inbox and environment news: Issue 592

July 30 - August 5, 2023: Issue 592

National Tree Day 2023: 3 Sites For Our Area This Year - Planting Out Takes Place Sunday July 30 At Avalon Beach, Duffys Forest, Curl Curl

Photo: A J Guesdon

Council and Planet Ark are inviting local residents to dig in and do something good for nature and their community as part of National Tree Day 2023.

National Tree Day is a great opportunity to maintain and enhance our beautiful environment for our local wildlife as well as ensuring the region continues to be a great place to live and getting all the benefits that come from spending time outdoors..

Over 26 million trees have been planted by volunteers since 1996 as part of the program and we are excited for the community to support the goal of getting another million native plants in the ground this year.

Schools Tree Day (July 28) and National Tree Day (July 30) are Australia’s largest annual tree-planting and nature care events, with plantings taking place across the country on the last weekend of July. Each year, around 300,000 people volunteer their time to engage in activities that encourage greater understanding of the natural world and how we can protect it.

National Tree Day event is taking place in three locations in our area on Sunday July 30th. Native trees, shrubs and grasses will be planted at the sites. Residents can register to volunteer at the event via the National Tree Day website at

Details of each run below

“Our research clearly shows the many benefits that time outdoors in nature has for our physical and mental health, our children’s development, the liveability of our communities and the robustness of local ecosystems,” said Planet Ark co-CEO Rebecca Gilling. 

“With the simple action of planting a tree you can help cool the climate, provide homes for native wildlife and make your local community a happier and healthier place to live.”

National Tree Day is an initiative organised by Planet Ark in partnership with major sponsor Toyota Australia and its Dealer Network. For more information and to find events in your local area, please visit

National Tree Day 2023: Local sites

Avalon Beach: Palmgrove Road

In the grass area between Dress Circle Road and Bellevue Ave, Avalon

DATE & TIME: Sunday, 30 July 2023, 10:00am to 2:00pmSite Organiser: Michael Kneipp

RSVP Contact: Michael Kneipp, 1300 434 434

Suitable for Children: Yes

Accessible for Wheelchairs: No

VOLUNTEER INFORMATION: Please wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, sturdy shoes, gloves and a hat. Everyone is invited to help us regenerate this important wildlife corridor with native plants. Make Avalon a cooler, greener and more connected place for our community and wildlife.

WHAT'S PROVIDED?: Gloves, Tools and equipment for planting, Watering cans / buckets, Refreshments, BBQ

Volunteer at this site: 

Duffys Forest Residents Association

DATE & TIME: Sunday, 30 July 2023, 9:00am to 1:00pm

LOCATION: 13 Namba Road, Duffys Forest

Site Organiser: Jennifer Harris

RSVP Contact: Jennifer Harris, 0408512060

Suitable for Children: Yes

Accessible for Wheelchairs: Yes

DIRECTIONS: You can enter the site at the end of Namba road. Proceed through two large metal gates, to picnic area to sign on for the event.

VOLUNTEER INFORMATION: Volunteers must wear suitable clothing & protective gear including covered shoes, gloves and a hat.  It is proposed that volunteers plant up to 600 indigenous native tube stock in degraded areas of the park to create additional canopy species, establish ground cover, reduce weed invasion and to improve biodiversity & wildlife habitat. The activity is located in an iconic park, formerly known as Waratah Park, the home of "Skippy". The event will be supervised by a qualified bush regenerator & aims to inspire & educate participants to become custodians and actively care for our unique environment. Last year we planted over 450 tube stock with 35 volunteers in just over 3 hours. These tube stock have thrived due to ongoing maintenance and watering by volunteers.

WHAT'S PROVIDED?: Gloves, Tools and equipment for planting, Watering cans / buckets, Snacks, Refreshments, BBQ

Volunteer at this site: 

Curl Curl

DATE & TIME: Sunday, 30 July 2023, 10:00am to 2:00pm

Location: Griffin Road, North Curl Curl

VOLUNTEER INFORMATION:  Please wear long pants, long sleeve shirt , sturdy shoes, gloves and a hat. There are also public transport and cycling options. Everyone is invited to help us regenerate this important wildlife corridor with native plants. Make Curl Curl a cooler, greener and more connected place for our community and wildlife. Please wear long pants, long sleeve shirt , sturdy shoes, gloves and a hat.

Enter via the car park or footpath on the Southern side of the Greendale Creek bridge. Look for our Northern Beaches Council Marquees.

Site Organiser: Michael Kneipp

RSVP Contact: Michael Kneipp, 1300 434 434

Suitable for Children: Yes

Accessible for Wheelchairs: No

Volunteer at this site:

The Life Electric Expo And Forum: July 30th At Avalon Rec. Centre

The Life Electric Community Expo is hosted by Avalon Palm Beach Business Chamber Inc. Entry is free with 10+ stalls, expert advice, food, music and test rides. You can also purchase tickets to the live panel featuring Saul Griffith and John Grimes.

Book your tickets ($10) at the link here:

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Dee Why Lagoon Beach Side Clean Up, 30th Of July, 2023, At 10am

Come and join us for our family friendly July clean up, in Dee Why Lagoon on the 30th at 10am. We meet in the grass area close to the council car park, and the surf life saving club at the north end of Dee Why. Please note that this is a different meeting point to where we were last time.

We have gloves, bags, and buckets, and grabbers. We're trying to remove as much plastic and rubbish as possible before it enters the water. Some of us can focus on the bush area and sandy/rocky areas, and others can walk along the water and even clean up in the water (at own risk). We will clean up until around 11.15, and after that, we will sort and count the rubbish so we can contribute to research by entering it into a marine debris database. The sorting and counting is normally finished around noon, and we'll often go for lunch together at our own expense. We understand if you cannot stay for this part, but are grateful if you can. We appreciate any help we can get, no matter how small or big.

No booking required - just show up on the day - we will be there no matter what weather. We're a friendly group of people, and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event. It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time.

For everyone to feel welcome, please leave political and religious messages at home - this includes t-shirts with political campaign messages. 

Message us on our social media or send us an email if you are lost. All welcome - the more the merrier. Please invite your friends too! All details in our Facebook event, Instagram or on our website.

Koala Vigil: Opposite Parliament House At Martin Place On Thursday 3rd August  12-1 Pm

Save Sydney's Koalas states; ''Join us and Bob Brown Foundation for a Koala Vigil''

On June 27 2023 the Bob Brown Foundation stated hat devastating new logging is happening right now within the proposed Great Koala National Park boundary.

''The intensification of logging in crucial koala hubs is happening despite the NSW Government's promise to make the Park a reality this year.'' the group stated

''We have received these devastating images from the Mid-North Coast from internationally renowned photographer Paul Hilton. These photographs show the carnage being wrought by Forestry Corporation while negotiations about the park are underway.

With the release of the Auditor General's report last week, the evidence is clear. The NSW Government can no longer trust Forestry Corp with our native forests, and we can no longer rely on the EPA to ensure critical habitat is not lost for good.

Koalas are headed towards extinction if we do not cease this madness, end the logging, and establish the Great Koala National Park.

Right now, NSW Treasurer is deciding on Forestry Corporation's business plan for the next financial year.

The evidence is clear. End the logging of native forests, create the Great Koala National Park, and protect the habitat of koalas, gliders, cockatoos and all endangered species in New South Wales.

The group is asking people to sign their open letter to the Treasurer -

Endangered 4-Month Old Monk Seal Pup Found Dead In Hawaii Was Likely Caused By Dog Attack Officials Say

July 21, 2023
RS48 was born on February 23, 2023, to mother RH48 (Lei Ola). She was found dead June 12, 2023, on the North Shore of Oʻahu. 

Based on necropsy and histopathology results, NOAA Fisheries in the Pacific Islands have determined that RS48 (Hoʻomau Lehua) likely died from a dog attack. NOAA can confirm that puncture wounds found around her head and flippers occurred prior to death and were consistent in size with bites from a dog. Haemorrhaging found in her body was also consistent with shaking from a dog attack.

There was no evidence found of underlying disease, including toxoplasmosis. Hoʻomau Lehua was last observed on June 6, swimming offshore in the same general area where she was found dead on June 12. 

Off-leash dogs have killed numerous native wildlife in Hawaiʻi, including nēnē (Hawaiian geese), Laysan albatross, shearwaters, petrels, shorebirds, and at least two confirmed monk seals (a pup on Kauaʻi in 2014 and Hoʻomau Lehua in 2023). They have also injured several other seals, including one seal that needed special treatment at The Marine Mammal Center’s Hawaiian monk seal hospital, Ke Kai Ola. 

Even if a dog attack is not immediately fatal, the resulting injuries are likely to become infected and may lead to later death. Dogs can also potentially transmit diseases to monk seals, such as canine distemper. Once infected, an individual seal could spread disease throughout the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population. 

NOAA Fisheries in the Pacific Islands strongly encourage pet owners statewide to protect Hawaiian monk seals and other native wildlife by adhering to leash laws.

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal pup RS48, also known as Hoʻomau Lehua. Credit: Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response

Turtle Conservation Program Named Eureka Prize Finalist

July 2023
A national citizen science program focused on turtle conservation has been named among the finalists for the prestigious 2023 Department of Industry, Science and Resources Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

The 1 Million Turtles (1MT) Community Conservation Program, led by ecologists and social scientists including Associate Professor Ricky Spencer from Western Sydney University in collaboration with the community and partners, engages citizens in turtle conservation and connects them with nature.

Facilitating a hands-on approach to conservation, the highly successful program involves individuals and community groups participating in activities such as nest monitoring, turtle rescues, and habitat restoration.

At the heart of 1MT is the TurtleSAT app where the community can report sightings including turtles moving along roads, turtles found basking at different water bodies, or signs of nest disturbance, with the data collected informing a number of the program’s conservation and education initiatives.

Co-lead Associate Professor Ricky Spencer from the School of Science said 1MT is raising awareness about the importance of turtles in our ecosystems and the threats they face, while encouraging the community to engage in conservation.

“By empowering citizens of all ages to become citizen scientists and take an active role in conservation, the program has changed attitudes toward Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and is encouraging more people to get involved in scientific research while enjoying and caring for their local environment,” said Associate Professor Spencer.

In 2015, citizens voiced their concerns over hundreds of turtles found deceased around the Bellinger River in Northern NSW. In response, Associate Professor Spencer established a breeding program for this species, but the threats to the other 30 freshwater turtle species in Australia persist.

Later that year, the Bellingen Riverwatch program was conceptualised and the TurtleSAT app launched for people across the country to report real-time turtle sightings to help avoid potential catastrophes such as what occurred in the Bellinger River. The evolution of the TurtleSAT app into a data capture, visualisation and education tool was central to the creation of 1MT.

Most recently, 15,000 turtle sightings reported via the app were used to develop a world-first nesting location predictive tool.The predictive tool shows nesting locations for a range of turtle species across Australia giving researchers, conservationists, and the community an even greater opportunity to take action to monitor and protect turtle nests from predators.

As part of a real-world application, data from the tool has identified the area around the new airport at Badgerys Creek as prime nesting habitat for both long- and short-neck turtles offering the opportunity to advocate for proactive planning, integration of turtle-friendly design elements, and recognition of their significance in environmental impact assessments.

1MT is a collaboration between researchers, conservation Non-Governmental Organisations (Aussie Ark, Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife), universities (Western Sydney, La Trobe, Sydney, Murdoch, New England, Ohio University), government agencies (Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board, Transport for NSW, Department for Industry, Science, Energy and Resources), wildlife organisations (WIRES), communities (including Turtles Australia and Turtle Rescues NSW) and schools.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.

Winners of the 2023 Eureka Prizes are to be announced during a live, broadcast event on Wednesday 23 August.

Seen Any Glossies Drinking Around Nambucca, Bellingen, Coffs Or Clarence? Want To Help?: Join The Glossy Squad

July 28, 2023
If you've seen a black cockatoo with a red tail drinking at a watering spot in the late afternoon, please let the NSW Dept. of Environment know.
The threatened glossy black-cockatoo's peak nesting season is now, and the Biliirrgan Project's Glossy Squad is keen to protect glossies' nests.

Led by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's Saving our Species program with partners including BirdLife Australia, Landcare, and the Clarence Environment Centre, the project wants to hear of any sightings across the area.

Glossies are the only black cockatoo with red tails in northern New South Wales. The females have yellow on their heads and pairs mate for life.

Female glossies lay a single egg in a vertical tree hollow, then stay put for a month while it incubates. During that time, the female relies entirely on her mate to feed her. He eats for 2, gorging himself on she-oak (allocasuarina) seeds each day.

Late in the afternoon he drinks – again for 2 – before returning with food supplies to his nesting hen who can be heard 'begging' or calling for food. Only after the chick hatches does the hen leave the nest.

The Black Summer fires of 2019–20 burnt nearly half of the glossy habitat in northern New South Wales, resulting in a significant loss of feed and nest trees.

Protecting nest trees is crucial to conserving the glossy black-cockatoo, however at this stage there are only a handful of nests known across the whole of northern New south Wales.

The Glossy Squad needs eyes on the ground to find more active nests so the remaining birds can be monitored and protected.

Let the Squad know if you see glossy black-cockatoos drinking in the late afternoon, or any of these nesting signs:
  • a female bird (identifiable by yellow on her head) begging and/or being fed by a male (with plain black/brown head and body and unbarred red tail feathers)
  • a lone adult male, or a male with a begging female, flying purposefully after drinking at the end of the day.
Glossies only eat the seeds from she-oak (allocasuarina) cones and need to drink water each evening. They can be seen at watering holes, dams or other fresh water sources at dusk.

Please report any sightings through the online survey, which can also be accessed by the QR code below, or by emailing

Want to be more involved? Join the Glossy Squad and actively help find new nests of this important species. Just email to find out how.

The Biliirrgan Project aims to conserve the glossy black-cockatoo (Biliirrgan in Gumbaynggirr) on Gumbaynggirr, Yaegl and Bundjalung country in northern New South Wales. The project was initially funded through a Commonwealth Bushfire Recovery grant.

2 female glossies and a male. Glossy black-cockatoos tend to travel in small families of between 3 and 6. Photo: Laurie Ross

Glossy black-cockatoo id
Rare Marsupial; Mulgaras Released Onto Island Safe Haven - The 'Return To 1616' Project

July 5,  2023
  • One-hundred brush-tailed mulgaras released onto Dirk Hartog Island
  • Eighth species translocated as part of ground-breaking ecological restoration project
  • Return to 1616 project is protecting populations of unique Western Australian wildlife
A rare marsupial has been released onto Dirk Hartog Island in a marathon 844-kilometre journey from Western Australia’s outback.

One-hundred brush-tailed mulgaras were captured in Matuwa Kurrara Kurrara National Park in the remote Goldfields, before travelling by plane and helicopter to their new home.

Twenty-nine animals were released just after sunset last night, as part of the Return to 1616 project. Seventy-one were translocated earlier this week.

The Return to 1616 project began in 2012, and is restoring the island to resemble the ecological condition from when Dutch sailor Dirk Hartog first explored the area more than four centuries ago.

Brush-tailed mulgaras are classified as near-threatened and are the eighth species to be translocated to the island. The group was made up of 60 females and 40 males.

The project has seen the reintroduction of rufous hare-wallabies, banded hare-wallabies, Shark Bay bandicoots, greater stick-nest rats, Shark Bay mice, dibblers and western grasswrens.

Dirk Hartog became the world’s largest island, at 63,300 hectares, to have feral cats, sheep and goats eradicated in 2018.

The program is primarily funded through the Gorgon Barrow Island Net Conservation Benefits Fund, with additional support from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The Wiluna Martu rangers, under the Tarlka Matuwa Piarku Aboriginal Corporation, helped with the translocation, and were welcomed to the island by Malgana Traditional Owners.

WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby stated:

“It’s a privilege to visit Dirk Hartog Island and see an eighth species released as part of the ambitious Return to 1616 project.

“The project is safeguarding the populations of our precious wildlife. Once complete, Dirk Hartog will be home to the richest variety of native mammals of any island off WA.

“It’s fantastic to be able to return these brush-tailed mulgaras to their predator-free island home.

“I congratulate the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions on improving this natural sanctuary, and achieving another conservation milestone for our State’s native wildlife.”

                                                                                                                  Mulgara being released into Dirk Hartog Island. Photo: W.A.'s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

Endangered Dibblers Destined For Dirk Hartog Island National Park

July 5, 2023

  • 24 Dibblers will be released at Dirk Hartog Island National Park for the first time
  • Since 1997 over 900 Dibblers bred at Perth Zoo have been released into the wild
One of Australia's smallest marsupial species will be reintroduced to Dirk Hartog Island National Park for the first time since it went extinct from the area centuries ago.

Twenty-four endangered Dibbler joeys, born at Perth Zoo along with three adults, will be released to the island on October 7 by staff from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Before their release, the Dibblers will be microchipped and genetic samples will be collected. A dozen will be fitted with radio collars so researchers can track their movements.

The tracking will allow the team to identify habitat preferences at the new location to help guide future releases and conservation efforts.

The joeys were bred from adult Dibblers collected from Jurien Bay islands earlier this year, some were the descendants of animals previously bred at the Zoo and released to the wild. 

Since 1997, more than 900 Dibblers have been bred and released at sites including: Escape Island in Jurien Bay, Gunton Island, and mainland parks and reserves in the South-West.

The Dibbler was once found as far north as Shark Bay in Western Australia, including Dirk Hartog Island. They are one of 10 native species lost from the area following European settlement and the introduction of sheep, goats and cats.

Dirk Hartog Island became the world's largest island to have cats, sheep and goats fully eradicated last year.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

"The additional release of Dibblers at Dirk Hartog Island will help the habitat return to what it once was in 1616; and offers security to a species that would have struggled to survive.

"Dibblers may be small, but these carnivorous marsupials play a very big role in the ecosystem, they are both predator and prey, and also pollinators in their habitat.

"Thank you to the collaborative efforts by the dedicated staff at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to save this endangered species."

Dibbler. Photo: W.A.'s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Parks and Wildlife

WA's New Strategy To Crackdown On Feral Cats In Nation First

July 12, 2023
  • New five-year plan to manage invasive feral cats across Western Australia
  • Strategy first of its kind to be implemented by a State Government in the nation
  • $7.6 million investment to expand feral cat management in 2023-24 State Budget
  • Fight against feral cats ramps up to protect native wildlife and biodiversity
Western Australia is leading the nation by launching a State-wide strategy to crackdown on the devastating impact feral cats are having on our native wildlife.

The Western Australian Feral Cat Strategy 2023-2028 is the first of its kind to be implemented by a State Government in Australia. The new five-year plan is backed by a $7.6 million investment in the 2023-24 State Budget.

The strategy will encourage the use of newly available technology, such as the Felixer, which has now received Commonwealth approval for wide-scale rollout rather than research purposes.

Feral cats are the most destructive single species in Australia costing the economy $300 million per year in damage and population control measures such as baiting and trapping. Every 24 hours, feral cats across the nation kill an estimated 3 million mammals, 1.7 million reptiles, 1 million birds, 2.8 million invertebrates and 337,000 frogs.

In WA, 36 mammal, 11 reptile and 22 bird species are vulnerable to predation by feral cats. It's estimated a feral cat roaming the bush can kill more than 700 small animals every year.

Almost $2.7 million will increase aerial feral cat baiting through the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) Western Shield program. There will be a focus on priority conservation reserves such as Fitzgerald River National Park, Cape Le Grand, Stirling Range National Park, Lake Magenta and Dragon Rocks. The number of baits laid will increase by more than 45 per cent under the strategy.

The State Natural Resource Management Grants Program will receive an extra $2 million to help Traditional Owners, community groups and rural property owners expand our fight against feral cats.

The strategy will provide a framework to guide private investment as well as investigate new methods to ensure there is a consistent and coordinated approach over the next five years. It aims to conserve populations of threatened native species through effective, adaptive and humane actions.

The predators are monitored through aerial tracking, GPS collars and cameras. The $7.6 million investment over four years will also fund research programs and conservation projects.

The strategy was developed by DBCA, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and a range of key stakeholders.

Environment Minister Reece Whitby said:

"The WA Feral Cat Strategy is the first of its kind in the country. It's much needed with predation by feral cats posing a serious threat to our native species.

"Feral cats wreak a devastating toll on native wildlife in Western Australia. This strategy represents a major effort to control this pest and gives struggling native species a fighting chance of survival. 

"Feral cats don't just live in our national parks, they're on our farms and in deserts, wetlands and woodlands. This strategy will ensure a consistent and coordinated approach right across the State.

"Feral cats were declared a pest in WA in 2019.They carry disease and are expert predators hunting our native animals, particularly threatened species, to the brink of extinction.

"We need to work together, use new technology and think outside the box to outsmart these predators and protect what makes our State so unique."


New Victorian Homes To Go All Electric From 2024

July 28, 2023
New Victorian households will save up to $1,000 off their annual energy bills while reducing household emissions, as part of the Andrews Labor Government’s landmark decision to phase out gas in new homes, the Victorian state Government announced on Friday July 28th.

Across the world, the cost of gas is rising sharply, and so is uncertainty around supply. Victorians are at the mercy of private companies exporting gas overseas – which has a real impact on the cost to Victorians at home.

That’s why the Labor Government is doing the work to make energy more affordable for Victorians, getting them the best deal on their home energy bills.

From 1 January 2024, planning permits for new homes and residential subdivisions will only connect to all electric networks, with houses taking advantage of more efficient, cheaper and cleaner electric appliances.

These changes will apply to all new homes requiring a planning permit, including new public and social housing delivered by Homes Victoria.

Going all-electric can be delivered at no extra cost to the buyer – and will slash around $1,000 per year off household energy bills – or up to $2,200 for households that also have solar installed.

Commencing immediately, all new public buildings that haven’t reached design stage will also be all-electric. This includes new schools, hospitals, police stations and other government-owned buildings.

Victoria has the highest use of residential gas in Australia, with around 80 per cent of homes connected. The gas sector contributes about 17 per cent of the state’s emissions, and the move to electric systems is a key element of meeting Victoria’s nation leading emissions reduction targets of 75–80 per cent by 2035 and net zero by 2045.

These moves build on the 2022 reform that removed the requirements for gas connections for new homes. Since then, Victoria’s leading builders and developers have already begun delivering energy-bill saving and low emissions all electric homes.

To ensure homeowners can maximise the benefits of household renewable energy, the Government is investing $10 million in a new Residential Electrification Grants program. Grants will be available to volume home builders, developers and others to provide bulk rebates for solar panels, solar hot water and heat pumps to new home buyers up front.

This will mean new home buyers will save $4,600 before they even move in and will remove double handling of installations – saving buyers money and hassle.

To help prepare for the transition, the Government is also investing $1 million in targeted training to ensure the construction industry is supported in the transition to all electric and 7 star homes.

This builds on Solar Victoria’s $11 million training and workforce development package that will upskill plumbers and electricians to take advantage of the renewable energy revolution.

Victorian plumbers and electricians will be the key to delivering this critical transition – that’s why the Government is upskilling the plumbing and electrical workforce to ensure they have rights skills to take advantage of this growing industry.

The Government is delivering a $3 million package including free training for 1,000 plumbers and apprentices to design and install energy efficient heat pumps and solar hot water systems, and free training for 400 electricians and fourth-year apprentices to safely design and install rooftop solar and home battery systems.

To make it easier to go all-electric, eligible new home builders, as well as existing homeowners and renters, can access the nation leading Solar Homes program – offering $1,400 solar panel rebates and interest free loans of $8,800 for household batteries.

All Victorian households and businesses are also eligible for the VEU gas to electric rebates to upgrade heating and cooling and hot water heaters.

The Government will work closely with industry including gas appliance manufacturers, the building and construction sector, local government, trade unions and consumer organisations to manage business, workforce and consumer impacts and support the sector in the transition.

The Government is working to update the nation leading Gas Substitution Roadmap, which will be released later this year.

Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio said, “We know that with every bill that arrives, gas is only going to get more expensive. That’s why we’re stepping in to help even more Victorians get the best deal on their energy bills.”

“Reducing our reliance on gas is critical to meeting our ambitious emission reduction target of net zero by 2045 and getting more Victorians on more efficient electric appliances which will save them money on their bills.”

 Minister for Planning Sonya Kilkenny stated, “All-electric homes are healthier, cleaner and cheaper to run. Going all-electric ensures Victorians building a new home are part of this exciting energy transition.”

Get Off The Gas: Victoria Is Quitting Gas, NSW Should Follow Suit 

July 28, 2023 
The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the states leading environmental advocacy organisation, welcomes the Victorian Government’s decision to quit gas in homes and government buildings, and urges NSW to follow their lead.  

The Victorian Government announced today that from January 1st 2024, new homes and government buildings won’t be permitted to have gas connections. 

This move will save consumers money, replace gas with more efficient alternatives and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
“The Victorian Government has signalled with this decision that there is no place for gas in a clean energy future and NSW should follow their lead,” said Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford. 

“NSW Labor committed to developing a gas substitution roadmap and associated policy measures at their 2022 Conference, so now is the perfect time to get that underway.” 

“Quitting gas will accelerate the clean energy transition in NSW and will be critical in meeting the state’s emissions reduction targets of 70% by 2035.” 

“Methane gas is a planet cooking fossil fuel 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years. It is also the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution. We have clearly entered a dangerous phase of climate destabilisation and crisis. The earth is sending the message loud and clear: there is no time to waste. 

“It’s time for the NSW Government to get serious, step up and take the bold action needed to address the climate crisis and ensure their commitments are met.” 

NCC Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford said, “Gas is expensive for the consumer and the planet. Gas prices will likely keep on rising and phasing out gas in homes will save households at least $1000 a year on their energy bills.” 

“Gas is harmful to human health, when used in the home, it has been proven to be akin to exposing children to cigarette smoke. Cooking and heating with gas causes up to 12 percent of childhood asthma cases. Electrifying homes is a no brainer.” 

New Trail In Yallock-Bulluk Set To Stun Visitors

July 27, 2023
The Victorian Government is set to pave an iconic trail in the new Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park - stretching between San Remo and Inverloch on Bunurong Country.

Minister for Environment, Ingrid Stitt today announced details of the $8.33 million project which will extend the George Bass Coastal Walk creating a 32-kilometre journey along the park’s rugged coastline, beaches and dunes.

With construction expected to begin in 2024, it will deliver three new lookouts for visitors to witness spectacular views at popular coastal sites of Punchbowl, The Arch and Eagles Nest.

Trail links will be added to connect the existing network so people can walk all the way from The Punchbowl in San Remo to Cape Paterson, while car parking, signage and visitor information will also be upgraded.

The Labor Government is working in partnership with Parks Victoria, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Bass Coast Shire Council to create the trail.

Traditional Owners, stakeholders and hundreds of community members have been active in shaping the design for Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park as well as the route and facilities for the new trail.

The new trail is being funded through the Victoria’s Great Outdoors program, helping more people from all walks of life, get out and explore the state, while enjoying the health benefits of spending time in nature.

The $106.6 million program also established the new Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park in 2021 by combining existing parks and reserves along a 40-kilometre stretch of coastline between San Remo and Inverloch.

To find out more about the project go to

Quotes attributable to Minister for Environment Ingrid Stitt

“The trail will allow more people to enjoy this stunning coastal area through improved access, upgrades, new facilities and better links between coastal towns.”

“Linking existing trails to create a new long-distance walk will create even more reasons for people to visit this spectacular region.”

“The Victoria’s Great Outdoors program is not only providing more ways for people to enjoy nature, but it will also support local economies and boost regional tourism.”

Quote attributable to Member for Bass Jordan Crugnale

"Once delivered, this trail promises to be one of the most scenic trails in Victoria - I can’t wait for visitors to explore and marvel at our beautiful coastlines."

The Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park was established in 2021 and protects a stunning stretch of the Bass Coast. Credit: Parks Victoria

The Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park was established in 2021 and protects a stunning stretch of the Bass Coast. Credit: Parks Victoria

Australia's First Commercial Hydrogen Refuelling Station Opens At Port Kembla

July 28, 2023
Port Kembla is now home to Australia's first commercial hydrogen refuelling station for zero emissions heavy road vehicles, in a major breakthrough towards de-carbonising the region’s 7000 heavy vehicles, the NSW Government has announced.

The H2 Station, based at the Coregas Port Kembla industrial gas facility, was partly funded with a $500,000 grant from the NSW Government.

Minister for Regional NSW, Tara Moriarty, said heavy road transport is a major carbon-emitting sector and Port Kembla is now leading the way towards a more diverse energy future following today's opening of the Coregas H2 Station.

"The NSW Government is proud to have supported this world-leading project to refuel Australia's first hydrogen-powered heavy road vehicles under Round 4 of the Port Kembla Community Investment Fund," Ms Moriarty said.

"The H2 Station will be the first practical piece of enabling infrastructure towards de-carbonising the region’s 7000 heavy vehicles as we move towards a cleaner, greener future."

Minister for the Illawarra and the South Coast, Ryan Park, said Port Kembla is primed to become an epicentre for the emerging hydrogen sector in Australia.

“The H2 Station will facilitate the introduction of zero emissions hydrogen powered trucks to the Illawarra-Shoalhaven to demonstrate the technology’s potential to improve energy security, create jobs and investment, and decarbonise the transport sector,” Mr Park said.

“Zero emissions trucks will be able to refuel at the Coregas refuelling station using hydrogen produced at Port Kembla and showcase the viability of introducing hydrogen-powered fleet vehicles to greater NSW.”

Member for Wollongong, Paul Scully, said the project places Port Kembla at the forefront of the emerging global hydrogen industry.

“The hydrogen refuelling station represents an exciting opportunity to build our region’s skills and capacity in readiness for Australia’s zero emissions economy,” Mr Scully said.

Alan Watkins, Executive General Manager of Coregas, said the Coregas H2 Station will provide the Illawarra region with the opportunity to refuel up to 10 zero emissions hydrogen vehicles a day.

“Thanks to the NSW Government we have been able to achieve this milestone of opening Australia’s first pilot hydrogen refuelling station for heavy vehicles,” Mr Watkins said.

“We believe this project is a game changer for Australia that will lead the clean mobility revolution by demonstrating the suitability of hydrogen powered vehicles as a commercially ready solution.

“For us, this is an important first step towards transitioning Coregas’ distribution fleet.”

Coregas was one of 15 projects to share in $2.1 million in funding through Round 4 of the Port Kembla Community Investment Fund.

The fund is a competitive, merit-based program that financially supports projects that revitalise Port Kembla and surrounding areas for the benefit of the community.

About the project:
This will be Australia’s first hydrogen refuelling station that is purpose-built for commercial heavy road transport vehicles such as trucks and buses.

$2 million has been spent on the project, including $500,000 in NSW Government funding.

Existing hydrogen refuelling stations, designed to refuel passenger vehicles, have around 20kg/day capacity. This project has daily capacity of 400kg of hydrogen.

The facility will enable the deployment of Australia’s first prime mover fleet of hydrogen-powered heavy road vehicles to initiate a transformation of the Illawarra-Shoalhaven region’s environmental transport footprint.

The station will work to support the introduction of zero emissions hydrogen powered fleet vehicles in greater NSW.

NSW Landholders To Be Rewarded For Private Land Conservation

July 20, 2023
The NSW Government has released its four-year plan to help private landholders protect our most at-risk landscapes and threatened species.
The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust’s Investing in Private Land Conservation outlines key investment priorities for private land conservation in New South Wales.

It details opportunities for landholders to enter into agreements which will see them paid to manage their land for targeted conservation outcomes.

Between now and mid-2027, the NSW Government expects to add more than 200,000 hectares of land to the state’s protected areas and 50 unique landscapes to the state’s conservation efforts.

The plan focuses on high impact conservation, offering payments to landholders to protect, restore and manage precious habitats on their land.

It is underpinned by research, knowledge, and CSIRO-supported conservation prioritisation.

Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said, 'Over the past five years, the efforts of private landholders have protected 127 threatened species and 19 threatened habitats across NSW.

'With more than 70 per cent of the state's land under private ownership, the local conservation efforts of landholders play a significant role in protecting important habitats and species.

'These landscapes provide critical habitat for many species not represented, or under-represented in areas already protected such as National Parks.'

Landholder Lisa McCann entered into a conservation agreement with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust in 2019.

Ms McCann’s 1200-hectare property near Little River, in the state’s Central West, includes nationally endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodland and provides habitat for local threatened species, including the glossy black-cockatoo, little lorikeet and superb parrot.

'Being able to provide habitat for these species, while earning an income to manage pest animals, control weeds and do revegetation works will make all the difference for biodiversity into the future.

'We’re running fewer head of cattle, but our income is more reliable.

'When we head into the next drought, that’ll be a big difference. We won’t be spending our days just keeping livestock alive, we'll still be getting income from the conservation agreement and the time we put into the land will be helping build resilience to future climate extremes.'

For more information, interested landholders can visit the Biodiversity Conservation Trust

Tasmanian ALP Continues To Back Wildlife Slaughter And Forest Destruction

July 25, 2023
Tasmania’s ALP leader, Rebecca White, backs the destruction of native forests in an age of climate and extinction crises, the Bob Brown Foundation has said in a released statement. 

'Despite decisions to end native forest logging by Labor governments in WA and Vic, Tasmania’s Labor party is ignoring the writing on the wall and the growing popularity of forest protection and its real climate action.' the group said

“Political parties in Tasmania need to move on from their outdated commitment to destroying nature, killing threatened species and contributing to the global heating crisis,” Bob Brown Foundation’s Jenny Weber said.

“The majority of Tasmania’s native forests end up as woodchips and huge quantities left in the forest are burnt each autumn. Meanwhile, plantations that have been established with taxpayer funds are also being woodchipped at a great rate. A poll from The Australia Institute shows that 78 per cent of Labor voters back an end to native forest logging. It is time Labor’s parliamentarians represented that majority of Labor voters,” Bob Brown said.

“Like Tasmania’s Rockliff government, Ms White and her Tasmanian Labor party would send the Swift Parrot to extinction, contribute to ongoing climate breakdown and entrench taxpayer subsidies for environmental destruction if they don’t end native forest logging,” Jenny Weber said.

Bob camped out last night in a squalid logging coupe in Tasmania’s north east highlands, with defenders of vital Swift Parrot habitat.

All around them lay the wreckage of what was once a home for this wonderful bird.

Here is what he had to say:

“This is a national disgrace, I call on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to halt this logging which is illegal under Australia’s international obligations

“To camp here with Swift Parrots overhead and in the remains of the forest around us is to experience the feeling that Australia is committing a crime against nature. These critically endangered birds are here, and nowhere else on Earth, and nesting. No nests, no birds”

Tasmanian Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, can halt this debacle immediately. In this era of mass extinction, it is unconscionable that this critically endangered bird’s feeding and breeding habitat in Tasmania is being destroyed for woodchips to China,”

You can find out what you can do to help at

image supplied

Bob Brown faces Magistrates Court without police reasoning

Bob Brown appeared in the Magistrates Court on 20 July, at 10.00 am.

Fellow Swifty defenders Karen and Kristy was also in court.

In criminal cases before the Magistrates Court, police are expected to disclose their file material to defendants.

Brown was arrested, allegedly for trespassing, on 8 November 2022 (8 months ago) inland from Freycinet Peninsula, protecting critically endangered Swift Parrots.

He received a summons on 20 April 2023 (3 months ago) to appear in court on 24 May 2023 and appeared in court on that day, but the police had not provided any paperwork. The case was adjourned to 20 July 2023 for the police to provide that paperwork.

As of today, 19 July 2023, his legal representative, Roland Browne, had still not received anything from the police.

“I was not trespassing and 8 months after the arrest, I do not know how the police are planning to show that I was and I don’t know if they are planning to rely on the new anti-protest laws. On the eve of this second court appearance I have heard nothing,” Brown said on the afternoon of July 19.

Rockliff Liberal Tasmanian Government States It Is 'Rock-Solid In Our Support For Tasmania’s Forestry Sector'

July 27, 2023
The current Tasmanian Government stated on Thursday that Media reports that more than 300 Labor branches have backed a push to see native forestry* ended across the country increases the pressure on Rebecca White and Tasmanian Labor.

Felix Ellis, Tasmanian Minister for Resources, said in a statement:
''Despite claims to the contrary, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long Ms White can hold out to Labor’s anti-forestry membership base.

''Tasmanians will never forget how the last Labor-Green deal devastated the Tasmanian forest industry, the businesses and the families that relied on it, and 10,000 jobs were lost with most of those in regional Tasmania.

''We have already seen Labor Governments in Victoria and Western Australia cave to internal and external pressure and end native forestry, devastating timber towns.

''Tasmanian Labor faces intensifying pressure to support ending native forestry from its own activist members, as well as the Tasmanians Greens.

''Acting Tasmanian Greens Leader, Rosalie Woodruff, has already belled the Labor cat saying that many Tasmanians expected Ms White to follow the lead of her mainland Labor colleagues and support ending native forestry in Tasmania.

''And things are no easier for Labor’s leader-in-waiting and ex-Kingborough council mayor Dean Winter with the Kingborough Labor branch proudly flying the Green flag and joining LEAN’s job-destroying campaign.

''If Mr Winter’s own branch won’t support native forestry, will he be forced to choose between backing timber workers’ jobs or his own?

''If Ms White wanted to show leadership, she could start by moving a motion to back in sustainable native forestry at next month’s ALP National Conference in Brisbane, rather than surrendering to the LEAN-Green activists in her party.

Unlike divided Tasmanian Labor, the Rockliff Liberal Government is rock-solid in our support for Tasmania’s forestry sector and timber workers.''

Areas Closed For West Head Lookout Upgrades

NPWS advise that the following areas are closed from Monday 22 May to Thursday 30 November 2023 while West Head lookout upgrades are underway:

  • West Head lookout
  • The loop section of West Head Road
  • West Head Army track.

Vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians will have access to the Resolute picnic area and public toilets. Access is restricted past this point.

The following walking tracks remain open:

  • Red Hands track
  • Aboriginal Heritage track
  • Resolute track, including access to Resolute Beach and West Head Beach
  • Mackeral Beach track
  • Koolewong track.

The West Head lookout cannot be accessed from any of these tracks.

Image: Visualisation of upcoming works, looking east from the ramp towards Barrenjoey Head Credit: DPE

More at:

Time Of Burrugin

Cold and frosty; June-July

Echidna seeking mates - Burringoa flowering - Shellfish forbidden

This is the time when the male Burrugin (echidnas) form lines of up to ten as they follow the female through the woodlands in an effort to wear her down and mate with her. It is also the time when the Burringoa (Eucalyptus tereticornis) starts to produce flowers, indicating that it is time to collect the nectar of certain plants for the ceremonies which will begin to take place during the next season. It is also a warning not to eat shellfish again until the Boo'kerrikin (Acacia decurrens, commonly known as black wattle or early green wattle) blooms.

Eucalyptus tereticornis, commonly known as forest red gum, blue gum or red irongum, is a species of tree that is native to eastern Australia and southern New Guinea. It has smooth bark, lance-shaped to curved adult leaves, flower buds in groups of seven, nine or eleven, white flowers and hemispherical fruit.

Eucalyptus tereticornis was first formally described 1795 by James Edward Smith in A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland from specimens collected in 1793 from Port Jackson by First Fleet surgeon and naturalist John White. The specific epithet (tereticornis) is from the Latin words teres (becoming tereti- in the combined form) meaning "terete" and cornu meaning "horn", in reference to the horn-shaped operculum.

Habitat tree: Sclerophyll Forest.

Food tree: Natural stands are an important food tree for koalas and a wide variety of nectar-eating birds, fruit bats and possums.

Eucalyptus tereticornis buds, capsules, flowers and foliage, Rockhampton, Queensland. Photo: Ethel Aardvark 

Shelly Beach Echidna

Photos by Kevin Murray, taken late May 2023 who said, ''he/she was waddling across the road on the Shelly Beach headland, being harassed not so much by the bemused tourists, but by the Brush Turkeys who are plentiful there.''

Shelly Beach is located in Manly and forms part of Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected marine reserve which lies adjacent to North Head and Fairy Bower.

From the D'harawal calendar, BOM


The D'harawal Country and language area extends from the southern shores of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to the northern shores of the Shoalhaven River, and from the eastern shores of the Wollondilly River system to the eastern seaboard.

Bush Turkeys: Backyard Buddies Breeding Time Commences In August - BIG Tick Eaters - Ringtail Posse Insights

Around now you may see some of your local neighbourhood Bush Turkeys setting up nesting mounds.

Male brush turkeys rake up huge leafy mounds to entice females to lay their eggs deep inside the pile between August to February each year. They usually lay one egg every 2 to 5 days. The females do not stay around the mound once they have laid. The male maintains the mound temperature to around 34 degrees Celsius by shifting around the composting material to incubate the eggs for 50 days. The mulch may hold around 20 eggs.

Chicks take 48 hours to dig themselves out to an independent life. They receive no further parental care. Unfortunately, they are very vulnerable to attack. On average, only one chick in every 200 eggs laid survives.

In our area NSW Dept. of Environment statistics show 928 have been rescued since data was collected and just 255 released, meaning 673 did not survive. Collision with motor vehicles, unsuitable environment (people not wanting them in their gardens or passing through same)along with dog and cat attacks are listed as the primary causes of rescues.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, when jobs and food were scarce, Australian brush turkeys (bush turkeys) were nearly wiped out when people used them for meat and eggs. Today, this native wildlife is protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the population of brush turkeys is now recovering in areas where they have not been seen for many decades.

Mound builders like lyrebirds and brush turkeys are territorial, and in the large area where they rake and shift leaf litter, looking for insects and worms, they are also breaking up the dry leaves and twigs and pushing them into the soil. This reduces the fuel available for hot ground fires and can create a refuge for small animals during wildfires.

If you have ticks in your yard, you want bush turkeys visiting! According to Wild Birds Unlimited, an adult turkey is one of the most voracious tick predators around, and an individual may eat 200 or more of these parasites in a given day. The Tick Encounter Resource Center reported that many species of bird feast on parasites.

As we head into what is reported to be a HOT Spring and Summer, to keep ticks down in your yard, keeping Bush turkeys safe and encouraging other insect eating birds to visit by providing suitable habitat, will also keep you and your family safer from tick bites.

Photos: a baby Bush Turkey in PON yard - which is a thoroughfare for bush turkeys. Adult bird in PON yard. Images: AJG/PON

PNHA Guided Nature Walks 2023

Our walks are gentle strolls, enjoying and learning about the bush rather than aiming for destinations. Wear enclosed shoes. We welcome interested children over about 8 years old with carers. All Welcome. 

So we know you’re coming please book by emailing: and include your phone number so we can contact you if weather is doubtful. 

The whole PNHA 2023 Guided Nature Walks Program is available at:

Red-browed finch (Neochmia temporalis). Photo: J J Harrison

Bushcare In Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367 or visit Council's bushcare webpage to find out how you can get involved.

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Report Fox Sightings

Fox sightings, signs of fox activity, den locations and attacks on native or domestic animals can be reported into FoxScan. FoxScan is a free resource for residents, community groups, local Councils, and other land managers to record and report fox sightings and control activities. 

Our Council's Invasive species Team receives an alert when an entry is made into FoxScan.  The information in FoxScan will assist with planning fox control activities and to notify the community when and where foxes are active.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Group On The Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast (MWRCC) had its official launch at The Entrance Boat Shed at 10am.

The group comprises current and former members of ASTR, ORRCA, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, WIRES and Wildlife ARC, as well as vets, academics, and people from all walks of life.

Well known marine wildlife advocate and activist Cathy Gilmore is spearheading the organisation.

“We believe that it is time the Central Coast looked after its own marine wildlife, and not be under the control or directed by groups that aren’t based locally,” Gilmore said.

“We have the local knowledge and are set up to respond and help injured animals more quickly.

“This also means that donations and money fundraised will go directly into helping our local marine creatures, and not get tied up elsewhere in the state.”

The organisation plans to have rehabilitation facilities and rescue kits placed in strategic locations around the region.

MWRCC will also be in touch with Indigenous groups to learn the traditional importance of the local marine environment and its inhabitants.

“We want to work with these groups and share knowledge between us,” Gilmore said.

“This is an opportunity to help save and protect our local marine wildlife, so if you have passion and commitment, then you are more than welcome to join us.”

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast has a Facebook page where you may contact members. Visit:

Watch Out - Shorebirds About

Summer is here so watch your step because beach-nesting and estuary-nesting birds have started setting up home on our shores.
Did you know that Careel Bay and other spots throughout our area are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP)?

This flyway, and all of the stopping points along its way, are vital to ensure the survival of these Spring and Summer visitors. This is where they rest and feed on their journeys.  For example, did you know that the bar-tailed godwit flies for 239 hours for 8,108 miles from Alaska to Australia?

Not only that, Shorebirds such as endangered oystercatchers and little terns lay their eggs in shallow scraped-out nests in the sand, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species officer Ms Katherine Howard has said.
Even our regular residents such as seagulls are currently nesting to bear young.

What can you do to help them?
Known nest sites may be indicated by fencing or signs. The whole community can help protect shorebirds by keeping out of nesting areas marked by signs or fences and only taking your dog to designated dog offleash area. 

Just remember WE are visitors to these areas. These birds LIVE there. This is their home.

Four simple steps to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:
1. Look out for bird nesting signs or fenced-off nesting areas on the beach, stay well clear of these areas and give the parent birds plenty of space.
2. Walk your dogs in designated dog-friendly areas only and always keep them on a leash over summer.
3. Stay out of nesting areas and follow all local rules.
4. Chicks are mobile and don't necessarily stay within fenced nesting areas. When you're near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick.

Possums In Your Roof?: Do The Right Thing

Possums in your roof? Please do the right thing 
On the weekend, one of our volunteers noticed a driver pull up, get out of their vehicle, open the boot, remove a trap and attempt to dump a possum on a bush track. Fortunately, our member intervened and saved the beautiful female brushtail and the baby in her pouch from certain death. 

It is illegal to relocate a trapped possum more than 150 metres from the point of capture and substantial penalties apply.  Urbanised possums are highly territorial and do not fare well in unfamiliar bushland. In fact, they may starve to death or be taken by predators.

While Sydney Wildlife Rescue does not provide a service to remove possums from your roof, we do offer this advice:

✅ Call us on (02) 9413 4300 and we will refer you to a reliable and trusted licenced contractor in the Sydney metropolitan area. For a small fee they will remove the possum, seal the entry to your roof and provide a suitable home for the possum - a box for a brushtail or drey for a ringtail.
✅ Do-it-yourself by following this advice from the Department of Planning and Environment: 

❌ Do not under any circumstances relocate a possum more than 150 metres from the capture site.
Thank you for caring and doing the right thing.

Sydney Wildlife photos

Aviaries + Possum Release Sites Needed

Pittwater Online News has interviewed Lynette Millett OAM (WIRES Northern Beaches Branch) needs more bird cages of all sizes for keeping the current huge amount of baby wildlife in care safe or 'homed' while they are healed/allowed to grow bigger to the point where they may be released back into their own home. 

If you have an aviary or large bird cage you are getting rid of or don't need anymore, please email via the link provided above. There is also a pressing need for release sites for brushtail possums - a species that is very territorial and where release into a site already lived in by one possum can result in serious problems and injury. 

If you have a decent backyard and can help out, Lyn and husband Dave can supply you with a simple drey for a nest and food for their first weeks of adjustment.

Hottest July Ever Signals ‘Era Of Global Boiling Has Arrived’ Says UN Chief

July 27, 2023
As wildfires raged across Southern Europe and North Africa, top UN climate scientists said on Thursday that it was “virtually certain” that July 2023 will be the warmest on record.  

Echoing that warning in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “short of a mini-Ice Age” in coming days, July 2023 would likely “shatter records across the board”.  

“Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning,” said the UN chief, warning that the consequences are as clear as they are tragic: “children swept away by monsoon rains, families running from the flames (and) workers collapsing in scorching heat.”

‘Remarkable and unprecedented’
In Geneva, scientists from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service described conditions this month as “rather remarkable and unprecedented”.

They said that new data showed that so far, July has seen the hottest three-week period ever recorded and the three hottest days on record.  

“We can say that the first three weeks of July have been the warmest three weeks periods ever observed in our record,” said Carlo Buentempo, Director of Copernicus Climate Change Service, via Zoom.

“This anomaly is so large with respect to other record-breaking months in our record that we are virtually certain that the month, the month as a whole will become the warmest July on record, the warmest month on record, in all likelihood.”

Ocean temperature record
Just as worrying was the fact that ocean temperatures are at their highest-ever recorded levels for this time of year. This trend has been apparent since the end of April.

Citing “a clear and dramatic warming decade on decade” since the 1970s, WMO’s Director of Climate Services Chris Hewitt noted that 2015 to 2022 saw the eight warmest years on record, based on a 173-year dataset.

This was despite the fact that the La Niña sea-cooling phenomenon prevailed towards the end of that period in the Pacific region, which reined in global average temperatures slightly, Mr. Hewitt explained.

“But now the La Niña has ended” - to be replaced by the sea-warming El Niño effect - waters have begun to heat up in the tropical Pacific, bringing the “almost certain likelihood that one of the next five years will be the warmest on record”.

It is also “more likely than not” that global average temperatures will temporarily exceed the 1.5°C threshold above pre-industrial levels “for at least one of the five years”, the WMO scientist continued.  

‘Era of global boiling’
Speaking at UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General underscored the need for global action on emissions, climate adaptation and climate finance. 

He warned that “the era of global warming has ended” and “the era of global boiling has arrived.”

Although climate change is evident, “we can still stop the worst,” he said. “But to do so we must turn a year of burning heat into a year of burning ambition.”  

Climate action now
He said leaders “must step up for climate action and climate justice”, particularly those from the G20 leading industrial nations, responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions.

He pointed to upcoming summits - including the UN Climate Ambition Summit in September and the COP28 climate conference in Dubai in November - as critical opportunities.

Net-zero goal
Mr. Guterres highlighted the need for new national emissions targets from G20 members and urged all countries to push to reach net zero emissions by mid-century.

He said all actors must unite to accelerate the just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, while stopping oil and gas expansion and phasing out coal by 2040.  

Action from companies, cities, regions, financial institutions and fossil fuel companies is also critical.

“No more greenwashing.  No more deception.  And no more abusive distortion of anti-trust laws to sabotage net zero alliances,” he said.

Investment for adaptation
With extreme weather “becoming the new normal”, Mr. Guterres appealed for “a global surge in adaptation investment” to save millions from the impacts of climate change, particularly in developing countries.

He said developed countries must present a clear and credible roadmap to double adaptation finance by 2025. Furthermore, all governments should implement a UN action plan aimed at ensuring everyone on the planet is protected by early warning systems by 2027.

Honour the commitment
On finance, the Secretary-General urged richer countries to honour their commitments to provide $100 billion annually for climate support in developing countries and to fully replenish the Green Climate Fund.

“I am concerned that only two G7 countries – Canada and Germany – have made replenishment pledges so far,” he said.  “Countries must also operationalize the loss and damage fund at COP28 this year. No more delays or excuses.”

Mr. Guterres also reiterated the need for “a course correction in the global finance system” to support accelerated climate action.  

Measures would include putting a price on carbon and getting multilateral development banks to scale up funding for renewable energy, adaptation, and loss and damage. 

Warming Trend In Asia Set To Cause More Disruption: UN Weather Agency

July 27, 2023
Climate change impacts are increasing in Asia, which is warming faster than the global average, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a new report published on Thursday. 

Melting ice and glaciers and rising sea levels threaten more socio-economic disruption in future, according to the agency’s latest State of the Climate report for the region.  

The mean temperature over Asia for 2022 was the second or third warmest on record and was about 0.72 degrees Celsius (°C) above the 1991–2020 average, which was itself roughly 1.68°C above the WMO 1961–1990 reference period for climate change.  

Drought, disasters and death
Asia is also the world’s most disaster-prone region, according to the agency’s new report.  
In 2022, there were more than 80 disasters on the continent, mainly floods and storms, which killed upwards of 5,000 people and affected 50 million more. Overall economic damage exceeded $36 billion.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said many areas in Asia experienced drier-than-normal conditions and drought last year.

He highlighted the case of China, where prolonged drought conditions affected water availability and the power supply.  The estimated economic losses were over $7.6 billion.

“Most glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region suffered from intense mass loss as a result of exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2022. This will have major implications for future food and water security and ecosystems,” he added.

Devastating losses in Pakistan
Last year also saw severe flooding in Pakistan.  The country received 60 per cent of its normal monsoon rain within just three weeks of the start of the monsoon season last June.  

More than 33 million people were affected, or roughly 14 per cent of the population, and more than $15 billion in losses were recorded.  National authorities put the death toll at over 1,730, while nearly eight million people were displaced.

Asia also shows an overall surface ocean warming trend beginning in 1982. In the northwestern Arabian Sea, the Philippine Sea and the seas east of Japan, the warming rates exceed 0.5°C per decade, roughly three times faster than the global average.  

Focus on agriculture
The report was released during a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction. It is accompanied by an interactive story map, with a special focus on agriculture and food security.  

WMO said the expected increase in the frequency and severity of extreme events over much of Asia will impact agriculture, which is central to all climate adaptation planning. 

© IRRI/Isagani Serrano Rice paddies in South and Southeast Asia suffer the effects of climate change.

Seismic Testing + Exploration Drilling In Western Australia, Victorian, Tasmanian, Northern Territory Waters - Past And Currently Open For Feedback Proposals

Closes August 11, 2023 - 3d blasting of marine life until 2027
TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company Pty Ltd (TGS) propose to undertake a three-dimensional multi-client marine seismic survey (3D MC MSS) in the Otway Basin, in Commonwealth waters offshore from Victoria, and Tasmania (referred to as the Otway Basin 3D MC MSS). The survey will provide 3D data coverage and improved subsurface imaging to provide an improved understanding of the subsurface, which to-date has been limited to sparse 2D coverage.

The Operational Area (OA) represents where all activities managed under the EP will occur and includes the Acquisition Area (AA). The OA is located ~38 km from land at the closest point.
The AA lies within the OA and is where seismic acquisition will occur. Smaller discrete surveys will be acquired within the AA which covers ~45,000 km2; however, this entire area will not be surveyed. Water depths within the AA range from 115 m to 5,650 m.

The Otway Basin 3D MC MSS will also include a ‘tie-in’ to existing geophysical data from previously drilled wells. The 2D tie-line will overlap with 3D data acquisition in the AA; however, it will also extend onto the Continental Shelf and represents a few hours of active source time in shallower waters. At the shallowest point, the tie-line is in a water depth of approximately 115 m and additional control measures will be implemented for this.

A single Seismic Vessel will tow up to 14 seismic streamers 8 – 10 km long. The Seismic Vessel will travel at ~4.5 knots. The acoustic source will either be a ‘dual source’ (comprising two source arrays discharged alternately) or a ‘triple source’ (comprising three source arrays discharged alternately). Each acoustic array will have an effective volume of up to 3,480 in3.

The Otway Basin 3D MC MSS may commence as early as 1 October 2023 (pending regulatory approval) and will be completed by 30 September 2027. The maximum acquisition time during any calendar year is 200 days with a maximum of 400 days over the duration of the EP; however, due to temporal controls for managing impacts to various environmental sensitivities, the duration is likely less. Based on an analysis of weather and sea state, acquisition is likely to occur from October to March. However, the EP does not prescribe a specific timing for activities for the entire AA, as the precise timing is subject to NOPSEMA’s acceptance of the EP, weather conditions, vessel availability and other operational considerations, as well as the seasonality of environmental and socio-economic sensitivities.

Closes August 4, 2023 - 4d seismic testing blast of marine life
Chevron Australia proposes to conduct a 4-dimensional (4D) marine seismic survey (MSS) over production licences WA-46-L, WA-47-L and WA-48-L in the Wheatstone and Iago gas fields in Commonwealth waters north of Barrow Island, Western Australia. The 4D MSS aims to repeat the acquisition of the 3-dimensional (3D) MSS conducted over the same area in 2011–2012, as part of a monitoring program. The 4D MSS is scheduled to occur between mid-December 2023 and mid-April 2024, subject to vessel availability, and is expected to take ~75 days to acquire. While the seismic and support vessels may mobilise to the Operational Area during December 2023, seismic acquisition will not commence before 1 January 2024. Seismic acquisition will be conducted 24 hours a day.

The Full Power Zone for the 4D MSS defines the area where the seismic source will be discharged at full power. The Full Power Zone extends over ~1,644 km2 and is within water depths that range from ~60 m to 1,130 m. The Operational Area for the 4D MSS defines the area where all planned activities within the scope of this EP will occur. The Operational Area extends over ~3,730 km2 and is within water depths that range from ~50 m to 1,250 m. The Operational Area is situated ~30 km from the Montebello Islands and ~119 km from the mainland.


2021 seismic killing of marine life - WA
INPEX is proposing to undertake a two-dimensional (2D) seismic survey of Exploration Permits WA-532-P and WA-533-P in the Browse and Offshore Canning Basins. The 2D seismic survey will also include the acquisition of seismic data in Production Licence WA-50-L, also within the Browse Basin.

The permit areas are located wholly within Commonwealth waters. At the closest point, the survey activity will be undertaken over 87 km west of Broome and 42 km offshore from the Dampier Peninsula. This are is in water depths between approximately 50 m and 600 m below mean sea level.

The survey will be undertaken by a seismic survey vessel towing an underwater seismic source and a single streamer behind it. The seismic source will be towed behind the vessel at water depths of approximately 5-10 m. The seismic source will use compressed air to emit regular pulses of sound which reflect off the seabed and underlying geological rock formations and structure boundary. The reflected sound will be received by the streamer, which may be up to 6-10 km in length and will be towed behind the survey vessel at a water depth of approximately 5-15 m.

During the survey, the survey vessel will sail along the pre-determined acquisition lines at a speed of approximately 4.5 knots (approximately 8 km/hr), discharging the seismic source approximately every 18.75 m (approximately every 8 seconds). Data will be acquired along a grid of broadly-spaced, approximately orthogonal lines (spaced approximately three to six kilometres apart) within the ‘Acquisition Area’ with associated vessel movements and support activities undertaken within the ‘Operational Area’.

Based on the environmental risk assessments presented in the EP, an acceptable window of opportunity was determined to be from 1 November to 31 May in either calendar year that the EP applies. Therefore, no seismic acquisition will occur during the period 1 June to 31 October in either 2020 or 2021 when the sensitivity of whales, to acoustic noise, is at its greatest.

Operation of the seismic source will not occur in areas that are designated as a National Park Zone and Habitat Protection Zone of the Kimberley Australian Marine Park. Vessels and the towed streamer will also maintain a safe operating distance from these locations.


Bonaparte Basin Exploration Drilling
Activity type: greenhouse gas-related activity 
Submission date: 25 August, 2022
INPEX Browse E&P Pty Ltd on behalf of the Bonaparte Carbon Capture and Storage Assessment Joint Operating Agreement participants was successfully awarded GHG assessment permit G-7-AP, located offshore in the Bonaparte Basin off northern Australia. The G-7-AP permit area is wholly located within Commonwealth waters to the north of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf and approximately 100 km west of Darwin Harbour. The proposed GHG activity covered by this EP will consist of pre-drill site surveys, and the drilling and evaluation of two initial exploration wells between 2023 and 2024. Up to three possible additional wells and associated pre-drill site surveys may also be drilled in an area of G-7-AP within the life of the EP.

The pre-drill site survey associated with the initial exploration drilling campaign will last for approximately 30 days and is provisionally expected to be conducted in the first half of 2023 with the drilling activities scheduled to commence thereafter. The scope of the surveys includes multibeam echo sounder, side-scan sonar, magnetometer, sub-bottom profiling, seabed grab sampling and one geotechnical borehole/or several piezo-cone penetrometer tests at each proposed well location.

Drilling and evaluation activities for the initial exploration drilling campaign are expected to last for approximately 150 days for both wells and it is expected that the earliest commencement date will be in 2023. Once drilled to total depth, each well will undergo various evaluation techniques to assess reservoir parameters. These will include a water injectivity test and a vertical seismic profile (VSP). Various other wireline formation evaluation techniques will also be completed. The activity described in this EP does not involve the injection of carbon dioxide (CO2); the aim is to assess the suitability of potential reservoirs for future CO2 storage.

Drilling will be conducted using either a jack-up or semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU). It is anticipated that a minimum of two support vessels will be needed to provide support for the drilling activity and personnel transfers to and from the MODU will be by helicopter several times per week. Operations will occur 24 hours a day.

The exact location of the proposed pre-drill site surveys and wells in G-7-AP is yet to be finalised; however, they will fall within the boundaries of the proposed project area, a small section of the broader GHG assessment permit where water depths range from approximately 75 m to 100 m.


NOPSEMA's Compliance Strategy 2023 Released

Published: 26 July, 2023
News announcement
NOPSEMA has released the Compliance Strategy 2023 to inform stakeholders of how we intend to foster a culture of voluntary compliance and how we will treat and deter non-compliance across the offshore energy industry in Commonwealth waters.

The new document consists of eight elements that outline how NOPSEMA will drive continuous improvement in the offshore energy industry to a point of consistent and intentional compliance.

NOPSEMA will actively engage and educate the regulated community to encourage and support voluntary compliance and will ensure our response to any non-compliance is proportionate to the risks posed and behaviour of the industry including their compliance history.

By implementing the Compliance Strategy 2023, NOPSEMA will support a safe and environmentally responsible offshore energy industry and maintain community and Government trust in its regulation.

Why can’t we just tow stranded whales and dolphins back out to sea?

Vanessa PirottaMacquarie University

On Tuesday night, a pod of almost 100 long-finned pilot whales stranded itself on a beach on Western Australia’s south coast. Over the course of Wednesday, more than 100 parks and wildlife staff and 250 registered volunteers worked tirelessly to try to keep alive the 45 animals surviving the night.

They used small boats and surf skis to try to get the pilot whales into deeper water. Volunteers helped keep the animals’ blowholes above water to prevent them drowning, and poured water on them to cool them down.

Our rescue efforts were, sadly, unsuccessful. The animals (actually large ocean-going dolphins) able to be towed or helped out to deeper water turned around and stranded themselves again, further down the beach. Sadly, they had to be euthanised.

Unfortunately, towing whales and dolphins is not simple. It can work and work well, as we saw in Tasmania last year, when dozens of pilot whales were rescued. But rescuers have to have good conditions and a fair dash of luck for it to succeed.

Rescuing Beached Whales Is Hard

When we try to rescue stranded whales and dolphins, the goal is to get them off the sandbars or beach, and back into deep water.

Why is it so difficult? Consider the problem. First, you have to know that a pod has beached itself. Then, you have to be able to get there in time, with people skilled in wildlife rescue.

These animals are generally too big and heavy to rely on muscle power alone. To get them out far enough, you need boats and sometimes tractors. That means the sea conditions and the slope of the beach have to be suitable.

Often, one of the first things rescuers might do is look for those individuals who might be good candidates to be refloated. Generally, these are individuals still alive, and not completely exhausted.

If rescuers have boats and good conditions, they may use slings. The boats need to be able to tow the animals well out to sea.

Trained people must always be there to oversee the operation. That’s because these large, stressed animals could seriously injure humans just by moving their bodies on the beach.

There are extra challenges. Dolphins and whales are slippery and extremely heavy. Long-finned pilot whales can weigh up to 2.3 tonnes. They may have never seen humans before and won’t necessarily know humans are there to help.

They’re out of their element, under the sun and extremely stressed. Out of the water, their sheer weight begins to crush their organs. They can also become sunburnt. Because they are so efficient at keeping a comfortable temperature in the sea, they can overheat and die on land. Often, as we saw yesterday, they can’t always keep themselves upright in the shallow water.

And to add to the problem, pilot whales are highly social. They want to be with each other. If you tow a single animal back out to sea, it may try to get back to its family and friends or remain disorientated and strand once again.

Because of these reasons – and probably others – it wasn’t possible to save the pilot whales yesterday. Those that didn’t die naturally were euthanised to minimise their suffering.

Successful Rescues Do Happen

Despite the remarkable effort from authorities and local communities, we couldn’t save this pod. Every single person working around the clock to help these animals did an amazing job, from experts to volunteers in the cold water to those making cups of tea.

But sometimes, we get luckier. Last year, 230 pilot whales beached themselves at Macquarie Harbour, on Tasmania’s west coast. By the time rescuers could get there, most were dead. But dozens were still alive. This time, conditions were different and towing worked.

Rescuers were able to bring boats close to shore. Surviving pilot whales were helped into a sling, and then the boat took them far out to sea. Taking them to the same location prevented them from beaching again.

Every Stranding Lets Us Learn More

Unfortunately, we don’t really know why whales and dolphins strand at all. Has something gone wrong with how toothed whales and dolphins navigate? Are they following a sick leader? Are human-made undersea sounds making it too loud? Are they avoiding predators such as killer whales? We don’t know.

We do know there are stranding hotspots. Macquarie Harbour is one. In 2020, it was the site of one of the worst-ever strandings, with up to 470 pilot whales stranded. Authorities were able to save 94, drawing on trained rescue experts.

We will need more research to find out why they do this. What we do know suggests navigational problems play a role.

That’s because we can divide whales and dolphins into two types: toothed and toothless. Whales and dolphins with teeth – such as pilot whales – appear to beach a lot more. These animals use echolocation (biological sonar) to find prey with high-pitched clicks bouncing off objects. But toothless baleen whales like humpbacks (there are no dolphins with baleen) don’t use this technique. They use low-frequency sounds, but to communicate, not hunt.

So – it is possible to save beached whales and dolphins. But it’s not as easy as towing them straight back to sea, alas.

The Conversation thanks 10-year-old reader Grace Thornton from Canberra for suggesting the question that gave rise to this article.The Conversation

Vanessa Pirotta, Postdoctoral Researcher and Wildlife Scientist, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

An expert explains the stranding of 97 pilot whales in WA and their mysterious ‘huddling’ before the tragedy

Kate SprogisThe University of Western Australia

Sad scenes are unfolding in Western Australia after a pod of pilot whales became stranded on a beach late on Tuesday. According to the latest reports, 51 of the whales have died. Some 46 remain beached and authorities are working desperately to get them back out to sea.

Pilot whale strandings unfortunately occur in WA, and other Australian states, from time to time. In recent years they have also occurred in New Zealand and Scotland. But this stranding is unusual because of the behaviour the whales exhibited prior to becoming beached.

The pod of long-finned pilot whales began congregating in the ocean off Cheynes Beach on Monday evening. They remained in a “huddle” on Tuesday, raising fears a stranding was imminent.

I am a marine biologist who specialises in marine mammals. I am based at the University of Western Australia’s Albany campus, about 70 kilometres from where the stranding occurred. Sadly, the chances of survival for the remaining whales is very low – and time is fast running out.

a string of dead pilot whales line the beach
Pilot whale strandings have occurred before. Pictured: a string of dead pilot whales line the beach at Tupuangi Beach in New Zealand’s Chatham Archipelago in October last year. Tamzin Henderson/AP

Understanding Pilot Whales

There are two species of pilot whales: short-finned (which live mainly in tropical and warm-temperate regions) and long-finned (generally found in colder waters). As the name suggests, the long-finned pilot whales have longer pectoral fins than their counterparts.

The pilot whales stranded at Cheynes Beach are long-finned. They are generally found offshore, in the deep open ocean. We rarely see them close to the coast. This makes the species hard to study.

Pilot whales are, however, known to inhabit Bremer Canyon, a very deep ocean area 70 kilometres off the WA coast.

What Happened At Cheynes Beach?

The group of whales was spotted swimming in shallow waters at Cheynes Beach late on Monday. An official from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions called me on Tuesday morning, and asked about the strange huddling behaviour. I was immediately concerned.

Healthy pilot whales do not form huddles, so something seemed very wrong. The department’s drone footage showed the pod was forming a very tight ball, then moving into a line, then back into the ball shape. And the pod was in very shallow coastal water, which is odd.

We suspected the behaviour was a precursor to a stranding. The department prepared its whale stranding kit and had officials on standby in case a stranding occurred. Unfortunately, it did.

By 4pm on Tuesday, almost 100 whales had beached themselves. Officials monitored them overnight. By Wednesday morning, 51 had died.

This is unsurprising. And sadly, the chance of survival for the remaining whales is very low. Cold, windy conditions means the whales are susceptible to hypothermia. And if they are already sick – as is sometimes the case with beached whales – this combination of factors can be fatal.

What’s more, whales are not used to the pressure of gravity we experience on land. When whales are stranded, their organs can collapse due to the weight of their own body.

In some cases, long-finned pilot whales have been known to survive after being stranded. But time is of the essence.

Why Did The Whales Beach Themselves?

In 2015, another pod of pilot whales beached itself in Bunbury, north of Albany. Sadly, 12 died. At the time, I and a colleague conducted necropsies – scientific examinations of animals after death – but the findings were inconclusive.

Whale strandings cannot be predicted and we do not know exactly why they occur. But in the case of pilot whales, their social behaviour offers some clues.

Pilot whales are similar to elephants in that they live in tight-knit family groups. It’s thought mass strandings may occur when the matriarch of the group is sick and swims into shallow water, and the others follow, or are “piloted”.

Whales may also become stranded due to an external stress. For example, whales use sound to communicate, navigate and search for food. Loud man-made underwater noises can disrupt this system.

What Next?

Officials at Cheynes Beach are trying to refloat the whales. Researchers are also taking biopsy samples and nasal swabs from the dead whales.

Experts will examine the swabs and samples, to try and understand more about this stranding event. I anticipate they will look for evidence of illness such as influenza or cetacean morbillivirus, as well as stress from underwater noise.

You might also be wondering what everyday people can do to help. If you observe marine mammals behaving unusually or getting stranded, alert authorities. And please stand aside to let authorities and other experts do their work. This is vital for the welfare of the animals and the safety of both helpers and bystanders.

Right now, I feel a bit helpless. I would like to be able to answer everyone’s primary question: why do pilot whales become stranded? It is a long-standing mystery in marine mammal science, and we don’t really know the answer.

More research is needed. Scientists need funding to attend mass strandings, collect and analyse samples and write up the findings. That gives us the best chance of piecing together this complicated puzzle.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said 87 whales were stranded, rather than 97.The Conversation

Kate Sprogis, Adjunct Research Fellow, UWA Oceans Institute, The University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gloomy Climate Calculation: Scientists Predict A Collapse Of The Atlantic Ocean Current To Happen Mid-Century

July 25, 2023
Important ocean currents that redistribute heat, cold and precipitation between the tropics and the northernmost parts of the Atlantic region will shut down around the year 2060 if current greenhouse gas emissions persist. This is the conclusion based on new calculations from the University of Copenhagen that contradict the latest report from the IPCC.

Contrary to what we may imagine about the impact of climate change in Europe, a colder future may be in store. In a new study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute and Department of Mathematical Sciences predict that the system of ocean currents which currently distributes cold and heat between the North Atlantic region and tropics will completely stop if we continue to emit the same levels of greenhouse gases as we do today.

Using advanced statistical tools and ocean temperature data from the last 150 years, the researchers calculated that the ocean current, known as the Thermohaline Circulation or the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), will collapse -- with 95 percent certainty -- between 2025 and 2095. This will most likely occur in 34 years, in 2057, and could result in major challenges, particularly warming in the tropics and increased storminess in the North Atlantic region.

"Shutting down the AMOC can have very serious consequences for Earth's climate, for example, by changing how heat and precipitation are distributed globally. While a cooling of Europe may seem less severe as the globe as a whole becomes warmer and heat waves occur more frequently, this shutdown will contribute to an increased warming of the tropics, where rising temperatures have already given rise to challenging living conditions," says Professor Peter Ditlevsen from the Niels Bohr Institute.

"Our result underscores the importance of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible," says the researcher.

The calculations, just published in the scientific journal, Nature Communications, contradict the message of the latest IPCC report, which, based on climate model simulations, considers an abrupt change in the thermohaline circulation very unlikely during this century.

Early warning signals present
The researchers' prediction is based on observations of early warning signals that ocean currents exhibit as they become unstable. These Early Warning Signals for the Thermohaline Circulation have been reported previously, but only now has the development of advanced statistical methods made it possible to predict just when a collapse will occur.

The researchers analysed sea surface temperatures in a specific area of the North Atlantic from 1870 to present days. These sea surface temperatures are "fingerprints" testifying the strength of the AMOC, which has only been measured directly for the past 15 years.

"Using new and improved statistical tools, we've made calculations that provide a more robust estimate of when a collapse of the Thermohaline Circulation is most likely to occur, something we had not been able to do before," explains Professor Susanne Ditlevsen of UCPH's Department of Mathematical Sciences.

The thermohaline circulation has operated in its present mode since the last ice age, where the circulation was indeed collapsed. Abrupt climate jumps between the present state of the AMOC and the collapsed state has been observed to happen 25 times in connection with iceage climate. These are the famed Dansgaard-Oeschger events first observed in ice cores from the Greenlandic ice sheet. At those events climate changes were extreme with 10-15 degrees changes over a decade, while present days climate change is 1.5 degrees warming over a century.

  • The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is part of a global system of ocean currents. By far, it accounts for the most significant part of heat redistribution from the tropics to the northernmost regions of the Atlantic region -- not least to Western Europe.
  • At the northernmost latitudes, circulation ensures that surface water is converted into deep, southbound ocean currents. The transformation creates space for additional surface water to be moved northward from equatorial regions. As such, thermohaline circulation is critical for maintaining the relatively mild climate of the North Atlantic region.
  • The work is supported by TiPES, a joint-European research collaboration focused on tipping points of the climate system. The TiPES project is an EU Horizon 2020 interdisciplinary climate research project focused on tipping points in the climate system.

An overview of the global thermohaline circulation. It shows how there is a northward surface flow in the Atlantic Ocean, which sinks and reverses direction in the Arctic. The freshening of the Arctic surface waters by meltwater could lead to a tipping point. This would have large effects on the strength and direction of the AMOC, with serious consequences for nature and human society.Image: Robert Simmon, NASA. Minor modifications by Robert A. Rohde also released to the public domain derivative work: Miraceti (talk) - BlankMap-World6.svg Thermohaline_Circulation_2.png (=database)

Peter Ditlevsen, Susanne Ditlevsen. Warning of a forthcoming collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Nature Communications, 2023; 14 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-39810-w

The Atlantic is at risk of circulation collapse – it would mean even greater climate chaos across Europe

andrejs polivanovs / shutterstock
Robert MarshUniversity of Southampton

Amid news of lethal heatwaves across the Northern Hemisphere comes the daunting prospect of a climate disaster on an altogether grander scale. New findings published in Nature Communications suggest the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or Amoc, could collapse within the next few decades – maybe even within the next few years – driving European weather to even greater extremes.

The Amoc amounts to a system of currents in the Atlantic that bring warm water northwards where it then cools and sinks. It is a key reason why Europe’s climate has been stable for thousands of years, even if it’s hard to recognise this chaotic summer as part of that stability.

There is much uncertainty in these latest predictions and some scientists are less convinced a collapse is imminent. Amoc is also only one part of the wider Gulf Stream system, much of which is driven by winds that will continue to blow even if the Amoc collapses. So part of the Gulf Stream will survive an Amoc collapse.

But I have studied the links between Atlantic currents and the climate for decades now, and know that an Amoc collapse would still lead to even greater climate chaos across Europe and beyond. At minimum, it is a risk worth being aware of.

Amoc Helps Keep Europe Warm And Stable

To appreciate how much Amoc influences the climate in the northeast Atlantic, consider how much warmer north Europeans feel compared to people at similar latitudes elsewhere. The following maps show how surface air temperatures depart from the average at each latitude and highlight patterns of warm and cool spots around the planet:

Surface air temperature departure from 1948-2018 zonal average in January (top) and July (bottom). Marsh & van Sebille, 2021; Data: NCEP/NCARAuthor provided

Most striking in the northern winter (January) is a red spot centred to the west of Norway where temperatures are 20°C warmer than the latitude average, thanks to Amoc. The northeast Pacific – and therefore western Canada and Alaska – enjoys a more modest 10°C warming from a similar current, while prevailing westerly winds mean the northwest Atlantic and northwest Pacific are much colder, as are the adjacent land masses of eastern Canada and Siberia.

Norwegian town beside sea, snowy mountain in background
Lofoten, Norway, is beyond the Arctic Circle yet most days are above freezing even in midwinter. Relative to latitude, it’s one of the world’s warmest places. Dmitry Rukhlenko / shutterstock

The weather and climate of Europe, and northern Europe in particular, is highly variable from day to day, week to week and year to year, with competing air masses (warm and moist, cold and dry, and so on) gaining or losing influence, often guided by the high-altitude jet stream. Changes in weather and climate can be triggered by events located far away – and over the ocean.

How Ocean Temperatures Are Linked To Weather

Over recent years Europe has witnessed some particularly unusual weather, in both winter and summer. At the same time, peculiar patterns of sea surface temperatures have appeared across the North Atlantic. Across great swathes of the ocean from the tropics to the Arctic, temperatures have persisted 1°C-2°C above or below normal levels, for months or even years on end. These patterns appear to exert a strong influence on the atmosphere, even influencing the path and strength of the jet stream.

To an extent, we can attribute some of these sea surface temperature patterns to a changing Amoc, but it’s often not that straightforward. Nevertheless, the association of extreme seasons and weather with unusual sea temperatures might give us an idea of how a collapsed Amoc would unsettle the status quo. Here are three examples.

Northern Europe experienced successive severe winters in 2009/10 and 2010/11, subsequently attributed to a brief slowdown of the Amoc. At the same time heat had built up in the tropics, fuelling an unusually active June-November hurricane season in 2010.

In the mid 2010s a “cold blob” formed in the North Atlantic, reaching its most extreme in the summer of 2015 when it coincided with heatwaves in central Europe and was one of the only parts of the world cooler than its long-term average.

The cold blob looked suspiciously like the fingerprint of a weakened Amoc, but colleagues and I subsequently attributed this transient episode to more local atmospheric influences.

Shaded world map
Spot the blob: temperatures in 2015 – at the time, the warmest year on record – compared to long-term averages. NASA/NOAA

In 2017, the tropical Atlantic was again warmer than average and once again an unusually active hurricane season ensued, although the Amoc was not as clearly involved as 2010. Extensive warmth to the northeast in late 2017 may have sustained hurricane Ophelia, emerging around the Azores and making landfall in Ireland in October.

Based on just these few examples, we can expect that a more substantial reorganisation of North Atlantic surface temperatures will have profound consequences for the climate in Europe and beyond.

Larger ocean temperature extremes may alter the character of weather systems that are powered by heat and moisture from the sea – when and where temperatures rise beyond current extremes, Atlantic storms may grow more destructive. More extreme ocean temperature patterns may exert further influences on tropical hurricane tracks and the jet stream, sending storms to ever more unlikely destinations.

If the Amoc collapses we can expect larger extremes of heat, cold, drought and flooding, a range of “surprises” to exacerbate the current climate emergency. The potential climate impacts – on Europe in particular – should add urgency to our decision-making.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

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Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 20,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Robert Marsh, Professor of Oceanography and Climate, University of Southampton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate litigation is on the rise around the world and Australia is at the head of the pack

Jacqueline PeelThe University of Melbourne

Australians relish being at the top of international league tables in sport. But few would know we’re a global champion when it comes to using the courts to hold governments and companies to account on climate change.

new report from the United Nations Environment Programme found a staggering 127 climate lawsuits in Australia. We’re second only to the United States on the number of cases and slightly ahead on a per capita basis. The count started in the 1990s and runs through to December 2022.

The research comes as the Northern Hemisphere suffers through unprecedented heatwaves and Antarctica experiences record sea ice retreat. And in Australia, we are bracing for an El Niño-charged summer.

The report says “climate litigation represents a frontier solution to change the dynamics of this fight” against climate change. And Australia, with our many cases and innovative tactics, is on the frontlines. But the report does not capture wins or losses. So while the case load is certainly growing and the field of law is maturing, it’s not yet clear what difference it will make in the long run.

What Is Climate Litigation?

Climate litigation describes a broad range of legal interventions brought to address climate change. The goal is generally to reduce emissions of climate-harming greenhouse gases (mitigation) or improve resilience in the face of climate impacts (adaptation).

These cases have become more common as the climate crisis has worsened and the gap grows between needed action and what governments and companies are actually delivering.

As the report states:

Climate change litigation provides civil society, individuals and others with one possible avenue to address inadequate responses by governments and the private sector to the climate crisis.

It’s an avenue that’s widely available. It can be accessed by many different groups including some of the most vulnerable. And it can be initiated using a wide range of laws, such as those protecting human rights, preventing misleading greenwashing, requiring corporate disclosures of climate risk or regulating the obligations of countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This could make climate litigation a powerful tool for those disproportionately affected to demand and secure climate justice.

Anjali Sharma was 16 when she became the lead litigant in Sharma vs Environment Minister.

Australia As A Climate Litigation Hotspot

The US tops the climate litigation charts with 1,522 lawsuits filed. Australia comes second with 127.

But we’re in front on a per capita basis. The US figure works out to about 4.6 lawsuits per million people, compared to 4.8 lawsuits per million in Australia.

Australia’s status has been driven by several factors. These include our carbon-intensive economy and significant fossil fuel exports. Until recently, the dearth of climate policy nationally also encouraged some to resort to the courts for solutions. Australia also has a very active and engaged civil society which has tried a range of innovative legal arguments.

A key example in the report is the case brought by eight Torres Strait Islanders and six of their children to the UN Human Rights Committee.

In 2022, the committee delivered a landmark decision, finding the Australian government was violating its human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islanders through climate inaction. The decision delivered a number of legal world-firsts including the first time a country had been held responsible for its greenhouse gas emissions under international human rights law.

Australia has also been a pioneer in climate litigation against private sector entities, starting a wave of cases now building to a tsunami globally. Leading this trend are anti-greenwashing complaints.

The report singles out a case brought by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility against oil and gas company Santos. It alleges the company’s pledge of net zero emissions by 2040 is misleading and deceptive in violation of Australia’s consumer protection laws. This case is before the courts.

More Where That Came From

The report acknowledges it applies a “narrow approach” to defining climate litigation by excluding cases not sent to courts or quasi-judicial bodies, or which don’t feature climate change as a central issue.

As we’ve found in our Australian and Pacific Climate Change Litigation database, maintained by Melbourne Climate Futures, a broader lens yields even more climate cases. Between 2000-22, our database records 371 examples of Australian climate litigation.

In previous research we found most Australian cases do not yield court wins. For example, there have been many cases against coal mines but only a handful have actually stopped the mine going ahead.

How Do Lawsuits Help Fight The Climate Crisis?

Litigation is an important tool for advancing climate action and accountability. A report last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considered climate litigation for the first time, finding some cases influenced the outcome and ambition of climate governance.

The latest report spells out ways individuals, communities and groups are using litigation to drive action. This includes efforts to:

  • enforce existing climate laws

  • ensure climate issues are widely integrated into planning and economic decision-making

  • force governments and companies to raise the ambition of their emissions reduction commitments

  • establish a link between climate change and human rights violations, and

  • seek compensation for climate harms.

Many cases put forward innovative legal arguments but are ultimately unsuccessful in getting the remedy they seek. One example is the 2021 Australian litigation by teenage climate activist Anjali Sharma and other young people against the federal environment minister, then Sussan Ley. Even where lawsuits do deliver a legal win, the report highlights potential “implementation challenges” when it comes to putting those judgements into action.

The report predicts where climate litigation might head next. This includes the potential for more cases addressing risks of climate displacement and migration, and consequences of climate-fuelled disasters such as the Black Saturday bushfires.

It also forecasts more cases brought by vulnerable groups, a trend we are already seeing in Australia. In the last year, several cases were brought by First Nations people and Indigenous youth. These challenged coal mines and gas projects impacting their traditional lands, or fought for greater government action to prevent islands in the Torres Strait being overwhelmed by sea level rise.

As demands for climate justice increase, further growth and worldwide spread of climate litigation now seems a given. The Conversation

Jacqueline Peel, Director, Melbourne Climate Futures, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Through the magnifying glass: how cutting-edge technology is helping scientists understand baby corals

Marine GouezoSouthern Cross University and Christopher DoropoulosCSIRO

New photographic technology has allowed scientists to dive beneath the ocean’s surface and peer into the hidden world of baby corals, to learn how these tiny organisms survive and grow in their crucial first year of life.

In a study just published, researchers from Southern Cross University and CSIRO describe how advanced imaging techniques offer new ways to monitor baby corals.

Corals provide vital habitat for a large variety of marine life. So it’s useful to better understand how baby corals select and attach to reefs, establish themselves and grow into adult corals.

This knowledge is particularly important if we want to help reefs recover from devastating events such as mass bleaching and cyclones.

3D animation of a 6-month old coral recruit approximately 2.1 mm in size.

The Secret Life Of Corals

The life of a coral begins in an annual, synchronised spawning event. Coral colonies release millions of tiny eggs and sperm into the water at the same time. They all rise to the surface where the eggs are fertilised, developing into embryos and then later, into larvae.

Over days or weeks, the millions of larvae disperse with ocean currents. If things go according to nature’s plan, the larvae eventually fall through the water, attach to a reef and grow into adult corals. This process is known as coral “recruitment”.

In healthy coral reefs, this recruitment occurs naturally. But as coral reefs become more degraded – such as through coral bleaching brought on by climate change – fewer coral larvae are produced. This often means recruitment slows down or stops, and natural recovery weakens.

Scientists are working on ways to ensure coral larvae attach to and grow on reefs. This includes collecting coral spawn from the ocean, rearing embryos in floating nurseries and releasing larvae onto damaged reefs.

Coral larvae are less than one millimetre in size, so recruitment occurs on a tiny scale, invisible to the human eye. To better understand the process, researchers traditionally attach artificial plates to the reef. Once corals have established themselves, the plates are taken back to the lab to be inspected under a microscope.

This method can provide valuable insights, but it does not replicate the natural reef environment. That’s where our research comes in. Essentially, we brought the lab to the reef.

bleached coral reef
Mass bleaching and other damaging events is limiting the establishment of baby corals. Shutterstock

Capturing The Reef In Incredible 3D Detail

Our new study explores the development and application of an innovative imaging approach known as underwater “macrophotogrammetry”.

The technology combines macrophotography – photographing small objects close-up, at very high resolution – and photogrammetry – taking measurements from photos. In this case, we used photogrammetry to “stitch” photos together to recreate three-dimensional models, such as the one below.

The three round objects in the model are “targets” we placed to help the software stitch the photos together. Look closely, and you’ll see a nail head to the left of each target. To give you an idea of the scale of the model, the nail head is 2.8mm in diameter.

A 3D animation of approximately 400 cm² of the reef at micrometre resolution.

Reef-scale photogrammetry can be a valuable tool to track changes in coral cover and growth over time. However, it does not provide the detailed resolution needed to identify and observe tiny new corals.

Macrophotography provides this incredibly detailed scale. The coupling of the technologies also enables a comprehensive understanding of the entire ecosystem, from the smallest processes to the largest.

We conducted macrophotogrammetry surveys near Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We marked several 25cm x 25cm locations on the reef. We then captured hundreds of photographs taken at different angles using high-resolution cameras.

Photogrammetry software was used to process the photos, creating precise 3D models that represent the small sections of reef at very high resolution.

The models were examined to find where baby corals settle, to mark their location and measure their size. They reveal the complexity in the reef micro-structure, including tiny crevices, where coral larvae often settle.

The models also reveal diverse micro-organisms such as small turf algae or invertebrates, which interact with corals during the recruitment process.

Macrophotogrammetry surveys can be conducted at the same reef locations over time. This allows us to monitor the survival and growth of baby corals, and observe changes in the organisms living near them.

two divers in shallow water
The researchers monitor coral recruitment on a reef slope at Lizard Island. Lauren Hardiman CSIRO

Looking Ahead

Complementary techniques may increase the potential of macrophotogrammetry even further. For example, coral larvae can be dyed various colours before release, making them more visible when they swim to and settle on the reef. This could be captured in 3D models to allow even better tracking of larval restoration efforts.

The use of macrophotogrammetry will deepen our understandings of why some larvae settle and survive on reefs, and others do not. This knowledge can help support our efforts to improve the overall conservation and recovery of coral reefs.

Its application need not be limited to coral reef ecosystems. We are excited about the potential of the technology to drive marine research more broadly.The Conversation

Marine Gouezo, Postdoctoral research fellow, Southern Cross University and Christopher Doropoulos, Senior research scientist, CSIRO

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You’ve heard the annoyingly catchy song – but did you know these incredible facts about baby sharks?

Jaelen Nicole MyersJames Cook University

“Baby shark doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo, baby shark doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo …” If you’re the parent of a young child, you’re probably painfully familiar with this infectious song, which now has more than 13 billion views on YouTube.

The Baby Shark song, released in 2016, has got hordes of us singing along, but how much do you really know about baby sharks? Do you know how a baby shark is born, or how it survives to become an apex predator?

I study coastal marine ecology. I believe baby sharks are truly fascinating, and I hope greater public knowledge about these creatures will help protect them in the wild.

So sink your teeth into this Q&A on the weird and wonderful world of baby sharks.

How Are Baby Sharks Conceived And Born?

To the human eye, shark courtship practices may seem barbaric. Males typically attract the attention of a female by biting her. If successful, this is generally followed by even toothier bites to hold on during copulation. Females can carry the scars of these encounters long after the mating season is over.

The act of copulation itself is comparable to that of humans. The male inserts its sexual organ, known as a “clasper”, into the female and releases sperm to fertilise the eggs.

However, in extremely rare cases, sharks can reproduce asexually – in other words, embryos develop without being fertilised. This occurred at a Queensland aquarium in 2016, when a zebra shark gave birth to a litter of pups despite not having had the chance to mate in several years.

Sharks give birth in a variety of ways. Some species produce live pups, which swim away to fend for themselves as soon as they’re born. Others hatch from eggs outside the mother’s body. Remnants of these egg cases have been found washed up on beaches across the world.

How Big Is A Litter Of Shark Pups?

Litter size across sharks varies considerably. For example, the grey nurse shark starts with several embryos but only two are born. This is because the embryos actually eat each other while in utero! This leaves only one survivor in each of the mother’s two uteruses.

Intrauterine cannibalism may seem disturbing but is nature’s way of ensuring that the strongest pups get the best chance of survival.

In contrast, other species such as the whale shark use a completely different strategy to ensure some of their offspring survive: having hundreds of pups in a single litter.

Where Do Baby Sharks Live?

The open ocean is a dangerous place. That’s why pregnant female sharks often give birth in shallow coastal waters known as “nurseries”. There, baby sharks are better protected from harsh environmental conditions and roaming predators, including other sharks.

Sites for shark nurseries include river mouths, estuaries, mangrove forests and coral reef flats.

For example, the white shark has established nursery grounds along the east coast of Australia, where babies may remain for several years before moving to deeper waters.

Although most types of sharks are confined to saltwater, the bull shark can live in freshwater habitats. Bull shark pups born near river mouths and estuaries often migrate upstream (sometimes vast distances inland) to escape being preyed upon.

young sharks swim in shallow water
Baby sharks are often born in ‘nurseries’ - shallow coastal waters where food is plentiful and ocean predators are less likely. Shutterstock

When Are Baby Sharks Born?

Sharks, like most animals in the wild, generally give birth during periods that provide favourable conditions for their offspring.

In Australia, for example, scalloped hammerheads and bull sharks tend to breed in the wet summer months when nursery grounds are warmer and there are rich feeding opportunities.

How Long Do Baby Sharks Take To Grow Up?

Sharks grow remarkably slowly compared to other fish and remain juveniles for a long time. Although some species mature in a few years, most take considerably longer.

Take the Greenland shark – the world’s longest living shark. It can live to at least 250 years and according to recent research, it’s thought to take more than a century to reach sexual maturity.

What Threats Do Baby Sharks Face?

While small, sharks must eat or be eaten – all the while enduring the elements and finding enough food to survive and grow.

Yet there is another challenge: humans. In fact, we are the greatest threat to sharks.

Shark nurseries are heavily concentrated in coastal zones, and often overlap with human activities such as fishing, boating and coastal development. And because sharks grow so slowly, they are particularly to vulnerable to overfishing because when populations decline, they can take a long time to bounce back.

Much More To Learn

Scientists are still working to understand the life cycles of the 500-plus species of sharks in our oceans. Each time I hear the song Baby Shark, it reminds me there’s a lot more work to do.

It’s crucial to keep monitoring and studying these baby wonders of the deep, to ensure shark populations survive and we maintain the delicate balance of our underwater ecosystems.The Conversation

Jaelen Nicole Myers, PhD Candidate, James Cook University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Glide poles: the great Aussie invention helping flying possums cross the road

Anom Harya, Shutterstock
Brendan TaylorSouthern Cross University

Next time you’re road-tripping along the east coast, keep an eye out for a little-known Aussie invention piercing the skyline: glide poles. For Australia’s gliding possums, or gliders, they’re the next best thing since tall trees.

These tall timber structures, with timber cross arms near the top, give gliders a way to cross big roads. They can shimmy up a pole on one side of the road and then leap to another (and another) to get to the other side.

After witnessing the earliest experiments with glide poles decades ago, it’s heartening to see the design refined and replicated up and down the east coast.

The world’s largest gliding marsupial, the greater glider, was listed nationally as endangered a year ago this month. That’s because their populations had declined by 80% in just 20 years. As land-clearing and bushfires continue to destroy old growth forests with tall trees and hollows, gliders need all the help they can get.

Watch squirrel gliders getting used to their new road crossing device in Forster, New South Wales (2022)

Biomimicry With Wooden Poles

From the match-box sized feathertail glider to the small cat-sized greater glider, Australia’s 11 species each have a gliding membrane, or patagium. This a thin area of skin stretching from the ankles to the wrists or hands.

When a glider leaps from a tree (or glide pole), it extends its front and hind limbs, stretching out its patagium, which allows it to glide.

In 1993 Ross Goldingay, one of Australia’s leading glider ecologists, came up with the idea of using tall wooden power poles (without wires) as road-crossing stepping-stones for gliders. The glide poles would act as substitutes for tall trees, so it was a very simple and elegant form of what’s known as “biomimicry”.

Ross directed the placement of glide poles on either side of a powerline easement at Bomaderry Creek near Nowra in southern New South Wales. The trial aimed to ensure yellow-bellied gliders could still cross the easement if it was developed into a local road.

Unfortunately, the Bomaderry Creek glide poles were never monitored. More than ten years later, a series of successful trials at Mackay and Compton Road in Brisbane demonstrated gliders would readily use glide poles. I recall showing Ross early images of squirrel gliders shimmying up the smooth, hardwood poles on the Compton Road land bridge soon after we installed cameras. We were blown away!

Before trees grew up, a series of glide poles on the Compton Road land bridge in Brisbane provided stepping-stone connections between forest on either side. Brendan Taylor

The poles needed to be tall enough to enable a comfortable glide crossing of the intervening gap. This is where trigonometry and the laws of physics come in, to get the calculations right for the species being targeted.

Roadside glide poles connect forest habitat for squirrel gliders across Scrub Road in Brisbane. Brendan Taylor

Since then, glide poles have become a fixture of upgrades along the Hume Highway in Victoria, the Pacific Highway in NSW and the Bruce Highway in Queensland.

Glide poles rise from the roadside landscape along the Hume Highway near Holbrook in western New South Wales. Brendan Taylor

Do The Poles Reconnect Glider Populations?

We are gradually gathering more evidence of glide pole use. Squirrel gliders, sugar gliders and feathertail gliders have been recorded using glide poles to cross roads at several locations.

Mahogany glidersyellow-bellied gliders and southern greater gliders have also been recorded using glide poles.

A yellow-belled glider launches into a glide crossing of the Pacific Higway at Halfway Creek, NSW. Sandpiper Ecological/Transport for NSW

Most notably, retrofitting a glider crossing into a road that previously presented a barrier to squirrel glider movement restored gene flow between populations on either side within five years.

Celebrating Some Of Australia’s Most Iconic Wildlife Crossings

Glide poles are one of many structures designed to provide safe road crossing opportunities for wildlife.

Pipes and box culverts can provide safe passage under the road, while land bridges and rope canopy bridges offer an alternative pathway over the road.

When combined with fencing, these structures reduce roadkill, provide access to resources on both sides of the road, and enable gene flow.

My new book combines an exploration of the how, when, where and why wildlife crossings evolved in eastern Australia with a travel guide to 57 of its most iconic sites.

Here’s a great example of a land bridge that’s created a successful wildlife corridor on Gardening Australia.

The Road Ahead

We need to conserve, protect and restore our natural landscapes. This is especially the case in a rapidly changing climate. Our unique native species need to be able to move and adapt to the changing environment.

Carving up the landscape for road networks has been particularly bad for wildlife, with many populations becoming increasingly fragmented and increasingly isolated. But roads no longer need to act as roadblocks for the movement of many native species.

Engineers and ecologists have come together over recent years to find new ways to support the safe passage of animals from one side of the road to another. Their efforts deserve to be celebrated. Especially glide poles. They may not be as famous as the good old Hills Hoist clothesline, but they certainly deserve a gong as a great Australian invention. Certainly worth a nod when you pass by on your next great Aussie road trip.The Conversation

Brendan Taylor, Adjunct Research Fellow in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, Southern Cross University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Keen to get off gas in your home, but struggling to make the switch? Research shows you’re not alone

Sangeetha ChandrashekeranThe University of Melbourne and Julia de BruynThe University of Melbourne

More than five million households in Australia are connected to the gas network. Tackling climate change requires homes and businesses to move away from gas, and instead embrace electric appliances as the power grid shifts to renewable energy.

People can save considerable money by switching away from gas – even more so if they have solar panels installed. But still, millions of Australians haven’t yet made the move. Why?

Our new research, released today, seeks to shed light on this question. We focused on lower-income households in Victoria and found while most participants supported the transition from gas, few owned electric appliances for heating, cooking and hot water.

There were two main barriers: people couldn’t afford the upfront cost of buying new electric appliances, or were renting and so had little or no say over what appliances were installed. Overcoming these and other challenges is crucial to ensure no-one gets left behind in Australia’s energy transition.

baby floating in bath beside rubber ducks
Few study participants owned electric appliances for heating, cooking and hot water. Shutterstock

Making It Fair For All

Victoria has committed to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. To help achieve this, the state government is developing a plan for the state to electrify. Other states and territories are also moving in this direction.

But to date, not enough research and policy attention has been paid to making this transition fair and equitable for everyone.

Low-income households spend a larger proportion of their income on energy bills compared to higher-income households. This is despite those households using less energy.

The affordability of gas will become worse as more households electrify. That’s because part of a gas bill includes the fixed cost of running gas infrastructure – so as progressively fewer people use gas, the remaining users pay more.

And those who don’t make the move away from gas miss out on the long-term economic benefits. Analysis last year suggested a typical Victorian household could reduce its annual energy costs by A$1,020 by replacing gas heating, cooking and hot water systems with electric ones. The figure rises to $1,250 for those with solar power. These savings will be amplified if the price of gas continues to rise relative to electricity.

That’s why it’s important to help as many lower-income people as possible to make the switch to electric appliances. Our research set out to understand what might prevent or enable that shift.

We studied households in Victoria: the state with the highest prevalence of residential gas use in Australia and where plans for an economy-wide transition away from fossil gas are underway.

hands reach towards gas heater
Gas will become less affordable as more people move to electric appliances. Shutterstock

What We Found

We conducted an online survey, which received 220 eligible responses. We also undertook focus groups with 34 people. All participants were from lower-income households.

Most participants – 88% – used gas in the home, reflecting its prevalence in Victoria.

More than two-thirds indicated some level of support for a transition away from household gas to cleaner energy sources. Support was greater with higher levels of education. There was no significant difference based on financial stress, housing tenure, location or age.

But this support had not translated into action. Just one in ten surveyed households had replaced gas appliances with electric ones within the past five years. Among those who had switched or planned to switch, the main reasons were lower running costs and environmental benefits.

Respondents considered electric appliances to be safer and better for the environment. Gas appliances were considered better for heating and cooking. Many respondents were unsure about the relative benefits of electric versus gas appliances when it came to cost, reliability, safety and the environment.

Graph showing the benefits of gas versus electric appliances, as perceived by participants in the study. Author provided

Preferences were strongly linked to what people were currently using. Most people preferred gas cooktops over electric ones, because of the perceived speed, ease and flexibility. However, few participants had used electric induction stoves, which can also offer these benefits.

People who spoke a language other than English were significantly more likely to prefer gas for heating and hot water.

For those who had not replaced gas appliances, being a renter was one of the biggest barriers to electrification. Some renters said they lived in poor housing, but were unwilling to request improvements in case the landlord increased the rent or evicted them.

Respondents also said they would struggle to afford the upfront costs of electrification, such as buying new appliances and, in some cases, wiring upgrades and other building modifications.

Many participants were aware of and had received state government assistance to help with energy bills. But far fewer people knew about or had used programs that could support them to adopt electric appliances.

Embracing The Switch

An overall strategy is needed to help all households make the shift to electric appliances and technology. Our research suggests this must include specific measures for lower-income households, such as:

  • targeted and well-promoted electrification programs

  • more evidence-based information on the benefits of electric appliances

  • incentives for landlords and standards requiring efficient electric appliances in rental homes

  • means-tested rebates for electric appliances such as reverse cycle air-conditioners and heat pump hot water, and where appropriate, no- or low-interest loans.

These measures should, where possible, be linked to measures to improve household energy efficiency. And lower-income households, as well as others facing barriers to getting off gas, must be included when planning the transition.

Researchers David Bryant and Damian Sullivan from the Brotherhood of St Laurence contributed to this article and co-authored the research upon which it is based.The Conversation

Sangeetha Chandrashekeran, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, The University of Melbourne and Julia de Bruyn, Associate Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Could the law of the sea be used to protect small island states from climate  change?

Oliver Foerstner, Shutterstock
Ellycia Harrould-KoliebThe University of Melbourne and Margaret YoungThe University of Melbourne

Climate change will wreak havoc on small island developing states in the Pacific and elsewhere. Some will be swamped by rising seas. These communities also face more extreme weather, increasingly acidic oceans, coral bleaching and harm to fisheries. Food supplies, human health and livelihoods are at risk. And it’s clear other countries burning fossil fuels are largely to blame.

Yet island states are resourceful. They are not only adapting to change but also seeking legal advice. The international community has certain legal obligations under the law of the sea. These are rules and customs that divvy up the oceans into maritime zones, while recognising certain freedoms and duties.

So island states are asking whether obligations to address climate change might be contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is particularly important as marine issues have not received the attention they deserve within international climate negotiations.

If states do have specific obligations to stop greenhouse gas pollution damaging the marine environment, then legal consequences for breaching these obligations could follow. It is possible small island states could one day be compensated for the damage done.

Why Seek An Advisory Opinion?

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The tribunal has jurisdiction over any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the convention and certain legal questions requested of it. The answers to these questions are known as advisory opinions.

Advisory opinions are not legally binding, they are authoritative statements on legal matters. They provide guidance to states and international organisations about the implementation of international law.

The tribunal has delivered two advisory opinions in the past: on deep seabed mining and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. These proceedings attracted submissions from states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Late last year, the newly established Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law submitted a request for advice to the tribunal. It concerns the obligations of states to address climate change, including impacts on the marine environment.

The tribunal received more than 50 written submissions from states and organisations offering opinions on how it should respond. These submissions, from Australia and New Zealand among others, were recently made public.

While the convention was not designed as a mechanism for regulating climate change, its mandate is broad enough to consider the connection between climate and the oceans. To establish this, the 40-year-old framework agreement must be interpreted in light of changing global circumstances and changing laws, including obligations to strengthen resilience in the high seas. One avenue to achieve this is through an advisory opinion from the tribunal.

The Question Before The Tribunal

The question to the tribunal asks, what are the specific obligations of states:

(a) to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment in relation to the deleterious effects that result or are likely to result from climate change, including through ocean warming and sea level rise, and ocean acidification, which are caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere?

(b) to protect and preserve the marine environment in relation to climate change impacts, including ocean warming and sea level rise, and ocean acidification?

This question invokes specific language from the convention. That provides clues as to which sections of the treaty the tribunal will refer to in its opinion.

The question refers explicitly to the part of the convention entitled “Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment”. This part sets out the general obligation of states to protect and preserve the marine environment, as well as measures to “prevent, reduce and control pollution”. It also tells states they must not transfer damage or hazards, or transform one type of pollution into another.

Pollution of the marine environment is defined in the convention as:

the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment, including estuaries, which results or is likely to result in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources and marine life, hazards to human health, hindrance to marine activities, including fishing and other legitimate uses of the sea, impairment of quality for use of sea water and reduction of amenities.

What If States Do Not Meet Their Obligations?

The tribunal will need to answer a key question for the law of the sea: can the convention be understood as referring to the drivers and effects of climate change? And if so, in what ways does the convention require that they be addressed by states?

What the commission’s question does not ask is, what happens when states do not meet their obligations? The answer is particularly important to small island states, who are dissatisfied with ongoing negotiations on addressing loss and damage associated with climate change impacts.

Obligations relating to climate change are contained within other treaties and rules, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. Small island states have sought advice from different courts to clarify these obligations.

The International Court of Justice will consider a wider set of legal issues on climate obligations next year.

The fact that the court has authorised the commission to participate in this separate advisory opinion request signals the UN’s main judicial body will take account of the tribunal’s opinion. It’s also worth noting the tribunal is likely to deliver its views on the law of the sea first, setting the stage for a broader interpretation of international law when it comes to taking responsibility for polluting the atmosphere.

Sustained pressure from small island states is advancing our understanding of the obligations of states to address climate change.The Conversation

Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, Lecturer and Research Fellow in Ocean Governance, University of Melbourne and Postdoctoral Researcher, UEF Law School, University of Eastern Finland, The University of Melbourne and Margaret Young, Professor, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The feral flying under the radar: why we need to rethink European  honeybees

Amy-Marie GilpinWestern Sydney UniversityJames B. DoreyFlinders UniversityKatja HogendoornUniversity of Adelaide, and Kit PrendergastCurtin University

Australia’s national parks, botanic gardens, wild places and green spaces are swarming with an invasive pest that is largely flying under the radar. This is yet another form of livestock, escaped from captivity and left to roam free.

Contrary to popular opinion, in Australia, feral colonies of the invasive European honeybee (Apis mellifera) are not “wild”, threatened with extinction or “good” for the Australian environment. The truth is feral honeybees compete with native animals for food and habitat, disrupt native pollination systems and pose a serious biosecurity threat to our honey and pollination industries.

As ecologists working across Australia, we are acutely aware of the damage being done by invasive species. There is rarely a simple, single solution. But we need to move feral bees out of the “too hard” basket.

The arrival and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite in New South Wales threatens to decimate honeybee colonies. So now is the time to rethink our relationship with the beloved European honeybee and target the ferals.

Closeup photograph of a honeybee collecting pollen from a purple flower
Feral honeybee foraging on native Boronia ledifolia in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park. Amy-Marie Gilpin

What Makes A Hive Feral?

European honeybees turn feral when a managed hive produces a “swarm”. This is a mass of bees that leaves the hive seeking a new nest. The swarm ultimately settles, either in a natural hollow or artificial structure such as a nesting box.

With up to 150 hives per square kilometre, Australia has among the highest feral honey bee densities in the world. In NSW, feral honeybees are listed as a “key threatening process”, but they lack such recognition elsewhere.

A nesting box installed for native animals filled with feral honeybees (Apis mellifera). Cormac Farrell

Feral honeybees have successfully invaded most land-based ecosystems across Australia, including woodlands, rainforests, mangrove-salt marsh, alpine and arid ecosystems.

They can efficiently harvest large volumes of nectar and pollen from native plants that would otherwise provide food for native animals, including birds, mammals and flower-visiting insects such as native bees. Their foraging activities alter seed production and reduce the genetic diversity of native plants while also pollinating weeds.

Unfortunately, feral honeybees are now the most common visitors to many native flowering plants.

Are Feral Bees Useful In Agriculture?

Feral honeybees can pollinate crops. But they compete with managed hives for nectar and pollen. They can also be an reservoir of honeybee pests and diseases such as the Varroa mite, which ultimately threaten crop production. That’s because many farms rely on honeybees from commercial hives to pollinate their crops.

So reducing feral honeybee density would benefit both honey production and the crop pollination industry, which is worth A$14 billion annually.

Improved management of feral honeybees would not only help to limit the biosecurity threat, but increase the availability of pollen and nectar for managed hives. It would also increase demand for managed honeybee pollination services for pollinator dependent crops.

What Are Our Current Options?

Tackling this issue will not be straightforward, due to the sheer extent of feral colony infestation and limited tools at the disposal of land managers.

If the current parasitic Varroa mite infestation in NSW spins out of control, it may reduce the number of feral hives, with benefits for the environment. Fewer feral hives would be good for the honey industry too.

Targeted strategies to remove feral colonies on a small scale do exist and are being applied in the Varroa mite emergency response. This includes the deployment of poison (fipronil) bait stations in areas exposed to the mite.

While this method seems to be effective, the extreme toxicity of fipronil to honeybees limits its use to areas that do not contain managed hives. In addition, the possible effects on non-target, native animals that feed on the bait, or poisoned hive remains, is still unstudied and requires careful investigation.

Where feral hives can be accessed, they can be physically removed. But in many ecosystems feral colonies are high up in trees, in difficult to access terrain. That, and their overwhelming numbers, makes removal impractical.

Another problem with hive removal is rapid recolonisation by uncontrolled swarming from managed hives and feral hives at the edges of the extermination area.

Taken together, there are currently no realistic options for the targeted large-scale removal of feral colonies across Australia’s vast natural ecosystems.

Drone (male) honeybee. James Dorey

Where To Now?

For too long, feral honeybees have had free reign over Australia’s natural environment. Given the substantial and known threats they pose to natural systems and industry, the time has come to develop effective and practical control measures.

Not only do we need to improve current strategies, we desperately need to develop new ones.

One promising example is the use of traps to catch bee swarms, and such work is underway in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. However, this might be prohibitively expensive at larger scales.

Existing strategies for other animals may be a good starting place. For example, the practice of using pheromones to capture cane toad tadpoles might be applied to drones (male bees) and swarms. Once strategies are developed we can model a combination of approaches to uncover the best one for each case.

Developing sustainable control measures should be a priority right now and should result in a win-win for industry, biosecurity and native ecosystems.

If there is something to learn from the latest Varroa incursion, it is that we cannot ignore the risks feral honeybees pose any longer. We don’t know how to control them in Australia yet, but it is for lack of trying.

We would like to acknowledge the substantial contribution made by environmental scientist and beekeeper Cormac Farrell to the development of this article.The Conversation

Amy-Marie Gilpin, Research Fellow, Ecology, Western Sydney UniversityJames B. Dorey, Adjunct Lecturer, Flinders UniversityKatja Hogendoorn, Research fellow, University of Adelaide, and Kit Prendergast, Native bee ecologist, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tourists flock to the Mediterranean as if the climate crisis isn’t happening. This year’s heat and fire will force change

Susanne BeckenGriffith University and Johanna LoehrGriffith University

Thousands of people on the beach. Children reportedly falling off evacuation boats. Panic. People fleeing with the clothes on their backs. It felt like “the end of the world”, according to one tourist.

The fires sweeping through the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu are showing us favourite holiday destinations are no longer safe as climate change intensifies.

For decades, tourists have flocked to the Mediterranean for the northern summer. Australians, Scandinavians, Brits, Russians all arrive seeking warmer weather. After COVID, many of us have been keen to travel once again.

But this year, the intense heatwaves have claimed hundreds of lives in Spain alone. Major tourist drawcards such as the Acropolis in Athens have been closed. Climate scientists are “stunned by the ferocity” of the heat.

This year is likely to force a rethink for tourists and for tourism operators. Expect to see more trips taken during shoulder seasons, avoiding the increasingly intense July to August summer. And expect temperate countries to become more popular tourist destinations. Warm-weather tourist destinations will have to radically change.

What Will Climate Change Do To Mass Tourism?

Weather is a major factor in tourism. In Europe and North America, people tend to go from northern countries to southern regions. Chinese tourists, like Australians, often head to Southeast Asian beaches.

In Europe, the north-south flow is almost hardwired. When Australians go overseas, they often choose Mediterranean summers. Over the last decade, hotter summers haven’t been a dealbreaker.

But this year is likely to drive change. You can already see that in the growing popularity of shoulder seasons (June or September) in the traditional Northern Hemisphere summer destinations.

Many of us are shifting how we think about hot weather holidays from something we seek to something we fear. This comes on top of consumer shifts such as those related to sustainability and flight shame.

What about disaster tourism? While thrillseekers may be flocking to Death Valley to experience temperatures over 50℃, it’s hard to imagine this type of tourism going mainstream.

What we’re more likely to see is more people seeking “last-chance” experiences, with tourists flocking to highly vulnerable sites such as the Great Barrier Reef. Of course, this type of tourism isn’t sustainable long-term.

Tourists at the famous thermometer at Furnace Creek, Death Valley. Shutterstock

What Does This Mean For Countries Reliant On Tourism?

The crisis in Rhodes shows us the perils of the just-in-time model of tourism, where you bring in tourists and everything they need –food, water, wine – as they need it.

The system is geared to efficiency. But that means there’s little space for contingencies. Rhodes wasn’t able to easily evacuate 19,000 tourists. This approach will have to change to a just-in-case approach, as in other supply chains.

For emergency services, tourists pose a particular challenge. Locals have a better understanding than tourists of risks and escape routes. Plus tourists don’t speak the language. That makes them much harder to help compared to locals.

Climate change poses immense challenges in other ways, too. Pacific atoll nations like Kiribati or Tuvalu would love more tourists to visit. The problem there is water. Sourcing enough water for locals is getting harder. And tourists use a lot of water – drinking it, showering in it, swimming in it. Careful planning will be required to ensure local carrying capacities are not exceeded by tourism.

So does this spell the end of mass tourism? Not entirely. But it will certainly accelerate the trend in countries like Spain away from mass tourism, or “overtourism”. In super-popular tourist destinations like Spain’s Balearic Islands, there’s been an increasing pushback from locals against overtourism in favour of specialised tourism with smaller numbers spread out over the year.

Is this year a wake-up call? Yes. The intensifying climate crisis means many of us are now more focused on what we can do to stave off the worst of it by, say, avoiding flights. The pressure for change is growing too. Delta Airlines is being sued over its announcement to go carbon neutral by using offsets, for instance.

Mountains Not Beaches: Future Tourism May Look A Lot Different

You can already see efforts to adapt to the changes in many countries. In Italy, for instance, domestic mountain tourism is growing, enticing people from hot and humid Milan and Rome up where the air is cooler – even if the snow is disappearing.

China, which doesn’t do things by halves, is investing in mountain resorts. The goal here is to offer cooler alternatives like northern China’s Jilin province to beach holidays for sweltering residents of megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Some mountainous countries are unlikely to seize the opportunity because they don’t want to draw more tourists. Norway is considering a tourist tax.

Forward-thinking countries will be better prepared. But there are limits to preparation and adaptation. Mediterranean summer holidays will be less and less appealing, as the region is a heating hotspot, warming 20% faster than the world average. Italy and Spain are still in the grip of a record-breaking drought, threatening food and water supplies. The future of tourism is going to be very different. The Conversation

Susanne Becken, Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University and Johanna Loehr, , Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pittwater Reserves: Histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
A Stroll Through Warriewood Wetlands by Joe Mills February 2023
A Walk Around The Cromer Side Of Narrabeen Lake by Joe Mills
America Bay Track Walk - photos by Joe Mills
An Aquatic June: North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Collaroy photos by Joe Mills 
Angophora Reserve  Angophora Reserve Flowers Grand Old Tree Of Angophora Reserve Falls Back To The Earth - History page
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland  Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Boathouse In Governor Phillip Park  Part Of Our Community For 75 Years: Photos From The Collection Of Russell Walton, Son Of Victor Walton
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers 
Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham Beach by Barbara Davies
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants 
Careel Bay Birds  
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek 
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville Beach
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach +  Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Duck Holes: McCarrs Creek by Joe Mills
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills 
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Iluka Park, Woorak Park, Pittwater Park, Sand Point Reserve, Snapperman Beach Reserve - Palm Beach: Some History
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
Lucinda Park, Palm Beach: Some History + 2022 Pictures
McCarrs Creek
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
McKay Reserve
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mona Vale Woolworths Front Entrance Gets Garden Upgrade: A Few Notes On The Site's History 
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Mullet Creek
Narrabeen Creek
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths:  Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Bungan Beach and Bungan Head Reserves:  A Headland Garden 
Pittwater Reserves, The Green Ways: Clareville Wharf and Taylor's Point Jetty
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Hordern, Wilshire Parks, McKay Reserve: From Beach to Estuary 
Pittwater Reserves - The Green Ways: Mona Vale's Village Greens a Map of the Historic Crown Lands Ethos Realised in The Village, Kitchener and Beeby Parks 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens and Camping Grounds - Includes Bilgola - The Story Of A Politician, A Pilot and An Epicure by Tony Dawson and Anne Spencer  
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur 
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
Resolute Track at West Head by Kevin Murray
Resolute Track Stroll by Joe Mills
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Seagull Pair At Turimetta Beach: Spring Is In The Air!
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
Stony Range Regional Botanical Garden: Some History On How A Reserve Became An Australian Plant Park
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Topham Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP,  August 2022 by Joe Mills and Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Tranquil Turimetta Beach, April 2022 by Joe Mills
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands - Creeks Deteriorating: How To Report Construction Site Breaches, Weed Infestations + The Long Campaign To Save The Warriewood Wetlands & Ingleside Escarpment March 2023
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Wilshire Park Palm Beach: Some History + Photos From May 2022
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

Unfinished Business: Australian Diamonds Netball World Cup 2023

The Diamonds remember the heartbreak of 2019, but they are ready to face the world again. Because they’ve got Unfinished Business. Watch the 2023 Netball World Cup from the 28th of July - the 6th of August

The Origin Australian Diamonds might be world number one, but there’s one piece of silverware that has alluded them in the last four years… the Netball World Cup.

Ahead of the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town, the Diamonds and Netball Australia have launched a new campaign intended to challenge the notion that the Diamonds simply win everything.

This is a fresh opportunity for the Diamonds to re-write history and to show the world how hard they train. Nothing is a given. They don’t take anything for granted and nor should Australia.

This group is here to work.

Titled ‘Unfinished Business’ this Diamonds’ Netball World Cup campaign aims to challenge the assumption that the trophy will land in their lap.

Because they know that’s not the truth.

We want to showcase the raw emotion, dedication and power of the Diamonds group.

Every game, every goal, every sprint is unfinished until the Diamonds claim that trophy in Cape Town but they need the nation by their side, rallying them to finish what they started.

The campaign includes a hero video, voiced by the Diamonds’ athletes themselves and feature photography accompanied by the playing groups personal quotes or mantras. To add an even more of a personal touch, the Diamonds’ own handwriting will also feature on the creative.

The campaign will go live on Sunday July 16, the same day as the official Origin Australian Diamonds Send Off event.

The Diamonds remember the heartbreak of 2019, but they are ready to face the world again. Because they’ve got Unfinished Business.

Every Diamonds match of the 2023 World Cup will be available to watch FREE via Kayo Freebies. Click on the link for your pass.

July 28, 2023 update by the Origin Australian Diamonds media team

The Origin Diamonds have started their Netball World Cup campaign in winning style, with a 86-30 victory over Zimbabwe in their opening match.

The Diamonds' speed, accuracy under the post, and prowess in defence were too good for the Gems.

The Diamonds took control early, causing a turnover off Zimbabwe’s opening centre pass with Cara Koenen converting under the post before slotting a second goal within the first 30 seconds of play.

Zimbabwe, ranked 13th in the word, were not going to back off though. They were hot on the Diamonds’ tails, momentarily matching their speed and intensity, and were spearheaded by an electric crowd at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Zimbabwe goal shooter Nalani Nyasha Makunde was causing a few problems early shooting 7/8 in the opening quarter.

But when the Diamonds increased the intensity, they were able to gradually pull away. The quick ball movement from captain Liz Watson and Paige Hadley in the middle was vital to breakdown the Zimbabwean defence.
Koenen was also integral under the post with her clever baseline work on full display. Courtney Bruce was also out hunting in the opening term, picking up five gains, three of those intercepts, to help the Aussies lead by 20-11 at the first break.

An unchanged Diamonds seven took the court for the start of the second term.

When they were quick, they were on. And Watson was finding the circle edge with relative ease.

The Koenen and Steph Wood combination was once again a force to be reckoned with, even though Zimbabwe’s defenders Elizabeth Mushore and Felistus Kwangwa had combined for six gains at the main break.

Play really opened up for the Diamonds in the second term, mainly through quick ball movement and limited turnovers.

Bruce continued her dominant performance, collecting another three gains, making that eight at the half while Watson had 24 feeds to her name.

Diamonds head coach Stacey Marinkovich made a handful of changes to start the second half.

Klau entered the court at goal keeper, Jo Weston pulled on the goal defence bib, Jamie-Lee Price subbed into centre and the shooting combination of Kiera Austin and Sophie Garbin were injected into play.
Garbin’s impact was immediately felt, putting away the opening two goals of the second half.

Klau made her presence felt, picking up two great intercepts and forcing the Zimbabweans to send the ball over the baseline in attack.

Watson went to the bench for a rest midway through the third with Hadley returning to the court in the wing attack role.

The Diamonds managed to stretch the lead again going into the final term of play with a comfortable 62-24 buffer.

It wouldn’t be a game with Kiera Austin in it if she didn’t sneak at least once intercept, and that’s exactly how the final term started.

The Diamonds finished how they started, fast, strong and clinical. The fourth term was no different. They took control early and continued to edge out their lead.

Hadley pulled some big numbers with 33 feeds and 18 goal assists while Bruce finished with nine gains, earning her the player of the match award.

The Diamonds will now turn their attention to the Tonga Talas for Saturday’s match.

The Talas, led by NSW Swifts coach Briony Akle, present a new challenge with a cohort of players who train or play with Suncorp Super Netball League clubs or in premier competitions within Australia.

Parli-Flicks Short Film Award 2023

​Lights, camera, action!

NSW high school students, it’s time to shoot your shot for the 2023 Parli-Flicks Short Film Award. 

The brief? Create a one-minute short film that takes a stand on whether the voting age should be lowered or kept at 18 in NSW.

Animation, music, comedy, drama, what’s your angle? This is your chance to be creative!

The winner will take home a $250 cash prize, with the finalists invited to an exclusive awards night at the Parliament of NSW. 

Entries are open to Year 7 – 12 NSW high school students and close Friday August 11th 2023.

Want your school to participate? Visit our Education website for entry details and more information to share with your school administration.

Your First Speech To The Australian Parliament

Your first speech is a great way to speak about issues you are passionate about. You could enter as an individual or get your whole school involved!

Australian students enrolled in years 10 to 12 are invited to enter the 'My First Speech' competition.

You can enter as a school or as an individual.

Imagine yourself as a newly elected Member of the House of Representatives. Your task is to write a 90 second speech about issues you are passionate about then record yourself presenting the speech on video.

The video should be in MPG, MPEG, M4V, MPEG 4, AVI, WMV or MOV format with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels or above and no longer than 90 seconds in length. Opening titles or end credits are not required.

A winner from each year, 10, 11 and 12, will be invited to Canberra to deliver their speeches live and undertake a program of meetings at Parliament House.

To enter the competition, submit your video via email, along with a written transcript of your speech and completed competition forms. The scanned forms can be pdf or jpg format.

If your video is too large to be emailed (over 30mb) send it via Dropbox, Google Drive or even a USB along with a transcript of your speech and completed competition forms.

For mailed entries send to:

My First Speech competition
House of Representatives
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2601

Entries must be received by Friday, 11 August 2023

Competition forms and more here:

Spring Netball Competition Coming Soon: Registration Opens July 31st

The Manly Warringah Netball Association are thrilled to announce that the Spring Comp is just around the corner, featuring a wide range of divisions for all ages and genders. From our adorable 8 and 9-year-old NSG teams to men's and mixed divisions, there's a place for everyone to showcase their skills on the court!

Whether you're a seasoned player or new to the sport, the MWNA Spring Comp welcomes players of all skill levels. It's a chance to sharpen your skills, make new friends, and create lasting memories on the court.

Stay tuned for updates on registration details from your club and mark your calendars for the start of the Spring Comp.

Get ready Get Out Get Active and Get Social.
Registration opens July 31st.

The Water Dwellers

published by NFSA
From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit 1967. Directed by James Jeffrey. A study of the people living and working in the Pittwater area 25 miles north of Sydney.

School Leavers Support

Explore the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK) as your guide to education, training and work options in 2022;
As you prepare to finish your final year of school, the next phase of your journey will be full of interesting and exciting opportunities. You will discover new passions and develop new skills and knowledge.

We know that this transition can sometimes be challenging and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some uncertainty. With changes to the education and workforce landscape, you might be wondering if your planned decisions are still a good option or what new alternatives are available and how to pursue them.

There are lots of options for education, training and work in 2022 to help you further your career. This information kit has been designed to help you understand what those options might be and assist you to choose the right one for you. Including:
  • Download or explore the SLIK here to help guide Your Career.
  • School Leavers Information Kit (PDF 5.2MB).
  • School Leavers Information Kit (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • The SLIK has also been translated into additional languages.
  • Download our information booklets if you are rural, regional and remote, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or living with disability.
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (DOCX 1.1MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Download the Parents and Guardian’s Guide for School Leavers, which summarises the resources and information available to help you explore all the education, training, and work options available to your young person.

School Leavers Information Service

Are you aged between 15 and 24 and looking for career guidance?

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337).

SMS 'SLIS2022' to 0429 009 435.

Our information officers will help you:
  • navigate the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK),
  • access and use the Your Career website and tools; and
  • find relevant support services if needed.
You may also be referred to a qualified career practitioner for a 45-minute personalised career guidance session. Our career practitioners will provide information, advice and assistance relating to a wide range of matters, such as career planning and management, training and studying, and looking for work.

You can call to book your session on 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) Monday to Friday, from 9am to 7pm (AEST). Sessions with a career practitioner can be booked from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

This is a free service, however minimal call/text costs may apply.

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) or SMS SLIS2022 to 0429 009 435 to start a conversation about how the tools in Your Career can help you or to book a free session with a career practitioner.

All downloads and more available at:

Word Of The Week: Troubadore

Word of the Week returns in 2023 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


1. a French medieval lyric poet composing and singing in Provençal in the 11th to 13th centuries, especially on the theme of courtly love. 2. a poet who writes verse to music. 3. one of a class of lyric poets and poet-musicians often of knightly rank who flourished from the 11th to the end of the 13th century chiefly in the south of France and the north of Italy and whose major theme was courtly love compare trouvère. 4.  a singer especially of folk songs.

French, from Provençal trobador, from trobar ‘find, invent, compose in verse’. 1727, from French troubadour (16c.) "one of a class of lyric poets in southern France, eastern Spain, and northern Italy 11c.-13c.," from Old Provençal trobador, from trobar "to find," earlier "invent a song, compose in verse," perhaps from Vulgar Latin *tropare "compose, sing," especially in the form of tropes, from Latin tropus "a song" (from PIE root *trep- "to turn"). The alternative theory among French etymologists derives the Old Provençal word from a metathesis of Latin turbare "to disturb," via a sense of "to turn up." Meanwhile, Arabists posit an origin in Arabic taraba "to sing." General sense of "one who composes or sings verses or ballads" first recorded 1826.

The English word troubadour was borrowed from the French word first recorded in 1575 in an historical context to mean "langue d'oc poet at the court in the 12th and 13th century" (Jean de Nostredame, Vies des anciens Poètes provençaux, p. 14 in Gdf. Compl.). The first use and earliest form of troubador is trobadors, found in a 12th-century Occitan text by Cercamon.

The French word itself is borrowed from the Occitan trobador. It is the oblique case of the nominative trobaire "composer", related to trobar "to compose, to discuss, to invent" (Wace, Brut, editions I. Arnold, 3342). Trobar may come, in turn, from the hypothetical Late Latin *tropāre "to compose, to invent a poem" by regular phonetic change. This reconstructed form is based on the Latin root tropus, meaning a trope. In turn, the Latin word derives ultimately from Greek τρόπος (trópos), meaning "turn, manner". Intervocal Latin [p] shifted regularly to [b] in Occitan (cf. Latin sapere → Occitan saber, French savoir "to know"). The Latin suffix -ātor, -ātōris explains the Occitan suffix, according to its declension and accentuation: Gallo-Romance *tropātor → Occitan trobaire (subject case) and *tropātōre → Occitan trobador (oblique case).

There is an alternative theory to explain the meaning of trobar as "to compose, to discuss, to invent". It has the support of some historians, specialists of literature, and musicologists to justify the troubadours' origins in Arabic Andalusian musical practices. According to them, the Arabic word ṭaraba "music" (from the triliteral root ṭ–r–b ط ر ب "provoke emotion, excitement, agitation; make music, entertain by singing" as in طرب أندلسي, ṭarab ʾandalusī) could partly be the etymon of the verb trobar. Another Arabic root had already been proposed before: ḍ–r–b (ض ر ب) "strike", by extension "play a musical instrument".

In archaic and classical troubadour poetry, the word is only used in a mocking sense, having more or less the meaning of "somebody who makes things up". Cercamon writes:

Ist trobador, entre ver e mentir,

Afollon drutz e molhers et espos,

E van dizen qu'Amors vay en biays

(These troubadours, between truth and lies/corrupt lovers, women and husbands, / and keep saying that Love proceeds obliquely).

Peire d'Alvernha also begins his famous mockery of contemporary authors cantarai d'aquest trobadors, after which he proceeds to explain why none of them is worth anything. When referring to themselves seriously, troubadours almost invariably use the word chantaire ("singer").

A troubadour (Occitan: trobador) was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). Since the word troubadour is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz.

The troubadour school or tradition began in the late 11th century in Occitania, but it subsequently spread to the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas. Under the influence of the troubadours, related movements sprang up throughout Europe: the Minnesang in Germany, trovadorismo in Galicia and Portugal, and that of the trouvères in northern France. Dante Alighieri in his De vulgari eloquentia defined the troubadour lyric as fictio rethorica musicaque poita: rhetorical, musical, and poetical fiction. After the "classical" period around the turn of the 13th century and a mid-century resurgence, the art of the troubadours declined in the 14th century and around the time of the Black Death (1348) it died out.

The texts of troubadour songs deal mainly with themes of chivalry and courtly love. Most were metaphysical, intellectual, and formulaic. Many were humorous or vulgar satires. Works can be grouped into three styles: the trobar leu (light), trobar ric (rich), and trobar clus (closed). Likewise there were many genres, the most popular being the canso, but sirventes and tensos were especially popular in the post-classical period.

The trobairitz were the female troubadours, the first female composers of secular music in the Western tradition. The word trobairitz was first used in the 13th-century Romance of Flamenca and its derivation is the same as that of trobaire but in feminine form. There were also female counterparts to the joglars: the joglaresas. The number of trobairitz varies between sources: there were twenty or twenty-one named trobairitz, plus an additional poet known only as Domna H. There are several anonymous texts ascribed to women; the total number of trobairitz texts varies from twenty-three (Schultz-Gora), twenty-five (Bec), thirty-six (Bruckner, White, and Shepard), and forty-six (Rieger). Only one melody composed by a trobairitz (the Comtessa de Dia) survives. Out of a total of about 450 troubadours and 2,500 troubadour works, the trobairitz and their corpus form a minor but interesting and informative portion. They are, therefore, quite well studied.

The trobairitz came almost to a woman from Occitania. There are representatives from the Auvergne, Provence, Languedoc, the Dauphiné, Toulousain, and the Limousin. One trobairitz, Ysabella, may have been born in Périgord, Northern Italy, Greece, or Palestine. All the trobairitz whose families we know were high-born ladies; only one, Lombarda, was probably of the merchant class. All the trobairitz known by name lived around the same time: the late 12th and the early 13th century (c. 1170 – c. 1260). The earliest was probably Tibors de Sarenom, who was active in the 1150s (the date of her known composition is uncertain). The latest was either Garsenda of Forcalquier, who died in 1242, though her period of poetic patronage and composition probably occurred a quarter century earlier, or Guilleuma de Rosers, who composed a tenso with Lanfranc Cigala, known between 1235 and 1257. There exist brief prose biographies—vidas—for eight trobairitz: Almucs de Castelnau (actually a razo), Azalais de Porcairagues, the Comtessa de Dia, Castelloza, Iseut de Capio (also a razo), Lombarda, Maria de Ventadorn, and Tibors de Sarenom.

Compare minstrel (n.)

c. 1200, "a servant, a functionary;" c. 1300, "instrumental musician, singer or storyteller;" from Old French menestrel "entertainer, poet, musician; servant, workman;" also "a good-for-nothing, a rogue," from Medieval Latin ministralis "servant, jester, singer," from Late Latin ministerialem (nominative ministerialis) "imperial household officer, one having an official duty," from ministerialis (adj.) "ministerial," from Latin ministerium (see ministry). The connecting notion to entertainers is the jester, musician, etc., as a court position.

Specific sense of "musician" developed in Old French, and the Norman conquest introduced the class into England, where they assimilated with the native gleemen. But in English from late 14c. to 16c. the word was used of anyone (singers, storytellers, jugglers, buffoons) whose profession was to entertain patrons. Their social importance and reputation in England deteriorated and by Elizabethan times they were ranked as a public nuisance. Only in 18c. English was the word limited, in a historical sense, to "medieval singer of heroic or lyric poetry who accompanied himself on a stringed instrument."

Trobadours, 14th century

Friday essay: how philosophy can help us become better friends

Neil DurrantMacquarie University

Friends, family, lovers – these are three mainstays in our intimate lives. We typically expect familial relationships to be solid, essentially for life. In our romantic lives, we search for the “one” to be with for life.

Friendships seem less important, at least in comparison. It is easy to think about friends as people who come and go with the seasons of life. This could be a massive miscalculation. There is a case to be made that friendship is not the third wheel to these other, more significant relationships.

Losing friends can be extremely painful. I was working as an ordained minister in the Anglican Church when I gave up my faith and ran off with a fellow church worker (who is still the love of my life). This had profound consequences, as you can well imagine. One of the most painful was that, almost overnight, I lost almost all of my friends.

I remember having lunch with one of them in the months after my sudden fall from grace. We had been best friends since high school. We had moved out of home together, shared a room together, played guitar together. We had been inseparable.

I tried to explain to him what I was thinking, why I could not believe what I used to believe. He looked me in the eyes and said, by way of conclusion, that the problem was not Christianity. “The problem is you.”

He refused to come to my wedding. That was 17 years ago and I don’t think we have spoken since.

Philosophers – both ancient and modern – have a lot to say about friendship. Aristotle theorised about friendship and has influenced our thinking about it ever since. In contemporary times, philosophers such as A.C. Grayling have written entire books about it.

But friendship remains perplexing – not least because it is hard to separate it from other kinds of love relationships. This is where my favourite philosopher – Friedrich Nietzsche – is helpful. From his work, we can see that friendship does not simply stand alongside these other kinds of relationships – it can be part and parcel of them.

The Importance Of Being Different

So what are the ingredients for durable, great friendships?

Nietzsche’s first insight is about difference: great friendships celebrate real differences between individuals.

This can be contrasted with a common ideal that people have about romance. We seem to be obsessed with romantic love as the key to a fulfilling life. Falling in love, and falling in love for life, is supposed to be the highest relationship goal. We see it in films (almost every romantic comedy and sitcom riffs on this idea), music (which is often to do with the personal catastrophe of not finding true love), and art.

Nietzsche is not so big on romantic love. One of his objections is that romantic love can manifest as a desire to disappear into the other person, a kind of mutual self-dissolution. In a short text called “Love makes the same”, he writes:

Love wants to spare the person to whom it dedicates itself every feeling of being other […] there is no more confused or impenetrable spectacle than that which arises when both parties are passionately in love with one another and both consequently abandon themselves and want to be the same as one another.

Putting aside whether all romantic love is like this (or only unhealthy versions of it), I think there is some truth here. People who are “in love” can fall into the trap of being possessive and controlling. It is not a stretch to understand this as a desire to erase difference.

By way of contrast, Nietzsche is big on friendship as a kind of relationship that maximises difference. For him, a good reason to invite someone into your personal life is because they offer an alternative and independent perspective. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he writes:

In one’s friend one should have one’s best enemy. You should be closest to him in heart when you resist him.

Obviously, not all friendships are like this. I think of the Aussie ideal of the “mate”: someone who always has your back, who always defends and protects, who always helps, no questions asked. According to Nietzsche, however, great friendship includes an expectation that the other person will pull away, push back, critique. A good friend will, at times, oppose you – become your enemy.

According to Nietzsche, great friendships are celebrations of difference. Shutterstock

Intimate Knowledge

It might not seem feasible to include genuine enmity and opposition in your intimate life, but I would argue it is both possible and useful to have personal enmity in an intimate relationship. Only someone who knows you intimately can know how best to oppose you if they see you making mistakes or acting out; only someone with a deep and personal appreciation of your inner workings is able to be your enemy to help you.

This is the essence of great friendship. And we can see here how to solve the problem of bad romance. A.C. Grayling, an eminent British philosopher, has reflected on the problem of romance and friendship in his book Friendship (2013). Grayling can’t escape the basic assumption that friendship and romance are separate kinds of experiences, that one can’t mingle with the other. And, for him, friendship “trumps” all other types of relationship.

A.C. Grayling at the Edinburgh Book Festival, August 2011. Ian Scott/ Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-NC-SA

But for a romantic attraction to last and to be supportive and fulfilling, it must be based on great friendship – friendship that includes a celebration of difference, even to the point of welcoming critical reflection and opposition.

The difficulty we have with this idea reflects a general trend towards sameness in our social lives. This is exacerbated by our online existence. We live in a digital world that is fuelled by algorithms designed to push at us a million people who think and feel the same way we do.

Having a useful social circle, and maybe even a well-functioning society, cannot be about sameness – the same values, ideas, beliefs, directions, lifestyles. Difference is essential. But for this to work we must be able to occupy the same space with people who are wildly different to us, without taking offence or running away or getting aggressive or violent.

In fact, appreciation of profound difference is one of the signs of true intimacy. This is the art of great friendship, an art we seem to have lost. Recapturing it will produce larger social benefits.

I dream of a search engine I call “Gaggle”. It takes all the rejects from a Google search, the things that do not fit your profile, and sends you those results. That way, we could breathe the fresh air of new and unexpected ideas, and encounter strange people with weird approaches to life and confronting ethical and moral systems.

Giving And Taking

Another insight from Nietzsche has to do with giving and taking. His idea of great friendship suggests it is OK to be selfish in our most intimate relationships.

Selfishness has a terrible reputation. Our society demonises it, fetishising selflessness instead. This has the effect of making us feel bad about being selfish. As Nietzsche puts it:

The creed concerning the reprehensibility of egoism, preached so stubbornly and with so much conviction, has on the whole harmed egoism […] by depriving egoism of its good conscience and telling us to seek in it the true source of all unhappiness.

The idea that self-sacrifice is moral and selfishness is immoral has a long tradition. It can be traced to our society’s roots in the Christian faith. The idea that sacrificing yourself for someone else is somehow godlike is enshrined in Christian belief: Jesus died to save us from our sins, God the Father gave up his only Son, and so on.

Friedrich Nietzsche – Edvard Munch (1906)

This comes back to our obsession with love, but not romantic love this time. It is, rather, the kind of love where you put other people ahead of yourself as a kind of relationship goal. Sacrificing yourself for others is often celebrated as a great moral achievement.

I think this idea of sacrifice is especially true of our familial relationships. There is an expectation that mothers and fathers (but especially mothers) will sacrifice themselves for the wellbeing of their children. As parents age, there is an expectation that their children will make sacrifices. When financial or other trouble hits – siblings step in to help.

This morality of selflessness is, in my opinion, bereft. But so is a reaction against it. You see the latter everywhere in the world of “inspo quotes”, where selfishness is king: self-compassion, self-love, self-care. It’s everywhere.

To react vigorously against something vacuous is itself vacuous. The paradigm is wrong. Nietzsche offers us an alternative:

This is ideal selfishness: continually to watch over and care for and to keep our souls still, so that […] we watch over and care for to the benefit of all.

Think about it this way. Self-concern and concern for others are only mutually exclusive if there is a limited amount of “concern” to spread around. If that were true, you would have to choose whether to lavish it on yourself or give it to others.

But how do we get an infinite amount “concern” to spread around? We are looking for a kind of psychological nuclear fusion: an infinitely self-sustaining and self-generating source of concern for others.

This is not as hard as it sounds. There is a kind of relationship that allows for this. You guessed it: great friendship.

Because friendship insists on difference, it creates the space for two individuals to nurture themselves so each has something to give the other person. Because you don’t try to assimilate a true friend into a version of yourself, you are free to do whatever is needed to build their personal resources.

This means it is OK to be in a relationship for what you can get out of it. You can be in a friendship – a truly great one – selfishly.

Virtue, Pleasure, Advantage

This might be difficult to absorb, primarily because it challenges that dearly held moral conviction about selflessness. And it’s not just our Christian heritage that leads us down this path. You can see something like this in Aristotle, who thought friendships were based on one of three things: virtue, pleasure or advantage.

Virtue friendships are about recognising each other’s qualities or “goodness”. Pleasure friendships are about the enjoyment a person can derive from an intimate connection. Friendships of advantage are based on what each person can gain from the other.

Pleasure friendships are about the enjoyment a person can derive from an intimate connection. Matheus Ferrero/Unsplash

For Aristotle, virtue friendships are the most perfect, because they are truly reciprocal. The other two types do not lead to ideal friendship, because they easily become one-sided. In other words, the highest form of friendship is one in which you don’t use your friend for some other (selfish) goal. You value them for who they are in themselves.

I am not an expert in Aristotelian philosophy, but I have many questions about this approach. What if the “good” in someone gives you pleasure? What if someone’s chief virtue is compersion – the ability to take pleasure in someone else’s pleasure? What if someone wants you be their friend so they can provide you with some sort of advantage?

I think Nietzsche’s concept of ideal selfishness works well with his ideal of friendship. Instead of seeing relationships as snapshots – you are either in it for yourself, or you are in it to help the other – we can see them as a cycle that repeats over time.

In great friendships, you give but you also take. There is space for you to be selfish – to top up, so to speak. You do this either in solitude or you draw on your friends. This might happen for a season, but then, having “topped up”, you have the personal and emotional resources to give back.

The key idea is that caring for yourself and caring for others are intertwined. One of the most important ways to look after yourself is to foster great friendships.


It is in this limited sense that I think we can see good familial relationships as also underpinned by great friendship. It is not about being best mates with your kids or your parents or your siblings. Even as parents and children, we can think carefully about how much we give, and how much we take, and be OK with both.

This idea about friendship has a broader context, which can be seen in Nietzsche’s way of thinking about relationships in general. He starts with the ancient Greeks, for whom contest was an essential part of their social lives.

Contests established a common baseline for excellence. They were central to sport (as in the Olympics), as well as artistic and cultural life. Poets, public speakers, guitar players – all participated in publicly adjudicated contests. The winners established standards of excellence for everyone to celebrate, including the losers.

Nietzsche adapts this idea into his ethics. For him, contest is at the centre of every intimate human connection. It is entirely natural for human beings to strive for self-expression. And if everyone is doing this all the time, we will inevitably strive against each other in some way. This is not out of animosity or ill will, nor even from competitiveness, in which the goal is simply winning. For Nietzsche, it is just the way we are.

This is why friendship is so important. It is the form of relationship best suited to sustaining contest between individuals, without rancour or domination. The startling implication of his approach is that for any kind of human relationship to work, it must have great friendship at its core.The Conversation

Neil Durrant, Adjunct fellow, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Fusing traditional culture and the violin: how Aboriginal musicians enhanced and maintained community in 20th century Australia

Aboriginal man playing violin to a group outside a tin shack, Moore River Native Settlement, Western Australia, ca. 1920. State Library of Western Australia
Laura CaseUniversity of Sydney

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains names and images of deceased people.

The European violin was initially an imposition on Indigenous culture. But Aboriginal engagement with the violin cannot be exclusively seen as a means of cultural loss.

To only report the brutality and destruction of the British empire in Australia is to miss seeing how Indigenous people engaged, influenced, rejected and survived the forces of empire.

As my new research shows, Indigenous violin playing throughout 20th century Australia saw Aboriginal people adapting the European violin to fit within ongoing cultural practices.

As an Aboriginal violinist, I have always been fascinated by the way Western instruments have been adapted to become an expression of culture and Indigenous identity.

By studying the ways Aboriginal people of this era played the violin, we can better understand how Aboriginal people have responded to interventions in their lives with varying degrees of accommodation and resistance.

Cultural Continuation

As colonial governments made more concerted efforts to “civilise” Aboriginal people in 20th century Australia, many were segregated from society on missions or reserves.

Missionaries taught European activities and regularly forbade Aboriginal people from practising traditional customs. Western music was often taught to Aboriginal people as a means of demonstrating civility and as preparation for assimilation into white Australian society.

One of the first missions to explicitly use the violin in attempts to “civilise” Aboriginal people was on the New Norcia Mission, north of Perth, in operation from 1848 until 1974.

8 young Aboriginal boys with violins, a bearded man with a cello.
A Spanish teacher and his Aboriginal pupils at the Mission at New Norcia, West Australia, 1896. Trove

Aboriginal people continued to play the violin even when not prescribed. This does not mean the “civilising” mission was a success. Aboriginal people used music in the creation and preservation of individual, cultural and collective identities.

The violin was used on their own terms.

Peter Jetta was a Nyungar man born around 1872 who lived on the New Norcia Mission. Jetta used the violin as a hybrid expression of his own traditional culture.

An Aboriginal man plays the violin. Text reads: A minstrel.
Peter Jetta, photographed for the Western Mail, 1933. Trove

As historian Anna Haebich writes, Jetta played the violin for local dances, weddings and Nyungar-only campfire gatherings in the bush.

“Old and new songs and dances mingled together reviving flagging spirits with the healing joy of being together as they had for millennia,” she says.

With this fusion of music, Jetta used the violin to enhance and maintain a sense of community.

The need for community would have been particularly acute on missions where many aspects of traditional life had been removed. Community and connection is an intrinsic element of Indigenous culture and its continuity.

An Aboriginal Jazz Band

In 1933, the Singleton Argus published a story on the wedding of Robert Silva and Mildred Bartholomew. The couple were living at Yellow Rock, a reserve at the base of the Blue Mountains near Sydney.

Music was provided by an Aboriginal jazz band playing locally made violins, banjos, steel guitars and gum leaves.

This couple walking down the aisle as these musicians played the Wedding March provides a rich evocation of the way western instruments were incorporated into Aboriginal music and events on their own terms.

Violins At A Corroboree

An article from the Northern Champion in 1934 recounts a concert and corroboree that occurred in Purfleet, New South Wales, for the local “townspeople”. We can assume many in the audience were white.

The first part of the program was devoted to songs and native dances, followed by a corroboree which illustrated elements of native lore. A gumleaf band and orchestra concluded the program. Each instrument was homemade and included single-string fiddles, violins and ukuleles made from tea chests.

These musicians combined their familiar traditions and cultures with European instruments. They were not only keeping cultural practices alive and carrying traditional knowledge forward, but also educating the broader population.

Band from Purfleet, NSW, about 1909. Bert Marr, violin; Fred Dumas , accordion; Bob Bungie, Banjo; Minnie and Hazel Dungie, vocals; Harry Dumas , auto-harp. Australian Aboriginal Studies

While some performances by Aboriginal people were organised to protest the repressive governmental policies of 20th century Australia, other performances were organised as a willingness to share cultural diversity to both educate and engage non-Indigenous audiences.

These performances acted as a channel for cultural continuation within changing social and political agendas.

Indigenous Players Today

These historical violinists are the predecessors of creative and innovative Indigenous string players who enrich our contemporary cultural life today.

Noongar violist, composer and conductor Aaron Wyatt made history in 2022 as the first Indigenous conductor of a state orchestra.

Wyatt’s compositions draw on the tone colour of Western string instruments and Didgeridoo to reflect the beauty of Australian landscapes and convey an Indigenous connection to Country.

Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr violinist Eric Avery creates starkly original pieces for voice and violin that evoke a powerful connection to his ancestors, culture and identity.

Both Wyatt and Avery exceed and surpass the archetype of classical string playing to create immensely original and modern compositions. The Conversation

Laura Case, PhD Candidate, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tony Bennett: the timeless visionary who, with a nod to America’s musical heritage, embraced the future

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in 2015. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
Jose Valentino RuizUniversity of Florida

In the history of American popular music, there have been few luminaries as enduring and innovative as Tony Bennett.

With a career that spanned almost 80 years, Bennett’s smooth tones, unique phrasing and visionary musical collaborations left an indelible mark on vocal jazz and the recording industry as a whole.

That his death at the age of 96 on July 21, 2023, was mourned by artists as varied as Keith UrbanOzzy Osbourne and Harry Connick Jr. should come as no surprise. Yes, Bennett was a jazz crooner. But if his voice was always a constant – even late into his 80s, way past an age when most other singers have seen their vocal abilities diminish – then his embrace of the contemporary was every bit a facet of Bennett’s appeal.

Vocal Innovator

Bennett’s journey is a testament to the power of daring innovation.

From the early days of his career in the 1950s to his final recordings in the early 2020s, he fearlessly explored new musical territories, revolutionizing vocal jazz and captivating audiences across generations.

His vocal style and phrasing were distinctive and set him apart from other artists of his time. He utilized a delayed or “laid-back” approach to falling on the note, a technique known as “rubato.” This created a sense of anticipation in his phrasing, adding an element of surprise to his performances. Through Bennett’s skilled use of rubato, he was able to play with the tempo and rhythm of a song, bending and stretching musical phrases to evoke a range of emotions. This subtle manipulation of timing gave his songs a natural and conversational quality, making listeners feel as though he was intimately sharing his stories with them.

Armed with this silky, playful voice, Bennett found fame fairly early on in his career, delivering jazz standards alongside the likes of Mel Tormé and Nat King Cole. By the mid-1960s, he was being touted by Frank Sinatra as “the best singer in the business.”

A man in an open-necked shirt sings
Tony Bennett in 1960. AP Photo

But his musical style fell out of fashion in the 1970s – a lean period during which Bennett almost succumbed to a drug overdose. Then, in the 1990s, Bennett found a new audience and set off a series of collaborations with contemporary musical stars that would become the standard for his later career.

No genre of artistry was deemed off-limits for Bennett. “Duets: An American Classic,” released to coincide with his 80th birthday in 2006, saw collaborations with country stars such as k.d. lang and the Dixie Chicks – now known as the Chicks – and soul legend Stevie Wonder, alongside kindred jazz spirits such as Diana Krall. “Duets II,” a 2011 follow-up, saw further explorations with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson and Amy Winehouse, in what would become the British singer’s last recording.

But his cross-generational, cross-genre and cross-cultural appeal is perhaps best exemplified by his collaborations with Lady Gaga, first on the 2014 Grammy-winning album “Cheek to Cheek.” The recording brought together two artists from different generations, genres and backgrounds, uniting them in a harmonious celebration of jazz classics. The collaboration not only showcased each one’s vocal prowess, but also sent a powerful message about the unifying nature of music.

Lady Gaga, a pop artist with avant-garde leanings, might have seemed an unlikely partner for Bennett, the quintessential jazz crooner. Yet their musical chemistry and mutual admiration resulted in an album that mesmerized audiences worldwide. “Cheek to Cheek” effortlessly transcended musical boundaries, while the duo’s magnetic stage presence and undeniable talent enchanted listeners.

The successful fusion of jazz and pop encouraged artists to experiment beyond traditional boundaries, leading to more cross-genre projects across the industry – proving that such projects could go beyond one-off novelties, and be profitable at that.

Timeless Artistry

Bennett’s embrace of contemporary artists did not mean that he abandoned his own musical self. By blending traditional jazz with contemporary elements, he managed to captivate audiences across generations, appealing to both longtime fans and new listeners.

One key aspect of Bennett’s success was his ability to embody the sentiment of old America, reminiscent of artists like Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, while infusing contemporary nuances that resonated with the human condition of a more modern era. His approach to music captured both the essence and struggle of America, giving his songs a timeless and universal appeal. Moreover, his voice conveyed familiarity and comfort, akin to listening to a beloved uncle.

Bennett’s albums stood out not only for his soulful voice and impeccable delivery but also for the way he drew others from varied musical backgrounds into his world of jazz sensibilities. As a producer, he recognized the importance of nurturing creativity and bringing out the best in artists.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s approach to evolving his own sound while preserving its essence sets him apart as an artist. Fearless in his pursuit of innovation, he delved into contemporary musical elements and collaborated with producers to infuse new sonic dimensions into his later albums. The result drew listeners into an intimate and immersive, concert-like acoustic journey.

Depth Of Emotion

The greats in music have an ability to speak to the human experience. And either in collaboration with others or on his own, Bennett was able to achieve this time and time again.

His albums were successful not only due to their technical brilliance and musicality but also because Bennett’s voice conveyed a depth of emotion that transcended barriers of time and culture, touching the hearts of listeners from various backgrounds. There was a universality in his music that made him a beloved and revered artist across the globe.

Bennett’s life spanned decades of societal upheavals in the United States. But in his music, listeners could always find beauty in challenging times. And as the 20th- and 21st-century American music industry went through its own revolutions, Bennett’s artistic evolution mirrored the changes, cementing his place as a music icon who defies the boundaries of time and trends.The Conversation

Jose Valentino Ruiz, Program Director of Music Business & Entrepreneurship, University of Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

National pride and sorrow: attending the 150th Latvian Song and Dance Festival as the daughter of refugees

Ilmārs Znotiņš and The Latvian Centre of National Culture
Brigita OzolinsUniversity of Tasmania

“With song we have achieved freedom. With song we have gone to war. With song we have been victorious.”

These were the words of the newly elected president of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, at the closing ceremony of the 150th Latvian Song and Dance festival, held from June 30 to July 9.

Rinkēvičs was greeted by an audience of 50,000 members of the public and 21,000 performers who cheered and waved Latvian flags. He spoke about the power of song to unite and give hope to the Latvian people and to reinforce its centuries old cultural traditions.

Upward Together, the five-hour finale of this ten-day festival, was held in Silver Grove: an enormous, brand new, crescent-shaped arena amid tall pines in Mežaparks forest on the outskirts of Latvia’s capital, Rīga.

Upward Together was not just a celebration of Latvia’s rich culture: it was an emotional outpouring of both individual and collective national pride and sorrow. It reflected Latvia’s strong pagan roots and its deep love of nature which features in most of its folk songs. Here, the gods reside in trees, rivers, the sun, the moon and the stars.

But more significantly, the festival asserted the power of song as a peaceful form of protest against a long history of occupation by Germans, Poles, Swedes and Russians, culminating last century in almost 45 years of Soviet rule.

Joy About Culture; Sadness About History

As the daughter of refugees who escaped the Soviet occupation of Latvia during the second world war, I fought back tears as I listened to a choir of 17,000 champion the sun, the Daugava river and thunder – Latvia’s guardians against evil and oppression.

Next to me, two Ukrainian journalists wept as the orchestra played their national anthem. In the televised replays of the festival, cameras zoomed in on teary singers, dancers and musicians of all ages.

“Why does everyone cry?” I asked one of the participants.

“Because we feel great joy about our culture,” she said, “but also great sadness about our history.”

With the war in Ukraine on Latvia’s doorstep echoing its own battle with Russia during the second world war, the performances I saw over the ten day festival took on an added poignancy, offering a reminder of the Singing Revolution of 1987-91, when the three Baltic States raised their voices in song against their Soviet occupiers.

On August 23 1989, two million people from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia formed a human chain over 600 kilometres long to join their capital cities. They held hands, sang folk songs and waved flowers, in a peaceful demonstration of solidarity that saw each state finally gain independence in the early 1990s.

A Free Latvia

Latvia’s Song and Dance festival was first held in 1873 with 1,000 performers, and was recognised by UNESCO in 2003.

After the second world war, when Latvia was part of the USSR, the festival was used to promote Soviet ideology. Certain songs particularly dear to Latvians could not be performed because they proclaimed the nation’s longing for independence. Gaismas Pils (The Castle of Light), composed in 1899 by Jāzeps Vītols, tells of a sunken castle that rises to announce the rebirth of a free Latvia. Despite being banned from the program, it was sung with defiance at the 1985 festival.

This year, 32 years after Latvia’s independence, the festival boasted over 40,000 participants including almost 3,000 from Latvia’s diaspora.

Participants from Latvia and from abroad paraded in national costume along Freedom Boulevard, cheered on by enthusiastic crowds and unfazed by downpours of rain. They performed in over 60 events in sport stadiums, theatres, churches and parks as well as the new arena in Mezaparks. They sang, danced and played the kokle, a traditional wooden instrument.

Ethnic groups from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Poland, the Jewish community and smaller regions of Latvia were featured in a special concert in the beautiful Chekhov Theatre; seniors gave a moving performance in the circus; 17,000 dancers formed constantly moving patterns of traditional Latvian symbols in a football stadium.

Riga’s central parks were transformed into art and craft markets selling silver, bronze and amber jewellery, hand-woven textiles, woodcarving, ceramics and leatherwork. Food stalls sold rye bread, sauerkraut and traditional pastries. Choirs, bands and theatre groups performed well into the night on outdoor stages and two giant traditional skirts spun continuously in the Esplanade as if unable to stop dancing.

The whole of Riga was alive.

Although I have been to Latvia many times, this was my very first experience of the Song and Dance Festival. I cried at every performance because every performance manifested the joy and the sorrow of what it is to be Latvian. When I was there, I truly understood the festival’s motto, Kopā būt, kopā just. Being together, feeling together. The Conversation

Brigita Ozolins, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Fine Arts, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How does ice cream work? A chemist explains why you can’t just freeze cream and expect results

Nathan KilahUniversity of Tasmania

Ice cream seems like a simple concept. Take some dairy, add some sugar and flavours, and freeze.

But to get a perfectly creamy, smoothly textured frozen treat, we need more than just a low temperature – it takes a careful interplay of chemistry and three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas.

What’s In The Box?

Commercial ice cream includes many ingredients: air, water, milk fat, so-called milk solids (mainly milk proteins and lactose), sweeteners, stabilisers, emulsifiers and flavours. The ingredients are mixed and pasteurised for food safety.

Homemade ice creams tend to use milk, heavy cream, sugar and flavourings, such as fruit, berries, or chocolate. The exact quantities vary with the recipe, but the processing steps are similar.

Milk is composed of everything a young cow needs to grow and develop – water, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins. These components respond in different ways when they are frozen.

First, The Crystals

As the mixture of ice cream ingredients is cooled down, small clusters of water molecules assemble to form tiny ice crystals. The size of the ice crystals is responsible for the mouth feel of the ice cream – the smaller the crystals, the smoother the feel.

If the crystallisation is not well controlled, these crystals can get very large. Ice cream makers (commercial or for home use) ensure small ice crystals by agitating or beating the liquid as it freezes. This keeps the water molecules moving and prevents the crystals from growing larger.

The mixing process also incorporates air, which is the secret ingredient to give ice cream a lighter texture.

Close up of ivory coloured ice cream being churned in a stainless steel container
Without mixing during the freezing process, the ice crystals in the milk or cream will be too large to yield the texture that defines ice cream. Shutterstock

Next, The Fat

The fat in the milk exists as globules surrounded by proteins. These proteins bridge the fat and the water, helping to keep the fats suspended. (Milk looks white because light scatters off these fat globules.)

These dairy fat molecules have different properties at different temperatures. At room temperature they are semi-solids (like butter), and are about two-thirds solid when at 0℃.

The fat globules can stick together – that’s why you get a layer of cream on top of unprocessed milk. A process called homogenisation forces the milk through a small opening under very high pressure, breaking large fat globules down into smaller ones. This process makes many small fat globules – as many as a trillion per litre. Homogenised milk ensures the mixture will freeze evenly, and separated fats won’t get stuck to the mixing machinery.

Freezing the fat globules makes them clump together, with the surrounding proteins acting as bridges to other fat molecules and to the ice crystals. These fats melt in your mouth, giving a creamy feel and taste.

Then, The Sugar

The sugar and other dissolved ingredients in milk are also essential to the final texture of ice cream. The presence of sugars in the water lowers the mixture’s freezing temperature to below 0℃.

Here’s why that’s important. As ice crystals start to form, the concentration of sugars and other dissolved materials in the unfrozen liquid increases, which further lowers its freezing point. By the time the majority of the ice crystals have formed, the resulting liquid is very concentrated in sugars.

This concentrated liquid, known as the “serum”, bridges between the ice crystals, solid fat globules and air bubbles. The serum remains a liquid well below 0℃ and adds enough flexibility to the mixture so the ice cream can still be scooped or shaped.

In this way, the unique chemical properties of water, fats, proteins and sugars come together with air to give the solid, liquid and gas mixture we know and love.

Not Everything Is ‘Ice Cream’

What’s called “ice cream” is actually governed by a food standards code. That’s why not all frozen desserts can be legally called ice cream, because they don’t contain enough milk fat.

There are lots of variations on the standard ice cream recipe. Gelato uses more sugar, incorporates less air, and typically has less fats and other solids. Sorbets do away with the dairy and typically contain more sugar, but have historically used egg or gelatin as a protein source.

Regardless of the exact recipe, the fundamental ice crystal formation, fat solidification, and serum phase separation steps are the same.

Product names like “soft serve”, “dairy dessert”, or “ice confection” are often an indication the ingredient list includes vegetable fats rather than more expensive milk fats.

A hand holding a waffle cone under the nozzle of a machine dispensing pink and white soft serve
Technically, soft serve isn’t ice cream. Shutterstock

Soft serve products are also formed by agitation as the mixture freezes, but tend to contain less air than ice cream you’d buy in a tub, due to the constant agitation inside the dispensing machine.

Icy poles, ice blocks, freezies, or freeze pops (depending on your local phraseology) and other “water ices” are frozen inside a mould or plastic tubing. The shape of the mould limits the ability to stir the mixture, so the freezing process is typically done “quiescently”, meaning at rest. The crystallisation of the ice is not well controlled, and you may have experienced large crystals that have grown (technically “seeded”) from the popsicle stick.

Humanity has enjoyed ice cream for centuries. It’s a marvellously versatile food with endless variations of flavours, additives, and toppings coupled with memories of happiness, comfort, indulgence and nostalgia. And plenty of chemistry, too.The Conversation

Nathan Kilah, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In a Stone Age cemetery, DNA reveals a treasured ‘founding father’ and a legacy of prosperity for his sons

The reburied remains of the ‘founding father’. Photograph by S. Rottier.Author provided
Adam "Ben" RohrlachUniversity of Adelaide and Maïté RivollatUniversité de Bordeaux

From the remains of nearly 100 ancient individuals, we have reconstructed two extensive prehistoric family trees from a 6,700-year-old cemetery in France, revealing fresh insights into a Stone Age community.

Our new results, published today in Nature, show a group of prehistoric farmers who lived within a network of other communities. This group even brought with them the bones of a “founding father”, establishing a lasting, male-dominated lineage.

Difficulties Looking Into The Past

Around 9,000 years ago, during the late Stone Age period, the “Neolithic way of life” spread from Anatolia (the large peninsula made up mostly of today’s Türkiye) into Western Europe.

Instead of hunting and gathering, people began farming. With the ability to produce and store extra food, Neolithic people developed new social customs built on wealth, land ownership and access to resources, therefore forming social hierarchies.

Ancient burials can tell us a lot about how prehistoric people treated their dead. But figuring out how these societies behaved on a day-to-day basis has always been challenging for researchers. These challenges are due to a lack of written records, and physical data that can be hard to interpret.

These problems are even more complicated during the Neolithic in the Paris Basin in Northern France, where the French cemetery site of Gurgy “les Noisats” was discovered.

Why? The Paris Basin is well known for its massive Stone Age funerary monuments (large objects celebrating important people after their death). These grand monuments functioned like the ancient Egyptian pyramids or the Taj Mahal of their day, in that they were built for the “elite” people in society.

But only a few, much smaller burials have been found that would likely represent the everyday people of the region. Studying these “normal” burials might be the only way to understand the “non-elite”, regular people of the time.

Using new methods for obtaining and comparing ancient DNA, and by sampling nearly every individual from this non-monumental cemetery, our new results reveal two large family trees which open a window into the lives of the people of this prehistoric community.

A Network Of Communities

At the cemetery of Gurgy, graves didn’t overlap, meaning there may have been some markings on top of the ground (perhaps like gravestones are used today). This also suggests closely related individuals knew where people were buried.

Using specialised ancient DNA techniques and several sources of evidence from the burials, we reconstructed two of the largest ever family trees from a prehistoric cemetery. One family tree connected 63 individuals over seven generations, while another connected ten individuals over four generations.

A large chart of a family tree with hand-drawn portraits
The reconstructed family tree for the largest genetically-related group at Gurgy. The painted portraits are an artist’s reconstruction of two of the individuals based on physical traits estimated from DNA (when available). Dashed squares (genetically male) and circles (genetically female) represent individuals who were not found at the site, or did not yield enough DNA for analysis. Images painted by E. Plain; reproduced here with permission from the University of Bordeaux.

Exploring these family trees revealed a strong pattern of descent through the male line (called patrilineality). This is a practice where each generation is almost exclusively linked to the previous generation through their biological father.

Our results also suggested the practice of virilocality at Gurgy. This means the sons stayed where they were born, and produced children with women from outside of Gurgy.

Using strontium isotope analyses we confirmed these results by analysing the chemicals in the teeth of these individuals. Interestingly, some of the “new incoming” female individuals were distantly related to each other, meaning they may have come from a network of nearby communities, and even from the same communities.

Lastly, we also observed the adult daughters from Gurgy were not buried at the site, meaning they had likely left Gurgy to join other nearby communities themselves (once they had reached a certain age).

A Founding Father

We also discovered the grave of the “founding father” at the cemetery: a male individual from whom everyone in the largest family tree was descended.

We noticed this individual was actually brought from wherever he had originally died and was reburied at Gurgy (alongside a female individual we could not get DNA from). Only his long bones – thigh, leg, arm and forearm bones – were brought, and he must have represented an important ancestor to the founders of the new burial place of the community.

We observed an entire group, made up of several generations (children, parents and grandparents), arrived at Gurgy together from the beginning. This group must have left a previous site, leaving behind any previously deceased children (but yet still brought and reburied the founding father).

Similarly, in the final generations of Gurgy we observed many children without parents buried there. Hence, like the founding group, these last generations abruptly departed Gurgy together, leaving behind their own buried children. Hence, Gurgy was probably only used for three or four generations, or approximately 84–112 years.

This research represents a starting point for multidisciplinary studies of the social organisation of prehistoric societies, as these large family trees allow for new interpretations of the lives and practices of ordinary people from prehistoric communities.

As we discover and analyse more and more of these cemeteries, we may be able to compare and contrast social practices across regions and time periods, truly opening the window into our ancient past.The Conversation

Adam "Ben" Rohrlach, Mathematics Lecturer and Ancient DNA Researcher, University of Adelaide and Maïté Rivollat, Archaeologist, Université de Bordeaux

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Who lived at Machu Picchu? DNA analysis shows surprising diversity at the ancient Inca palace

Eddie Kiszka/PexelsCC BY-SA
Roberta DavidsonUniversity of Adelaide

Standing atop the mountains in the southern highlands of Peru is the 15th-century marvel of the Inca empire, Machu Picchu. Today, the citadel is a global tourist attraction and an icon of precolonial Latin American history – but it was once the royal palace of an emperor.

Our international team of researchers has uncovered the incredible genetic diversity hidden within the ancient remains of those who once called Machu Picchu home. We detail our findings in a study published today in Science Advances.

The Puzzling Remnants Of A Royal Site

The Inca empire once ruled a vast 2 million square km across the breathtaking Andes mountain range in South America. It was formed in 1438 by the first ruler, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, and reached its height in 1533, before colonisation by the Spanish.

At the heart of the empire was the capital city of Cusco, and nearby was Pachacuti’s majestic palace, Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was visited by the royal family and guests during the dry season of May to October as a place to feast, dance, sing and hunt. Although these elite Incas were buried in Cusco upon their death, the palace was maintained year-round by a few hundred servants who lived on site. These servants were buried in cemeteries outside the palace walls.

Following Spanish colonisation, knowledge of Machu Picchu was lost to the Western world – only to be rediscovered by adventurers in the early 20th century.

In 1912, the Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition documented a staggering count of 174 individuals buried on site. These burials were often shallow graves, or were concealed under large boulders or natural rocky overhangs.

While many lacked grave goods, ceramic artefacts were discovered buried alongside some people. These paint a vivid picture of cultural diversity, with styles from coastal and northern regions of Peru, as well as from the highlands of Bolivia near Lake Titicaca.

This was the first clue that Machu Picchu drew people from all reaches of the Inca empire. It suggested the servants who lived at Machu Picchu came from a variety of places, bringing ceramics from their homelands.

However, the artefacts could have also ended up in the area through trade. To find out where these people had come from, we would have to analyse their DNA.

New Findings From Ancient DNA

We sequenced ancient DNA from the remains of 68 individuals – 34 buried at Machu Picchu and 34 buried in Cusco. Using carbon dating, we dated the remains and found some of these people were buried before the rise of Pachacuti and the Inca empire.

We then compared their DNA with that of Indigenous peoples living in the Andes today (past research has found these genetic lines have continued undisturbed for the past 2,000 years) – as well as to ancestries from more distant regions of South America.

It’s worth noting these “ancestries” are based on DNA and don’t necessarily overlap with the peoples’ cultural identities, although they sometimes would.

We sequenced ancient DNA from the remains of 68 individuals buried at Machu Picchu and Cusco. The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA/The University of AdelaideAuthor provided

Were the people buried at Machu Picchu genetically similar to those who had lived in the area since before Pachacuti’s reign? Or were they related to ancestries from more distant regions?

If the latter was true, we could safely assume they (or their parents) had come to Machu Picchu from faraway lands.

Journeying To A Life Of Servitude

Of all the DNA samples we analysed, we found 17 individuals had ancestry from one of the distant sources tested (coloured on the map below). These included all regions of the Peruvian coast and highlands, as well as the Amazon regions of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

This map of South America shows different genetic ancestries represented in different regions. The black line shows the full extent of the Inca Empire, while the inset shows Machu Picchu and other royal sites. Salazar et al., 2023Author provided

Only seven of the buried individuals had ancestry that could be linked to Peru’s vast southern highlands where Machu Picchu and Cusco reside. However, we can’t confirm they were local to Machu Picchu itself.

The remaining 13 individuals had blended ancestry, including from as far away as Brazil and Paraguay. They might have been the offspring of individuals from different lands who met at Machu Picchu – or could be linked to yet unknown South American ancestries.

As for close family relationships, we only discovered one pair: a mother and daughter.

Remarkably, all the individuals were buried together in the major cemeteries, irrespective of their ancestry. This could imply they were considered equal in status to one another, which in turn would suggest they were born elsewhere and arrived at Machu Picchu independently, occasionally forming relationships and having children.

It’s likely these people were from a class of “chosen women” called acllacona, and a similar class of men called yanacona. Individuals in these groups were selected from their homes at a young age and permanently assigned to state, aristocratic or religious service.

After arriving at Machu Picchu, they would have spent the rest of their lives serving the royal estate.

Although we don’t know how much (if any) coercion was involved in the process of these people coming to Machu Picchu, analyses of the bones suggest they lived comfortable lives. Many lived to old age and showed no signs of malnutrition, disease, or injury from warfare or heavy labour.

A Diversity Hotspot

Importantly, the human remains we found that predated the Inca empire did not exhibit high levels of diversity. This suggests it was indeed the establishment of the Inca empire that led people from far and wide to Machu Picchu.

Further, our examination of individuals from Cusco showed less diversity than at Machu Picchu, but more than other regional sites. This is probably because the extensive highland area had a long history of interactions between different peoples before the rise of the Inca empire.

Our findings paint a captivating picture of Machu Picchu as a true hotspot of diversity within the Inca imperial realm – setting it apart as a culturally rich hub within the ancient landscape.The Conversation

Roberta Davidson, PhD candidate in Genetic Anthropology, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australian ant honey inhibits tough pathogens, new research shows

Danny Ulrich and Andrew DongAuthor provided
Dee CarterUniversity of SydneyAndrew DongUniversity of SydneyDanny UlrichIndigenous KnowledgeKenya FernandesUniversity of Sydney, and Nural CokcetinUniversity of Sydney

The medicinal value and potent antimicrobial activity of honey has been a topic of considerable interest in recent years, particularly in light of the alarming rise in antibiotic resistance.

While most honey comes from honey bees (Apis mellifera), other insects such as stingless bees, wasps and even ants can produce honey-like products from plant nectar.

One of these insects is the honeypot ant Camponotus inflatus, found throughout the central desert region of Australia. We set out to determine whether its honey might be medically useful.

Our results, published in PeerJ, show the honey has powerful anti-microbial effects, particularly against certain heat-tolerant yeasts and moulds which resist most current antifungal drugs.

Pots Of Gold

Honeypot ants are social ant species that develop large nests in the soil. Within these colonies, certain worker ants known as “repletes” serve as living food stores.

The repletes are fed by other members of the colony, who forage for nectar and honeydew in the environment. The repletes accumulate a golden honey-like substance in their flexible abdomens.

The repletes become so engorged with honey they are rendered almost immobile. They hang together from the ceiling of the nest, forming a sort of ant pantry.

Honeypot ant ‘repletes’ store honey for the nest. Andrew DongAuthor provided

In times of need, other worker ants visit the repletes and stroke their antennae. The repletes cough up some honey in response, and the other workers then distribute it throughout the colony.

Most honeypot ants live in very dry environments. Their unusual lifestyle has been so successful it has evolved multiple times.

Honeypot Ants In First Nations Culture

Digging for honeypot ants. Danny UlrichAuthor provided

In Australia, Camponotus inflatus is found throughout the central desert region and holds cultural and nutritional significance to local Indigenous people.

Danny Ulrich of the Tjupan language group, operator of Goldfields Honey Ant Tours in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, says

For our people, honey ants are more than just a food source. Digging for them is a very enjoyable way of life. It’s a way of bringing the family together, to connect with each other and nature.

There are also reports of traditional use of honeypot ant honey for treating ailments like colds and sore throats, and possibly as a topical ointment to help keep infections at bay, suggesting potential antimicrobial properties.

Not Your Usual Honey Activity

To investigate further, we obtained honeypot ant repletes from Goldfields Honey Ant Tours, collected and pooled the honey from the ants and tested its ability to inhibit various pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and moulds.

We compared this to two well-studied bee honeys with anti-microbial properties: manuka honey from New Zealand, and jarrah honey from Western Australia.

Our results revealed striking differences between the honeypot ant honey and the bee honeys.

Both bee honeys showed broad activity and were able to inhibit every pathogen tested at similar levels. However, the honeypot ant honey showed remarkable potency against certain microbes, but little against others.

Important factors that contribute to the antimicrobial power of bee honey are its high sugar and low water content, which sucks the water out of microbial invaders.

We found honeypot ant honey to have a much higher moisture content than the bee honeys, however, putting it in a range that could support the growth of some microorganisms.

Most bee honeys also contain enzymes that produce hydrogen peroxide, a known antimicrobial compound. However, honeypot ant honey retained most of its activity even after we removed all the hydrogen peroxide.

Finally, some honeys contain antimicrobial proteins and peptides that are derived from the honey bee. These can be destroyed by heat, and when we heated the honeypot ant honey to 90℃ for 10 minutes it lost most of its antimicrobial activity.

We therefore think this unique antimicrobial activity is likely due to proteins or peptides, and these are probably derived from the honeypot ant.

Evolution Of Antimicrobial Activity In The Insect World

In the natural environment, animals, plants, and the products they make are exposed to a huge range of microorganisms looking for their next meal. Sweet, nutritious honey is an enticing food source for these microbial scavengers and must be vigorously protected, both to prevent its spoilage and to stop invasion of the hive or nest by rapidly growing moulds.

Intriguingly, we found honeypot ant honey was particularly effective against some pathogens we consider to be quite “tough”. These pathogens are well adapted to living in soils and dry conditions, and can also cause very serious infections in people with severely weakened immune systems.

In particular, the ant honey was able to inhibit heat-tolerant yeasts and moulds that are likely to be present in the honey ant nest and surrounding environment. Importantly, these can be very difficult to kill with most currently available antifungal drugs.

We suggest the evolutionary pressure imposed by these soil microorganisms has resulted in the potent, selective antimicrobial activity of honeypot ant honey.

Science Catches Up With Indigenous Knowledge

Our results clearly support the medicinal use of honeypot ant honey by Australian Indigenous communities and provide a new understanding of the intricate relationship between honeypot ants, their environment, and the remarkable antimicrobial activity exhibited by their honey.

Due to the cultural significance of the ants, and challenges with rearing them at a commercial scale, it is not feasible to domesticate honeypot ants for honey production.

However, honeypot ant honey may provide valuable insights for the development of useful new antimicrobial peptides. These may help expand our arsenal of effective antibacterial and antifungal treatments, which are increasingly needed to combat emerging challenges in healthcare.The Conversation

Dee Carter, Professor of Microbiology, University of SydneyAndrew Dong, Research Affiliate, Microbiology, University of SydneyDanny Ulrich, Operator, Goldfields Honey Ant Tours, Indigenous KnowledgeKenya Fernandes, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Sydney, and Nural Cokcetin, Research scientist, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the media aren’t helping to solve the ‘youth crime crisis’ they’re  reporting

7NEWS Australia/YouTube
Andrew HickeyUniversity of Southern Queensland and Rachael WallisUniversity of Southern Queensland

Media outlets across Australia have carried headlines about a “youth crime crisis” in recent months. While drawn from actual events, often involving serious criminality and antisocial behaviour, these often sensational reports have the same narrative subtext. The story is one of “bad kids” doing bad things in otherwise “good communities”.

Our understanding, as a society, of who we are is informed in part by the media. What the youth crime crisis is and who we understand young offenders to be corresponds with media framings of these individuals and their actions.

More often than not, the reports present a “good-bad” binary: where “bad” young people who do bad things should be locked up to protect “good” people. It’s a basic, albeit understandable, reaction that makes sense in terms of a logic of punishment and retribution.

For the Youth Community Futures research project, we have been working with groups of young people to explore how they engage with the community and how they feel about it. Our young people have said they are increasingly fearful and are conscious of being perceived negatively. They do not feel accepted by others or their communities.

In short, these young people feel they are viewed as “bad” because they are young. And when young people feel marginalised, the outcomes include withdrawing and becoming socially isolated. It also increases the potential for problematic anti-social behaviour – including crime.

Courier Mail, February 21 2023
The front page of the Courier Mail on February 21 2023, when the newspaper launched its ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign.

Fuelling The Fear Of'folk Devils’

There is, of course, far more to the situation. Research shows young people who engage in criminal activity are likely to have been victims themselves. The lives of many young offenders are complicated. Yet rarely are these situations and backgrounds factored into the media reports.

Beyond the circumstances of young offenders themselves, a further problem exists. When young people, as a defined social category, are presented in the media in such narrow terms, it becomes difficult to see them as anything other than threatening and dangerous.

Stanley Cohen’s seminal sociology of British youth from the 1960s demonstrates the ways that public sentiment often divorces from the facts of situations to create “folk devils”. When portrayals of young people, including those in the media, present them as threatening and menacing, it follows that public sentiment will be cast in similar ways.

Blinding Us To The Complexities

The challenge then is that it becomes difficult to understand the complexities of the situation and show empathy. This applies not only to “bad” young people, but to others who aren’t engaged in such problematic behaviour but who are caught within the narrow perceptions of who young people are.

This forms the central claim in our argument: the current youth crime crisis is as much a media-generated problem as it is a criminological problem. The way we understand and position young people as “folk devils” runs the risk of invoking fear and trepidation. Such fears lead the public to categorise all young people in problematic ways while failing to understand the complex challenges young people encounter.

More complex social narratives are required if we are to avoid a situation in which young people feel marginalised.

So, What Is The Solution?

We need to develop deeper and more accurate understandings of who our young people are. This applies particularly to those who are caught up in criminality and anti-social behaviour.

Most young people do not set out in life to be “bad”. Their problematic behaviours are likely to be the result of complex challenges. Once we accept that, we have a responsibility to seek deeper understandings of the situations our young people face.

Sensationalist headlines that feed on public fears are not helpful. These might sell newspapers, but they do not make us stronger as a society. They create folk devils out of young people who probably require support, and they produce a fearful community.

We need to move beyond easy explanations and simple distinctions. While it is horrendous that homes are being broken into and cars stolen, understanding that the young people engaged in these activities are likely also victims themselves is important for realising that we, as a society, have an obligation to all individuals.

We need to ask why young offenders are in this situation. Once we acknowledge the importance of a better understanding of their circumstances, we can start to meaningfully resolve these social problems before they occur.The Conversation

Andrew Hickey, Professor of Communications and Cultural Studies, University of Southern Queensland and Rachael Wallis, Research Assistant, Youth Community Futures, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Long before women police officers came police ‘matrons’: who were they and what did they do?

A couple outside a police station on the river flats at Morgan, South Australia, c 1890. State Library of South Australia
Alice NeikirkUniversity of Newcastle

This year marks a significant milestone for women in policing: the 125th anniversary of the first official recognition of a police matron in Australia.

However, women worked in this role for at least 50 years before receiving official recognition.

Known as “police matrons”, these women opened the door for other women to move into the police force as officers, yet their role is still unrecognised or dismissed as an extension of her husband’s policing duties.

While many Australians will have never heard of them, they were trailblazers for women in law enforcement.

The Female Touch In Policing

During the Victorian era, it was considered inappropriate for men to touch a woman who was not their wife or an immediate family member. This made men policing women (at least of certain social classes) difficult, particularly if they needed to search a female suspect. To get around this, police began to call on women to search arrestees for them.

Initially, these might have been whoever was nearby – a woman living near the police station, for example. But quickly it was recognised that a “female touch” was also helpful for comforting lost children, talking to female victims of crime, and occasionally soothing an unruly male arrestee. Neighbourhood women were not viewed as entirely suited for these more complex roles, but the wives of police officers were.

In Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, early police stations had both temporary holding cells (a lock-up) and a residence for a police officer. The officer living on site was frequently married – these women became police matrons.

Police matrons in the Victorian era searched female offenders, were responsible for lost or arrested children, kept watch over mentally unwell inmates, and occasionally allowed families facing violence at home to stay in the station.

They also performed tasks we would not generally associate with the work of a police officer. They cleaned and maintained the cells, mended clothes, and hosted clothing drives for the poor. The police stations sometimes doubled as neighbourhood medical centres. These were all tasks that fell to the police matron. They fit within assumptions of the period regarding the natural, nurturing role of women.

Discrimination Leading To Innovation

Because these tasks were viewed as “naturally” women’s work, questions regarding compensation were skirted. For decades, these were not formal appointments. The matrons were not sworn in, they did not have access to a police pension, and they did not have any authority over male inmates (or male officers).

A few received a modest stipend based on the number of searches they conducted or if they performed an extended psychiatric watch. These matrons would be on-call 24 hours a day, and diaries kept by early matrons show the long hours they kept. Yet their activities were viewed as an extension of their husband’s role, not requiring separate pay.

These women did not go on patrol or have powers to arrest. But there is evidence that police matrons performed tasks that align with current approaches to policing.

For example, a key role of male police in the early Victorian era was to prevent crime by being out in the community: an officer’s presence alone would often deter offending.

Police matrons rarely worked outside of the station, but they did get to know the needs of their community and tried to identify causes of crime. They became advocates, trying to address what they saw as the root causes of crime: excessive consumption of alcohol leading to the violent breakdown of families. Matrons advocated for increased regulation of alcohol and for stations to provide sanctuary for domestic violence victims.

Police matrons paved the way for women to become police officers, and eventually achieve the highest ranks. Lukas Coch/AAP

Today, these efforts would be understood as forms of problem-orientated policing: identifying a problem in a community and working with the community to devise solutions for the underlying causes of crime. We cannot go as far as claiming that police matrons started the movement towards problem-orientated policing. But we can recognise that they predated today’s “best practice in policing” model by roughly 150 years.

Though we know police matrons were working in this field in the mid-1800s, and gained a degree of official recognition in the 1890s, it was not until 1915 that the New South Wales Police Department advertised two positions for women police officers.

These two positions attracted nearly 500 applications. The first two female police officers in NSW were not allowed to wear a uniform and had to sign a waiver releasing the police department of any responsibility for their safety. Their tasks were similar to police matrons – they were responsible for women and children that came in contact with the criminal justice system. It wasn’t until 1979 that female officers in Australia could carry a firearm, though they were required to keep it in their handbag.

Today, women make up over 30% of police in Australia and have reached the highest ranks as police commissioners. Although Australians may not know much about the early police matrons, it was they who, more than 100 years ago, paved the way for all this to happen.The Conversation

Alice Neikirk, Lecturer, Criminology, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

VP Day + Vietnam Veterans Day (Northern): 2023 Services

Avalon Beach RSL Sub-Branch VP Day Service 
Service: Tuesday 15th 11.30 am - RSL Cenotaph

Palm Beach RSL sub-Branch Vietnam Veterans Day (Northern) 
Sunday August 20, 2023: 11am
Muster at Iluka (north end) for March to Cenotaph

Upcoming Manly-Warringah Choir Concert

If you have not already bought tickets, a reminder has come through this morning about the upcoming Manly-Warringah Choir concert on 13th August 2023. Details in event posters below.
A few Tickets are still available at:


History Of Mona Vale Talk

Tuesday, 22 August 2023 - 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Join our Local Studies Historian for a journey through the fascinating history of post-settlement Mona Vale. From its original reputation as a place of ill repute, to the stories of our historical buildings which still stand today.

Free, bookings required. Book Here
Mona Vale Library
Enquiries: 8495 5028

Rock Lily Hotel c1900

Wyvern Music Forestville: Delightful Discoveries

With the 2023 Sydney Symphony Fellows 
For over 20 years the Sydney Symphony Fellowship program has helped develop the careers of Australia’s next generation of professional musicians. 

Join us for an afternoon of musical delights, featuring a diverse and captivating program of works by Elliott Carter, Jacques Castérède, Bohuslav Martinů and Robert Schumann. You will hear the virtuosic and expressive 6 Etudes from Carter's "8 Etudes and a Fantasy", a collection of pieces that explore the possibilities of counterpoint and harmony. You will also enjoy the witty and playful Concertino for trumpet, trombone and piano by Castérède, a work that showcases the contrasting timbres and characters of the brass instruments. Next, you will be transported to the world of Martinů's La Revue de Cuisine, a ballet suite that depicts the love affairs of various kitchen utensils, with a charming and colourful score that blends jazz, tango and Charleston influences. Finally, you will be moved by the sublime and powerful Piano Quintet in Eb Op 44 by Schumann, with pianist Alexander Yau joining the Fellows in one of the masterpieces of Romantic chamber music that combines lyrical melodies, rich harmonies and brilliant virtuosity. Don't miss this opportunity to experience these wonderful works performed by talented musicians.

When: Sunday 27th August 2023 at 4:00pm
Where: Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, 9 Currie Rd, Forestville 
Tickets: Full:$30 Concession/Students: $20 Children under 16 Free
Enquiries: Wyvern Music Forestville Tel: 9416 5234

Korea 70 Years On – How RSL NSW Members Remember The Korean War

From 25 June 1950 until 27 July 1953, over 17,164 Australians in the Army, Navy and Air Force served as part of the United Nations (UN) multinational force, defending South Korea from the Communist forces of North Korea. 

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Armistice of the Korean War, a new exhibition at the Anzac Memorial honours the service and the sacrifice of Australian Korean War veterans, featuring the photographs and stories of 11 veterans. Notably, among the 11 veterans, eight RSL NSW members shared their personal stories of service during the Korean War with the Anzac Memorial.

Raymond Burnard – Bowral RSL sub-Branch 

“We got moving as quickly as possible, under cover of what little scrub there was. Suddenly there was a burst of machine gun fire. Only one bullet hit anyone. It hit me just at the base of the throat.” 

Brigadier Raymond Burnard served in the Korean War as a Platoon Commander with 3RAR from February 1953. After Korea Burnard continued his career in the Army, and was an original member of the SAS. After Korea, Burnard continued his career in the Army and was an original member of the SAS. He is now enjoying an active retirement in the Southern Highlands of NSW.  

Ernest Holden – St Marys RSL sub-Branch
“I was on the front lines for three and a half weeks. It was no man’s land during the day. I went on patrol at night. I never did run into any Chinese soldiers. They knew Ernie was coming so they’d get right out of the way!” 

Private Ernie Robert Holden was just 20 when he deployed to Korea with the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) between March and May 1953. During the war, he was wounded in a minefield while trying to rescue injured mate Corporal Jack Ashe, who is still missing in action. 

Ronald Lovell – City of Liverpool RSL sub-Branch 
“These years were both sad and satisfying, experiencing the comradeship of great mates, being scared and frightened of the unknown, not knowing if they would survive, being homesick but delighted to receive mail and packages from home, witnessing death and injuries but also a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment in the end.” 

Private Ronald Lovell served in 3RAR from December 1952 for about a year. He saw action in the Samichon Valley then five months of garrison duty after the Armistice. When he returned home, Ron retired from the Army and went back to civilian life. He worked in the transport sector, driving a truck and contracting out to the Department of Main Roads.  

Sheridan O’Brien – ANZAC House RSL sub-Branch 
All I can say is I’m pleased that I joined and I’m pleased that the skills I learned helped me when I got out of the service.” 

Leading Seaman Sheridan O’Brien served on the RAN frigate HMAS Culgoa in Korean waters in 1953. Culgoa provided naval gunfire support close inshore on at least two occasions and spent the rest of her deployment patrolling. After he returned from Korea, he continued his career in the Navy until 1970, when he retired as a Warrant Officer. He completed 20 years of full service and 2 years of Reserve service. After his retirement from the Navy, he worked in ocean research and he volunteered as welfare people to help ex-servicemen and women. 

Raymond Oliver – Ingleburn RSL sub-Branch 
It got down to minus 27 degrees. It was one of the worst winters they had. We were fitted with special winter gear. It was very heavy, American gear but it was very good.” 

Private Raymond Ivan Oliver served on garrison duty with 1RAR from December 1955 to March 1956 following the Armistice. He continued his service in the Army for the next 33 years, serving in the Malaya Emergency and two tours in Vietnam with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) where he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.  

James Reardon – St Marys RSL sub-Branch 
“Well, when you’re down below decks, you don’t really know what’s going up there. The only thing you are conscious of is that something is about to happen when you get called up for Action Stations. You know where you are supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do if anything happened.”   

Assistant Steward James Reardon served aboard the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney in Korean waters after the Armistice from October 1953 to June 1954. After the war he worked as a marketing reporter for the NSW Department of Agriculture, and has dedicated a considerable amount of time volunteering for his local RSL sub-Branch. 

Jack Skipper – Mosman RSL sub-Branch 
“I treasured my time with the very capable diggers of B Company 6 Platoon. I enjoyed my liaison duty with vehicle and radio operation at the Republic of Korea unit alongside Hill 355.” 

Lieutenant Jack Skipper was posted to the Korean War with 1RAR for 12 months after graduating from the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He earned his Military Cross for “courage and devotion to duty” while commanding a fighting patrol that engaged with the enemy three times in no-man’s land in 1952. After serving in Korea, Jack returned to Haramura Battle School in Kure, Japan, as an instructor. 

Joseph Vezgoff – Austinmer-Thirroul RSL sub-Branch 
“Late in November the frozen winds arrived, and the temperature dropped below zero. Our hands would freeze to the bare metal of our weapons, so we slept with them tucked against our bodies to stop them freezing up.” 

Corporal Joseph Vezgoff served as a Section Commander in a rifle company of 3RAR in the Korean War from September 1950 to October 1951. He fought in the legendary battles of Kapyong and Maryang San.  After the war, Joe served in the Army for 20 years. He has always nurtured a passion for drawing and until recently, due to failing eyesight, has continued to be active in painting and involvement with local art societies. 

Running until 7 August 2023, the Armistice in Korea exhibition is a project of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Sydney, in collaboration with the Anzac Memorial, Sydney, and features the photography of Tae Yun. Entry is free.  

Photo credit: Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Sydney. 

Wanderers Walking Monthly Walk - September: Warriewood Valley

Wednesday, 6 September 2023 - 09:30 am to 02:00 pm
Warriewood Valley. Easy walk.
Meet at 9.30am, Pittwater RSL Club, Foley St Mona Vale Car Park. Lunch at RSL Club optional. Easy walk.

Please contact Alice 0418 425 518 to confirm your attendance.

AvPals Term 3 At Newport 

Register Online for Newport courses
Add your name to the list of others interested in one-to-one training at Avalon for future school terms. Please complete the form at the link below. 

Remember to click the Submit button after completing the form. You will not be enrolled or be required to pay until you hear from our coordinator.

Two Charged Over Alleged $349,000 Defrauding Of Elderly Woman: Watsons Bay

Friday, 28 July 2023 
Detectives have charged two men over allegedly defrauding an 89-year-old woman of almost $350,000 as part of an investigation in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

In December 2022, detectives from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command established Strike Force Killoe, to investigate reports a woman had been defrauded of $349,094.

Police will allege in court that the woman was defrauded of the money by two persons known to her.

As part of the investigation, two men, aged 62 and 69, attended Waverley Police Station on Wednesday 26 July 2023 where they assisted police with their inquiries.

The 69-year-old man was arrested and charged with dishonestly obtain financial advantage etc by deception.

He appeared before Waverly Local Court on Wednesday 26 July 2023 where he was formally refused bail to appear before Downing Local Court on Friday 8 September 2023.

The 62-year-old man was arrested and charged with four counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage etc by deception.

He was granted conditional bail to appear before Downing Local Court on Friday 8 September 2023.

Not Eating Enough Of These Six Healthy Foods Is Associated With Higher Cardiovascular Disease And Deaths Globally

A study led by McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences researchers at the Population Research Health Institute (PHRI) has found that not eating enough of six key foods in combination is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults.

Consuming fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and whole-fat dairy products is key to lowering the risk of CVD, including heart attacks and strokes. The study also found that a healthy diet can be achieved in various ways, such as including moderate amounts of whole grains or unprocessed meats.

Previous and similar research has focused on Western countries and diets that combined harmful, ultra-processed foods with nutrient-dense foods. This research was global in scope and focused on foods commonly considered to be healthy.

The World Health Organisation estimates nearly 18 million people died from CVD in 2019, representing 32 per cent of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85 per cent were due to heart attacks and strokes. PHRI researchers and their global collaborators analyzed data from 245,000 people in 80 countries from multiple studies. The results were published in the European Heart Journal on July 6.

Researchers derived a diet score from PHRI's ongoing, large-scale global Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, then replicated that in five independent studies to measure health outcomes in different world regions and in people with and without prior CVD.

"Previous diet scores -- including the EAT-Lancet Planetary Diet and the Mediterranean Diet tested the relationship of diet to CVD and death mainly in Western countries. The PURE Healthy Diet Score included a good representation of high, middle, and low-income countries," said Salim Yusuf, senior author and principal investigator of PURE.

As well as being truly global, the PURE Healthy Diet Score focused on exclusively protective, or natural, foods.
"We were unique in that focus. The other diet scores combined foods considered to be harmful -- such as processed and ultra-processed foods -- with foods and nutrients believed to be protective of one's health," said first author Andrew Mente, PHRI scientist and assistant professor at McMaster's Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.

"There is a recent increased focus on higher consumption of protective foods for disease prevention. Outside of larger amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, the researchers showed that moderation is key in the consumption of natural foods," he said.

"Moderate amounts of fish and whole-fat dairy are associated with a lower risk of CVD and mortality. The same health outcomes can be achieved with moderate consumption of grains and meats -- as long as they are unrefined whole grains and unprocessed meats."

The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average daily intake of: Fruits at two to three servings; vegetables at two to three servings; nuts at one serving; and dairy at two servings. The score also includes three to four weekly servings of legumes and two to three weekly servings of fish. Possible substitutes included whole grains at one serving daily, and unprocessed red meat or poultry at one serving daily.

There was no specific funding for this analysis, although each study that contributed data was funded separately and conducted over a 25-year period.

Andrew Mente, Mahshid Dehghan, Sumathy Rangarajan, Martin O’Donnell, Weihong Hu, Gilles Dagenais, Andreas Wielgosz, Scott A Lear, Li Wei, Rafael Diaz et al. Diet, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in 80 countries. European Heart Journal, 2023 DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehad269

Pittwater-Narrabeen Parkinson’s Support Group

The purpose of our group is to support seniors (55yrs +) living with Parkinson’s, their carers, relatives and those who have lost a partner to Parkinson’s, who live on the northern beaches of Sydney.

This support Group has been meeting for around 30 years on the Northern Beaches. Our meetings aim to help reduce the social isolation, and increase community connectedness for our members. Through guest speakers, discussions, and group activities, our meetings will support and promote mental health, healthy lifestyles and well-being.

Our Facebook webpage will be used to store resources and links, and provide another way to safely keep in touch, for those who want to use Facebook. We also have a website that is regularly updated

We meet regularly and due to Covid we have been meeting at Jamieson Park, The Esplanade, Narrabeen.

Give Dot a call for more information: 0418 640 086 and join our Facebook group:

2024 NSW Seniors Festival Grants Program Applications Open

Applications are open for 2024 NSW Seniors Festival grants - at:

From art classes to information sessions, we're calling for applications to fund activities that provide seniors with opportunities to be active and engaged in their local communities.

$200,000 in funding is available for local councils and not-for-profit organisations to run events and activities during the festival. Do you know a local organisation or council that should apply? Let them know today so they don’t miss their chance!  

Read the Grant Guidelines to check if your organisation is eligible: 

Applications close at 5pm on Monday 28 August.

Find out more and visit:

2024 Festival Dates 
Save the Date!
The 2024 NSW Seniors Festival will run from 11 – 24 March and you're invited!

The Premier's Gala Concerts and Seniors Festival Expo will be held at ICC Sydney on 13 and 14 March.

Gala Concerts' performers and on-sale ticket dates will be announced in late 2023.

NSW Seniors Festival Grant Program 2024
The NSW Seniors Festival Grants program provides $200,000 in funding for community programs and activities that enable older Australians to remain active, healthy, and engaged during the NSW Seniors Festival.

The grants program is a key part of the 2024 NSW Seniors Festival. The festival will run from Monday, 11 March – Sunday 24 March 2024.

The NSW Seniors Festival Grant program encourages Seniors in NSW to enjoy new experiences, continue learning, stay active and connect to their communities. It does this by:
  • supporting a broad range of local community organisations
  • supporting programs and activities in regional NSW
  • fostering partnerships with community groups and services
  • providing programs and activities for diverse communities in NSW
  • supporting projects that empower older people to stay connected
  • assisting organisations to increase capacity of current programs and activities.
Applications can be for small scale, multiple and larger activities throughout the NSW Seniors Festival.

There are two funding levels that applicants can apply for:
  • Up to $5,000 for local community programs and activities.
  • $5,001 - $10,000 to local government organisations for large scale community and regional programs and activities – funding is available to local government organisations only.
Projects must be located within NSW and conducted between 11-24 March 2024.

Appointment Of Elizabeth Cosson AM CSC To RSL LifeCare Board

July 28, 2023
I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth (Liz) Cosson AM CSC as a Director of the RSL LifeCare Board as of Monday 18 September.

Liz comes to us with a distinguished 30-year career in the Australian Army, followed by various prestigious roles within public administration. This quality of experience and knowledge will be greatly beneficial to the Board as we move into the future.

From a military perspective, Liz has been awarded the Member in the Military Division of the Order of Australia – AM, for leading profound change and service to the Australian Army. In addition to this honour, Liz was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross – CSC for achievements as the Chief of Staff (Peace Monitoring Group – Bougainville) and logistics planning (East Timor). At the pinnacle of her military career, Liz was promoted to the rank of Major General and Head Defence Support Operations.

Her transition to public administration in 2010 continued her expertise in leadership, strategic thinking and organisational reform. Liz has had various roles including the Department of Immigration & Citizenship (Deputy Secretary), Commonwealth Department of Health (Deputy Secretary/CEO), Department of Veterans’ Affairs (Deputy Secretary/CEO), and was most recently Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs (Secretary (CEO)).

Upon her appointment, Liz said, “I am honoured to be appointed to the Board of RSL LifeCare and am thankful for this opportunity to contribute to the important work the organisation does for the veteran community and for seniors in general. It is a great privilege to join the Board at this important time of RSL LifeCare’s evolution.’

Liz’s breadth of experience within the military and knowledge of the Veteran Affairs space will be invaluable as we continue to increase our footprint with Veterans and Family Hubs across NSW. Her outstanding experience in organisational reform, governance and policy development, as illustrated in her public administration roles, will be a great asset to us.

I am truly delighted that she has chosen to join us at such an important stage of RSL LifeCare’s evolution with the launch of our new business strategy, and reaffirmation of our purpose to enrich veterans’ and seniors’ lives.

Please join me in welcoming Liz to the RSL LifeCare family, creating proud communities, living their best lives.

Ewen Crouch AM
Chairman, RSL LifeCare

Jet V. Mull Of Kintrye

July 23, 2023
Paul McCartney and his wife just adopted an adorable shelter puppy. 

In an Instagram post shared by Los Angeles-based rescue shelter the Labelle Foundation  thanked the couple “for opening up your home and supporting animal rescue.” The photo shared by the shelter shows the 81-year-old Beatles icon and his wife Nancy Shevell holding their new pup.  The little dog 's name is “Jet.”

Decades ago Paul owned another dog named Jet, who it was stated inspired the hit Wings song of the same name. That pup was apparently a black Labrador.

However, in a 2017 interview on Australian radio station Triple J for the segment Take 5, McCartney explained that the song was actually about his experience meeting Linda's father; ''There's no telling where you'll get ideas from and we happened to name this little black puppy Jet.''

The 'Jet' lyrics are:

Jet, Jet, Jet
I can almost remember their funny faces
That time you told them you were going to be marrying soon
And Jet, I thought the only lonely place was on the moon

Jet, Jet, Jet
Was your father as bold as the sergeant major?
Well how come he told you that you were hardly old enough yet?
And Jet, I thought the major was a lady suffragette
Jet, Jet
Ah Mater want Jet to always love me

But of course, the Wings song that stayed at number 1 here for about a decade.... ok, not that long, but a loooong time (11 weeks apparently - seemed longer), is Mull of Kintyre.

"Mull of Kintyre" is a song by the British-American rock band Wings. It was written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine in tribute to the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland and its headland, the Mull of Kintyre, where McCartney has owned High Park Farm since 1966.

The single was Wings' biggest hit in Britain and is one of the best selling singles of all time in the United Kingdom, where it became the 1977 Christmas number one and was the first single to sell over two million copies nationwide.

The song dates as far back as at least 1974, appearing on the extended home demo recording known amongst bootleggers as "The Piano Tape". Written on piano originally, at that early stage the lyric only had the completed chorus and a few bits of the lyrics that eventually made the finished version.

The lyrics of the first verse, also used as the repeating chorus, are an ode to the area's natural beauty and sense of home:

Mull of Kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire
Is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre

McCartney explained how the song came into being:
'''I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living: an area called Mull of Kintyre. It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was travelling away and wanting to get back there.''

One for you mum - xxx -:

You're Never Too Old To Become An Artist!

Great story published by ABC news on Saturday July 29 2023 on Shirley Newton, who lives in Rainbow, in Victoria's southern Mallee region, and is opening her first ever solo exhibition of her paintings at the tender age of 92. 

The exhibition, being held at the local Turbo Gallery in Rainbow, is fittingly called 'Brushes with Nature'.

Daily aspirin doesn’t prevent strokes in older, healthy people after all

Nial WheateUniversity of Sydney and Tina HintonUniversity of Sydney

The daily use of low dose aspirin has been a mainstay of preventing strokes for decades. While there has always been a risk of bleeding associated with aspirin use, the benefits were thought to outweigh the risk.

Now new research led by Monash University has shown daily, low-dose aspirin doesn’t prevent strokes in relatively healthy people aged over 70. And it increases their risk of bleeding on the brain after falls or other injuries.

But if you’re taking aspirin, it doesn’t mean you should abruptly stop. It may still have a role to play in treating people at high risk of stroke. Or, after talking to your doctor, there might be better options available.

Why Has Aspirin Been Used To Prevent Strokes?

Aspirin is an anti-platelet medicine, which is commonly known as a blood-thinner. Platelets are the component of blood primarily responsible for its clotting action. They are what stop you from continuously bleeding any time you have a cut or scrape on your skin.

stroke is when oxygen can’t get into the brain because of a burst or blocked blood vessel. A blockage can occur when platelets in the bloodstream form a clot and it gets stuck in the artery.

Aspirin tablets
Aspirin is a blood-thinner. Shutterstock

Because aspirin acts on platelets, it can help prevent the clots that can lead to a stroke.

But because aspirin acts on platelets, it can also increase the risk of unwanted bleeding, usually in the stomach. It can also increase your risk of bleeding more when you have another injury, like hitting your head.

Aspirin isn’t just used for the prevention of strokes. It is also the first aid treatment for someone undergoing a heart attack.

Findings Of The Monash Trial

New research from Australia and the United States reports results from the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial.

The researchers examined the protective use of daily low-dose aspirin (100 mg) in nearly 2,000 people who were aged 70 years and older and had no history of heart disease or stroke and whose blood pressure and cholesterol were well managed.

When compared with placebo, aspirin didn’t reduce or increase the risk of stroke. Of the participants who took the aspirin, 195 or 4.6% had a stroke. Of those who took the placebo, 203 people or 4.7% had a stroke.

But it did statistically increase the rate of non-stroke bleeding in the participants’ brains, for example when they injured their head. Those on aspirin showed a rate of bleeding in the brain of 1.1% (108 participants) compared with 0.8% (79 people) for those on placebo. This is a relatively, low but serious, risk.

These findings are not entirely new. Research published five years ago based on the same ASPREE trial showed a similar result: a higher rate of bleeding among those taking low-dose aspirin compared with placebo.

However as the study authors note, aspirin continues to be widely used for the prevention of stroke.

What Are The Study’s Limitations?

The researchers examined aspirin in mostly people of white European heritage.

So we don’t know whether the results are translatable to people with different ethnic backgrounds. Genetics and ethnicity can significantly impact the efficacy and safety of some drugs.

The clinical trial only included people who were not significantly at risk of a stroke, and had no history of heart disease.

Younger age groups were not studied either, so we cannot make any conclusions about their use of low dose aspirin to prevent stroke.

It’s also possible the potential benefits and risks are different for those who have underlying heart problems or who have previously had a stroke and are therefore at higher risk of another stroke.

Emergency department entrance
People who have previously had a stroke are at higher risk of another stroke. Shutterstock

I’m Taking Aspirin, What Should I Do?

If you’re taking daily low-dose aspirin and are concerned by the results of the study, it’s important you don’t just stop taking your medicine. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

For people who are at high risk of having a stroke, or have previously had one, low-dose aspirin may remain their treatment of choice despite the slight bleeding risk.

If you’re at high risk of bleeding, for example because of falls and other accidents due to advanced age, frailty, or another underlying condition, your doctor may be able to reduce the amount of aspirin you take by adding in dipyridamole or prescribing a different medicine completely, such as clopidogrel.The Conversation

Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School, University of Sydney and Tina Hinton, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australian Study Backs AMA Calls For A Tax On Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

July 26, 2023
New research showing more than 500,000 cavities could be prevented over 10 years if a sugar tax was introduced provides yet another reason for the federal government to introduce the AMA’s proposed sugar tax.
The research from three Australian Universities has concluded a tax on sugar sweetened beverages would have a major positive impact on dental heath in Australia and save the country millions of dollars.

The Monash University-led collaboration with Deakin University and the University of Melbourne provides important new data for Australia.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said there is now more impetus for the government to adopt a sugar tax which both improves health outcomes and raises revenue.

“We’ve known a lot about how high sugar consumption contributes to obesity and chronic disease, but oral health is often excluded from studies.

“This important research deepens our understanding of the impact of sugary drinks on dental health across a wide range of age groups in the Australian context.

“It’s further evidence a tax on sugary drinks is the right decision for Australia and puts to bed industry arguments there is insufficient evidence to support a sugar tax.

“We know the government is focusing on ways to prevent chronic disease in Australia and we continue to urge them to implement a sugar tax like more than 85 other jurisdictions across the world.

“The AMA’s own research shows that adding just 16 cents to the price of a can of soft drink results in thousands of fewer cases of diabetes (-16,000), heart disease (-4,400) and stroke (-1,100) over 25 years but we now additionally know 500,000 dental cavities and their costs could be avoided over a decade with cost-savings of $63.5 million.

“I keep saying it’s a no-brainer and that’s because a sugar tax would generate $2.8 billion over four years for the Australian economy which can be directed into preventative health measures. As a nation we’ll be healthier and wealthier.” 

Improving Health Outcomes For People Living With Post-Acute Sequelae Of COVID-19 (Long COVID): New Expert Advisory Panel Announced By Australian Government

July 25, 2023
A new research plan to improve health outcomes for people living with post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (also called long COVID) will shape $50 million in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. An independent Expert Advisory Panel formed the plan. Members tell us how it meets an urgent need.

Meeting an urgent need
Infectious diseases expert Professor Gail Matthews was on the front line in hospitals when long COVID emerged. Gail started researching this new condition. She became a leading Australian expert on long COVID. But progress was difficult.

‘In the early days, people with this condition were ignored. A section of academic reviewers didn’t think long COVID existed or was worth investing in,’ Gail remembers. For this reason, ‘getting research funding was a big problem in Australia. It set our research back compared to other countries.’

It took a government inquiry into long COVID to change this. The Sick and tired report urged us to coordinate a national collaborative research program on long COVID. The Minister for Health and Aged Care invited Gail to chair an independent Expert Advisory Panel to set research priorities for this funding.

‘I am gratified that we finally had the chance to speak to what the community wants,’ Gail tells us. ‘There is an urgent need for a sustainable plan to improve health outcomes for people living with long COVID.’

Meaningful impact for consumers
‘Long COVID can be devastating for the person who has the condition and the people who love them,’ confirms panel member Dr Elizabeth Deveny, CEO of the Consumers Health Forum. ‘People experience debilitating symptoms. They face prejudice and stigma because they have an illness that's not well defined.

‘People with this condition want support to get better faster. They want a better understanding of what's going on for them, better clinical care, better diagnostics. Our task was to ensure research will have a meaningful impact for these consumers.’

Diverse expert voices
Professor of Allied Health, Jennifer Alison, was one of 9 diverse expert voices on the panel. ‘If you're going to target funding towards a condition, you need to engage a wide variety of researchers, Jennifer says.

‘Panel members should be from the basic sciences through to healthcare delivery. Each of us see things from different perspectives.’

The panel members also had experience working with communities in diverse parts of Australia. ‘We had to quickly build up trust and be willing to compromise to get to a consensus,’ Elizabeth notes.

Answering the big questions
‘We tried to keep the individual with long COVID at the heart of the plan. We decided what big questions need to be answered to improve their health outcomes,’ Gail says.

The panel agreed we need to know more about:
  • what causes long COVID
  • which factors affect prognosis
  • people’s experience of living with long COVID
  • the best therapeutics
  • the best models of care
  • the needs of vulnerable communities.
  • Planning research to progress our knowledge
The panel designed the research plan to progress our knowledge in these areas.  ‘To date, the approach to research in this area has been piecemeal,’ Gail tells us. ‘We tried to change this by asking for synergies between research groups, people living with long COVID and other stakeholders.

‘Rather than giving grants to individual researchers, the plan gives larger amounts of money to groups of individuals to come together and collaborate. I think that's the way good research gets done.’

‘There is a lot of benefit in having a planned approach,’ Elizabeth agrees. ‘It means we can align different kinds of projects so that success in one reinforces success in another. We tried to plan the range of projects needed to start making change.’

For Jennifer, planning research gives us the ability to make things happen quickly. For example, grants will offer funding for rapid turnaround research on pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies. There will be more funding available for projects that find positive results. ‘This will help research in long COVID move forward,’ Jennifer tells us.

‘Everyone knew this is a problem that needs to be fixed. You could feel the determination in the virtual room to make this happen. I think the panel process was done well, and that's a credit to everybody,’ Elizabeth concludes.

‘Is the doggy angry?’ Research hints children under 5 can easily confuse dog emotions

Melissa StarlingUniversity of Sydney

To most of us, a dog showing its teeth is a pretty clear signal of threat. In 1872, Charles Darwin first suggested animals showed emotions similar to ours in their body language, and we might be able to use this to better understand their behaviour and motivations.

There is perhaps no better species for investigating this idea than the domestic dog. We live alongside them, yet they have teeth that can inflict significant damage on a human. So we ought to be invested in knowing when they are happy, neutral or angry, at the very least.

Adult humans are good at identifying an angry dog visually or by sound, regardless of how much experience they have with dogs. However, young children do not show the same skill, and in fact may mistake a fierce dog for a happy dog.

A new study published in PLOS ONE, by University of Helsinki animal cognition researcher Heini Törnqvist and colleagues, has sought to identify when children start to develop dog-reading skills and what role their experience with dogs may play in this.

A cute girl in a yellow dress giving a kiss to a sleeping labrador who is probably okay with it
Young children are the most likely age group to suffer serious injuries from interacting with dogs. Shutterstock

Rating Dog Faces

It is certainly useful to know when children become as good as an adult at reading dog body language. It helps us to make decisions about the level of supervision children need around dogs. It can also help to anticipate them making choices that we as adults would think are an obviously terrible idea when interacting with a dog.

However, dogs are also special. They have been with us for so long, we have influenced their evolution, and maybe they have influenced ours as well. This co-domestication hypothesis raises the possibility our long association with dogs may have led to both species being particularly quick to bridge the species divide and manage to communicate effectively with each other.

In the new study, 34 adults, 34 four-year-olds and 31 six-year-olds were presented with a series of photos of dog faces and human faces. They were asked to report how excited each dog or person was, how good or bad their mood was, and whether they were happy, neutral or angry.

The results revealed that four-year-old children rated angry dogs to be in a more positive mood than the older children and adults did, even if these youngest kids were experienced with dogs. The six-year-olds, if experienced with dogs, were as good as adults at identifying dog emotions from photos.

A row of images of an angry dog with questions asking about its emotional state
An example of the test stimulus presented to the adults and children participating in the study. PLOS ONECC BY

Adults were equally likely to correctly identify dog emotions whether they were experienced or inexperienced with dogs. Meanwhile, children were equally good at identifying human emotions from photos regardless of age.

These results show that age may indeed affect how accurately children can identify dog emotions from the animals’ facial expressions, with experience factoring into how early they develop these skills.

Children under the age of five are likely to interpret dog expressions by looking for similarities to human expressions. This is particularly troublesome when angry dogs show their teeth, as children may interpret this as a friendly smile.

By the age of six, children who have lived with a dog may have learned exposed teeth are an angry expression in dogs, whereas children who haven’t spent much time around dogs may continue to make interpretation errors.

Supervision Is Key

This highlights how important it is to closely supervise young children when they are around dogs.

According to a study from 2001, children 0-4 years in age are the most likely age group to suffer severe dog bites in Australia. Some of those bites may occur as a result of children misunderstanding dog threat displays, and their tendency to lean into dogs when interacting with them.

The results may have been influenced by a few additional factors. This study only presented images of dogs, whereas young children may be more attuned to auditory signals, such as a deep growl or bark.

Additionally, participants were considered “experienced” with dogs only if they had lived with one, whereas “inexperienced” individuals may have spent a lot of time with dogs in other contexts that was not captured.

What does this mean for the co-domestication hypothesis? The jury is still out. The results suggest children learn to read dogs through experience, but this is occurring at a young age. It’s difficult to tell whether children are primed to learn to read dogs, or if it is simply a species they have the most experience with from an early age.

But you likely do want to watch closely when your children interact with the family dog, even if they grew up together. Older children can make mistakes with dogs as well, and we shouldn’t rely on our dogs to always be highly tolerant of provocative things children may do.The Conversation

Melissa Starling, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The $500 million ATO fraud highlights flaws in the myGov ID system. Here’s how to keep your data safe

Rob NichollsUNSW Sydney

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) paid out more than half a billion dollars to cyber criminals between July 2021 and February 2023, according to an ABC report.

Most of the payments were for small amounts (less than A$5,000) and were not flagged by the ATO’s own monitoring systems.

The fraudsters exploited a weakness in the identification system used by the myGov online portal to redirect other people’s tax refunds to their own bank accounts.

The good news is there’s plenty the federal government can do to crack down on this kind of fraud – and that you can do to keep your own payments secure.

How These Scams Work

Setting up a myGov account or a myGov ID requires proof of identity in the form of “100 points of ID”. It usually means either a passport and a driver’s licence or a driver’s licence, a Medicare card, and a bank statement.

Once a myGov account is created, linking it to your tax records requires two of the following: an ATO assessment, bank account details, a payslip, a Centrelink payment, or a super account.

These documents were precisely the ones targeted in three large data breaches in the past year: at Optus, at Medibank, and at Latitude Financial.

In this scam, the cyber criminal creates a fake myGov account using the stolen documents. If they can also get enough information to link to the ATO or your Tax File Number, they can then change bank account details to have your tax rebate paid to their account.

It is a sadly simple scam.

How Government Can Improve

One of the issues here is quite astounding. The ATO knows where salaries are paid, via the “single touch” payroll system. This ensures salaries, tax and superannuation contributions are all paid at once.

Most people who have received a tax refund will have provided bank account details where that payment can be made. Indeed, many people use precisely those bank account details to identify themselves to myGov.

At present, those bank details can be changed within myGov without any further ado. If the ATO simply checked with the individual via another channel when bank account details are changed, this fraud could be prevented. It might be sensible to check with the individual’s employer as well.

Part of the problem is the ATO has not been very transparent about the risks. If these risks were clearly set out, then calls for changes to ATO procedures would have been loud and clear from the cyber security community.

The ATO is usually good at identifying when a cyber security incident may lead to fraud. For example, when the recruitment software company PageUp was hacked in 2018, the ATO required people who may have been affected to reconfirm their identities. This was done without public commentary and represents sound practice.

Sadly, the millions of records stolen in the Optus, Medibank and Latitude Financial breaches have not led to a similar level of vigilance.

Another action the ATO could take would be to check when a single set of bank account details is associated with more than one myGov account.

A national digital identity would also help. However, this system has been in development for years, is not universally popular, and may well be delayed until after the federal election due in 2024.

Protecting Yourself

The most important thing to do is make sure the ATO does not use a bank account number other than yours. As long as the ATO only has your bank account number to transfer your tax rebate, this scam does not work.

It also helps to protect your Tax File Number. There are only four groups that ever need this number.

The first is the ATO itself. The second is your employer. However, remember you do not need to give your TFN to a prospective employer, and your employer only needs your TFN after you have started work.

Your super fund and your bank may ask for your TFN. However, providing your TFN to your super fund or bank is optional – it just makes things easier, as otherwise they will withhold tax which you will need to claim back later.

Of course, all the usual data safety issues still apply. Don’t share your driver’s licence details without good reason. Take similar care with your passport. Your Medicare card is for health services and does not need to be shared widely.

Don’t open emails from people you do not know. Never click links in messages unless you are sure they are safe. Most importantly, know your bank will not send you emails containing links, nor will the ATO.The Conversation

Rob Nicholls, Associate professor of regulation and governance, UNSW Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ancient pathogens released from melting ice could wreak havoc on the world, new analysis reveals

Corey J. A. BradshawFlinders University and Giovanni StronaUniversity of Helsinki

Science fiction is rife with fanciful tales of deadly organisms emerging from the ice and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting human victims.

From shape-shifting aliens in Antarctica, to super-parasites emerging from a thawing woolly mammoth in Siberia, to exposed permafrost in Greenland causing a viral pandemic – the concept is marvellous plot fodder.

But just how far-fetched is it? Could pathogens that were once common on Earth – but frozen for millennia in glaciers, ice caps and permafrost – emerge from the melting ice to lay waste to modern ecosystems? The potential is, in fact, quite real.

Dangers Lying In Wait

In 2003, bacteria were revived from samples taken from the bottom of an ice core drilled into an ice cap on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. The ice at that depth was more than 750,000 years old.

In 2014, a giant “zombie” Pithovirus sibericum virus was revived from 30,000-year-old Siberian permafrost.

And in 2016, an outbreak of anthrax (a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracisin western Siberia was attributed to the rapid thawing of B. anthracis spores in permafrost. It killed thousands of reindeer and affected dozens of people.

Bacillus anthracis is a soil bacterium that causes anthrax. William A. Clark/USCDCP

More recently, scientists found remarkable genetic compatibility between viruses isolated from lake sediments in the high Arctic and potential living hosts.

Earth’s climate is warming at a spectacular rate, and up to four times faster in colder regions such as the Arctic. Estimates suggest we can expect four sextillion (4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) microorganisms to be released from ice melt each year. This is about the same as the estimated number of stars in the universe.

However, despite the unfathomably large number of microorganisms being released from melting ice (including pathogens that can potentially infect modern species), no one has been able to estimate the risk this poses to modern ecosystems.

In a new study published today in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, we calculated the ecological risks posed by the release of unpredictable ancient viruses.

Our simulations show that 1% of simulated releases of just one dormant pathogen could cause major environmental damage and the widespread loss of host organisms around the world.

Melt water carving a glacier in the Himalayas of India. Sharada Prasad

Digital Worlds

We used a software called Avida to run experiments that simulated the release of one type of ancient pathogen into modern biological communities.

We then measured the impacts of this invading pathogen on the diversity of modern host bacteria in thousands of simulations, and compared these to simulations where no invasion occurred.

The invading pathogens often survived and evolved in the simulated modern world. About 3% of the time the pathogen became dominant in the new environment, in which case they were very likely to cause losses to modern host diversity.

In the worst- (but still entirely plausible) case scenario, the invasion reduced the size of its host community by 30% when compared to controls.

The risk from this small fraction of pathogens might seem small, but keep in mind these are the results of releasing just one particular pathogen in simulated environments. With the sheer number of ancient microbes being released in the real world, such outbreaks represent a substantial danger.

Extinction And Disease

Our findings suggest this unpredictable threat which has so far been confined to science fiction could become a powerful driver of ecological change.

While we didn’t model the potential risk to humans, the fact that “time-travelling” pathogens could become established and severely degrade a host community is already worrisome.

Drilling ice cores in Greenland. Helle Astrid Kjær

We highlight yet another source of potential species extinction in the modern era – one which even our worst-case extinction models do not include. As a society, we need to understand the potential risks so we can prepare for them.

Notable viruses such as SARS-CoV-2Ebola and HIV were likely transmitted to humans via contact with other animal hosts. So it is plausible that a once ice-bound virus could enter the human population via a zoonotic pathway.

While the likelihood of a pathogen emerging from melting ice and causing catastrophic extinctions is low, our results show this is no longer a fantasy for which we shouldn’t prepare.The Conversation

They may only be microscopic – and far from the giant flesh-eating bugs you’ll see in sci-fi films – but the risks posed by pathogens shouldn’t be underestimated. Giovanni Strona, 2023 (based on previous work by Oksana Dobrovolska)CC BY-SA

Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University and Giovanni Strona, Doctoral program supervisor, University of Helsinki

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Puppy yoga? Goat meditation? An animal welfare scientist explores what these activities might mean for the cute creatures

Mia CobbThe University of Melbourne

Puppies! Goats! Kittens! A quick online search suggests you can take a yoga class with just about any cute animal you like.

Operators provide the animals, room and an instructor – people pay to come and enjoy. Don’t forget the obligatory cute post to your socials, or it didn’t happen.

So far, so good. But what do the animals make of it?

As an animal welfare scientist, yoga with animals rings some alarm bells for me: it often seems to be focused on human wellbeing, with animal welfare an afterthought. But research shows how animal-assisted activities like this can be improved, and how we can all play a role in making animal welfare a higher priority.

Ethical Issues Exposed

The ethics of animal yoga have been a hot topic since a a recent investigation in the United Kingdom exposed distressing practices.

Puppies as young as six weeks old were denied sleep and water while working in puppy yoga sessions. Classes took place in hot rooms for hours at a time, with no capacity for the young pups to opt out of interactions.

People attending the classes were given no guidance on safely handling puppies, and video footage shows squirming young puppies dropping awkwardly to the ground.

Early socialisation can build dogs’ long-term confidence in interactions with people and the world. Bad experiences during this time can influence them to be anxious or fearful.

Similar practices appear to be common in the growing yoga-with-animals industry. An Australian friend told me about a recent goat yoga session:

it left me feeling awful for those poor goats, being grabbed at, chased around the room, and cuddled against their will.

How Can Science Help?

My research centres around understanding the animal experience and using this evidence to inform good practice and policies.

It’s widely agreed animals such as dogs, goats and birds are sentient, which means they experience good and bad feelings – and that matters to their individual wellbeing.

With that understanding comes a moral obligation for us to care for animals in a way that includes their mental experiences as well as their physical needs.

Social Licence Pressure

In modern societies we often expect the animals we rely on will have good lives, not just protection from harm and suffering. When we learn people are failing to safeguard animal wellbeing (for example, through media investigations), there is a public reaction.

These reactions can affect entire industries. A recent example in Australia and New Zealand is the interruption to live export of sheep by sea.

The impact of community attitudes is sometimes called “social licence pressure”. When communities trust and accept that an operator is acting ethically and responsibly, the industry or individual has a “social licence to operate”.

This isn’t a physical licence that can be granted legally or politically. It’s a term from industries such as forestry and mining, where community approval underpins their ongoing operations.

Increasingly, the idea of social licence is becoming relevant to our interactions with animals in contexts such as racing, farming, and now animal yoga.

In many ways, concerns about puppy yoga align with those observed in other animal-assisted practices, such as education, therapy and other allied health settings. Rapidly growing but minimally regulated, these practices generally claim to have positive impacts on people’s lives.

However, the need for animal welfare to be monitored, evaluated and prioritised is often overlooked.

Animal Welfare Assurance

One approach to make animal-assisted activities more ethical is through “one health” and “one welfare” initiatives, which focus on the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental wellbeing.

For animal-reliant operations to be sustainable, they need be transparent and proactive in assuring the public that animal wellbeing is a priority. This may require considerable change to historical practices.

Research on human–animal interactions is often limited by a lack of funding for studies of animal experience, which can be used to inform regulation and policy.

An adult hand holds the cheek of a fluffy yellow dog.
Animals should be given a good life. Maksim Gonchareno/Pexels

The Five Domains Of Animal Welfare

When assessing indicators of animal welfare, scientists increasingly use the “five domains” framework.

The first four domains are nutrition, physical environment, health, and behavioural interactions (with people, other animals and the environment). All of these directly influence the fifth domain: the animal’s mental state.

For example, a puppy deprived of water in a hot room may feel thirsty, tired and dizzy. A young animal whose sleep is interrupted may feel worried, have reduced concentration, and be more prone to illness. The risk of illness is greater if they are not fully vaccinated, or are exposed to a place visited by many animals. A dropped or mishandled puppy may feel pain and fear, and learn that people should be avoided.

Animals should also have agency – the ability to choose their actions, including whether to interact with people or withdraw.

How To Make Change

In the UK, the ITV News investigation has led to a rapid escalation of the issue. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Kennel Club have condemned the yoga classes, and called on the parliamentary group that monitors animal welfare to ban the practice.

This shows the power of social licence pressure. Closer to home, we can all exert this kind of pressure through the choices we make.

By staying informed about what makes a good life for animals, and not supporting practices that fail to align with it, we can fulfil our moral obligation to animals that rely on us.The Conversation

Mia Cobb, Research Fellow, Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A new TikTok trend has people drinking toxic borax. An expert explains the risks – and how to read product labels

Nathan KilahUniversity of Tasmania

A potentially dangerous trend has gained prominence on TikTok, with a number of people mixing borax into water and drinking it for supposed health benefits.

This isn’t new. Social media platforms have been host to many dangerous “challenges” – and users have been dosing themselves with questionable substances for years.

There’s no evidence to support the latest claims about borax. So how dangerous is it? And how can we assess the safety of the many other substances we use in daily life?

These borax-related topics have been trending on TikTok. Screenshot/TikTok

What Is Borax?

Borax, or sodium borate decahydrate, is a salt made of a combination of boron, sodium, oxygen and hydrogen. It comes in the form of a colourless crystalline solid that can easily be dissolved in water.

Borax and the related boric acid are commonly used in household products including laundry cleaning products, wood preservers, fertilisers, contact lens solution and ant killers.

Borax crystals are also widely available in supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centres. These products are typically pure borax, but other additives may be present.

Don’t Confuse Borax With Boron

TikTok users posting videos of themselves ingesting borax and water solution have falsely claimed it can help treat inflammation, joint pain, arthritis, lupus and a range of other conditions.

This is yet another hoax “remedy” in a long list of false hope products. Alternative therapies are often touted as being “natural” and therefore supposedly non-toxic.

But while borax is naturally occurring, this isn’t a guarantee of safety. Arsenic, ricin and the toxin responsible for botulism are also 100% natural, but can be highly toxic to humans.

And although the element boron specifically is considered essential for plants and some animals, its role in the functioning of the human body is less clear. Boron can be found in some of the foods we eat, such as grapes and potatoes, but isn’t classified as an essential nutrient. The very small amount of boron your body may need can be safely obtained by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

How Dangerous Is Borax?

Borax is not considered safe to ingest.

In toxicology, the median lethal dose, or LD50, is the approximate dose required to kill half the animals in a population being studied.

The LD50 for borax in rats is about 5g per kilogram of body weight. This is a relatively large dose, which means acute toxicity causing death is unlikely in humans. But just because a dose won’t kill, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful – and it definitely doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Borax was used extensively as a food preservative in the early 1900s. That was before the work of Harvey Washington Wiley and his poison squad uncovered a range of side effects to consumption, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, gastric discomfort and more.

Borax is also classified as a reproductive toxin, which means it “may impair fertility” and “may cause harm to the unborn child”. It is banned as a food additive in Australia, the United States and several other countries.

Safety First, Last And Always

A number of dangerous social media challenges have gone viral over the past decade. One notable example was the “Tide pod challenge”, in which users recorded themselves biting or eating laundry pods.

The consumption of laundry pods has caused a number of deaths (although these can’t necessarily be linked to the Tide pod challenge). From 2013 to 2022, poison centres in the US have managed around 10,000 cases each year related to children age five and under being exposed to laundry detergent packets.

Clearly, we shouldn’t be drinking borax or eating laundry pods. Yet such substances can’t always be avoided – so the best protection is to understand the dangers associated with them.

Apart from reading the generic safety warnings on a product, such as “CAUTION” or “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN”, consumers can dig a little deeper through the use of resources known as safety data sheets (or SDS).

Every product containing hazardous substances must legally have an SDS. So whether you’re using a shampoo, hand sanitiser, vinegar or borax, there will almost certainly be an SDS available. Here’s the SDS for Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, as an example.

You can find the SDS of a product online by searching the product’s name and “SDS” in Google. These documents follow a standardised format and provide details of hazards associated with a product.

They also include standardised hazard pictograms that represent the associated physical, health and environmental risks. You’ve probably seen these before, such as a “flammable” sign on a deodorant, or a “corrosive” sign on a household cleaner.

The international GHS system consists of nine symbols that represent the hazards associated with a substance.

As far as borax is concerned, the main product shown in the TikTok videos has an SDS that lists the human silhouette and exclamation mark pictograms. These correspond to the listed hazards of skin irritation, serious eye irritation and potential damage to fertility or an unborn child.

A number of precautionary statements follows – with advice on appropriate personal protective equipment, and how to store and dispose of the product.

Further details go beyond the typical consumer information and include composition, first aid information, toxicological information and fire fighting methods. These are helpful for medical professionals treating patients and fire fighters dealing with chemical spills and fires.

Safety data sheets aren’t perfect, but they are a useful resource. So the next time you see an unusual “miracle cure” on social media, or there’s a chemical in your home you aren’t sure about, consider reading the SDS.

If you have been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, call your local poison information centre or seek medical attention.The Conversation

Nathan Kilah, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Post-Menopause Orca Mothers Protect Their Sons From Being Injured By Other Orcas

Female killer whales live up to ninety years in the wild, and most live an average of twenty-two years after menopause. Scientists have long wondered why humans and some whale species spend a significant portion of their life not reproducing. Previous studies show that, even after having their last calf, killer whale mothers take care of their families by sharing the fish they catch. Now, in a study published on July 20 in the journal Current Biology, researchers note that these mothers can also provide social support to their sons by protecting them from being injured by other orcas.

"The motivation of this project was really to try and understand how these post-reproductive females are helping their offspring," says first author Charli Grimes, an animal-behavior scientist at the University of Exeter. "Our results highlight a new pathway by which menopause is adaptive in killer whales."

The research team studied southern resident orcas, a group of orcas that live off the Pacific Northwest coast. These killer whales live in matriarchal social units that consist of a mother, her offspring, and the offspring of her daughters. Although male orcas will outbreed with whales from other pods, both males and females stay in their unit of birth, with their mother, for life.

Using data from the Center for Whale Research's annual photographic census of the orca population, the researchers looked for evidence of scarring on each catalogued whale's skin. Killer whales have no natural predators other than humans, so a tooth mark that is able to puncture an orca's skin was most likely inflicted by another orca.

The study found that, if a given male's mother was still alive and no longer reproducing, that male would have fewer tooth marks than his motherless peers or his peers with a mother who was still reproducing.

"It was striking to see how directed the social support was," says senior author Darren Croft, an animal-behaviour scientist at the University of Exeter. "If you have a post-reproductive mother who's not your mother within the social group, there's no benefit. It's not that these females are performing a general policing role. These post-reproductive mothers are targeting the support they are giving to their sons."

The researchers still can't say for certain what kinds of social conflicts are leading to tooth marks or how older females are protecting their sons against them. They do note that post-menopause females have the lowest incidence of tooth marks in the entire social unit, suggesting that they do not physically intervene in a conflict. If older orca females play a similar role to that of older women in human societies, they might be acting as mediators, preventing conflict from occurring in the first place. To explore this further, the researchers plan on completing an additional study by using drone footage to observe whale behaviour from above.

"It's possible that with age comes advanced social knowledge. Over time, they might have a better understanding of other social groups," says Grimes. "Given these close mother-son associations, it could also be that she is present in a situation of conflict so she can signal to her sons to avoid the risky behaviour they might be participating in."

"We've got hypotheses, but we need to test them by seeing what's happening under water when these different groups interact," says Croft. "We've learned so much from this population, but we've still got so much to learn from them."

Charli Grimes, Lauren J.N. Brent, Samuel Ellis, Michael N. Weiss, Daniel W. Franks, David K. Ellifrit, Darren P. Croft. Postreproductive female killer whales reduce socially inflicted injuries in their male offspring. Current Biology, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.06.039

Supermarket Tricks To Watch Out For As Cost Of Living Soars

July 24, 2023
By Katie Miller, UNSW
Ever walk into the supermarket to buy milk – and come out with a trolley full of stuff you didn’t even know you needed? Welcome to supermarket consumer behaviour, where supermarkets implement strategies to get consumers to buy more items unknowingly.  

Australia is currently experiencing one of the worst cost of living crises recorded according to recent data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics. With high inflation rates and stagnant wages, there is no doubt that working Australians are “very price conscious”, says Professor Nitika Garg, School of Marketing at UNSW Business School.  

The rising inflation and increasing costs are impacting everyone in the supply chain, from manufacturers to retailers, and are then being passed on to consumers. Consequently, prices are a lot higher than they were a few months ago. How can consumers cope with these escalating costs and price hikes in the current economic climate? 

Supermarket consumer ploys to steer clear of
According to Prof. Garg, there are some key tactics to watch out for when supermarket shopping. She says that these tricks are all based on consumer psychology, designed to trigger reminder or impulse purchases for the consumer.   
  1. Locked-in deals: These are commonly identified by bright red labels on items and typically present a capped price until a specified date. Consumers may be misled into believing that purchasing the item before the deadline offers greater cost-effectiveness due to the deal. However, the price of the locked-in deals is often the same as the original price of the item.  
  2. Store layout: Supermarkets design the layout of the store to purposely put staple foods such as milk and bread far away from each other – and usually at the back of the store. This tactic is designed to make a consumer walk through the store and spend more time. 
  3. Bigger-sized carts: Studies in the USA have shown that some trolley sizes in supermarkets have doubled in size since first being introduced. This has resulted in consumers typically buying 40 per cent more food items. The idea behind this is that consumers are tricked into thinking their shopping trolley appears to be missing food items.  
  4. Music: Have you ever wondered why supermarkets typically play more relaxed, slow-paced music instead of fast and upbeat tunes? It’s not a coincidence. Supermarkets strategically choose calming music to create a relaxed atmosphere and encourage customers to stay longer, enhancing their shopping experience and getting them to buy more.  
  5. Store deals: the ‘buy two, get one free’ deals and similar schemes may initially appear as an excellent opportunity and a cost-effective method of saving money if it's an item you buy regularly. However, if it’s an item that has a short expiry date, is it realistic that a consumer will consume all three items before the expiry date? Furthermore, certain supermarkets show, for example, ‘buy two for $10.00’, making it appear as a deal and misleading the consumer by implying that you are saving on cost. However, upon closer inspection, you might find that the price of one item is just its regular price, that is, half of the price of two. 
Prof. Garg explains that the obvious answer to why supermarkets use these tactics is that “their purpose is to sell more, that’s their job, they are storing lots of goods. They want you to buy more than what you have on your list.”  

The current environment: multi-store shopping and loss leaders  
Prof. Garg says the current environment with high cost of living is causing consumers to be more price conscious.  

“With the cost-of-living crisis soaring, it would be in the interest of consumers to shop at different stores to get the best deals, if they have the time,” she says.  

“You could go to one shop to get your meat and then another to get your veggies because you as a consumer have taken the time to research and know where the best and cheapest products are.” 

However, most consumers won't have time to complete multi-store shopping.

“It’s all dictated by the basic idea that consumers find processing information at the store or beforehand costly, and this is where supermarket tactics come into play,” Prof. Garg says. 

“How many of us will research which product is the best price and do comparison shopping and so on?”  

Prof. Garg says consumers protect their cognitive resources and tend to go on autopilot. 

“As a result, supermarkets give consumers ‘cues’, which might make it look like a product is on a deal,” says Prof. Garg.  

“A lot of the tactics are based on getting the consumer in, because once they're in, they will likely end up buying a lot more than they expected.” 

Another supermarket tactic is the ‘loss leader’ concept – where supermarkets will lure you into their shop with an attractive deal and bet on you doing the rest of the shop there.     

“What all supermarkets are guilty of is advertising some products which are desirable to the consumer and where they are competitive, and most supermarkets won’t make any profit on the item – these are known are loss leaders,” Prof. Garg says. 

“Usually, supermarkets will place loss leaders at the front of the store to allow consumers to see from a distance because they know that once you come in, you are likely to buy everything from them or at least, a lot more from them than planned. 

“If you're going in and you're saying oh, they're selling bananas at $1.99 per kg and Coles is selling it at $4.00 per kg, suddenly that's a great deal. But the thing is, how many of us are going to get the bananas from one store and then get the other things from Coles? 

“In summary, it’s best to be aware of the consumer psychology that supermarkets use to market their products. If consumers are more aware of these tactics, they can be more mindful of where they want to rely on these and where they want to be wary of such tactics. It’s also important to note that this is not just relevant to in-store supermarket shopping. Online shoppers should be wary of similar tactics too,” says Prof. Garg. 

Photo: With the cost of living on the rise, consumers are being more money conscious. What tactics do supermarkets use to get consumers to spend more money? Photo: Getty.

Study Links Cadmium Levels In Women's Urine To Endometriosis

July 24, 2023
Women with a history of endometriosis had higher concentrations of cadmium in their urine compared to those without that diagnosis, according to a Michigan State University study that suggests the toxic metal could be linked to the development of endometriosis.

Affecting one in 10 reproductive-age women, endometriosis is a gynaecologic condition in which tissue that looks like the lining of the uterus, or womb, appears outside the uterus. Those with endometriosis can experience chronic, painful and debilitating symptoms, which can interfere with all aspects of life, including daily activity, work productivity, school performance and personal relationships.

"Despite the adverse impact of endometriosis on quality of life, it remains an understudied condition," said Kristen Upson, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the MSU College of Human Medicine and senior author of the study.

"By looking at environmental risk factors such as metal cadmium, we are moving the needle closer to understanding risk factors for this condition," added the study's first author, Mandy Hall, a data analyst in the MSU Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Cadmium is a toxic metal and a "metalloestrogen," meaning it can act like the hormone oestrogen. In the U.S., people are commonly exposed to cadmium by breathing in cigarette smoke and eating contaminated food like spinach and lettuce.

While this is not the first study exploring a potential link between cadmium and endometriosis, the researchers said it's the largest study to look at cadmium measured in urine, which reflects long-term exposure between 10 and 30 years.

For their study, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, a national study representative of the U.S. population between 1999 and 2006. Out of the survey's more than 41,000 participants, the researchers limited their study population to those 20 to 54 years of age with information on endometriosis diagnosis.
The researchers then analysed the data, dividing the cadmium levels into four classes, or quartiles, with the first quartile being the lowest exposure and the fourth being the largest exposure.

They found that participants in the second and third quartiles were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with endometriosis than those in the first quartile. The data also suggests a 60% increased prevalence of endometriosis based on urinary cadmium concentrations in the fourth quartile.

"The findings are interesting given that cadmium can act like the hormone oestrogen, and this hormone is central to the development of endometriosis," Hall said.

The researchers say further studies are needed to confirm their findings. Upson said this work is part of her larger research looking at everyday factors that may increase toxic metal exposure in women as well as the impact of toxic metals on gynaecologic health. Hall plans to incorporate environmental factors in their ongoing research on endometriosis and other gynaecologic conditions.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R00NR017191. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Mandy S Hall, Nicole M Talge, Kristen Upson. Urinary cadmium and endometriosis prevalence in a US nationally representative sample: results from NHANES 1999–2006. Human Reproduction, 2023; DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dead117

How burgers and chips for lunch can worsen your asthma that afternoon

Evan WilliamsUniversity of Newcastle

Certain foods or dietary patterns are linked with better control of your asthma. Others may make it worse. Depending on what you’ve eaten, you can see the effects in hours.

Food can affect how well your lungs function, how often you have asthma attacks and how well your puffer works.

Here’s what we know about which foods to eat more of, and which are best to eat in smaller amounts, if you have asthma.

Asthma And Inflammation

About one in ten Australians (2.7 million people) have asthma. This makes it the fourth most common chronic (persisting) disease in Australia.

Asthma is an inflammatory disease. When someone is exposed to certain triggers (such as respiratory viruses, dust or exercise), the airways leading to the lungs become inflamed and narrow. This makes it difficult for them to breathe during what’s commonly known as an asthma attack (or exacerbation).

Researchers are becoming increasingly aware of how someone’s diet can affect their asthma symptoms, including how often they have one of these attacks.

Thumbs Up For Fruit And Veg

The Mediterranean diet – a diet high in fruit, vegetables and oily fish – is linked with less wheezing in children, whether or not they have been diagnosed with asthma. Some, but not all, of the studies found this was regardless of the children’s body-mass index (BMI) or socioeconomic status.

Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is also important for adults with asthma. Two studies found adults who were instructed to eat a diet with few fruits and vegetables (two or fewer servings of vegetables, and one serving of fruit daily) had worse lung function and were twice as likely to have an asthma attack compared to those eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Mediterranean diet pyramid
The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants and soluble fibre. Shutterstock

Why might the Mediterranean diet, or one rich in fruit and vegetables, help? Researchers think it’s because people are eating more antioxidants and soluble fibre, both of which have anti-inflammatory action:

  • antioxidants neutralise free radicals. These are the damaging molecules produced as a result of inflammation, which can ultimately cause more inflammation

  • soluble fibre is fermented by gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate and butyrate, which reduce inflammation.

The Mediterranean diet is also high in omega-3 fatty acids (from oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna). However a review looked at five studies that investigated omega-3 intake (through the diet or with a supplement) in adults with asthma. None of the studies showed any benefit associated with omega-3 for asthma.

Of course there is no harm in eating foods high in omega-3 – such as oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. This has numerous other benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease.

Thumbs Down For Saturated Fat, Sugar, Red Meat

Saturated fats are found in highly processed foods such as biscuits, sausages, pastries and chocolate, and in fast foods.

Diets high in saturated fats, plus sugar and red meat, can worsen someone’s asthma symptoms.

For instance, one study found a diet high in these foods increased the number of asthma attacks in adults.

Woman clutching throat reaching for asthma inhaler on table
What you eat can affect how well your asthma puffer works. Shutterstock

Foods high in saturated fat can have an impact in as little as four hours.

One study looked at what happened when adults with asthma ate a meal high in saturated fat (consisting of two hash browns, a sausage and egg muffin, and a sausage muffin) compared with a meal with similar calories but low in saturated fat.

People who ate the meal high in saturated fat had reduced lung function within four hours. Within four hours, their puffer was also less effective.

These worsening symptoms were likely driven by an increase in inflammation. Around the four hour mark, researchers found an increase in the number of the immune cells known as neutrophils, which play a role in inflammation.

It’s still OK to eat a sneaky burger or some hot chips occasionally if you have asthma. But knowing that eating too many of these foods can affect your asthma can help you make choices that might improve your quality of life.

What About Dairy?

One food type you don’t have to avoid, though, is dairy products.

Although many people with asthma report eating dairy worsens their asthma, evidence shows this to be untrue. In fact, one study in adults with asthma found drinking milk was linked to better lung function.The Conversation

Evan Williams, Postdoctoral Researcher in Respiratory and Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Link Found Between Childhood Television Watching And Adulthood Metabolic Syndrome

July 24, 2023
A University of Otago study has added weight to the evidence that watching too much television as a child can lead to poor health in adulthood.

The research, led by Professor Bob Hancox, of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, and published this week in the journal Paediatrics, found that children who watched more television were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome as an adult.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels that lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Using data from 879 participants of the Dunedin study, researchers found those who watched more television between the ages of 5 and 15 were more likely to have these conditions at age 45.

Television viewing times were asked at ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. On average, they watched just over two hours per weekday.

"Those who watched the most had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in adulthood," Professor Hancox says.

"More childhood television viewing time was also associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity and lower physical fitness."

Boys watched slightly more television than girls and metabolic syndrome was more common in men, than women (34 percent and 20 per cent respectively). The link between childhood television viewing time and adult metabolic syndrome was seen in both sexes however, and may even be stronger in women.
There was little evidence that watching less television as an adult reduced the association between childhood television viewing and adult health.

"While, like any observational study, researchers cannot prove that the association between television viewing at a young age directly causes adult metabolic syndrome, there are several plausible mechanisms by which longer television viewing times could lead to poorer long-term health.

"Television viewing has low energy expenditure and could displace physical activity and reduce sleep quality," he says.

"Screentime may also promote higher energy intake, with children consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat dietary products with fewer fruit and vegetables. These habits may persist into adulthood."

The results are important because screen times have increased in recent years with new technologies.

"Children today have far more access to screen-based entertainment and spend much more time being sedentary. It is likely that this will have even more detrimental effects for adult health.

 "These findings lend support to the World Health Organisation recommendation that children and young teenagers should limit their recreational screen time."

Nathan MacDonell, Robert J. Hancox. Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Metabolic Syndrome in Mid-Adulthood. Pediatrics, 2023; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2022-060768

Ground-Breaking E-Scooter Study Shows Surface Transitions As Most Common Hurdle

July 25, 2023
A historic study has provided first-time insights on electric scooters. In September 2019, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) began the first large-scale naturalistic driving study of electric scooter, also known as e-scooter, riders. Over the span of 18 months, 50 scooters, equipped with forward-facing cameras and other research equipment, collected over 9,000 miles of data from over 200,000 rides on Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus. Deployment of the scooters began in August 2019. After being removed from campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were redeployed in August 2021 through the academic year.

"The e-scooter deployment at Virginia Tech collected the largest naturalistic e-scooter data set known to date and quantified the safety risks associated with behavioural, infrastructure, and environmental factors," said Elizabeth White, programs and business manager for VTTI. "This was a very exciting research program to be a part of, and our collaboration with many departments on campus was invaluable to ensuring a safe deployment.

White was the lead researcher of the team that included six other Virginia Tech researchers and other industry experts. The results were recently published in published in the Journal of Safety Research.

Utilizing VTTI's proprietary data acquisition system (DAS), researchers found that infrastructure-related factors, the behaviours of e-scooter riders and other around them, and environmental factors all created risk for e-scooter users. They found loss of control related to infrastructure was the greatest contributor, to all crash- and near-crash events, equating to 47 percent. In total, infrastructure caused 67 percent of incidents, followed by the presence of other road users at 19 percent and rider behaviour at 14 percent.

Transitions from surfaces, such as moving from gravel or dirt to grass, proved to be the riskiest. Those riders were almost 60 times more likely to have a crash or near-crash experience. This was supported by data showing that riding off a designated path, or off-road, made users nearly 25 times more likely to experience such issues compared to those who rode on a shared-use path.

During the study, there were no crashes between an e-scooter and a moving vehicle captured. Conflicts with other road users were shown to be more avoidable through evasive manoeuvres when compared to infrastructure-related events. Researchers believe this is likely caused by riders misjudging the terrain or infrastructure or a lack of skill in navigating those obstacles.

VTTI pioneered DAS in the 1990s and it is frequently used by researchers to provide an in-depth look at driver behaviours. These systems allowed rider behaviour, interactions with other road users, and other valuable safety data to be recorded and analysed for various trends. To date, it has been used on everything from e-scooters to semi-trucks. For the e-scooter study, devices did not film the rider, just the riding behavior in order to maintain rider privacy. Riders also were limited to the Blacksburg campus.

To improve safety for riders, the research team recommends all riders engage in an educational outreach program that discusses the significant risks associated with infrastructure, behaviour, and environmental factors. Meanwhile, VTTI and its partners will continue to study ways to improve safety around Blacksburg and beyond.

"We are in continued conversations with campus stakeholders to determine the future of micro-mobility on the Virginia Tech campus," said White.

The project was funded in part by the Safety Through Disruption, a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's University Transportation Centers program. The research was conducted in partnership with Ford and Spin.

Ford later sold off Spin.

Elizabeth White, Feng Guo, Shu Han, Mike Mollenhauer, Andrea Broaddus, Ted Sweeney, Sarah Robinson, Adam Novotny, Ralph Buehler. What factors contribute to e-scooter crashes: A first look using a naturalistic riding approach. Journal of Safety Research, 2023; 85: 182 DOI: 10.1016/j.jsr.2023.02.002

VTTI conducted the first large-scale naturalistic driving study of electric scooter riders. Photo by Jacob Levin for Virginia Tech.

Risk Of Fatal Heart Attack May Double In Heat Wave And High Fine Particulate Pollution Days

July 24, 2023
The combination of soaring heat and smothering fine particulate pollution may double the risk of heart attack death, according to a new study of more than 202,000 heart attack deaths in China. The study published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation.

"Extreme temperature events are becoming more frequent, longer and more intense, and their adverse health effects have drawn growing concern. Another environmental issue worldwide is the presence of fine particulate matter in the air, which may interact synergistically with extreme temperatures to adversely affect cardiovascular health," said senior author Yuewei Liu, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. "However, it remains unknown if and how co-exposure to extreme temperatures and fine particulate pollution might interact to trigger a greater risk of death from heart attack, which is an acute response potentially brought on by an acute scenario and a great public health challenge due to its substantial disease burden worldwide."

To examine the impact of extreme temperatures with and without high levels of fine particulate pollution, the researchers analysed 202,678 heart attack deaths between 2015-2020 that occurred in Jiangsu province, a region with four distinct seasons and a wide range of temperatures and fine particulate pollution levels. The deaths were among older adults with an average age of 77.6 years; 52% were older than age 80; and 52% were male. Particulate exposure on the day of each death and one day before death were included in the analysis.

Extreme temperatures were gauged according to the daily heat index (also referred to as apparent temperature) for an area, which captures the combined effect of both heat and humidity. Both the length and extremeness of heat waves and cold snaps were evaluated. Heart attack deaths, or case days, during these periods were compared with control days on the same day of the week in the same month -- meaning that if a death occurred on a Wednesday, all other Wednesdays in the same month would be considered control days. Particulate levels were considered high on any day with an average level of fine particulate matter above 37.5 micrograms per cubic meter.

"Our findings provide evidence that reducing exposure to both extreme temperatures and fine particulate pollution may be useful to prevent premature deaths from heart attack, especially for women and older adults," Liu said.

Compared with control days, the risk of a fatal heart attack was observed at the following levels:
  • 18% higher during 2-day heat waves with heat indexes at or above the 90th percentile (ranging from 82.6 to 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit), increasing with temperature and duration, and was 74% higher during 4-day heat waves with heat indexes at or above the 97.5th percentile (ranging from 94.8 to 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit). For context, 6,417 (3.2%) of the 202,678 observed deaths from heart attack happened during heat waves with heat indexes at or above the 95th percentile (ranging from 91.2 to 104.7 degrees Fahrenheit) for three or more days.
  • 4% higher during 2-day cold snaps with temperatures at or below the 10th percentile (ranging from 33.3 to 40.5 degrees Fahrenheit), increasing with lower temperatures and duration, and was 12% higher during 3-day cold snaps with temperatures at or below the 2.5th percentile (ranging from 27.0 to 37.2 degrees Fahrenheit). For context, 6,331 (3.1%) of the 202,678 observed deaths from heart attack happened during cold spells with temperatures at or below the 5th percentile (ranging from 30.0 to 38.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for 3 or more days.
  • Twice as high during 4-day heat waves that had fine particulate pollution above 37.5 micrograms per cubic meter. Days with high levels of fine particulate pollution during cold snaps did not have an equivalent increase in the risk of heart attack death.
  • Generally higher among women than men during heat waves.
  • Higher among people ages 80 and older than in younger adults during heat waves, cold snaps or days with high levels of fine particulate pollution.
  • The mean age of all individuals who died from a heart attack in Jiangsu from 2015-2020, including during non-extreme temperature events, was 77.6 years old; 52.1% of these individuals were over 80 years old.
The researchers estimated that up to 2.8% of heart attack deaths may be attributed to the combination of extreme temperatures and high levels of fine particulate pollution (> 37.5 micrograms per cubic meter), according to WHO targets.

Wildfire hazy sky over Philadelphia - copyright American Heart Association 2023

"Strategies for individuals to avoid negative health effects from extreme temperatures include following weather forecasts, staying inside when temperatures are extreme, using fans and air conditioners during hot weather, dressing appropriately for the weather, proper hydration and installing window blinds to reduce indoor temperatures," said Liu. "Using an air purifier in the house, wearing a mask outdoors, staying clear of busy highways when walking and choosing less-strenuous outdoor activities may also help to reduce exposure to air pollution on days with high levels of fine particulate pollution. To improve public health, it is important to take fine particulate pollution into consideration when providing extreme temperature warnings to the public."

In a 2020 scientific statement and a 2020 policy statement, the American Heart Association details the latest science about air pollution exposure and the individual, industrial and policy measures to reduce the negative impact of poor air quality on cardiovascular health. Reducing exposure to air pollution and reversing the negative impact of poor air quality on cardiovascular health, including heart disease and stroke, is essential to reducing health inequities in Black and Hispanic communities, those that have been historically marginalized and under-resourced, and communities that have the highest levels of exposure to air pollution.

The investigators recommended additional research about the possible interactive effects of extreme weather events and fine particulate pollution on heart attack deaths in areas with different temperature and pollution ranges to confirm their findings. The study did not include adjustments for any adaptive behaviours taken by individuals, such as using air conditioning and staying indoors, when temperatures are extreme or pollution levels are high, which could cause misclassification of individuals' exposure to weather and alter their risk patterns. These results also may not be generalizable to other regions in China or other countries due to potential variations of adaption capacity and temperature distribution.

  • Fine particulates are less than 2.5 microns in size and may be inhaled deep into the lungs, where they can irritate the lungs and blood vessels around the heart. Most are associated with fuel combustion, such as particles from car exhaust, factory emissions or wildfires.
  • Previous research has confirmed that exposure to particulate matter including fine particulates is linked to heart disease, stroke and other health issues.
  • For context, the World Health Organization's target for average annual exposure to fine particulate pollution level is no more than 5 micrograms per cubic meter and no more than 15 micrograms per cubic meter for more than 3-4 days per year.
  • In this study, heat waves were defined as periods at or above the 90th, 92.5th, 95th and 97.5th percentiles of daily heat indexes (ranging from 82.6 to 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit across Jiangsu province, China) for at least 2, 3 or 4 consecutive days.
  • Cold spells were defined as periods at or below the 10th, 7.5th, 5th, 2.5th percentiles of daily heat indexes (ranging from 27 to 40.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 2, 3 or 4 consecutive days.
Ruijun Xu, Suli Huang, Chunxiang Shi, Rui Wang, Tingting Liu, Yingxin Li, Yi Zheng, Ziquan Lv, Jing Wei, Hong Sun, Yuewei Liu. Extreme Temperature Events, Fine Particulate Matter, and Myocardial Infarction Mortality. Circulation, 2023; 148 (4): 312 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.063504

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.