SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Funeral for our future. Stop Adani Melbourne



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This morning there was a Funeral for Our Future at Melbourne's Federation Square. This was the organiser's (Stop Adani)  invitation:

It's time to send a strong message to our politicians - our future is in serious jeopardy due to their inaction on climate change. On the #StopAdani National Day of Action, wear black and join us in mourning what we may lose, and demand our politicians take action: they must publicly commit to stopping the Adani coal mine and transitioning away from fossil fuels in order to save our reefs, our farmers, our home, our future. 

The funeral had everything! 

There was a casket, surrounded by carefully arranged displays highlighting the inmate's characteristics.

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There was a celebrant, who was all too aware of the corpse's power for evil. Yet she still encouraged us to persist and to hold on to hope for the future.


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Of course there was a sympathy card. But in a week when the West Australian government has opened the gates to fracking and Adani has announced he will use his corporate billions to build his coal mine (even as catastrophic fires decimate Queensland), it was the guests who needed sympathy at this funeral.


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There were forlorn mourners.


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And those who are determined to point the finger directly at a principle culprit for a harrowing future scenario.


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 As is appropriate at a religious service, some people came with their entreaties.


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Others knew exactly where to address those requests. And given Victorian Labor's recent massive electoral victory, plus the fact that an early action of the original Andrew's Government was to dump the dreaded East-West Link and then make Victoria fracking free, we can only hope they will soon step up and oppose Adani before it is too late. The electoral result should surely embolden them.


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The service had its ritual: a march around the CBD, featuring pallbearers who carried their weighty burden with dignity.


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In true New Orleans fashion, the great Riff Raff Marching Band celebrated the corpse's passing and trumpeted all our hopes for a fossil free future. 


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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hong Kong's courageous 'Helpers'

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I have just returned this morning from a week's holiday in Hong Kong, and I feel very jet-lagged. But before I rest I need to try to make sense of an experience I stumbled on en route to the airport yesterday.

I hadn't visited HK before and knew nothing in advance about the elevated covered walkways that transect the inner-city. But during the week I had used them a lot, appreciating their shade and even the occasional breeze which managed to slither in between the skyscrapers. I was very used to their orderly, task-focused foot traffic too. So yesterday I was in for a shock. The foot traffic was still there, but squeezed to the centre of the path. And firmly ensconced along the perimeter fences were hundreds of Filipino women - in cardboard boxes.

My first thought was that they were protesting. And as I had discovered nearby, the previous day, a shrine to HK's 'Comfort Women' (locals used as sex slaves by Japanese troops during WW2, who still await justice) I wondered if the protest was on their behalf.


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But as there were no placards, banners or megaphones, I quickly dismissed that idea.
Anyhow the women seemed oblivious to the outside world, absorbed as they were in the activities in their pods. They were sewing or knitting, eating or drinking or playing cards. There was a lot of talking, laughter and some tears. Some women were asleep and others were doing each other's hair or nails. 


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I had no idea what was happening. Next I wondered if it was a homeless encampment. But that seemed unlikely because of the temporary nature of the space's availability. Also the women had no large personal belongings with them. And I was puzzled by the cardboard boxes.
 

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At first I thought the boxes looked like cages. But after a while they appeared cosy and enclosed - temporary tiny houses. The shoes left outside many of the 'doors' enhanced that image.

I was very keen to know what was going on. It felt important.  But at the same time, clearly I didn't belong, and I didn't want to intrude. So it was only when 'Mara' caught my eye and beckoned me over that I was finally enlightened.


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I don't speak Tagalog, and although Mara (back right) had some English, communication was by no means easy. Nevertheless, Mara was able to explain that all the women on this particular walkway are from the Phillipines. Every Sunday, all over HK, women like her and her friends, who can't afford cafes or movies, meet in public places - walkways or parks or occasionally Church halls.

As to my question about the cardboard, Mara said it provides cheap ($1 - $2 per box) shelter and privacy and protection from dirty floors. It is also more 'homely'. I really appreciated our conversation and the women's generosity in spending part of their single day off in my company. I knew it was time to move on though, when misunderstanding my question: 'Do you all work with families here?' as: 'Do you all have your families here?' the friends went quiet. Mara finally replied softly: 'No. All our families are in the Phillipines.'

During the week prior I had noticed many 'helpers' (the term used in HK for domestic labourers) most often with pre-schoolers.

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No matter how much they grow to love their tiny charges, it must be just about intolerable for the helpers to leave their own children behind in the Fillipines (or Indonesia or elsewhere). Mara was clear that tripling her salary has made the sacrifice worthwhile - as it ensures her children's education.
But I was left in awe of these working women's courage. And their ingenuity in providing each other with needed support, while simultaneously keeping their sense of community alive. 

Now I'm off to bed!






Monday, November 05, 2018

'Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary'

Walking goats in Heidelberg:
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I have just finished reading 'Degrowth in the Suburbs: a Radical Urban Imaginary' by Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (University of Melbourne). I loved it. It is realistic yet hopeful. Imaginative and down-to-earth. And it reinforced my, at times wavering, belief that people acting together can be unstoppable. Especially when, as the Paris '68 activists put it, they determine to: 'Be realistic - demand the impossible!'

I was particularly happy to write this review as the themes of 'Degrowth in the Suburbs' are dear to my heart. As the authors put it:

This book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how to make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crisis. The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition.


 Backyard beauties in Footscray:

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I found 'Degrowth in the Suburbs' scholarly but accessible. It provides a thorough overview of where we are and where we need to head. Ecological experts argue that for the rest of the world to consume as Australians currently do, humanity would need four or five planets. So energy descent is no longer a radical notion but an obvious necessity: 'We must figure out how to leave oil before oil leaves us.'

Leaving oil via pedal power in Heidelberg:

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Alexander and Gleeson proved masterful in making the idea of living lives of 'voluntary simplicity'/'frugal hedonism' not only a necessity, but even an attractive prospect. As they suggest, and the Hoodies (below) would attest, sharing housing, gardens, animals, tools, child-care leads to a life of rich connections, contentment and great food!

 The 'Hoodies' of Heidelberg:

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The authors assert that rather than being an environmental calamity in terms of their drain on resources, the suburbs can lead the way forward to an improved and sustainable future. In fact they already are.

People are growing food in their own backyards, courtyards or even balconies. And they are sharing it:


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They are converting car spaces into mini gardens (Fitzroy):

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There are even beehives atop CBD buildings:

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As the authors point out a model exists already of a country living with minimal access to oil.  Cuba found itself in exactly that situation after the imposition of the  US embargo. And this necessitated the entire population instantly transitioning to an 'energy descent' lifestyle:

 Petroleum free fertilizer - giant worm farm - community urban farm Havana:

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Contented cows Havana urban farm:
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Contented farmer Vinales Cuba:


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Do yourself a favour: buy 'Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary' by Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson (Palgrave Macmillan).
 Check it out at:


Urban imaginary in the making Heidelberg:

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