Adelaide's journal for a smarter, better, fairer world

Monthly Archives: November 2013


Today I read a headline in our local paper and it hit home (again). The issue of plastic and marine pollution.

The gist of this article explains how our own ocean research shows micro-plastic particles are abundant in Australian waters (stereotypically often we think of clogged Asian estuaries or major US city rivers to be the problem). Fortunately, the issue is not dire yet, we “only” have 4000 pieces of plastic per average square km of sea. By contrast, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, that awful human plastic soup between the United States and Japan, contains several hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic per square kilometre.

So we’re pretty lucky. We’ve observed (after only a short summer here) that Adelaide beaches are very clean. But this is no reason to be complacent.

It is time to reduce our plastic use.

This photo is from my old home beach, on the shores of the freshwater Lake Ontario, Canada. To try & reconcile my disgust at the volume of plastic material washing up on that beach I used to create little installations, little mandalas to try & express some kind of hope, beauty & order out of the collections of junk that I felt compelled to remove from my favourite wild shorelines.


It helped a bit.

You can see some incredible international plastic artists work here:

The gorgeous partnership of Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang from California


also Australia’s own local John Dahlsen

But this is the end of the pipe, a teensy eye-dropper of a cure, hardly the full-scale prevention we need !

So here’s a list of what we have replaced in our household so far – what is NOT plastic. (It’s ever-evolving…….)

* Toothbrushes (wood + animal bristle)

* Straws (stainless steel – straws are not really necessary, but still)

* Plastic cups and plates (we just don’t – we use enamel camping ones)

* School lunch boxes (stainless steel)

* Kiddie cups (stainless steel)

* Grocery cart (steel & rubber)

* Hair & nail brushes (bamboo, wood & bristle)

* Lighters (matches)

* “In” tray (wood)

* Clothes hangers (wood + steel)

* Yoga mat (now jute & rubber)

We never buy water in plastic bottles, a major scourge, and always bring our bags. Small things, I know.

But small too are those individual little “nurdles”, those teensy bits of plastic floating around in our gorgeous sea.

Together they add up to alot.



Recently I was purging some environmental books ~ realizing that it was time to know less and do more. Feel more and think less. Be an activist, be enamoured by projects and not simply philosophies. So I offered up some greenie texts, some Suzuki sonnets to my friends on Facebook.  A distant relative (an entrepreneur who is re-teaching Pacific nations how to food-farm organically) put his hand up first only minutes in – but what was even more special, amongst it all someone asked me for a reading list !

THIS is what makes me energized about sustainability.

This old school buddy from high school science classes (ahem, some 25+ years ago……) & I re-connected via Facebook months back and without knowing almost anything about his life (apart from the fact he lives overseas and has a lovely wife & daughter) I find out through posts he has a strong sense of ethics about the environment. That’s about all I know about him as an adult (oh, that and some questionable 80’s music taste), but it’s nice to know there’s another voice to the sharing of the same (often unpopular) opinions.

What it really means for me is a sense of purpose. It’s what I really LOVE to do – help open people’s eyes. To be honest, I’m less interested in energy efficiency &…..yawn, what solar panels offer the greatest return on investment. OMG and talking about waste management bores me to tears.

But a READING LIST ! YES ! Here it is ! Hope it is of benefit to some of you…..

To begin with, everyone please, please please read;

1) Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce”. It’s such a gift, it’s the Wikipedia of sustainability. And it’s so old, yet still so relevant (published in 1993 by Harper Collins NY). He is a stunning humanist, a very successful businessman and while this book is disturbing, it is packed with hope and a very clear road-map for the “restorative economy” (yes, look that one up).

(Oh, by the way – buy second-hand if you’re going to purchase any of these books ! Amazon & other on-line agents have tonnes of pre-loved books, very cheap). Or go to your local bookshop and keep your neighbourhood economy alive.)

2) Possibly the simplest book ever to grasp is the tiny 64 – page (64 “chaptered”) “Food Rules – An Eaters Manual” by Michael Pollan (Penguin, 2009). Any of Micheal Pollan’s books are excellent, but this is SUCH a cute book – make great presents for anyone, who……well, eats ! As simple as it gets “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. Great illustrations too and simple enough concepts about organics and agri-food topics for children to grasp as well.

3) As far as kids go, I found “Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (by Richard Louv 2008, Algonquin Books) absolutely bang-on. How our kids are more wired & messed up than ever and how much they are missing out on the creative, restorative, moral and nurturing powers of being “in nature” if we allow them to live a “biophobic” (scared of nature & bugs & mess) life. Talk about inspire you to build cubby houses in neighbouring vacant orchards, which is what happened after we read it. Brought back great memories & ignited a greater longing for my kids to be bestowed with something similar to my own icky & brilliant farm upbringing.

4) Affluenza – by Clive Hamilton. Ouch! Read that one before Christmas and you’ll save a bunch of $$$. Might help you move away long-term from your own consumption habits, binging and the inevitable disappointment you face when you buy “stuff” rather than “things”. (Allen & Unwin, 2005).

5)  Again, Paul Hawken “Blessed Unrest”. Basically a book about who all the people are who are already working on building this restorative economy. His research has discovered the “largest movement on earth” and how this collective intelligence and effort is morphing into one combined driver for social justice, environmental responsibility, peace and respect for our indigenous brothers and sisters. (If you want a sneak peek, see his clip – my favourite all-time green video, still get goose bumps when he says “Pachamama” !) (Viking Books, 2007).

6) & 7) The Weather Makers, by Tim Flannery (2007, Penguin) & Eaarth by Bill McKibben (2010, Henry Holt Books). Both are clear (and scary) accounts of climate change issues. These two authors and books are virtually interchangeable. They both say that each other is the best climate crisis oracle of our time. Well, there is no winner. The books equally will engage your passion and are filled with “what-to-dos”.

8) The Sacred Balance – David Suzuki (Greystone Books, 1999). This is a profound book, one of many you could read by David Suzuki. He researched many dreaming stories of indigenous people to show how they  consider themselves innately joined to rather than separate from the natural world. His message of the crucial interconnectedness of everything makes this a touching and spiritual account of our relationship with all that is around us. I loved this book.

9) The Transition Handbook (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008) by Rob Hopkins is a post-oil peak guidebook, almost textbook-like. It’s a self-reliance, locavore manual that left me more energized than anxious about a low-energy future. I ended up surprised at how many underlined sections & notes I’d made by the end……

10) If you’re not an eco-holic by now, there’s no hope for you! Ecoholic, by Adria Vasil (Random House, 2007) is a full-on Canadian/US green product encyclopedia. Worth a look. From the greenest options for head lice treatment to the carbon footprint of winter coats, her blog & books are full of brilliant ways to purchase more wisely.

This has been a great exercise for me in realizing the depth and breadth of information that’s out there on many, many topics. There are so many wonderful thinkers and workers in this field. They are compassionate, wickedly smart, courageous and endlessly enthusiastic. Please take some time out to read, some of it will be sure to rub off !