Sunday, May 27

Malawi Update

I recently asked one of our St Kizito parishioners who works in the Reserve Bank at Malawi about the current general conditions in his country. He informed me the warm heart of Malawi continues to bleed from the major problem of continuing AIDS deaths and sickness resulting in a growing number of orphans.

More and more elderly people look after very young children.

Malawi is a very poor country without mineral resources, reliant on subsistence agriculture although it has embarked recently on a number of agricultural development programs. In the past when the maze crop failed we assisted with funds for food and to buy new seed. It was pleasing to hear that this years harvest has been excellent, so that past stocks could be exported to Zimbabwe.

The principal exports are tobacco, tea, sugar and coffee and for the first time in 10 years the tobacco crop is fetching good prices. St Kizito is in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi and St Kizito assists many of it's outlying communities, particularly at Mtsiriza and Katsiyafumbi. In Mtsiriza and Kasiyafumbi the population is growing and a substation of Ntandire has been established as part of Mtsiriza.

Our current project is to fund a new Church/ Hall at Ntandire.
Building work is progressing very well. More work has been completed since the last photos were taken and they are currently putting on the ring beam and hope soon to buy the timbers for the roof at a cost of US$1500.00 which includes labour for erecting the roof beams. The roofing sheets will cost US$ 5,000.00.

The Parish hall at St Kizito is much more expensive and so far they have dug the foundations only. They are applying to the European Union for a 75% grant for ‘community hall’ and it may cost US$150,000.00.

Our latest advice is : “ With Ntandire when we get the roof on we can use it as Mass Centre and Community hall without plaster/paint/furniture – those are luxuries for the time being! Our aim is to open the church for Dec 07."

Tuesday, May 15

Life upon the wicked stage

My wife and I performed in many Musicals and Reviews. The first photo was taken of me rehearsing as Lieutenant Daniel Gilmarton for “Calamity Jane “seen here in a scene with Calamity. Next we are both together in the Musical operetta “The New Moon” my wife as a Flower girl enticing “Alexander” on her left and me as the landlord on her right. In the Gilbert & Sullivan production of “The Gondoliers” I was “The Grand Inquisitor” (character in the black costume) and next you see us both performing the song and dance number entitled “We’re a couple of Swells”.

“The New Moon”, was probably the most memorable, considering its beautiful music by Sigmund Romberg, creative staging and because of the real life drama during the show. Songs include "Marianne", "The Girl on the Prow", "Georgeous Alexander", "Softly as in the Morning Sunrise", "Stout Hearted Men", "One Kiss", "Wanting You", "Funny little Sailer Man", "Lover Come back to Me", "Love is quite a Simple Thing", "Try her out at Dancers", "Never for You" and "Lover Come Back to Me" .

Magnificent costumes and sets were hired from the Australian Opera including genuine 16th century cutlasses. Effects were further enhanced with the use of electrical charges for realistic explosions and puffs of smoke to denote cannon fire.

The first real life drama occurred on opening Night. It was the custom on all opening nights to wish everyone metaphorically to “break a leg” but one chap performing in his very first show did that, in the opening number and within a few seconds of his first appearance in front of his friends and family, to stunned disbelief.

I remember there was an almighty crack; as he first twisted and broke his leg while marching out boldly onto the stage for the first time. An ambulance man administered oxygen to him back stage to help alleviate the terrible pain prior to his hurried stretcher removal to hospital. The show continued on after a short break. The second drama occurred on the final night and involved the pirates. At that time it had proved difficult to find volunteers to act as pirates since they were only required for a few minutes on stage each night for what was nearly a 3 hour show. The local Cricket club came to the rescue with the required man power in exchange for our donation and slab of beer for each pirate. Except for the over zealous use at times of the cutlasses it worked well except for the grand finale on the Saturday evening as the boys then had decided to pay a trick on us, much to the fury of the Producer. They entered from the opposite side of the stage as was intended, to the amusement of a capacity audience as we appeared frozen in time as they crept up behind us.

In the confusion the Stage Manager panicked and let off some additional charges and pulled down the sails with the ropes onto the stage as the intended scene became a chaotic smoke filled confusion. Fortunately the audience concluded this must be an intended twist to insert local comedy to the traditional storyline.

After hastily pulling down the curtain amidst all of the turmoil and mayhem we regrouped and carried on as if nothing untoward had happened.

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Wednesday, May 9

By the bend in the Yarra River

The picture is of the Yarra river taken at dusk at Wonga Park which is situated in the north eastern area of Melbourne 50KM from the city in an area called the Yarra Valley. Fortunately river water quality has improved, assisting a rare species of perch to retain its foothold in a previously threatened habitant. Up river and around the bend the endangered platypus has been sighted adding further testament to an improving water quality as this species only survives in pristine conditions.

I remember as a youngster growing up in the country, sighting Swagman travelling along carrying their swag and a billy for tea. Swagman then wandered the country on foot, maybe engaging in occasional jobs for gifts of money or food.

The swag was a roll or bundle, usually carried across the shoulders and contained all of his worldly goods. Included was tea, sugar, flour, and if he was lucky meat and vegies. And of course the famous Billy which was outwardly visible as it was tied to the swag.

With these thoughts in mind I imagined a Swagman, pausing to set up camp by the bend in the river so I composed this poem.

By the bend of the River

By the bend in the river seen in fading haze
A swagman did pause on his journey, to gaze
As birds echoed warnings, a fading daylight
Swagman pray rest under a pale moonlight

So Swaggie heeded his feathered friends call
Made up a campfire with his Billy did boil
Daybreak, rested, smokes borrowed fag
Refreshed for ever to carry the swag

Winter is shortened a blush fades at last
All that remains, paintings of dim past
Summers over, like Swaggies first dawn
Trees morn Swaggie all alone and forlorn
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Thursday, May 3

Targeted emission reductions won’t be sufficient to save our Planet

We will need in the short term to do far more than just reduce emissions but use technology to provide a solution to the current imbalance in the polluted atmosphere, to achieve a very substantial impact within the next 20years.
Greenhouse gas emissions are destabilising our Earth’s climatic system as evident in increased pollution, more extreme weather patterns and food shortages. Recently the debate in the developed economies turned to appropriate targeted reductions in emissions given widespread acceptance the planet is already effected. That change in sentiment is evident in the USA where successive State Governors are following the lead of governor Schwarzenegger who legislated in California for a required reduction of 50% by 2050.

Most companies and particularly all large scale public resource groups in Australia are urging the current government to implement targeted reductions as outlined in the Stern report and to introduce a carbon trading system. The developed world is advocating targeted reductions of 50 % by 2050, in line with Stern Report but I think such targets will be more than offset by increased demand from the developing world.

China and India who represent 2 billion of the world population (total world about 6.5 billion) have recently rejected any targeted reduction in carbon emissions, believing such measures would impact unfavourably on their development and prosperity. Both argue they should be allowed to catch up with the developed world before considering any targeted reductions in their emissions. It is true their per capita emission rate is well below the developed world but as they embrace modernity so will their reliance on energy and the burning of fossil fuels to accelerate to adversely effect climate.

It is hard for us to imagine the phenomenal growth occurring in developing counties such as China and India. China is currently building 300 new cities, each to house over a million people as it expands to become a modern economy. The cities are required to accommodate the migration from what was an agricultural society to the regional and city centres to mirror modern day economies. As we speak, 50% of its population still remain as peasant farmers engaged in subsistent farming. But within 20 years that is likely to shrink to single digits, hence the need for all of those new cities. In China and parts of Asia those engaged in manufacturing mostly earn less than US $1 per hour, hardly are those folk likely to join the world debate on climate change, or to put pressure on their government representatives as they struggle to exist. This is true of many poor regions around the globe. India is also experiencing similar rapid growth and migration from basic agriculture, underpinned by burgeoning new industries such as IT. Hence the current green house emission targeted reductions would need to be increased substantially to offset the accelerated effect of the developing world.

Bearing this in mind it seems we will need in the short term to do far more than just reduce emissions but use technology to provide a solution to the current imbalance in the polluted atmosphere, to achieve a very substantial impact within the next 20years.


Coal meets 23% of primary energy and 39% of all electricity comes from coal, and 70% of world steel depends on coal feedstock.
It is the world's most abundant and widely distributed fossil fuel source and it is estimated its global use will conservatively increase by 20% by 2020.
However, burning coal releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide each year into the atmosphere, and possibly accounts for one third of the world’s total of CO2 emissions.

Hence the coal industry needs to invest in technology to capture their carbon and eliminate its pollution if it is to survive. The Companies, employers and employees of the major resource groups engaged in coal mining are all urging the government to introduce a carbon trading system and provide industry assistance to underperpin investments in clean coal technology energy solutions.

We have many sites to store the carbon dioxide but inevitably public acceptance and confidence will need to be gained that the storage sites are permanent and safe. In several countries promising developments for "zero emissions" technology has been developed within a reasonable cost basis.

In all transport systems motors can not only be made more efficient but filters can provide an immediate reduction prior to the development of alternative clean energy sources. For instance an efficient diesel engine with a carbon filter can reduce emissions by 80-90% percent and use less than half the amount of fuel of a conventional petrol engine.

We have the option within the next 20 years of nuclear power replacing all of our ageing coal-fired power plants in Australia. Nuclear Power plants already operate successfully throughout the world. The risk of nuclear energy includes waste disposal, its long term storage, accidents and the uranium being turned into bombs.
International safeguards and policing with adequate controls are key elements if it is to be a part of the energy solution.

Alternative energy
Alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, wave, hot rocks (geo thermal), bio fuels and artificial tree systems to take in the CO 3 should be pursued with renewed vigour but I think it will take another 20/30 years or more for these renewables start to have a material impact on the world.

Ideally if we all reverted to a more sustainable basic life system our energy usage would soon subside. However for the reasons mentioned, I think this is just a pipe dream, hence I think we will need to adopt, albeit somewhat reluctantly, a whole range of radical measures including nuclear energy, clean coal solutions, filters and alternative energy sources.

It may be that technology got the world into this mess, so technology will provide alternative solutions. The increased cost of technology investment over the longer term is likely to have very little impact economically to growth rates whilst providing large scale reduction in emissions.