I could call this climate change or global warming, but it’s too bloody hot!

Ah! cool.

Ah! cool.

Hot. Hot and more hot. It’s only November, although it was only September last year when we had a heatwave and an out of control bushfire raging a few kilometres away. So this year it’s a bit later. Something to be grateful for.

It’s been so hot for days. Can’t sleep, too exhausted to do anything. I’d drive to the beach but I might fall asleep at the wheel.

A local beach.

A local beach.

Yesterday at half past five in the evening it was thirty-seven degrees, that’s almost ninety-nine Fahrenheit; on Friday, in the morning, it was forty-four, that’s one hundred and eleven Fahrenheit. Friday I had an appointment at Forster, a local beachside town and went swimming. The ocean was rough so I bobbled about in the beach pool. Cool, cool, clear water- absolute bliss. I could go today…

No lush garden here yet.

No lush garden here yet.

I’m so glad the garden has been delayed. I’d be frantic if we had created our garden beds and done intensive planting. At least I don’t have too many plants to worry about. A friend who has been gardening here for eleven years says the sun is now much hotter and plans to cover all her vegetable garden beds with netting to provide some shade and protection from the heat. Seems ludicrous. We used to aim to get the most sun exposure possible and now we look for some protection for our plants. What will it be like in a few years? Experts agree it’s only going to get hotter.

We would like to have some tanks here. Australia is one of the driest continents (is it the driest?), and our rainfall is less and more scattered. The locals tell me we would need large tanks if they were to be of any use and we lack space. It’s too expensive to put them underground. Strange to think that water may become the commodity wars are fought over.

Last year's flood. We are a "land of droughts and flooding rains."

Last year’s flood. We are a “land of droughts and flooding rains.”

Living in the country I have become much more aware of weather. In the city I would notice if it was very hot or cold. Rain could be a nuisance, but I was less aware of the absence of rain. There’s not so much land around and any parks or gardens can be kept watered. Strong winds can be obvious but even their impact is broken by so many buildings.

Here it’s right in my face. Sometimes I think my body is attuned to the weather. I react emotionally to extremes. Too much hot weather and I turn nasty. Days of strong westerlies and I want to lock myself away in a cupboard. I grieve for the coolness and the refreshing of rain through the dry and the drought. I grieve for the land and the animals. Driving around here through the dry times, and it’s mostly been dry, I sit by the road , near the cattle and I mourn. I mourn for what we have done. I mourn for the future. I mourn for our earth.

And I long for rain. I long for cool. I long for summer storms and cool spring seasons, for autumn crispness.

if only.

if only.

Locals tell me that even with good rain the land no longer recovers. It might recover to about 80%; but then there’s another drought and another and another. Each time the land recovers to some extent but never completely, so over time  the land has become drier and less resilient, it’s more difficult to grow the food and the pastures.

Karl, who lives up the road a way, tells me that his creek hasn’t run fully for over twenty years and I know that the river I grew up beside is much shallower. In some places where it once flowed fully there are banks and it slows to a trickle. Great swimming holes, but not the wide, free-flowing river it once was.

I listened to an interview with Jackie French, a notable author and conservationist. Her latest book “Let the Land Speak” explores the idea that Australia has been shaped by the land itself, rather than by events. I listened as I drove and I found myself in tears as many callers spoke about their intense love for where they had lived or had grown up.

Part of my valley.

Part of my valley.

I know that I needed to return to this particular area to be near the country of my heart so this piece of the earth could heal the heartbreaks and the wounds of a life.

I will cherish it and care for it all the days of my life and I will fight for it while I have breath.

The Equinox.

Day and night of equal time.

Day and night of equal time.

Monday, the twenty-second of September is the Equinox. The time of equal light and darkness. Everyone on earth experiences a twelve hour day twice a year on the Spring (Vernal) and Fall (Autumnal) equinox.

And now I quote from the Gratefulness website – “These events remind us that we are one planetary family and motivate us to live in harmony with all life.”

I didn’t know. I didn’t know that on the Equinox all over the Earth we all experience a time of equal light and equal dark. I marvel at this. I am filled with wonder. All over the earth our day and night will be the same! I can sense our sameness, rather than our difference.

“let there be praise of our mutual beauty, our total loving of the World.” ( gratefulness webpage)

How can we not protect them?

How can we not protect them?

Saturday I joined people  gathering together as part of a worldwide movement to demonstrate their commitment to save the planet and to focus attention on the supreme importance for all of us all over the world to halt climate change. Here in our Valley the focus was to highlight the problems with coal seam gas development and fracking.

Sunday, all over the world, people will gather to show this same commitment- to halt climate change; to stop the burning of fossil fuels and to end increases in carbon. This day has been organised prior to the UN meeting of World leaders this week to discuss  the coming crisis in climate change, the UN’s Emergency Summit.

the joy of roses.

the joy of roses.

Sunday also happens to be The International Day of Peace, established by the UN as a day of global ceasefire to strengthen the ideals of peace within all nations. And it is World Gratitude Day, started by the UN Meditation Group  to promote the cause of worldwide gratitude. An auspicious time- the Equinox and special days, all falling around each other.

At the TED@unilever conference, Keith Weeks, Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications officer is quoted saying “When someone asks what is the case for sustainability?  I ask ‘What is the case for the alternative’?” Good question. We know what we have to lose, well we know some of it, if we fail to halt global warming. And it is unthinkable, unbearable, heartbreaking. But what if we act as if climate change is happening and we humans can halt it? What do we have to lose? Maybe we won’t be quite as affluent in some countries.  Maybe we will need to change our lifestyle. Maybe life will become simpler. Is that a negative?

They are losing their habitat.We could all dedicate five minutes to spend in meditation. We could all contemplate the beauty of this Earth and our love for her. We could ponder our humanness and all we have in common. We could sit in gratitude for all that we do have. We could remember what we have to lose.  And we could consider what we can do.

 

POSTSCRIPT.

Today is Tuesday. The Climate March has happened all over this Earth. This link will share a report.

Solar update.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

It works! When the sun shines, our solar panels are generating power from the sun. It’s taken quite a while to reach this point. There were the months I hesitated, questioned many people and worried over the choice. Which supplier would be the best? which quote should I choose? Which panels? Which inverter? How many kilowatts?

Once chosen, there were the inevitable delays- too wet, too windy, an emergency to fix…then the panels were no longer being produced…Finally, better panels, but costing more money. Keep going? Yes!

Then, the panels went on, but weren’t connected!! So close, but…not yet.

Installing the energy program.

Installing the energy program.

But now, the delays are past and we have been generating solar power for a couple of months. I spend a lot of time checking how much power is being generated and how much power the household is using. You see, this solar system is internet connected and I can check how much power each panel is generating and how much has been generated today, this week, this month or over a lifetime. Then I have this other splendid gadget which tells me how much power is being used by this household, in real time. I turn on heating and check how much power it uses. Does the solar cover it?  Can I do the washing? I am so impressed with my washing machine and with my large air-conditioner. Neither uses much energy. Most days, I can be using both and still have power left over. Here in Australia, we have so much sunshine.

The program.

The program.

I am a little in love with  our systems. In fact, I’m possibly obsessed with them. I confess I  pester my co-home owner with several daily phone calls, consisting of updates on current usage. But you have to admit, it is fascinating. The air-conditioner is on, but we’re only using .653 kws- it’s a 5kw air-conditioner! Turn on the stove…uh oh, 2.6 kws. It’s all been a revelation.

Will we get our money back? Probably not, but that’s not why we put on solar panels. Australia may repeal the carbon tax, but at least we are doing something about living sustainably and climate change.

 

Solar Day!

 

they arrive.

they arrive.

It has finally arrived! After months of worrying over quotes, driving people to distraction with endless questions, bombarding one of my brothers for information and trying the endless patience of my co-house owner …I settled on the supplier (yes, in consultation with my co) and accepted their quote for installing solar. Then, it was waiting for the installation.The original panels were no longer being made…postpone the day…then…It was raining! postpone the day…then…other people had to be done first…postpone the day…then…The weather forecast for Friday was for rain and storms! Would it happen?

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

The men arrived. Looked rainy. Nail biting. Work began. And continued…slowly, or so it seemed to a waiting woman who had been saving her washing, the ironing, the vacuuming…(some people who know me well, might ask “what’s new?”). They worked. Tedious business, this. Very hot, especially in the roof cavity, they say. And they worked. I go out, come home, still working. Even hotter. Four-thirty, and yes, the panels are on, but the micro-inverters are yet to be connected and no, they are sorry, but that won’t happen today. My house looks like it has solar, and it will, but the washing still waits.

Suit the house, don't they?

Suit the house, don’t they?

Maybe tomorrow? But it doesn’t matter! It will happen and this household will be less dependent on the use of fossil fuel, which has always been the aim. The release last week of the IPCC report makes the use of alternative sources of energy ever more crucial. I haven’t wanted  solar simply to save money on my energy bills and I don’t think we will save much initially. But I have worried about the state of our planet for a long time. I remember sitting in the  movie theatre after watching “An Inconvenient Truth”, not able to leave. I was crying too much. There really wasn’t anything new in the film, it was the sight of our blue planet suspended in space. I loved her fiercely and I hadn’t realised how much. I love this earth; I love all the bits; I want to see as much of her as I can; I love her creatures; the glimpse of a whale is joy and delight; the thought of polar bears starving to death because of what we have done I find almost unbearable.

What if they were gone forever?

What if they were gone forever?

Because it isn’t just about us. Yes, the report contains dire statements about Australia- more extreme heat, more bushfires, more storms and severe floods. Think of the suffering of the animals every time there is a bushfire, every drought, every heatwave. I remember Stephen Fry in the series “Last Chance to See” a BBC 2009 production, filming rare and endangered species. I was moved to tears when Stephen bottle feeds a baby rhino and declares to the camera “Now I can die”. I feel I am not doing nearly enough. I still drive a car. We will grow as much of our food as we possibly can and we will share what we have with our neighbours. I will work to create community here where I am. I am learning to live frugally and simply. BUT…

Five minutes from my front door. I am grateful every day.

Five minutes from my front door. I am grateful every day.

We have a beautiful home, let’s do whatever it takes. After all, changes in our lifestyle can’t hurt us and may make all the difference!

Living simply and sustainably

this beautiful earth

this beautiful earth

How to stay cool in summer? How to be warm in winter? Our new home, new to us anyway, is sited poorly and has only one air-conditioner in the family room so cooling and heating can be a challenge.

I’m finding I can live without air-conditioning in the summer -most rooms have ceiling fans. Seems ridiculous to be thinking about heating in this hot, hot, dry summer we’re having , but I’ve been worrying at the options since last winter in this house. I was living as simply and sustainably as I could and I froze.

After many months we are about to have an air-conditioner installed in the lounge room and solar panels put on the roof-  very exciting.

I spent the winter months asking people what heating they used. Here in the country, almost universally, the answer was a wood fire or stove.

Now I had a pot belly stove in my last house and used it at first. But coming home from work to a cold house, chopping wood, cleaning out the ashes, carrying the wood upstairs, lighting the fire and waiting for the house to warm…I have limited energy and am prone to viruses. I found I resorted to an electric heater quite often. Besides, you can’t turn a wood stove down! Once it’s hot…it’s often too hot and I don’t like sleeping too warm. I’d phone friends and tell them I had all the doors and windows open.

Now, I am ten years older. Realistically, I know I wouldn’t handle the effort of maintaining a wood fire.

Here on the coast where so many people have wood fires, the amount of available wood is becoming scarcer. We are using up animal habitats.  Personally I can’t get past the fact too, that respiratory related problems due to smoke inhalation is the major cause of infant mortality in the developing world. Although Australia is not a developing country I don’t want to add to a world problem. This is my choice and I understand it’s not for everyone.

In my previous house I put on gas. Being a city girl I had the notion that gas was the cheapest and most efficient. Here in the country, there’s no gas pipeline, it’s bottled gas. Not cheap! Besides, I’m nervous of gas. So that leaves air-conditioning and solar energy.

I’d like batteries to store the excess energy on those days of abundant sunshine, but I don’t think it’s possible to use batteries and stay connected to the grid- something I haven’t researched. I’m not ready to go “off the grid.”

What have I learnt through this process? I’ve learnt that I find it much more difficult to make choices when I’m using some of my small financial capital. There’s less room for error.  Even more crucial has been knowing that the choices affect the state of this planet.

Will I use air-conditioning on those cloudy, cold days when the panels don’t generate enough energy? I don’t know, but I do know that I care passionately about climate change and am committed to living sustainably and simply.