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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 8 January 2007
Community media conference April 2007 by UWS leveraging central UTS venue
Mood:  special
Topic: independent media

 [lifted from the official website pages]

Conference Theme: Sustainable Futures: Roles and Challenges for Community, Alternative and Citizens’ Media in the 21st century

expanded here:


"The Conference will take place at the University of Technology, Sydney, Broadway Campus, at the Guthrie Theater, Peter Johnson Building." http://www.ourmedia07.net/?page_id=13

Dates: April 9-13, 2007


December 21st, 2006


The Conference Organizing Committee has received nearly 200 proposals, from over 35 countries, including academics, activists, community media practitioners, artists and media/social researchers.

A provisional program will be online by mid January together with information on Keynote Speakers, Accommodation, and Conference Registration.


OURMedia / NUESTROS Medios is an international network and forum founded in 2001 by a group of engaged academics interested in advancing the democratic potential of community, alternative and ‘citizens’ media. Recognising that the intellectual and policy frameworks for citizens’ media are often out of touch with the on-the-ground reality, the purpose of OURMedia is to connect scholars, practitioners, activists and policy-makers towards defined outcomes. OURMedia is now a network of over 500 people from 50 countries and has generated an extensive body of practical and theoretical knowledge primarily in English and Spanish.



Past OURMedia conferences have been organized in the United States (2001), Spain (2002), Colombia (2003), Brazil (2004) and India (2005). These conferences have consisted of scholarly and academic presentations, media activism initiatives, policy workshops, community cultural development roundtable debates, new media labs, research-led forums and engagements by local media producers.


Main Sponsors

The conference is hosted by the School of Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney in association with the Centre for Cultural Research at UWS, and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney

Other Australian universities providing funding and support are:

* RMIT School of Applied Communication
* QUT ARC Centre for Creative Industries and Innovation

Other institutions and community organizations supporting OUR Media 6 are:

Information & Cultural Exchange (ICE)
AMARC (Asia-Pacific)
Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA)
• 3RRR Community Media Services
Channel 31 Melbourne
• * UTS Research Initiative on International Activism (RIIA)
• Community Spectrum Taskforce
Katalyst Design

The conference will be hosted by the School of Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney (UWS) in association with the Centre for Cultural Research at UWS, a member of the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes. The University of Western Sydney is member of AUCEA, an alliance of Australian universities committed to supporting university-community engagement to promote the social, environmental and economic and cultural development of communities. A central aim of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) is to link arms with community, public services, industry and business across Greater Western Sydney to exchange knowledge, harness community expertise, and contribute to the region’s development, prosperity and social capital. UWS also houses the studios of Channel 31 Television Sydney (TVS), a free-to-air community TV station.

Costs at http://www.ourmedia07.net/?page_id=12

Costs - Registration



More information on how to register will be posted here shortly


* Full Rate: A$300 (US$230) (E€180)

* Subsidy Rate: A$150 (US$115) (E€90)

* Daily Rate: A$100

* Local subsidised daily rate: A$50



Check Exchange Rates





Registration covers:



Attendance to all conference sessions for 3 days

Lunch, morning and afternoon tea for 3 days

Welcome Reception

Conference Satchel and Program


More information about conference dinner and 4th day visit to community organizations will be posted here shortly.

Posted by editor at 11:16 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007 8:27 AM EADT
Environment as keystone of all future viable governments?
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: election nsw 2007

First published here:

by ecology action, Tom McLoughlin Friday December 22, 2006 at 09:15 AM Sydney, NSW

Was the Cronulla riot in Sydney an aspect of the Environmental Debate? Undoubtedly yes. Did Bob Carr resign as successful premier after 10 years as an aspect of the environment debate. Undoubtedly yes. Did Nick Greiner lose his premiership as an aspect of the environment debate? Undoubtedly yes.


But only if you have eyes to see, and ears to listen, would be my caveat.

I will explain each example in turn:

1. Cronulla: ethno religious tensions are nothing new, in fact as old as politics itself. Similarly there will always be a small fraction of white supremacists or what I’ve heard called Islamo fascists. These simply prove how decent and lovable the vast majority are by contrast. And in Australia we have been pretty cool and successful about tolerating difference but also demanding a fair go in both directions. Not least my groovy home suburb of Marrickville.

So what went wrong at Cronulla? Well we have heard of lots of things in the general media from police performance to anglo baiting, to Muslim baiting, to right wing shock jocks, to criminal patterns of sexual violence, to the mundane matter of active versus passive recreational space in the glow of the World Cup soccer (or ‘wog’ ball as we Irish Catholics called it at Warrnambool CBC), to God knows what else.

But here is one of those shifting tectonic plates of social consciousness most people are not really attuned to but I monitor and describe as a vocation: The politics of the Environment. In relation to Cronulla it logically follows like this:

a. ethnically sympathetic Iemma govt plays catch up on climate change water supply problems since full Warragamba dam in 1997-98 (them days are gone!).

b. NSW copies WA ALP sister government successful desalination policy but where to put it?

c. Identifies Botany Bay, which is the traditional dumping ground of Sydney, never say Pittwater or Middle Harbour where the rich folks live.

d. Trouble is civil society umbrella groups like the popular Surfrider Foundation, more traditional high membership Greenpeace, the Green Party and even my own 33 strong BBACA, are against this old style disrespect for the coastline, on principle and for its practical impacts. We see this as evidence of betrayal of the fundamental obligation under the NSW Constitution in modern times for the ‘welfare and good government of the people of NSW’ as the imperative of sustainability on an exhausted and over populated planet really bites. This is becoming a subliminal spiritual belief across all society, if only to protect our species itself with the benefit of historical anthropological insight.

e. Cronulla and Sutherland ‘Shire’ is a big surf and ocean related culture there and they ‘get it’ as regards their environment at d and can feel their State Govt losing its moral credibility. They love their surf, their beach, their ocean, their coast.

f. What happens when a govt loses moral credibility? Society like nature abhors a vacuum: A hurricane of other authoritarian voices rush in to fill the space asserting their own moral claims to the way forward but it follows the vacuum over environmental credibility. A fundamental concern, a fundamental obligation.

g. A riot is exactly that ‘hurricane of other authoritarian voices’ filling a credibility gap, which started way before but includes the Desal plant proposal. Clearly this moral vacuum on the environment was allied to other cultural and harmony concerns but they don’t cancel each other out. According to this thesis the surface agenda of white supremacism against ethnics was a nasty morphing of an environmental backlash against the ethnic Premier for Lakemba dumping his desal plant on the local area.

2. Carr’s resignation after 10 years ascendancy

a. I knew Carr would resign to preserve the electoral viability of the ALP 5 years before it happened. Eh? 5 years ago? Well in a manner of speaking I knew because it was the logical converse of why he was elected. He never expected to win evidenced by his own diary. But this long time activist worked damn hard for 3 years to see him elected on March 25 1995 because it was an environmental agenda to so do. He was promising the best deal against the forest woodchippers.

b. But Carr broke his promise in the wake of the 1999 re-election. I never trust a politician regardless and was agnostic and then sceptical from at least 1997 he would follow through, to ‘end woodchipping by 2000’. By 1999 it was obvious what a liar he was positioning for a ’20 year resource security for loggers’ (in 2006 the chippers at Eden bragged about a record 1 million tonnes from high conservation value forests, in the process increasing bushfire risk hugely by destroying canopy and humidity.

c. From 2000 I decided to destroy Carr’s moral credibility on the environment for his betrayal, because I knew without that fundamental trust he was unelectable. One person cannot do much against a whole government but in time they can. Especially a good uni trained and experience and courageous one. By 2003 he was in trouble but got back. By 2005 he was drowning. Websites, individual protests, picking the wings off FOB’s (Friends of Bob) in the green movement. As I said to logger industry rep Colin Dorber outside Parliament some 6 years ago as he got his woodchipper victory (a heart attack survivor probably caused by me): “I will be doing this in 20 years time, what about you?” He retired from the fight within a year. Wise choice Colin for you and family. Carr was despised by many sectors and many civil society groups by the time he quit. He was unelectable as unaware of this reality as he was. There was no trust left on diverse policy areas but the ball that was rolling against him first, creating suspicion on other fronts, was environment as the facts became compelling on failure in

- waste management
- water recycling
- forest woodchipping
- land clearing
- urban over development especially tollways
- public transport
- air quality
- Botany Bay destruction by Port authorities
- Dioxin in Sydney Harbour
- more recently coal mining, and no doubt others

All of these were failures as cynical as the broken woodchipping ban promise broken in 2000. Other social policy sectors person by person started jacking up and refusing to suspend their scepticism or to swallow the onslaught of ‘journalist spin premier’ Bob Carr.

d. Carr resigned and slithered over to his true home, Macquarie Bank, the fast money men who have corrupted planning in Sydney for a decade or more.
Carr’s environmental wax wings had melted in the sunlight, a disinfecting sunlight.

3. The collapse of Nick Greiner political career, Liberal Premier in 1991-2

It takes a bit of memory to remember all this. I am not from NSW and was a student at ANU for much of Greiner’s term. But from January 1992 I was a committed lawyer activist in Sydney with The Wilderness Society.

I was amazed at how the Sydney Morning Herald failed to report the underlying environmental agenda that brought Greiner down. I am not so surprised now at the cynicism of the Big Media doing everything they can to freeze out the radical anti consumer ecological revolution thinking. Their environment coverage is still mostly tokenism amongst the leveraged buyouts and overpaid journalists and executives as western civilisation sleep walks to dangerous climate change, not least 5 metre plus ocean rise.

To recap, a wilderness protection lover, Terry Metherell, the Education Minister jacked up at Greiner (said to have family logger financial interests with a company called Big River Timbers) promoting open slather logging, particularly woodchipping, in NSW. This was the time of 1000 arrests in south east NSW 1989 to 1991. It was the time of Chaelundi legal case and blockades in the north east. It was high controversy and a huge moral imperative. Metherell drew a line, and I was reminded of this in footage of recent retrospective on Stateline tv show in NSW recently.

Tight numbers in Parliament pressured Greiner to cut a deal to move Metherell out of Parliament and the deal fell apart in many directions, not least Neil Shepherd refusing to hand over the EPA chief’s job to him, and ICAC finding it was a corrupt inducement (later quashed by NSW Court of Appeal but the political rejection of Greiner over his vandalistic agenda was real enough). Another casuality was go between Liberal Environment Minister Tim Moore.

How else, except for lost moral credibility on the fundamental of environmental sustainability, to explain a theoretically clean legal slate but destroyed political currency for sacked Nick Greiner? The Nick Greiner who has no moral problem today post politics working for Tobacco criminals Phillip Morris. The effective sacking like Carr above was superficially about other labyrinthine concerns, but it all followed an environmental credibility vacuum from this writer’s perspective.

(This story of political environmental imperative is also my personal story. It is why, I believe, Carr’s people (the FOB), correctly perceiving the dangerous analysis of this writer, effectively delivered via one of their messengers in the late 90’s that this writer was officially “marginalised” (Jeff Angel to environmental peers and colleagues in about 1998). But what they didn’t know was that I expected, from my knowledge of human nature in pop culture and not least commercial legal litigation career, the challenge of the mainstream. After all what is a vocation worth if it is not long term?

Indeed there is a natural and logical process involved, for a real ecological revolutionary, of social rejection as integral to the full journey, a well worn theme in any good story from Mohammed Ali to Ghandi to Nelson Mandela. And thousand other more humble toilers like me. Rejection as prelude to real change. Cie la vie and I really do embrace it. It's a badge of honour really.)

The Liberal Party under Debnam (and read Howard pulling the strings) running against Iemma are subject to this environmental discipline like the obviously corrupt ALP government, as Greiner’s fate exemplifies and the rise of the Independent MPs here too.

One practical aspect of this paper is:

Will Debnam rule out repeal of expanded national parks that Bob Carr did actually achieve while appeasing the loggers with everything left out, in a massively over cleared and disturbed NSW landscape this last 200 plus years?

It’s not a theoretical or trivial question. It will affect either his vote in March 2007 or the viability of his premiership on an increasingly exhausted and crowded planet. People know. They can feel it. They can see it in the weather. We all know spiritually, subliminally the environment underpins the moral credibility of a government as they go about all other demanding and fraught policy areas, the ecological sustainability of our home as a first but not necessarily sufficient policy area for successful government.

Which is why by the way the Green Party are called that, and not say Purple (as in sexuality or gender), or Red (as in communist) or Blue (as in capitalist libertarian).


I might have added re Desal
by original author Sunday December 24, 2006 at 07:57 AM


Within the political cycle here some relevant things have happened since the Desal plant was first proposed, mooted, rallied against, and rejected by locals, and more broadly concerned civil society groups:

The blanket coverage of the Stern Report and the subsidiary coverage of the drought which is percieved as a spooky aspect of dangerous climate change. All the Big Media commentators have noticed similarly a sea change in public mood.

Even more recently the mega bushfires, again in character seen as a spooky aspect of dangerous climate change for the earlier timing, the dryness, the undefendable nature of intensity. (My worry is too the decades of landscape change feeding into that fire profile as per book by Paul Collins and his comment piece in Fairfax recently).

Iemma's professional pollies are attuned to this evolving awareness of the merciless drying out of the country, which in turn changes the moral equation. Whereas before Sutherland folks in the semi social isolation were ready to jack up with riots at a stupid govt, now they are far more subdued on water supply concerns: 'Maybe a desal plant is the moral thing to do?' is the question arising as the last week[s] or so in the media cycle refers to relentless downward track of water supply for Sydney.

In this respect as regards Iemma, desal, and Botany Bay/Sutherland social dynamics, time and climate change driven drought are on the NSW government's side. It's only going to get worse is the general vibe. So quiety without riots or much backlash of any kind except the most dedicated Green MPs [and greenocrats], the highly cynical Planning Minister Sartor got brave and formally approved the Desal recently 'but only if the supply gets below 30%' despite earlier mass rallies.

Unless people realise a coal fire powered anything including a desal is how we got to this terrible pass in the first place, which is a pretty optimistic given the vague indirect nature of that reality, the desal in Botany Bay looks a fait accompli. Unless it really does rain. There is talk of renewable power sources but it looks like talk at this stage. And I pity the poor ecology of slowly flushing Botany Bay, and its eroding beachfronts that would never be tolerated at say Bondi or Manly.

Again not where the rich white folks live in Northern Sydney. South western half of Sydney always gets the industry they don't want up there and it's NOT FAIR, but that's another long story in due course.

Posted by editor at 10:53 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007 10:54 AM EADT
Real safety at home, streets ..... mental health funding: Greens
Mood:  bright
Topic: election nsw 2007

[Press release follows, bold added]

8 January 2007

Increase in funding first response to mental health crisis 

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said today that the present crisis in the mental
health system will continue while the NSW and federal governments
continue to underspend in this crucial area.

*The death of a nine months old baby is an indictment of a mental
health system in crisis and responsibility does have to come back to
government policy and lack of adequate funding,* said Ms Rhiannon.

*Premier Morris Iemma said mental health was one of his three
priorities when he came into office. His track record has not matched
his fine words.

*In 2004-5 the mental health budget was underspent by approximately
$10 million. NSW has spent less than other states and territories in
this area.

*The death of this baby should be a giant wake up call for Premier

*Australia spends far less on mental health compared to equivalent
countries. Because of this lack of funding only about 40 per cent of
people with a mental illness are diagnosed and less than half of those
receive adequate treatment.

*This means that only one in five people with a significant
psychological problem is getting the treatment and care they need.

*A World Health Organisation report released last year on the most
appropriate treatment for mental health found that a 30 per cent
increase in funding would lead to a 90 per cent improvement in the
number of people recovering from a mental illness.

*An increase in funding would be an important step to preventing
another innocent person being killed by a person suffering from a mental
illness. It would also be a highly cost-effective investment in reducing
the number of hospitalisations from acute mental illness.

*A boost in funding would allow for an expansion of community-based
services across the state, particularly in regional and rural NSW.

*The Greens are campaigning for the expansion of facilities such as
Callan Park across the state,* Ms Rhiannon said.

For more information: Lee Rhiannon ....

Posted by editor at 10:33 AM EADT
Plastic bras and ribbons better than bags
Mood:  amorous
Topic: zero waste

More from irrepressible Lyndall McCormack, internet agitator and  green granny from Padstow, in the wake of high profile Ian Kiernan on the ABC 702 radio this morning calling for 'the next step' on our dodgy plastic bag habit:

Plastic bag levy failing

[To be fair Lyndall sent this through before the Herald story but I was busy cycling to Killara (see previous story) in topic 'election Australia 2007':

Why did student activist now minister Tony Abbott punch Peter Woof?]

Here are some constructive (?) uses of recycled plastic via the Lyndall net vacuum cleaner:

# 1

Bows bows bows, everywhere you look. I love it! I've not worn a ribbon in my hair since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and I don't think I could get away with wearing one now. So this Plastic Bow Barrette from Urban Outfitters is a nice grown up alternative (yeah right). Now you can wear a bow in your hair without looking like a sap or an overgrown schoolgirl. Best part is it's on sale for a paltry $6.99, bad news - only in the US [insert full on girly tantrum here].

[Indeed so popular it looks like its been sold out at the link above: editor]


# 2

JAPAN: Triumph launches shopping bag bra

9 November 2006| Source: just-style.com

In a bid to highlight waste caused by the use of free plastic shopping bags, Triumph International Japan has showcased new lingerie that can be converted into a shopping bag.


[submission login required]


Sustainability: Free Master Recycler Plastics Roundup Feb 3 2007

[How they round up the plastic waste in Washington USA]


DIY sector in UK comes under waste reduction scrutiny in UK


Sunday, January 07, 2007

WRAP turns attention to home improvement sector

Packaging use in the home improvement market is to come under scrutiny from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) as it seeks to add to its progress in the grocery sector.
WRAP staged a dinner for some of the home improvements sector’s biggest players last month to kick off its programme of work in the area, which will include looking at how packaging can limit damage to products.
Mark Barthel, WRAP’s special advisor on retail and innovation, said the DIY and home improvement sector was “second only to grocery in terms of the impact it has on lifestyle behaviour”.
Later in the year WRAP will also turn its attention to the packaging employed by major internet retailers, including Amazon, and the grocery retailers’ web sales channels.
WRAP’s main focus so far has been on the grocery sector, where it has signed up 13 retailers and three brand owners to the Courtauld Commitment, the landmark agreement implemented to reduce packaging and food waste.
WRAP is also seeking applications for its £8m Waste Minimisation Innovation Fund in two new streams.
One will provide funding for schemes that can reduce household packaging waste. The deadline for applications is 31 January.
For more information, visit www.wrap.org.uk.


Posted by editor at 9:40 AM EADT
Why did student activist now minister Tony Abbott punch Peter Woof?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: election Oz 2007

The editor had an interesting interview recently with long time qualified high school teacher here in NSW, and Canada, Peter Woof, a long time supporter of environmental causes.

He tells an interesting story from his parents lounge room in Killara  (a pretty exclusive north shore suburb of Sydney):

In 1978 25 year old Woof stood up to student politician, now federal government health minister, Tony Abbott who he says was allegedly caught doing unethical or perhaps illegal things like changing the locks on the student union offices and other things.

Woof says Abbott, a well known boxing enthusiast now if not then, punched Woof in the face. Woof was a 24 year old technician employed at Sydney University.

The date can be corroborrated by reference to civil assault suit documentation against Abbott presumably created for Woof in the Glebe local court at the time. Woof represented himself but was totally out muscled financially, he says, by 'half a dozen' barristers and lawyers who turned up at the preliminary hearing turning the civil suit into a high risk of huge legal costs against the alleged assault victim Woof.

Woof assumes these expensive lawyers taking a student activist dispute to another level were paid for by Abbott's 'rich father'. (It also suggests a serious fear of a  blossoming conservative political career almost destroyed at birth.)

This legal bullying tactic arguably at the expense of justice has the echo of the vexatious legal suit by Gunns Ltd bullying of Tasmanian environmentalists in the last few years.

Woof withdrew the civil suit he says under financial duress.

Peter Woof is a very experienced and qualifed person. He has an engineering degree. He is a qualified radio operator and mechanic who ws driving an LPG 4 cyllinder sedan in the early 1980's years before LPG was so popular. He owns his own house.

Woof is no shrinking violet. He is a friend and colleague of anti pirate whaler Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd fame.  Woof has participated in environmental protests including conviction for entirely peaceful protests against a nuclear warship in Sydney Harbour and the docking of a rainforest timber ship in the 1980ies and 90ies. During this period in 1986 Woof held down a high school teaching job in Bombala, a well known 'Timber Town' in NSW.

The Canadian teaching accreditation authority are aware of this lively history and have endorsed Woof's employment as a talented and committed non prosletising high school teacher. He is flying out today to continue his teaching job in remote Saskatchewan Canada


Woof notes that global warming has massively contracted the viability of traditional 'winter roads' (over frozen swamp and bog) in remote Saskatchewan, such that only one month mid January to mid February is now safe for high volume road transport during winter. This is too small a window he says to properly provision remote areas prefacing a depopulation of large swathes of North America in the future.

Peter Woof can be contacted by email on:

[pwoof dot bigpond dot net dot au]

Woof whose eyesight is suffering long sightedness in middle older age is no longer able to do much close work but obviously has some very interesting tales to tell still in his career of environmental advocacy back to the Franklin River blockades and earlier.

The alleged assault by Tony Abbott was openly discussed at a recent reunion of the Sydney Bushwalkers Club in 2006 and there are likely to be several sources to corroborate this version of student activist history of the 1970's here in Sydney.

One such witness in the 1970's approached Woof (attending with his elderly parents) at the dinner and said words to the effect of "It's a pity Peter you didn't knock Tony Abott's block off when you had the chance."

Obviously the student politics back then was very willing. Woof's social companion who made this comment unprompted is now a senior executive with a NSW Govt agency (details held by the editor).

Posted by editor at 8:58 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 13 July 2012 9:07 AM NZT
Sunday, 7 January 2007
Debnam targets ALP slush fund where it hurts?
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: election nsw 2007

The state election skirmishing is hotting up as reported here previously in the ecology topic list at:


'Dioxin in Sydney Harbour is much bigger than a quick and dirty $40M fix?' index.blog?topic_id=1083693


Today's press carries veteran Alex Mitchell on the choreography of the election debate here: Deep-seated differences create a debate debacle


But what really caught this writer's eye was this story in Fairfax about the abuse of taxpayer's money yesterday:


 Leaflet on water drips with spin: Opposition

 in a rerun of the Carr ALP green tinted advertising strategy in 1999 about 'saving forests and jobs'.


(In fact 1 million tonnes of woodchips was shipped off from NSW out of natural forests in 2006 by the same ALP govt, as per every year since their 1999 advertising eg refer http://www.forests.org.au/chipstop).


This is in a long line of fraud policy performance on the environment by the Carr now Iemma ALP NSW govt documented here:


Carr alp dodges 1999-2003


and here


Carr dodges 95-99


and here


Lake Cowal Scandal in Central NSW, cyanide leaching for gold


and here


Nov 06 - Alarm of independent greens over miner 'Environment Foundation' pay off to badly compromised 'peak' greens


This writer can't quite recall the green tinged abuse of tax dollars in govt adverts in the 2003 NSW election but it's a well worn path now, and at Coalition Federal government level too abusing taxpayer funds as a party political slush fund.

In truth money politics has broken democracy in Australia as we sleep walk to dangerous climate change. That's why both ALP and Coalition get away with this corruption.


This quote from the article seems quite worthy:


"The Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, has promised to legislate if he wins office to get the Labor Party to pay back the money [$1.25M plus $4M?] for the advertisements."


in Leaflet on water drips with spin: Opposition Sydney Morning Herald 6/1/07


Will Debnam keep that promise if he wins? That's a very big IF.


Posted by editor at 8:10 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 7 January 2007 9:04 AM EADT
Plastic: What's in it, and is it safe?
Mood:  sharp
Topic: zero waste

Lyndall McCormack of Padstow, a waste reduction activist writes with this confronting story

Plastic: What's in it, and is it safe?
January 2, 2007

By Romana King, CBC News

We bathe with it, clean with it, play with it and eat off it. Plastic. It's a petroleum engineer's dream and a product manufacturer's best friend. It allows for lighter, tougher and better packaging and provides cheaper options for gifts and merchandise.

Yet, the very substance that revolutionized consumer goods may actually be harming us.

Plastic is raising concerns among researchers that in some forms it may be toxic and dangerous - not only to the environment but also to human health. While it's everywhere in modern society, there are options for those who want to minimize the use of plastic.


While plastics haven't been definitively linked with health problems, studies show the prevalence in our bodies of chemicals used in plastic and the correlation between these chemicals and health issues.

One study, released in June by Environmental Defence, a national advocacy group, tested a sample of Canadian children and parents for the preponderance of 68 chemicals, all found in consumer products. The findings showed that on average the participants' bodies contained levels of 70 per cent of these contaminants. What's worse is that children had higher levels than their parents.

According to Kathleen Cooper, senior researcher at the Toronto-based Environmental Law Association, plastic itself is not the problem. It's some of the material used to make plastic that is harmful.

"Manufacturers all over the world use chemicals that soften, stabilize and create malleable plastic products. These chemicals contain phthalates and other dioxins that are known endocrine disruptors," Cooper said.

Add in toxic metals, such as lead, which is used for colour, stabilization and as a flame-retardant.

Lax regulations

"The use of these chemicals is totally unregulated internationally," Cooper said. "So even if there is a voluntary agreement in domestic markets, the cheap stuff from developing countries or export processing zones makes it on to our shelves and into our homes."

Among the more worrying materials for contaminate leaching is PVC (polyvinyl chloride), commonly referred to as vinyl. The chemicals leached during the PVC lifecycle include mercury, dioxins and phthalates. PVC is used in numerous consumer products, including adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, solvents, automotive plastics, plastic clothing, personal-care products (such as soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish), as well as toys and building materials.

Organizations including the U.S.-based National Toxicology Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health agree that vinyl is one of only 52 chemicals/compounds designated as a confirmed human carcinogen. As a result, many groups, including Greenpeace, Children's Health and Environmental Coalition (CHEC) and the US-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) advocate a restriction or prohibition of PVC in all consumer products including toys, building materials and packaging.

Even though numerous studies, including a 2003 Center for Disease Control research report that documented human exposure to 116 chemicals, show heightened levels of toxins in people linked to PVC exposure, governmental and industry regulation in North America is minimal at best.

In the past decade there has been only one voluntary withdrawal issued in North America for toys containing one specific phthalate. In contrast is the European Union's responSE: Seven years ago the EU banned six separate phthalates in children's toys, and it continues to review and amend its list.

"Ultimately, governments have a responsibility to regulate things that impact people's health," says Brian McCarry, department head of chemistry at McMaster University and an expert on environmental contaminants. "The European Union is by far ahead in this capacity; they are more prepared to step in and use precautionary principles."

Consumer responsibility

In the absence of government controls, many advocacy groups are calling on consumers to get involved. Particularly, Cooper said, since the current method of regulation allows trade to trump health.

"People need to get upset about this. It has to be consumers voting with their wallets; consumers expressing concern," Cooper said.

By demanding alternatives - through letter-writing campaigns and purchasing power - consumers are creating a market for less toxic, more sustainable products. While the number of products made of toxic PVC can seem overwhelming, there are alternatives as the number of viable, natural and non-chlorinated plastic substitutes in the market grows.

Labels and packaging

At present, labelling laws do not require manufacturers to list all toxins used in the creation of their product. However, there are easy ways to recognize a PVC-based toy or produCT: Look for the three-arrow "recycling" symbol with the number 3 or the initials PVC, which indicates polyvinyl chloride. If neither symbol is present, then call the manufacturer's question/comment line (usually a toll-free 800 number) listed on the package or label.

Another clue to look for is the use of malleable or soft plastic. This can be found in toys, but also on clothing, bed linens and packaging. Read the labels and when in doubt, opt for a different product.


For those concerned about what's in toys but unable to do extensive research on what they contain due to the holiday-buying rush, pick toy manufacturers who opt for non-PVC-based plastic. These brands incluDE: Chicco, Evenflo, Gerber, International Playthings (including Primetime and Early Start), Lego, Sassy, Thomas and Tiny Love. According to Greenpeace's Toy Report Card, Discovery Toys and Manhattan Baby also provide an extensive selection of PVC-free toys, but some products do still contain it.

Another alternative is to purchase toys made from organic cotton or certified sustainable wood. Companies that specialize in these fibres incluDE: Brio, Lamaze, Melissa & Doug, Thomas and Woodkits, to name a few.

Alternatives to PVC

While avoiding all plastics is advised by some, it is not always practical. Thankfully, not all plastics are created equal.

Look for other plastics that are considered less harmful, such as #1 PETE, #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE and #5 PP. While these plastics also leach chemicals, studies suggest that their level of toxicity is not as great as with PVC products.

Here are some suggestions for ways to avoid plastic this holiday season:


a.. Choose refillable containers. Glass, for example, can be re-used for food storage.
b.. Choose packaging that's made from truly recyclable materiaLS: paper, glass, metal cans. (Purchasing recycled paper products completes the recycling loop, too.)
c.. Buy in bulk, whenever possible. It's the least-packaged option.
d.. For wrapped foods, choose butcher paper, waxed paper or cellulose bags.
e.. Bring cloth bags when you go shopping, rather than using PVC-based plastic bags.
f.. Choose things made from #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE) whenever plastic cannot be avoided. These are the most commonly recycled plastics.
g.. Avoid plastics that aren't readily recyclabLE: #3 (PVC), #4 (LDPE), #5 (PP), #6 (PS), #7 (often polycarbonate).
h.. Avoid single-use, disposable packaging.
Other tips
a.. Bring your own non-plastic container to salad bars, yogurt shops, etc. - any place you'd otherwise be served food in plastic containers.
b.. Avoid plastic cutlery and dinnerware. Use stainless steel utensils and look for recycled paper products.
c.. Microwave foods and drinks in oven-proof glass or ceramic dishes with lids. Never let plastic wrap touch food while in the microwave, as this is one way chemicals are suspected of leaching from plastic into food.
d.. When purchasing cling-wrapped foods from the supermarket or deli, slice off a thin layer where the food came into contact with the plastic and store the rest in a glass or ceramic container, or in non-PVC cling wrap.

remote Posted by editor at 7:48 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 7 January 2007 9:06 AM EADT
It's all going to happen in the next 5 years: native Ecuadorian
Mood:  cheeky
Topic: local news

The editor took a cycle (not the bike in this image) down to the Glebe Point Rd cafes yesterday, saving petrol and parking headaches, improving the cardio-respiratory health, to check out the really beautiful people you don’t read about in the press: Glebe Market – too much fun on a Saturday silly season holiday.


A superb café called Fair Trade was surprisingly calm as I chewed through the Sydney Morning Herald for story lines, tea, coffee, toast (as reported here:




It's the kind of cafe you could find Nick Possum 




drinking cider in. 


I read about kids falling out of the sky to be caught by public heroes, and other kids tragically hanging to death in a copy cat of YouTube judicial murder of Saddam: No doubt as unsympathetic a case as you will ever find, yet proving why the death penalty is stupid for degrading humanity generally. In true form Saddam with the aid of the Western puppet Iraqi government unintentionally manages to kill a few more on the way out.


As I read on a toddler exclaims “…. and toast too, and toast too?” which sounded fine to me. Another toddler grimaced and whimpered at the sight of the amazing carved crocodile coffee table to strains of pater “It’s okay, it’s not real”. Obviously not a Bindi Irwin fan yet.


Time to kick on to the market. This fine young woman in blue was collecting for the UNHCR, that is refugees, more here http://www.unhcr.org.au/























To assuage my guilt and relative poverty I explained I sent my money direct to Clean Up Columbia:


Clean Columbia help 1/06


And before that to a so far winning Chilean campaign:


Patagonia project


Phew! We agreed her short term approach and my long term approach were complimentary regarding tens of millions of greenhouse refugees. For the record she told me no photographs were allowed by her employer. Curiously the collector for admirable Medicines San Frontiers




said the same. Big media causing trouble again?


Into the stalls and the crowd of indeed beautiful young adults. John Fogarty CD in concert. Not today. Flick through a book on pre Columbian art, Hieronymus Bosch etc and a good chat about medieval history with the stallholder. Onto another curious one about Russian spies and of course Pilger but not today. We are deep in bobo i.e. bourgeoisie bohemian territory already when I chat with a 2nd stall guy who sells me 30 Van Gogh postcards for $5. He also has the ‘2 disc special edition of the original Wages of Fear, and Clooney/Kidman’s The Peacemaker DVDs for $5 each. Choice again, with a mean side serving of West Wing tv series etc analysis.


Another stall and another book I can’t resist: Sydney's Mark Aarons et al‘The secret war against the Jews’ with Spycatcher’s Peter Wright on the dust jacket. This will test my own politics I reckon.


A circuit around the alluring clothes racks, chat with the stylish recycled bling table, the stick button shop, and then wow, I see a dream and for a second we stare into eachother's eyes (Gene Wilder’s The Woman in Red springs to inadequate mind, in light green  actually, fair complexion and long straight reddish hair. What does Mark Knopfler sing – “made me feel 19 again”. Yep, that’s Glebe Market with not a Paris Hilton or Nicole within cooee.


A sweet south American folk song at a craft stall lingers so I ask the indigenous Ecudorian player what’s it about: Disturbingly he explains it’s of an older man in love with a younger woman in Spanish thankfully. We chat about politics. He tells me natives were being castrated in the jungle up to 30 years ago, and killed for $40 a head. No warning, just wham, let me have it unvarnished and oh so real. Our western comfort zone is so fake. 


I tell him about the very scary Herald story on climate change: “It’s all going to happen in the next 5 years” he says “I tell you, I know. I am having dreams about it every night.” We shake on that sad thought.


A delicious falafel roll (garlic sauce with a dash of chilli) fair value at $6.50 eaten next to this sign which reads "Land clearing/It's tearing NSW apart" courtesy The Wilderness Society, God bless 'em:

A chat on the phone to my disabled vollie Carol and I am about to “cut a track” as they say when I spot a book through the wire fence ‘Touching the void’ by Joe Simpson. Must have it for the pictures alone – a true record of a dissolving reality.


Declaration: The Glebe Market advertises with the Alternative Media Group which employs the editor of this otherwise independent www.sydneyalternativemedia.com/blog


Posted by editor at 7:18 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 7 January 2007 9:31 AM EADT
Saturday, 6 January 2007
Terrorists won't kill Sydney's real estate market, but global warming will
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: globalWarming

All the press in Sydney today, and the lead story on ABC 7pm tv news are awash with the 5 odd rocket launchers that are allegedly in the hands of local terrorists. The leading coverage has been in the Fairfax press, as here:

Stolen launchers 'target N-plant'

Five stolen Australian Army rocket launchers are in the hands of a home-grown terrorist group, say police.

The American Express building in the CBD as well as Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor in outer suburban Sydney are mentioned as targets.

This writer through community newspaper distribution over the last several years can vouch for the suspiciously high security in the vicinity of the American Express building. Similarly there are two other places at least in inner Sydney we are aware of with similarly curious increase in security: The extra police nearby, the rubbish bins removed, the official staff scanning patrons entry and exit. That kind of thing. And not the most obvious places like the Sydney Opera House or Harbour Bridge.

As for Lucas Heights Reactor, recently replaced at enormous and wasteful cost, as an avowed anti nuclear person the delivery vehicle for Alternative Media press carries this poster:










Some experts are quoted today saying the reactor has such thick concrete a rocket would never get through. The problem with this advice is most never would have believed the twin towers could collapse on Sept 11 2001 in New York either. Secondly even a military dunce can envision multiple rocket strikes onto an already weakened concrete shell etc etc.

As the guy running the climbing gym at Tempe commented today as he scanned his newspaper "this is a real worry". What are the odds most of Sydney who aren't too busy having holidays will be thinking exactly the same thing with consequent broad political impact? National security credentials of the federal government are indeed being "questioned".

But the Fairfax SMH press excelled itself for scaring the bejesus out of it's readers today on another front: Errorism is one thing of perhaps limited if extreme impact (absent reactor meltdowns), but dangerous climate change on the other hand will almost certainly finish Sydney and sooner than people realise the way things are going now.

The full page feature

 Cold comfort in climate change

spilling onto a second page, quoting eminent scientists like James Hansen of NASA, was if anything worse than terrorist rocket launchers or even radioactive plumes. Curiously the article is last on their web index of national news but it was alot more prominent in the weekend paper version and for good reason too. 

An early quote is indeed chilling:

"Chemical analyses of the tiny bubbles of air in Greenland ice cores establish that the last ice age started to teeter about 14,700 years ago. As it gathered momentum, melt-water poured into the oceans, raising levels by half a metre or more each decade. The sea moved inland like a slow tsunami at a rate of up to 450 metres a year."

[bold added]

Another quote just as serious:

"[James Hansen of NASA] concludes in an article in Climatic Change on the storing of heat in the oceans that "any increase in global temperature beyond 1 degree could trigger runaway melting of the world's icesheets". Shrinking ice means less sunlight gets reflected and more gets absorbed, exacerbating the problem of warming. "Even 1 degree additional warming may be highly undesirable; 2 to 3 degrees is clearly a different planet," he says.

The first act looks to have played out in the Arctic Circle this northern summer, when large freshwater lakes formed on the Greenland icesheet and then drained away to the depths. Fred Pearce, writing in Britain's The Guardian, records how scientists observed, within hours of the lakes forming, that the vast icesheets rose up, as if floating on water, and slid towards the ocean. The Penn State University glaciologist Richard Alley commented: "We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an icesheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds."

Pearce says: "This highlights why scientists are panicky about the sheer speed and violence with which climate change could take hold. They are realising that their old ideas about gradual change - the smooth lines on graphs showing warming and sea-level rise and gradually shifting weather patterns - are not how the world's climate system works." (New research on the Ross Ice Shelf reveals that collapses over the past 3 million years have taken place very rapidly, with sea levels rising by between 7 and 17 metres.)

The quickening pace of that understanding is proving daunting to climate-change science watchers (but not, it would seem, the politicians).

Hansen stresses the urgency of the policy response. "I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no longer than a decade," he said last year.

If he is right we now have nine years at most, and there has been no let-up in emissions growth since then. And the latest UN conference on climate change could not even agree on a timetable for vital decisions on curbing emissions."

[bold added]

Yet in October last Fairfax was running on it's front page a graphic claiming only a 1 metre rise by 2100 here


in a story called "Our vanishing future" on page 1 that had all of Sydney talking, but were they misled into false mild concern?

The opening text is here under the following image of a token, highly manageable, 1 metre sea rise:











[Caption] "Now and then … the Herald's digital projection of how the approach to Spit Bridge might look by the next century."

Our vanishing future

Wendy Frew
October 30, 2006
THIS is a picture of Sydney's future. Rising sea levels will submerge or threaten billions of dollars worth of property, both public and private, by 2100. 
Based on conservative projections of the effects of climate change, scientific modelling done for the Herald by University of Sydney researchers show many waterfront areas, including the Spit Bridge, Manly ferry terminal and Nielsen Park, are at risk from a sea level rise of less than a metre." [bold added]

This writer lampooned the 1 metre figure at the time (on the currently defunct Sydney Indymedia website) as bogus and more like "7 metres" and this view is corroborated by Fairfax themselves today. Seems the Fairfax earlier version of reality is already redundant. By the above equation in the revised version of reality 6th January 2006 we are talking at least 4.5 metres sea rise by 2100 at 1/2 a metre a decade. That will kill Sydney as we know it in 94 years time, but it will also kill the property economy NOW.

How so? Well who is taking out 30 year mortgages on flood prone land for the rest of their lives? That's how sensitive the issue really is - the economic and political impacts now.

Funny revision too by Fairfax because their own science writer at least countenances a 6 metre sea rise back in August 2006 as here:


But how could this sea rise happen so soon and so dramatically stuffing the plans of so many economists and politicians and industrialists and their triumphant western capitalist system? A quote in today's article gives the answer so it is worth repeating from above:

"We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an icesheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds."

It's those damn crevasses, like the one that swallowed up and killed Australian Mountaineer Sue Fear earlier this year: The melted water gurgles to the bottom of the ice shelf and loosens and floats the ice into the ocean much faster than anyone realised. In short dangerous climate change.


On a lighter note, and everthing is lighter than the end of civilisation as we know it, the press today had some silly season uplifting stories:

- Two guys in New York apparently caught, like a football, a toddler falling from a high balcony and saved the lucky child's life.

- Another hero in New York jumped onto the train tracks and saved a man suffering an epileptic fit, with both retrieved from under the train's 2nd or so carriage intact, and despite the electrified third rail. Go figure.

- A fiesty goat that counter attacked the knife man, was duly called George after the US President and spared from slaughter in a middle eastern country.

- The 'G team' from Australia won the World University Debating championships. Really. Doesn't auger well for Teams A to F or Oxford and Cambridge teams does it? Or perhaps they are just the champs they are now truly acknowledged to be: Meet the G whizzes who beat the rest of the world

- There was even a big feature story in Fairfax on ethical reasons to bail out the world's poor by author/professor Peter Singer called "Hey buddy, you can spare a few billion" (not online). Which raises the whole question of a global rich tax for the poor.

- a guy called Dave Evans who dumped ACDC to join a band called Rabbit in 1974 and thus made way for Bon Scott, will do a tribute to Bon (who got this writer through an at times mind numbing double uni degree with the anthem "It's a long way to the top".) RIP Bon Scott: www.bonscottconcert.com.au

- last but not least the blonde airheads were in force in the gossip pages but not this snippet: My source who sells bling at the Roscoe St market stalls at Bondi says Paris Hilton was given a sarong from another stall down there and wore it for a whole day recently. Seems usually she is paid $1000s to change 4 times a day to model designer rubbish, so this is considered quite a retail coup. Go figure. Meanwhile the dear and highly intelligent Nicole Kidman of The Interpreter etc is still being harrassed by stupid "paps".

Posted by editor at 10:43 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007 7:06 AM EADT
PM Howard wins 'most embarrassing' Australian in 2006: FHM Magazine
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: big media


A contributor has emailed us this 'strange but true' story in the NZ Herald of 3rd January 07 based on a Reuters report which perhaps is equal parts summer silly season, and real politik sledging as the tide turns on W Bush Presidency with the Democrats taking ostensible control of both houses of Congress in the USA as here:

"The Democrats are back: Pelosi opens a new era in Washington"

as reported 6th January 2007 in the UK Independent here:


The story on so called embarrassing Howard relies on the 'impeccable popular culture source' ahem, that is FHM magazine which is a porn glossy published by Emap in 15 countries and is said to be "the biggest selling men's magazine in Australia & New Zealand" (refer below), based on a blokey survey of a very big sample of 10,000 readers:

The NZ Herald story runs as follows:

Howard voted most embarrassing Aussie

Wednesday January 03, 2007

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister John Howard may be popular with voters, winning four elections in 10 years, but he has been voted the nation's most embarrassing Aussie in a survey of 10,000 readers of a major men's magazine.

The 2006 "Bloke Awards" in the latest FHM magazine ranged from best real and fake boobs, best beer, movie and punch, biggest sook and most embarrassing Australian.

Howard, who is often ridiculed by cartoonists and comedians for his diminutive stature and bushy eyebrows, picked up most embarrassing Aussie for 2006, narrowly ahead of recently retired Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe.

Thorpe is regularly lampooned by Australian media for his "metrosexual" fashion style.

Biggest sook went to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a Bali jail after being caught with a surf bag stuffed with marijuana. She claims she was set up by corrupt airport baggage handlers.

Best punch went to Australian rugby league forward Willie Mason for his "king hit" on British player Stuart Fielden, which left Fielden so concussed he reportedly forgot his mother was dead and had to be reminded by team mates.

And best beer went to Crown Lager, the country's original premium beer launched in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who is also Australia's monarch.




The low brow fleshy flavour of FHM is here:


A run down on publisher Emap, an international media company, is here:


 FHM is described thus:

"FHM is the biggest selling men's magazine in Australia & New Zealand. Every issue, FHM offers the best fashion and grooming pages, plus sections dedicated to health, sports, motoring, relationships, alcohol, IT, gadgets, games and all the latest in book, film and music reviews.

The worlds fastest growing men's lifestyle magazine, published in over 15 countries. Each month, we follow a simple philosophy, if it's not funny, sexy or useful, you won't find it in FHM. But you will be guaranteed to be entertained, whether it's an exclusive photo of Jennifer Lopez or Anna Kournikova, or how to add spark to your home brew, you'll find it in FHM.

You can get 12 copies of this esteemed publication for only $79 apparently.
Here is the FHM advert at PBL's ninemsn site run by James Packer's PBL Ltd, usually seen as Howard loyalists, today:


Our view this sledge of Howard by the swinger and rich playboy crowd probably won't hurt him in the beltway church going seats, or with women voters either. 

SAM's editor can't remember too many political adverts this last 10 years promoting Howard's Crown Lager swilling, punching rugger style, as he manipulated the latest IT gadget with a blonde airhead on his arm. This survey might reinforce FHM readers self image as cool and free living but it won't bother so called Mr Average John Howard's grip on power in Australia.

But the tidal shift in the US Congress probably will.

Posted by editor at 7:36 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 6 January 2007 8:52 AM EADT

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