Category Archives: Books

Having an ‘Aha!’ moment

I met someone on the weekend and he told me what really got him to take action on climate change and peak oil. I like to think of this point in time as an ‘Aha!’ moment. That moment when you really get the magnitude of the crisis facing us. This got me thinking about these moments, are they similar for others? And how do you deal with what can be scary or depressing realisations?

For me, my ‘Aha!’ moment was several years ago, and thanks to Professor Tim Flannery. I was sitting in bed reading his book “The Weather Makers”, and it scared the sh*t out of me. I literally couldn’t sleep. I flicked to the last chapter on ‘solutions’ for some good news. But it really didn’t seem like enough.

Have you had a ‘Aha!’ moment, and what was it from?

When you’re faced with this information, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and get down. For a long time, I really didn’t know what to do. I read more and more, following the news for anything on climate change, and staggered that there wasn’t more coverage. Religiously reading the public debate in the letters to the editor from proponents and skeptics. In the end, it was a ridiculous letter from a skeptic attacking a previous well-reasoned and evidenced based letter that pushed me to do something. I wrote a response. It didn’t get published. But it was the start of my journey to take action….

This also led me to discover one of the ways of dealing with the ongoing barrage of negative climate news. Take action. Doing something helps. Even if it’s catching public transport or growing some veggies. Being in action and trying to make a difference in whatever way you can is, I think, crucial.

I’ve also found over the years that talking to other like-minded people is vital in staying sane. To give voice to your fears and frustrations. To vent those things that just seem so absurd given what’s happening to the global biosphere currently. And through this, to know that there are many others, just like you, sharing the same emotions is quite comforting.

Finally, something that’s given me hope for a long time is tipping points. The fact that change can be non-linear and things can go from one state to another in a very short space of time. While this applies soberly to Climate tipping points, what gives me hope is that it also applies to social change. Throughout history, large social change has often taken place overnight, once a tipping point or critical mass is reached. It is this tipping point which gives me hope. And I think we are all responsible for making sure we get there as soon as possible.

How do you deal with the enormity of climate change and peak oil? What gives you hope?


Plastic Free July progress

Taking part in Plastic Free July over the last couple of weeks has had a much bigger impact on my life then I’d thought it might. Of course it’s highlighted how ubiquitous plastic is, and reduced my recycling bin volume by about half for the fortnight! But I hadn’t initially thought of the flow on effects….

When you’re trying to avoid plastic, you have to plan a lot more. From the simple things like reusable bags and Onya bags, all the way through to bringing your own   containers for the leftovers at the Indian restaurant (it was a little embarrassing at the time, but it was worth it the next day 🙂

It also makes you more conscious of what you’re going to cook and eat. A little more thought and time has to go into the shopping and preparation, but it’s definitely broadened our repertoire. I’ve learnt to make my own yogurt, not to mention the yummy muesli and crackers from chef Jude Blereau. Plus it made us set up our pantry and essential cook ware (e.g. a pressure cooker for beans to avoid plastic lined tins). Not to mention the unseen health benefits of using whole, fresh, local and ideally organic foods.

Yes, it’s been hard sometimes, and bloody annoying when you get caught out. Like asking for something to be wrapped in paper, only to find the ‘paper’ has plastic lining! But I’ve been amazed at how enjoyable it is when you have a small win. Like getting the butcher to use your own container. Or finding somewhere which has loose veggies not double wrapped in plastic. Best of all is the opportunity for connection. When you go to the local farmers markets you can talk to the people who grow the food. And in the three weekends I’ve gone so far, I’ve twice run into friends. Malls and supermarkets just aren’t conducive to catching up.

Below is a list of resources that have been helpful, please share your tips. And why not take up the Plastic Free July Challenge, it’s not too late to start today!


Alive Organics, Morley
 A good range of certified organic, bio-dynamic and chemical-free fruits & vegetables, organic and free range chicken, meat & eggs, as well as the most comprehensive range of organic dried fruits, nuts & seeds in Perth. Also stocks organic packaged goods, natural/chemical-free cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products though quite a few of these come in plastic packaging.

The Goodlife Shop, Midland Gate shopping centre
A basic range of whole foods in bulk bins at very reasonable prices.

Midland Farmers Market, behind Town Hall
Local fresh fruit and veg every Sunday, plus more.

Kakulas Brothers, Northbridge
Huge range of whole foods in bulk bins at very affordable prices.

Manna Wholefoods, Fremantle
Organic and conventional fruit and veggies, with an excellent bulk section (both organic and conventional) in dry and wet (oil, tamari, juice concentrates etc, many in non-plastic packaging). Excellent grocery and dairy section, with a small amount of frozen meat.

Environment House, Bayswater
Large range of eco-products (cleaners, baby products, books, seeds, garden, personal and more).

Planet Ark, Fremantle
Sells eco-friendly household cleaning products, soap, shampoo, conditioner and items such as vinegar in bulk containers – you can either have your original container refilled (which they prefer) or bring along your own container to be filled. Staff is particular about the sorts of containers they will fill so please check with them first.

Kalamunda Farmers Markets
Stock Sunnydale milk in glass bottles, as well as the usual fruit/veg, preserves and baked goods.

Online Resources

Ash n Juls

A selection of sustainable and plastic-free solutions such as lunch boxes, drink bottles, kitchen ware, cleaning products, etc.

The Tinderbox are a WA based company who sell beauty products made primarily from organic, vegan ingredients mostly packaged in glass and shipped in biodegradable material. Their products depend heavily on essential oils and smell divine!

Plant Essentsials
Online store selling natural options for cleaning, personal hygiene, beauty products and much more. Also has a good range of ingredients for making your own skin care products.

The Self-Sufficiency Shoppe
A number of booklets available for purchase on all aspects of sustainable living, such as green cleaning, skin and hair care and personal hygiene, herbs, preserving, etc. From the Raw Materials page ingredients for making your own cleaning and beauty products are available very cheaply.


Natural Beauty Basics by Dorie Byers. An extensive collection of recipes for making products such as skin and hair care, deodorants, soaps and toothpaste.

Plastic-Free: How I kicked the plastic habit and how you can too by Beth Terry. All the tips and tricks from the guru of plastic free-living.

The Transition Companion

The publication of The Transition Handbook in 2008 facilitated the explosion of transition initiatives all around the World. Indeed, TT Guildford was born out of Rod and I reading the handbook.

Now Rob Hopkins has published a new book “The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times”.

As Rob says, the book aims to address the question:

“What would it look like if the best responses to peak oil and climate change came not from committees and Acts of Parliament, but from you and me and the people around us?”

The book is split into three parts. The first is a shortened and updated version from the previous book outlining the challenges we are facing (Peak Oil and Climate Change). The second part is a quick look at what the Transition response can look like, told through four Transition town examples.

While the handbook was more prescriptive, outlining the series of steps involved in setting up the first succesful transition towns, for others to follow. This book, as the title says, is a Companion. It recognises that transition initiatives will develop differently in every place, so instead aims to provide ‘tools’ and ‘ingredients’ to facilitate this. Therefore, the final part, which constitutes the majority of the book, is a list of ‘ingredients’ and ‘tools’ for success. There are entries on topics from Awareness raising to running meetings, to visioning, and council policies. What’s great is that these are succinct, 2-3 pages, and grouped into broad themes. There’s also lots of links and suggestions between topics, so it’s easy to jump in and out.

I especially love the “Cheerful Disclaimer” at the start of the book:

“Transition is not a known quantity. We truly don’t know if Transition will work. It is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:

  • If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late.
  • If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
  • But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”

I think this captures the part of the essence of Transition perfectly; that it is grounded in the challenging reality we face, but also hopeful and optimistic for what we can d0!

The first book was fantastic, and the second looks even better, so I highly recommend a look. A copy should be in the Guildford library soon…..

Rob has a blog post introducing the book here