Archive for November, 2008

surviving australia

November 30, 2008

When I saw the posters outside of the Australia Museum for the exhibit “Surviving Australia,” I thought maybe it was an exhibit about how humans survived all of the deadly creatures on this isolated continent, once known in Europe as “terra australis incognita” (unknown southern land). This was only part of the story.

Upon entering the exhibit I realized it was more about how the creatures survived the deadly invading humans. Extinct, endangered, and threatened animals were featured in varying media. Threatened and endangered animals had taxidermied representatives. The extinct were mainly shown in illustrations, with the eerie exception of the Tasmanian tiger, of which there was archival film footage.

Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was exterminated by man by the early 20th century. It had the appearance of a canine, but like many Australian animals, it was marsupial. [Read more here.]

There were life-sized recreations of megafauna, long extinct when Westerners arrived. Giant wombat-like marsupials and enormous kangaroos (up to 10 feet tall) once roamed the continent.

Thylacoleo, an extinct marsupial lion.

The fate of several animals was doomed upon the arrival of the white man. According to the exhibit, “in the last 200 years, over 50 vertebrate species and an unknown number of invertebrates and plants have disappeared from Australia — presumed extinct.” With habit destruction, introduction of foreign plant and animal species, and sometimes intentional extermination, the pig-footed bandicoot, several types of emu, kangaroo, and wallaby, and the Tasmanian tiger met their untimely end. Today, countless birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals are endangered or threatened because of humans. And Australia is sparsely populated compared with other continents (barring Antarctica), with about 21 million people covering the whole country.

The endangered regent honeyeater.

The endangered Tasmanian devil (I have a photo of a live one in my broken memory card).

When land is cleared did you know that everything living is killed? Between 1972 and 2006 it has been estimated nearly 4 billion birds, mammals and reptiles have died as a result of land clearing in Australia.

One-third of Australia’s woodlands… has been destroyed.

An estimated 50 percent of wetlands have been destroyed.

Over three-quarters of Australia’s rainforests have been destroyed.

Alright, let’s get down to the fun stuff — the animals that are deadly to humans! I timed my trip to the museum perfectly, because the next day we were off to the tropical north, where all of these toxic creatures live. Saltwater crocs, chironex and irukandji box jelly fish, death adders — they’re all in Queensland’s coastal regions. And let’s not forget the great white shark!

Huge, predatory Saltwater Crocodiles are one of Australia’s most famous dangers. They’re the world’s biggest living crocodiles and can swim underwater at 30 kilometres per hour [18.6 mph] without causing a ripple. They can leap out of water fast enough to outrun a horse (over a short distance) and far enough to catch low-flying birds.

It was kind of an exciting prospect to be able to possibly witness one of these creepy beings. I avoided going in the water for fear of deadly jelly stings. (I went for a horseback ride and even Rocky, my trusty steed, wouldn’t take a dip — maybe he knows something I don’t!) Every branch brushing against my legs was a Sydney funnel-web spider waiting to intoxicate me.

An interactive display describes the chironex box jellyfish

Alas, the scariest thing I came across was a little baby reef shark on the Great Barrier Reef — and he was so scared of me that he darted away as soon as a I spotted him. But my boyfriend got to see a young saltwater crocodile on Bedarra Island — I wonder where mama croc was?!

happy thanksgiving!

November 25, 2008

Make it an eco turkey day with tips from:

back from oz with little remorse

November 25, 2008

I had an amazing time down under. The people are friendly, the food incredible, and — it’s spring now — so the weather is terrific.

In Sydney, I walked all over. As eco-conscious as the city is (after all, they were the pioneers of Earth Hour), their public transport system is not the greatest — certainly nothing like NYC’s. Sydney’s economy isn’t the greatest right now either (whose is, really?), so they’ve cut funding from their public transport developments. I got an earful from a local about it — he’s none too pleased that he moved to a neighborhood that was meant to be receiving new public transport options, but after he relocated, the city reneged on the deal.

Budget cuts aside, there is a decent bus and train system and a centrally located ferry system that makes it easy to get to various points on the Parramatta River and other parts of Sydney Harbor.

But there’s nothing like walking a city to get to know it. We stayed in Woolloomooloo, with a great view of the skyline. It was a perfect central location away from the really touristy parts, right by the Royal Botanic Gardens, and a short walk to The Rocks (where Sydney’s Western history begins), Darlinghurst, and Kings Cross (a cleaned up red-light-like district).

There are farmers’ markets all over the city (organic and plastic-bag-free), as well as weekend shopping markets where you can get locally made goods (we went to a great one in Paddington). I tried my hardest to buy only Australian-made goods during the entire trip. I was doing really well until the day before we left Sydney for Dunk Island, Queensland.

I was feeling run down, had the sniffles and a sore throat. I’d also been walking around a lot, trying to collect souvenirs for friends and family. I’d walked all the way to Woollahra and then all the way down to The Rocks (about 9km or about 5.6 miles). I wanted to soak in the sights one more time before heading out of the city. I was feeling really tired and vulnerable. I spotted an interesting gift for someone (who shall remain nameless, as will the item!) and the sign said it was Australian. Why then did I ask the merchant if it was made in Australia? I guess I had to be sure. As I place the item on the counter, she says, “It’s designed in Australia, and made in China. But it’s really good quality!” I was weak. I caved. It was the only thing I bought not actually made in Australia. Even the muesli bars I bought at Woolworth’s boasted 100% Australian owned and made.

I thought about returning it, but I was already out of the shop… and hurting for a nap. Maybe I’m a bit neurotic, but I beat myself up a bit for the purchase.

Though by the time I arrived at the tropical confines of Dunk Island, I think I got over it.

simple actions you can take right now

November 25, 2008

[Image: Joel Sartore, National Geographic]

Help build a clean energy future that curbs global warming
By signing a petition from Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

Stop Palin’s wolf killing frenzy
By making a small donation (as little as $5) to Defender’s of Wildlife

Save the wolves of the Rockies from slaughter
By signing a petition from Center for Biological Diversity

Save lots of paper, water, and polluting ink by taking your name off the phonebook delivery list
By registering at Yellow Pages Goes Green

Tell the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act
By signing a petition from UCS (or from Environmental Defense Fund)

Stop the Bush Administration final assault on the environment
By making a donation to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Tell Obama it’s time to repower America
By signing a letter from Environment America

in seclusion

November 21, 2008

Sorry for the lack of posts the last couple of days. I have so much to share I’m bursting at the seams!
I’m up at Dunk Island in Queensland until Sunday and there’s only one computer for the whole island. There’s also no cell phone service. So I’m forced to have a good time. Poor me.

Will be reporting back in a few days with tales of all my adventures.


rain (and trash) down the drain

November 18, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(9:43am Sydney, 5:43pm NYC)

It’s raining here in Sydney, which means that the oceans may be unfit for swimming for the next day or so. Like in other coastal cities (NY, LA), heavy rains wash all the trash from the streets into rain gutters and out to sea. Another reason to give a hoot and not pollute.

more animals!

November 18, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(9:12pm Sydney, 5:12am NYC)

It’s been quite an animal extravaganza for me in Australia. Flying foxes, various exotic birds, baby farm animals, and just yesterday, I got to pet a koala and feed a kangaroo.

As part of an Eco Adventure tour (Dal Myles Tours), I got to visit Featherdale Wildlife Park where they boast one the most diverse private collections of Australian native wildlife. Since I was on a larger tour, I only got to spend an hour at the park. I think I could have spent the entire day.

Here are a few of the animals I saw on my visit. Unfortunately, my memory card or reader is on the fritz so I couldn’t download the rest of the photos, including pics of the Blue Mountains. Hopefully I can get that sorted out when I get home.

Hey fat wombat!

Soft and cuddly… and potentially dangerous

A roo eats out of my hand…

…and holds hands with this woman

Yes, there are penguins in Australia. Africa, too.

Some of the animals on the other memory card: albino wallaby, crocodile, various birds (including a white peacock), and a tasmanian devil. I’ve got to get those pictures!

peacekeeper causemetics discount

November 17, 2008

Katie from PeaceKeeper just sent me this note about a promotion they’re having. Just thought I’d spread the love!

I just wanted to let you and your readers know that right now we’re doing some awesome promotions for the holiday season:
We’re currently offering a 50% discount on our UNIFEM Lip Gloss if you sign your name to UNIFEM’s Petition to End Violence Against Women. Just visit: to find out more.

Additionally, 5% of the retail price or $.80 per unit goes to the UNIFEM Trust Fund To Eliminate Violence Against Women (this is not a promotional thing though, this is something that we have always and will always do with our UNIFEM gloss).

We’re also offering 20% off any of our Custom, Diplomat and Visionary Care Packages!

Purchasing a holiday gift from PeaceKeeper means you’re giving a gift of more than just make up – you’re helping to empower and improve the lives of women around the world!!

Thanks again!
The PeaceKeeper Team

baby farm animals!

November 16, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(11:06pm Sydney, 7:06am NYC)

Yesterday we went to Paddington Market, a nice outdoor shopping market where local artists and designers peddle their wares. Before we left I checked out their website… it mentioned that every second Saturday baby farm animals are brought in for children to pet. Too good to pass up!

Since I’m a big kid at heart, I paid the $5 to enter the mini petting zoo. I got to feed the calf and lambs and pet the goats. Bunnies, a spotted piglet, guinea pigs, ducklings, doves, and chicks were also there to ooh and aah over. All of the animals were from Bowral Farmyard Friends, a service run by Malcolm Dowling that introduces young city kids to farm animals.

Freaking adorable!

MORE pictures to come!!!

protection from the hole in the ozone layer

November 14, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(7:38pm Sydney, 3:38pm NYC)

I like to pack lightly when I travel, meaning what I can’t carry on stays at home (in most cases). So that means I’ve got to comply with TSA regulations and carry a clear quart-sized bag with all of my liquid toiletries each under 3 ounces in volume. I went to Whole Foods with the intention of picking up Badger SPF 30, but it only came in a 4 ounce (unlike the one sold here). But then I spotted California Baby SPF 30 (fragrance free). I had read that it was a safe choice according to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep cosmetic safety database.

The ultimate test for a sunscreen’s effectiveness has to be under Australia’s beaming hot sun. After all, the hole in the ozone layer flirts with the Australian continent.

So here’s what I think about Cali Baby.

A little bit goes a long way. If you use too much, you’ll be white as a ghost. But if you rub it in good, there’s only a subtle whiteness. Zinc oxide is a physical sunblock as opposed to the chemical blocks which have in some instances been shown to be carcinogenic and carry other health risks. (kinda defeats the purpose, no?).

Bottom line: The stuff works. Yesterday I put it on my face and arms and walked around all day. Today I spent a couple of hours at the beach and it’s pretty safe to say my skin was unscathed by the powerful Aussie sun. I definitely didn’t burn and I’m not sure I got much color really. It is a bit greasy, so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyday use, but it’s great for a day at the beach or poolside.

Read more about EWG’s recommendations for safe sunscreens.