Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Australia faces climate change disaster

A record drought–now in its sixth year–is forcing Australia to consider drastic action to preserve its dwindling water supplies. Two rivers that feed the Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia are so low that they barely have enough water for drinking supplies.

The Murray-Darlin basin supplies 40 percent of Australia’s agricultural output, including rice cotton, wine, citrus, olive and almonds, along with livestock.

Prime Minister John Howard has announced that unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the basin, creating a disaster for the farmers and devastating the harvests.

Environmentalists have blamed the drought on the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El Nino weather patterns, caused by global warming. The recent UN climate planel predicted that droughts would be a growing problem for Australia.

Prime Minister Howard has until recently been a skeptic about global warming, but now says that he accepts the science behind climate change.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Oil Free Towns

Spurred on by the looming threat of peak oil, a growing number of towns in Britain are moving toward an oil free future by "relocalizing" food, energy, transport, and their economies. Rural towns such as Totnes, Falmouth and Stroud led the way, but have since been joined by towns such as Forest Row, Bristol, and London's Brixton district have joined.

The towns are conducting workshops with local businesses to see how they can reduce their dependence on oil. Citizens are attending workshops that teach such skills as urban gardening, bread baking and sock darning.

The towns are drawing on their experiences during World War II when Britain endured a prolonged fuel shortage forcing people to become more self sufficient. Older residents who lived through the period are being interviewed to create an oral history archive of skills necessary for self sufficiency.

The towns maintain a Transition Towns Wiki site where the towns discuss ideas and pass on tips on making the transition work.