What Ever Happened to Captain Planet?

I remember when my adult kids were knee high to a grasshopper, they used to love watching a TV show called Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

I used to get up early in the mornings and watch it with them, and this was way before I ever turned a shade of green. I believed that it had a great plot every single show, and had a message at the end of the show about how to save energy, or stop pollution or some such eco tip. This series was well ahead of its time, and was created by Ted Turner who founded Cable News Network in the US (CNN). The theme song was catchy, and they are probably showing reruns on the Cartoon Network as I write this! I believe that there was a follow on series called the New Adventures of Captain Planet, but I never saw this on mainstream telly in Australia.

Wikipediea states that the basic plot was “Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, is awakened from a long sleep by human activity destroying the planet. Realizing that the damage is extensive, Gaia creates five magic rings, each with the power to control an element of nature and one controlling the extra element, heart. Gaia sends the rings to five chosen youths across the globe: Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi, and Ma-Ti.”

Then if it got too hard for our heroes, they would summon Captain Planet by pointing their rings skyward and shout out their elemental words. Then, Captain Planet would kick some evil dudes butt, who was stuffing up the environment and sent them packing. My favourite evil dude was Hoggish Greedly, because he looked like a pighuman and was supposed to represent a greedy pig of course.

That’s all well and good, but where is the real Captain Planet now, when we really need him? Gaia is calling out for him and screaming at us, and all we seem to do is keep polluting our one and only home as business as usual.

If you subscribe to James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory, we are already doomed, for the the collapse of civilisation is nigh. He believes that runaway global warming has already begun and we are helpless to stop it and sea levels will rise regardless of what we do in the next 10-30 years. I personally do not hold faith in his doom and gloom scenario, but I do accept his Gaia Theory which states that Gaia is;

“a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet. ”

So, if James Lovelock’s Theory is correct and there is a Gaia, where is Captain Planet? Was he Al Gore in disguise and is still at work with his WE Campaign. I watched the 27 minute version of his speech to the american people and was moved. How can only approx 300 million of the worlds population burn 25% of the world fossil fuels and keep doing it without true leadership from the top. Even if Al and Tipper have a whopping great mansion that they live in, at least he is trying to spread the message, a bit like Gaia needs, and I can see him dressed as Captain Planet!

Or is Captain Planet the collective of average citizens of the world, who are yet to get off of our collective arses and stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution? When did the messages that were so clearly directed at the kids who watched that show so many years ago get forgotten?

The answers were all so clear in that simple kids show, and not many of us in the world listened to it. How sad it makes me to think of the good times I had with my kids watching our weekly viewing, and even I missed the message that was loud and clear until my epiphany, two years ago. I feel like I should be slapped in the face with a big smelly fish for not listening, just like in a Monty Python skit. Hindsight is a wonderful but useless power that we humans posses.

If only……. listen to the lyrics)


Solar Is The New Sexy

Call me crazy, but I think that solar panels are a thing of beauty. That is especially on a brilliant sunny winters day like today.

I often stand and stare at the 16 panels that are mounted on my carport roof (the above photo was taken about a week after the installation by my daughter), and admire the technological brilliance and the manufacturing effort that went into making them. My solar installer, Energy Matters, imported them from Japan, as they were made by Sharp and not made in China like a lot of panels these days (it said made in Japan on the boxes they came in). The panels must have been made in a massive factory, hopefully powered by the very same modules that they manufacture, but do you think I could find a video of how they are made in said factory. The answer, alas, is no. However, I did find this cute little video on youtube that demonstrates how a small factory in the US makes solar panels from imported solar cells.

Six panels a day, can you believe it. I suppose when these things sell between $1200-$2000 each for the high wattage type, they would make enough profit to be viable.

Which leads me to another twist on the subject. I was contacted by the Alternate Technology Association the other day, of which I am a member, and was asked if I would like to participate in a survey. I jumped at the chance to share my experience.

A nice gent called Bob Johnstone gave me a call on Saturday morning, and we when through the list of questions. Here standard questions direct from the initial email. My responses are in blue.

The case studies will look into:

– motivation for installing solar system

Purely environmental, I wanted to make my house carbon neutral or as close as we could.

– the obstacles to installation (cost, information, location)

The information was all out there on the Internet, you just had to look for it. The $8000 PV rebate from the government helped, but I had planned the installation before the rebate was doubled in the May 2007 budget. I secured a loan at a slightly reduced rate for the installation.

– how household electricity consumption has changed since installation

Well, we have now generated 3.6 Megawatts of power since installation in September 2007. I believe that we export between 80-90% of the energy to the grid each day. We draw back from the grid during the night and are signed up with Origin Energy 100% GreenPower.

– how the feed-in tariff legislation affected plans to install

Firstly it made me angry because my system is rated at 2.8kW and the tariff in Victoria is capped at 2kW, so basically I won’t see a cent from the legislation. Once again it was not my motivation whatsoever for the installation.

– how the tariff impacted solar homes who installed systems before the introduction of the legislation

Don’t think Bob asked this question?

– what govt. incentive homeowners need to install more solar

I believe that the legislation needs to be changed from a net metering scheme to a gross feed in scheme, and remove the cap. That would drive installations through the roof, very similar to schemes in Germany, Spain and some US states. I also believe that the State Government needs to stop kowtowing to the Coal industry and Power companies.

– future plans for solar installation, in light of tariff (additional panels, disconnection, saving for future)

I have been told by my installer that I have room for 6 more panels on my system and that my grid-connect inverter could handle the extra wattage, so further down the track I may add extra to the system. However, I have found that as my kids begin to leave home, the energy consumption in our home reduces, so by the time the adult kids leave home, we might not need any extra wattage. We had a quick discussion on how to encourage adult children to leave home, and had a laugh about it!

– future plans for solar installation irrespective of tariff

None as yet, but I have hear on the grapevine that people are actually thinking about reducing their systems Kilowatt rating so that they come under the tariff cap. The state government are supposed to be promoting renewable energy, but obviously have their heads so far up the power and coal companies bums that they are scared to be bold and have the courage to make Victoria a world leader in renewable energy. I have been keeping an eye on a simple stand alone wind energy system, and am hoping that they will come down in price. That way I will have some power if I loose connection to the grid. Or I could simply modify my existing system but don’t have the funds for either at the moment.

Bob then thanked me for my participation, and I thanked him for allowing me to participate and have my say, and hoped that the information was useful.

I felt pretty good after the interview, which inspired me to write this post. Hope you enjoyed it.

Recycled Crafty Cards

I do not like throwing away old birthday cards etc, as they are very expensive to buy in the first place. I think its such a waste, so I have been hoarding them for many years, especially my sons birthday cards since his first birthday. It wasn’t until I told a girlfriend the other week that I had to sort through Ben’s boxes, which I keep all of the cute baby mementos in. I realized just how many cards I had collected over the years and I wondered what was I really keeping them for. Did I honestly think that Ben was going to look at them when he was older and think, Oh wow birthday cards !!!!! I think not, so I went through them all, kept really special ones from the family and put the rest of them aside so that I could have think about what to do with them.

I do make my own cards occasionally as I do not like paying between $5 – $12 for a good card knowing that it will probably end up in the bin after a couple of weeks. There are other cards available at about $2 at discount shops but they are not very good. There are lots of accessories you can purchase to make your own cards with, but these can be pricey too and may end up costing more than a bought card in the first place. The popular cards at the moment are the 3D cards, but these too cost a bit of money. I then thought of a good way to re-use those old cards that I was going to throw away.

When I make my cards I do use good quality card which I buy on eBay. This is heaps cheaper than the shops and you can usually get a good choice of colours . I buy my card from ebay from the “papercouple” (their eBay user name). They have an online ebay shop and you can also get matching envelopes if you want to buy these too. You can usually purchase a pack of metallic card for about $13.20 for 20 sheets and matching envelopes for $12.80 for 20. Total costs including postage is $31.30, which may sound slightly high, but when you consider that this will make 20 cards 0r 40, if you make smaller ones. Then you are beginning to save money, 20 expensive cards from a card shop would be approximately $120 and that’s an average price of $6 each. Usually they are a lot more expensive than that.

Here is how I go about making my own. Sort through all your cards to find appropriate pictures for whoever you are making the cards for. I chose the following two:

Look at the card and decide what parts of the card you want to use, patterns, writing etc and cut out with a good pair of sharp scissors. It can be a bit fiddly so try to choose easy designs to start with. Place all the bits together and recycle the rest. Arrange the pieces on the card and decide where you would like them to be glued.

My son had a container of 3D foam stickers which he doesn’t use anymore. They cost a few dollars from a discount shop and they make great mounting stickers, so just cut into little squares and shapes. Turn all your pieces over and cut out different shapes to place on the back of the pieces you have cut out and make sure that the foam stickers are placed evenly over the surface. Make sure that all of the cut out pictures are supported because if there are fiddly bits, it will make them stronger. Also take care that the stickers are not overhanging the edges so that they cannot be seen from the front side. Here is an example below.

These stickers are only adhesive on one side so you will have to use a glue stick to attach them to the card.Rub the glue over the foam pieces and then stick them to the card, then place some heavy books or magazines on top so that the glue dries evenly. If you choose, you can place a contrasting piece of paper as an insert to write on but this is optional. Here are the final cards completed.

Hope you have fun making your own and that the instructions make sense. If you get stuck please ask for advice via a comment.