This Burr has some soft tips, prickly spikes, an oddity here and there, and some speechless wonder.


Count the spikes:  500 million farmers can’t be wrong

La Via Campesina,  an international peasant’s movement is visiting Australia, and Robert Pekin the founder of Brisbane’s Food Connect Foundation has organised some farmers to meet them on 27 and 28 June to discover what’ behind this phenomenal farmer organisation, which has 500 million members worldwide.

Pekin says in his invitation to farmers to fill the 20 places reserved for them that, “For the last 60 years or so Australian Farmers have been asked to do more with less and less.”

“The cost-price squeeze experienced by Australian farmers over the last six decades has meant that Australian farmers today have to ‘produce more than four times the volume to earn, in real terms, only just over half of what they had done in 1951-52’.” (1)

(Did you know that on average three Australian farmers suicide each week?)

Burr’s inspired by the gig and wishes he could be in Brisbane for it.  Pekin says, “A group of eight woman speakers from the heartland of Australian agriculture will give us their perspective of where things are at, the challenges they are facing, the inspiring things they are doing and what their aspirations are.”

Register  your expression of interest here.  For more info click here

Soft Tip: water your garden when it rains
Most rain except for a few times a year isn’t enough for plants; top up what they need to get from the sky by diverting your rain from your downpipe by a diverter hooked up to a hose.  I use the Barloch to do this: – about $30 and easy to install yourself even if you’re no handyperson; the higher you insert it into your downpipe the further and higher uphill you can run it in your hose.

Prickly spike:  Where’s the energy coming from?
If Australia’s power stations can barely meet growing demand for electricity where will the electricity come from to supply a few million electric cars?  Did you know Sydney folk drove over 42 billion kilometers in 2005 compared to 30 billion kilometers in 1989?  Do we give all our hope to well-meant distractions such as electric cars, star rating schemes, insulation, energy efficiency rules?  Or do we accept that we can run but we can’t hide from the ouchy truth –  there’s no substitute for oil and the cars and trucks and planes which depend on it. The only “substitute” is walking or riding bikes.

Speechless Burr:

What takes up over 27  per cent of the land area of our cities, makes them hotter than climate change, melts bike tires, causes more deaths from heat than bush fires and gives a free kick to every one of Australia’s 432 local councils, several thousand government agencies and is completely unregulated by the dozens of government “sustainability” agencies, Australian Standards, star rating schemes and drives up electricity use more than building design?

(Phew.  What would a Burr sound like when it was wordy?)

Answer: our black, needlessly hot, irresponsibly designed and maintained roads.

Who gets this?

Trees, pedestrians
o    The Bureau of Meteorology:
o    Doctors and sports folk:
o    Japanese researchers and some US building and design folk; for example: “This year, an important finding, based on the work of Haider Taha, has been that a program of extensive tree planting and the use of high-albedo (or highly reflective) [2] materials on the roofs of houses and buildings and in the makeup of roadways could improve air quality in Los Angeles more than removing all automobiles from the road.’ Buildings and Their Environment

Who don’t get it?

  • Star rating folk; check any rating scheme – they’re all blank about cool roads
  • Engineers; cool roads are not taught in road design courses
  • 99 out of 100 greenies, “sustainability” experts, “planners”, “architects”, building hairdressers and Those Marching In Step
  • Building and facilities “managers” who think their brief ends with the building as though it’s not surrounded by air heated up by roads
  • Standards Australia, streetlight and lighting engineers: the National Appliance and Equipment Energy Efficiency Program has developed a Minimum Energy Performance Standard for main roads lighting to reduce greenhouse emissions. One recommendation is that this be included in the road lighting standard (AS1158) and that these limits be enforced by local councils and electricity companies. The scope of this MEPS does not include Category P (pedestrian lighting) which is made up of non main roads. Category P makes up an estimated seventy percent of all street lighting (NAEEEP, 2005).  The Program, however, is not recognised by the road design standards used by Australian government road agencies and is not in their standards. (3)

Roads already heat up our cities by six or more degrees – to temperatures which climate change is predicted to double this century. If we can’t fix roads we can’t fix climate change.

Burr is amazed at how much human energy we waste on talk, red tape, dithering and pretending we can keep using cars and roads that make our cities hotter by up to six or more degrees through summer.

Imagine if we did something useful with most of our energy, like walking, gardening, growing some of our food and talking to farmers and buying from them instead of demeaning ourselves in intensive feed lot supermarket aisles.


(1) Ted Henzell: Australian Agriculture: Its History and Its Challenges, CSIRO, 2007
and see;

(2)  “High albedo” highly reflective.

(3) National Appliance and Equipment Energy Efficiency Program (NAEEEP), 2005, Minimum Energy Performance Standards: Design Energy Limits for Main Roads Lighting,
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts;

The Bathurst Burr – A burr under the saddle of government, red tape and sustainability police NOTE: Xanthium spinosum Linnaeus, originated in South America (probably Argentina), and has been declared a noxious weed in all States. Infestations occur frequently along water courses. It is rarely grazed by livestock because of the long spines. The burrs are one of the most common contaminants of wool. The burrs attach to the coats of animals and to other fibrous material by their hooked spines. – from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Information Notes

Michael Mobbs is a sustainability coach who works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy.