Wearable Technology

Image source: FitBit
Photography by Edgar Meritano
Image Source: Jean Baptiste Paris via Flickr

Wearable Technology – either you hate it or you love it!

It’s made significant progress in 2015, but it still has a long way to go.

Have we reached peak wearable technology? According to Mashable, wearable smartwatches still have a way to go before it can replace analogue wristwatches. Chief Industry analyst, Marcel Cohen, at the NPD group believes that even though fashion still has to catch up, 2015 was the year consumers became savvier and believers of wearable technology.

“What we’re seeing in fashion is that no one wants to get behind now that fashion technology is so hot,” Cohen said in an interview with Mashable. “You don’t want to be second in the technology world, which is why we’re seeing gimmicks more than technology”

Consumers want form, function and style when they want to spend money on an investment piece but there is little room within the wearable market, dominated by fitness trackers and smartwatches, for consumers to be able to find items that fit their needs. Smartwatches still look traditionally masculine, with smartwatches targeted at women falling within typical “gender-ascribed” marketing gimmicks. Quite simply smartwatches promise much but nothing specific.

Compared to fitness trackers, smartwatches are failing to capture the female demographic because they are simply over complicated, whereas fitness trackers (which are popular in the female demographic as well) embrace simplicity. Fitbit CEO James Park, in an interview with The Verge, explained that the most common reason for women not wanting to buy a smartwatch is that “they’re very overwhelming; they do too much.”

If smartwatches embraced simplicity and was able to enhance the wearer’s ability to express their personal identity, then smart watches might just have a shot of capturing the female market. Yet this isn’t to say that the wearable technology market is just about smartwatches and fitness trackers. Over the past few years, fashion has started to embrace wearable technology.

OMSignal, the brand behind Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech shirt, recently brought out the OMBra, which aims combines fitness tracking with sports bra.

“If you look at the wearable market since the beginning, it really started with activity trackers, and women were driving that adoption.” OMSignal co-founder and CEO Stephane Marceau said in a Forbes interview.

“Right now it’s about sport, the future is about wellness, but over time it’s about monitoring and preventing heart failure and other health issues. The future of wearable technology is about the disruption of the clothing industry, but its impact on healthcare will be even larger.”

It isn’t just sport companies embracing wearable technology, it’s also airline companies. Recently Easyjet partnered with CuteCircuit to update their uniform. CuteCircuit is internationally well-known with their fashion lines, with Katy Perry wearing CuteCircuit’s clothes in her appearance at American Idol in 2011. Using LED light patterns, or tweets scrolling across bags or mood-coloured skirts, CuteCircuit marries technology and fashion in a symbiotic manner.

Love it or hate it, the wearable technology market is growing and we’ll see leaps and bounds made over the next few years.

Words by Sophia van Gent

The Horrors of Hazelwood

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Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazelwood_Power_Station#/media/File:Hazelwood_Power_Station_seen_from_the_air.jpg
Power Plants /Image Source: http://environmentvictoria.org.au/index.php?q=replacehazelwood
Hazelwood is not a name you associate with horror folklore, however it is the name of one of the world’s most dirtiest, polluting coal fuelled power plants in Victoria, which sadly we rely on at a state and national level for our energy production. This is a true modern day horror tale in light of climate change and the need to produce energy from cleaner and greener sources. We explore the history of Hazelwood, its environmental impacts and the recent mine fire, which caused significant problems for the Government and the local community.

The Hazelwood power station is a brown coal fuelled power station located in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Australia approximately 150km east of Melbourne. Opened in 1971 it is jointly owned by two large energy corporations: GDF SUEZ Australian Energy (72 per cent) and Mitsui & Co Ltd (28%). The power station is fuelled with up to 18 million tonnes of coal each year from the Hazelwood mine. (1) (2). It supplies between 20 and 25 per cent of Victoria’s energy requirements and 5.4 per cent of Australia’s energy demand.  It uses a gigantic 27 billion litres of water a year. That’s almost as much water as the whole of Melbourne uses in a month, which is a valid reflection of the poor environmental record of this plant (3).

Hazelwood was set to be shut by the Victorian Government in 2005, however the mine’s license was renewed until 2030 in what environmentalists rightly called a ‘tragic decision’, allowing access to 43 million tonnes of brown coal deposits in a realignment of Hazelwood’s mining license boundaries (1)(4). The agreement did require Hazelwood to reduce their estimated emissions by 34 million tonnes and cap its total greenhouse output at 445 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life. Investment in renewable energy will allow the mine to operate within its cap and extend its life (1).

Despite this agreement to improve the environmental measures of the mine the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) states Hazelwood is one of the most polluting of all major power stations in industrialised countries. This disastrous result means Australia is directly contributing to climate change through increase greenhouse gas emissions, and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (5).

The mine has continued polluting and damaging our environment since its opening and subsequent license renewal in 2005.  However it came to the forefront of the media and public in February 9, 2014 after a fire occurred in the Hazelwood mine resulting from embers from a nearby bushfire. It burnt for 45 consecutive days sending heavy smoke and ash over surrounding towns in the Latrobe Valley, mainly the township of Morwell with a population of approximately 14,000 (6).  An increased in deaths was reported across the Latrobe Valley during and after the fire with many residents also suffering health concerns with complaints of sore eyes, respiration and breathing problem and headaches.

‘…Hazelwood is one of the most polluting of all major power stations in industrialised countries. This disastrous result means Australia is directly contributing to climate change through increase greenhouse gas emissions, and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere’

An enquiry was launched by the Victorian Government to determine the cause, impacts and recommendations of the fire to prevent such a tragedy occurring again (7). The enquiry has determined there was high chance the mine fire contributed to the increase in deaths and health problems suffered by residents (8).Whilst the cause of the mine fire was due to a nearby bushfire’s embers spreading to the open cut coal mine, the issue is that due to the abundance of coal stores this resulted in the formation of very hazardous smoke and ash adversely effecting residents. Had Hazelwood been a clean energy plant and the same bushfire had fronted the plant, it is likely the damage to the environment and people’s health would have been far less severe.  Sadly, not willing to admit corporate responsibility GDF Mine owner GDF Suez highlighted two words in the enquiry’s report — no “absolute proof” (concerning the link between the fire and the adverse health residents of the Latrobe Valley residents) (9).

Whilst Australia still cannot decide on an emissions trading or carbon capture scheme and the environmental concerns Australia facing seems to be off the political and public agenda for the moment, it sadly appears this heavily polluting plant will retain its license. The government is reluctant to close the plant due to the easily accessed mass reserves of coal for hundreds of years and our reliance on it as an energy source both within Victoria and Australia, as we correctly do obtain a majority of our energy from Hazelwood. And despite too of course the recent public health crisis resulting from the mine fire.

So of course to shut it down means we have to replace it with something else right? Many environmental groups advocate how Hazelwood can be transitioned into a clean, green energy production site. Environment Victoria states within two years using a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency and as a transition gas and fuel we can cut greenhouse gases, create new jobs and shut Hazelwood (3). Many other organisations also support this transition including Alternative Technology Association, Environment Victoria, Friends of the Earth, Moreland Energy Foundation Ltd, Victorian Climate Action Centre and Yarra Climate Action Network (10).

Shutting Hazelwood ultimately makes so much sense from an environmental, economic, social and ethical perspective. It is abhorrent we are operating one of the most polluting power plant in the world in Australia while the rest of the world transitions to greener and cleaner energy. We must keep pressuring and rallying the government to close this antiquated giant and move our energy sources into the progressive 21st century.   

Words by Simon Chitre

Grow Yourself Through Gardening !

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/bridge-japanese-garden-arch-park-53769/
Garden 2
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/vegetables-garden-harvest-organic-790022/
Garden 5
Image source: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/mar/06/community-gardens-melbourne

Gardening is a pleasurable and relaxing activity and is the perfect antidote to our technology filled, stressful lives. There are numerous benefits to the human body, mind and soul and many ways to get involved in gardening in the community as Colosoul explores. 

Gardening is a great activity for the mind, body and soul and to enhance connection with yourself and the earth. In a day and age where most of us are consumed by technology and spend a majority of our time inside soulless and corporatized  buildings and offices, the garden is a juxtaposition of beauty and peace.

Gardening has proven to be relaxing and a great stress buster, with Gillian Aldrich a magazine editor from the U.S describing the feeling, “When you sit at a desk all day, there’s something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that’s really beautiful,” (1) Gardening can also help connect people to their primal state and man’s need to be immersed in nature.  It can also be a form of exercise, particularly for those who have difficulty doing more vigorous exercise, healing and immunity as the outdoors, sun and plants have a positive effect on the body (2).

Gardening can also improve your mental health.  A study in Norway of people diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood and bipolar II disorder made them garden, tending to flowers and vegetables six hours per week. After three months half of the participants had a large improvement in their symptoms.  This has likely come about due to the presence of Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, that boosts the release and metabolism of serotonin in the brain and can boost human immunity (1). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for a verity of physiological and physical functions, but is said to contribute to normal mood balance and reduce the contraction of depression and other mental illnesses (3).

In article quote highlighted due to its prominence. ‘The gardens give public housing tenants access to land that they use to grow their own food and the ability to connect with their culture through the food they grow,…..Although many don’t speak English, they can speak the language of food, cooking and gardening.’ (6).

You don’t have to have a massive backyard or perfectly manicured garden to enjoy the benefits. In fact many people with smaller yard spaces, balconies and apartment dwellers can enjoy the benefits gardening brings. There are many community gardens out there that cultivate a renewed sense of community.  The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network is a great resource linking people interested in city farming, community gardening and community farm systems around Australia. They provide up to date maps of community gardens across Australia and steps for starting a garden (4).

Cultivating Community works with low income and diverse communities to create fair, secure and resilient food systems. They do this through establishing community food gardens for residents to grow food in public housing settings, and undertaking other community food projects (5). Cultivating Community project manager Sharelle Polack, praised public housing gardens asserting, ‘The gardens give public housing tenants access to land that they use to grow their own food and the ability to connect with their culture through the food they grow,…..Although many don’t speak English, they can speak the language of food, cooking and gardening.’ (6).

Veg Out, a community garden in gentrified, trendy St Kilda in Melbourne exemplifies itself as an example for other community gardens and for those wanting to establish a successful garden. It is a financially independent garden on local council land and has over 140 plots where members, friends, families and community groups enjoy getting their hands dirty (6). It has thrived despite being in a commercial/ tourist precinct that has risks of being developed into a commercial project.  The garden includes plots where can grow their own vegetables and herbs, flowers, artwork and animals. The garden is very welcoming to all people, including those with a lack of gardening experience (7).

Words by Simon Chitre