Valerie Yules Letters

October 12, 2014

Climate change and exercise

Climate change and Housework Exercise

Recently a radio station ran a campaign for more exercise. People rang in about how they exercised with gyms, bikes and so on. None of it was useful, apart from transport.
In the past until about 1950. and in many countries still, exercise by almost everybody was useful. Only the wealthy took on useless exercise – or huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, which had something at the end of it, or in ancient Greece, they went to the Gymnasium.

Most of the people rested as their recreation; Their work was their exercise – outside, growing their food, or inside, cooking, cleaning and making their clothes.
Today in our cities almost everybody uses electricity instead of exercise in the home.
Yet we can reduce carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary use of electricity and exercising instead.

People could save electricity by bending their knees, stretching their arms, strengthening their arm muscles, tuning up their wrists, and reducing their waistline. Thus with minimum electricity and carbon emissions, they would sweep and garden, clean the floor, polish, and sweep cobwebs off the ceiling.
It would improve their circulation, tone up pelvic-floor muscles, keep the heart fit, strengthen the legs and prevent osteoporosis, by doing housework like it was done up to 1950, without unnecessary electricity.

Carbon-emissions are saved by not driving.
Walking to go shopping used to require for light shopping, a basket, soft-handled string-bag, dilly-bag or backpack, and for heavy shopping, a shopping jeep or pram. This is exercise especially good when the back was kept straight and elegant and pulling or pushing with your arms so that the back was not bent. Shopping was not weighed down with wasteful packaging

A good hand-mower for level or ‘drought’ lawns. Push from the waist, not hunched, for figure-improving exercise for the stomach. Save $$$ and £££. A hand-mower saves carbon emissions and does not annoy neigbours. There is at least one excellent mower on the market so light it almost flies.
Do repetitive jobs with rhythm for more speed, pleasure and exercise – eg dishwash by hand, hang up washing, make beds, use a carpet-sweeper for quick jobs rather than vacuum. Move your feet rather than stand still at kitchen jobs, or use a high stool or chair when convenient, to avoid varicose veins. Carbon-emissions saved by not using electricity.
Exercise while you wait. Walk and turn while waiting for a bus or train or person, turn and stretch when sitting at a phone. These are times to exercise the neck, feet, leg and arm raising, pelvic-floor contracting, posture correction, correct breathing.
Sing or hum around the house or in the bathroom for morale and good breathing. Children love to hear you singing, until they are old enough to discriminate. Dont disturb adults though.
Dance down the passage sometimes.
Creative hobbies for healthy exercise – play music, paint, carpentry, home renovating.
Play with children. Even catching children for bedtime or washing them can be good exercise.
Sleeplessness. A good time for breathing exercises . . . . by the time you have breathed deeply to a hundred or so . . .
Don’t use electrical goods that do the job no better than you could get exercise. Buy the goods you really need to make life easier with the money you save.
Exercise inventions. Here’s an opening for the local bicycle industry. An exercise bike could generate TV power for your home – pedal as you watch, or run a mulch-maker, or . .
One Englishman powers his television with an exercise bike – the children can watch as long as they keep pedalling.
Human energy could generate power for many household tasks, and charge batteries. Treadmills and all those machines to make you strong or powerful or fast, could all do something useful – turning a compost-cutter, helping to make waste-paper into recycled paper, grinding up stuff, charging batteries.

Loneliness is a major reason why people do not like doing housework. Have a child or adult friend around, or listen to interesting talks on the radio to ,or even sometimes enjoy the quiet, to think and daydream.
Do men and women need the same sort of exercise?
For hundreds of thousands of years, men have been the exercise freaks, out hunting and fighting and digging and building, muscling their way around, puffing and panting and sprinting away. Today if modern man does not have regular vigorous exercise, his health deteriorates.
For hundreds of thousands of years, women have worked very hard but at a more regular pace. They have not needed large-muscle speed and power. And if they survived child-bearing and resulting disorders, they lived longer. Today perhaps modern women are still evolved to need that sort of exercise, which most women have had in housework and in the fields. Perhaps puffing and panting exercises are for male physiology, and may wear women out sooner. As, conceivably, the men’s harder, faster life, may actually wear out the healthy male for a shorter life than the conservationist female. Like that famous jogger, they may ‘die healthy’.

Formal exercise is unnatural. That is, understood as formal exercise not contaminated by being useful in any way. I never do any formal exercises. (I’m heading for eighty-six, and last tested bone density was better than my age.) Instead, I do gardening, walk to the shops with a shopping jeep, do housework – including twin-tub washing machine and outdoor drying, and carpet-sweep the floors
Formal exercise can be a waste of fossil fuels as well as waste of time when people substitute it for doing things for themselves.
Snobbery and exercise
Throughout history, slaves and peasants did the hard work. Useful work was thought undignified. Indeed, most of it was dreadful toil. The upper classes got their exercises at sports, hunting and gymnasiums.
Chinese mandarins even grew their fingernails about a foot long to prove they did no manual work.
Today machines can do the dreadful toil. Thank goodness. But should we still be snobs about useful work that is healthy exercise for us? As well as saving emissions, electricity, oil and money.

Do men die younger because they do the wrong sort of exercise – the repetitive fast Olympic sports type (lots of RSS)and not regularly, and women did regular housework exercise? Doing housework exercise at the times that you don’t really need the electric appliances also saves carbon emissions and money, and you can listen to the wireless at the same time. Or just think.

September 22, 2014

Plastic bags in the oceans

Filed under: climate, conservation, economic, social innovations, Waste — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:24 am

Action on plastic bags in the oceans

Until fifty years ago, the world lived without plastic bags. It can be done.
Most people do not realise what happens to plastic bags in the oceans.
One step to action:
Every supermarket should be offered posters to put near their doors –
These posters tell people what happens to plastic bags in the oceans, and offer alternatives to carry their purchases – like cotton re-usable bags and baskets.
Telling of Alternatives to using plastic bags to put their rubbish and dog poo in.
Telling of Alternatives to putting food scraps in their rubbish bins in plastic bags – like worm farms, compost, and waste packaging.
Using plastic bags again and again, not one-use.
See Dr Jennifer Lavers account of what happens to plastic bags in the creeks and oceans and
Waste no plastic bags
Here’s how:
Re-use plastic bags. Keep them in a bigger bag hung on a door, or in your shopping jeep. When you go shopping, put some in your green bag, string-bag, basket or empty grocery box, and re-use them until they are tatty. Then use the tatty bags and empty packaging packets to put your squelchy rubbish in, to put in the rubbish bin what can’t go in the compost. Nobody needs to take home a new plastic bag from the supermarket just for the sake of something to put the rubbish in.
You don’t even need bin-liners, except perhaps a bit of newspaper or cardboard at the bottom.
Plastic bags can also be re-used as pooper-scooper bags, and large pretty bags can be kept for gift-carriers.
And it is amazing how, somehow, plastic bags will breed at home. so you don’t run short.
Reasons against plastic bags
Our billions of plastic bags are about the worst litter after cigarette butts. Plastic bags choke and smother dolphins, penguins, seals, fish, birds, pets and bushland animals.
Plastic bags are made of petrochemicals, increasingly costly. They wreck the environment. Even biodegradable bags can take longer to degrade than the life of the person who chucks them out.
It takes more energy and resources to make paper bags than plastic ones – the solution is to use neither. It is estimated to take 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100 billion plastic bags used annually in the US alone.
Plastic bags don’t recycle. Anything put inside a plastic bag into your recycling bin will just be chucked away into landfill, plastic bag and all.

What can people do instead of bringing home more plastic bags to put their rubbish in? or buying single-use bin-liners? It depends where you are, especially if you live in a multistorey apartment block, but there are solutions. Sooner rather than later councils and landlords, builders and architects must come up with answers.
But what can you do, wherever you are?
What did people do before plastic bags for their rubbish? Plastic bags made of thin, flexible, blown polyfilm only came in 1977, believe it or not.
In many countries people still throw their rubbish in the street, expecting pigs, birds or sweepers will get rid of it somehow. In places where rubbish is put out in big plastic bags, crows and rats peck, gnaw and multiply. We had hardly any rubbish at all when I was a child, in an Australian city with a Scottish mother. The dustbin was tiny, and the rubbish was wrapped in newspapers that had first been read and then used as kitchen table-cloths or wet-floor mats. Today, if you are able to have a worm-farm or compost bin or pets, or even pot-plants, the only food scraps that really must go out in the trash bin are chicken-bones – and even those can burn into fertiliser in the ashes of my garden-stove.
But if you live in a high rise flat, that does not even have a landing where you can keep a neat little rat-proof worm-farm for friends who like compost, or a rat-proof rubbish chute (very very difficult, because rats eat plastic) there are still other things you can do instead of automatically putting all your kitchen rubbish into plastic bags, hung on a peg or lining a bin. Or worse, putting it down the drains with an insinkerator.
New methods to recycle food waste for useful purposes are developing rapidly. For example, bokashi bins which use fermentation can sit in your kitchen, looking really trendy. The costs of such techniques will keep coming down.
You can look at what sorts of rubbish that you have.
* The only kitchen rubbish that needs wrapping of any sort to keep your rubbish bin clean and unsmelly is the squelchy stuff and bones. But you accumulate enough unrecyclable packaging to put the squelchy stuff into. Waxed cardboard boxes, plastic bags inside cereal boxes and other food packets, the unrecyclable plastic containers, plastic bags that have been re-used so often in shopping that they have become tatty – keep these in a grocery box. As needed, fill these containers with your squelchy rubbish to put in your kitchen bin. All this bin needs is a liner at the bottom, such as the plastic wrapping from a daily newspaper, or tatty cardboard.
IN THE KITCHEN keep your bin for rubbish on the floor or inside a cupboard, the size and shape you need need. If you don’t want to bend, your bin can sit on a box. I like a rectangular bin kept under the table. Just tip in the kitchen rubbish without bagging, except for bones and soggy stuff and bones, which go inside the old packaging. With a worm farm or compost bins of course there is no soggy stuff.
YOUR OUTSIDE WHEELIE BIN needs only a bit of old cardboard or paper, such as copy-paper wrapping at the bottom. The contents of the bin just get tipped into the garbage truck, with no human handling, so plastic wrapping isn’t needed at all..
Your kitchen-rubbish regime soon becomes as easy and automatic a habit as brushing your teeth.
MAKING LESS RUBBISH to go in your bin.
Re-use, recycle, mend, op-shop what you can. Use all the food you buy. Compost what you can for your garden or neighbour’s garden. Make a little worm-farm. Taking out the trash appears to be the major chore for teenagers in American comic-strips. No need here.
Take re-useable string bags, baskets, cardboard grocery boxes (keep boxes in your car) or a shopping jeep. (See the chopping chapter, for a description of the waterproof two-wheeled shopping jeep with a stander foot, that is the most useful and easy to pull or push or let stand.)
Re-use clean bags for shopping, storing things in, for carrying anything you like. Wear one as a hat if you are caught in the rain. It is far more creative as a game to find 100 uses for a plastic bag than finding 100 uses for a dead cat or a brick. Or, ‘100 ways to do without plastic bags’
You can keep your collection of re-useable multi-use grocery plastic bags in a box, or in your ‘green’ shopping bag, which you hang on a coat-hook or in the kitchen, or inside another large plastic bag on a hook, or in your shopping jeep . You find they will breed. More sensible than squeezing them into a bag, to pull out at the other end looking tatty already.)
Keep bags that have become tatty inside another box or bag, to end their working lives as containers for soggy-squilchy rubbish you can’t use for anything.
LARGE PLASTIC BAGS from clothing and other stores are useful for storage and for gift-bags. The labels can be appropriate for the gift – books in a book bag, surprises in a show bag. You can store large bags flat in a drawer, or inside each other on a hook in a back room, or slip bags over an old mop-pole in a corner. It is easy then to find just the one you want.
(But there is another problem. What about the supermarkets? Checkout staff can work quickly when groceries all go straight into the plastic bags that hang ready in dozens below the till. It can be slower when someone hands over green re-usable bags to be filled. When someone uses no standard bags at all it can take longer still, because goods are handed back to the customer to pack herself in her trolley, box or big shopping bag, while she gets in the way, but at present supermarkets with high volume turnover may want to keep on dispensing plastic bags, to avoid slowing down, even for a second. Yet even this can be solved, for example, by ergonomic improvements, or by computerised checkouts that are on the way.)
The old story runs—For want of a horse-shoe nail the kingdom was lost. Plastic bags are like horse-shoe nails in reverse. Smothered in plastic bags the kingdom was lost.
Save a fish! Save petrochemicals! Save landfill! Save the future! Twenty million Australians could save sixty million plastic bags a week! That’s a lot of saving.
Biodegradable bags
Friends of the Earth say degradable and biodegradable bags are not an environmentally friendly option. Degradable plastic bags usually can’t be recycled with normal plastic bags, and people may think they can put degradable bags into their compost bins, which they can’t. Degradable bags are still made from plastic, continuing to place demands on oil. They contain a metal additive to make them degrade and tend to require sunlight to break down. If biodegradable bags end up in landfill, they eventually produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Paper bags are no better, says Friends of the Earth. They are less easily reused and require more energy and resources to make and transport than plastic alternatives. Bags made from recycled plastics, which are then reused or recycled, are considered by many to be a better option, but recycling points are not yet widely accessible. Far better to use durable bags, string-bags, baskets or boxes when shopping.

Re-uses for plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap
Plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap have more uses than you realize, if you cut or pull them off so they do not tear, and keep them in a handy flat box for the envelopes and a container for the newspaper wraps.
I use them for keeping my papers sorted, mailing papers and disks, covering food dishes in the frig, and in making flower bouquets.
DOG POOPER-SCOOPERS. It is not only undesirable but in many places illegal for dog droppings to be allowed in public spaces. They can spread diseases and parasites, they get washed into drains to pollute them, and mess up unwary footsteps. They cost councils and water-companies a surprising amount of money.
Plastic bags are useful to take with you as pooper-scoopers for your dog. Tongs or plastic gloves are used to scoop them into the bag. Rather than buy plastic bags specially for this purpose, however biodegradable they may be advertised, re-use the bags that turn up in your home anyway, including the plastic envelopes that come in the mail with magazines and reports.
There are now high-tech products advertised to be able to mechanically scoop poo into bags, or to solidify it with expensive sprays, but none so far are worth the money, or to be frank, the extra effort they really involve.
Sooner rather than later however, more environmentally friendly disposal method will be invented, so that all those tons of dog droppings in every city every year can at least be used as fertilizer in compost (since because dogs are not plant-eaters, their poo is not much good on its own.)

January 7, 2014


Filed under: Political reforms, spelling, Waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 4:39 am

All my webpages that formerly had URLs including VICNET have changed their URL.

They now are called and then their subhead,

Tell me if u hav eny dificulty.

March 17, 2013

Declining populations need a new economic theory and practice, not raising populations

Filed under: conservation, social problems — Tags: , , , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 3:25 am

We are now in the middle of perhaps the greatest demographic change in recorded history.(Mike Seccombe)

The fact of low-fertility, declining populations should not be seen only in the light of the financial profit consequence of ageing populations, but as a rational response to the world’s present and increasing shortages of water and other essential natural resources, cramped life-styles of the masses, decreasing land for wildlife, and increasing challenges of climate changes. It is irrational to think that we must always have growth of economic production requiring growth of population. The continued population growth of Africa sets problems of political instability, forced emigrations, droughts, loss of wildlife and jungles, increasing deserts and continued oppression of women.
The problem of ageing populations needs to be met by other means than increasing birthrates. The healthy old are an asset not a burden. The sick aged are a burden on other people to care for them, that is, demands on labor, with minimum need for economic production of goods to keep them alive. We must solve the problem of the chronic slow dying of the ‘struldbrugs’ that we must fear for ourselves.
We must change our model of economic production and profit to meet declining populations. World population in 1950 was far fewer than now; it was not excessive. We might retreat to those figures.

February 4, 2013

Fantasy – A Christmas Wake

Filed under: humor, social problems, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 2:07 am

A Christmas Wake

Social Messaging

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No, that’s not right. It was Christmas Eve.

Hiras B. Nickelbury said, “Hmph!” and his hirelings went out and bought a Hmph for him. He did not want it. He wanted an Intercontinental Ballistic Missle Toe Scratcher, and he wanted it – not just now, because then the defence contract would be fulfilled too quickly and he wanted it to go on a few more years yet and then some. The Missile Toe itself was coming along nicely, always just a step or two ahead of the Scratcher, so that he had the equivalent of a nice little Billionaire’s Ping Pong going. At Blearstown he had the Missle Toe works, and all was nearly ready to test it on an Intercontinent – now where was an Intercontinent he could test it on? Somewhere where a good argument could be made that it had terrorists in caves or in the cooling systems . . At Smucksville he had the Scratcher, and it was all very well testing that on Little Missles, such as flying circles and crop hoaxers, but supposing it was found not to work? Better just to keep pedaling away nicely on that one, on the grounds that CIA agents kept feeding bits of Missle Toe code to enemies far across the world through evil agents. So the Scratcher had to be continually updated to keep up with what they thought up at Blearstown. Like a computer game it was . . in fact, there was a game about it in the shops right now, from the Nickelbury subsidiary, ScareyFutures. The kids might know what was going, on, but not realise what it meant. Nice touch.


The Muzak from the open door of the elevator wafted in, playing ‘Peace on earth and mercy mild, two for man and one for child . .’

Hiras purpled. How was he going to get downstairs if there was that sort of rap even within his own geodome, his own nerve-centre of his mighty octopoid businesses. No! Let’s have Valkyries – weren’t they a sort of vulture, girls with hats and feathers out the side?

There was an apologetic red burp from a light on his console. It was his electrectric seketeri, asking for the night off to go round the little town, singing at the doors, with a little lantern on a stick. It was what one did on Christmas Eve, said its blinking set of lights, the one night of the year, except for Anzac Day in Australia.

Anzac Day! Australia! That’s it! bellowed Nicklebury to himself. Isnt there a great dirty big nuclear desert in the middle of that place – isnt that where he could send off a Missle Toe to, and just pretend he was getting rid of a lotta toxic waste?

Nicklebury decided he would let his staff all go off home, after all. Let them disgrace themselves by putting foot on street and waving little lanterns on sticks. Let them see if they could have peace at home for kids of good will, and be awash with the paper wrappings around awkwardly shaped kiddies’ war machines. And when they were all gone, he, Hiras, would give himself his own Christmas present, the one thing that the supermarket Gift-Dobber would never have thought of. A Missle Toe Yippee! He’d let one off into SuperSpace, while everyone was busy stuffing themselves with MacPudd’n.

And when everyone and everything except himself had dared to go down the elevator to the tune of Bungle Hell It’s Just as Well, the company version that used to begin with Jingle until someone blundered with the sleigh-bells and some reindeer landed on the roof and fell down the security duct . . . The staff had tiptoed past him, in case he gave them a Non-Christmassy Greeting, but he had seen them going off and he had not cared.

Now he had the office, this great nerve centre of the great Death-is-Life Works, all to himself, except for the guards at every cornice and the dog-handlers in serried ranks on the roof, watching out for reindeer. The burgling alarms were disabled. All contact with the Black House was temporarily blunted with lead shields.

Hiras was a Lone and a Loof. He gurgled, as others might have gurgled when cameras were around to tape their foto-opportunities of triumf. He took a swig of Barnum’s Irish Blarney before settling down to go several better than the Three Wise Men who at that very moment might perhaps be trekking across that gindarichie desert where he . .


Something hit him, and he crashed to the emerald floor.


It was the Ghost of Sometime Past. It grabbed Hiras by the back-straps of his French dungarees and sped him to see the wonders of Ancient Civilisations. Its name was Ozymandias, and it was determined to make Hiras look upon its works.

It was like a free tour through a magnificent theme park. They started small, landing in an Arizona desert to see the Okipatchi ruins of a great civilisation, then swooped on south, diving under the human swamps around Mexico City to the buried remnants of a great civilisation, circling and dropping and puffing and whirling and whizzing around a Central American desert with the ruins of a Hutpah civilisation that nobody else had ever found or was likely to, and then down to the ruins of a Maya Civilisation and an Aztext civilisation and an Inca civilisation and a civilisation of Terra del Fuega, where fires burned day and night over its detritus.

They got pretty wet swooshing through Atlantis – now there were the ruins of a great civilisation all right, tumbled marble gods everywhere, swathed in octopi and sushi. Over to Africa . . Huge black civilisations of towering mud-bricks or obsidian set with diamonds – all gone. Table Rock at Cape-Town, with the dusty remnants of a great civilisation inside it, and She shrivelled to bits in a stone-blocked passage. Up under the Zambezi Falls, and great was the fall thereof, wushled the Ghost of Christmas Past, as Hiras tried to lean down to grasp at some of the open casks of great jewels set with skulls, in caves behind the torrents. Zimbabwe, Benin, Timbuktu, Thebes, the Pyramids, the Sphinxes, the layers upon layers of great civilisations covered with sand, stretching across the North African coast and around the Middle East, and over the new deserts of Afghanistan to Samarkand and the Gobi desert. The ruins of great civilisations lay under hills, barrows, jungles, tors, and the shallow seas of Europe, Japan and South East Asia. Hiras could hardly tell one from another.

‘And they rode on and further on,

and they rode in red blude to the knee

for all the blude that’s shed on erth

runs through the seas of the fer cuntrie.’

Hiras knew just what Tam Lin must have felt like. ‘Is there much more of this?’ he cried up to the Ghost that still flew on like a Doré engraving from the Old Testament. They flew over a valley of dry bones, that were more disturbing than anything because far down below they were a mass of re-articulating skeletons. ‘Can these dry bones just lie down and die?’ he asked. The Ghost whuffled. Christmas Past has more to show than this, he wheezed. ‘Come, I will show you more of the consequences of the battlefields of the world.’

There was hardly a square centimetre of level ground to be seen on the great curved globe down below that was not blood and bones. In triangular pyramidical piles were stone clubs and lances, tank traps and gurdgeons. Down from mountains fell avalanches of dead men with claymores and broken machetes. The whole creation was groaning with widows.

Hiras thought of what profits must have been made in the past by all those armourers and smithies, those manufacturers of chariots and route-march boots. All gone, and gone with them the civilisations, the great civilisations that they had so nobly protected.

‘Take me home, take me home, ‘ he pleaded. ‘I want to write myself a memo.’


Hiras had hardly made his memo for a History Subsidiary for his great armaments empire, to include a flow-chart for tribute branches from all great dead civilisations, when a cock crew far away on the nearest farm two States away. Immediately, the Ghost of Christmas Present whizzed in.

Hiras’ glutinous eyes momentarily unjelled. ‘A Christmas Present! I know just what I want! And I want it Now!’

‘I am indeed the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ trilled the ghost in the thrilling murmur of a sort of clockwork, ‘ I am Now! But I am Not. I am the great No. And I have come to fetch you as my brister fetched you last night – but – not quite – as – my – other relation – may – fetch – you – tomorrow !’

Hiras was always one for a free ride, so he agreeably lashed his buttons to the long swirly toga-tail of the Ghost of Christmas Present and prepared for more amazing horizontal bungee-jumping. But it was not so.

Instead, the Ghost of Christmas Present grabbed him, wrapped him tightly in ribbon with curly streamers – that at least, had some connection with Hiras’ first greedy expectations, and out into the stratosphere they went, and then just as quickly, down into the lower atmosphere of too much CO2 and demonic whiffs of nitric acid.

All around them came swirling packs of other Ghosts, each clutching a gift-wrapped Company President in its eagle claws. They swooped low over the surface of the earth. Hiras was terrified. Were they a bird? Were they a plane? Were they a superman? NO they were him, and at the mercy of all the surveillance rays, lasers, petards, and heat-detector missiles that bristled from the clouds as they passed over the United States of America. But none of these fearful engines seemed to care a hoot about him or his companion flight of CEOs. Unmarked, unspotted and unwrung, they dived under the clouds, and were still safe.

The only instruments of perception that could detect the flyers were human. They were children.

As they passed over the world, little children everywhere looked up with wonder, and raised their hands, and some laughed, and many pleaded. The laughing ones were riding little new plastic pedal bikes, or looking up from new electronic games bright with primary colors plus pink. The pleading ones were sitting amid floods, droughts, deserts, razor-wire, rubble, trash and patterned carpets set on looms for tiny hands. They sounded like mosquitoes from twenty metres up, but where there were intermittent bangs, there were also little screams. The fleets of Ghosts with their Christmas burdens wheeled and shimmied like schools of salmon used to do when the oceans were less trawled. And each CEO could see from time to time and place to place a hand rising as if out of quicksand, brandishing a silver sword labelled YOU HAVE DONE THIS. An there was a name on each sword, like Boeheed and Lockwing and Krustyl and Muppsie. And there would be a crater, or a tumble of cracked bricks, or fresh humps, and more children crying. Diseases were flying around, issuing out of plastic bags labelled TOP SECRET. Mudslides were pouring mixed with rain down hillsides, leaving only the cut stumps of trees whose rings showed their tragic lives, and children gathering sticks or bird-dung where no sticks or birds remained.

The tears were falling from the eyes of the CEOS as airborne they rose and fell on the thermal currents that the Ghosts of Christmas Presents travelled as on scenic railways of the air. The downward-falling tears hardened as they fell, and hit like bullets into the hearts of the children.

Seeing this, some of the CEOs wrenched their hands into their pockets above their hearts, and rained down dollar notes and cheques. These gathered speed, and hit the children below like brickbats.

‘Take me to Bethlehem!’ cried Hiras, forgetting that here too would be slaughter of innocents, and a surviving child that hardly anyone could hear or make sense of. Instead, he was transported above a country where what may have once been green was now khaki, in its own combat gear, its own camouflage, its own dried blood and dust. Out of the caves and out of the dry ground came arms without bodies, and the arms brandished swords, with his name on it. KILROY WAS HERE, said the signs, but the name did not read like KILROY however much that subterfuge was written on them.

No, no, cried Hiras. ‘There’s always been war and there always will be! I am not to blame for being what my destiny has determined, what my genes bend me to be! For serving my country, for being a bulti-billionaire! How was I to know that anyone would actually use those manacles, those spikes, those electric goads which have been so profitable to make! It was unthinkable!’

Torn with breezes he had never felt before, Hiras wilted in the grip of his daemon Ghost, and hung like a sausage tied in the middle while the implacable Ghost of Christmas Present mapped out his territory or terror.

So it was as they chased the sun around the globe, until even the sun fled their horizon, and the two landed, worn-out as pigeons, on the window-sill of MultiMurder Inc, one of his most profitable subsidiaries. Far up in the sky, the other CEOS were also being winged to their maleficent and profitable dove-cotes.


            Hiras was exhausted after having had such an eye-popping glimpse of the world’s misery. He did not feel like his dinner of X-rayed oysters and X-rated pate. He rang up one of his X-wives but the ansafone was not working, and he did not dare face any of his X-children after what he had seen of children that day. He lay down in his Eze-TweeZe capsule, thinking sleep would never come, but it did.

Tomorrow came. He was wondering what work he dare face after having seen all those children and bits of children. The Ghost of Tomorrow found him restless and resentful. “Come on now,’ said the Ghost, ‘You have to see what you have laid up for the wrath to come.”

Hiras had seen many blockbusters in his youth, and many realms of gold had been destroyed in noise and flames to delight young minds like his with horror. Cathartic it had been, for terror if not for pity. So he could do with seeing a bit of the wrath to come, after him let there be the deluge of brimstone and fire. It could pep him up, for looking at the balance sheets today.

The Ghost of Tomorrow was just as shady as the others, but more double-dealing. It stuck him in a rocket and said, ‘Now we’re off to see Planet Earth tomorrow.’ It counted down, and they were off in a puff of acrid smoke, while inside their rocket the Ghost and the man were equally weightless.

They landed – or was it re-landed – on Planet Earth. The Ghost blasted the door off and made a wind-tunnel for Hiras to reach down to the red ground. Its heat hit him through one boot and its cold through the other. The only thing that could be seen was the rocket itself with its landing gear, and the stars in a white sky, apart from small red -strewn rocks on red-brown grit as far as the eye could see. ‘Why, this is Mars!’ cried Hiras. ‘But some people said this place was Brighton Beach when they saw it on the telly. Is it – is it Brighton Beach then?’

As Hiras spoke , there was a little pouf, and out of one of the red pebbles a little green leaf was blown out and shattered, and the same happened to another red pebble, further away and more feebly.

‘Well, Brighton Beach is here somewhere,’ said the Ghost in a sort of chuckle, like a hen hiccupping during a fit of the giggles. ‘See what the notice says.’

There, as if they had landed on a comic strip, was a large notice stuck in a little pile of rocks. YOU HAVE DONE THIS.

All around was silence. It was very peaceful. ‘Never did like peace,’ said Hiras, crossly, but he was embarrassed all the same.

‘Well, you still have a choice,’ said the Ghost, ‘There’s still two sides to this question.’ It pushed Hiras back in the rocket, lit a fuse, clambered inside the door himself and slammed it, and pouf-bang, they were off through space again.

It seemed as if they were going through an aerial maze, and for all the twists and turns, coming back to the same place. When they landed, the Ghost opened a window, instead of a door.

Outside there were green meadows, and a stream, and a whole lot of black people having a picnic with a hamper and patterned rugs and red umbrellas. Birds sang in trees, corn was growing off left, and the sea with white sands was off right. There were little boats on the sea, catching fish. An informal line of all sorts of people of all colours came in from the wings and danced across at the front before them, happy as Larry.

‘Boring,’ said Hiras. The Ghost was so furious that it almost sent him back to Brown Tomorrow there and then.


The upshot was, well . .



Alas, you Ghosts of Christmas, where were you at Christmas 2014?





Poem – Then and Now

Filed under: climate, conservation, social problems, Uncategorized, verse — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 12:56 am

Where stood the road and man

Stood once the plain and tree

A flowing river ran

Where now the cars fast flee

down that vast drain.


Each lampost was a branch

that hung with flowers and fruit

The fountain was alive

A lookout, not a water chute.

The tenements and lodging houses were

A place of habitat for balls of fur.


The clouds still look alive,

The man has breath

There’s air – it is not yet

A place of death

It does not illustrate

the future world in space

which may be more, or less,

than here, or then.

January 24, 2013

Fantasy solutions to major problems

Magic solutions


During the day we can seek practical solutions to the insoluble problems of our day.

At night, we can dream of Magic solutions.

Here are some favorites:


The Nasty Tastes – the second alcoholic drink in a day tastes awful

The Personal Car – you put it on like a garment; it is no bigger.  Then off you go.

The Speeded up Food-Chain – strait from the rocks and lichen, to appetising food, (and thence,  to compost for the soil)

The Libido Sublimed. A breeze blew over the world, and human sexual desires were changed to desire for affection.  At that breath were solved most of the problems of humankind, and much of its literature.

The Neural Attitude Card – to see with other people’s thinking

The Stuck Oil – Suddenly all the oil in the earth becomes stuck and gushes no longer

The Escalated Photosynthesis – we could do it ourselves, at the risk of turning green

The Palestinian Canyon – between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Its river is navigable, and fresh water.

The Retrospective Videos –  find out what has really happened in history

The Self-Exploding Weapons –  pull the trigger and you blow up yourself

The Gun Catastrophe that ends the American Dream of a Gun for every Good Guy –  a man with an assault rifle or two manages to shoot most of the platform speakers and a good many of the audience at the National Rifle Association general meeting


April 16, 2012

The warning of the Titanic

Filed under: social problems, Waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:41 am

The interest in the centenary of the Titanic is timely.  We are on a Titanic ourselves.  The lights shine, our luxuries are beyond previous generations’ imaginations, we believe ourselves safe because technology and science protect us, and the rich and poor are segregated.  The iceberg and darkness loom.

March 10, 2012

Articles on political and social issues


The future of fire in Australia
Environment – 28/02/2012 – 14 comments
Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste
Economics – 3/02/2012 – 6 comments
The effects of violent video games
Media – 19/01/2012 – 7 comments
The curse of the McMansion
Economics – 24/11/2011 – 7 comments
Free trade and fair trade
September 2011 Feature – 19/09/2011 – 11 comments
Bias on ABC Radio National
Media – 6/09/2011 – 38 comments
Climate change at Radio National
Media – 12/08/2011 – 39 comments
Ageing populations need not be disastrous for Western governments
Society – 27/07/2011 – 29 comments
Our age of paradoxes
Society – 31/05/2011 – 5 comments
The Arabian Nights and Muslim beliefs and practices
Religion & Spirituality – 4/05/2011
How puny are you?
Environment – 8/04/2011 – 19 comments
Unnecessary costs of the elderly
Society – 31/03/2011 – 13 comments
Australian consumers, and our floods and cyclones
Economics – 9/02/2011
Challenges and responses to disasters
Nation Building – 19/01/2011 – 1 comment
Spare that tree: the arithmetic of supply and demand
Environment – 23/12/2010 – 5 comments
Nothing over a million dollars
Society – 14/12/2010 – 37 comments
The cost of elections
Domestic Politics – 12/10/2010 – 5 comments
Don’t waste the Murray River!
Environment – 1/07/2010 – 3 comments
Ballyhoo and balloons: political elections
Domestic Politics – 23/02/2010 – 3 comments
We’ve never had it so good
Society – 9/02/2010 – 7 comments
What a difference a lot of humans make
Society – 21/01/2010 – 6 comments
Combatting prejudice: African Australian refugee youth
Society – 19/08/2009 – 6 comments
The Internet at home – a member of the family
August 2009 Feature – 5/08/2009
A stitch in time …
Society – 25/06/2009 – 9 comments
Damage control – a greater problem than climate change
Environment – 14/05/2009 – 34 comments
Carbon trading has problems
Environment – 5/03/2009 – 7 comments
Housing for our changing climates
Environment – 23/02/2009 – 17 comments
ABC TV for children
Media – 22/12/2008 – 4 comments
Rupert Murdoch on education for the disadvantaged
Education – 4/12/2008 – 1 comment
Manufacturing, jobs and low technology
Science & Technology – 9/10/2008 – 12 comments
Language and literacy
Education – 8/09/2008 – 2 comments
Could the Olympic Games become fair sport?
Sport – 27/08/2008 – 7 comments
An audit for educational disadvantage
Education – 15/08/2008 – 9 comments
Cardinal Pell’s babies – quantity or quality
Society – 31/07/2008 – 18 comments
Marriages for the modern world
Society – 16/07/2008 – 7 comments
Who owns your sewage?
Environment – 3/07/2008 – 8 comments
The case for an Australian-made small second car
Environment – 5/06/2008 – 29 comments
Rubbishing on about plastic bags
Environment – 30/04/2008 – 12 comments
An ambit claim for the Ruddfest 2020
March 2008 Feature – 11/03/2008 – 2 comments
Revolutionary change in education
February 2008 Feature – 20/02/2008 – 10 comments
Cutting waste – saving the planet without destroying economies
Environment – 7/02/2008 – 19 comments
Australian citizenship and human rights
Law & Liberties – 17/01/2008 – 12 comments
Population is not a front page issue
Environment – 17/12/2007 – 43 comments
Improving politicians’ behaviour
Domestic Politics – 5/12/2007 – 11 comments
The big election myth – is the economy strong?
Economics – 24/10/2007 – 62 comments
Compensation as a right?
Health – 8/10/2007 – 10 comments

January 29, 2012

Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste

Filed under: climate, conservation, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:37 am

Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste

I have a fantasy that Stonehenge is all that remains today of an electronic civilisation.  The rest is lost.

Half of all my life’s work is lost on obsolete technology – three forms of tape recording, Deskmate word processing, Amiga animation, floppies, Betacam, microfiche, old editions of modern programs. . All that remains is what I put on paper.  And today schools are throwing out books and relying on electronic technology!

Today I want to put irreplaceable tape recordings of oral history onto CDs or DVDs, but cannot find the technology to do so.

Putting everything into paper archives is unsatisfactory unless we have a means of finding material.  There is much dross.

We need the equivalent of a Rosetta stone for modern knowledge and culture.

Planned obsolescence in electronic technology makes the situation worse. What is good is thrown out as well as what is passe.

Planned Obsolescence and Climate Change


Too many products these days are created and bought with the expectation that they’ll soon be replaced. The consequences are serious.

‘Sometime very soon, we need to start talking about an economy that improves quality of life while reducing the quantity of material resources it devours and excretes,’ That time is now.

My lovely daughter gave me an expensive Olympus digital camera in 2003. I enjoyed using it occasionally. Now, less than four years later, it must be thrown away plus its box of bits and brochures because the camera’s memory card is obsolete. So says the Olympus shop, charging $60 for cleaning the camera before telling us the card cannot be replaced: ‘Try ringing around shops or eBay.’

We live in an era of planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence is a decision on the part of a manufacturer to design products to become unusable quickly. This stimulates marketplace demand because customers must buy again, sooner than they would if the product lasted longer. It happens with cars, light bulbs, software, clothing and buildings.

Our GDP figures prove that this works. There is growth in the economy when people are forced to keep buying replacements. But it is false growth in view of its environmental consequences, and it is false economics because it diverts customer buying power from more sustainable ways of improving our quality of life.

Planned obsolescence increases pollution and environmentally damaging emissions through the production of goods that would not otherwise need to be created. It exacerbates the problems of landfill and waste disposal, because most obsolescing products are not designed to be recyclable. It also wastes materials and workers’ lives that could be spent more profitably and more usefully.

It is difficult if not impossible to find replacement parts for electronic goods even a few years old. Cheap printers may evolve rapidly as technology improves, but cartridge availability for older models is liable to disappear. ‘No more parts made. You’ll have to buy a new printer,’ they say.

And it’s not just the hardware that becomes obsolete. Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, for example, is rumoured to force users to abandon old software and computers and buy new ones, even more than already happens.

This is not to say that continued advances in products aren’t essential despite improvements in technology, we still do not have ideal refrigerators, cars, houses, or almost anything. We still need new inventions and breakthroughs to make lives better.

But customers deserve some idea of how long a product is expected to be repairable or parts available.

A number of factors make this difficult. Companies that guarantee availability and long-term repairability may be located overseas; they may go out of business, or evade responsibility by metamorphosing into another business name. Liability may discourage companies from making too many promises although many products do have guarantees over 10 years, with repair and replacement warranties.

It would be good if products with planned or inbuilt obsolescence could be taxed or otherwise penalised, but this may be too invidious to be possible.

Customer power and public boycotting is probably the strongest and simplest weapon. More customer information about durability, mendability, updateability and availability of parts should be available and sufficiently publicised. (Note that I use the word ‘customers’ and not ‘consumers’ horrible word with destructive implications.)

At present, advertising goes for what is proven to work which is emotional and aesthetic appeal and minimum practical information about a product. Educators today boast that they train students in ‘multiliteracy.’ A major literacy needed by students is purchasing-savvy.

Goods on sale now bear stars for their expected energy and water efficiency, use-by-dates, and logos indicating whether they were made in Australia or by an Australian-owned company. Dangerous products bear warnings.

Perhaps optional logos could carry information about expected durability, mendability, updateability and availability of parts. A bright little rectangle with a time estimate inside it say, ’10 years.’ How long should a new house last before it needs to be pulled down? Fifteen years, one builder told me. Fifty years might be fairer, even if we expect vast changes in the way houses are built over the next few years. A hundred years for large, solid, public buildings seems fair.

If anyone jibs that without planned obsolescence jobs will disappear and capitalism won’t work properly, let us remember that our present economic system is not divinely ordained or necessarily static. We created it. We can improve it to prosper without planned waste.

About half of all production is wasted at some stage or another. Cutting the production of almost-instant waste is a faster and more efficient way of reducing carbon emissions than carbon trading, which assumes emissions can continue as before so long as we plant trees (while other forests are felled).

Far too many jobs are invested in producing waste. The alternative approach is that if everything that needed to be done was being done, there would be no unemployment.

We have to start to take this seriously, because planned obsolescence helps to promote the unplanned obsolescence of us and our planet.


See also Planned obsolescence and climate change New Matilda. 143. 23 May. 2007

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