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Showing posts with the label environment

Better sandcastles: the angle of repose

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My story, The Empty Quarter was inspired by the concept of the angle of repose. The angle of repose is a kind of tipping point. It's the highest slope that the pile can form without becoming unstable and beginning to slide, a point of balance. It's the reason why wet sand makes better sandcastles than dry sand — it has a much higher angle of repose. Image: Sandcastle, Dover Castle (cropped), Gaius Cornelius via Wikimedia, Creative Commons licence   Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International  ] [Read more about the science at  Wikipedia  ] What if one of the contaminants in sand was an alien species? What if, as a result, the sand dunes towered upwards at angles impossible back on Earth? In my story, the steep dunes cause an accident which is a turning point, a tipping point, for the people involved. Just like the angle of repose is a tipping point. But there's a second tipping point in my story, not for individuals but for the culture of the human colonists on my

The Empty Quarter (a short story)

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A science fiction short story about personal and ecological loss. What if your colony's glorious history was a lie? Two young surveyors travel into the desert dunes. It's been 500 hundred years since human colonists terraformed their planet. No signs of alien life have surfaced in all that time. But now, a tragic accident in the sands uncovers a long-buried secret. The early settlers lied, and the future is changed forever. A 2200 word short story. First published in 2018 in the Australian science fiction and fantasy magazine  Aurealis edition 115 , edited by Dirk Strasser. Newly published as an ebook.  BUY ebook   

Reading journal: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2017 Date read: June 2018 A story of a future Australia where the inland is in permanent drought and the inhabitants have been forcefully relocated or herded into camps. But there are hold-outs, people who hide from the Creeps and eke out a precarious living. The story begins with a football match against a passing First People caravan, and the return of Bill’s friend Tobe from his wanderings. Bill and Tobe are close, and share a tragic past. Bill’s loyalty is tested when Tobe insists on an exploratory trip into the badlands, but he follows Tobe faithfully, even when they must abandon their bolthole, only to be betrayed in the end. (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler). This is an interesting book. I enjoyed it as a writer, seeing how Walter has varied the pace to create atmosphere. The structure of the book is interesting too, a classic story structure with a strong inciting incident which I didn’t identify until the very end, even tho

Reading journal: Sponge City: Water resource management by ICI Consultants and Sophie Barbaux

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2015 Date read: March 2018 I’m a real sucker for luscious illustrated books on landscape design, and I feasted on this one for days. The book explores new ways to manage urban water. Instead of trying to get rid of water as quickly as possible through underwater drains, this book shows how many cities and towns in France have instead brought the water back into the landscape with ponds, swales, ditches and overflow ponds. Flood waters are allowed to spread naturally and sink into the sponge as part of the water management system, rather than be seen as a problem. Descriptive text is provided in French and English. I didn’t understand the importance of this idea until I saw a television program about climate change in Europe. Over the next fifty years, cities are planning for record floods as ice and snow cover and glaciers disappear. Too much water is an imminent threat. From an Australian perspective, we are worrying more about extended heat

Book review: Running Down: Water in a changing land by Mary E White

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2000 Date read: March 2018 This book explores the evolution of Australia’s river systems and how they have changed since European settlement. The book is packed full of wonderful photographs, maps, diagrams, and anecdotes, and a sobering message. White doesn’t paint a very optimistic picture. Our farming practices have created immense damage that most of us are not even aware of, since what we see now is what we assume was always there. There’s a truly awful story told by an old farmer from the Riverina. He describes how, on the advice of the Department of Agriculture of the time, they kept their land plowed and fallow. One heavy storm later, and most of their topsoil flowed into local rivers and creeks, filling them to the brim with mud and killing all the fish and other wildlife within. None of those rivers or creeks ever recovered to their previous condition, and neither did the farms. A tragedy. Publication of this book was sponsored by a g

Reading journal: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2014 Read: March 2018 This book is subtitled “Black seeds: agriculture or accident?” Pascoe’s short and readable book summarises the output of a range of primary and secondary sources that examined the economy of Indigenous people in Australia before European settlement destroyed that economy forever. Most convincing are the quotes and illustrations from the diaries and reports of early inland explorers, describing flourishing grain production and harvesting, robust houses, fishtraps on rivers, smoking fish and other meats for preservation, yam planting and harvesting, maintenance and protection of wells and the use of fire to maintain the environment in a useful grassy state. All these methods of making a living from Australia’s intermittent rivers and thin infertile soils were gone within a few years of the arrival of European stock animals and crops, and the environmental degradation continues. Pascoe argues that it is the Europeans who w