks each at the local hardware store. We would have loved to asked the librarian but the one who attended to Gj looks like she was in a (permanent) sour mood. Anyway, I’m guessing the council and the water company just wanted to chip in at making people save what precious little water we have left. For whatever reason that motivated them to do it, I’m glad that they did run the program. For those of you other Wyndham residents who still haven’t exchanged your grubby, old shower heads, today’s the last day so better do it now!

Published in: on May 25, 2007 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Shower head exchange

Even though the rain is finally falling here in Melbourne, it won’t be enough to reverse the current drought. Everyone is being encouraged to save water and City West Water is offering its customers to swap old, inefficient shower heads for new ones. Old shower heads could use up to 20 litres of water per minute compared to just 9 litres per minute for the new ones. Not only are the new shower heads water efficient, it looks mighty better than the old ones too. The best news about this shower head swap is that it won’t cost you anything, the water company is offering to swap your old shower heads for free (well, with a maximum of 2 shower heads per household).

To participate, just bring your old shower heads, a completed application form and your latest water bill to an exchange center on the specified day. For Wyndham City residents like us, the exchange started last Monday (14th of May) and would run till Friday week (25th of May) at the local libraries.

Prior to this, the water company has offered to exchange shower heads last December. I signed up for that event but was away on holidays on the day of exchange. Lucky they’re giving us another chance to turn in our old, ugly shower heads in exchange for a new, shiny one. The only thing we’re apprehensive about is that we would have to take out our old shower heads to get the new ones and we don’t have a clue as to how difficult that would be. Sure, the water company had some instructions and illustrations online (and even a link to a video) but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about instructional videos, it’s that it’s not as easy as they make it out to be!

Anyway, we’re planning to make the exchange this weekend. So fingers crossed that everything turns out to be as simple as it looks!

Published in: on May 18, 2007 at 8:00 am  Comments (4)  

Can’t Stand the Heat?

Ever since watching Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth documentary, I have became more aware of environmental issues in regards to climate change. Whenever there is a TV feature on ABC or SBS regarding climate change that I’m aware of, I made an attempt to watch it.

Just recently, I watched this documentary about how the next type of refugees we’ll be seeing are the “environmental refugees” that will be coming mostly from the Pacific region. Although not from the show I watched, here is a quote from a related news article titled We must plan for climate change refugees: Labor on the Sunday Morning Herald:

Low-lying Pacific island states such as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu – which sit just a few metres above sea level – are at risk of being swamped as global warming forces sea levels to rise.

In fact, in the TV feature, it showed that some of their trees that were once near the beach are now submerged a few feet in water. The townsfolk fear that their whole island might be submerged underwater in a few years. And then, they will have no choice but to find a place to make their home somewhere else. Like Australia perhaps.

But is Australia any better off at the moment?

According to Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology’s
Annual Australian Climate Statement 2005
, year 2005 was the hottest year on record in Australia since 1910. Here are some excerpts from the statement along with the Annual Mean Temperature chart for Australia from 1910 to 2005.

Many of Australia’s warmest years on record (such as 1988, 1998 and 2002) had temperatures boosted by significant El Niño events. However, no such event occurred in 2005, making the record warmth even more unusual. The 2005 record is yet another sign that our climate is changing. Since 1979, all but four years have been warmer than average in Australia.

Australian temperatures have increased by approximately 0.9ºC since 1910, consistent with global warming trends. Scientific studies have linked global and Australian temperature increases to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Whilst this warming trend is expected to continue into the decades ahead, annual temperatures are influenced by numerous factors, including natural variability, so 2006 will not necessarily be warmer than 2005.

Okay. But what about 2006?

Here are a couple of articles from the Melbourne-based newspaper, The Age, that pointed out the coming heatwave and an “endless summer”: Victoria braces for heatwave (Oct 10) and Victoria in the grip of an endless summer (Oct 13).

Not only will it be hot here, but it will be very dry. It doesn’t help that the level of Melbourne’s main water supply coming from the Thomson Reservoir is at an all time low, according to The Age article Dam business — why the drought is really in store (Oct 8 ).

Here is a quote from the article:

The last time the water sat at 20 per cent capacity was in 1985, as the reservoir was being filled.

Geoff Crapper, a hydrologist who was responsible for Melbourne’s rainfall and river monitoring systems for 15 years, said that if Melbourne’s weather continued to mimic the big dry of 2003, the Thomson would be sitting at 13 per cent capacity by mid-May — at the “extreme minimum operating level”.

“It means that the water can’t be extracted in the normal way. This will be seriously uncharted territory with … an increasing likelihood of water quality problems,” said Mr Crapper, who points to potential blue-green algae blooms and fish-killing high levels of manganese occurring when the bottom of the dam is stirred up. “The reality is, I don’t believe Melbourne Water know what they’re up against because they’ve never dealt with anything like it.”

It is now feared that the agriculture industry will be in so much trouble that farmers’ businesses might fold up.

I think the government should really consider the matter of climate change more seriously. The current administration might be reluctant to apply measures to stave off climate change because it is likely to negatively impact the coal industry. But if we don’t do something about climate change now, not having coal would be the least of our worries.

If the current trend in climate change continues, a possible perpetual drought would devastate our agriculture. Where are we going to get our food? What would happen to the farmers? What about our shrinking water supply?

Unfortunately, a lot of people would rather just bury their heads in the sand.

Published in: on October 13, 2006 at 12:50 pm  Comments (2)  

The End Is Near

I don’t want to be an alarmist but it seems very much like it is near the end of the world. Literally. Raquel and I have recently watched Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth over the weekend. It’s a documentary about global warming and climate change.

But don’t let the fact that it is a documentary put you off. Al Gore, who is the film’s narrator/lecturer, was pretty entertaining while he gets the message across to his audience. And what is this message? Well, if we don’t change now, our planet Earth may not be livable in 50 years.

Here is a quote about the film from its website:

Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Although it may seem like just a lot of fear-mongering, when you see the facts presented in the form of raw data, charts and photos taken of places a few years ago compared to today, you wouldn’t be able to deny that we are in fact destroying ourselves due to our apathy towards the environment.

I think most of that apathy is due to the fact that caring for the environment means living a more inconvenient life. Turning down the thermostat 2 degrees lower to cut down on carbon emissions means that winters would be slightly less comfortable in the house. Switching to green energy means paying more for electricity. Driving the car less means walking more and taking the public transportation available. But what is all that convenience gained today if there our planet is unlivable tomorrow?

Trailer of An Inconvenient Truth

There are rumours in the media that the jury is still out on whether this global warming thing is even actually happening. Well, according to scientists it is happening and it’s happening fast. Meanwhile, the government implies that not all scientists agree on this. But it just isn’t so. This is just the government’s way of appeasing the corporations and the people who have a stake on carbon emitting technologies such as coal and petrol.

I can understand why these people may feel threatened by people wanting to take action toward reduction of carbon emissions and some such. After all, if we stop using coal tomorrow, there would be a lot of unemployed workers from the mining industry. But if we don’t take action, the farmers will be out of business as the continuing rise of temperature annually will cause yearly droughts. So, on top of not having enough food to feed the planet, we all have to contend with the rising heat. The miners could find other jobs. We can’t find another livable planet.

And with the rising heat, that means the glaciers of the arctic will melt. It’s actually already melting at an alarming rate. With all that melted water added to the ocean, cities near the sea will be submerged in up to 20 feet of water. That would affect a lot of major cities in the planet.

And once this happens, there is no turning back. There would be nothing we could do to save the planet and ourselves. So, while we still have a chance, we should definitely do something about it now. I’m sure some of you reading this are still skeptical about the whole global warming issue. Why don’t you go to the cinemas and watch this film and see for yourself?

As for me, I’ll try to do my part. Also, I’d like to help spread the word on this very critical issue. I want there to be a livable and sustainable planet Earth for my children-to-be and my grandchildren-to-be.

Speaking of the end of the world… Recently, Pope Benedict gave a speech in Germany that angered a lot of Muslims. Now, they are calling for the Pope’s head because of the apparent slur against their prophet. This reminded me of St Malachi’s Prophecy of the Popes. St Malachi was 12th century Irish archbishop who listed 112 future Popes. And guess what? Pope Benedict is pope 111 on the list.

So far, the predictions for all the popes on the list have been accurate specially with Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II. As for Pope Benedict, well, the description given by St Malachi “Glory of the Olives” for the 111th pope on his list could be considered close enough for now. The Benedictine order has an order called the Olivetans and Saint Benedict (the saint whose name Ratzinger chose to adopt) founded that order. Some people interpreted the phrase to mean that the 111th pope would be a peace maker much like St Benedict. So, the current pope could still probably earn the “title” of “Glory of the Olives” later on.

However, the thing that stuck to me was that the 111th pope’s reign would supposedly be a short one. I’ve read this somewhere when I was young but I wasn’t able to find reference to it on the Web. And with the radical Muslims wanting the Pope dead, this might just turn out to be true, too.

As for the last Pope, this is what St Malachi has to say:

In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & Judex tremêdus judicabit populum suum. Finis.
(In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.)

A bit scary if it came to be true. But with what’s happening with global warming, freak weather patterns, famine and pestilence, it may not be too far fetch to imagine that the end is indeed near. Well, unless we take action against climate change, then, whether you believe in prophecies or not, the world will definitely end anyway.

Published in: on September 19, 2006 at 7:43 am  Comments (3)