Tuesday 29 April 2014

Top 5 sources of good eco-news

Everybody needs good news now and then, particularly good eco-news. Of course it's important to be aware of what's happening, get regular reality checks, know what issues need our support and action.

But it's also important to lift our gaze to the good that's being done, the progress being made, the people doing positive things to restore harmony in the Man vs Wild balance.

Behold, my top 5 sources of glad eco-tidings, in no particular order:

1. Zite: I love this app. "Zite and a cup of coffee," as one Zite reviewer says, is a great way to start the day. It's basically a magazine/newspaper created just for you, on your iPhone/iPad, like this: you tell Zite what you're interested in (e.g. sustainability, eco-design, conservation) and it curates stories and blog posts from ALL over the world. So you find yourself reading more widely than you ever would have, and the more you use Zite (and give the thumbs-up to stories you liked), the more it gives you what you'll like to read.

2. Grist: This Seattle-based online news organisation isn't afraid to be light-hearted when spilling the (Fairtrade) beans on eco-issues. Sure, there are hard truths here, but there's also the Grist List, which covers good things happening around the world, and Ask Umbra's column, which explores corners most green-news sites don't, answering questions like "Could I pee in the shower to save a flush?" Sign up for the daily email and you'll never go hungry for witty eco-news again.

Get to work, puss!
 3. Treehugger: One of the first sites ever to focus on sustainability and still one of the best, with multiple blog posts daily (16 so far today!), and news about green design and living (like the cat-friendly eco-desk and 9 green living options that improve your quality of life) as well as business, energy, transportation, science and technology.

4. TakePart: Ok, so the fact that this is the organisation that made The Cove tells you it won't all be good news (if there is such a thing). But there are plenty of green-living tips here, like in the As Green As I Get column, and the site is pleasant to browse (lots of pics).

5. Huffpost Green: The environmentally minded sister of newshound The Huffington Post is possibly more cerebral than the other links here, and has some high profile (guest) bloggers, like the Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International.

Rock-hugging cabin, Norway
Still hungry? Try a dose of Cabin Porn (a perfectly innocent photo gallery of shacks in natural places), squeeze into the Tiny House movement (the sustainability of living in small spaces), get informed about clean energy at Reneweconomy or lose yourself in EcoTraveller (good eco-travel news).

What's your favourite source of eco-inspiration?

Thursday 10 April 2014

Surf's Up goes digital - and 10 things I love about surfing

It seems like only yesterday but three months ago, almost to the day, after jumping through virtual flaming hoops like a Pavlovian poodle, my first ebook went live on iTunes: Adventures on Earth, an interactive collection of my best-ever adventure travel stories and pics. Click on the cover image (left) for more, or read the launch post here.

Now, I'm happy to announce, Adventures has a digital sister. The second Australian edition of my surfing book, Surf's Up: The girl's guide to surfing, is now available as an ebook - from Kobo, Amazon (for your Kindle - link coming soon) and Google Play.

(It's also coming soon as a real book again, after a few months out of print - I'll keep you posted.)

If writing a book is like giving birth, getting it online is like giving it a smartphone and the keys to the hovercraft - in a good way. To celebrate, I thought I'd share a part of the book that's close to my heart, called 10 things I love about surfing:

What’s so great about surfing?

1.  It’s fun, pure and simple, with no artificial colours or flavours. There’s no better feeling than riding along the face of a wave and then paddling back out with a huge grin on your face.

2. It keeps you in touch with the natural world, which adds another dimension to an otherwise city-bound life. Go for a surf and you can’t help but notice which way the wind’s blowing, if it’s low or high tide, or whether there are fish or sea birds around this time of year. Being a surfer makes you more weather-conscious too, because you want to be able to predict swells and be ready for them.
Girls and their longboards,
 pic by Moonwalker
3. It’s simple. All you need, really, is a surfboard and a few waves. Not only that but the waves are free!

4. The sense of community. Yes,  surfing is a great way to meet guys—the odds are in your favour, and you know you’ll have at least one thing in common. But I also love the way you can fall into conversation with another surfer and find out about the new swell working its way up the coast, the good waves at a nearby beach or the whale that was sighted yesterday. And that without any planning whatsoever, you can meet up with people you know at the beach, simply by virtue of the fact that you’ve all converged on the best spot to surf that day.

5. It teaches you patience, whether you’re waiting for that elusive ‘last wave’ before you head in, waiting for the next set or waiting for the flat spell to end so that you can go surfing again. There’s always a lot written about searching for waves, but we often overlook surfing’s quieter sister: patience. In a world that values control, it’s nice to know you can’t hurry the ocean.

Karlee Mackie post-surf,
pic courtesy of Ocean & Earth
6. It’s good all-over exercise. Surfing sculpts your body, toning your upper arms, shoulders, stomach and legs, like almost nothing else—and without you even realising it!

7. It’s peaceful. Some city beaches can get a bit aggro, but even in the city you can often find a peak or a whole beach to yourself. That's when surfing soothes the soul, gives you breathing space in your life and a chance to stop and just be (until your next wave). It helps you get things on land back in perspective too.

8. It builds your confidence, and that spreads to all areas of your life. If I can surf, what else can I do?! Not only that but it gives you stories to tell—about that amazing last wave you got yesterday, or your last surf trip up the coast, or the wipe-out that all your friends teased you about for a week.

With friends in Manly,
pic by Steven Siewert
9. It’s humbling. You might feel 10-feet tall after riding your first wave, but you can also get the whipping of your life if you’re not paying attention. Surfing gives you an appreciation for the ocean’s power and lets you see it in all its moods. You can never dominate it; the best you can hope for is to be able to play in it.

10. It’s beautiful. Summer sunsets when the ocean is as smooth as glass and the sky’s colours set the sea on fire. Gloomy steel-coloured days when raindrops splash into the water around you like diamonds. Full-circle rainbows in the spray off the back of a wave. A surfer crouched inside the eye of a perfect barrel. The show never stops.


I wrote these words almost five years ago and I still agree with every word, still love surfing as much as ever. Those links again: Surf's Up is currently available from Kobo and Google Play (Amazon had some issues with the magazine-style layout - link coming soon!). Enjoy the ride...

Tuesday 1 April 2014

A great day for whales

A short, ecstatic post today. I'm doing mental cartwheels after last night's news that the International Court of Justice, the UN's highest judicial body, ruled on what the world has long known: there's nothing "scientific" about Japan's whaling in Antarctic waters. The ICJ consequently ordered Japan to revoke any existing permits and refrain from granting more whaling permits - and Japan, to its credit, has agreed to abide by the ICJ's decision.

Safe at last - minke pic by
Eye to Eye Marine Encounters
It's a good news story for the environment, it makes me proud to be Australian (it was Australia that began legal proceedings against Japan's whaling in 2010) and of course it's a great day for whales.

RIP the 10,439 minke and 15 fin whales killed under Japan's scientific permit since 1986.

Minkes have a special place in my heart after swimming with a few of them on the Great Barrier Reef a couple of years ago - where, incidentally, real scientific research is going on, and people like you and me can tag along, help collect data and have one of the best wildlife experiences of our lives.

Read my Sydney Morning Herald story about the trip here: Meet the minkes.

I can't help feeling hopeful when things like this happen, when human beings wake up to the wisdom of letting wild things be, well, wild. It sends a signal that reverberates around the world that, whether we're aware of it on a daily basis or not, we are all members of an incomprehensively vast natural family, and always will be.