Saturday, July 27, 2019

Christmas in July

It's a fairly recent Australian ritual, arising from the observation that traditional Christmas fare is best enjoyed in a cold climate. Traditional *western* Christmas fare, that is! Whether it is all appropriate to have plum pudding and roast turkey in a place like Australia, or whether we'd be better off with bush tomatoes, emu and lilli-pilli berries, is a moot point. Either way, I suppose the change in eating habits is a form of adaptation.

Nevertheless, Christmas in July it is, and here I am, celebrating the occasion (and a belated sixtieth birthday) in style on one of the new airships. Comebacks for these lovely vessels have been tried before but it is only now, with soaring fuel costs and vubble-tech that the economic equation has changed in their favour (the catch-cry being that nothing costs less than helium!). Hopefully, as more get built, they will take the strain off a groaning freight network (for what infrastructure does a balloon need?) Until then, it'll be just revellers like ourselves enjoying the experience free from traffic jams on Eastlink.

Heading East from Melbourne, the Latrobe valley is coming into view. The chimney stacks of the old brown coal power stations can be clearly seen poking through the morning mist. Hazelwood has been de-commissioned, but Loy Yang is still puffing away. Not for much longer, though: for all that Australia's contribution to the CO2 content is small beer compared to more populous states like China, brown coal is a no-no these days and there are examples to be set! But what examples? Somewhere down there are the shells of nuclear power stations newly commissioned, or under construction. There is some sense building them there: the continued emphasis on power generation keeps the community intact. Still, despite the much vaunted improvements in reactor design, they still face fierce resistance in some quarters. Not all of it is from the fear of a few stray neutrons.

So to the menu. The Entree today is an orange compote. Ah, oranges! Always traditional Christmas fare (in the olden days when such things were a treat in Northern Europe). We've been spoilt up until a few years ago, and now the irrigation regions around Mildura which supplied them have been spoilt in turn. Climate change in SE Australia has been a reality for nearly twenty years now. The reduced inland rainfalls mean that the Darling no longer connects to the Murray, and that area is now a salt-sewn, astringent desert, fit only for the solar farms that are springing up in competition to the above mentioned nukes. They have a vocal backing, although I feel that the monolithic slab deployment being practiced is akin to clear felling and does the degraded environment no favours. Far better to co-exist with some sort of fractal strategy?

There's a warning there, too. Many people, dissatisfied with the solutions decreed by big government and big business, have opted to take matters into their own hands and install their own solar. Enough to make a noticeable dent in power revenues. There are signs of push back in the wind: changes in regulations and safety standards that may act to bring the little folk back into the dutiful consumer fold. Fat chance! The DIY genie's out, and a sunshine rebellion is brewing: central vs distributed! It was never just about oil, or even power, but how you can use power to control. Some things never change, only the means...

Which brings us back to the source of the oranges: home grown of course! If you can have home solar, then why not home water recycling? Indeed, many systems operate so as to combine the two! Thus, a few people still manage to get enough water to keep the backyard orange or lemon tree healthy, despite Melbourne's catchments running perilously close to dry last May. I take a sip from my wineglass, and contemplate the irony that *that* industry seems to be surviving well enough without home help!

The main dish today is a bit of an experiment, billed as turkey, we are assured that it will look like turkey, and will even taste like turkey. but, as we see it being prepared layer by layer (having your food printed still seems to be considered a novelty), some of our party wonder if the ingredients will be printed on it as well and what will happen when it's heated?

With technology like this, land intensive animal husbandry is likely to go the way of the thatcher, and I'm sure that the product will be very nice ... with plenty of cranberry sauce!

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