Woo, what a whirlwind three days in Sydney so far. Today I would say we got up at the crack of dawn but that would be a lie because it was earlier than that, it was 5:45 when I woke up and we had to meet as a group at 6:00 AM. They say the early bird gets the worm, well we got fish, because we were headed to the Sydney Fish Market, the largest market of its kind in the southern hemisphere outside of Japan, according to its website. Luckily we were able to get up early and drag ourselves to the train.
Once at the Sydney Fish Market we got on our stylish traffic vests-which one participant explained were, “very slimming”- and broke into two groups and toured the facility. We heard a lot about a lot of fish and how the market operates. For instance, our guide, Mark Boulter, explained how the auction system is a digital and incorporates the Dutch auction style. This is where the price starts high and doesn’t stop decreasing until somebody bids. So, in essence the buyers are playing chicken with each other. This was interesting because we were able to see the buyers placing bids just a few meters away-shout out to the metric system. After a brief introduction to the inner workings we were able to go down and see the fish on the market trading floor. Unfortunately, there were no pictures allowed to be taken on the selling floor. But the sheer number of fish there was staggering. Although the number of fish being pulled from the ocean is very large, it’s important to mention that the Sydney Fish Market does a lot of work trying to maintain the natural resources of the fish. For example, they help fund the NGO Ocean Watch which watches out for estuaries, which are important fish nurseries, and other waterways. They also ensure that all of their providers have full licensure and practice good fishing habits. Mr. Boutler explained how they will go as far as getting DNA analysis of certain fish to ensure that they are not an endangered species. In addition to watching out for their resources, the fish, the Fish Market also tries to practice good habits on land. They are active in reducing and recycling the bins which hold the fish. For plastic bins they make the buyers pay a deposit for the bins which incentivizes them to bring it back, thus reducing the plastic material needed. They even have a styrofoam recycling machine on site, which recycles 6 tons of styrofoam per month, greatly reducing the amount that goes to landfill. These types of sustainable practices are far beyond the baseline that legislating bodies set for fisheries, and for this reason the Sydney Fish Market is a great example and role model for sustainable business.
While on the floor we got a first hand view of many different species of fish and Mr. Boutler seemed particularly knowledgeable on how to grade fish. He maintained that you could tell if a fish was fresh by a few factors: the stiffness of the fish, the color of the gills, the shape of the eyes, the feel of the scales, and the shape of the eye. It was also quite nice that the fish market let us take home a bit more than just knowledge of the fish industry, it also gave us a distinctly fishy smell for the rest of the day. But we could not complain after the behind the scenes tour we were graciously given.
After a few hour break to decompress, freshen up and make our lunches we were off to the Sydney Olympic Park. The park itself is located quite a distance away so we made the very short walk to the train station and took the light rail to the Olympic Park. One of the great things about the park is its availability to mass transit. There was a big effort to make it accessible by both trains and busses. In fact, it has the potential to move 100,000 people/hour when it is operating at mass capacity. Once we got to the park we were given bicycles and an assignment to find 15 ways in which the park exhibited sustainability. In other fashion news, we were also given sweet helmets so we could ride in style.
The first stop for many of us on was a stroll through a reclaimed wetlands area. This wetland featured mangroves, wetlands and other habitat for native vegetation and fauna. Wetlands are some of the most important ecological characters because they provide habitat for animals, reduce erosion along water sources, and even act as a buffer between harmful pollutants and water systems.
At the edge of the wetland was a large mound that just about the whole group biked up. According to Dr. Reese we could be seen from quite a distance away, apparently a group of 24 American students stands out in Australia. The mound is actually one of five located around the Olympic Park setup to mimic the Southern Cross, in a touch of symbolism. The mounds also provided a more literal purpose as well though, because they were built out of an old landfill. While the trash was on the site prior to the games arriving, the idea to line the waste and replant native vegetation and put in bike paths was an idea with a vision toward sustainability. This type of reuse and multi-use application is exactly what a sustainable urban center ought to incorporate. Despite the arduous climb to the top, a panoramic view of the park for lunch was definitely worth all the effort.
Other important aspects pertaining to sustainability within the Olympic Park were the permeable sidewalks to reduce water run-off, solar panels for renewable energy, and easily accessible recycling bins. Another interesting aspect is that all of the water is reused. The whole park has dual water pipes which take the used water, treats it, and send it back for as non-potable water used for irrigation and toilers etc. All of this was important to see, because the Olympic Park was a recently planned city and the fact that the developers put an emphasis on sustainability is positive to say the least.
After the trip up the mound many of us ventured to the center of the park to see the venues for the Olympics, complete with field hockey complex, Olympic torch and Olympic Stadium. Despite the large amount of stadiums, the olympic park hardly seemed like an eerie ghost town from a horror movie. This was probably because many features were built in such a way that they could be easily dismantled and moved. For example, the track was built in sections and now resides in an area with more perennial use. Around the Olympic torch are a whole host of memorials to the Olympic athletes, volunteers, and spirit. While the sustainability aspect is certainly important and the reason we were there, this was the highlight to me because the Olympics are such an important cultural event and performed at such a high level, it truly left me in awe and humbled.
After a long day Dr. Reese and Dr. Lucas graciously took the entire group to a local Chinese restaurant. As we were staying in the Chinatown district of Sydney it seemed appropriate and was only a five-minute walk to the restaurant. Once there we split into three tables, a vegetarian table, and two omnivore tables. Each group ordered between 5 and 7 dishes per table to be shared. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was very communal. By the end of the meal there was exactly zero waste but plenty of talk regarding the high quality of the food. As part of the cultural aspect of our trip we tried some food that most of us hadn’t tasted before, like duck, and did our best to handle chopsticks. All in all May 27th was a great day and a great way to wrap up the southern portion of our trip exploring the sustainability of Australia. We’ve learned so much throughout our travels, from Adelaide and Calperum Station to Wagga Wagga and Sydney.
Sydney Light Rail System– http://www.metrolightrail.com.au/
Fish Market company sustainability statement-http://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au/OurCompany/Sustainability/tabid/183/Default.aspx
Ocean Watch Website- http://www.oceanwatch.org.au/
Olympic Park biking trails-http://www.sydneyolympicpark.com.au/whats_on/cycling/cycling_circuits
Olympic Park maintenance website-http://www.sopa.nsw.gov.au/our_park/environment/built_environment
Full Results of the Sydney Olympics-http://library.la84.org/6oic/OfficialReports/2000/Results.pdf