Inbox and Environment News: Issue 598

September 10 - 16, 2023: Issue 598

Trafalgar Park Newport: Playground Renewal - Feedback Invited

Comments close: Sunday 1 October 2023
As part of the 2023/24 Capital Works Playground Renewal Program, the council are proposing to undertake the replacement of Trafalgar Park Playground in Newport. 

The council propose to replace the existing play equipment and introduce rubberised surfacing, new edging, new retaining walls, new seating and new path connections (material for new paths not specified on plan). The council propose to change some of the shape and size of play areas as well.

The council now offers an opportunity to provide input on what you like and value about the park and playground before they finalise the plans now on exhibit and engage their contractor.

The council has stated they have already visited Newport Public School and spoke to Year 1 students about the playground and the upcoming renewal project. 

''We listened to a few ideas and answered questions to help with their learning project. As part of this session, we asked which style of senior play equipment (aimed at children aged 6 to 10 years) they preferred. Now we would like to ask the same question to the wider community.'' the council states

Please note that the outcome of this vote may not necessarily result in this piece being selected by the council for Trafalgar Park, but it will help guide their decision-making for Trafalgar Park or other upcoming projects.

Take a look at the concepts and share your thoughts by:
All comments in their entirety are made publicly available in the Community Engagement Report. Personal identifying information and inappropriate language are redacted.

Council state they aim to engage a playground contractor to carry out works in early 2024.

Trafalgar Park has been classified as a ‘neighbourhood’ playground and hence the current size is considered appropriate. The current playground size provides a good balance between the playground and open space that can be used for play or other recreational purposes.

The current project and budget only allow for the renewal of the playground and associated landscaping. Other facilities such as toilets and lighting and currently not planned or budgeted for. The council states 'these types of facilities would require further planning, investigation and thorough community consultation'.

The playground is located among established trees and open space of Trafalgar Park. The playground is used by school children from the neighbouring Newport Public School.

September Is Biodiversity Month: Time To Repair, Restore, Respect Our Plants And Wildlife

September is a special month  – it’s biodiversity month.

Biodiversity helps our environment stay healthy and vibrant. From vast deserts to lush forests, Australia is home to a huge range of plants, animals, and ecosystems.

Every plant, animal, and microbe play a role. Together, they maintain balance and provide resources. This includes clean air, water, and food.

Recognise the unique and varied life on our beautiful country. Australia has up to 700,000 different species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

But human activity has put many of these unique species at risk. The Australian government have developed a Threatened Species Action Plan which it hopes maps a pathway to protect, manage and restore Australia’s threatened species and important natural places. By reading the plan and spreading the word, you can raise awareness of our threatened species and places.

It’s not just about threatened species. Biodiversity month is about protecting, repairing, and managing nature better. 

The government is working towards a Nature Positive Australia, through significant projects and reform, to support conditions where nature – species and ecosystems – is being repaired and is regenerating rather than being in decline.

This month, they are asking everyone to join in and help celebrate. There are many ways you can support biodiversity month:
  • go on a Bush walk in your area,
  • look out for and after our wildlife and plants
  • keep a nature journal or connect with nature,
  • share your observations with the iNaturalistAU community.
Share your love of nature on social media by uploading photos, videos and stories with the hashtags #GetIntoNature, #biodiversitymonth #ConnectingWithCountry 

Black Cockatoo Crisis is a visually stunning movie by Jane Hammond that highlights the plight of black cockatoos in Western Australia but ends with a message of hope and a call to action. Bring your friends and family to this community event and learn more about the devastating impact of land clearance and logging on the Black Cockatoos in Western Australia.

The habitat of the Glossy Black Cockatoos and Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos on the Northern Beaches will suffer a similar fate of fragmentation and destruction if the development of bushland areas such as the Patyegarang planning proposal at Belrose is approved (previously known as Lizard Rock). Learn also about the bigger picture across NSW in relation to preventing logging of native forests and protection of native wildlife. 

Come along and meet like-minded people in your community, share a drink, make new friends and find out how you can help. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to see Black Cockatoos Crisis, only screened a few times in Sydney and not available online. 

Tickets are free to make the event accessible to all however donations towards the cost of the privately funded venue and film license fees are appreciated.

Any additional funds raised will be split equally between the Black Cockatoos Crisis Project and the Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians. Thank you to Dee Why RSL for a generous discount on the cost of the venue. 

Event Program:
  • 6:30 pm arrival for a 7:00 pm start
  • 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm - Screening of Black Cockatoos Crisis Movie and Guest Speakers
  • 9:00 pm - 9:30 pm - Social drinks
- Uncle Neil Evers will give the welcome to country as a Garigal man and explain the significance of black cockatoos.

- Professor Rico Merkert and Mr David Li from the University of Sydney Business School will explain the impact on carbon emissions of the proposed land development at Lizard Rock and the importance of reducing carbon emissions across all sectors of society.

- Our Independent Federal M.P for Mackellar, Dr Sophie Scamps will talk about the exciting projects that she’s been working on at the Federal level to protect our native forests and wildlife, find out what you can do to support her.

The Powerful Owl Project:  It’s Fledging Time! 

Our favourite time of year is here. 
Powerful Owlets have taken that great leap of faith from several hollows in Greater Sydney and the delightful sound of trilling owlets is floating out from many more.
These gorgeous balls of fluff are very vulnerable for the first few weeks after they fledge. They’re still learning to fly and they’re easily frightened. Frightened owlets might trill or flush from their roost and then be mobbed by day birds.

If you’re lucky enough to come across owlets, observe quietly and from a distance. 

If you take your dog with you when you go walking, please keep it on-leash, especially in parkland and in the bush, to help keep newly fledged owlets safe.

NB: Dogs are prohibited in Pittwater Wildlife Preservation Areas.
Photo: PO Project

Stony Range Spring Festival 2023: Sunday September 10

Bushcare Training Day At North Narrabeen

All volunteers new and experienced are invited to register for Council's Bushcare training day: 
Saturday 16th September 9:00am to 1:30pm - Lunch provided
Coastal Environment Centre, Narrabeen & Site Visit to Irrawong Bushcare Site

Council will be hosting a hands-on training day, with topics covering: 
  • Weed identification and best practice removal techniques
  • Native plant identification and weed species including lookalikes
  • Hands-on weed removal
  • Bring along your unknown plant species for identification
Site visit to Irrawong Bushcare site and meet some fellow bushcare volunteers
Please confirm if you would like to register for the day by replying to and let Council know if you would be interested in staying for lunch.

Get Ready Weekend 2023: Know Your Risk This Bush Fire Season

The risk of bush fires is returning. With several years of wet weather grass and scrub has grown across NSW. Talk to your local RFS members about the likely risk of bush or grass fire in your local area.

In September every year RFS members are out in the community hosting Get Ready Weekend events. Contact your local brigade to find out when and where they are holding an event.

Get Ready Weekend is held across NSW in around 500 locations and its aim is to encourage residents and landowners to plan and prepare for the upcoming bush fire season.

In 2023, the majority of Get Ready Weekend events will be held on the weekend of September 16 and 17.

If you live in an area near grasslands or farms, recent rain has caused widespread grass growth. As this dries out the risk of grassfires increases. Grass fires can start easily and move quickly. Farmlands may be at increased risk.

Even if you live in an area affected by the 2019/20 bush fires, you may be at risk this bush fire season. Many areas are seeing new growth among grasses and shrubs. It takes only a few days of hot dry and windy weather for these to dry out. Fires may start quickly and move quickly.

If you live in an area near bushland that was not affected by recent fires you may be at higher risk this Summer. Recent wet weather has encouraged growth and has hampered efforts for fire agencies to reduce hazards.

With hot and drier conditions expected this Summer, you may be at higher than normal risk of bush and grass fire. Know your risk this bush fire season and prepare well ahead.

Get prepared now at

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Newport Beach Clean Up - Sunday September 24

Time: 10am to 12.15
Come and join us for our Newport beach clean up. We'll meet at Bert Payne Park, just south of clubhouse. We have clean and washed gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up the grass area to try and catch the litter before it hits the beach as well as cleaning the beach, trying to remove as much plastic, cigarette butts and rubbish as possible. No booking required. Just show up on the day. We'll be there no matter what weather.

We will clean up for about 90 min (to about 11.30am, and then take a group pic with all the rubbish. We often go for lunch together afterwards (at own cost) - it's a great opportunity to get to know everywhere.
We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event (just leave political, religious and business messages at home so everyone feel welcome). It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. Send us a message if you are lost. Please invite family and friends and share this event.

The Turimetta Beach Clean Crew- August 2023 - and what was recovered. Photo NBCUC

Palmgrove Park Avalon: New Bushcare Group Begins 

Palmgrove Park Avalon is a remnant of the Spotted Gum forest that was once widespread on the lower slopes of the Pittwater peninsula. This bushland’s official name and forest type is Pittwater and Wagstaffe Endangered Ecological Community, endangered because so much has been cleared for suburban development. Canopy trees, smaller trees and shrubs, and ground layer plants make up this community. Though scattered remnant Spotted Gums remain on private land, there is little chance of seedlings surviving in gardens and lawns. More information HERE

A grant to PNHA from Council in 2021 funded revegetation of a section between Dress Circle Rd and Bellevue Rd. The tubestock planted there late in 2022 by students from Avalon Primary and bush regeneration contractors is flourishing.

More tubestock was planted on National Tree Day on July 30 2023.

A new Bushcare group will now be working there from Saturday August 5, starting at 9am and working for up to three hours. Your help would be wonderful.

Contact Pittwater Natural Heritage Association on to find out more.

Avalon Dunes Bushcare Update: Next Session On October 1st

Even more progress on the dunes last Sunday, September 3rd. Amanda scored the biggest Turkey Rhubarb of the morning, a weed featuring in last week's Gardening Australia. 
Morning Tea with Apple Cake, Coastal Teatree in glorious bloom. 

Next work morning: October 1. Don't miss it!

Meet 8.30 near the Montessori School off Tasman Rd North Avalon.  
We finish at 11.30 but any time you can spare is great. Morning Tea, cake and Tools provided, BYO gardening gloves. 
We work as the Avalon Dunes Bushcare on the FIRST SUNDAY of the month.

To find out more please email

Coastal Teatree, Leptospermum laevigatum. This is favourite food of Ringtail Possums. A possum drey /nest was above our morning tea spot.

Amanda with her prizewinning Turkey Rhubarb tubers. Rumex sagittatus, synonym Acetosa sagittata, native to South Africa and an invasive weed here.

Want the recipe? Join our bushcare group.

Avalon Dunes Bushcare Group after September 2023 session in their War on Weeds. Missing from this photo: Marita Macrae (behind the camera)

Tiny Carnivorous Critters: Researchers Discover Two New Aussie Mammals

Two new species of Australia’s tiniest meat-eating marsupials – planigales – have been discovered by a team led by researchers working at QUT in Brisbane and the Western Australian Museum in Perth.

Until recently there were four types of known planigale species in Australia, but now there are six.

The newly identified desert-dwelling species are both inhabitants of the Pilbara region of north-west Western Australia: the orange-headed Pilbara planigale (Planigale kendricki) and the cracking-clay Pilbara planigale (P. tealei).

The discovery has been published in the journal Zootaxa.

Lead author Dr Linette Umbrello is a postdoctoral researcher with the QUT School of Biology and Environmental Science in the Faculty of Science, and with the Western Australian Museum, and worked with colleagues around Australia including her supervisor Dr Andrew Baker – a mammologist from QUT and the Queensland Museum.
Dr Umbrello said it was exciting for mammologists and taxonomists to discover two new species at a time when mammals across Australia were facing extinction threats from development, climate change and introduced predators.

She said planigales were fascinating animals.

“Planigales are smaller than a mouse, with some weighing less than a teaspoon of water – but they punch above their weight,” Dr Umbrello said.

“They are fierce predators and often take on prey as big as themselves, or bigger.

“The name ‘planigale’ comes from Latin and Greek and literally translates as ‘flat weasel’, which alludes to planigales’ extremely flat heads.

The orange-headed Pilbara planigale (Planigale kendricki). Photo: Roy Teale.. 

“Of our two new species, the orange-headed Pilbara planigale is the larger, with an average weight of seven grams. It’s an orange colour, as the name suggests, and has a longer, pointier snout.

“The cracking-clay Pilbara planigale is much smaller, averaging just four grams with darker colouration and a shorter face. It has only been found on cracking clay soils, hence its name.

“Both species actively forage during the night for food including grasshoppers, small lizards and other invertebrates, and they take shelter during the day.”

The cracking-clay Pilbara planigale (P. tealei). Photo: Dr Linette Umbrello.

Officially describing any newly discovered animal is often a lengthy process with many formal steps … and the journey to name the new planigales has been no exception.

The process of describing the new species started more than 20 years ago when scientists at the Western Australian Museum began studying survey reports from ecologists in the Pilbara who had captured planigales that didn’t fit existing descriptions of the known species.

Scientists led by the late taxonomist Dr Ken Aplin examined specimens held in the WA Museum and began sequencing their DNA, which suggested there may be two new species. 

Since then, many more specimens and genetic samples have been collected from the Pilbara, which allowed Dr Umbrello and colleagues to build on the earlier work, finalise the species descriptions and submit the research for publication – all crucial steps to provide more evidence for the new names to become official.

The new research paper, Hiding in plain sight: two new species of diminutive marsupial (Dasyuridae: Planigale) from the Pilbara, Australia, is authored by Dr Umbrello and Dr Baker, and researchers from the Western Australian Museum, University of Adelaide, South Australian Museum, La Trobe University and Australian Museum.

The research has received funding support from the Australian Biological Resources Study and QUT. 

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

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

Statement From President Joe Biden On Protecting Arctic Lands And Wildlife In Alaska

September 6, 2023
Alaska is home to many of America’s most breath-taking natural wonders and culturally significant areas. As the climate crisis warms the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, we have a responsibility to protect this treasured region for all ages.

Cancelling all remaining oil and gas leases issued under the previous administration in the Arctic Refuge and protecting more than 13 million acres in the Western Arctic will help preserve our Arctic lands and wildlife, while honouring the culture, history, and enduring wisdom of Alaska Natives who have lived on these lands since time immemorial. 

From day one, I have delivered on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in our country’s history. But there is more to do, and my administration will continue to take bold action to meet the urgency of the climate crisis and to protect our lands and waters for generations to come.

$850,000 In Funding Open To Improve Fish Habitat

Keen local anglers, farmers, land managers and community groups are invited to apply for the latest round of the Habitat Action Grants to see their local waterways flourish with more than $850,000 available, Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty announced.

Habitat Action Grants are open from 8 August 2023 to 29 September 2023.

Ms Moriarty said that recreational fishing groups, community organisations, local councils and natural resource managers across the state would have until September 29 to apply for funding for their projects to improve habitat for native fish.

“These grants will see up to $40,000 awarded per project for both our inland waterways and our coastal systems,” Ms Moriarty said.

“The Habitat Action Grant program is a fantastic opportunity to improve your local creek, river, estuary or surrounding area to promote healthy waterways and to encourage more native fish, naturally.

“I encourage as many submissions as possible – so we can improve fish habitat to give our local fishers some great opportunities to make a difference in their area.

“As locals, you know your waterways better than anyone, so it’s time to float your ideas and come up with some fantastic ways to enhance our aquatic environments. We are particularly interested in your concepts for rehabilitating Trout cod and their freshwater habitats.”

Habitat Action Grants are supported by the Recreational Fishing Trusts, with funds being raised by the NSW Recreational Fishing Fees.

“This is your opportunity to put your recreational fishing fees to work to make more fish”

In the past, habitat rehabilitation projects which have been funded have included:
  • removal or modification of barriers to fish passage
  • rehabilitation of riparian lands (riverbanks, wetlands, mangrove forests, saltmarsh)
  • re-snagging waterways with timber structure
  • the removal of exotic vegetation from waterways and replacement with native plants
  • bank stabilisation works
  • fencing to exclude livestock.
“There are some long-term benefits for completing this work and ultimately, it’s about making sure we have functional fish habitat and happy native fish here in NSW.”

Since 2009, the Recreational Fishing Trusts have invested nearly $8 million into the Habitat Action Grants program, seeing significant improvement to fish habitat across NSW.

For more information and to apply for this round, visit

Blue Mountains National Park And Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Plan Of Management: Public Consultation

The Blue Mountains National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Plan of Management is on public exhibition until 26 September 2023.
Public exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for community members to have a say in the future management of the Blue Mountains and Kanangra-Boyd national parks. Once adopted, this plan of management will replace the existing plans for these parks, which were adopted in 2001.

The draft plan is accompanied by the Blue Mountains National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Planning Considerations report. It is recommended that readers of the plan refer to the planning considerations report for detailed explanations of the parks' values and management considerations.

These parks are a part of Darug and Gundungurra Country. The parks form the core component of one of the largest and most intact stretches of protected bushland in New South Wales. They are part of the Greater Blue Mountains Area World and National Heritage property, contain significant areas of wilderness, occupy a large part of the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment, and are one of the key attractions in a major tourism region.

Key management directions and new uses for buildings or new campsites proposed in the draft plan includes:
  • improving recognition of the parks significant values, including World and National Heritage values, and providing for adaptive management to protect the values
  • recognising and supporting the continuation of partnerships with Aboriginal communities
  • providing outstanding nature-based experiences for visitors through improvements to visitor facilities - including:
  • Opportunities for supported or serviced camping, where tents and services are provided by commercial tour operators, may be offered at some camping areas in the parks 
  • Jamison Creek, Jamison Valley Walk-in camping Potential new camping
  • Leura Amphitheatre Jamison Valley Walk-in camping Potential new camping
  • Mount Solitary Jamison Valley Walk-in camping Potential new camping
  • Maxwell’s HuC Kedumba Valley Cabin/hut Potential new accommodation
  • Kedumba Valley Maxwell’s Hut (historic slab hut) - Building restoration in progress; potential new Accommodation for bushwalkers
  • Government Town Police station; courthouse - Potential new Visitor accommodation
Documents available at: HERE

Have your say
Public exhibition is from 28 July 2023 to 26 September 2023.

You can provide your written submission in any of the following ways:

Email your submission to:
Post your written submission to:
Manager, National Parks and Wildlife Service Planning and Assessment
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124
All submissions must be received by 26 September 2023.

Our response to your submission will be based on the merits of the ideas and issues you raise rather than the quantity of submissions making similar points. For this reason, a submission that clearly explains the matters it raises will be the most effective way to influence the finalisation of the plan.

Submissions are most effective when DPE/NPWS understand your ideas and the outcomes you want for park management. Some suggestions to help you write your submissions are:
  • write clearly and be specific about the issues that are of concern to you
  • note which part or section of the document your comments relate to
  • give reasoning in support of your points - this makes it easier for us to consider your ideas and will help avoid misinterpretation
  • tell us specifically what you agree/disagree with and why you agree or disagree
  • suggest solutions or alternatives to managing the issue if you can.
Your submission will be provided to relevant National Parks and Wildlife Service advisory bodies. See our privacy policy at link above for information on how they will treat any personal information you provide.

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:

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

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.

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

Are Murray-Darling Basin Rivers Getting The Water They Need To Stay Healthy?: Only 31% Of Sites Have Achieved Targets Needed To Keep Them Alive - The Rest Are In Decline

September 8, 2023
Under the Water Act 2007, governments are now required by law to ensure water extraction in the Murray-Darling Basin does not compromise ecosystems that depend on freshwater flows. The Wentworth Group has assessed the extent to which the Murray-Darling Basin’s rivers have received the flows they need to stay healthy.

The Wentworth Group findings showed that while some improvements have been observed in the decade since the Basin Plan was enacted, most flow requirements assessed were not achieved, with implications for the health of the Basin’s rivers, ecosystems, and communities. They have made recommendations to enhance water management for the health of the Murray-Darling Basin in a changing climate.

The study spanned a 43.5-year period from 1 July 1979 to 31 December 2022. This period included five La Niña events, where rainfall and river discharge were higher than average, and eight El Niño events including the 2001-2009 Millennium Drought, one of the severest droughts on record, and the 2017-2019 period where inflows were the lowest on record.

Extracts from Recommendations paper:

The Murray-Darling Basin is not receiving the flows it needs to stay healthy
The paper recently submitted to the journal Marine and Freshwater Research, we found only about a third (31%) of the Basin’s environmental water requirements were achieved in the past 43 years (Figure 2). Within this period, we found that only 26% of the water requirements we examined have been met since the Basin Plan was enacted a decade ago (2012-2022). These are conservative estimates, probably overstating the level of achievement.

Water requirements were more likely be met in the tributaries of the Darling-Baaka River in the northern Basin, with sites further downstream and along the River Murray showing lower levels of achievement (Figure 2). This probably reflects later water resource development in the Darling-Baaka River catchment.

There were some improvements in achievement of environmental flow requirements during the Basin Plan years. In particular, we observed increases in small freshes or flows in the southern Basin, where environmental water was delivered. These findings are consistent with other studies which demonstrated the benefits of water delivered to ecosystems: these include protecting freshwater species and maintaining core floodplain wetland habitat inundated by environmental flows.

However, a more detailed examination of results over the decades showed a declining trend with respect to achievement of environmental water requirements at most locations (Figure 3). This trend includes growing water resource development before the Basin Plan, making it increasingly difficult to meet the environmental water requirements.

These findings suggest that the Basin Plan may be slowing the long-term decline of flow requirements in the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin, rather than halting or reversing the decline.

Figure 2. Left: Map showing the rivers in the Murray–Darling Basin and their flow gauges where the environmental flow requirements were assessed and the percent of environmental water requirements achieved at each river gauge site, across flow categories (Figure 1), based on analyses of actual flow data, 1979-2022 (43.5 years). Top right: percentage achievement of environmental water requirements assessed. Bottom right: environmental water requirements achieved and not achieved in relation to the four flow categories, analysed using actual flow data (1979-2022).

Without the required flows, the river system is under threat
The failure to achieve environmental water requirements across an extended period of time is reflected in evidence of poor species and ecosystem condition across the Murray-Darling Basin.
In the past decade alone, there have major fish kills in the Darling-Baaka River, toxic algal (cyanobacteria) blooms across the Basin, and degradation of river red gum and black box forests.

The poor condition of flow-dependent ecosystems continues to be documented in monitoring and evaluation assessments including the Sustainable Rivers Audits, the 2020 Murray–Daring Basin Plan evaluation and the 2021 State of the Environment Report

Without sufficient flows, there are serious and irreversible consequences for the long-term ecological health of the Basin, the quality of water, and the wellbeing of communities who depend on healthy rivers, including the 40 Aboriginal Nations that call the Basin home.

Four key factors limiting achievement of environmental flow requirements
While our analysis did not specifically evaluate the factors limiting achievement, we consider the possible reasons environmental flow requirements may not have been achieved. This is due to a combination of the following four factors:

1. Insufficient long-term volumes of water for the environment. Modelled data showed that the long-term average volumes of water available in the river system underpins achievement of flow requirements: the more water available in the system, the greater the opportunities for environmental water requirements to be met. So far, only about 2,100 GL/y of water has been recovered for the environment under the Basin Plan. This volume falls well short of what the scientific evidence demonstrates is the minimum volume required for a healthy river, and is only two thirds of the 3,200 GL/y Basin Plan target.

2. Physical and management constraints (e.g. private property, roads, bridges and low-level crossings along floodplain corridors, operational rules) restrict the ability of river operators to release flows from storages in quantities sufficient to achieve minor overbank flooding and reconnect rivers to their floodplain ecosystems.

3. Environmental water requirements only guide river management, they are not codified in water plans: Environmental water requirements have been recently re-assessed as part of the Basin Plan’s water resource planning process but remain inadequately specified and linked to water management decisions, codified in rules and practice of water resource plans. Water management rules defined in upstream sub-Basin water plans are often not sufficient to protect water needed to meet downstream flow requirements.

4. Failure to account for and address impacts of climate change: The water recovery targets mandated under the Basin Plan are based on the historic climate record from 1896 to 2009 and as such do not account for the most recent severe drought on record or future climate change. The Plan does not include sufficient measures to directly adapt to climate change, and water management rules are not always capable of protecting key river flow events (such as the first flow after a drought).

As a consequence of these failures, environmental water managers are limited in their ability to achieve additional flow requirements because of insufficient water volumes, rules which prevent required flows from reaching downstream valleys and constraints to the delivery of environmental water across floodplain wetlands.

Flow requirements need to be at the heart of water management if we are to reverse the trajectory of decline
A step-change is needed to reverse the trajectory of decline.

Flow requirements are the fundamental metric for determining whether the Basin Plan is satisfying ecosystem needs and achieving an ecologically sustainable level of take. Importantly, they provide near real-time evidence based on actual flow data for which rivers and wetlands in the Basin are receiving the flows they require, which rivers are not and where management changes are needed.

Despite this, flow requirements are not currently used as a reporting tool. They need to be embedded into all water management decisions, and used adaptively to inform water planning, management, access, use, monitoring and evaluation. Without them, water management will continue to focus on one side of the ledger - what is extracted from the river - with little regard for what is left over and whether it is sufficient to maintain a healthy river system.

With changes in climate and declining water availability, it may not be possible to achieve every water requirement in the Basin. Governments need to be transparent about what we are trying to achieve, what we are failing to protect, and how we manage the consequences.

Australia now has access to the best available information on the flows required to achieve an environmentally sustainable level of take. Communities, experts and managers also have the knowledge and practical expertise to implement them. Embedding these flow requirements into management is crucial if we are to safeguard the health of the Murray-Darling Basin in a variable and changing climate.

Why are the Basin’s rivers worth protecting?
The Murray-Darling Basin is culturally, environmentally, and socially significant; it has been home to more than 40 Aboriginal Nations for more than 50,000 years, contains globally significant river, wetland and floodplain ecosystems and their biodiversity, and is now home to more than 2.3 million people, with a further 1.3 million people directly dependent on its water resources.

A healthy Murray-Darling Basin is vital for the wellbeing and livelihoods of these people, and of great importance to the whole of Australia. A healthy Murray-Darling Basin means:
  • Clean water for drinking and for growing food and fibre, with flows that flush salt, sediment and excess nutrients out of the Basin;
  • Economic benefits from recreation, fishing, tourism, agriculture and education;
  • Cultural and economic benefits for Aboriginal Nations;
  • Reduced risk of algal blooms, hypoxic blackwater events, acidification, salinisation and erosion, which pose significant health risks and impact farming, fishing and tourism;
  • Improved soil fertility and enhanced pastures in grazing landscapes as a result of the natural wetting cycles of floodplains;
  • Improved water security for farmers during dry periods, improved capacity of wetlands to buffer floods and refuge for animals during droughts;
  • Resilience to climate extremes with greater capacity to adapt to a changing climate in the future; and
  • Habitat, food, migration pathways and breeding opportunities for native fish, waterbirds and other native wildlife that rely on water in the Basin, some of which are nationally threated and/or recognised by international agreements.
Healthy river systems are a pre-requisite for delivering all these benefits. Water is key to protecting and restoring the health of the Basin’s ecosystems that provide these benefits.

A way forward
If we are to reverse the current trajectory of decline, we need to ensure that the Basin Plan secures the minimum flow volumes needed, at the right place and the right time, to protect the health of the river and its people.

The following recommendations, if implemented together, would give public confidence that flow requirements based on best available evidence are capable of being met:

1) Deliver outstanding components of the Basin Plan, including:
a. recover 3,200 GL of environmental water or equivalent outcomes, including 450 GL agreed under the Basin Plan, and support communities through this transition.
b. remove physical and operational constraints to allow for overbank watering of floodplain wetlands.
2) Link flow requirements to water management decisions, by:
a. regularly re-evaluating the environmentally sustainable level of take to ensure it is capable of achieving flow requirements under projected climate scenarios.
b. Requiring flow targets to be achieved before major upstream extractions can take place.
3) Ensure a transparent, scientifically robust evidence base for implementing flow requirements, by:
a. publishing a dashboard showing real-time achievement of water requirements over a range of timescales, based on gauge data as well as hydrological models;
b. fast-tracking programs to define cultural water requirements and water for essential human needs, and return water to Aboriginal Nations of the Basin to support these requirements; and
c. accounting for both sides of the ledger (extractions and river flows) in water management and compliance by annually validating models using actual river flows and adjusting for model error.

The study, 'Testing the achievement of environmental water requirements in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia'  on which these recommendations are based is currently in review at the journal, Marine & Freshwater Research. A pre-print of the manuscript is available at ResearchGate.

Government Declares War On Feral Cats

September 7, 2023
The Albanese Government has today opened consultation on a new action plan to stop feral cats from decimating native wildlife and driving vulnerable native species to the brink of extinction.

The plan sets new goals to reduce feral cat numbers across Australia. Goals include no new extinctions caused by feral cats and making sure feral cats do not endanger native species that are not currently threatened.

The plan outlines legislative, planning, and research needs to ensure effective management of this destructive predator.

It considers advances in technology and the development of new tools to control feral cats, such as the Felixer cat grooming trap. It also looks at preventing cats from spreading to islands, removing cats from key areas, and expanding cat-free fenced and island havens.

Cats kill two billion reptiles, birds and mammals every year in Australia. That’s almost 6 million every night.

Feral cats have played a role in two thirds of mammal extinctions over the last 200 years and currently threaten over 200 nationally listed threatened species, including the Greater Bilby, Numbat, and Gilbert’s potoroo.

We know feral cats stalk and kill native species, but they also compete for food and can carry deadly disease. Eradication of feral cats and better management of cat numbers can significantly reduce the threat to native wildlife from this lethal predator.

While the new plan is under development, the Government is wasting no time taking action to combat the deadly impact of feral cats. The Government is investing in successful programs like $4 million to eradicate feral cats from Christmas Island and $2.273 million towards the French Island feral cat eradication program. Projects are also finding safer and more effective ways to reduce feral cat numbers, including $400,000 to develop a feral cat bait for use in northern Australia that is safe around our native animals. The Plan will guide investment in further projects and tools.

Public consultation on the new plan is open until December 11, 2023. You can read the Draft threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats it here:

Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek said on Thursday:

“When domesticated cats are living inside our homes, snuggled up at the end of our beds, we rightly love them. But feral cats are the opposite of adorable. They are walking, stalking, ruthless killers.

“If we don’t act now, our native animals don’t stand a chance.

Cats kill six million animals every night in Australia. They played a role in Australia's two latest extinctions. And they are one of the main reasons Australia is the mammal extinction capital of the world.

“I want to see a feral cat free Australia. If we are serious about protecting our precious threatened species, then we have to tackle one of their biggest killers.

“We are declaring war on feral cats. And today, we are setting up our battle plan to win that war.”

Coal Royalties To Deliver Budget Repair; Fairer Return For NSW

September 6, 2023
The Minns Government will update NSW coal royalty rates to make sure the state earns a fair return for its resources under modern market conditions.

The new scheme will see coal royalties increase by 2.6 percentage points from 1 July 2024. It will replace the emergency domestic coal cap and reservation measures the previous government introduced in December 2022.

The changes will improve the state’s budget position by more than $2.7 billion over the 4 years from 2024 to 2028.

Coal royalties have not increased since January 2009. Since then, international prices have surged, peaking well above $500 per tonne in late 2022 as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

International prices have since remained above average, trading consistently above $200 per tonne.

Existing discounts for underground and deep underground mining (deeper than 400m) will continue.

The decision also mitigates a $1.3 billion write-down in royalties revenue in the forthcoming budget.

The government will use the funds raised rebuilding the state’s essential services, as well as providing families with cost-of-living relief.

Under the new system the rates for open cut, underground and deep underground mining will be:

Type of mining                             Open cut Underground  Deep underground 
Coal royalty rate from July 2024 10.8% 9.8%          8.8%
Current coal royalty rate 8.2% 7.2% 6.2%
The new system was developed following extensive consultation with the mining industry as well as NSW’s key trading partners. The consultation included:
  • Two roundtables, attended by 13 mining companies.
  • Seven individual meetings between the Treasurer, the Minister for Natural Resources and major mine operators.
  • Twenty written submissions from representatives of the coal sector, including from coal mining companies and coal fired power generators.
  • Detailed consultation with affected companies on price forecasts, currency assumptions, volume growth and cost curves. The Treasurer and the Minister for Finance then met with an industry delegation to discuss feedback.
  • A roundtable with 4 major power companies, spanning the generation, distribution and retail sectors of the electricity industry.
  • Two detailed consultations between NSW Treasury and the Consuls-General of Japan and Korea.
The announcement is a key element in the government’s long-term plan to balance the need for budget repair, rebuild the state’s essential services and take pressure off NSW families and businesses.

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said:

“This is a fair outcome for the people of NSW. The old system is out of date. The market has moved on. That’s why we are modernising the state’s coal royalties.

“The new scheme will make sure the people of NSW share in the wealth their resources create.

“I want to thank all of the mining companies, the power companies, and our key trading partners for their extensive engagement with the NSW Government ahead of the forthcoming budget.”

Minister for Finance and Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos said: 

“Coal is an important part of the state’s energy mix and a key contributor to our economy.

“Having embarked on extensive consultations with mining companies, industry groups and our trading partners, we have struck the right balance.

“These changes will take effect on 1 July 2024 giving the industry time to adjust and upholding the Minns Labor Government’s commitment not to consider royalties changes while emergency measures were in place.

“The Minns Government is committed to ensuring the ongoing stability of the mining sector, while rebuilding essential services for the people of NSW.”

Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe said: 

“The coal price caps were an emergency measure to keep electricity prices under control during a global energy crisis.

“Going forward, it’s important our energy sector has certainty about NSW’s policy settings.”

Further $1.8 Billion To Power NSW To A Clean Energy Future

September 7, 2023
The Minns Government will deliver a $1.8 billion boost to help rescue NSW’s energy transition, including establishing the Energy Security Corporation and investing to connect new projects to the grid.

The commitment will help put transmission and energy storage projects back on track, as the Labor Government works hard to keep the lights on during NSW’s switch to cleaner, affordable electricity.

The investment forms part of the government’s commitment to rebuilding the essentials in our state, including ensuring homes and businesses have reliable power at the lowest possible cost.

The government will commit an additional $800 million to the Transmission Acceleration Facility to connect the state’s Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) to the grid sooner and bring forward the benefit schemes for communities.

The NSW Government’s funding injection will support early works in the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone, around Dubbo.

This renewable zone, the first in NSW, is expected at its peak to support around 5000 construction jobs and bring up to $10 billion in private investment in the region by 2030.

The funding will also maintain momentum in the other planned REZs, the Hunter Transmission Project and the Waratah Super Battery. 

The Transmission Acceleration Facility speeds up the delivery of new transmission projects by funding early work in the zones, along with funding community benefit schemes.

Investments will be ultimately recouped from the private sector developers of the REZ projects once projects reach financial close. That money will then be recycled back into the facility to support the development of future REZ projects.

This takes the total government commitment to the Transmission Acceleration Facility to $2 billion since its establishment in 2022. The facility is administered by the Government’s Renewable Energy Zone infrastructure planner, EnergyCo.

The NSW Budget will also confirm $1 billion to establish the Energy Security Corporation, delivering on another election commitment.

The Energy Security Corporation will make investments in storage projects, addressing gaps in the current market, and improving the reliability of our electricity network as we transition to renewables. 

This could include investing in community batteries and virtual power plants that will allow households and communities to pool electricity generated from rooftop solar, reducing their reliance on the grid and cutting their power bills.

Once established, the ESC will make investments in commercial projects, similar to the way the Clean Energy Finance Corporation operates. 

The ESC will be established with funding from Restart NSW. The government will be consulting with stakeholders through the development process.

The NSW Government is also announcing a key milestone in the delivery of the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone.

The government will this month submit the project’s Environmental Impact Statement to the Department of Planning and Environment for approval, and it will go on public exhibition within weeks.

These investments support the government’s response to the Electricity Supply and Reliability Check Up and will help deliver the target of 12 gigawatts of new renewable energy generation and 2 gigawatts of long duration storage by 2030.

Premier Chris Minns said:

“We inherited a renewable energy roadmap that was off course.

“We’re determined to get NSW back on track when it comes to the energy transition, and this announcement is part of that.

“We need to get back on track so that we can produce cleaner, more affordable energy for the people of this state.

“We want the state to be able to invest in solutions that ensures reliability in the system, keeps the lights on, and creates new jobs for the state.

“This is a serious, long-term step towards ensuring we get the transition right.”

Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe said: 

“This additional $1.8 billion investment puts the renewable energy roadmap back on track. It will accelerate the transition to renewables, to ensure NSW households and communities have a reliable supply of clean, affordable electricity.

“This is a once-in-a-generation transition that requires massive investment and coordination from government and cooperation with the private sector.

“These investments will reignite the first of our Renewable Energy Zones in the Central West-Orana and make sure local communities see early benefits.

“We’re not just investing in large, grid-scale projects. We want to give households and communities more power to make choices about how they generate and use energy. That’s why the Energy Security Corporation will invest in projects like community batteries to help more households use their rooftop solar to become self-sufficient.”

Coal Mine Expansions To Drive Fugitive Fossil Fuel Emissions Into First Place In Sunshine State: Report

September 7, 2023
The ongoing expansion of coal mines in Queensland means fugitive emissions from fossil fuels will become the biggest source of greenhouse gas produced in the Sunshine State by 2030, according to a new report. Based on the existing pipeline of planned coal projects, the joint Queensland Conservation Council and Lock the Gate Alliance report (available here) finds the combined fugitive methane emissions from coal and gas will be responsible for at least 26.6 million tonnes of CO2-e each year, of which 23.7 mt is coal mine methane.

However, as a growing body of satellite-obtained data shows, these figures are likely to significantly underestimate the true amount of fugitive methane escaping into the atmosphere from coal mines. The report also does not take into account planned coal seam gas expansions, and the fugitive emissions they would produce.

The report finds there are 18 planned coal mines that, if built, will be operational by 2030. In 2021, Queensland had the highest number of new coal mines planned for any state or province in the world.

The report uses the historical reported emissions, often published by coal companies themselves, to estimate emissions from underground coal mines, and the same emissions calculator used by the Australian Government for open cut coal mines to estimate the total.

Queensland Conservation Council Energy Strategist Clare Silcock said, “Our research shows that if these planned coal mines are built, fugitive emissions would grow by 30% by 2030. This completely wipes out any reductions achieved by the Safeguard Mechanism between now and 2030.

“To truly take action on climate change, the Queensland Palaszczuk Government cannot approve the new coal mines and expansions in the pipeline. Our research shows building new coal mines is completely counterproductive to any other emissions reduction policy.

”The Palaszczuk Government should also work with the Climate Change Authority to develop a methane monitoring and reduction programme for existing mines, while working to permanently close the most polluting coal mines.

“Queensland is particularly vulnerable to catastrophic climate change. Increasingly severe droughts, bushfires, floods, and cyclones fueled by anthropogenic global heating are already devastating lives. The Great Barrier Reef cannot recover in a world where extreme marine heatwaves are the norm. 

“The Palaszczuk Government cannot continue approving new and expanding coal mines if it wishes to meet its own climate targets, and Queensland is to remain a safe, liveable place.”

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “This report dispels the myth that greenhouse gas emissions from Queensland’s coal is someone else's problem, just because the vast majority is exported. The fugitive and direct emissions from coal mining count directly in Queensland’s carbon accounting and sooner or later the State Government will have to face the music.

“The Queensland Palaszczuk Government cannot keep approving new coal mines if it truly wishes to meet its own climate targets. Whitehaven’s Winchester South mine, which the Queensland government is now considering for approval, would add more than 14 million tonnes of CO2e to Qld’s domestic emissions over the life of the mine.

“This report shows that every other industry is taking steps to reduce emissions, especially the electricity sector while coal mining, if left unregulated, will remain the laggard industry of the 21st century.”

Environment Groups Welcome Progress On Murray-Darling Basin Plan, But Guarantees Needed To Ensure Real Water Reaches Rivers

Wednesday September 6, 2023
In response to a new bill allowing water purchases being introduced to federal parliament today, environment groups from across four states have welcomed progress on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but warn that delays will be costly to the health of our rivers.

The groups have renewed their criticism of Victoria for refusing to join the new national deal, instead clinging to the Barnaby Joyce-era of water management that has had disastrous consequences on river health.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“This new bill opens up the potential to recover real water for rivers and wetlands. It could finally get the Basin Plan back on track, provided the Albanese government follows through on delivering their commitment to return the additional water promised for the environment.

“While we support the direction of the bill, we have some concerns about significant delays proposed and allowing new water ‘offsets’ into the mix. We also need to see firm assurances that real water can be delivered urgently as we head into a dry spell. 

“We are pleased to see national progress on the Plan after years of delay, but remain concerned Victoria will miss out on some benefits from being part of the deal including significant federal funding for regional communities.”

Nature Conservation Council of NSW Water Campaigner Mel Gray said:

“While it’s great to see the Basin Plan moving again, it’s important to remember how far behind the Plan is. It is imperative for the Basin rivers and all of the life that relies on them that the 3,200 billion litre water recovery target is reached as soon as possible.

“Water purchases are the most straightforward, cost-effective and reliable method to return water to wetlands and wildlife and we’re glad to see this option is now back on the table.

“The amendments to the Water Act that we are seeing introduced to Parliament today would be enough to kick start the Basin Plan again. However they don’t begin to address the impacts of climate change, or water justice for First Nations.”

Conservation SA Campaign Co-ordinator Char Nitschke said:

“South Australian rivers urgently need more water, especially as we approach an El Nino summer. Water reform has been so badly stalled for the last decade, this feels like a huge step forward. 

“While we are relieved that the Basin Plan is moving again, we remain concerned that in three years time we could be back to where we were eleven years ago. We simply can’t afford to let that happen - for the sake of our most important river system.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“The next drought is coming, and if it’s another climate change fuelled shocker, then we will need as much of the 3,200 billion litres returned to the river as possible to minimise serious environmental, cultural and economic harm.” 

Energy Market Operator Report Shows NSW Can Avoid Costly Eraring Bail-Out

4th September 2023  
The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC) has today urged the Minns government to roll out an energy security plan based on clean energy, as described in the Australian Energy Markey Operator’s (AEMO) Electricity Statement of Opportunities, and avoid subsidising Australia’s largest coal-fired power station.  

“AEMO’s report shows the reliability standard of 99.998% will be met in NSW after Eraring coal power station closes in 2025 so long as existing government schemes are implemented in a timely way."[1] NCC Acting CEO Dr Brad Smith said today

“There is a huge 248 gigawatt (GW) pipeline of proposed clean generation and storage projects, and the grid operator’s report emphasises the need to urgently get that pipeline flowing to bring down prices and ensure households have reliable power." Smith continued 

“This necessarily conservative an annual health-check of electricity supply makes it clear that we have enough clean energy projects in the pipeline to get off expensive, dirty coal and meet our 2030 emissions targets."

AEMO provided nine options for NSW to meet its energy needs while ensuring the on-time closure of Eraring.[2]   

“Through a combination of battery storage, wind, and solar electricity we can have a more reliable, cleaner, and more affordable grid than what is being delivered by our rapidly aging and unreliable coal-fired power plants.” 

We’re heartened to hear NSW Climate Minister Penny Sharpe note that the “the NSW government does not want Eraring to be open one day longer than it needs to be.”  

NCC also backed NSW Premier Chris Minns’ recognition of the need to get on with the construction of transmission lines to deliver clean energy on time.  

“The Premier is dead right, to ensure affordable, clean energy we need to get on with building transmission lines and connecting up our great wind and solar resources.” 

Former Climate and Energy Minister Matt Kean also said today that he was advised that the cost of keep Eraring open would be $3 billion dollars.  

“$3bn is an insane amount of public money to spend on an aging and polluting coal fired power plant, when we could instead invest in cheap, clean energy from the wind and sun”. 

“The challenge now is to ensure that both community and environmental concerns are properly addressed as part of the planning process. “ 

10-year feral cat plan brings us a step closer to properly protecting endangered wildlife

Sarah LeggeAustralian National UniversityJaana DielenbergCharles Darwin University, and John WoinarskiCharles Darwin University

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has released a draft feral cat management plan.

Its aim is to reduce the devastating impact of cats on Australian wildlife, with a focus on protecting the most at-risk species from extinction.

Cats kill over 6 million native animals in Australia each day, and are challenging to manage.

The plan released for public consultation has a ten-year horizon with an estimated cost of A$60 million in the first five years. It could be a major step towards achieving Australia’s global commitments to end extinctions.

Why Manage Cats?

Unless we control the impact of cats, many native wildlife populations will continue to decline. Some will be driven to extinction, a sad and irreversible outcome for future generations and the ecosystems these species are part of.

Cats are versatile and highly effective predators. A large male cat can kill animals up to about 4kg – nearly as big as the cat itself.

Since they arrived in Australia with Europeans, cats have spread across 99% of the country. Only some islands and specially constructed fenced conservation areas are cat-free.

Many native animal populations can’t cope with sustained hunting pressure from cats. Impacted species include more than 200 of Australia’s nationally listed threatened species and 37 migratory species.

A soft small brown mammal looking through grass
A burrowing bettong in the cat-free fenced area of Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary where it has been reintroduced. Cats drove this species to extinction on the mainland. Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife ConservancyCC BY

One in ten of the mammal species present when cats arrived are now extinct. Cats played a major role in most of those 34 extinctions. And they continue to drive population declines and regional extinctions of susceptible species.

Cats also carry and spread a range of diseases. One of these, toxoplasmosis, can cause sickness, behavioural impairment and death in other mammals and birds. This disease, which is entirely dependent on cats, can also have serious consequences for livestock and human health.

A Strategic Response

The government’s new Threat Abatement Plan aims to co-ordinate national efforts to reduce the impacts of feral cats on native wildlife. It follows extensive consultation with Indigenous ranger groups and First Nations organisations around the country, with members of the national Feral Cat Taskforce, and with threatened species and cat management experts.

Since cats occur just about everywhere, affect so many species and are elusive and hard to control, the plan is strategic: it prioritises the places and species for which controlling cats will have the greatest benefits.

Some significant successes have been achieved over the past decade or so, and the plan builds on those.

A grey and white bird flying over waves
The population of threatened blue petrels that breeds on Macquarie Island is recovering since cats were eradicated. JJ Harrison/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

What Are The Priorities?

The plan’s objective is to improve outcomes for threatened and cat-susceptible native species, including numbats, bettongs, bandicoots and island-nesting seabirds.

Building from recent successes, it includes priorities for eradicating cats from islands and from within fenced conservation areas, because cats cannot quickly recolonise these areas. These projects are critical for native species, such as stick-nest rats and mala (rufous hare-wallaby), that can’t persist even with a very low density of cats.

An orange small furry animal sitting on dark red sand.
Populations of many native mammals, like mala, can’t survive with even low numbers of cats. Wayne Lawler/Australian Wildlife ConservancyCC BY

The plan also prioritises ongoing cat control in areas with important populations of threatened species that are highly vulnerable to cats, but which can persist as long as cat numbers are kept low.

This approach is valuable for species such as rock wallabies, which live in relatively small, well-defined areas, and for mammals of south-west Australia, which can be protected from cats and foxes by annual poison baiting.

A numbat face with bright green plants behind it
The numbat is one of many native animals in south-western Australia with a natural tolerance of poison baits, as the active ingredient is found in local plants. Helenabella/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

Improving habitat management can also help reduce cat impacts across very large areas. For example, improving habitat in northern Australian tropical savannas, through better management of fire and livestock, can reduce cat impacts and increase native mammal populations. Cats hunt most efficiently in sparsely vegetated areas, so better cover provides more shelter for native wildlife.

In southern Australia, reducing rabbit populations also reduces cat numbers by removing an easy food source. This then relieves some of the predation pressure on native animals.

An orange cat with grass and tree behind it
A feral cat detected by a camera trap in tropical savanna in Northern Australia. Northern Territory GovernmentCC BY

What Else Is In The Plan?

The plan proposes reforms of laws and regulations for pet and feral cats in all states and territories. For example, the plan includes actions to make laws on pet cat management more consistent across the country and to encourage responsible pet ownership. This means desexing cats and keeping cats contained so they can’t harm wildlife or produce kittens that end up as feral cats.

a long-haired cat stalks across green grass
Pet cats can be highly effective hunters if allowed to roam outdoors. Shutterstock

Many of Australia’s last strongholds for threatened species that are vulnerable to cats, such as great desert skinksbilbies and night parrots, are in Indigenous Protected Areas and other Indigenous-managed land. The plan outlines practical support that Indigenous rangers want to help them manage cats.

Over the past few decades, we have learned much about the impacts of cats and how best to manage them. But we are still a long way from cost-effective, continent-scale solutions to protect native wildlife. The plan identifies the need for new applied research and the development and testing of effective control tools.

Who’s Responsible?

Success will depend on focusing and enhancing the already significant efforts of governments, Indigenous and non-Indigenous land managers, environmental non-government organisations, industry, community groups, researchers and the public.

The Australian government will help to deliver the plan by co-ordinating actions and making strategic investments in management and research activity.

Be Part Of The Solution

Every Australian who cares about our unique wildlife has an interest in cat management.

Cat owners can help by desexing their pet and keeping it indoors or in a cat run at all times.

Landowners can help by removing refuse that helps support feral cat colonies and by managing habitat so native animals can thrive.

And make sure your local, state and federal government members know how much you care about native wildlife.

The plan is available for public comment until December 11. Have a look, and have your say.The Conversation

Sarah Legge, Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Australian National UniversityJaana Dielenberg, University Fellow, Charles Darwin University, and John Woinarski, Professor of Conservation Biology, Charles Darwin University

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

Whales stop singing and rock lobsters lose their balance: how seismic surveys can harm marine life

jamesteohart, Shutterstock
Ryan DayUniversity of TasmaniaJayson SemmensUniversity of Tasmania, and Robert McCauleyCurtin University

Woodside Energy this week announced it would start seismic testing for its Scarborough gas project off Australia’s west coast, before reversing the decision in the face of a legal challenge from Traditional Owners.

Seismic testing is highly controversial in marine environments. The federal regulator (the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority) is currently examining a proposal for seismic testing in the Otway Basin in Bass Strait, which conservationists say has attracted more than 30,000 public submissions.

Seismic testing is also mooted as part of the “PEP11” (Petroleum Exploration Permit 11) off the coast of New South Wales, from Manly to Newcastle.

As marine biologists with research expertise in this field, here we give a roundup of the latest evidence on the effects of seismic surveys. It shows there are many potential harms to marine life, and many unanswered questions.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society wants to stop seismic surveys.

What Are Seismic Surveys?

Marine seismic surveys are used to search for oil and gasplaces to stash greenhouse gases, and potential locations for wind farms.

The surveys use air guns to generate sound signals. These sound signals are intense (loud, at high decibel levels) and “impulsive” (sharp, like a balloon popping). In the open ocean, sound waves can be detected thousands of kilometres from the source.

The sound can penetrate more than ten kilometres into the earth beneath the seafloor. The way the signals reflect off different layers of the seabed can identify geological structures, including those that contain mineral deposits such as oil and gas. The sound signals bounce back to acoustic receivers (hydrophones) towed behind the survey vessel on cables known as streamers.

During a survey, sound signals are generated every four to ten seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Surveys can last for weeks or months, and cover thousands of square kilometres of ocean. The proposal to study the Otway Basin, for example, covers 45,000 square km.

Seismic Surveys And Marine Life

The ability to fully examine the effects of seismic surveys in mammals is limited, because invasive methods are not logistically possible or ethically acceptable.

But there is a long history of research on whales and dolphins, given their reliance on sound to communicate, find food and navigate.

Observations of marine mammals show intense sound signals such as those from seismic surveys can affect hearing ability, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the intensity, range and duration of exposure.

Noise pollution can mask communications, causing whales either to sing more loudly or to stop singing altogether, which can affect social structure and interaction. Seismic surveys can also alter the presence and abundance of marine mammal prey.

Offshore Seismic Surveys at Woodside.

What About Fish?

Fish also show a range of responses to seismic testing. Some fish exhibit physical damage to hearing organs and signs of stress.

Fish behaviour may also change. Some leave regular feeding or breeding areas, which raises concerns over effects to fishing grounds or impacts on important prey species. It’s also uncertain whether the fish will be able to find suitable alternative habitats if they are displaced in the long term.

Others may “habituate” or become accustomed to exposure, raising the risk of more extensive damage by spending more time in the survey area.

Scallops, Lobsters And Plankton

Despite invertebrates making up around 92% of marine species, the impact of marine noise on these creatures has only recently been studied. This has shown a potential for harm.

In the valuable southern rock lobster fishery, off the coasts of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, seismic air gun exposure damaged the sensory organ that provides a sense of gravity and balance, similar to the human inner ear. Affected lobsters also had impaired ability to right themselves when placed upside down, a reflex that underpins important behaviours such as escaping predators.

Scallops showed more severe impacts, with up to four times higher death rates and a range of other sub-lethal effects including altered behaviour, impaired physiology and a disrupted immune system. As this animal already suffers high levels of mortality naturally and due to fishery activity, this extra pressure could be of considerable concern.

Invertebrates also make up a large proportion of the zooplankton community, a broad group of very small animals carried by ocean currents. They are food for a wide range of marine life, from other zooplankton to small fish and whales.

In the first experimental exposure to a seismic air gun, a large proportion of zooplankton died. Overall abundance decreased significantly, at distances up to 1.2km from the air gun.

Confirming this result, another recent study of zooplankton found exposure to seismic air guns 50 metres away resulted in increased mortality immediately after exposure. The plankton continued to die off or suffer impaired development for several days. These effects, particularly in the case of exposure that is repeated over the course of months within a single area, have the potential to severely impact the plankton populations that underpin marine food webs.

Difficulties In Predicting Impacts

While the handful of available studies shows exposure to seismic surveys can harm animals, our ability to understand or predict what happens in the wild is still very limited.

Part of the problem is conflicting results. For example, in one case, seismic survey exposure had no impact on the types of fish found in an area or their behaviour. And a separate study of scallops found no mortality after seismic exposure. These studies conflict with the results we described earlier, which happens commonly in science and highlights the need for ever more detailed research.

Only a few animal species have so far been investigated, making it hard to tell how other animals might be affected by seismic testing. There are also limitations to the methods of studies that reduce our ability to understand the real-world impacts, such as housing animals in captivity after exposure.

Sound behaves very differently in water than in air. Water is more dense, allowing sound to travel faster, farther and with less of a drop in intensity. Comparisons between the “loudness” of sounds in air and water are not straightforward.

While mounting evidence shows seismic surveys can harm a range of marine animals, there is so much still to learn. The Conversation

Ryan Day, Senior research fellow, University of TasmaniaJayson Semmens, Professor, Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration, University of Tasmania, and Robert McCauley, Professor at the Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University

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

The illegal killing of 265 trees on Sydney’s North Shore is not just vandalism. It’s theft on a grand scale

Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

In most illegal tree removals, you might see perhaps a handful of trees removed or poisoned. That’s why the recent felling and poisoning of 265 old trees in Sydney’s Castle Cove has been so breathtaking and appalling.

This act – perpetrated by persons unknown – was not vandalism but theft of valuable community assets.

Future generations have been robbed of the benefits these trees – some of which were more than 80 years old – provided to our environment, the climate and as habitat for other plants and animals. It was theft on a grand scale.

Tree Loss Will Cost Us As The Climate Changes

In contrast to Indigenous people, most Australians have undervalued large old trees for nearly two centuries. But many of the ecological and environmental benefits these trees provide increase as they age over decades and perhaps centuries. These benefits are crucial to urban liveability and sustainability.

A global movement is gaining momentum in urban forestry to preserve old trees for as long as we can to maximise the benefits they provide.

It is not about preservation at all cost, but a recognition that in a proper cost/benefit analysis, large old trees outperform younger trees. Unnecessary removal of large old trees is unsustainable both environmentally and economically.

This does not mean we should not replace dangerous trees or those that are rapidly declining.

It does mean, however, there should be no removal of large old trees without significant and demonstrably sound reasons.

Too many large, old, urban trees are being removed unnecessarily because other management options are not considered.

Whether via theft or bureaucratic-sanctioned tree removals, the general loss of old trees will cost us and our society dearly as the climate changes.

Old Trees Do Things That Young Trees Simply Cannot

One of the significant benefits that trees provide over other vegetation types is that their leaf area is often more than double their canopy cover. This creates a great cooling effect via both shade and evapotranspiration (the movement of water into the atmosphere, some of which comes through leaves).

Large trees are unequalled in cooling the environment around them. Old trees simply do things on a scale that small young trees cannot.

This means a slow-growing old tree can take in and store more carbon than a quick-growing young seedling. Every gram of carbon stored in this way is carbon saved from going into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas emissions.

Both carbon stores and shade are crucial to mitigating future climate change.

All of this is lost when trees are illegally or unnecessarily removed. The impact is felt not just now but for decades into the future.

The Loss Of Even A Single Tree Comes At A Huge Price

The loss of so many trees in Sydney’s Castle Cove represents theft of environmental benefits and services from at least two, if not more, future generations of Australians. The trees lost were largely native coastal species that had decades (and in some cases more than a century) of growth before them.

We have known for many decades trees are often associated with between 30 and 50 other species – birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fungi, algae and others. The removal of a tree affects most, if not all, of these other species. Some of these plants and animals will die as a result.

The number of associated species increases as the tree ages, and we have probably been underestimating species lost with large old tree removals in urban and natural forests.

Oaks in the UK, for example, are associated with over 2,300 other species. One can only wonder how many other species will be affected by the felling and poisoning of the trees at Castle Cove. The illegal loss of even a single tree comes at a huge price.

Simply Planting New Trees Doesn’t Fix The Problem

We tend to undervalue the shade provided by trees when considering urban development, or even road works. But tree removals lead to more urban heat, which usually means higher electricity bills (as people crank up the air conditioner).

Large old trees are seen by some as an expendable nuisance. Some local council laws aim to protect trees of a certain size, but fines for illegal removals are small.

In some instances, a one-for-one tree replacement is offered. But to replace the carbon stored in one large, mature tree would require a vast number of seedlings, many of which fail to survive the first few years.

And it can take many years before planted trees reach carbon neutrality. The production, planting and maintenance processes all use resources, energy and fossil fuels, which means it can take decades before a tree is carbon positive.

This situation is unsustainable environmentally and ludicrous economically, but it seems to go largely unnoticed. We accrue all of the costs of these plantings and recoup precious little benefit.

It would be far more sensible and sustainable if we retained our large old trees, making every effort to maximise and prolong their life spans.The Conversation

Gregory Moore, Senior Research Associate, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne

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

3,200 deaths a year: 1 of many reasons air pollution in Australia demands urgent national action

Deren PillayUniversity of TasmaniaBill DoddUniversity of Tasmania, and Bin JalaludinUNSW Sydney

Australia is holding its collective breath ahead of a bushfire season that may bring a return of the smoke linked to 400 deaths and 4,500 hospitalisations and emergency department visits during the 2019–20 Black Summer fires.

Air pollution is the world’s single greatest environmental cause of preventable disease and premature death. In Australia, it’s linked to more than 3,200 deaths a year at an estimated cost of A$6.2 billion.

These impacts are increasing due to climate change and an ageing population, among other factors. Scientists at the Centre for Safe Air (an NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence) have launched a report today on the many benefits of safer air for Australians, to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Clean Air.

The report summarises the extensive evidence on the health impacts of air pollution for Australians. This pollution consists of both airborne particles (also called particulate matter) and gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. The report also explains why co-ordinated national leadership is needed to make our air safer.

Why Invest In Clean Air?

Here are ten reasons Australia should invest in safer air.

1. Air pollution increases non-communicable diseases

Heart disease, stroke, dementia, type 2 diabetes, lung diseases and cancer are all leading causes of illness and death for Australians. Air pollution increases the risk of all these conditions in the community.

2. Air pollution makes communicable diseases worse

Air pollution increases the risk of respiratory infections such as influenza and COVID-19, and may increase their severity.

3. Air quality affects our health throughout life

Air pollution can affect the growth, development and overall health of unborn babies. Later in life it adds to the risk of developing non-communicable diseases.

4. It adds to health inequities

Action on air pollution represents a powerful opportunity to reduce health inequities in Australia. Some of the most vulnerable people in our society are at higher risk of worse health outcomes from air pollution exposure. They include older adults, pregnant people and unborn babies, children, people with pre-existing chronic conditions, socially disadvantaged populations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Lessening air pollution reduces inequity.

How air pollution affects your body.

5. Climate change and pollution make each other worse

Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe bushfires. In turn, severe bushfires are influencing the global climate and weather systems. Reducing air pollution is vital for mitigating climate change because they share common drivers such as fuel combustion.

6. Clean-air policies have many co-benefits

Policies to reduce air pollution from burning fossil fuels have many health, environmental and social benefits. Measures range from decarbonising our energy and transport systems, greening our cities and improving urban and housing design to bushfire prevention strategies. Reducing air pollution improves social, environmental and economic wellbeing.

7. The impacts are increasing

Population growth and ageing, urbanisation and increasing transport and energy demands add to the risks for air quality, climate change and population health. This is why timely interventions are needed.

8. Economic costs are high and underestimated

Australian estimates to date have placed annual mortality costs of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution at A$6.2 billion. However, existing economic analyses of air pollution largely fail to account for the costs of other air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide from vehicle traffic, and non-health costs like labour, productivity, welfare and other societal impacts.

9. Return on investment is high

Every dollar spent generates returns in the forms of lower health costs, healthier people and longer lives. Soon-to-be-published research at the Centre for Safe Air has found reducing the average population exposure to fine airborne particles (PM2.5) by a modest and highly achievable 5% could save more than 360 lives and A$1.6 billion a year.

10. Small improvements produce large gains

The rate of increase of many air-pollution-related health outcomes is steeper at lower concentrations, tapering off at higher levels of pollution. For Australia, this means any small improvements, even to levels below current national air quality standards, will deliver measurable health and economic benefits.

All Of Us Have A Right To Clean Air

Air pollution and its adverse health effects are linked to how we generate energy, how we heat our homes, our transport systems and our climate. No single policy will adequately tackle the problem of air pollution. Therefore, effective policy measures and regulation must take into account the diverse sources, settings and populations that are more at risk from air pollution.

Currently, responsibility for air pollution policy falls between the health and environment portfolios. Policies are often needed in the environment, planning and transport sectors where health expertise and input are limited, whereas air pollution impacts and public health responses reside in the health sector.

Safe air is a shared resource and a fundamental human right. Air pollution affects everyone - co-ordinated national leadership on safe air will benefit all Australians.The Conversation

Deren Pillay, Researcher and Advanced Trainee in Public Health Medicine, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of TasmaniaBill Dodd, Knowledge Broker, Centre for Safe Air (NHMRC CRE), and Adjunct Researcher, Media School, University of Tasmania, and Bin Jalaludin, Conjoint Professor, School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney

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

Marine heatwaves don’t just hit coral reefs. They can cause chaos on the seafloor

Amandine SchaefferUNSW SydneyAlex Sen GuptaUNSW Sydney, and Moninya RoughanUNSW Sydney

Most of us know what a heatwave feels like on land – sweltering heat for days. But oceans get heatwaves too. When water temperature goes over a seasonal threshold for five days or more, that’s a marine heatwave. They do their worst damage in summer, when the ocean is already at its warmest, but they can occur any time of year.

Over 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases has gone into our oceans. So it’s no surprise marine heatwaves are getting much more intense and more frequent. This year has been off the charts. From April this year, the world’s average ocean temperature has been the highest ever recorded.

Since the 1980s, satellites have revolutionised ocean science by making it possible to take daily measurements of ocean temperatures. But satellites watch from above. They can’t see what’s happening below the surface.

Our new research explores what’s happening in deeper waters. It turns out, marine heatwaves aren’t just on the surface. In the most devastating marine heatwaves, heat can penetrate right down to the sea bed. Remarkably, some heatwaves only affect the seafloor.

Why Do Deep Marine Heatwaves Matter?

While we usually only see sea creatures at the surface of the ocean, there’s life all the way down. In the shallower seafloors of the continental shelf – the sunken parts of our continents – live fish, kelp beds, sponges, cold water corals, shellfish and crustaceans.

These shallow oceans are, on average, less than 100 metres deep. When the shelf ends, there’s usually an abrupt slope into the deep ocean, where there are kilometres of water between surface and seabed.

Marine heatwaves are damaging to life in the seas covering the continental shelf. Creatures here are sensitive to extreme temperatures, just like those at the surface. But “extreme” to them is different to what we think of as extreme. If you’re used to water at 12℃, a heatwave of 15℃ can be devastating.

When marine heatwaves strike, they can kill. More than a billion sea creatures died during a single heatwave off the coast of the western United States and Canada in 2021. This year, extreme heatwaves have hit large parts of the oceans during the northern summer.

Fish and other creatures that can move do so, heading towards the poles or down deeper in search of cooler water. Those that can’t have to endure it or die. Heatwaves can trigger migration. New species arrive, seeking refuge and can alter the ecosystem.

We Don’t Know Much About Deeper Marine Heatwaves

The seas covering the continental shelf are relatively shallow compared to the kilometres of water in the deep oceans. But even so, it’s impossible to see what’s going on below using satellites or high-frequency radar.

The sea is a hostile environment. Instruments are subject to high pressure, corrosive salt water and marine organisms like oysters and sponges settling on them. This is one reason why we only have very limited data on long-term trends in temperatures under the surface. But these records are vital to calculate typical temperatures for the time of year and to figure out what constitutes an extreme.

Australia is one of the few places generating this kind of valuable data long-term. Off the coast of the southeast lie many oceanographic moorings – a floating collection of sensors anchored to the bottom. One of these has been measuring daily temperatures from the surface to the seafloor 65 metres down since 1993.

oceanographic instrument
In addition to coastal moorings, this oceanographic instrument also measures temperature and salinity of the ocean. Amandine SchaefferCC BY-ND

Our earlier research found marine heatwaves at depth can actually be more intense and last longer compared to the surface. But why?

In our new research, we looked at the temperature data closely. We found marine heatwaves come in a variety of types and have different causes. We also found some types of marine heatwave are more likely during particular seasons.

For instance, winter marine heatwaves often run from surface to seafloor. They occur when the powerful, deep and warm East Australian Current snakes westward towards the coast. As the current swings over the continental slope, it drags warm water over the shelf and close to the coast.

In summer, Australia gets two very different types of heatwave in our oceans. The first occur when we get blue-sky weather. With few clouds, more heat from the sun gets into the oceans. They can also occur when there are weaker winds and less ocean cooling from evaporation. These heatwaves are confined to the surface and a few metres below.

Then there’s the second, a very weird heatwave system that only appears close to the seafloor. These are produced when strong wind creates currents driving warm, shallower water down to the bottom. On the east coast, these currents come from cold winds from the south. So even while you’re shivering through cold winds from the Southern Ocean, the ocean seafloor may be sweltering through a heatwave. These may be the most destructive to ecosystems but go all but unnoticed.

schematic of different marine heatwaves
This figure shows the different types of marine heatwaves affecting coastal waters (shown by the anomalous heat in red) Author providedCC BY-ND

Marine Heatwaves Are Not Created Equally

Our research has shown marine heatwaves come in different flavours. That matters, because it will allow us to get better at predicting if a heatwave is about to strike our oceans. And it will let us anticipate which parts of the water column are about to be hit, and which ecosystems.

Of course, slowing ocean warming and preventing marine heatwaves from damaging ecosystems means slashing carbon emissions. But while we work on that, this knowledge could give us time to find strategies to reduce the undersea death toll – and the damage to tourism and fishing which rely on these ecosystems surviving. The Conversation

Amandine Schaeffer, Senior lecturer, UNSW SydneyAlex Sen Gupta, Senior Lecturer, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, and Moninya Roughan, Professor in Oceanography, UNSW Sydney

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

How one student forced the government to admit the economic risks of climate change

Arjuna DibleyThe University of Melbourne

Last month, a significant victory for climate change was won behind closed doors. In 2020, Katta O’Donnell, then a 23-year-old university student in Melbourne, launched a world-leading class action lawsuit against the Commonwealth government.

O’Donnell alleged that she and other investors in Australian-issued bonds had been misled because the government failed to disclose how climate change might impact their investments.

Sovereign bonds allow governments to borrow money, from which, on top of taxes, they can fund expenditures and programs. Historically, investors consider sovereign bonds issued by stable economies such as Australia a safe bet.

Because our economy is large and our economic, political and legal institutions stable and mostly free from corruption, investors can be fairly certain that Australian governments will repay their debts.

This has created steady demand for Australian sovereign bonds, making them a reliable way for our governments to fund policy programs and respond to economic shocks. But O’Donnell’s lawsuit broadly questioned whether sovereign bonds were really safe for investors once the economic impacts of climate change were taken into account.

Her lawyers argued that the Commonwealth government should disclose the way climate change posed both “physical” and “transition” risks to the economy.

The first are financial risks that climate scientists say will impact Australia’s economy due to changes to the climate and the rise in extreme weather events. The second kind of risk emerges from changes in global demand for our fossil fuel exports.

O’Donnell’s lawyers also suggest that investors increasingly expect governments to try to manage their climate risks.

They point to the 2019 decision by Sweden’s Central Bank, Sveriges Rijksbank, to divest its holdings in Queensland and Western Australian bonds, because they are “not known for good climate work”, as an example of investors taking these risks seriously.

In March 2021 the Commonwealth sought to have the claim struck out, alleging it was not clear what risks should be disclosed.

At that time, few government bond prospectuses issued around the world referred to climate risks. However, Justice Murphy of the Federal Court decided to keep the legal action on foot because he saw an “informational asymmetry” between the government and investors regarding the nature of climate risks.

Following the election of the Albanese government, the Commonwealth decided not to contest the case in court, but to seek mediation.

Under the terms of the settlement, agreed on August 7 and to be approved by the court next month, the government will likely acknowledge on the Treasury website that climate change presents a risk to the country’s “economy, regions, industries, and communities”, and that there is uncertainty around the global transition to net zero emissions.

The government’s decision to disclose climate risks is no surprise. It is already taking steps to better understand and report on how climate change will affect the economy. Beyond taking policy measures to support the transition to a “net zero” economy, it has tasked Treasury with developing a national sustainable finance strategy.

It has also asked some large listed companies to analyse and disclose their climate-risk exposure, and is developing a legal framework – called a “taxonomy” – to better regulate sustainable finance.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s new governor, Michele Bullock, also said in a recent speech that the economic implications of climate change could affect the stability of the financial system.

The settlement is significant because, for the first time, an AAA-rated government will recognise climate change as a systemic risk that can affect the value of its bonds. Large sovereign investors and credit-rating agencies are already focusing on how climate change impacts a country’s ability to repay, and pricing this information into its loans.

All this is creating pressure for governments like ours to better understand and disclose climate risks when they borrow money.

But climate risk disclosure in sovereign bonds is not enough. Governments are qualitatively different entities to companies, from which these disclosure practices evolved.

Companies are more able than governments to rid themselves quickly of polluting assets, acquire new clean resources, or change the location of their operations. Investors can engage with companies on climate change through annual general meetings, but they struggle to influence governments on climate change (although some are trying to develop strategies for doing so).

So while the recent case is a reminder for government issuers to consider how climate change will impact government bond repayment obligations, their challenge isn’t solved by better disclosure practices.

Nevertheless, Australian governments should continue their plans to better understand and disclose climate risks.

Moreover, under instruments such as Sustainability Linked Sovereign Bonds, governments can set climate-related performance targets, such as lowering carbon emissions by 10% by 2025. A government that does not meet these predetermined targets could be subject to an increase in its interest rate, or another penalty.

These instruments create an incentive for governments to achieve real emission reductions, which is the only activity that will ultimately address climate risk in the economy.

Correction: this article originally stated Katta attended the University of Melbourne.The Conversation

Arjuna Dibley, Head of Sustainable Finance Hub, The University of Melbourne

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

Exposing Australia’s online trade in pest plants – we’ve found thousands of illegal advertisements

Jacob MaherUniversity of Adelaide and Phill CasseyUniversity of Adelaide

Do you buy plants online? You might be breaking the law without even knowing it.

We found hundreds of different invasive plants and prohibited weeds advertised on a popular online marketplace.

For the first time, our research has exposed the frequent, high volume trade in pest plants across Australia.

State and territory governments are adopting our automated surveillance approach to help regulate the online trade in plants and other wildlife. Biosecurity officers can receive automatic alerts for suspected illegal trade, rather than manually monitoring websites or relying on reports from the public.

Photo of someone shopping for plants online, showing hands on the laptop keyboard and plants on screen.
Australians love online shopping and that passion extends to plants., Shutterstock

What’s The Problem And Why All The Fuss?

Certain plants are prohibited in Australia because they are harmful to our unique natural environment and agricultural industries. These weeds can threaten native species, fuel severe fires and choke rivers.

Weeds are also a social and cultural threat for First Nations people, because they can compete with traditional food and medicine plants, causing them to decline.

Overall, invasive plants are estimated to have cost Australia A$200 billion since 1960.

Weeds that are controlled under state and territory laws are referred to as “noxious” or declared plants. Each state and territory has different laws prohibiting the sale and cultivation of these declared plants.

Compliance is generally high within the horticultural industry, save for the occasional high profile blunder. The main problem for Australia is the widespread invasive plant trade on public online marketplaces.

Trade of ornamental plants, which are the kinds popularly grown in homes and gardens, is the major current pathway enabling invasion and spread of weeds into new areas. They’re travelling long distances, to homes in new places.

Invasive cacti and ornamental pond plants are among the most frequently advertised plants, but many are banned from sale and distribution in Australia.

Internet trade has historically been tricky to monitor and regulate, which has led to a variety of invasive species being widely traded.

Photo showing the invasive nature of water hyacinth, with purple flowers in a field of green.
Water hyacinth is considered the world’s worst water weed. KEEP GOING, Shutterstock

Scraping The Web

We used specialised software called “web scrapers” to monitor trade on a public classifieds website. These automated web tools can be used to rapidly harvest information from advertisements. This allowed us to detect thousands of advertisements for weeds over a 12-month period.

We found 155 declared plant species traded on one website, and we suspect there could be more.

Prickly pear cacti were among the most frequently traded declared plants. This is concerning given their history in Australia. In the 1920s, about 25 million hectares of land became unusable due to prickly pear invasion.

A black and white photo of a farmer standing in a field of prickly pear, it's more than double his height.
The invasion of prickly pear was so dense in areas of Queensland and New South Wales that farming became impossible. Queensland Government

Aquatic weeds were another popular group. That includes water hyacinth, which is the world’s most widespread invasive alien species according to a recently published global assessment.

We found some sellers advertised uses for the declared plants they were trading, including for food and medicinal properties.

Aquatic weeds were often stated to have water-filtering properties and provide habitat for fish. Those traits make Amazon frogbit a popular choice for aquariums and ponds, but if the weed enters creeks and rivers it can have devastating consequences.

Everyone Can Do Their Bit

Better surveillance is not the only solution. Public awareness is key to reducing invasive plant trade. We can all make informed decisions about the plants we buy.

A significant hurdle is a phenomenon called “plant blindness”. People tend to find plants harder to recognise than animals. We found many weeds sold using generic names such as lily, cactus or pond plant. Some people may not even know the true identity of a plant they are selling, let alone that it is a weed and illegal to trade.

Another complication is the fact that laws differ between states. Plants that might be legal for an interstate trader, might still be illegal for you to buy. This is why caution should be taken when sending or receiving plants by post. Always check your local regulations before buying or selling a plant online. You can find out what is declared on your state or territory’s biosecurity website or on Weeds Australia.

Online marketplaces must also cooperate with local policies. These platforms should be enforced to self-regulate trade and include measures to prevent illegal advertisements from being posted in the first place. Failure to act may result in significant penalties from governments. Last year the Brazilian government fined Meta for failing to remove illegal wildlife trade from Facebook and WhatsApp.

For now, monitoring tools such as the web scrapers we have developed will help to prevent some weeds escaping backyards and into bushland. As plant lovers, it’s important to be mindful of the plants we choose to buy and keep. The Conversation

Jacob Maher, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide and Phill Cassey, Australian Research Council Industry Laureate Fellow, University of Adelaide

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

Australia’s least wanted – 8 alien species and diseases we must keep out of our island home

Alexander Wild/Wikimedia Commons
Jaana DielenbergCharles Darwin University and Patrick O'ConnorUniversity of Adelaide

This week’s landmark report on the impact of invasive alien species revealed costs to the global economy exceeded US$423 billion (A$654 billion) a year in 2019. Costs have at least quadrupled every decade since 1970 and that trend is set to continue.

Prevention is better than a cure. Stopping pests and diseases arriving and establishing in Australia is not only better for the environment, it’s much cheaper too.

The biosecurity system is our front line against invasion. Species that pose a significant risk to agriculture have historically received more attention, but we also need to defend our borders against threats to nature.

Here we take a closer look at some pests and diseases we need to keep out at all costs, to protect our biodiversity.

A graph showing how the cost of managing an invasive alien species gets much larger once it is established.
The invasion curve shows the cost of managing an incursion at various stages. Prevention is much cheaper than dealing with invaders after they arrive, and early eradication is much cheaper than longer-term containment or control. Invasive Species CouncilCC BY-SA

One Of The Biggest Threats To Biodiversity

Alien species are those deliberately or accidentally introduced to areas where they are not native. If they cause problems, we call them invasive.

Invasive alien species include weeds, feral animals, exotic pests and diseases.

Those that have already arrived have taken a huge toll. Introduced predators were largely responsible for most of Australia’s mammal extinctions. And introduced diseases have decimated our frogs.

Invasive species are pushing most (82%) of Australia’s 1,914 nationally listed threatened species closer to extinction.

Imagine if those invasive species had been kept out of Australia. Here are eight of the pests and diseases we really need to keep out.

1. Giant African Land Snail

A very large brown snail on a hand
A giant African snail in Hong Kong, where it is invasive. Thomas Brown/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

Giant African snails have a ferocious appetite. They feed on more than 500 species of plants including agricultural crops and eucalyptus trees. The shells of these giants can be 20cm long and females typically lay 1,200 eggs a year. Adult snails could sneak into shipping containers or machinery and their eggs could be transported in soil or goods. They are now present on Christmas Island.

2. Avian Influenza

Faces of two pelicans close up, showing their red gullets.
Thousands of Dalmatian pelicans were killed by highly pathenogenic Avian influenza in Europe in 2022. Birger Strahl/Unsplash

Avian influenza or bird-flu is a viral disease found in birds. Some strains can kill farmed poultry and susceptible wild birds. Such highly pathogenic strains are thought to have killed millions of wild birds globally in the past few years. The virus can also jump across to mammals, recently knocking off 3,500 sea lions Peru.

Migratory birds could bring the virus here but it could also be carried in imported birds and poultry products, including contaminated eggs, feathers, poultry feed and equipment. Our biosecurity system is responsible for surveillance and early detection, preparedness and management to protect our vulnerable wildlife. In California, preparation includes vaccinating endangered condors.

3. New Tramp Ants

Close up of an ant's head
A red imported fire ant in the US. Alexander Wild/Wikimedia Commons

We’re already battling some species of tramp ants, but there’s more where that came from - there are at least 16 different species. So far six species including red imported fire ants have been detected, with efforts underway to contain or eradicate them at their incursion points. On Christmas Island, another tramp ant species (yellow crazy ants) formed “super colonies”, killing every animal in their path, including tens of millions of the island’s iconic red and robber crabs. Ants are easily transported to new areas in dirt, plants and cargo. Tramp ants threaten Australian ecosystems, agriculture and human health.

4. Bat White Nose Syndrome

A small bat hanging from a cave roof with a white face
A little brown bat displaying white nose syndrome in the US. Moriarty Marvin/USFWS/WikimediaCommons

White nose syndrome is a bat disease caused by a fungus. In less than 20 years it has killed more than five million bats across North America, causing local extinctions and reducing the beneficial services performed by bats such as eating harmful insects. The fungus could be introduced to Australian caves on the shoes, clothing and equipment of people who had previously visited caves in Europe or North America.

5. Crayfish Plague

A small crayfish in an aquarium
Dwarf Cajun crayfish can be carriers of crayfish plague. Chris Lukhaup/USDA-FS/Wikimedia Commons

A highly infectious fungal disease, crayfish plague is the main cause of crayfish declines across Europe. It has the potential to devastate Australian freshwater crayfish populations. North American crayfish can be carriers of the disease and the illegal trade of crayfish, such as the dwarf Cajun crayfish for aquariums, also threatens to introduce the disease.

6. New Myrtle Rust Strains

Leaves covered in a yellow powdery bloom.
The plant disease myrtle rust killing native rose apple leaves in Hawaii. Pest Plants and Animals/Wikimedia Commons

When a strain of myrtle rust arrived in Australia in 2010, it spread quickly along the east coast, infecting 358 different native plant species including eucalypts, bottle brushes and lilly pillies. It has caused major declines and local extinctions of many species. Other exotic myrtle rust strains occur outside Australia. These present serious threats to Australia’s natural environment and to commercial native forest plantations. Importing infected plant material is the main risk of introduction.

7. Savannah Cats

Close up of a patterned black and tan cat with large pointy ears.
Savannah cats are bred by crossing a domestic cat with an African serval. Jason Douglas/Wikimedia Commons

Savannah cats are two to three times the size of domestic cats. In 2008 the federal government banned the importation of savannah cats. A scientific assessment found pet savannah cats had the potential to establish and roam across 97% of the country if they escaped or were released. They can take down prey twice as large as feral cats, so 90% of Australia’s native land mammals would be at risk. Demand for the species from the pet trade raises the risk of smuggling or illegal trade.

8. Black Spined Toad

A brown toad with black markings on dried orange leaves.
A black spined toad in Taiwan. LiCheng Shih/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

The black spined toad is potentially more damaging than the cane toad because it could survive across a bigger region including in the colder parts of Australia. It would prey on native frogs and other small animals, be toxic to larger animals, and probably carry exotic parasites or disease. It is a common stowaway in shipping cargo.

Prioritising Nature

Australia’s biosecurity system has generally served our country well, but it is under constant and growing strain. Historically, the environment has also been the poor cousin of agriculture at the biosecurity table.

Preparedness and responses for environmental threats remain chronically underfunded, especially when compared to those developed for industry.

A well-resourced independent body focused on the prevention and early elimination of new environmental pests and diseases would be a major step toward achieving our global commitments to end extinction.The Conversation

Jaana Dielenberg, University Fellow, Charles Darwin University and Patrick O'Connor, Associate Professor, University of Adelaide

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

UN invasive species report reveals scale of threat to nature and people – and how to manage it

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean. Drew McArthur/Shutterstock
Kelvin S.-H. PehUniversity of Southampton

More than 3,500 invasive alien species are seriously compromising human wellbeing and causing irreversible damage to ecosystems, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). While some alien species actually benefit humans, the UN organisation estimates 10% threaten nature and people.

Alien species are plants, animals or other organisms that are introduced to new regions by human activities. A subset of them, known as invasive alien species, can make native species go extinct, spread diseases such as malaria, Zika and West Nile fever, and damage food crops.

The IPBES, a body of experts tasked with assessing the state of nature and its contributions to society, has identified invasive alien species as a significant cause of the declining variety of lifeforms on Earth. Other threats include the loss and degradation of habitats, pollution, climate change and the overharvesting of species for food, their body parts and the pet trade.

A new report by the IPBES, created by 86 experts from 49 countries over four years, drawing on over 13,000 scientific studies and including contributions from indigenous peoples, highlights the particular threat of invasive species.

Growing Threat

Invasive alien species affect all world regions, including Antarctica. The IPBES assessment says that 34% of the impacts are reported in the Americas, 31% in Europe and Central Asia, 25% in Asia and the Pacific, and 7% in Africa.

Most impacts are reported on land (75%), with fewer in freshwater (14%) and marine (10%) habitats. Islands are particularly vulnerable, with alien plants outnumbering natives on more than 25% of the world’s islands.

A tropical island.
Island species evolve in relative isolation and struggle to compete with introduced wildlife. Vibrant Image Studio/Shutterstock

The assessment highlights that indigenous peoples, who are more likely to have deep cultural ties to the lands on which they live, are particularly vulnerable. More than 2,300 invasive alien species occur in indigenous territories, threatening the quality of life and cultural identities of millions of people.

The report also reveals that invasive alien species are linked to 60% of global plant and animal extinctions. Their implicit economic cost exceeded US$423 billion (£361 billion) annually in 2019 and has quadrupled each decade since 1970.

The threat of invasive alien species will loom larger in future due to increasing trade and travel. Their impacts could be amplified as they interact with other drivers of biodiversity loss, such as climate change.

Taking Control

An effective response to each invasive species will depend on where it is happening and how it is spreading. But it should combine efforts across countries and sectors. Raising awareness among the public will also be necessary.

Although 80% of countries have targets for managing invasive alien species, only 17% have specific national laws or regulations. The IPBES assessment also highlights that 45% of countries do not invest in the management of biological invasions, which puts their national neighbours at risk.

The assessment calls for effective management to address the growing threat. Its recommendations include:

  • increasing preparedness and prevention through pre-border quarantines and strict import controls, which are generally the most cost-effective solutions

  • early detection of invasions and rapid responses through general surveillance strategies, especially in aquatic environments

  • eradicating invasive species where possible – this is most feasible for small, slow-spreading species (for example, feral cats) and particularly in isolated ecosystems such as islands

  • containment, which can be effective for invasive alien species that cannot be eradicated.

A white cat lying among shrubs.
Feral cats can devastate wildlife which haven’t evolved to defend against them. Todamo/Shutterstock

Invasive Aliens Can Be Beneficial

Alien species can also benefit people. The recent assessment acknowledged that perceptions of their threat can vary depending on who you ask, which can complicate their management. The report does not offer guidance for these cases, but assessing the benefits and costs of each alien species is a good place to start.

For example, feral cattle, sheep, goats and pigs on the Caribbean island of Montserrat provide meat for local cuisines. Another assessment by the Montserrat Department of Environment (which I helped with) found that discontinuing management of these feral animals could halve the island’s nature-based tourism revenue. This ongoing control programme provides a steady supply of wild meat, which would fall by 36% in its absence.

Having an accurate understanding of the damage caused by invasive species, as well as their potential benefits and the cost of controlling them, is essential for properly tackling one of the biggest threats to Earth’s biodiversity.

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
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

Kelvin S.-H. Peh, Associate Professor of Conservation Science, University of Southampton

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

On hot days, up to 87% of heat gain in our homes is through windows. On cold days, it’s 40% of heat loss. Here’s how we can fix that

Trivess MooreRMIT UniversityLisa de KleynLa Trobe University, and Tom SimkoRMIT University

Climate change and energy costs mean we need to rethink how we design and build our homes. The updated National Construction Code has lifted the required energy performance of new housing from 6 stars to 7 stars (10 stars being the best). Windows are an obvious focus for improving the energy efficiency of Australian homes.

On hot days, most of the heat that gets into our homes is through the windows. On cold days, windows account for almost half the heat loss. High-performance insulating windows have been installed in Australian homes at a fraction of the rates for New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom.

In our newly published report, we found the local window industry can produce the high-performance windows we need for thermally efficient homes. These homes will cost less to heat and cool, with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

But the industry is complex, with several obstacles to greater uptake of these windows. We identified a range of government policies and industry actions that could help drive change.

How Much Difference Do Windows Make?

Single-glazed windows are common in Australian housing. Heat travels easily through these windows so they are a thermal weak spot.

In Australian homes, up to 87% of heat gain in summer and 40% of heat loss in winter is through the windows. This makes it harder to maintain a comfortable temperature inside.

Around 40% of household energy use in the average Australian home is for heating and cooling. The result is high power bills.

High-Performance Windows Can Solve This Problem

Better windows are available. Double-glazed and triple-glazed windows offer much better performance, reducing the need to use energy for heating and cooling. In some climate zones, they’re one of the most cost-effective investments in energy efficiency you can make.

These windows have insulating layer(s) of air between the glass panes. Other elements can also improve performance. These include thermal breaks (an insulating barrier that reduces heat flow through the window frame) and films that can be applied to the panes.

These approaches can be used in new window units, or with retrofit options such as secondary glazing, which can be cheaper than replacing the whole window unit. It involves installing a glazed panel in a frame inside an existing window. This can be a great solution for apartments as it might not require owners corporation approval.

High-performance windows offer many benefits beyond greater thermal comfort. These include better physical and mental health as a result of homes no longer being too hot or too cold, improved control of ventilation and natural light, and reduced noise from outdoors.

Australia is trailing far behind other countries in installing high-performance windows. Just over 10% of windows in new housing in Australia are high-performance – versus around 80% in the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand.

Scaling Up Use Of High-Performance Windows

We explored the window and residential building industry in Victoria on behalf of Sustainability Victoria. Our aim was to understand the industry and its readiness to scale up the manufacture, sale and installation of high-performance windows. We also wanted to understand what support might be needed to achieve this transition.

The people we spoke to, drawn from across the sector, said they are ready to scale up once demand is there. They clearly said there isn’t any technological barrier to doing this.

The time from ordering to receiving windows has increased in recent years as part of wider supply-chain issues. We were told this was almost resolved. However, a rapid scaling up of demand for high-performance windows could create short-term supply challenges.

The builders we spoke to identified some issues around understanding the various window products, such as the relative benefits of different frame materials. For example, uPVC and timber frames typically conduct less heat than aluminium. However, a thermal break can greatly improve aluminium frame performance.

They also noted that high-performance windows cost more. This can be a challenge in an industry already struggling to provide housing at affordable prices.

In addition, high-performance windows are heavier. Extra equipment could be needed to install them.

How Can Policy Help Improve Uptake?

We found the industry is complex. A range of measures will likely be needed to encourage the uptake and delivery of more high-performance windows. Our research proposes the following interventions:

  • regulation – further improve regulations to nudge use of high-performance windows, which could include setting minimum performance requirements for windows as New Zealand has done

  • education – better educate builders and consumers with easy-to-understand, transparent information to bust myths about high-performance windows and encourage people to consider their wider benefits

  • finance – there is a need to reduce capital costs (economies of scale will help) and improve access to government support, which could include rebates for home owners, similar to those for rooftop solar systems

  • quality assurance – the range of high-performance window options means we need to ensure key intermediaries like energy assessors provide well-informed advice. Support tools such as the Window Energy Rating Scheme can help with decision-making. There is also a need to ensure quality installation practices.

Windows For The Future

Given the key role of windows in housing quality, performance and emissions, installing high-performance windows needs to become business as usual. In many other countries, double-or-triple-glazed windows are now standard. If we don’t do the same, we will lock households into lower-quality, poorly performing housing for decades.

Making high-performance windows standard building practice in Australia is achievable. However, some support for the window industry, builders and households will be needed.The Conversation

Trivess Moore, Senior Lecturer, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT UniversityLisa de Kleyn, Research Fellow, Climate Change Adaptation Lab, La Trobe University, and Tom Simko, Senior Lecturer, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University

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

The US is spending billions to reduce forest fire risks – we mapped the hot spots where treatment offers the biggest payoff for people and climate

A forest-thinning project in Arizona leaves more open canopy and clearer ground. David McNew/Getty Images
Jamie PeelerUniversity of Montana

The U.S. government is investing over US$7 billion in the coming years to try to manage the nation’s escalating wildfire crisis. That includes a commitment to treat at least 60 million acres in the next 10 years by expanding forest-thinning efforts and controlled burns.

While that sounds like a lot – 60 million acres is about the size of Wyoming – it’s nowhere close to enough to treat every acre that needs it.

So, where can taxpayers get the biggest bang for the buck?

I’m a fire ecologist in Montana. In a new study, my colleagues and I mapped out where forest treatments can do the most to simultaneously protect communities – by preventing wildfires from turning into disasters – and also protect the forests and the climate we rely on, by keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and stored in healthy soils and trees.

Wildfires Are Becoming More Severe

Forests and fires have always been intertwined in the West. Fires in dry conifer forests like ponderosa pine historically occurred frequently, clearing out brush and small trees in the understory. As a result, fires had less fuel and tended to stay on the ground, doing less damage to the larger, older trees.

That changed after European colonization of North America ushered in a legacy of fire suppression that wouldn’t be questioned until the 1960s. In the absence of fire, dry conifer forests accumulated excess fuel that now allows wildfires to climb into the canopy.

A firefighter looks up with a line of low-burning fire behind him on the ground beneath trees.
A firefighter sets a controlled burn to remove undergrowth that could fuel a fire. Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In addition to excess fuels, all forest types are experiencing hotter and drier wildfire seasons due to climate change. And the expanding number of people living in and near forests, and their roads and power lines, increases the risk of wildfire ignitions. Collectively, it’s not surprising that more area is burning at high severity in the West.

In response, the U.S. is facing increasing pressure to protect communities from high-severity wildfire, while also reducing the country’s impact on climate change – including from carbon released by wildfires.

High-Risk Areas That Meet Both Goals

To find the locations with greatest potential payoff for forest treatments, we started by identifying areas where forest carbon is more likely to be lost to wildfires compared to other locations.

In each area, we considered the likelihood of wildfire and calculated how much forest carbon might be lost through smoke emissions and decomposition. Additionally, we evaluated whether the conditions in burned areas would be too stressful for trees to regenerate over time. When forests regrow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away in their wood, eventually making up for the carbon lost in the fire.

In particular, we found that forests in California, New Mexico and Arizona were more likely to lose a large portion of their carbon in a wildfire and also have a tough time regenerating because of stressful conditions.

A map of the western U.S. shows areas where protecting human communities and protecting carbon storage overlap, including  Flagstaff, Ariz.; Placerville, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Hamilton, Mont.; Taos, N.M.; and Medford, Ore.
Areas with high potential for protecting both human communities and carbon storage. Jamie PeelerCC BY-ND

When we compared those areas to previously published maps detailing high wildfire risk to communities, we found several hot spots for simultaneously reducing wildfire risk to communities and stabilizing stored carbon.

Forests surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona; Placerville, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Hamilton, Montana; Taos, New Mexico; Medford, Oregon, and Wenatchee, Washington, are among locations with good opportunities for likely achieving both goals.

Why Treating Forests Is Good For Carbon, Too

Forest thinning is like weeding a garden: It removes brush and small trees in dry conifer forests to leave behind space for the larger, older trees to continue growing.

Repeatedly applying controlled burns maintains that openness and reduces fuels in the understory. Consequently, when a wildfire occurs in a thinned and burned area, flames are more likely to remain on the ground and out of the canopy.

Although forest thinning and controlled burning remove carbon in the short term, living trees are more likely to survive a subsequent wildfire. In the long term, that’s a good outcome for carbon and climate. Living trees continue to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, as well as provide critical seeds and shade for seedlings to regenerate, grow and recover the carbon lost to fires.

Of course, forest thinning and controlled burning are not a silver bullet. Using the National Fire Protection Agency’s Firewise program’s advice and recommended materials will help people make their properties less vulnerable to wildfires. Allowing wildfires to burn under safe conditions can reduce future wildfire severity. And the world needs to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to curb climate change impacts that increase the risk of wildfires becoming community disasters.The Conversation

Jamie Peeler, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Montana

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

The US broke global trade rules to try to fix climate change – to finish the job, it has to fix the trade system

U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 16, 2022, including electric vehicle subsidies with ‘buy American’ rules. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty
Noah KaufmanColumbia UniversityChris BatailleColumbia UniversityGautam JainColumbia University, and Sagatom SahaColumbia University

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden’s landmark climate law, is now expected to prompt a trillion dollars in government spending to fight climate change and trillions more in private investment. But the law and Biden’s broader “buy American” agenda include measures that discriminate against imports.

One year in, these policies, such as the law’s electric vehicle subsidies, appear to be succeeding at growing domestic clean energy industries – consider the US$100 billion in newly announced battery supply chain investments. But we believe the law also clearly violates international trade rules.

The problem is not the crime but the cover-up. Today’s trade rules are ill-suited for the climate crisis. However, simply tearing them down could hinder economic growth and climate progress alike.

If U.S. leaders instead take responsibility for forging an improved international trade system – rather than denying the violations of trade rules or pointing fingers at similar transgressions by trade partners – they could help put the global economy in a better position to weather increasing climate-related trade tensions.

Building, Then Violating WTO Rules

The United States has shaped international trade rules more than any other country.

In the 1940s, the U.S. proposed rules that were eventually largely adopted as the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, or GATT, a series of multinational agreements to reduce trade barriers. The most ambitious of the GATT agreements was the U.S.-instigated Uruguay Round of the 1990s, which created the World Trade Organization.

Some WTO rules are vague, but others are crystal clear, including an unambiguous prohibition of subsidies contingent on the use of domestic products instead of imports. Certain provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act do exactly that, such as the electric vehicle subsidies that require a large percentage of parts to be produced in North America.

The choice facing U.S. policymakers was between accepting the Inflation Reduction Act, including its rule-breaking, protectionist elements, or missing the small window to pass federal climate legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) explicitly refused to provide the 50th vote needed to pass the law if it wasn’t to his liking, and among his asks was domestic sourcing requirements. More broadly, any meaningful climate legislation that does not support the local economies of fossil fuel-heavy regions may be dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate.

Without the Inflation Reduction Act, however, the U.S. had next to no chance of meeting its climate commitments, which would have dampened climate policy momentum across the world.

U.S. leaders might have been justified in begging for forgiveness after passing the legislation rather than asking for permission to violate trade rules. Instead, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said his team reviewed the international trade laws very carefully and found no violations.

Instead of an apology, U.S. leaders have said, “You’re welcome,” arguing that the subsidies will benefit other countries by accelerating the deployment of clean energy technologies and lowering costs.

While there is strong evidence to support this argument, it falls flat from a country that has failed to fulfill its obligations to take federal action on climate change for decades and just violated trade laws it has held others accountable to for so long. India’s power minister accused the West of hypocrisy, saying the Inflation Reduction Act’s protectionism will inhibit the energy transitions in developing economies.

The Real Concern: Rising Protectionism

The Inflation Reduction Act contains a fundamental contradiction. Its promise to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions relies on the rapid diffusion of technologies, knowledge and finance across borders. Yet, its domestic subsidies may accelerate the adoption of trade barriers that inhibit these same cross-border flows, thus slowing progress on climate change.

Moreover, the investments it catalyzes will immediately benefit the U.S. economy, while the shared benefits of technological progress and emissions reductions will unfold over many decades for other countries. In the intervening years, other countries may respond with protectionist policies of their own.

Indeed, the real concern might not be the opening salvo, but the shootout of growing protectionism that ensues. For all its drawbacks, the growth in international trade since World War II has led to immense economic progress in much of the world, including the United States. The WTO and its predecessors have been instrumental in reducing harmful tariffs and providing a consistent set of trade rules to which countries are supposed to adhere.

Biden and von der Lyden talk in the Oval Office. They're leaning foward toward each other in their chairs and smiling.
Combating climate change was on the agenda when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the White House in March 2023. The European Union has proposed its own rules to support its domestic clean energy industries. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden administration is attempting to assuage these concerns by forging agreements that make more foreign producers eligible for Inflation Reduction Act subsidies. But, in our view, bespoke agreements with a handful of countries aren’t enough. A new vision is needed for international trade rules that support low trade barriers and “green industrial policies” alike.

An Opportunity To Modernize International Trade

Global trade rules have not been updated in a generation. They are sorely in need of reform.

The usefulness of the WTO is contingent on most parties agreeing that its rules are worth following. Without a new working consensus and backing from the largest powers with effective vetoes, the organization will become irrelevant.

The first step to fixing the situation is to stop denying the problem or digging deeper holes, such as the United States’ ill-advised blocking of appointments to the WTO’s dispute settlement Appellate Body since 2017 to protest what it sees as overreach by the body.

More proactively, the U.S. can reestablish its commitment to trade rules by instigating a process to develop equitable reforms.

That could begin with a global summit to discuss the changes necessary to reflect new realities. High-level leadership from the United States would add considerable heft to the ongoing efforts to reform global trade rules.

Any fundamental rewrite of WTO rules will be a long and painstaking process. Instead, it may be sufficient to add a few clauses to existing agreements – like GATT Articles 20 and 21, which deal with exceptions to the trade rules – that clearly and transparently recognize that governments will need to nurture emerging domestic industries to cut emissions fast, ensure energy security and support vulnerable economies.

New rules could limit and define the appropriate use of green subsidies, carbon border tariffs, export and import controls and supply chain coordination. For example, the U.S. and other developed countries could agree to limit subsidies’ domestic sourcing requirements to only emerging, innovative clean technologies that require public support to commercialize. Building on this, all countries could work toward an explicit list of clean energy, transport and industrial technologies needed by all that can be traded with reduced or minimal tariffs.

Of course, these trade tools would have to be managed carefully to avoid proliferating and exacerbating tensions.

In the meantime, since U.S. leaders are already acting as if these rules exist, they’ll have to accept that other countries’ leaders may act similarly — a new Kantian Golden Rule for trade.

It may turn out that the United States did the world a favor by throwing off the shackles of outdated trade rules. That will depend on whether U.S. leaders take advantage of the opportunity to reframe the discussion around the country’s recent legislation as steps toward a modernized international trade regime that better aligns with the world’s climate goals.The Conversation

Noah Kaufman, Research Scholar in Climate Economics, Columbia UniversityChris Bataille, Adjunct Research Fellow in Energy and Climate Policy, Columbia UniversityGautam Jain, Senior Research Scholar in Financing the Energy Transition, Columbia University, and Sagatom Saha, Research Scholar in Energy Policy, Columbia University

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

Wildfires have wreaked havoc this summer – these plants were prepared

A pine forest in the Canary Islands after a wildfire. Tamara Kulikova/Shutterstock
Amy JacksonRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Mark ChapmanUniversity of Southampton

Summer 2023 has seen wildfire crews tirelessly battle forest fires worldwide. The Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the Moroccan coast, have faced their worst fires in 40 years, but amid the devastation lies a remarkable tale of resilience.

The Canary Islands consist of seven islands, including the popular holiday destinations of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. Increased drought and higher temperatures driven by climate change have strained communities and wildlife here. Approximately 6% of Tenerife has been scorched by fire and more than 26,000 residents displaced by fires during 2023. But unlike people, plants cannot escape the harsh conditions.

A harsh environment is not a new phenomenon on the Canary Islands, though. Throughout their history these islands have experienced volcanic eruptions (such as the 2021 eruption of La Palma) and brutal droughts. Before people arrived, wildfires would ignite due to volcanic activity or lightning strikes. Fires were a part of a natural cycle. As such, a number of the island’s native species (which make up 40% of plants on the island today) have adapted over millions of years to weather these destructive events.

As climate change brings ever more frequent fires, can these adaptations help the island’s native flora survive?

Fire-Resistant Armour

Over millions of years evolution has come up with a few tricks to survive environmental disasters. There are two main strategies when it comes to wildfires. The first kind protects adult plants from the flames, ensuring their survival. The second aims to help forests recover quickly from a fire by producing new offspring.

One species that employs both these strategies is the endemic Canarian pine (Pinus canariensis). Pine woodlands cover 60% of the archipelago and are the vegetation most affected by wildfire. But due to its adaptive features, the Canarian pine is regarded as one of the most fire-resistant trees on Earth.

A burnt pine tree trunk with a shoot of green needles.
New shoots sprouting from the bark of a Canarian pine forest post-wildifre. T. Schneider/Shutterstock

Canarian pines drop their lower branches as they age, preventing fires from climbing up their trunks. They also have thick, heat-insulating bark which acts as a shield against flames – protecting the living tissue within.

One study found that after the 2007 wildfires in Tenerife there were no dead mature trees – even those trees with more than 70% of their canopy torched had survived.

After a fire, Canarian pines swiftly regenerate. The trees reserve energy as starch within the soft living flesh of the tree specifically for these occasions and sprout buds from beneath their bark which otherwise lie dormant.

The destruction caused by wildfires creates competition between the plants that do survive to reproduce quickly and fill the scorched, empty spaces. Canarian pines achieve this with cones that contain seeds enclosed by a resin only fire can melt, at which point the seeds are released onto the bare soil below.

Many smaller plants that inhabit the floor of these pine forests have seeds that can survive wildfires too. Once the fire has passed, they rapidly grow to exploit the bare earth. A lotus plant creates a yellow canvas of flowers only a few months post-fire.

A slope with tall trees and yellow flowers on the ground.
Shrubs quickly restore the area under the canopy in a Canarian pine forest. Aimnair/iNaturalist

A Hotter, Drier Future

Unfortunately, these adaptations have limits. The combination of human activity, such as campsites or arson, and climate change is presenting new challenges compared with the natural fires these plants evolved with.

Prolonged droughts, driven partly by shifting weather patterns associated with climate change, have worsened conditions in the Canary Islands, increasing the frequency of fires beyond the capacity of forest ecosystems to regenerate. The pressure on forests is compounded by invasive species, ravenous goats and rabbits and the conversion of wild lands into farms and towns.

As well as burning away vegetation, wildfires harm the soil and can contaminate water, as well as destroy vegetation which helps keep water in the environment, spurring drought. With a staggering 20% of the archipelago’s native flora currently classified as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List, urgent efforts are needed to ensure the continued survival of these unique species.

Most native species do not possess the adaptations that allow some to withstand wildfires on the Canary Islands. And even those that do are struggling with fire seasons evolution never prepared them for.

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
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

Amy Jackson, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Mark Chapman, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Southampton

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

Chimpanzees are not pets, no matter what social media tells you

Miriam, a rescued chimpanzee brought to the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in 2018. Jake BrookerCC BY-NC-ND
Jake BrookerDurham University

Trading wild chimpanzees, including their meat and body parts, is illegal. And yet, social media influencers and companies still reap profits from sharing “cute” images and videos of chimpanzees and other primates poached from the wild. All the while, sanctuaries worldwide continue to receive orphaned victims of this illicit trade.

As a comparative psychologist who studies the social and emotional behaviour of great apes, I have worked with chimpanzee populations both in the wild and in sanctuaries. Currently, I’m working at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, a sanctuary located in Zambia. Over the past 40 years, Chimfunshi has provided sanctuary to over 100 chimpanzees rescued from the pet and bushmeat trades.

In May 2023, Chimfunshi welcomed three new rescues. Following their rehabilitation, Abbie, Francis and Vanessa* will be integrated into a small community of eight other chimps who were rescued from similar conditions in 2018.

Chimpanzees are not native to Zambia. So, why do these animals still end up in these circumstances, and how can we help to keep them in their wild homes where they belong?

Chimp Trafficking

Chimpanzees live across sub-Saharan Africa, in habitats ranging from savannah-woodland mosaics to tropical rainforests. These habitats that chimps depend on are threatened by the expansion of agricultural activities, alongside the encroachment of the logging, mining and oil industries.

The fragmentation of chimpanzee habitats makes it easier for poachers to hunt them. Chimpanzees are now listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Chimfunshi is home to chimpanzees stolen from the wild and sold for sums as high as US$10,000 (£7,900). Prior to their rescue, some of Chimfunshi’s chimps were forced to surf for tourists (nearly drowning in the process) and smoke cigarettes. One was even taught to masturbate on circus stages in front of families.

In these conditions, they are in an environment alien to their species. The chimpanzees’ natural inclinations are inhibited by chains or harsh training to keep them on their best behaviour for social media or tourists. Typically, “pet” chimps are unable to even interact with their own kind, preventing these incredibly social animals from knowing how to be themselves.

María Laura Cordonet Castagneto, a University of Girona researcher I have worked with at Chimfunshi, told me that one nine-year-old does not even know how to play or groom, as she was not raised among other chimps. Part of this chimp’s rehabilitation is to help her learn such crucial social behaviours from watching and engaging with her new peers.

Most of Chimfunshi’s rescues are physically or emotionally scarred from beatings by their previous captors to keep them disciplined. Many will have watched their mothers and peers try to protect them from capture, and being slaughtered in the process.

Like most primates that are imprisoned in human homes or used by the entertainment industry, chimpanzees quickly outgrow their attraction as “pets” as they age. Their canines grow, they become uncontrollably strong and their behaviour more erratic. For every chimp that is saved, many more are abandoned or killed when they can no longer be controlled.

Not So Cute

For a chimp to wear human clothing, play the piano, ride a skateboard or hang out with tourists paying US$700 (£560) for a ten-minute session, so much suffering must occur. This is the cruel reality that “cute” TikTok videos and Instagram reels neglect.

Such content is pushed virally to our newsfeeds, regardless of whether the animal is a family dog or a creature illegally poached from the wild. Research has found that depicting wild animals in human contexts can increase the desire of a viewer to buy their own exotic pet.

But social media companies ignore this problem because this type of content drives considerable online engagement. The Instagram account for Limbani, a chimpanzee who lives in Miami, has nearly 800,000 followers and a 1.5% engagement rate (a measure of how much of your audience actively engages with the content). To put this in context, Kim Kardashian’s Instagram account has an engagement rate of around 0.65%.

What Can Be Done?

We can all individually make choices towards the future we want to support. Only sharing responsible online content of wild animals in their natural habitats is one option. But you can take a more active role in wildlife conservation by avoiding unethical wildlife tourism activities.

However, the long-term survival of endangered species can only be guaranteed through a systemic shift in how we perceive and treat the natural world. First and foremost, we must start by making it socially undesirable to own wild animals as pets.

Steps have been taken in recent years to reduce and restrict the trade of exotic animals. More than 50 countries have banned (or have announced impending bans on) the use of wild animals in circuses. And the UK government has set out proposals to finally outlaw primate pet ownership in 2024.

Even Hollywood – which has a long history of using trained monkey or ape “actors” – is shifting to the use of computer-generated imagery to depict primates on screen. Social media must catch up, and recognise that holding exotic animals in human contexts represents a grizzly and exploitative industry – and thus reflects animal abuse.

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives. They are thoughtful, emotional and have complex social needs. They belong in their wild homes where they can be themselves. Primates are not pets.

*The names of Chimfunshi’s new rescues have been changed to protect the identities of the chimpanzees and those who rescued them.The Conversation

Jake Brooker, Research Associate in the Department of Psychology, Durham University

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

Farmers are famously self-reliant. Why not use farm dams as mini-hydro plants?

Nicholas GilmoreUNSW SydneyMartino MalerbaDeakin University, and Thomas BritzUNSW Sydney

Farmers often pride themselves on their self-reliance. When you live far from the cities, it makes sense to do as much as possible yourself. Australia’s sheer size has meant many remote farms have long been off grid as it’s often simply too expensive to get a power connection. But for those still on the grid, there are now new options.

As solar gets cheaper, more and more farms are aiming to become self-reliant in power. But until now, getting fully off the grid has had a sticking point – solar intermittency. Solar power might be cheaper than ever, but if you don’t have storage or backup, you’re still reliant on the grid when the sun doesn’t shine.

Batteries are a compelling solution. But they might not offer a full day’s backup and come with concerns about fire risk and waste.

Generators offer reliable backup. But they too have downsides – they have to be resupplied and produce harmful emissions.

For farmers, there’s now another option: connect one of your dams to a river – or link two dams together – to create a small pumped hydro plant to store electricity from solar to use at night. The water in your dams could offer yet another form of self-reliance.

Our new research has identified over 30,000 rural sites where micro pumped hydro could work. A typical site could produce two kilowatts of power and store 30 kilowatt hours of energy – enough to run a typical home in South Australia for 40 hours.

farm dam
Micro pumped hydro is surprisingly simple: two dams, a pump and a turbine. Author providedCC BY-ND

Massive To Micro? Yes, Pumped Hydro Can Work On Farms

Pumped hydro is essentially turning hydroelectric power into a battery as well.

Take two reservoirs, where one is higher than the other. When you have extra solar power, you store it. How? By using the energy to pump water uphill to the top reservoir. When you need power later on, you release water down to the lower reservoir and produce electricity with a turbine.

At large scale, these plants are an established and efficient way to store energy, though they can suffer from cost blowouts, as in the Snowy 2.0 scheme. Queensland’s government is planning massive pumped hydro schemes to act as batteries.

Until recently, small-scale pumped hydro hasn’t made much economic sense.

But the steadily falling cost of solar means the numbers have changed. It’s now more cost effective to get larger arrays. And that opens up opportunities to find ways to store surplus electricity generated in daytime.

For farmers, another opportunity is the ability to use existing dams and reduce pumped hydro construction costs.

If it’s cheaper, it’s much more viable. Early research on solar-powered irrigation systems using pumped hydro suggests the payback period for this kind of energy storage could be up to four times shorter than for batteries.

What’s the catch? As you might have guessed, this solution depends on the size of existing farm dams and rivers, and topography of the land.

The steeper the slope between the two water bodies, the more useful the system will be as energy storage. To get the most out of these systems means finding the sites with the most potential value. And it’s likely the solution won’t work for farms on flat ground – you need a drop of at least 20 metres.

You’re probably wondering how this stacks up financially. We compared a micro pumped hydro system with 42.6kWh capacity and able to discharge 3.6kW to a commercial lithium-ion battery, the Tesla Powerwall, able to store 13.5kWh and discharge 5.0kW.

We found micro pumped hydro storage was 30% cheaper than a battery if locally generated solar was regularly needed overnight – such as to power a 24/7 irrigation system.

pumped hydro
To date, most pumped hydro plants have been larger – but they can now work on a smaller scale too. This image shows Turlough Hill pumped hydro station in Ireland. Shutterstock

Australia Has Thousands Of Potential Sites

Our research is the first continent-wide assessment of potential pumped hydro farm dam sites.

How did we figure out how many sites would suit micro pumped hydro? The magic of maths. We used algorithms from graph theory, as these are used to model networks, and set them loose on a 2021 survey of 1.7 million Australian farm dams. We didn’t want to raise people’s hopes if their dams weren’t suitable, so we set the minimum capacity at 24kWh (similar to a typical home battery after efficiency losses) and with a minimum slope of 17%, to make it price competitive with a battery.

That’s how we came up with our figure of 30,000 promising sites, including dam-to-dam and dam-to-river sites. Dam-to-river sites are a good option if you have a dam at a reasonable elevation above a river – you can pump water uphill from the river and return it later to make power.

What’s Next For This Approach?

You can make this approach more efficient by using new all-in-one hardware, such as combined turbines and water pumps, as well as integrating it with smart irrigation management.

To be clear, this solution won’t work for every landholder. If you’re farming wheat on flat plains, you’re unlikely to have the slope needed to make it work.

If you’re considering getting storage to go off grid, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of each technology and how it would suit your local conditions.

For instance, if you’re in a drought-prone area with limited groundwater, it may not make sense to install pumped hydro. During a drought, you may well need the water on the farm. Our research assumes 70% of the water in the dams is available for use, which does not account for droughts or irrigation needs.

But for some landholders, this may be the missing part of the puzzle. Wind and solar installation is skyrocketing [around the world]. This, in turn, is boosting demand for cost-effective energy storage. Given there are 30,000 suitable farm dams in Australia alone, it’s likely this technology could play a valuable role around the world – especially for farmers in remote areas or where grid connection is too expensive. The Conversation

Nicholas Gilmore, Lecturer in Engineering Design, UNSW SydneyMartino Malerba, ARC DECRA Fellow, Deakin University, and Thomas Britz, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Sydney

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

California and Florida grew quickly on the promise of perfect climates in the 1900s – today, they lead the country in climate change risks

Iconic California from a 1920s orange box label. Covina Citrus Industry Photographs
Henry Knight LozanoUniversity of Exeter

Images of orange groves and Spanish-themed hotels with palm tree gardens filled countless pamphlets and articles promoting Southern California and Florida in the late 19th century, promising escape from winter’s reach.

This vision of an “American Italy” captured hearts and imaginations across the U.S. In it, Florida and California promised a place in the sun for industrious Americans to live the good life, with the perfect climate.

But the very climates that made these semitropical playgrounds the American dream of the 20th century threaten to break their reputations in the 21st century.

Women in 1920s-style bathing suits lounge on a beach in Florida.
A postcard illustrates the latest style for Miami beach bathing around 1920. Asheville Post Card Co./Wikimedia

In California, home owners now face dangerous heat wavesextended droughts that threaten the water supply, and uncontrollable wildfires. In Florida, sea level rise is worsening the risks of high-tide flooding and storm surge from hurricanes, in addition to turning up the thermostat on already humid heat. Global warming has put both Florida and California at the top of the list of states most at risk from climate change.

My books and research have explored how these two states were sold to the U.S. public like twin Edens. Today, descendants of those early waves of residents are facing a different world.

Selling Semitropical Climates

As railroads first reached Southern California and the Florida peninsula in the 1870s and 1880s, land, civic and newspaper boosters in each state worked to overturn beliefs that people only thrived in colder climes. In the decades after the Civil War, white Americans living in the North and Midwest had to be persuaded that sun-kissed climates would not do them more harm than good.

Employed by the transcontinental railroads, influential writers like Charles Nordhoff contested eastern notions of Southern California as barren desert where “Anglo-Americans” would inevitably succumb to the “disease” of laziness.

Challenging persistent ideas of a malarial swampland, promoters in Florida, including the state’s own Bureau of Immigration, similarly put a growing emphasis on climate as a vital resource for fruit growers and health seekers.

Photograph of orange grove and passenger train in Southern California, ca. 1880.
In the late 1800s, state promoters published pamphlets selling settlers and tourists on California’s semitropical climate. California Historical Society Collection, 1860-1960, University of Southern California Libraries and California Historical Society.

Climate became integral to California’s and Florida’s growing reputation as idealized U.S. destinations. Moreover, it was deemed unlike other natural assets: an inexhaustible resource.

Tourists and settlers gave weight to these claims. “The drawing card of Southern California,” a tourist from Chicago visiting Pasadena wrote in the Chicago Tribune in 1886, “is the beautiful, even climate.” Peninsula Florida was “blessed by nature with a semi-tropical climate,” a visitor wrote in the Atlanta Constitution in 1890. He saw its destiny to attract those who would “bask in the sunlight of a genial clime.”

This proved a compelling vision. In the 1880s, both Southern California and eastern Florida saw booms in settlement and tourism. Southern California’s population more than trebled during the decade to over 201,000, while peninsular Florida’s doubled to over 147,000.

Affluent white Americans weighed up the merits of each: for citrus-growing, winter recuperation, land investment. The differences were, of course, numerous. One state was western, the other southern; one more mountainous, the other flat. Some boosters critiqued their subtropical rival’s climate.

Southern California was too arid, a writer in the Florida Dispatch claimed, a desert “parched for want of water.” Florida, meanwhile, had too much of the stuff, editorials in California replied: a wetland fit for reptiles but potentially deadly to new residents who would wilt in its torrid summers.

Yet Southern California and Florida became connected through economic futures founded upon climate promotion and related industries of citrus, tourism and real estate. If rivals, they shared distinct market ambitions.

“California and Florida can [together] control the citrus trade,” the Los Angeles Times declared in 1885, arguing for mutual benefits in the promotion of oranges. The pair had much to gain from persuading Americans to eat their fruit.

Two men stand next to a large billboard reading: 50 foot lots at altos Del Mar. $745 and up.
Swampland was drained for subdivisions across Florida in the early 20th century. State Library and Archives of Florida

Developers in both also changed the landscape by rerouting water to create communities in once-inhospitable places. In California, the spread of irrigation to turn “desert into garden” enabled the growth of citrus towns such as Riverside, while vast aqueducts conveyed water to thirsty cities like Los Angeles.

In Florida, flawed schemes sought to “reclaim” – essentially drain – wetlands, including the Everglades, where boosters like Walter Waldin sold Americans on a once-in-a-lifetime “opportunity to secure a home and a livelihood in this superb climate.”

An Inexhaustible Resource

The roaring ‘20s saw a new influx of sun-seeking, automobile-driving Americans drawn by boosters to the beaches and orange groves of Los Angeles County and South Florida.

A drawing of a carnival midway with a Farris wheel, roller coaster, malt shop and ocean in the background.
A postcard of a beachfront amusement park at Mission Beach in San Diego celebrates leisure time in sunny California in the 1930s or 1940s. Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection/Wikimedia

Comparing Florida and California had become a national pastime as popular as mahjong and crossword puzzles, according to Robert Hodgson, a subtropical horticulturist at the University of California, in 1926.

Hodgson traveled to Florida to act as a judge at an agricultural show in Tampa where, the Los Angeles Times reported in a dig at Florida, he visited everything “from the dizziest pink stucco shore subdivision to the latest aspiring farming colony reclaimed from the alligators.”

Rows of perfect orange trees beside a pristine lake
A postcard dated 1925 shows an orange grove in Florida. State Library and Archives of Florida/Wikimedia

Snipes aside, climate and the lifestyle they offered to middle-class Americans set Southern California and Florida apart. Hodgson wrote that they were similarly “blessed by the gods” through a “joint heritage of something like 90% of the subtropical climatic areas of the United States.”

Climate, moreover, was unlike other natural resources. Whereas precious metals or forests could be mined or cut down, climate was different: an infinite resource. It “can never be exhausted by man in his ignorance or cupidity,” he explained.

Climate As Crisis

This history of climate-based advertising puts into stark relief the challenges faced by California and Florida in the era of climate crisis.

Today, both confront recurring natural disasters that are exacerbated by human-caused climate change: wildfires in Californiahurricanes and flooding in Florida, and increasingly dangerous heat in both.

Palm trees stand above the wreckage of a fire-burned building and homes. The air is still smoky.
Fire season has become an almost year-round threat in many parts of California. Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Extensive home-building in wildfire and coastal zones has compounded these risks, with insurance companies now refusing coverage for properties at risk of fires or storm damage, or making it prohibitively expensive.

A woman in a dress carrying her shoes and a man in red and white striped shorts walk down a street that is filled with water to above their ankles.
Street flooding during high tides has become more common in Miami Beach, Fla., as sea level rises. Hurricanes on top of higher seas are increasingly destructive. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Once marketed successfully as the United States’ two semitropical paradises, Southern California and Florida now share disturbing climate-influenced futures.

These futures bring into question how historic visions of economic growth and the sun-kissed good life that California and Florida have promised can be reconciled with climates that are no longer always genial or sustainable.The Conversation

Henry Knight Lozano, Senior Lecturer in American History & Director of Liberal Arts, University of Exeter

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 Chiltern Trail On The Verge Of Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
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

Pictures From The Past: Broken Bay Customs Station, Barrenjoey

Why it is called 'Station Beach' on the Pittwater side. More in Broken Bay Customs Station At Barrenjoey

Some photos and one drawing:


Barrenjuey [i.e. Barrenjoey], Broken Ba1869 Jan. 16 by George Penkivil Slade. nla.pic-an6454687, courtesy National Library of Australia

'Barranjoey' by Henry King, circa 1880, photo courtesy Powerhouse Museum - and section from:

Broken Bay. Date(s) of creation:1889. Charles Potter 1889. Image No: mp000367. Courtesy State Library of Victoria

Broken Bay. Date(s) of creation:1889. by Charles Potter 1889. Image No:FL15796563. Courtesy State Library of Victoria

Broken Bay Customs Station at Barrenjoey, circa 1900, photo courtesy Australian National Archives

Barrenjoey headland circa 1900-1910, photo courtesy NSW State Records and Archives. 

Barren Joey Lighthouse (Burrin Ju) [picture]. A. J. Vogan (Arthur James), 1859-1948,[ca. 1910 - ca. 1915] Image H82.254/8/34, courtesy State Library of Victoria.

Government Opens Up Sydney New Year's Eve Premium Vantage Points For The Public

The NSW Government has confirmed that NSW-government-owned sites around the Sydney Harbour foreshore will be free for the public this New Year's Eve, fulfilling an election commitment.
The announcement comes as 6,000 front row positions for the world-famous fireworks atop the Cahill Expressway go up for grabs from Tuesday with the launch of a free ticket ballot.

The move will allow more than 60,000 Sydneysiders and visitors to once again access some of the harbour's best vantage points free of charge.

The government is making fireworks viewing free again across Barangaroo Reserve, West Circular Quay (including First Fleet Park), Campbells Cove, Hickson Road Reserve and locations in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and The Domain, including the renowned Mrs Macquarie's Point. Tickets at these locations last year ranged in price from $12.50 to $520.

Most of these vantage points will operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with monitored capacity limits in place. Each vantage point will be closed once capacity is reached.

Further NSW Government public domain venues within Sydney Harbour will also be free, with access managed through a ticket system. This includes NSW National Parks and Wildlife's Bradleys Head, Strickland Estate, and the idyllic Clark Island, Me-Mel (Goat Island) and Shark Island.

Tickets at these NSW National Parks and Wildlife venues last year cost between $24 and $286. Instead, people who secure tickets this year will only pay a modest fee covering their return ferry voyage.

The Transport for NSW 'NYE on the Cahill Expressway' will remain the same as 2022, with free access managed through a ticket system. The family-friendly, alcohol and smoke-free celebration boasts live music, entertainment and an amazing view.

People can nominate their preference to attend either the 9pm or midnight session, with a maximum of five tickets available per ballot entry. Around 3,000 can take in the fireworks display at each session, with a dedicated accessibility viewing area available to up to 200 people.

The ballot for tickets to NYE on the Cahill Expressway 2023 opens at 9 am Tuesday 5 September and will close on Friday 6 October at 11:59 pm, with people invited to enter the draw to attend one of 2 sessions.

Successful applicants will be informed by email between Monday, 16 October and Friday, 8 December 2023.

To enter the ballot, visit NYE on the Cahill Expressway 2023.

The government has provided limited exemptions to 2 charities, the Taronga Conservation Society of Australia and the Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation, allowing their annual New Year's Eve fundraisers to continue. The not-for-profit events underpin the conservation and scientific work of the two important NSW public institutions.

The Royal Botanic Gardens' limited exemption allows its Foundation and Friends Picnic, established in 1996, to take place once again on the Mare and Foal Lawn. The picnic also serves as the Royal Botanic Gardens' designated accessible viewing area, with complimentary tickets issued via a public ballot to people with a disability.

Planning in all precincts is now underway. Access arrangements, including free tickets, will be made available over time via the City of Sydney's website.

City of Sydney will continue to put on the world-famous firework display on 31 December, ensuring Sydney maintains its globally recognised reputation as the New Year's capital of the world.

Sydney Harbour will once again be the focal point with 2 fireworks shows, the 9 pm fireworks followed by the dazzling midnight show.

NSW Government agencies including the NSW Police are already working together to ensure appropriate safety and security measures will be in place across the city to ensure revellers can welcome in 2024 safely.

Photo: Clark Island Garden Party Fireworks. NYE 2017. Clark Island on Sydney Harbour Credit: E Pickles/DPE

Celebrating Excellence And Achievement In NSW Public Education 2023

September 6, 2023
An impressive 165 awards have been presented to NSW public school teachers, students, employees and parents at the 2023 NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence.

Last night’s awards at Sydney Town Hall celebrated the best of public schooling, outstanding achievement of individuals and breakthrough school initiatives centred around literacy, numeracy, science, student well-being and community partnerships.

Robotics and STEM learning received honourable mentions throughout the six award categories, as did various flood assistance initiatives including a principal-led, wellbeing flood recovery support initiative for 12 primary and secondary schools in the Northern Rivers region.

The school team at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital School was awarded for transforming the educational provision to students during a short-term hospital stay, and four schools for specific purposes (SSPs) were also acknowledged for providing specialist and intensive support in a dedicated setting for students with moderate to high learning and support needs.

Of the 117 primary and secondary schools acknowledged, 28 schools received multiple awards and one regional NSW school, Denison College of Secondary Education – Bathurst High Campus, received four awards across three categories.

Respected and popular former Sir Joseph Banks High School Principal, Murray Kitteringham, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his “unrelenting energy, commitment, motivation, fervour for supporting students, colleagues and the system”.

Mr Kitteringham led the school community as principal from 2016 until his death in June 2022.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said she was delighted to highlight the incredible achievements of the public system’s outstanding students and teachers.

“These awards are a great opportunity to call out the fabulous educators, who every day are making a difference in the lives of children, and the inspiring students demonstrating academic, cultural, sporting and leadership excellence.”

The winners were selected in the following categories:
  • Minister’s Award for Excellence in Student Achievement
  • Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Secretary’s Award for Excellent Service
  • Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative
  • Secretary’s School Achievement Award
  • Public School Parent of the Year.
Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar said the awards were a great opportunity to recognise outstanding initiatives and staff that were driving improvements across public schools.

He said the number of regional schools showcased in the awards highlighted the Education Department’s commitment to equity of opportunity no matter where students lived.

“Schools like Denison College in Bathurst show geography is no barrier to delivering innovative programs that lift outcomes for our students and ensure our schools and staff are also improving every year.”

Mr Dizdar also acknowledged the role parents played in supporting public schools and public school students.

“The awards also recognise 12 parents, guardians and caregivers who perform invaluable support roles and who contribute significantly to their local NSW public school community; contributions that are deeply appreciated.”

Public Education Foundation chief executive officer David Riordan said public education was the cornerstone of the future of NSW.

“I am so proud to be recognising excellence, not just in the performances and the personal stories but also in the achievements of students, teachers, and school staff from across NSW.”

Read the award citations on the Public Education Foundation website

Recipients of the Award for Excellence in Student Achievement. Photo: NSW Department of Education.

Local Recipients Of Awards:

Recognising outstanding Year 12 students who have excelled in their secondary years across academic excellence, sports, cultural, community and leadership.

NBSC Mackellar Girls Campus
Maisy Bell has distinguished herself in every aspect of her school life. As School Captain, Maisy has been exemplary; she is the consummate role model with strong leadership capabilities matched with a most caring, positive manner. She has consistently displayed the strongest leadership, integrity and responsibility and is always a proactive and productive individual. Maisy has distinguished herself academically and in her cultural pursuits at state level. Her exceptionally high standards and her contributions to the community make her an outstanding role model whose talent is further evidenced by her varied cultural and community achievements and her prolific fundraising for charity.

NBSC Mackellar Girls Campus
Anneke Corry has distinguished herself and demonstrated a commitment to excellence in every aspect of her school life. As School Captain, Anneke consistently displays the strongest leadership, integrity and responsibility, and has a keen sense of the welfare of others and supporting them. Anneke has distinguished herself academically, excelling to the highest level in Years 11 and 12. Her highest level achievements at National Futsal and Football, individually and in teams, further evidence Anneke’s commitment to excellence and broad talent. Anneke’s exceptionally high personal standards and her contributions to the community make her an outstanding role model. Her charity work and fundraising efforts are prolific. Anneke is the consummate student.

NBSC Manly Campus
Michael Hawkins is an exemplary student who embodies the Manly Campus school ethos of academic excellence, personal best and giving back to the community. As School Captain he leads the SRC, working to ensure activities are seamlessly coordinated thus empowering others to demonstrate leadership aspirations. He has a genuine interest in raising awareness of important social issues and acting for those in need, such as the Rainbow Club where children with disabilities are taught to swim in an atmosphere of inclusivity. He is a most able sportsperson across a range of sports who always demonstrates the values of participation and fair play.

The Forest High School
Charlotte Jones is an outstanding young woman who possesses strong leadership skills and a likable and caring personality. Her involvement in a wide range of school activities and excellent communication skills resulted in her election to the important position of Performing Arts Captain for 2023. She has gained the respect of both staff and students with her mature approach to such a high profile role within the school community, whilst maintaining consistently high academic standards and specialised music commitments. Charlotte was the lead in our 2022 School Musical and she expertly co-coordinated a music festival in 2023 called the ‘Festival of Lights’. 

Recognising teachers who deliver the highest quality education to their students and contribute to their professional communities.

NBSC Freshwater Senior Campus
As a second-year teacher, Lily Schirru is deserving of recognition for her unwavering commitment to delivering high-quality education and her significant contributions to the professional community. Lily's outstanding dedication to student success, exemplified through her leadership in implementing a college-wide common assessment in Legal Studies and her invitation to participate in the HSC Community of Engagement by the Teacher Quality and Impact team, sets her apart as an exceptional educator. Her passion, expertise and positive impact on students and colleagues make her a deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Congratulations, Lily, on this well-deserved recognition!

Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative
NBSC Mackellar Girls Campus
The implementation of RIOT (Resilience in our Teens) to complement our W@M (Wellbeing at Mackellar) Program has seen a marked improvement in student wellbeing across the school, as well as increased student engagement and attendance. Students and staff engage meaningfully in the psychology underpinning this program, as well as the practical tools for building resilience every day. The language and beliefs of the RIOT program and positive psychology, entwined in all we do, have resulted in an upward shift in resilience, independence and growth mindset. Students' sense of belonging, safety, confidence and understanding of dealing with their own and others' issues have blossomed; the program has resulted in outstanding outcomes. 

8 Student-Backed Study Tips To Help You Tackle The HSC

By University of Sydney: Last updated 6 July 2023

Our students have been through their fair share of exams and learned a lot of great study tactics along the way. Here they share their top study tips to survive and thrive during exam time.

1. Start your day right

Take care of your wellbeing first thing in the morning so you can dive into your day with a clear mind. 

“If you win the morning, you can win the day,” says Juris Doctor student Vee Koloamatangi-Lamipeti.

An active start is a great way to set yourself up for a productive day. Begin your morning with exercise or a gentle walk, squeeze in 10 minutes of meditation and enjoy a healthy breakfast before you settle into study.

2. Schedule your study

“Setting up a schedule will help you organise your time so much better,” says Master of Teaching student Wesley Lai.

Setting a goal or a theme for each study block will help you to stay focused, while devoting time across a variety of subjects will ensure you've covered off as much as possible. Remember to keep your schedule realistic and avoid over-committing your time.

Adds Wesley, “Make sure to schedule in some free time for yourself as well!”

3. Keep it consistent

“Make studying a habit,” recommends Alvin Chung, who is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws.

With enough time and commitment, sitting down to study will start to feel like second nature rather than a chore.

“Do it every day and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate because it’s part of your life’s daily motions,” says Alvin.

4. Maintain motivation

Revising an entire year of learning can seem like an insurmountable task, which is why it’s so important to break down your priorities and set easy-to-achieve goals.

“I like to make a realistic to-do list where I break down big tasks into smaller chunks,” says Bachelor of Arts and Advanced Studies student Dannii Hudec.

“It’s also really important to reward yourself after you complete each task to keep yourself motivated.”

Treat yourself after each study block with something to look forward to, such as a cup of tea, a walk in the park with a friend or an episode of your latest Netflix obsession.

5. Minimise distractions

With so many distractions at our fingertips, it can be hard to focus on the task at hand. If you find yourself easily distracted, an “out of sight, out of mind” approach might do the trick.

“What helps me is to block social media on my laptop. I put my phone outside of my room when I study, or I give it to my sister or a friend to hide,” says Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws student Caitlin Douglas.

While parting ways with your phone for a few hours may seem horrifying, it can be an incredibly effective way to stay on task.

“It really helps me to smash out the work and get my tasks done,” affirms Caitlin.

6. Beware of burnout

Think of the HSC period as a marathon rather than a sprint. It might be tempting to cram every single day but pacing out your study time will help to preserve your endurance.

“Don’t do the work for tomorrow if you finish today’s work early,” suggests Daniel Kim, who is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Commerce and Advanced Studies.

 “Enjoy the rest of your day and save the energy for tomorrow,” he recommends.

Savouring your downtime will help you to avoid burning out before hitting the finish line.

7. Get a good night's sleep

Sleep is one of your greatest allies during exam season.

“I’ve found that a good night’s sleep always helps with concentration and memory consolidation,” says Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) student Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage.

We all know we need to be getting around 8 hours of sleep a night to perform at our best, but did you know the quality of sleep also matters? You can help improve the quality of your sleep with some simple tweaks to your bedtime routine.

“Avoid caffeine in the 6 hours leading up to sleep, turn off screens an hour before going to bed, and go to bed at the same time every night,” suggests Yasodara.

8. Be kind to yourself

With exam dates looming and stress levels rising, chances are high that you might have a bad day (or a few!) during the HSC period.

According to Bachelor of Arts and Advanced Studies student Amy Cooper, the best way to handle those bad days is to show yourself some kindness.

“I know that if I’m in a bad state of mind or having a bad day, I’m not going to be able to produce work that I’m proud of,” she says.

For Amy, the remedy for a bad day is to take some time to rest and reset.

“It’s much more productive in the long run for me to go away, do some things I love, and come back with a fresh mind.”

Immerse yourself in a mentally nourishing activity such as going for a bushwalk, cooking your favourite meal, or getting stuck into a craft activity.

If you feel completely overwhelmed, know you're not alone. Reach out to a friend, family member or teacher for a chat when you need support.

There are also HSC Help resources available at:

Wednesday 11 October, 2023:  HSC written exams start.

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: Irrefutable 

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


1. impossible to deny or disprove. 2. impossible to prove wrong

From early 17th century 1610's: from late Latin irrefutabilis, from in- ‘not’ + refutabilis (from refutare ‘repel, rebut’). 

Compare Refute (verb) from 1510s, "refuse, reject" someone or something, a sense now obsolete, from French réfuter (16c.) and directly from Latin refutare "to drive back; rebut, disprove; to repress, repel, resist, oppose," from re- "back" (see re-) + futare "to beat"

Virtual reality is helping Olkola Traditional Owners get back on Country

Hannah RobertsonThe University of MelbourneDeb SymondsIndigenous KnowledgeMelissa IrahetaThe University of MelbourneRochus Urban HinkelThe University of Melbourne, and Uncle Mike RossIndigenous Knowledge

The Olkola people from Queensland’s very remote Cape York Peninsula gained their land back through a native title claim in 2014. Since then, they have undertaken land management using traditional fire techniqueshabitat protection and restoration and cultural tourism.

The Olkola are in the process of building a Cultural Knowledge Centre on their Country. The centre will support the Olkola people’s practices and showcase their culture to the world. During the Cultural Knowledge Centre design process, the Olkola identified the need to find, repatriate, document and share their cultural stories and archives.

In support of this vision, they formed the Traditional Owner-led project, Getting Back on Country. The project is led by the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation and the Olkola Rangers in collaboration with researchers at the University of Melbourne, including authors Hannah Robertson and Rochus Urban Hinkel.

In partnership with the researchers, the Olkola are using digital technologies including virtual reality and augmented reality to capture their cultural stories. These digitised stories, as well as Olkola artefacts, are to be kept and shared at the Cultural Knowledge Centre.

These digital technologies will also help to bring Country to Olkola Traditional Owners with dementia or disabilities who are unable to travel to Country.

Nukakurra: A New Way To Visit Country

This is important work for Olkola people. Today we have a lot of people who can’t move, are in hospital or can’t get back on Country. We want to take Country back to them, so if they’re lying in a hospital bed, they’re lonely and nobody’s visiting, they’ve got something there that can take them back on Country and remind them where they came from. We believe this will be a healing medicine for people.

To realise this vision, we decided to create the Getting Back on Country Project. We began our collaboration by focusing on the Nukakurra Walking Trail as a pilot process for creating a digital cultural story.

Nukakurra is a cultural story place with a loop walk that passes several Olkola significant sites. Some of the sites in Nukakurra include the Blue Tongue Lizard dreaming site, an old Olkola campground and the Crocodile dreaming site. These dreaming sites are sacred to Olkola people because they are the creation places of these animal spirits which continue to walk across Olkola Country.

Author Melissa Iraheta and University of Melbourne researcher Mitch Ransome travelled to Olkola Country with the Olkola Rangers to document Nukakurra. Using 360-degree microphones and cameras, Lidar scanners (a laser used for determining distances between objects that can be used to create 3D landscapes), photogrammetry (which involves collecting overlapping images to build 2D or 3D models) and drones, they spent a week documenting the key sites.

Robertson and Uncle Mike Ross then travelled to Olkola Country with Olkola Elder Uncle Jack Lowdown and other senior elders to document the cultural story audio for Nukakurra in both English and Olkol using a 360-degree microphone.

This process highlighted the power of yarning and the connections between the sites of significance. Uncle Mike created a new story of a grandfather and grandmother walking the Country and passing the sites with their grandchildren and sharing their knowledge as they did – just as it would have happened in the old world prior to colonisation.

The process also highlighted the limitations of the technologies in the remote context, with cameras overheating and the 360-degree microphone struggling to capture audio while walking. Now we have these stories, the final stitching of the Nukakurra cultural story place experience is being developed as a 360-degree film experience.

The Importance Of Preserving Story

The pilot digital experiences for the Nukakurra Olkola cultural story place are still in development. In May, three generations of Olkola people shared their experiences of working with the University of Melbourne on the Getting Back on Country and Olkola Cultural Knowledge Centre projects.

During this yarn, Olkola woman and project manager for the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Katherine Samuel, reflected on the data collection process:

[Uncle Mike] saying welcome [to Nukakurra] in English and Uncle Jack saying it in [Olkol] language and Mitch holding the 3D camera and collecting all that data, it was so much. And when they came up March this year, Grandad Mike put on the VR goggles, wow it was so cool. To be able to sit in the office and feel like you were there. It was really cool; we were able to collect data with multiple technologies.

There are hopes to continue to expand the collaboration with the Olkola in a larger project. We aim to encompass multiple cultural story sites and find and repatriate Olkola cultural archives. It is our hope this can provide a process for other traditional owner groups to explore and preserve their respective stories on their own Country.

We wish to acknowledge the contributions of all of the Olkola people involved in this project. In particular, we would like to acknowledge Olkola woman Katherine Samuel of the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Olkola elder Uncle Jack Lowdown and Mitch Ransome from the University of Melbourne for their contributions.The Conversation

Hannah Robertson, ARC DECRA Fellow & Senior Lecturer in Construction Management, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of MelbourneDeb Symonds, Senior Olkola woman and the CEO of the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous KnowledgeMelissa Iraheta, Melbourne School of Design, The University of MelbourneRochus Urban Hinkel, Associate Professor in Architecture and Design, The University of Melbourne, and Uncle Mike Ross, Olkola elder and Chairman of the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous Knowledge

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

Ever wonder how your body turns food into fuel? We tracked atoms to find out

James CarterGriffith UniversityBrian FryGriffith University, and Kaitlyn O'MaraGriffith University

Inside our bodies at every moment, our cells are orchestrating a complex dance of atoms and molecules that uses energy to create, distribute and deploy the substances on which our lives depend.

And it’s not just in our bodies: all animals carry out this dance of metabolism, and it turns out none of them do it quite the same way.

In new research published in Science Advances, we analysed specific carbon atoms in amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – to discover distinctive fingerprints of the metabolism of different species.

These fingerprints reveal how different creatures meet the demands of survival, growth and reproduction – and offer a whole new way to understand metabolism in unprecedented detail.

A More Detailed Picture

We have developed a new way to study metabolism – the chemical processes inside your body that keep you alive and functioning – that reveals much more detail than previous methods. Our new technique looks at isotopes inside amino acids to see how metabolism is working.

Isotopes are versions of the same chemical element with different masses. For example, the most common kind of carbon is carbon-12, but there is also an isotope called carbon-13 that is a little heavier. We can measure the ratio of heavy to light isotopes in biological molecules such as proteins to learn about the organism that produced them.

Traditionally, scientists would analyse the overall isotope ratio of the entire protein. This can reveal some information, particularly about what kinds of things an animal eats, but it is like averaging out a complex TV image into a single pixel of light – you lose all the detailed information.

More recently, scientists have been able to measure isotopes in each of the 20 individual amino acids that make up proteins. This is like having 20 dots of light – better, but still not very nuanced.

Our new method goes even further, by measuring isotopes in a particular carbon atom on each amino acid. It’s like seeing every pixel in the TV image, which gives us amazingly detailed metabolic info.

Finding The Right Carbon

We used a chemical called ninhydrin to chop off and isolate the carbon atom we wanted from each amino acid. We then sent these carbon atoms – from a very metabolically active part of the amino acid called the carboxyl group – through a machine called a mass spectrometer to read their isotope fingerprints.

This research began more than a decade ago, and developed into a collaborative project between Griffith University and Queensland Health. In 2018, working with colleagues in Japan, we were able to demonstrate that we could indeed use nihydrin to isolate the carbon atoms we wanted from amino acids.

The next stage was to combine our nihydrin technique with a process called high-performance liquid chromatography, which can separate out different kinds of amino acids.

In 2019, we were able to report position-specific isotope analysis for several different mammals. We found we could distinguish a clear metabolic “fingerprint” of each mammal.

The Four Phases Of Metabolism

In our latest work, we tested a broader range of animals including oysters, scallops, prawns, squid and fish. We found the patterns of isotopes in the amino acids could be tracked back to the biochemistry of mitochondria, the tiny energy-providing powerhouses in the cells of all animals and plants, as well as many other organisms.

We identified four distinct phases of metabolism: creating fats, destroying fats, creating proteins, and destroying proteins. Animals combine these phases in distinct ways to accomplish growth and reproduction.

For example, adult mammals use fats as a pantry to regulate their temperature, whereas adult prawns cannibalise their own proteins to make the fats they need for reproduction.

We also found that the humans we studied showed a very balanced, steady state metabolism, which is perhaps unsurprising given our generally stable and nutritious diets. Interestingly, this was quite similar to what we found in an oyster sample.

In this work, we studied individuals with generally normal metabolisms. Future applications might include studies of groups with abnormal metabolism such as cancer, obesity and starvation.

By peering deep into the isotopes of amino acids, we will be able to understand eukaryote metabolism like never before, in animals, plants and fungi.The Conversation

James Carter, Adjunct Research Fellow, Griffith UniversityBrian Fry, Emeritus Professor, Griffith University, and Kaitlyn O'Mara, Research Fellow, Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University

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

Google turns 25: the search engine revolutionised how we access information, but will it survive AI?

Flickr/sergio m mahugo, Edited by The ConversationCC BY-NC-SA
Mark SandersonRMIT UniversityJulian ThomasRMIT UniversityKieran HegartyRMIT University, and Lisa M. GivenRMIT University

Today marks an important milestone in the history of the internet: Google’s 25th birthday. With billions of search queries submitted each day, it’s difficult to remember how we ever lived without the search engine.

What was it about Google that led it to revolutionise information access? And will artificial intelligence (AI) make it obsolete, or enhance it?

Let’s look at how our access to information has changed through the decades – and where it might lead as advanced AI and Google Search become increasingly entwined.

Google’s homepage in 1998. Brent Payne/FlickrCC BY-SA

1950s: Public Libraries As Community Hubs

In the years following the second world war, it became generally accepted that a successful post-war city was one that could provide civic capabilities – and that included open access to information.

So in the 1950s information in Western countries was primarily provided by local libraries. Librarians themselves were a kind of “human search engine”. They answered phone queries from businesses and responded to letters – helping people find information quickly and accurately.

Libraries were more than just a place to borrow books. They were where parents went to look for health information, where tourists requested travel tips, and where businesses sought marketing advice.

The searching was free, but required librarians’ support, as well as a significant amount of labour and catalogue-driven processes. Questions we can now solve in minutes took hours, days or even weeks to answer.

1990s: The Rise Of Paid Search Services

By the 1990s, libraries had expanded to include personal computers and online access to information services. Commercial search companies thrived as libraries could access information through expensive subscription services.

These systems were so complex that only trained specialists could search, with consumers paying for results. Dialog, developed at Lockheed Martin in the 1960s, remains one of the best examples. Today it claims to provide its customers access “to over 1.7 billion records across more than 140 databases of peer-reviewed literature”.

This photo from 1979 shows librarians at the terminals of online retrieval system Dialog. U.S. National Archives

Another commercial search system, The Financial Times’ FT PROFILE, enabled access to articles in every UK broadsheet newspaper over a five-year period.

But searching with it wasn’t simple. Users had to remember typed commands to select a collection, using specific words to reduce the list of documents returned. Articles were ordered by date, leaving the reader to scan for the most relevant items.

FT PROFILE made valuable information rapidly accessible to people outside business circles, but at a high price. In the 1990s access cost £1.60 a minute – the equivalent of £4.65 (or A$9.00) today.

The Rise Of Google

Following the world wide web’s launch in 1993, the number of websites grew exponentially.

Libraries provided public web access, and services such as the State Library of Victoria’s Vicnet offered low-cost access for organisations. Librarians taught users to find information online and build websites. However, the complex search systems struggled with exploding volumes of content and high numbers of new users.

In 1994, the book Managing Gigabytes, penned by three New Zealand computer scientists, presented solutions for this problem. Since the 1950s researchers had imagined a search engine that was fast, accessible to all, and which sorted documents by relevance.

In the 1990s, a Silicon Valley startup began to apply this knowledge – Larry Page and Sergey Brin used the principles in Managing Gigabytes to design Google’s iconic architecture.

After launching on September 4 1998, the Google revolution was in motion. People loved the simplicity of the search box, as well as a novel presentation of results that summarised how the retrieved pages matched the query.

In terms of functionality, Google Search was effective for a few reasons. It used the innovative approach of delivering results by counting web links in a page (a process called PageRank). But more importantly, its algorithm was very sophisticated; it not only matched search queries with the text within a page, but also with other text linking to that page (this was called anchor text).

Google’s popularity quickly surpassed competitors such as AltaVista and Yahoo Search. With more than 85% of the market share today, it remains the most popular search engine.

As the web expanded, however, access costs were contested.

Although consumers now search Google for free, payment is required to download certain articles and books. Many consumers still rely on libraries – while libraries themselves struggle with the rising costs of purchasing material to provide to the public for free.

What Will The Next 25 Years Bring?

Google has expanded far beyond Search. Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Pixel devices and other services show Google’s reach is vast.

With the introduction of AI tools, including Google’s Bard and the recently announced Gemini (a direct competitor to ChatGPT), Google is set to revolutionise search once again.

As Google continues to roll generative AI capabilities into Search, it will become common to read a quick information summary at the top of the results page, rather than dig for information yourself. A key challenge will be ensuring people don’t become complacent to the point that they blindly trust the generated outputs.

Fact-checking against original sources will remain as important as ever. After all, we have seen generative AI tools such as ChatGPT make headlines due to “hallucinations” and misinformation.

If inaccurate or incomplete search summaries aren’t revised, or are further paraphrased and presented without source material, the misinformation problem will only get worse.

Moreover, even if AI tools revolutionise search, they may fail to revolutionise access. As the AI industry grows, we’re seeing a shift towards content only being accessible for a fee, or through paid subscriptions.

The rise of AI provides an opportunity to revisit the tensions between public access and increasingly powerful commercial entities.The Conversation

Mark Sanderson, Professor of Information Retrieval, RMIT UniversityJulian Thomas, Distinguished Professor of Media and Communications; Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, RMIT UniversityKieran Hegarty, Research Fellow (Automated Decision-Making Systems), RMIT University, and Lisa M. Given, Professor of Information Sciences & Director, Social Change Enabling Impact Platform, RMIT University

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

Fireflies, brain cells, dancers: new synchronisation research shows nature’s perfect timing is all about connections

Joseph LizierUniversity of Sydney

Getting in sync can be exhilarating when you’re dancing in rhythm with other people or clapping along in an audience. Fireflies too know the joy of synchronisation, timing their flashes together to create a larger display to attract mates.

Synchronisation is important at a more basic level in our bodies, too. Our heart cells all beat together (at least when things are going well), and synchronised electrical waves can help coordinate brain regions – but too much synchronisation of brain cells is what happens in an epileptic seizure.

Sync most often emerges spontaneously rather than through following the lead of some central timekeeper. How does this happen? What is it about a system that determines whether sync will emerge, and how strong it will be?

In new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we show how the strength of synchronisation in a network depends on the structure of the connections between its members – whether they be brain cells, fireflies, or groups of dancers.

The Science Of Sync

Scientists originally became interested in sync to understand the inner workings of natural systems. We have also become interested in designing sync as a desired behaviour in human-made systems such as power grids (to keep them in phase).

Mathematicians can analyse sync by treating the individuals in the system as “coupled oscillators”. An oscillator is something that periodically repeats the same pattern of activity, like the sequence of steps in a repetitive dance, and coupled oscillators are ones that can influence each other’s behaviour.

It can be useful to measure whether a system of oscillators can synchronise their actions, and how strong that synchronisation would be. Strength of synchronisation means how well the sync can recover from disturbances.

Take a group dance, for example. A disturbance might be one person starting to get some steps wrong. The person might quickly recover by watching their friends, they might throw their friends off for a few steps before everyone recovers, or in the worst case it might just cause chaos.

In the worst case, a disturbance can cause complete collapse of synchronisation.

Synced Systems Are Strong But Hard To Unravel

Two factors make it difficult to determine how strong the synchronisation in a set of coupled oscillators could be.

First, it’s rare for a single oscillator to be in charge and telling everyone else what to do. In our dance example, that means there’s neither music nor lead dancers to set the tempo.

And second, usually each oscillator is only connected to a few others in the system. So each dancer can only see and react to a few others, and everyone is taking their cues from a completely different set of dancers.

An illustration showing a brain filled with dots linked by lines.
In the brain, different regions are linked via a complex network of connections. Shutterstock

This is the case in the brain, for example, where there is a complex network structure of connections between different regions.

Real complex systems like this, where there is no central guiding signal and oscillators are connected in a complex network, are very robust to damage and adaptable to change, and can more easily scale to different sizes.

Stronger Sync Comes From More Wandering Walks

One drawback of such complicated systems is for scientists, as they are mathematically difficult to come to grips with. However, our new research has made a significant advance on this front.

We have shown how the network structure connecting a set of oscillators controls how well they can synchronise. The quality of sync depends on “walks” on a network, which are sequences of hops between connected oscillators or nodes.

Our maths examines what are called “paired walks”. If you start at one node and take two walks with randomly chosen next hops for a specific number of hops, the two walks might end up at the same node (these are convergent walks) or at different nodes (divergent walks).

We found that the more often paired walks on a network were convergent rather than divergent, the worse the synchronisation on the network would be.

When more paired walks are convergent, disturbances tend to be reinforced.

In our dancing example, one person making the wrong steps might lead some neighbours astray, who may then lead some of their neighbours astray and so on.

These chains of potential disturbances are like walks on the network. When those disturbances propagate through multiple neighbours and then converge on one person, that person is going to be much more likely to copy the out-of-sync moves than if only one of their neighbours was offbeat.

Social Networks, Power Grids And Beyond

So networks with many convergent walks are prone to poorer synchronisation. This is good news for the brain avoiding epilepsy, as its highly modular structure brings a high proportion of convergent walks.

We can see this reflected in the echo chamber phenomenon in social media. Tightly coupled subgroups reinforcing their own messages can synchronise themselves well, but may fall far out of step with the wider population.

Our results bring a new understanding to how synchronisation functions in different natural network structures. It opens new opportunities in terms of designing network structures or interventions on networks, either to aid synchronisation (in power grids, say) or to avoid synchronisation (say in the brain).

More widely, it represents a major step forward in our understanding of how the structure of complex networks affects their behaviour and capabilities. The Conversation

Joseph Lizier, Associate Professor of Complex Systems, University of Sydney

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

How did plants first evolve into all different shapes and sizes? We mapped a billion years of plant history to find out

From minuscule moss to colourful flowers and tall trees. Philip Donoghue / James Clark
Philip C J DonoghueUniversity of BristolJames ClarkUniversity of Bristol, and Sandy HetheringtonThe University of Edinburgh

Plants range from simple seaweeds and single-celled pond scum, through to mosses, ferns and huge trees. Palaeontologists like us have long debated exactly how this diverse range of shapes and sizes emerged, and whether plants emerged from algae into multicellular and three-dimensional forms in a gradual flowering or one big bang.

To answer this question, scientists turned to the fossil record. From those best-preserved examples, like trilobites, ammonites and sea urchins, they have invariably concluded that a group’s range of biological designs is achieved during the earliest periods in its evolutionary history. In turn, this has led to hypotheses that evolutionary lineages have a higher capacity for innovation early on and, after this first phase of exuberance, they stick with what they know. This even applies to us: all the different placental mammals evolved from a common ancestor surprisingly quickly. Is the same true of the plant kingdom?

In our new study, we sought to answer this question by looking for certain traits in each major plant group. These traits ranged from the fundamental characteristics of plants – the presence of roots, leaves or flowers – to fine details that describe the variation and ornamentation of each pollen grain. In total, we collected data on 548 traits from more than 400 living and fossil plants, amounting to more than 130,000 individual observations.

We then analysed all this data, grouping plants based on their overall similarities and differences, all plotted within what can be thought of as a “design space”. Since we know the evolutionary relationships between the species, we can also predict the traits of their extinct shared ancestors and include these hypothetical ancestors within the design space, too.

For example, we will never find fossils of the ancestral flowering plant, but we know from its closest living descendants that it was bisexual, radially symmetric, with more than five spirally arranged carpels (the ovule-bearing female reproductive part of a flower). Together, data points from living species, fossils and predicted ancestors reveal how plant life has navigated design space through evolutionary history and over geological time.

Annotated chart of plants
The two axes summarise the variation in anatomical design among plants. Coloured dots represent living groups while the black dots represent extinct groups known only from fossils. The lines connecting these groupings represent the evolutionary relationships among living and fossil groups, plus their ancestors, inferred from evolutionary modelling. (The chlorophytes and charophytes are marine and freshwater plants while the remaining groups are land plants. Angiosperms are flowering plants). Philip Donoghue et al / Nature Plants

We expected flowering plants to dominate the design space since they make up more than 80% of plant species, but they don’t. In fact, the living bryophytes – mosses, liverworts and hornworts – achieve almost as much variety in their body forms.

This may not be entirely surprising since the three lineages of bryophytes have been doing their own thing for more than three times as long as flowering plants. And despite their diminutive nature, even the humble mosses are extraordinarily complex and diverse when viewed through a microscope.

The evolutionary relationships conveyed by the branching genealogy in the above plot show that there is, generally, a structure to the occupation of design space – as new groups have emerged, they have expanded into new regions. However, there is some evidence for convergence, too, with some groups like the living gymnosperms (conifers and allies) and flowering plants plotting closer together than they do to their common ancestor.

Nevertheless, some of the distinctiveness of the different groupings in design space is clearly the result of extinction. This is clear if we consider the distribution of the fossil species (black dots in the above figure) that often occur between the clusters of living species (coloured dots in the figure).

So How Did Plant Body Plan Diversity Evolve?

Overall, the broad pattern is one of progressive exploration of new designs as a result of innovations that are usually associated with reproduction, like the embryo, spore, seed and flower. These represent the evolutionary solutions to the environmental challenges faced by plants in their progressive occupation of increasingly dry and challenging niches on the land surface. For example, the innovation of seeds allowed the plants that bear them to reproduce even in the absence of water.

Close up image of moss
Moss might seem simple – until you zoom in. ANGHI / shutterstock

Over geological time, these expansions occur as episodic pulses, associated with the emergence of these reproductive innovations. The drivers of plant anatomical evolution appear to be a combination of genomic potential and environmental opportunity.

Plant Disparity Suggests That The Big Bang Is A Bust

None of this fits with the expectation that evolutionary lineages start out innovative before becoming exhausted. Instead, it seems fundamental forms of plants have emerged hierarchically through evolutionary history, elaborating on the anatomical chassis inherited from their ancestors. They have not lost their capacity for innovation over the billion or more years of their evolutionary longevity.

So does that make plants different from animals, studies of which are the basis for the expectation of early evolutionary innovation and exhaustion? Not at all. Comparable studies that we have done on animals and fungi show that, when you study these multicellular kingdoms in their entirety, they all exhibit a pattern of episodically increasing anatomically variety. Individual lineages may soon exhaust themselves but, overall, the kingdoms keep on innovating.

This suggests a general pattern for evolutionary innovation in multicellular kingdoms and also that animals, fungi and plants still have plenty of evolutionary juice in their tanks. Let’s hope we’re still around to see what innovation arises next.The Conversation

Philip C J Donoghue, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of BristolJames Clark, Research Associate, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, and Sandy Hetherington, Plant Evolutionary Biologist, The University of Edinburgh

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

How linguists are unlocking the meanings of Shakespeare’s words using numbers

Rose Marinelli/Shutterstock
Jonathan CulpeperLancaster University

Today it would seem odd to describe a flower with the word “bastard” – why apply a term of personal abuse to a flower? But in Shakespeare’s time, “bastard” was a technical term describing certain plants.

Similarly, associating the word “bad” with success and talking of a “bad success” would be decidedly odd today. But it was not unusual then, when success meant outcome, which could be good or bad.

Corpus linguistics is a branch of linguistics which uses computers to explore the use of words in huge collections of language. It can spot nuances that might be overlooked by linguists working manually, or large patterns that a lifetime of studying may not reveal. And numbers, counts of words and keeping track of where the words are occurring, are key.

In my experience at conferences and the like, talk of numbers is not unanimously well received in the world of literary studies. Numbers are sometimes perceived as being reductive, or inappropriate when discussing creative works, or only accessible to specialists.

Yet, describing any pattern involves numbers. In the first paragraph above, I used the words “normal”, “odd” and “unusual” as soft ways of describing frequencies – the numbers of occurrences (think also of, for example, “unique”, “rare”, “common”).

Even talking about “associations” involves numbers. Often associations evolve from an unusually high number of encounters amongst two or more things. And numbers help us to see things.

Changing Meanings

Along with my team at Lancaster University, I have used computers to examine some 20,000 words gleaned from a million-word corpus (a collection of written texts) of Shakespeare’s plays, resulting in a new kind of dictionary.

People have created Shakespeare dictionaries before, but this is the first to use the full armoury of corpus techniques and the first to be comparative. It not only looks at words inside Shakespeare’s plays, but also compares them with a matching million-word corpus of contemporary early modern plays, along with huge corpus of 320 million words of various writings of the period.

Of course, words in early modern England had lives outside Shakespeare. “Bastard” was generally a term for a hybrid plant, occurring in technical texts on horticulture.

It could be, and very occasionally was, used for personal abuse, as in King Lear, where Edmund is referred to as a “bastard”. But this is no general term of abuse, let alone banter, as you might see it used today. It is a pointed attack on him being of illegitimate parentage, genetically hybrid, suspect at his core.

The word “bad” is not now associated with the word “success”, yet 400 years ago it was, as were other negative words, including “disastrous”, “unfortunate”, “ill”, “unhappy” and “unlucky”.

We can tap into a word’s associations by examining its collocates, that is, words with which it tends to occur (rather like we make judgements about people partly on the basis of the company they keep). In this way we can see that the meaning of “success” was “outcome” and that outcome, given its collocates, could be good or bad.

A statue of Hamlet with Yorrick's skull.
A statue of Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon. givi585/Shutterstock

Highly Frequent Words

We can use intuition to guess some word patterns. It’s no surprise that in early modern English, the word “wicked” occurred very frequently in religious texts of the time. But less intuitively, so did “ourselves”, a word associated with sermons and plays, both of which have in common a habit of making statements about people on earth.

Highly frequent words, so often excluded by historical dictionaries and reference works, are often short words that seem insignificant. They have a wood-for-trees problem.

Yet corpus techniques highlight the interesting patterns. It turns out that a frequent sense of the humble preposition “by” is religious: to reinforce the sincerity of a statement by invoking the divine (for example, “by God”).

Numbers can also reveal what is happening inside Shakespeare’s works. Frequent words such as “alas” or “ah” are revealed to be heavily used by Shakespeare’s female characters, showing that they do the emotional work of lamentation in the plays, especially his histories.

Infrequent Words

What of the infrequent? Words that occur only once in Shakespeare – so-called hapax legomena – are nuggets of interest. The single case of “bone-ache” in Troilus and Cressida evokes the horrifying torture that syphilis, which it applies to, would have been. In contrast, “ear-kissing” in King Lear is Shakespeare’s rather more pleasant and creative metaphor for whispering (interestingly, other writers used it for the notion of flattering).

Another group of interesting infrequent words concerns words that seem to have their earliest occurrence in Shakespeare. Corpus techniques allowed us to navigate the troubled waters of spelling variation. Before spelling standardisation, searching for the word “sweet”, for instance, would miss cases spelt “sweete”, “swete” or “svveet”.

In this way, we can better establish whether a word written by a writer really is the earliest instance. Shakespearean firsts include the rather boring “branchless” (Antony and Cleopatra), a word probably not coined by Shakespeare but merely first recorded in his text. But there is also the more creative “ear-piercing” (Othello) and the distinctly modern-sounding “self-harming” (The Comedy of Errors and Richard II).

Why are these advances in historical corpus linguistics happening now? Much of the technology to produce these findings was not in place until relatively recently.

Programs to deal with spelling variation (such as Vard) or to analyse vast collections of electronic texts in sophisticated ways (such as CQPweb), to say nothing of the vast quantities of computer-readable early modern language data (such as EEBO-TCP), have only been widely used in the last ten or so years. We are therefore on the cusp of a significant increase in our understanding and appreciation of major writers such as Shakespeare.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Jonathan Culpeper, Chair professor in English Language and Linguistics, Lancaster University

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

What is geospatial intelligence? A geographer explains the powerful melding of maps and data

Where + what = geospatial intelligence. Peter Steffen/picture alliance via Getty Images
Darren RuddellUniversity of Southern California

With record-breaking temperatures across the South, smoke from Canadian wildfires across the North, historic flooding in the Northeast and a powerful hurricane in the Southeast, the summer of 2023 has presented a range of threats to the safety of the majority of Americans. The good news, through all of this: Geospatial intelligence has offered valuable insights to help governments and organizations protect communities.

Geospatial intelligence is the collection and integration of data from a network of technologies, including satellites, mobile sensors, ground-control stations and aerial images. The data is used to produce real-time maps and simulations to help identify when, where and to what extent a threat is likely to emerge. Government officials, individuals or both can use this information to make informed decisions.

Disasters Sudden And Slow

One long-standing contribution of geospatial intelligence is in emergency preparedness and response. For example, the National Hurricane Center actively monitors the location, formation and trajectory of tropical cyclones. Detailed information on the timing, location and strength of a given hurricane helps officials distribute resources and personnel, as well as issue storm warnings and evacuation orders.

Geospatial intelligence also provides valuable guidance for search-and-rescue and recovery efforts following a disaster. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the February 2023 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, maps and aerial images quickly identified the extent of damage and the populations affected. In addition, they helped first responders locate access points in the transportation network to rescue survivors, set up aid stations and provide emergency supplies.

A map of the United States overlaid by colored blobs
The Environmental Protection Agency publishes air quality maps that are particularly useful when smoke from wildfires spreads across large parts of the U.S. EPA

Another use of geospatial intelligence is environmental monitoring. A stable environment is essential for human health and security. Monitoring temperature, precipitation, snowpack and polar ice helps scientists and government officials anticipate and prepare for potential disturbances.

For instance, understanding temperature profiles – past, current and forecasted temperatures over an area – provides information on when, where and to what extent that area is likely to be affected by events such as heat waves. Heat waves often result in human sufferingincreased energy demands and crop damage. With climate change intensifying extreme weather events, there is likely to be a corresponding increase in threats to human safety and security.

Military And Civilian Logistics

The Russian-Ukraine war is another area where geospatial intelligence has made contributions. Maxar Technologies, a commercial satellite imagery company, was the first to report the 40-mile-long convoy of Russian ground forces heading toward Kyiv in February 2022.

While governments historically could choose whether to release intelligence-related information, commercial satellite companies now play a vital role in providing this type of information to the public. In this way, geospatial intelligence represents an extension of the free press.

Geospatial intelligence is a key component of open-source intelligence, which in turn has played a key role in monitoring the war in Ukraine.

Another use of geospatial intelligence is in transportation, logistics and global supply chains. The global economy runs on GPS, which generates spatial data. GPS provides governments, businesses and people with detailed information on the time, location and destination of ships and cargo. This leads to greater efficiency and more consistent and reliable operations.

Geospatial intelligence is also helping with the rollout of autonomous vehicles. Using high-resolution imagery of about a foot (30 cm) per pixel, city planners and engineers are able to detect markings and features on the ground such as bicycle lanes and traffic direction. These advances help planners build safer, smarter, more efficient and better connected communities.

Yet another use of geospatial intelligence is contributing to the development, implementation and evaluation of digital twins. Digital twins are virtual representations of real systems – buildings or cities, for example – that mimic the systems’ characteristics and can be updated in real time to reflect changing conditions in the systems.

Digital twins are being used in many civilian and military settings to improve decision making. They are useful for modeling changes and predicting outcomes. Digital twins have been highly effective in conflict settings by simulating weather and terrain to help militaries and peacekeepers develop and enact strategies.

Growing Need

The need for geospatial intelligence is more important than ever. Average temperature is projected to increase between 2 to 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 to 5.4 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century. The global population is expected to reach 11 billion by 2100, and urban areas are becoming denser and more prone to disasters. Whether reconstructing the past, describing the present or anticipating the future, geospatial intelligence provides valuable information to help keep people and communities safe.

Not surprisingly, the geospatial intelligence industry is projected to grow from a US$61 billion enterprise in 2020 to more than $209 billion in 2030. The world is rapidly transforming, and geospatial intelligence is positioned to play an increasingly important role in working toward a safe, stable and informed future.The Conversation

Darren Ruddell, Associate Professor of Spatial Sciences, University of Southern California

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

Retired Police Officers Day 2023: At Mona Vale Police Station 

This annual event was a great success again this year. 

Over 50 retired officers who worked on the Northern Beaches PAC in the past gathered for a lunch BBQ and a catch-up on Wednesday September 9 2023. 

Similar events will take place at other Police Area Commands throughout the state on Thursday. 

''We were hosted by Superintendent Pat Sharkey and his wonderful support team headed by Sgt. Belinda Caddy and Acting Executive Officer Rebecca Jessep. 

Well over 50 Northern Beaches RFPA Members and former NSW Police Officers, including one Police widow, enjoyed catching up with former workmates and an excellent BBQ courtesy of the NB PAC.
Some members travelled from the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains to be there and Members who have passed in the last couple of years were also acknowledged. 

We extend out thanks to Superintendent Sharkey and his team for a wonderful day of great memories.'' - David Whiteman, Chairman of Northern Beaches Retired & Former Police Association

Group photo by Dave Whiteman, past Profile of the Week and a former Newport resident and among original intake years at Pittwater High School, and a retired Member of the NSW Police Force - thanks Dave!

Pension Boosted But More Needed For Those In Need

September 6, 2023
From 20 September 2023, the Age Pension, Veteran Payment, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment will receive an increase because of indexation. 

The maximum rate of the single Age Pension will rise by $32.70 per fortnight (taking it from $1064 to $1096.70) and for couples, by $49.40 per fortnight (taking their combined payment from $1604 to $1653.40). 

Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said while people who rely on the Age Pension will welcome the increase, under the current system pensioners are still behind, especially when inflation is unusually high.

Several other government payments will also be increased on 20 September in line with announcements made in the May Budget.

Single JobSeeker Payment recipients will receive a base payment of $749.20 per fortnight, a $56.10 increase. For JobSeeker recipients aged 55-59 unemployed for more than 9 months, the payment increase will be $96.10 per fortnight.  

A welcome change is the 15% increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance. The maximum rate for a single renter will rise by $27.60 to $184.80 per fortnight, for a couple by $26 to $174.

“It’s a good start but more needs to be done to help renters,” Mr Henschke said.

“We recently heard from a couple paying $920 a fortnight in rent. As pensioners, this leaves them with only $907.40 a fortnight to pay for food, fuel, utilities, and other expenses.”

Income limits for eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card are increasing by $5,400 to $95,400 per annum for singles and by $8,640 to $152,640 for couples combined. With deeming rates frozen for two years, more self-funded retirees could now be eligible for concessions. 

“More can be done to support older people doing it tough. As recent National Seniors research showed, a greater proportion of people with low incomes and those who are renting are suffering from cost-of-living pressures,” Mr Henschke said.

“For example, 39% of older renters told us they were experiencing severe cost-of-living impacts compared to only 11 % of older homeowners.

“What we need is additional targeted support for people with limited means and to stop punishing those who need to work.

“In our Employment White Paper Submission we have called on the government to simplify the tax and transfer system to boost workforce participation, and with it income and savings.

"We want a change to income test rules for pensioners who want to work and work more. This could be achieved by reducing the taper rate from 50c to 32.5c in the dollar to align with the tax system. It's simple, fair, will help solve critical workforce shortage, and boost the budget bottom line. 

"We will continue to fight for a system that improves people's lives.”

Improving Quality Of Life Through Accommodation Design: Have Your Say

September 7, 2023
The Australian Government has been working with older people, their families and carers, the aged care sector and design experts to improve the design of residential aged care accommodation.

The Government is now seeking feedback on the draft National Aged Care Design Principles and Guidelines, which have been developed in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The Government wants to encourage flexibility and innovation in accommodation design and support providers to create safe and comfortable living environments that promote independence, function and enjoyment.

The draft Principles and Guidelines consider a range of design elements, including:
  • accessibility
  • dementia-friendly design principles
  • the role of ‘small home models’ with residents living together in smaller ‘households’
  • needs of diverse communities.
As well as informing new builds, the Principles and Guidelines include improvements that can be made to existing aged care homes.

The Government wants to hear from older people, aged care providers, design experts and those involved in construction and refurbishment projects in aged care homes. 

The National Aged Care Design Principles and Guidelines will be introduced from 1 July 2024.

A design ideas competition will also be launched later this year to test the draft Principles and Guidelines.

Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells said:

“Your feedback will ensure the Principles and Guidelines provide a comprehensive, evidence-based resource to guide accommodation design and put quality and dignity back into aged care.

“Accommodation that is more homely and less clinical provides familiar environments for older people – and a sense of belonging.

“Better design will also provide improved working environments for the workers who provide care.

“The Principles and Guidelines will explain how to make simple changes that can have enormously positive impacts on residents and staff. For example, people can experience sensory overload when they are in cluttered environments.

“Floor coverings in solid colours with matte finishes can reduce confusion and make it easier for people to walk around.

“Evidence shows that long corridors can be confusing for residents living with dementia and difficult for people with reduced mobility, increasing demands on staff.

“The guidelines will show how corridors can be improved when they are shorter or when seating, landmarks and good lighting are used.

“The Principles and Guidelines will show how to create a variety of outdoor spaces that encourage access to and use of outdoor areas.”

The guidelines and more information can be found here:

Findings from consultations with older people and their families and carers, the aged care sector, and design and technical experts informed the development of the draft Design Principles and Guidelines.

The first stage of consultations involved the release of two discussion papers and a design survey. A summary of feedback is available on the Aged Care Engagement Hub.

These findings informed the second phase of targeted consultations. This included interviews and focus groups with a wide range of stakeholders from October 2022 to January 2023.

We are currently seeking feedback on the draft Design Principles and Guidelines and factors likely to impact adoption. We are also seeking information from aged care providers through a Stocktake on the Design of Residential Aged Care Accommodation to understand what residential aged care accommodation looks like from a design perspective.

This information will be used to develop a picture of aged care homes, including where services are provided flexibly, in terms of their age, size, location, layout and physical attributes and characteristics. The information gathered will also inform the work of the Aged Care Taskforce. The Stocktake will remain open until 3 October 2023.

Later in the year we will be conducting a design ideas competition to test, refine, and generate ideas relating to the draft Design Principles and Guidelines. This will showcase what can be achieved through their application.

Exercise-Induced Hormone Irisin May Reduce Alzheimer's Disease Plaque And Tangle Pathology In The Brain

September 8, 2023
Researchers who previously developed the first 3D human cell culture models of Alzheimer's disease (AD) that displays two major hallmarks of the condition -- the generation of amyloid beta deposits followed by tau tangles -- have now used their model to investigate whether the exercise-induced muscle hormone irisin affects amyloid beta pathology.

As reported in the journal Neuron, the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-led team has uncovered promising results suggesting that irisin-based therapies might help combat AD.

Physical exercise has been shown to reduce amyloid beta deposits in various mouse models of AD, but the mechanisms involved have remained a mystery.

Exercise increases circulating levels of the muscle-derived hormone irisin, which regulates glucose and lipid metabolism in fat tissue and increases energy expenditure by accelerating the browning of white fat tissue.

Studies have revealed that irisin is present in human and mouse brains and that its levels are reduced in patients with AD and in mouse models of the condition.

To test whether irisin plays a causal role in the link between exercise and reduced amyloid beta, Se Hoon Choi, PhD and Eun Hee Kim, PhD, of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at MGH, along with additional research colleagues applied the hormone to their 3D cell culture model of AD.

"First, we found that irisin treatment led to a remarkable reduction of amyloid beta pathology," says Choi. "Second, we showed this effect of irisin was attributable to increased neprilysin activity owing to increased levels of neprilysin secreted from cells in the brain called astrocytes."

Neprilysin is an amyloid beta-degrading enzyme that has been found to be elevated in the brains of mice with AD that were exposed to exercise or other conditions leading to reduced amyloid beta.

The researchers uncovered even more details about the mechanisms behind irisin's link to reduced amyloid beta levels. For example, they identified integrin αV/β5 as the receptor that irisin binds to on astrocytes to trigger the cells to increase neprilysin levels.

Furthermore, they discovered that irisin's binding to this receptor causes reduced signaling of pathways involving two key proteins: extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and signal activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). Reduced ERK-STAT3 signalling was critical for irisin-induced enhancement of neprilysin.

Previous studies have shown that in mice, irisin injected into the blood stream can make its way into the brain, making it potentially useful as a therapeutic.

"Our findings indicate that irisin is a major mediator of exercise-induced increases in neprilysin levels leading to reduced amyloid beta burden, suggesting a new target pathway for therapies aimed at the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease," says Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, a senior author of the study and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit.

Eunhee Kim, Hyeonwoo Kim, Mark P. Jedrychowski, Grisilda Bakiasi, Joseph Park, Jane Kruskop, Younjung Choi, Sang Su Kwak, Luisa Quinti, Doo Yeon Kim, Christiane D. Wrann, Bruce M. Spiegelman, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Se Hoon Choi. Irisin reduces amyloid-β by inducing the release of neprilysin from astrocytes following downregulation of ERK-STAT3 signaling. Neuron, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2023.08.012

Link To A Bygone Era From The Comfort Of Home

History lovers can take a virtual step back in time and experience life in a gold rush-era Hill End homestead thanks to a new online experience by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The immersive digital experience allows anyone to explore Craigmoor House, a 148-year-old time capsule filled with the original colonial furnishings and belongings of its original owners, the Marshall family.

“Craigmoor House is the grandest historic residence in Hill End, which boasted 8,000 residents during the 1870s gold rush but was left with only 700 locals when the gold rush ended,” said Learna Benson, NPWS Senior Historic Site Officer.

“When you walk into Craigmoor, there are still bonnets and bags from the Marshall women hanging on hooks on the wall, and an array of books, magazines, glasses and crockery the family used are still in their places. It’s like visiting a home where the occupants have vanished but all of their belongings remain.

“Because these objects are delicate and are undergoing historic collections cataloguing we aren’t able to have physical visitors at present, but this new virtual tour opens the door to the home anytime to explore its fascinating historical treasures and learn about life in the 19th century goldmining town.”

Craigmoor House is listed on the State Heritage Register and has been conserved by NPWS.

Located in the state’s Central West, Hill End Historic Site features streetscapes and buildings that are little changed since the town’s goldmining heyday.

The interactive virtual tour tells the story of Craigmoor House and its inhabitants through photos, historic information and audio, including interviews with Marshall family descendants.

“Listening to the stories from descendants of the original owners as you guide yourself through the house at your own pace lets visitors really feel what it was like to live during those times,” said Ms Benson. “The Marshall family lived in Craigmoor House until 1950 and they have left behind a rich legacy that has preserved this era’s way of life for future generations.”

The free virtual tour can be accessed at Virtual tour of Craigmoor House on the NPWS website.

 Aerial view of Craigmoor House Credit: John Spencer/DPE

Medicare Failing To Keep Up With Rising Cost Of Care

September 5, 2023
Medicare is failing to keep up with the rising costs of delivering healthcare, as new data reveals medical costs covered by the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) have dropped significantly.

Australian Medical Association President Professor Steve Robson said the data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) highlighted the need for significant repair to Medicare following years of neglect by successive Governments.

The AIHW report reveals that after 15 years of relative stability, the proportion of general practice provider fees covered by Medicare has dropped from 91 per cent in January 2022 to 85 per cent in July this year.

The report also shows Australians are using more Medicare funded services per person.

“This data shows quite clearly the cost of healthcare is significantly outpacing the Medicare system, causing even higher out-of-pocket costs for Australian patients,” Professor Robson said.

“It also comes at a time when some state and territory governments appear intent on imposing an additional payroll tax burden on general practice, a move that will only add to out-of-pocket costs for patients.”

An AMA report last year found the Commonwealth had saved $8.6 billion since 1993 because of poor or no Medicare indexation of just the Level B general practice item.

Professor Robson said budget measures to come into effect in November, such as tripling the GP bulk billing incentive, adding an extra round of MBS indexation, as well as changing the indexation formula, would help address the issues.

“These measures included by the federal government in the 2023 Budget are so important, but it’s still a work in progress,” Professor Robson said.

“The AMA will continue working with the federal government on important reforms to ensure Medicare better represents the value of healthcare patients receive.

“The chronic underfunding of Medicare has had a direct impact on the hip pocket of Australians, which is being acutely felt now as we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”

Report Card On The Wellbeing Of Australians Looks At What’s Changed Since The COVID Pandemic Began

Thursday, 7 September 2023
The latest 2-yearly Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report on the welfare and wellbeing of Australians will be launched today by the Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, and the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, Minister for Social Services.

Australia’s welfare 2023 uses a variety of data sources to look at temporary and lasting effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the way Australians live and work, including through accelerating existing social trends.

Levels of life satisfaction and psychological distress have improved in the Australian population since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – but have not returned to similar levels as before the pandemic.

Widespread working from home is likely to remain common in the years ahead and a long-term decline in the proportion of Australians undertaking voluntary work is continuing.

The report shows that there was a net total of 10,176 'excess deaths’ in Australia from the start of the pandemic (January 2020) to the end of March 2023 – this means there were over 10,000 more deaths than had been expected based on previous trends. COVID-19 accounted for a high proportion of the excess deaths.

‘Australia has come a long way since we released the previous edition of Australia’s welfare in September 2021,’ said AIHW Deputy Chief Executive Officer Matthew James.

‘At that time, many Australians were experiencing lockdowns, only 44.7% of people over the age of 16 were fully vaccinated against COVID and most children aged 12–15 weren’t yet eligible to receive COVID vaccines. Life is much more “normal” now for most Australians, however, some things are quite different to before the pandemic.’

The AIHW publishes Australia’s welfare every 2 years and Australia’s health in the alternate years.  

Australia’s welfare includes an in-brief summary; a collection of articles on selected topics, including contributions by academic experts; and topic summaries with key facts.

Act Now For A Dementia-Friendly Future This Dementia Action Week

Local councils, businesses and community organisations will be asked to consider the steps they can take to be more dementia-friendly during this year’s Dementia Action Week (18 - 24 September).

The Dementia Action Week theme is ‘Act Now for a Dementia-Friendly Future’ – because communities that take action to become dementia-friendly have less fear and a greater understanding of dementia.

It also results in less stigma and discrimination, as well as more support for people living with dementia to live well in their communities for longer.

During Dementia Action Week, which includes World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday 21 September, Dementia Australia is encouraging communities to think about and ask people living with dementia, their families and carers what they need to help them live well.

While two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community, Dementia Australia research shows 81 per cent of people with a loved one living with dementia felt people in shops, cafes and restaurants treated people with dementia differently.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said it was important for communities to be dementia-friendly, so people living with dementia could access the services, activities and spaces to which we are all entitled.

“So, ahead of Dementia Action Week, start thinking about the small steps you can take, to include people living with dementia and create a better experience for all in your community,” Ms McCabe said.

Dementia Action Week is a major leadership, awareness and advocacy campaign led by Dementia Australia as the peak body for people living with dementia, their families and carers. In the coming weeks businesses and local councils will have access to a digital toolkit full of resources with information on how they can act now to make their organisation more dementia-friendly.

For more information, visit: 

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia, and the more than 1.5 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you.

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit

‘An extremely serious musical comedy’ about Whitlam? Yes. The Dismissal is great fun, witty and sharply observed

Squabbalogic/David Hooley
Michelle ArrowMacquarie University

The Whitlam government has a mythical status in the Australian popular imagination. While it lasted less than two full terms between December 1972 and November 1975, it has had an outsized cultural presence ever since.

This is not just because of Gough Whitlam’s transformative social democratic agenda, but because of the way his government ended: the dismissal remains one of the most shocking events in Australian political history.

Each year since, we have marked the anniversary with new stories, new angles, new details. The story has all the ingredients of high drama – indeed, the story was told in a rather ponderous television mini-series in 1983.

So almost 50 years on, what to make of a comedic musical retelling of these tumultuous events?

The Dismissal’s talented creators (Jay James-Moody, Blake Erickson and Laura Murphy) are neither Boomers who watched the dismissal from ringside seats or dewy-eyed Gen-Xers, but younger still.

For their generation, forged in a neoliberal world much harsher than the one that lifted up their parents and grandparents, the Whitlam policy agenda of free education, free healthcare and social democracy for all might seem like a distant, unattainable dream.

Crucially, the authors also don’t see the dismissal as a unique event. In their program notes, they argue the show is

the story of our political culture writ in bold, sung in harmony and danced in formation. Over, and over again.

So this show is not just a dramatisation of the events of 1975, it is also an attempt to understand our maddening political culture.

Self-Referential And Extremely Funny

Norman Gunston (a superb Matthew Whittet) guides the audience through the story and sets the tone for the show. We begin with the famous moment on the Parliament House steps. Playing Gough, Justin Smith both sounds and looks like him – no mean feat.

Matthew Whittet is superb as Norman Gunston. Squabbalogic/David Hooley

The Dismissal is least effective when it is striving for sincerity: the early number Maintain your Rage left me concerned the show might be too earnest to be genuinely funny.

However, my anxieties were assuaged by a very clever romp through the post-war years of Liberal rule (from Menzies to Holt to Gorton to McMahon), sung by suburban housewives and their lawn-mowing husbands. It is self-referential and extremely funny and sets a high bar for the rest of the show. Murphy’s lyrics are wonderful throughout, but they are especially brilliant here.

After Whitlam’s election, his policy achievements are dealt with in a rapid-fire slideshow, which moves things along but lowers the stakes in what follows. The real subject of the drama is the unravelling of the Whitlam government from within, thanks to the shenanigans of Jim Cairns, Rex Connor and the loans affair, and the role played by Sir John Kerr, Malcolm Fraser and Sir Garfield Barwick in undermining him from the outside.

The cast are uniformly excellent. Peter Carroll is uproarious as a Mephistophelian Sir Garfield Barwick. Octavia Barron Martin manages to invest Sir John Kerr with a touch of pathos. Monique Sallé is a showstopping Tirath Khemlani, a befuddled Billy Snedden and her Queen Elizabeth II has more than a touch of Rocky Horror about her. Joe Kosky’s Jim Cairns is both pompous and ponderous, with brilliant comic timing.

Octavia Barron Martin invests Sir John Kerr with a touch of pathos and Peter Carroll is uproarious as Sir Garfield Barwick. Squabbalogic/David Hooley

Andrew Cutcliffe’s Malcolm Fraser is stiletto-sharp and a little bit kinky. His Private School Boys is a bump-and-grind showstopper that recalls Alexander Downer’s Freaky from Casey Benetto’s 2005 musical Keating!

The song is reprised later by Lady Anne Kerr, whose purring refrain that “you’re not a match for private school girls” is a reminder that this is a story of class, mobility and social striving.

Sharp, Funny And Astute

The show’s gender-inclusive casting draws our attention to the almost all-male world of politics in the 1970s and gives many of the female performers the opportunity to behave disgracefully (Georgie Bolton as Rex Connor is spectacularly, hilariously crude).

Georgie Bolton as Rex Connor is spectacularly, hilariously crude. Squabbalogic/David Hooley

Margaret Whitlam (Brittanie Shipway) and Junie Morosi (Shannen Alyce Quan) are voices of reason and resolve. While both are terrific, their roles in the narrative constrain their range: Margaret’s number Crash Through or Crash is an example of the ways the sincere songs don’t have the power to hold an audience in the ways that the satirical numbers do. Stacey Thomsett has much more fun with the role of Lady Kerr, who she depicts as Lady Macbeth in a Carla Zampatti suit.

It’s all great fun, witty and sharply observed. Yet perhaps the weakest part of the show is the ending. While we all know how this story ended, the creators didn’t seem to know how to draw their story to a close.

But overall, The Dismissal is sharp, funny and astute. It’s also a rare thing: an accomplished new Australian musical. I think Gough himself, with his love of Australian arts and culture, would have quite enjoyed it.

The Dismissal: An Extremely Serious Musical Comedy is at the Seymour Centre, Sydney, until October 21.The Conversation

Michelle Arrow, Professor of History, Macquarie University

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

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:

Concession Car Parking At NSW Health Public Hospitals

Patients and carers may be eligible for concession rates on parking at NSW Health public hospitals. 

To be eligible you need to be:
  • requiring treatment over an extended period
  • attending hospital more than twice a week (including carers of long term patients who visit frequently). 
  • ongoing cancer treatment
  • treatment more than twice weekly
  • daily dressing changes
  • cardiac rehabilitation or health promotion classes
Concessions are also available for holders of a: 
  • Transport for NSW Mobility Parking Scheme permit
  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs Gold Card
  • Health Care Card.
Hospitals provide communication to patients, carers and visitors about the availability of concessional car parking rates, this includes:
  • clearly displaying and publicising concessional rates
  • streamlining the concession application process with designated points of access
  • validating concessional parking for the duration of a course of treatment. 
For detailed information on eligibility and concession fees, visit NSW Health webpage:

ACCC Calls For Views On Australia Post's Proposed Price Increase

September 5, 2023
The ACCC is seeking views on Australia Post’s draft proposal to increase its basic postage rate. Australia Post is proposing to increase its stamp prices by 25 per cent from January 2024.

This change would increase the price of delivering reserved ordinary small letters from $1.20 to $1.50, ordinary large letters up to 125 grams from $2.40 to $3.00 and ordinary large letters between 125 grams and 250 grams from $3.60 to $4.50.

Australia Post is not proposing to increase the price of concession stamps (60 cents each) or stamps for seasonal greeting cards (65 cents).

When assessing the proposed price increase, the ACCC will consider Australia Post’s recovery of efficient costs, including a reasonable rate of return, and how the company's common costs are allocated to the relevant letter segments. In forming its view, the ACCC will consider the responses received during this consultation period.

Australia Post has set out the reasons for its proposed price increase in its draft price notification and supporting materials.

“We would like to hear from consumers, businesses and other stakeholders about their views on Australia Post’s proposed price increase,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

“We will then examine the information provided by Australia Post and the feedback received in the context of our role under the legislation.”

Following the consultation process, the ACCC will release a preliminary view on the draft price notification. Australia Post will then lodge a formal notification of the price rise with the ACCC.

The ACCC is required to assess the proposed price increase in accordance with the Competition and Consumer Act and then notify Australia Post on whether it objects to the proposal. The ACCC does not have the role of approving the proposed price increase.

In addition to the ACCC's assessment, Australia Post must also give written notice of the proposed price increase to the Minister for Communications. It can only increase the basic postage rate if the Minister does not disapprove the proposal within 30 days.

Consultation on the proposed price increase, including a simple and short survey, is now open and closes on 29 September 2023.

Further information, including Australia Post’s draft notification, is available at Australia Post – letter pricing 2023.

Australia Post provides a range of services including the delivery of letters and parcels as well as various financial and retail services. Some of these services are ‘reserved’ to Australia Post. According to the Australian Postal Corporation Act, Australia Post has an exclusive right to the collection and delivery of letters within Australia, subject to certain exceptions.

When Australia Post lodges a formal price notification, the ACCC must make an assessment within 21 days. Australia Post must not increase prices within this period. According to the Competition and Consumer Act, the ACCC can give Australia Post a notice in writing stating that it would have no objection to the proposed increase; or that it would have no objection to a lower price increase. If the ACCC does not give such a notice, it would be an offence for Australia Post to supply the notified service at the higher price.

Given a period of 21 days is too short for an effective consultation and assessment process, Australia Post has agreed to provide a draft version of the price notification to obtain the ACCC’s view before formal lodgement.

The last price notification from Australia Post considered by the ACCC was in 2022.

In 2023, the Australian Government launched a review into the modernisation of postal services. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts held a consultation process earlier this year for the review and has published preliminary insights on the feedback received.

My teen is addicted to vaping. How can I help them quit and manage their withdrawal symptoms?

Pexels/Mushtaq Hussain
Gillian Sandra GouldSouthern Cross UniversityKaren McFadyenSouthern Cross University, and Marilyn ClarkeSouthern Cross University

The Australian government is cracking down on vaping. Recreational vapes of any type – whether they contain nicotine or not – will be banned from retail sale across Australia after legislation is introduced (though the date is yet to be set).

Rates of teen vaping have been rising rapidly in Australia, from 0.8% of 14- to 17-year-olds describing themselves as a current vaper over the past six months in 2018 to 14.5% in 2023. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 19.8% have been a current vaper over the past six months.

Teens mainly get vaping products from their friends, retail vaping stores or the internet. Once the government restricts the distribution of vaping products, many will suddenly lose access to supplies.

In anticipation of this loss, people may start stockpiling vapes. But at some stage, they will have a drastic reduction in their use of vaping.

The majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, even when they’re not labelled as such. Some vapes tested in Australia contained 900 milligrams of nicotine – the equivalent of the nicotine in almost 100 cigarettes.

So we can expect teenagers who vape will experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Nicotine Dependence And Withdrawal?

Nicotine dependence means a person is physically and psychologically addicted to nicotine. This produces a strong desire for, and difficulty controlling, nicotine use.

Young people are at greater risk of nicotine dependence than adults and can develop dependence faster.

Once nicotine-dependent, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms if they reduce or cease their use. These symptoms can include irritability, frustration, or anger; anxiety; difficulty concentrating; increased appetite; restlessness; depressed mood; and insomnia.

The Hooked on Nicotine Checklist is helpful for teens and their parents. It’s a ten-item checklist to assess dependence on smoking cigarettes or vaping, specially designed for adolescents. The higher the score, the less control your teen will have over their nicotine addiction.

Feeling a loss of control can begin after using vapes for only a short time. Some adolescents start showing signs of becoming dependent on nicotine within days of occasionally using it – before they are smoking or vaping daily.

Mother talks to teen
Teens who have a nicotine dependence are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop vaping. Shutterstock

I Don’t Even Know If My Teen Vapes …

Nicotine exposure during adolescence can disrupt the brain’s normal development, impacting their mood, impulse control, memory and ability to focus and learn.

If your teen is unusually irritable or has an unexplained low mood, consider the possibility of nicotine withdrawal, particularly after vapes are no longer readily available. Many adolescents are vaping without the adults in the household being aware. Vapes can be hidden in plain sight, as they look like a highlighter pen or USB stick.

Initiating a conversation is sometimes easier when side-by-side, not face-to-face with a young person – for example, when walking together or if your teen is in the car with you. One way to bring the subject up is to ask whether any of their friends are vaping or if they’ve seen it at school. Then gradually move on to whether they have tried it themselves and their usage.

During the conversation listen out for hints that mean your teen could be a heavy user of vaping, such as:

  • vaping alone, instead of only socially
  • vaping within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning, or
  • vaping through the night (this might mean keeping an e-cigarette under the pillow for night-time use).

So How Do I Help My Teen Quit?

Once you know your teen is vaping, broach the subject of quitting with them in a non-judgemental way. Try questions like “have you ever tried having a break from them?” and “how did that feel?”

If they are willing to attempt quitting, or are already withdrawing due to reduced access to vaping products, let them know you are there to support them and help is available.

First Try Counselling And Cold Turkey

The Quitline or a GP can help with goal setting, such as setting a quit date, making a quit plan and identifying triggers for vaping and strategies to address them.

There are also online tools your teen may like, such as My Quit Buddy, an app that provides practical tips, progress charts and health information to help with quitting.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

If counselling alone is not successful, nicotine replacement therapy may help.

Nicotine-replacement therapy is available in a fast-release form (used by mouth via a nicotine inhalator, spray, gum, or lozenges) or a slow-release patch. For someone quitting vaping, fast-release forms are likely to work best.

However, sometimes a teenager might need more than one nicotine-replacement product, called “combination therapy”. Combination therapy is better when the teen is highly dependant on nicotine and has strong and frequent urges to vape.

Be sure to follow the instructions for each product and encourage regular doses so withdrawal symptoms are controlled.

Teen talks to nurse in waiting room
Teens should try counselling and going cold turkey first. Shutterstock

Eighteen year olds can buy nicotine-replacement products without a script at a supermarket or pharmacy. A pharmacist can advise on the correct use.

If your child is aged 12–17, it’s recommended they are first assessed by their GP, who can prescribe nicotine-replacement therapy. A script from a GP may allow access to a subsidised course through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth can get further help from their local Aboriginal health service, which can offer culturally safe support and may also have supplies of nicotine-replacement therapy.

When using nicotine replacement therapy, adherence is critical to successfully quitting. Use it for a minimum of eight weeks and preferably 12 weeks to avoid relapse.

GPs can also prescribe nicotine liquid (non-flavoured) for a refillable e-cigarette. But clinical guidelines recommend discouraging vaping because of their ongoing addictive nature because they’re a gateway for smoking tobacco.

Teens who vape are three times more likely to take up smoking. So addressing your teen’s vaping is an important preventative step for both smoking and vaping in future. The Conversation

Gillian Sandra Gould, Professor in Health Equity, Southern Cross UniversityKaren McFadyen, Research Fellow, Faculty of Health, Southern Cross University, and Marilyn Clarke, Senior Research Fellow, Southern Cross University

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

Long COVID symptoms can improve, but their resolution is slow and imperfect

Pexels/Engin Akyurt
Suman MajumdarBurnet Institute and Brendan CrabbBurnet Institute

Around 5–10% of people who get infected with SARS-CoV-2 will experience symptoms that persist way beyond the initial acute period, a clinical syndrome we are learning more about, known widely as long COVID.

Shortness of breath, brain fog, lethargy and tiredness, loss of smell or taste are common features of long COVID, as is the development of new conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and dementia.

But how long is the “long”? If and when do symptoms resolve?

recent study has examined this in detail, following people for two years after their infection. This and other recently published studies on long COVID show that while symptoms do resolve in many people, their resolution is slow and imperfect.

What Did The Study Find?

The key work, led by Ziyad Al-Aly, examines the effect of SARS-CoV-2 two years after infection in a large group of US veterans. The researchers followed 139,000 people with COVID and almost six million uninfected controls for two years, tracking deaths, hospitalisations and 80 long-term impacts of COVID, categorised into ten organ systems.

They found that people who were initially hospitalised with COVID were 1.3 times more likely to die and 2.6 times more likely to be hospitalised again, compared to the control group (people without COVID), over the two years. After two years, this “hospitalised” group remained at increased risk of 50 conditions.

People who had milder COVID (who weren’t hospitalised with their initial COVID infection) had an increased risk of death for up to six months and increased risk of hospitalisation for up to 18 months. However, at two years, they remained at increased risk of 25 conditions.

So, while people who were initially hospitalised for COVID had worse outcomes over the two-year follow-up, there was still a substantial burden of illness in people who initially had milder COVID. This included a risk of clots and blood disorders, lung disease, fatigue, gut disorders, muscle and joint disorders and diabetes.

X (formerley Twitter)

Findings From Other Recent Research Were Similar

separate cohort study followed more than 208,000 veterans with COVID over two years. It showed that overall, 8.7% died compared with 4.1% in the uninfected control group. The risk of death was concentrated in the first six months after infection.

A third, not yet peer-reviewed and smaller cohort study of 341 people with long COVID from Spain, found only 7.6% of them recovered at two years.

Another significant (not yet peer-reviewed) study from the United Kingdom assessed diabetes risk after COVID by following 15 million people in England from 2020–21. It found a 30–50% elevated risk of new type 2 diabetes after COVID. This increased risk persisted up to two years. But the risk for type 1 diabetes risk did not persist.

An Australian (not yet peer-reviewed) study followed 31 people who developed long COVID and 31 matched controls who recovered from COVID for two years. It found that most of the concerning immunological dysfunction effects that had been present at eight months, had resolved by two years. While almost two-thirds of those with long COVID (62%) reported improved quality of life over the two years, one-third were still struggling in this regard two years after their infection.

Finally, a recent whole-body positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and biopsy study showed prolonged tissue level immune-activation and viral persistence in the gut for up to a remarkable two years after COVID.

These Studies Have Some Limitations

It’s important to note the observational studies have some inherent limitations.

The US veterans cohort studied by Al-Aly is nearly 90% men, with an average age of 61 years, which is different to groups most at risk of long COVID.

They acquired their initial infection in 2020, before Omicron, before vaccination and before therapies – all of which are protective against long COVID to a degree.

Having said that, long COVID still frequently occurs in vaccinated people infected with Omicron.

We Still Don’t Have Treatments For Long COVID

Increasing understanding about underlying mechanisms of long COVID, such as those involving persistent virus and effects on mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cells - can lead to treatment options that need to be trialled.

In July 2023, the White House established the Office of Long COVID Research and Practice. Two randomised trials are testing whether the antiviral nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (Paxlovid) can treat long COVID are currently recruiting patients.

Man looks at pill
Research is underway to see if drugs can prevent long COVID. Pexels/Ron Lach

A separate randomised, placebo-controlled trial has shown that metformin, a commonly prescribed anti-diabetic medication, taken for two weeks (and taken within three days of testing positive for COVID) reduced the chance of developing long COVID by 41%. The mechanism may involve an effect on mitochondria or directly on the virus.

But It’s Still Important To Prevent COVID (Re)Infections

Taken together, these studies on the longevity of long COVID add substantially to the case to fast-track the development of interventions and therapies to prevent and/or cure the condition.

In the meantime, it’s crucially important to prevent (re)infections in the first place to reduce the future burden of long COVID, already estimated to be greater than 65 million people globally.

Breathe clean air by ensuring indoor spaces are well-ventilated. In poorly ventilated or crowded spaces, wear a well-fitted and high-quality mask (a P2, KN95 or N95 mask), and/or use air filtration devices suitable for the space you are in.

Keep up to date with boosters. And get tested so you can get antiviral treatment if you’re eligible.

If you suspect you have long COVID, discuss this with your GP, who may refer you to specialised services or multidisciplinary care.The Conversation

Suman Majumdar, Chief Health Officer, Burnet Institute and Brendan Crabb, Director and CEO, Burnet Institute

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

Being the main breadwinner didn’t necessarily keep married mums in work during the pandemic

Leah RuppannerThe University of MelbourneCaitlyn CollinsArts & Sciences at Washington University in St. LouisLiana Christin LandivarUniversity of Maryland, and William ScarboroughUniversity of North Texas

In the toughest days of the pandemic, many dual-income families made the difficult choice to drop down to one income.

With dads being the primary earners in many heterosexual households, it was often the mother who gave up her job to manage all the extra housework, homeschooling and childcare the pandemic brought.

But what about heterosexual households where the mother was the primary earner?

Our study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, involved analysis of 7,139 different-sex married parents in the United States, captured at multiple time points. We found many married mothers who earned half or more of the family’s income got knocked out of employment during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

The employment rate of fathers who earned the bulk of the money over this time dropped much less, we found. In fact, it barely changed.

Our study also found the ability to work remotely was an important lifeline for mothers to retain employment. Overall, earning more of the income couldn’t guarantee mothers would be protected from employment loss, but working remotely was crucial to mothers remaining employed.

The pandemic pummelled mothers through added childcare, housework, and homeschooling. Shutterstock

Even Earning More, Many Mothers Were Knocked Out Of Employment

To track US mothers’ employment over the duration of the pandemic, we used data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey. The data are collected by the US Census Bureau.

Our sample included civilian respondents aged 25–54 who were different-sex, married parents with children 12 years or younger. In each case, both the respondent and their spouse reported working for pay in 2019, before the pandemic started.

We used this data set to follow mothers’ and fathers’ employment patterns over the first year of the pandemic (January 2020 to May 2021).

We found fathers in this group who were primary earners tended to remain employed over this period.

The employment rate for mothers, by contrast, dropped significantly in the first few months and never fully recovered. It didn’t matter if mothers were primary earners or not – their employment rate still dropped.

In fact, by the March to May period of 2021, mothers’ employment was over four percentage points lower than pre-pandemic levels – regardless of their earnings.

So, earning more of the family income didn’t necessarily shield mothers from employment loss. What did matter, however, was access to telecommuting.

Mothers who could work online had significantly higher employment rates across the period of our study than mothers who couldn’t. Additionally, the positive effect of telecommuting on employment was four times larger for mothers than for fathers.

Telecommuting was a lifeline for mothers’ employment during the pandemic.

A woman exams documents and works from home while her pre-schooler plays in the background. Half-eaten food and mess sits near her computer.
Earning more of the family income didn’t buffer mothers from employment loss. Shutterstock

The Pandemic-Pummelled Mothers

These findings build on our previous research showing US mothers’ employment was hit hard during the pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, our previous research found nearly 250,000 more mothers than fathers exited employment from February to April 2020.

We also found in prior studies that US mothers with children aged five or under reduced their work time four to five times more than equivalent fathers.

We also showed that in-person learning in the latter part of 2020 was lower in US districts with higher proportions of Black and Hispanic students. Remote learning across the 2020–2021 school year led mothers’ but not fathers’ employment to drop, especially for those with less education and limited access to telecommuting.

And our earlier research revealed how US mothers stepped into more housework and childcare, causing sleep problems, anxiety and stress.

As we discussed these findings with researchers and the community, one question would keep coming up: isn’t all this just the consequence of fathers earning more?

Isn’t it a “rational” choice to shield fathers from job loss, rather than mothers, because men tend to be the primary earners?

Our recently published research shows that, no, this was not necessarily about who made more money in the household – it is often about who is expected to provide care when times get tough.

Many mothers got knocked out of employment even when they were the family’s highest earner.

A young Asian mother works from home on a laptop while her child plays next to her.
Working remotely has been critical to mothers remaining employed. Shutterstock

Where To From Here?

US mothers have now returned to employment at pre-pandemic levels. But we can’t ignore the fact many mothers stepped into the added care of the pandemic while also trying to maintain their work lives. Many couldn’t and employment dropped. Others experienced significant earnings losses even while remaining employed.

For those with the option to work remotely – who are largely employed in professional jobs – this benefit was and remains critical to their ability to hold onto their job. Despite this, employers are increasingly removing this lifeline and demanding a return to the workplace.

These lessons also extend to other Western nations. In Australia, for example, mothers picked up more housework and childcare at the expense of their health and wellbeing (as did fathers). Australian workers want remote work to remain which has long been critical to mothers maintaining employment and to avoid burnout.

The pandemic showed care work is critical to our lives and we must support those who do it.

For married heterosexual mothers, this means acknowledging the tolls of the pandemic and ensuring access for all in relevant occupations to critical resources like telecommuting.The Conversation

Leah Ruppanner, Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of The Future of Work Lab, The University of MelbourneCaitlyn Collins, Associate Professor of Sociology, Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. LouisLiana Christin Landivar, Faculty Affiliate, University of Maryland, and William Scarborough, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of North Texas

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

Study Finds Women Would Make Different Maternity Care Choices If They Had Another Baby

September 5, 2023
New research led by Western Sydney University has found over 85 per cent of women in Australia would make different maternity care choices if they had another baby, including around advocating for themselves, the type of birth, and model of care.

Published in the BMJ Open today, the research analysed data from the Birth Experience Study (BESt) online survey, which is one of the largest studies into maternity experiences in Australia.

As part of the BESt survey, in 2021, 6,101 women responded to the open question ‘Would you do anything different if you were to have another baby’. Researchers then analysed and grouped the women’s responses into six categories. These included:
  • ‘I want to be a better advocate for myself’ – 3958 comments, 39.2 per cent – described how women reflected on their previous experience, feeling the need to better advocate for themselves in the future to receive the care or experience they wanted.
  • ‘I want a specific birth experience’ – 2872 comments, 28.5 per cent – highlighted the types of birth women would choose for their next pregnancy and this was most often a vaginal birth.
  • ‘I want a specific model of care’ – 1796 comments, 17.8 per cent – highlighted the model of care women would choose for their next pregnancy and this was most often continuity of midwifery care.
  • ‘I want better access’ – 294 comments, 2.9 per cent – identified financial and/or geographical constraints women experience trying to make choices for birth.
Two categories included comments from women who said, ‘I don’t want to change anything’ – 1027 comments, 10.2 per cent, and ‘I don’t want another pregnancy’ ­– 142 comments, 1.4 per cent. Women who said they would not change anything were more likely to have had continuity of care.
Study lead Dr Hazel Keedle from the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and Translational Health Research Institute said the research identified that women predominantly want to avoid a repeat of their previous pregnancy and birth experience.

“Of the women who responded to the open question, ‘Would you do anything different if you were to have another baby’, 85 per cent left a comment related to making different decisions regarding their next birth choices,” said Dr Keedle.

“Concerningly, women appear to blame themselves for their previous birth experience. They are also determined to plan and be better prepared for future births and mostly see vaginal birth, with minimal intervention, in a midwifery continuity of care model as important for the next birth.”

Study co-author Professor Hannah Dahlen AM, who is also from the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and Translational Health Research Institute, said the findings highlight that women need to be supported to choose the right model of care that is best suited to their individual values.

“Support is critical, especially for a woman’s first birthing experience, early in pregnancy, and preferably before pregnancy, as this could reduce the disconnect between expectations and reality and subsequently reduce regrets and birth trauma,” said Professor Dahlen.

“Women who stated that they would do something different for their next birth are more likely to describe their birth as traumatic. Being informed of their choices and making personalised decisions regarding the available models of care would ideally lead to less regret and improved birth experiences.”

The study also revealed a need for increased access to midwifery services where there is a continuity of care from early pregnancy through to after the baby is born.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that midwifery continuity of care models make up around 15 per cent of all models of care available currently.

“There are vast areas of Australia without access resulting in many women being unable to secure a position in a local midwifery group practice due to a lack of spaces available or options in their geographical area,” added Dr Keedle.

“It is imperative that culturally safe continuity of midwifery care is available for all women across Australia, including those in regional, rural and remote communities. Further research is needed to explore the impact of providing midwifery-led maternity services in these communities on women’s experiences.”

The research team wish to acknowledge the contributions of Western Sydney University midwifery student Risharda Lockwood, who undertook the preliminary analysis of the data for this study, supervised by Dr Keedle and Professor Dahlen as part of the Summer Scholars program.

The research was supported by a School of Nursing and Midwifery Partnership Grant through Western Sydney University, The Qiara Vincent Thiang Memorial Award and Maridulu Budyari Gumal SPHERE Maternal, Newborn and Women’s Clinical Academic Group funding.

Study Confirms It: Opposites Don't Actually Attract

September 5, 2023
Opposites don't actually attract. That's the takeaway from a sweeping CU Boulder analysis of more than 130 traits and including millions of couples over more than a century.

"Our findings demonstrate that birds of a feather are indeed more likely to flock together," said first author Tanya Horwitz, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Institute for Behavioural Genetics (IBG).

The study, published Aug. 31 in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, confirms what individual studies have hinted at for decades, defying the age-old adage that "opposites attract."

It found that for between 82% and 89% of traits analyzed -- ranging from political leanings to age of first intercourse to substance use habits -- partners were more likely than not to be similar.

For only 3% of traits, and only in one part of their analysis, did individuals tend to partner with those who were different than them.

Aside from shedding light on unseen forces that may shape human relationships, the research has important implications for the field of genetic research.

"A lot of models in genetics assume that human mating is random. This study shows this assumption is probably wrong," said senior author and IBG Director Matt Keller, noting that what is known as "assortative mating" -- when individuals with similar traits couple up -- can skew findings of genetic studies.

Looking back more than a century
For the new paper, the authors conducted both a review, or meta-analysis, of previous research and their own original data analysis.

For the meta-analysis, they looked at 22 traits across 199 studies including millions of male-female co-parents, engaged pairs, married pairs or cohabitating pairs. The oldest study was conducted in 1903.

In addition, they used a dataset called the UK Biobank to study 133 traits, including many that are seldom studied, across almost 80,000 opposite-sex pairs in the United Kingdom.

Same sex couples were not included in the research. Because the patterns there may differ significantly, the authors are now exploring those separately.
Across both analyses, traits like political and religious attitudes, level of education, and certain measures of IQ showed particularly high correlations. For instance, on a scale in which zero means there is no correlation and 1 means couples always share the trait, the correlation for political values was .58.

Traits around substance use also showed high correlations, with heavy smokers, heavy drinkers and teetotallers tending strongly to partner up with those with similar habits.

Meanwhile, traits like height and weight, medical conditions and personality traits showed far lower but still positive correlations. For instance, the correlation for neuroticism was .11.

For some traits, like extroversion, there was not much of a correlation at all.

"People have all these theories that extroverts like introverts or extroverts like other extroverts, but the fact of the matter is that it's about like flipping a coin: Extroverts are similarly likely to end up with extroverts as with introverts," said Horwitz.

Rarely, opposites may attract
In the meta-analysis, the researchers found "no compelling evidence" on any trait that opposites attract. In the UK Biobank sample, they did find a handful of traits in which there seemed to be a negative correlation, albeit small.

Those included: chronotype (whether someone is a "morning lark" or "night owl"), tendency to worry and hearing difficulty.

More research must be done to unpack those findings, they said.

The trait for which couples were most likely to be similar was, not surprisingly, birth year.

But even seldom-studied traits, like how many sexual partners a person had had or whether they had been breastfed as a child, showed some correlation.

"These findings suggest that even in situations where we feel like we have a choice about our relationships, there may be mechanisms happening behind the scenes of which we aren't fully aware," said Horwitz.

Next-generation implications
The authors note that couples share traits for a variety of reasons: Some grow up in the same area. Some are attracted to people who are similar to them. Some grow more similar the longer they are together.

Depending on the cause, there could be downstream consequences.

For example, Horwitz explains, if short people are more likely to produce offspring with short people and tall people with tall people, there could be more people at the height extremes in the next generation. The same goes for psychiatric, medical or other traits.

There could also be social implications.

For instance, some small previous studies have suggested that people in the U.S. are growing more likely to couple up with people with similar educational backgrounds -- a trend that, some theorize, could widen the socioeconomic divide.

Notably, the new study also showed that the strength of correlations for traits differed across populations. They likely also change over time, the authors suspect.

The researchers caution that the correlations they found were fairly modest and should not be overstated or misused to promote an agenda (Horwitz points out that assortative mating research was, tragically, co-opted by the eugenics movement).

They do hope the study will spark more research across disciplines, from economics to sociology to anthropology and psychology.

"We're hoping people can use this data to do their own analyses and learn more about how and why people end up in the relationships they do," she said.

Tanya B. Horwitz, Jared V. Balbona, Katie N. Paulich, Matthew C. Keller. Evidence of correlations between human partners based on systematic reviews and meta-analyses of 22 traits and UK Biobank analysis of 133 traits. Nature Human Behaviour, 2023; DOI: 10.1038/s41562-023-01672-z

ACCC Takes Court Action Alleging Qantas Advertised Flights It Had Already Cancelled

August 31, 2023
The ACCC today launched action in the Federal Court of Australia alleging Qantas Airways (QAN) engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct, by advertising tickets for more than 8,000 flights that it had already cancelled but not removed from sale.

The ACCC alleges that for more than 8,000 flights scheduled to depart between May and July 2022, Qantas kept selling tickets on its website for an average of more than two weeks, and in some cases for up to 47 days, after the cancellation of the flights.

It is also alleged that, for more than 10,000 flights scheduled to depart in May to July 2022, Qantas did not notify existing ticketholders that their flights had been cancelled for an average of about 18 days, and in some cases for up to 48 days. The ACCC alleges that Qantas did not update its “Manage Booking” web page for ticketholders to reflect the cancellation.

This conduct affected a substantial proportion of flights cancelled by Qantas between May to July 2022. The ACCC alleges that for about 70 per cent of cancelled flights, Qantas either continued to sell tickets for the flight on its website for two days or more, or delayed informing existing ticketholders that their flight was cancelled for two days or more, or both.

“The ACCC has conducted a detailed investigation into Qantas’ flight cancellation practices. As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been cancelled.”

“There are vast distances between Australia’s major cities. Reliable air travel is essential for many consumers in Australia who are seeking to visit loved ones, take holidays, grow their businesses or connect with colleagues. Cancelled flights can result in significant financial, logistical and emotional impacts for consumers,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

The ACCC’s investigation included engagement with impacted consumers and the serving of compulsory information notices on Qantas. The investigation, which included detailed data analysis by ACCC specialist data analysts, identified that Qantas cancelled almost 1 in 4 flights in the period from May to July 2022, with about 15,000 out of 66,000 domestic and international flights from airports in all states and mainland territories in Qantas’ published schedule being cancelled. These proceedings relate to more than 10,000 of those cancelled flights.

As an example of the conduct, ticketholders scheduled to fly on Qantas flight QF93 from Melbourne to Los Angeles on 6 May 2022 were first notified of the cancellation on 4 May, two days before the scheduled departure and four days after Qantas had cancelled the flight.

One consumer was provided with a replacement flight a day before their original departure date, which was communicated only by the Qantas app. As a result, the consumer had to change connecting flights and had a 15-hour layover in Los Angeles, which had a significant impact on the consumer and left them $600 out of pocket.

In another example, Qantas sold 21 tickets for QF73 from Sydney to San Francisco scheduled to depart on 29 July 2022 after it had cancelled the flight, with the last ticket being sold 40 days after cancellation.

Airlines may cancel flights in the short term due to a range of unforeseeable reasons including bad weather, aircraft defects and delays from previous flights. Flight cancellation can also happen due to a range of factors that are within the control of an airline.

“We allege that Qantas made many of these cancellations for reasons that were within its control, such as network optimisation including in response to shifts in consumer demand, route withdrawals or retention of take-off and landing slots at certain airports,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“However, this case does not involve any alleged breach in relation to the actual cancellation of flights, but rather relates to Qantas’ conduct after it had cancelled the flights.”

The ACCC is seeking orders including penalties, injunctions, declarations, and costs.

Some examples of flights allegedly affected:
  • Qantas flight QF93 was scheduled to depart from Melbourne to Los Angeles on 6 May 2022. On 28 April 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 2 May 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 4 May 2022 (two days before the flight).
  • Qantas flight QF81 was scheduled to depart from Sydney to Singapore on 4 June 2022. On 8 February 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 27 March 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 28 March 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF63 was scheduled to depart from Sydney to Johannesburg on 31 July 2022. On 8 February 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 27 March 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 28 March 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF486 was scheduled to depart from Melbourne to Sydney on 1 May 2022. On 18 February 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 15 March 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 16 March 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF1785 was scheduled to depart from Gold Coast to Sydney on 1 May 2022. On 17 February 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 15 March 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 16 March 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF696 was scheduled to depart from Adelaide to Melbourne on 23 July 2022. On 18 June 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 26 June 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 27 June 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF1764 was scheduled to depart from Canberra to Gold Coast on 27 June 2022. On 16 June 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 19 June 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 20 June 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF513 was scheduled to depart from Brisbane to Sydney on 8 June 2022. On 27 May 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 30 May 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 31 May 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF45 was scheduled to depart from Melbourne to Denpasar on 1 May 2022. On 8 February 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 24 February 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 23 March 2022.
  • Qantas flight QF649 was scheduled to depart from Sydney to Perth on 30 July 2022. On 18 February 2022, Qantas made the decision to cancel the flight. Despite this, Qantas did not remove the flight from sale until 7 March 2022, and did not inform existing ticketholders of the cancellation until 8 March 2022.
Qantas is Australia’s largest domestic airline operator. It is a publicly listed company which operates domestic and international passenger flights under its mainline brand, Qantas, and through its subsidiary Jetstar. It offers flights for sale through direct channels, such as its website and app, and indirect channels, such as travel agents and third-party online booking websites.

ACCC’s other work in the airline industry
During the pandemic and in the industry’s recovery period, from June 2020 to June 2023, the ACCC monitored prices, costs and profits of Australia’s major domestic airlines under a direction from the Federal Government.

The ACCC has investigated various aspects of Qantas’ conduct over the past three years. It has been engaging with Qantas directly on aspects of its customer service in an effort to get quick and equitable outcomes for consumers, however the ACCC considers that Qantas needs to do more.

The ACCC continues to receive more complaints about Qantas than about any other business. Last year alone the ACCC received more than 1,300 complaints about Qantas cancellations, accounting for half of all complaints about Qantas reported to the ACCC.

The ACCC notes Qantas’ public statements that most consumers holding COVID flight credits are eligible for, and still able to seek, refunds. The ACCC strongly encourages consumers holding these flight credits to seek refunds directly from Qantas.

Qantas has suggested that these COVID credits will expire at the end of December 2023, and that customers with expired COVID credits where Qantas cancelled the original flight may not be able to seek a refund. The ACCC has written to Qantas strongly objecting to this proposed position and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure Qantas continues to make available refunds to consumers.

The ACCC also notes there is a current class action which has been launched in relation to flight credits, and affected consumers may be able to seek remedies against Qantas as part of this class action.

Maximum penalties
For corporations, the maximum penalties for each breach of the Australian Consumer Law before 9 November 2022 is the greater of:
  • $10 million,
  • three times the total benefits that have been obtained and are reasonably attributable, or
  • if the total value of the benefits cannot be determined, 10 per cent of the corporation's annual turnover.
Concise statement

The document contains the ACCC’s initiating court documents in relation to this matter. We will not be uploading further documents in the event these initial documents are subsequently amended.

Will it be greener pastures for Qantas as Alan Joyce takes off?

Rico MerkertUniversity of Sydney

A turbulent two weeks for Qantas have today culminated in its group chief executive Alan Joyce fast-tracking his retirement by two months to help the organisation and its brand accelerate its renewal.

Joyce was on the way out in any case, and was paid a board-approved bonus worth more than A$10 million on Friday, to which were to be added short-term and long-term bonuses taking the total to $24 million.

What the early retirement will do is bring forward the arrival of chief executive-designate Vanessa Hudson to Wednesday, to enable her to drive a cultural change and a new strategy.

It is not unreasonable to assume she will say that what happened in the past is Joyce’s legacy and that under her leadership the airline will transform and essentially start with a clean sheet.

The New Chief’s Key Challenges

Accelerating renewal of the fleet to improve its carbon impact is likely to be at the core of Hudson’s strategy. While the arrival of these “better for the environment” planes is expected to be expedited, the challenge for Hudson is to find the A$12 billion to A$20 billion that will enable Qantas to get to these greener and more sustainable pastures.

Taking greater care of the environment and the communities that Qantas serves, and having this as a key pillar of the renewed strategy and corporate communication, will be good for the airline. It will allow it to transform into an internationally and domestically competitive carrier, fit for the future in which climate change will become an even more pressing issue.

What many commentators are questioning is why Joyce was allowed to retire early. In fact, the board may have recommended he do so.

Regardless, this latest twist seems like an easy way out, as it saves him from fronting shareholders at the upcoming AGM, during which he would have had to respond to angry questions and account for the crisis Qantas is now in.

This will now be the board’s role and will include, among other things, fielding questions around the chief executive’s bonus (including the retirement package, which was going to be announced as part of the annual report presented to the AGM) and his performance. The ACCC allegations around selling tickets on cancelled flights, the pending court case related to COVID flight credits, the damage done to the brand and how to repair it will also be raised.

Did Qantas Sway The Government To Block Qatar?

There will likely also be questions around Qantas’s role in lobbying the Australian government to reject Qatar’s application to essentially double its air traffic rights (three more daily flights to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne).

This would have helped restore capacity - and thus drive down airfares - on the Europe-to-Australia sector, which is still 30% below pre-pandemic levels.

That, however, may be a question that should be directed at the government. Yesterday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese even felt the need to declare he had not been lobbied by Qantas on the Qatar Airways decision.

When I read this, I wondered, was someone at Qantas not doing their job? As applies to any ASX listed company and airline in the world, they have an entire department that does nothing else but lobby politicians. That is how the game works and is entirely accepted.

As outlined in my analysis published on The Conversation last week, bilateral air service negotiations are a government affair akin to trade agreement negotiations.

The Australian government will, on a regular basis, negotiate with the governments of Qatar, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and others on such matters, and airlines at both ends of the negotiating table will lobby their respective governments.

Based on what is in the best interests of the country, the government – in our case the Transport Minister Catherine King – then makes a determination. There is, therefore, opportunity for the government to revisit such decisions or come to a less restrictive determination in future rounds.

All of the above suggests there is huge potential for a fresh start and for building a better and more sustainable future for Australia’s largest airline, which will be beneficial to Australian travellers and the economy at large.The Conversation

Rico Merkert, Professor in Transport and Supply Chain Management and Deputy Director, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS), University of Sydney Business School, University of Sydney

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

Qantas chief Alan Joyce quits early, amid customer fury at the airline

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

Embattled Qantas boss Alan Joyce will quit immediately, bringing forward his retirement by two months.

A Qantas statement early Tuesday said the CEO had advised the board he was doing this “to help the company accelerate its renewal”.

Joyce has been under sustained attack over the airline’s poor service, high prices, and customers’ difficulty in retrieving flight credits. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched legal action against Qantas for continuing to sell tickets on flights already cancelled.

Last week Joyce was subjected to a ferocious grilling in the senate inquiry into the cost of living. Later in the week Qantas scrapped the expiry date for flight credits.

The spotlight on Qantas has intensified with the Albanese government’s refusal to let Qatar Airways have additional flights on the routes it requested – seen as a decision to protect Qantas, which lobbied against the extra flights. Some state Labor governments have urged the decision be reversed.

Qantas CEO-designate Vanessa Hudson will assume the role of Managing Director and Group CEO on Wednesday.

Joyce said:

In the last few weeks, the focus on Qantas and events of the past make it clear to me that the company needs to move ahead with its renewal as a priority. “The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job.

He said he left Qantas, where he has been chief executive for 15 years, with a lot to be proud of.

There have been many ups and downs, and there is clearly much work still to be done, especially to make sure we always deliver for our customers. But I leave knowing that the company is fundamentally strong and has a bright future.

Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder said: "Alan has always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre, and today shows that. On behalf of the Board, we sincerely thank him for his leadership through some enormous challenges and for thinking well-ahead on opportunities like ultra long-haul travel.”

Goyder said the transition came at “a challenging time” for the airline and for its people.

“We have an important job to do in restoring the public’s confidence in the kind of company we are, and that’s what the Board is focused on, and what the management under Vanessa’s leadership will do,” Goyder said.

On Friday Qantas notified the ASX that Joyce had been given a total of $10.8 million in shares under a COVID retention scheme and for long-term bonuses from 2020-22, which he had deferred.

Recently Joyce sold a large packet of Qantas shares.


Late Tuesday, the Coalition succeeded in getting Senate support for an inquiry into the Qatar affair. The Greens opposed the move but other crossbenchers supported it.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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