BSFG President Peter Holmes' presentation to Benalla Rural City Council on the Climate Emergency - 24th March 2021
"CEO, Mayor and Councillors – thank you for opportunity to talk to you
I represent a group of approximately 80 paid up members, and 400 other community members with whom we are in regular contact. All of us, and many more within this community, share a very real concern about the current and future health of our planet. We recognise that there is irrefutable scientific evidence that human induced climate change is occurring, that the data trends on temperature, rainfall, sea levels, ice-cap melts, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, are all heading in the wrong direction, and more significantly, the rates of change are not actually slowing down.
We understand that having recognised the problem, we have an urgent responsibility to do all we can to fix it, because we have a responsibility, not just to our present generation, but to all who follow. We are acutely aware that as the Earth continues to warm, many regions will become uninhabitable, our food production systems will completely break down, our health systems will struggle to cope with the increased number of diseases, and the rate of creature extinctions will accelerate. This is not a future I, and all of us here want to leave for our descendants.
The problem with climate change is, that it appears to be happening so slowly, that we don't all quite see the urgency, unlike the coronavirus pandemic. The reality is however, that in Earth years it is happening rapidly, because over the last 200 years, this is the first time there have been so many humans on the planet, and all of our processes have become so industrialised, and dependent on energy consumption - energy largely produced by burning fossil fuels, releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. What we also need to understand, is that there are critical areas on our planet that control the weather, and a number of these places have possibly already reached their climate tipping points, from which it will be extremely difficult to pull back. Eg. the Arctic region is already 3.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, compared to the average increase across the whole of Earth of 1.2 degrees. Already in the Arctic, permafrost ice has melted, resulting in methane gas escaping into the atmosphere, and this gas is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The solutions are not simple, but not impossible either. We just need the collective political and community will to achieve what is required. Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades, action has been suppressed by various means, so that now we have reached the point where the solutions need to be implemented so much more urgently, than if we had started 20 years ago.
There are 2 major parts to the solution. Firstly, we must stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (we were able to achieve repair of the ozone layer by virtually eliminating the use of hydrofluorocarbons), and we need to do this much sooner than 2050. Climate Scientists are telling us that on all the current evidence available, we need to do this by 2030, if warming is to be kept below 1.5 to 2 degrees. The second part is that we also need to draw down carbon from the atmosphere, because if we don't, the carbon that we have already put up there will continue to magnify the effects for decades to come.
We believe that the solutions are not just the responsibility of government, but all sectors of our communities must take action. Federal and State governments obviously have a role to play in enacting legislation and policies that facilitate solutions, so that businesses and individuals can then more readily make the changes required. But, we as a community and Local Government have just as important a role to play, in agitating and advocating for change, and in leading by example.
So what are we requesting Council to do? Over the past month, I appreciated the opportunity to chat with most of you about climate change, and to ask you to share your thoughts on Council's role in tackling this problem. All who I talked with acknowledged that climate change is real, but not all agreed that the problem was urgent, or that council could do any more than they perceived it was already doing. Some even suggested that to take all the required actions might send Council broke. Our concern is that not to take the required actions now, will certainly put future generations in this community in a very precarious position, as they struggle with livability, health, and economic issues - all of which will be on a much greater scale of difficulty than we presently face.
We acknowledge that Council has already undertaken a number of measures which reduce the municipality's greenhouse gas emissions. Amongst these are the installation of solar systems on Council properties, residential street lighting upgrades (which are currently saving around $50,000 and 250 tonnes of GHG annually), and Council building lighting upgrades, planning being undertaken to introduce EVs to the Council fleet, planning for cabling to be installed in a new carpark for EV charging points, solar battery off-grid at the landfill facility, and we also acknowledge Council's role in approving planning applications for a number of solar farms in the district, which although assisting with reducing greenhouse gases, cannot be directly counted in our own municipality's reductions. All these actions are excellent, but there are many others that we believe will send an even stronger message to the community, and that will actually convey to the community that there is hope for a better future.
BSFG is not going to present you with a complete list here tonight, as we believe that is a function of a community consultation exercise which we hope can be urgently implemented, not just as part of the Council Plan discussions currently underway, but as a dedicated discussion around the topic of climate change action. We think there are a number of advocacy roles that council can undertake, such as facilitating large battery storage installation adjacent to the solar farms, and encouraging new technology industries to Benalla - industries associated with renewable power production and EV sales and maintenance are 2 that come to mind. Other areas we have identified as possible are the further upgrading to LED lighting in all residential street areas of Benalla and surrounding townships (which again will lead to an additional saving of $50,000 and 250 tonnes of GHG per year), signing up to greenpower electricity plans, identifying suitable EV charging station locations in Benalla, and encouraging suppliers to install them now, advocate for electric buses on our town bus routes, develop a much more extensive bike lane route around Benalla to encourage more students to ride to school, and residents to ride to the shops, further upgrades of our landfill to possibly introduce a recycle material Tip-shop, and through council's planning department, encourage developers and builders to establish sustainable communities with cooler green open spaces, and higher star rating buildings which will considerably reduce energy consumption. Some of these suggestions will require an initial financial outlay, but in a short period of time will be paid back in savings, as well as far into the future.
We have come here tonight to respectfully request that Council receives our petition, signed by approximately 600 residents, from all walks of life, across all age groups. These people are not lunatic, scare-mongering Greenies, as some in the media like to portray us - there are farmers, business people, health professionals, shop assistants, students, pensioners, factory workers, educators, and environmentalists all included in this petition. Our request is that Council:
March 24th 2021"
Christine Holme's retirement from Benalla Food Cooperative - a letter from Chris incorporating 'a little history of the Food Coop'
'Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Dear Food Co-op Members,
I am writing to report to you that after ten years, I have decided to step down and retire from being the Benalla Food Co-op Coordinator. I thought it would be fitting to also give a little history of the developments over the years as to how the food co-op evolved.
It has been over ten years (2010) since I had the first thought to start a food co-op in Benalla. I flagged the idea at a forum on sustainability organised by the then, Benalla District Environment Group (now BSFG). Nothing came of it for a while and I didn’t want to take this on alone. But one by one a few others gave expressions of support.
They were Kathy Murphy, Lynne Seaman (relocated to Brisbane) and Tanya Walker. We met together over a period of 9 months to discuss a plan of action. Venue, freight, supplier, food health and safety were just a few major considerations that had to be worked through.
Initially, without any finance, we relied on setting up costs coming from a membership fee of $10 and members volunteering seed money. This was paramount to getting started and significant as it demonstrated the willingness of the small number of interested people wanting to make it work. Along with the seed money, we were also supported by the Brunswick Uniting Church who donated $500 to our cause (they had been running a successful food co-op for some years).
I hunted around for a venue, the most difficult aspect of us being able to function, and wrote to the Benalla Uniting Church Council. Not only were they happy for us to use the old kindergarten hall, but also allowed us to store our products permanently, whilst only having to pay hire costs on an hourly basis. We are most grateful to the Uniting Church for the ongoing use of this space.
Our initial set-up was pretty basic with an array of coloured recycled food tubs we collected from hotels and restaurants, and Peter and I sourced old rickety wardrobes in which to store our products.
Finally we were up and running as an 'action group' under the banner of the Benalla Sustainable Future Group.
We had our first open day on 3rd May in 2011 and although we only had 12 members, we felt we were off to a good start and were able to purchase 28 different products. We opened one morning per month.
In 2012, we were successful in receiving some funding from Benalla Rural City Community Grants Program, and able to purchase three lockable metal cupboards and a computer. In no time our membership expanded and the number of products increased. With the small mark up to cover costs, we were soon able to repay members for their investment of seed money.
We believed it was important to keep the prices affordable, whilst offering highest quality of products.
In 2013 The Food Co-op was featured on Channel 10 Shepparton Weeknights TV program.
From our small working group, we established a committee of six members in October 2014, with Sonia Bourke and Judy Schwarzman coming on board.
By 2015, with membership increasing to 70, a demand for more products and food sales doubling, we extended the open days from one day per month to two. Two of the original committee members resigned (Kathy and Lynne) and so we were back to a committee of four plus Peter Holmes as BSFG/food co-op treasurer.
We celebrated five years of operation in 2016. As time went on, other interested members joined the committee - Loren Atkinson (2016), followed by Rhona Rose, Rosalie Thomas and Julie McPherson.
For this meeting we are screening the Bob Brown Foundation film Forest Defenders.
Forest Defenders was filmed at the Bob Brown Foundation takayna / Tarkine blockade over the summer of 2019-20 in North-West Tasmania, during an intense period of logging and resistance by brave forest activists.
The film explores the day-to-day lives of those on the front line of the battle to save this ancient tract of cool-temperate rain forest, the largest in the world, from logging and mining. Link to Forest Defenders trailer, https://youtu.be/VvCvgT6Epoo.
We are pleased to have Bert Lobert from Our Strathbogie Forest attending and we look forward to his update on the Strathbogie Forest.
This meeting will commence with the film, followed by our speaker and tea/coffee. People may then leave the meeting before any meeting business.
It is important that you RSVP to attend the meeting for both Covid numbers and to determine where we screen the film at the Benalla Uniting Church.
RSVP: SMS 0438625638, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please return to this article for any updates on meeting details.
Have you heard about the Federation Square Sustainable Eco Home, a project inspired by Joost Bakker and involving many sustainability heroes, including Martin Nichol and his team from Benalla's 'Sunreal'.
The photo above was included in an excellent article by Poppy Johnston titled 'Joost Bakker's new self sustaining. zero waste Federation Square Home is Good Enough to Eat'.
Interested in finding out more? Check out
Future Food Systems Federation Square Eco Home Livestream series:
Livestream #1: Joost Bakker and Jeremy McLeod - Future Food System
Livestream #2: Hospo hangout with Matt and Jo
Livestream #3: Meet innovator Dr. Matt Dingle
Livestream #4: John Ford - microbiologist and mushroom grower
Livestream #5: Biochar pioneer Russell Burnett
Livestream #6: Walk Through Future Food System with Joost and Jeremy (A good one to watch when you don't have time to watch the others)
Livestream #7: Spotlight ingredient: Tiger nuts
Livestream #8: Update from Joost, Matt and Jo
Livestream #9: Joost and Jeremy on Timber
Livestream #10 Aquaponics
Do you enjoy getting out in the garden? Do you love growing vegetables? Are you tired of missing out on your favourite packets of seed?
This workshop, on Sunday 26 March from 2 - 4, led by local seed saving expert Kate Holmes, will equip you with all the knowledge you need to get started and grow your freedom through seed saving.
Based on Kate's personal experience and research over the past decade, the information shared will include:
* Why save seed?
* Getting started - what, where & when to grow?
* Keeping it pure - what's in a name? Pollination isolation
* Bringing in the harvest
* Storing your Seed.
Workshop notes will be included and you may even get to take home a packet of seeds to grow.
Fees:- $45 BP/PcV members ($40 conc), $65 Public ($60 conc).
Places are limited, please send an email to info@BenallaPermaculture.org to secure your place.
COVID safety precautions apply, please bring your mask.
Please be aware, there is a known feral bee colony on the property a distance away from the workshop area. While the chances of being stung are next to zero, we are advising you just in case you are allergic to bee stings, so you may decide whether or not to attend.
Warwick Bone and Benalla Permaculture
Image Source: 'Understanding Groundwater' DELWP Website
'Groundwater is an important part of Victoria's water supply. It is critical to creating secure water supplies to meet growing food and fibre production, for drinking water supplies and to protect environmental values' (DELWP)
Check out DELWP's website for information on Groundwater. There's an interactive map - click on Benalla to retrieve information about acquifers in the Goulburn Broken Catchment. You can download the information by clicking the button below. It's worth continuing on to page 2 which explains the report and provides information about acquifers and ground water.
Only a few seats were left at the Benalla Town Hall on Friday 26 February when two very experienced Climate Scientists, Dr Lynne Bettio and Dr Leanne Webb, addressed the subject of Climate Change. They presented facts relating to rising temperatures in Benalla and the world at large, as well as future projections, especially for our local region. Their projections for where we will be if we stay on the same course weren't pretty! However, they also presented alternative solutions which require massive change around the world, including moving to renewable energies, electric vehicles and developing new technology to reduce the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
MP Helen Haines, who attended the meeting, updated the Benalla community about introducing a new bill, the Local Power Plan, to Parliament House that week. The Local Power Blan is a blue print for everyday Australians to benefit from the coming renewable energy boom in their local area. Helen's passion for renewable energy is contagious. “In the 21st century we can build a new generation of prosperity by catching the suns rays and surfing the prevailing winds.”
Lastly Jenny O’Connor, the Mayor of Indigo Shire, addressed the gathering with a motivating speech about her commitment to implementing strategies to create a greener future.
Photographs and story - Heath Whiley
Regular updates on sustainability issues of concern to BSFG members in Benalla and North East Victoria and on key events in the BSFG calendar.