Diggings 25 February 2022

Easter approaching I have been doing research into Lenten food recipes in Australian newspapers and magazines. This is the first advertisement for the Lenten recipe book of the prolific Harriet Wicken that I have come across.

A bumper issue kicking off with a story about an experiment I am avid to know the results of; an excellent piece of research into evidence of the stewardship of the land by Indigenous peoples through fire; an interesting piece on the whiteness of supermarkets; and the predictable huffing and puffing of The Nationals re plant-based products; and more for your delectation.

Fresh from the ISS: how a group of high school students is leading an experiment on space-made yoghurt

‘Yoghurt is made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The lactic acid produced in this process acts on the milk’s proteins to create yoghurt’s signature tart taste and thick texture. We wanted to see how this process is affected in the space environment. Our student-led experiment is investigating whether different probiotic strains of bacteria can be used to make yoghurt directly in space. The ideal outcome would be to show that healthy, living bacteria cultures can be generated from frozen bacteria and milk products sent to space. This has not yet been achieved, although yoghurt has been made using bacteria returned from space previously.’


 Food Sovereignty Must Put First Peoples First

Amongst other things, AFSA is asking how to ‘stay with the trouble’ (Haraway 2016) and work to achieve both Indigenous sovereignty and food sovereignty for everyone, and how to use a relational ethic in a meaningful and grounded way to get there. That is, we are working with farmers and allies who are embracing and espousing a custodial ethic to understand how they are currently, or may be able to extend their care for land to care for its Original Owners, bringing settler descendants full circle to find ways and means of restitution of land and rights to First Peoples.


Monastic land at New Norcia bought by Andrew Forrest has an extraordinary Stolen Generations history

The documents, obtained by the ABC with assistance from the State Records office, show Mr Forrest’s new landholding, which will be added to his growing beef cattle empire, includes part of what used to be called Reserve no 944. The 13,000 acres were set aside “under exceptional conditions” in 1886 and leased to pioneering Benedictine monk Rosendo Salvado as part of his mission to encourage local Aboriginal people to become farmers of their land.


World-first research confirms Australia’s forests became catastrophic fire risk after British invasion

Contemporary approaches to forest management in Australia are based on suppression – extinguishing bushfires once they’ve started, or seeking to prevent them through hazard-reduction burning. This differs from the approach of Indigenous Australians who’ve developed sophisticated relationships with fire over tens of thousands of years. They minimise bushfire risk through frequent low-intensity burning – in contrast to the current scenario of random, high-intensity fires.


Climate change is warping our fresh water cycle – and much faster than we thought

If our water cycle is getting more intense at a faster rate, that means stronger and more frequent extreme droughts and rainfall events. Even if the world’s governments meet their target and keep global warming to a ceiling of 2℃, the IPCC predicts we would still endure extreme events an average of 14% stronger relative to a baseline period of 1850-1900. Some people and ecosystems will be hit harder than others, as the IPCC report last year made clear. For example, Mediterranean nations, south-west and south-east Australia, and central America will all become drier, while monsoon regions and the poles will become wetter (or snowier).


Australia is creating an underclass of exploited farm workers, unable to speak up

There are currently about 95,000 asylum seekers in Australia, about 30,000 of whom have had asylum refused at both the initial and by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal stage and are not legally able to work. Many work on farms, including those not legally able to.

A retired teacher in Mildura recently contacted me to talk about how appallingly they are being treated and how they live in the shadows to avoid the authorities. They can never complain about their treatment and have to accept whatever work they can get under whatever conditions as those who have been refused asylum have no legal right to work.


Revising whiteness in aisle five

When I first moved to Footscray I shopped more at Little Saigon and I remember that year when the Coles/Kmart complex was closed, I was really determined that I wouldn’t drift back. But of course I did, and actually Covid makes me reluctant to go to a bunch of different shops when I can just get everything at once. It’s wild to me that you can now get multiple kinds of Laoganma at Coles. You know I hate ‘representation’ and think it’s cursed but it’s interesting to note that there’s more Asian representation in the supermarket aisle than any other mainstream Australian institution. I still remember when Coles and Safeway didn’t really sell any Chinese food and we had to drive to one of the designated Asian suburbs just to get Chinkiang vinegar. Where did you remember shopping as a kid?


Rates of anaphylaxis appeared to slow after change in feeding guidance: study

The rapid rise in children being admitted to hospital for severe allergic reactions in the 2000s slowed when parents were advised to stop avoiding foods such as nuts, eggs and milk. While anaphylaxis admissions in Australian children aged one to four rose an average of 17.6 per cent a year between 1999 and 2007, a new analysis has shown how rates stabilised when advice about feeding babies changed.


Senate ‘fake meat’ inquiry recommends overhaul of plant-based protein labelling laws

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who was a member of the inquiry, issued a dissenting report that rejected all but two of the recommendations and questioned the inquiry’s “validity as an appropriate use of public service time, resource and money”. “Trumpian-like in their endeavour, the Nationals have delivered an analysis of this inquiry with the eloquence and intellectual vacuity of John Belushi yelling ‘food fight’ in Animal House,” he wrote. “Throughout the course of the inquiry, no reliable quantitative evidence was presented that demonstrates a systemic problem with the current labelling of plant-based products.” The Alternative Proteins Council had argued the inquiry was framed in a way that stoked a false narrative that emerging protein sectors in Australia were impairing conventional protein sectors based on branding.


Releasing a virus against rabbits is effective, but can make them immune if let loose at the wrong time

But our new research finds around three quarters of land managers who reported releasing the biocontrol don’t follow the recommended guidelines, and release it during the peak rabbit breeding period. This potentially leads to the population actually increasing as young rabbits build an immunity to the virus. It’s highly likely this widespread inappropriate use has substantial environmental and economic consequences. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus must be released strategically with caution, or the good intentions of land managers may have terrible outcomes.


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