Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


All rivers run to the sea

“Where does the water in the drains go to mum?” asked my youngest boy one day. It was raining, and he was watching the water run down the channels on the side of the road.  We were on our way to school when he came up with that question, so we had a brief conversation about the difference between stormwater and household waste water, and how the water that ran down the drains on the road went into the storm water system and straight into the streams and sea.

I showed him the stormwater catchpit at his school, which has a great plaque next to it:

Stormwater sump

It also gave me an opportunity to teach him how it important it was that rubbish and chemical pollution didn’t get washed into those drains, because it all ended up in the sea, polluting it and killing and harming aquatic life.

Remembering this conversation prompted me to look at exploring another way to give back to the sea:  by ensuring that our water is as clean as possible before it gets to the sea.  It’s true that not every river runs to the sea, but the vast majority of them do.

Here are just a few of the simple things that can be done to sustain the sea.  I thought I’d share them here because I didn’t know about some of these until recently, and others I thought didn’t make much difference until I tried, and then saw how much it was needed.

  • Don’t wash detergents (eg car or driveway washing) or pour chemicals down stormwater inlets. The detergents and/or chemicals will wash down the drain and straight into the streams and sea, where they will kill both freshwater and marine life.  Instead, take your car to a car wash where the water can go to a treatment plant, and take unwanted chemicals to safe disposal centres.
  • Pick up that discarded can, plastic bag or plastic bottle sitting in the gutter (quite problematic on rubbish collection days around here), and put it in the rubbish.  It will stop it from being washed into the stormwater system and onwards to the sea.  I am so thankful that we don’t have the situation here like in Hong Kong for example, where swimming in the sea meant the unavoidable experience of plastic bags brushing against your legs like a swarm of jellyfish.
  • Engage in a beach cleaning day.  I am always surprised at how many bags of rubbish get picked up, even from beaches that look clean.  The less junk in the sea, the less potential to harm marine life and leach pollution.
  • Plant more plants and have less non-porous surfaces (eg. concrete) around the home.  This acts as a natural ‘sink’ to prevent excess pollutants entering the storm water system during heavy rain.

Ultimately, everything we do ends up affecting the health of the sea (read on below to see why I say this).  If we can help to nurture the sea from the land, that would be something wouldn’t it?

Here are a couple of links to more information:

Natural Resources Defence Council – Water

Preventing Water Pollution from your home

As I delved into this topic, I also learned of a new thing I hadn’t been aware of until this week:  Ocean acidification.  Why is it important?  I urge you to watch this short video. To put it lightly, the message is critical.  I feel very concerned that I hadn’t known about this before.  Why aren’t there more news articles about this?

Then questions started to form in my head.  How can the ocean become acidic? Isn’t it alkaline given it’s salty?  And how does the addition of carbon dioxide to sea water make acid?  Fortunately, I found all the answers: here and here and here are a few links to helpful information if you want to read them (just google ‘ocean acidification’ and you’ll find more).

The essential points are that the ocean absorbs a huge amount of the carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere (between 25 – 50% depending on the sources you read).  We used to think this was a good thing, until scientists recently realised that when carbon dioxide dissolves into sea water, it forms carbonic acid, locking up calcium that is needed by marine life to form their shells.  This chemical reaction also lowers the pH balance of the sea, which is now 30% less alkaline than it should be (hence, acidification).  The more acidic sea water is already starting to dissolve the shells of sea creatures and prevent their effective reproduction as the lower pH damages and kills the young.  If we think of all the marine life that has a shell – from coral, to the tiniest plankton and krill (that form the essential food base of so many fish and sea mammals), to the crabs, oysters and shellfish that we all like to eat, the implications to the food chain and balance of life in the ocean are immense. Predictions are that in 40 years, the sea could have become so acidic that coral reefs will cease to exist and mass extinctions will occur.

Don’t we have a solution? I wondered.  Indeed, there is – use less fossil fuels, as we all know.  I also read some interesting research that indicates that fish play an important part in the re-calcification of the sea.  Apparently, all bony fish excrete calcium carbonate pellets as a by-product of “drinking” sea water.  When excreted, these calcium carbonate pellets dissolve, putting calcium back in the sea.  This is yet another reason why we should be leaving more fish in the sea.

Indeed, all “rivers” run to the sea, and I am ever more convinced, as I delve into how we can sustain the sea, that it is critical to do more than we ever have thought necessary to do.

Watch out for the Tidal hat tomorrow.

Tidal hat



Giving back.

Today, I am proud to announce the launch of a free pattern collection called “Sustain the Sea”.

Sustain the Sea

I have been thinking hard about how I can meaningfully support faster change in the direction of truly sustainable fishing.

You remember how I got very upset over reading the article on the state of the ocean?  

The level of upset has increased now that I have been doing a bit of reading to understand more.  It has motivated me to need to do more than just not buy seafood.

I spent ages writing and rewriting this post about the motivations behind this collection, but in the end, I decided that it would get too bogged down in detail and probably end up sounding  ‘preachy’ if I tried to explain too much in this one post.  How does one tell the story of the entire ocean in one post?  It’s not possible.

So I’m going to tell you one fact which I have learned now, and leave it at that for the time being:

85% of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished to full capacity

– The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  Read the full report here.

And I’ll let the collection tell more of the story of the sea as I release the patterns over the next few weeks and months.

I could of course, have left things at financially supporting organisations such as Greenpeace, Forest & Bird, the World Wildlife Fund, Australian Marine Conservation Society and many other similar organisations who do good work in pointing out just how much is broken and encouraging change in the right direction.  I do actually already sponsor one of those organisations, just in case you are wondering.

However, I believe it’s no longer enough to pay some money, think you’ve done your bit, and continue life as normal.  I think the facts show that this is not enough.

This pattern collection is something tangible that I can do for the sea.  It’s a way of inviting knitters to join me:  by knitting the free patterns, and in so doing learning more about the health of our oceans, it may provide food for thought towards what an individual can do in a meaningful way to contribute to the health of the sea and truly sustainable ways of harvesting from it.

Why will my patterns be free?  This is a grassroots movement.  The patterns have been designed to aid to individual empowerment.  I do not wish to financially benefit from, nor necessarily align this campaign to any one organisation.  Asking for money also prevents those who might not/cannot pay for the pattern from using it and missing out on an opportunity for involvement.

By making my patterns free, the energy generated from this pattern will go to where it is meant to go – individuals doing something demonstrable to show support for responsible and sustainable fishing; encouraging individuals to think about and hopefully causing some personal action to begin pushing the fishing industry faster in the right direction through their informed shopping choices.  It’s not just about New Zealand, and I encourage you to find out more about fishing issues in your area.   It was heartening to read the comments from my last post about this issue, so my patterns are my gift to you to use as your personal tool for promoting change if you so wish.  

I hope that over time, by the process of contributing to enhanced awareness of the issues that are already being pointed out by experts, my gift to the Sea will be that more people care, and by caring, do something to sustain the sea, from which so much good comes.  More information about this will be provided in each pattern release.

I believe it’s up to all of us, every single one, to use the power of our wallets, minds and actions to promote change and actively demand sustainability and responsibility towards the sea.  Ultimately, it is the compounded effect of thousands of individual voices and actions that end up producing the most powerful result.

The first pattern from this collection will be launched tomorrow.  Watch out for the Orange Roughy Mitts!

Orange roughy mitts


Are you WALing too?

Have you noticed the new image on my sidebar?

Yes, it’s November!  And that means it’s Wovember!

This year, Wovember organisers have come up with a new way that knitters can participate in promoting pure wool: the WAL.

It’s simple:  in short, simply knit a project in 100% wool during Wovember, notify the organisers on 15 November and send them a pic of your finished project on 30 November! (have a look at the link I’ve given above for full details)

Pure wool is so versatile…

More Lillia Hyrna




Pure wool

As you can guess, I already have mine – the Shepherd Hoodie strikes me as an extremely Wovemberish project.  Plus, we’re allowed to include a project that we have already started!

So what are you waiting for?  I bet you have a 100% wool WIP project tucked into your basket somewhere… why not finish it during November and send in your photo?

It will be a fantastic tribute to, and showcase of pure wool to see all those amazing projects.


The ocean is broken

I decided today that to do my bit for this planet, and leave something for future generations, I must no longer eat fish.

Why?  Because of this:

It’s a heart-breaking read.

It’s not just because of this article.  I’ve long been worried about wasteful fishing methods, and hoped, in the past, that the supposedly increasing focus on sustainability would eventually fix things, but I’ve lost faith in that.

It’s time for all of us to act, the little people.  To stand up for what we care for and a future for our children.

New fishing methods are being developed that will help to reduce by-catch.  This is a good start, but I think we need to do more than that.  Marine farming?  Even those methods need to improve, but it’s still better than ravaging our natural resources.

In the meantime, I can think of no louder statement than to say I will no longer buy fish until I see the planet’s marine resources replenishing.


Time to speak

Today I’d like to talk about an issue that affects New Zealand parents in particular. As regular readers know, I don’t usually use this blog to talk about social issues (it usually raises comments I would rather not have to deal with).  However, this is a critical matter that needs your attention, so today it’s time to speak.

Working parents with school age children in New Zealand will know about OSCAR (Out of School Care and Recreation) programmes.  OSCAR programmes are often  partially funded by the Ministry of Social Development with the aim of providing support to low and middle income parents needing to put their children in care outside of school hours.

This funding is now under review.  I understand that the broad effect of proposed funding cuts is that parents may soon be forced either to a) pay up to $90 a day for their children to attend school holiday programmes that no longer qualify for funding, or b) put their children in very large programmes (of up to 100 children each) that continue to qualify for funding.

According to the copy of the provider consultation document I have seen, “… the current ‘deficit based’ grant funding system does not encourage programmes to operate sustainably, and has supported some very small or inefficiently run programmes that are uneconomic to run. It has also led to inconsistent grant levels between programmes of the same size and type.

In addition, the current funding system does not allow the Government to direct future service growth, to align with priorities around welfare reform and vulnerable children.”

These are noble sentiments, and there probably is some waste in the system that can be addressed.  Except that I do not believe proper process or consultation of the community has gone into making the proposals that have ensued from this ‘consultation’ with providers.  (Did any of the providers think it of benefit to consult the main stakeholders that provide funding to them – parents?)

The paper goes on to say:

“The Minister set some objectives for a new grant funding system:

  • services are available to support parents leaving benefit to go into work, and to stay in work: There will be a network of OSCAR services in the places where parents need them
  • OSCAR is affordable and sufficiently flexible for communities where parents are least able to pay for out of school services: Services will be affordable for low and middle income parents so that the cost of OSCAR does not impose a barrier to work. Higher income parents will be expected to pay the full cost of OSCAR.
  • OSCAR offers accessible services: OSCAR services will include those that offer care during non-standard hours, weekends, or that cater for parents with children with special needs, or of mixed ages
  • child safety is paramount: Services will be approved and will maintain standards that protect children.”

It goes on to say:

“The core components of the proposed grant funding system are:

  1. annual base grant funding according to child numbers – providers no longer have to prove they are running at a deficit, and funding is linked consistently and accurately to the number of children at each service
  2. annual top-up grant and one-off targeted establishment grant – only available for sites in priority areas, where additional financial support is required to maintain an OSCAR presence
  3. minimum child numbers required to receive ongoing base grant funding, to support viable and sustainable services.”

This is very interesting.  From what I am able to deduce from the document, this means that funding will be based entirely on where a person lives and will have nothing to do with their actual economic situation.  That services will continue to be provided means that there will be a programme available, it will just have to be a large one, unless you live in a “highly deprived” or “isolated area” (see document for the list – link provided in next paragraph).

Anyway, this is the basic gist of the paper.  You can read it yourself if you wish on the Ministry of Social Development’s website here.

The reason I am raising it is that I am concerned that a rug is being pulled out from under the feet of many, many parents in New Zealand, and the Ministry of Social Development does not fully understand the implications of what it is about to do and the very severe economic and social impact this will have on families who are already struggling to survive.

This is a blanket approach (that providers will qualify for funding based solely on numbers of children that attend their institution or where they are based) and does nothing to consider the needs of the community.  For instance, what of the children who cannot cope with being forced to spend 8 hours a day for 10 weeks of the year cooped in an echoey, noisy hall full of 100 other children, some of whom are not overly socially developed?  This is not done in schools for a very good reason.  What will it do to the future mental health of our children?  Is this anyone’s idea of fun??

When do large numbers of children in one place ever constitute a safe environment?

What will happen to families who will be forced to travel outside of their school zones (perhaps even a half an hour drive away or an hour on public transport if it’s available) to take their children to a holiday programme that is affordable for them?

In setting out to perform these cuts, I believe the Ministry has failed in its primary objective for OSCAR funding:  They do not meet the needs of the community (“one size fits all” does not work).  They especially do not guarantee child safety.

This is a deplorable state that can only be attributed to a one-sided view of the holiday programmes – that of how to make it ‘cost less’ and not what the programmes are there for in the first place.

If you take advantage of OSCAR school holiday programmes and out of school care providers, I urge you to talk to them to find out what will be happening in your area.  The deadline for feedback is 15 February 2013.  You might even want to consider writing to the Ministry of Social Development.

I have already given them my feedback.


Support Wovember

You may have already noticed the “Wovember” button on my sidebar.  Many of you will already know what it’s about.

I thought I would make sure that as many people as possible knew about it though by doing a post as well.

Wovember is the initiative of Kate Davies (of the fabulous blog Needled) and Felicity Ford, who are putting together a petition to bring about changes to the way the word “wool” can be used in garment marketing.

If you haven’t already seen it, follow this link to find out more and how you can help support proper use of the description “wool” in garments.  It’s a worthwhile cause.

It’s an interesting little loophole around consumer labelling laws.  I’m assuming that the UK must be the same as New Zealand, where you must label a garment with its fibre content. Apparently, the same labelling standards to not appear to apply to how a garment is described!

Go Kate and Felicity!