Tag Archives: climate

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #44

I was accused of virtue signalling this week – it is a relatively new term to me. Probably my whole life is a virtue signal for the people who used this term as a ‘put down’ to me this week.  The opposite of virtue signalling as far as I understand it is bigotry, and the accusation is a dog whistle to rally their allies.

Overall, in this election campaign it has been incredibly friendly, warm and generous. People have offered me glasses of water on hot days when I have been door knocking, opened their doors to me with friendly smiles, invited me in to see their gardens, shared stories, waved and tooted to me.  There however is always a dark-side and this has shown up in this campaign as the ugly face of racism and a deep vein of climate denialism. You can detect the fascist playbook being referred to and I have been surprised a few times about how it shows up – this invisible thread making itself visible.

There are a team of candidates who are a mixed bag. One of them is a ralien and another has connections to the neo-Nazi political group. Of course, these qualities are not included in the prepared material for public consumption, and I do believe in a democracy like ours it is perfectly reasonable for all kinds of people with all kinds of persuasions to put themselves forward. What I am wondering about is how we counteract these views as when they turn into policy once people with these views get into governing positions, we all know what the consequences are for minorities. Oh dear, there I go again, virtue signalling.

We are at a crunch point for climate justice, our Pacific neighbours Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama condemned the climate war as being fought with “apathy, denial, and a lack of courage to do what we all know what must be done.”

He appealed for the world to step up.

“Fiji is ready to make the coming years count for our people and for the planet – our question to you is this: Are you with us? Don’t tell us yes unless you plan to show it.

But we do not need to look to the Pacific to know this story, the City of Onkaparinga has 31kms of coastline and by all indications it needs our help to stay strong as sea levels rise. It is not fiction. So once again if this is virtue signally, I am more than happy to put my hand up and say ‘guilty’. What fascinates me though is the person who accused me of this online, is a professional. He works as a physiotherapist in one of the big clinics in a busy practice. It is fuel for me to keep doing more and motivate those who do want their values of justice, equity, access, affordability and inclusion to be turned into policies and practices.

But like the Fiji Prime Minister railed at the UN, I am asking the same question of voters in Onkaparinga – are you with us? And who are the us? 

The us are the people who support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the people who believe the scientists and understand we have a climate emergency, the ones who voted for Marriage Equality, the people who notice those who go without because of a systems failure and do not play the blame the victim game.  I am happy to be in this company and if you are a voter in Onkaparinga, do not outsource your democracy by not voting, grab your ballot pack, fill in the papers and post back – vote for the virtues you want to see reflected in your community.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #40

I was very fortunate to be amongst the nearly 2000 delegates at the Social Enterprise World Forum this week in Meanijn (Brisbane, Queensland).  It was quite something to be at an international event, the largest that city has hosted since the lockdowns of COVID. The community that gathered in person and online share a common vision for a more purpose driven economy that will deliver social and environmental outcomes, jobs, and impact. There was a deep under current of the wisdom and ingenuity of First Nations people from around the world. There was an emerging clarity of what scale means and a consistent theme of collaboration. There was urgency in the air and a sense this is no longer a sector, it is a movement.

Mobilising for change must include economic models, metrics, tools, and techniques. I was asked this week on the campaign trail if I would declare a climate emergency. My state has already done this and I am looking forward to a council chamber that will do the same if elected to Mayor. But a declaration is not going to take us far enough, quickly enough. There will be a need for an overhaul of all kinds of practices, procurement, behaviours, education, and opportunities. Jurisdictions the world over account for more than 1 billion people who have declared a climate emergency.

I am very fortunate to have a number of people in my life to give me advice around these matters, not the least Prof Peter Newman who is one of my co-trustees for a foundation and we have served together for more than 2 decades. Among other distinguishing credentials, Peter is the Coordinating lead author for the United Nations IPCC on transport. There are also plenty of people in my local community who have been tireless champions for the environment, and I have public servants as dear friends who in their paid and voluntary roles who have generated initiatives, mobilised farmers, community groups, planted trees, cleared land, created regenerative farming zones … and the list goes on. This is not an academic exercise for me. I am pleased I can tap into their wisdom and experience.

The increased attention and activity delivering the circular economy holds many new opportunities, including jobs. I am inspired by Prof Veena Sahajwalla, whose mantra is there is no such thing as waste is offering new models and micro-factories and I can’t wait to see how we might bring some of these to life in my part of the world. I was fortunate to connect with her work in the recent Circular Economy Incubator my co-founders at Collab4Good ran sponsored by Green Industries SA to help build more social enterprises working in the circular economy.

The truth telling that we are about to embark on as a nation as we head towards a referendum on a voice to parliament, will add to this conversation. I expect there is more enlightenment to come. So grateful I got to listen and learn from some of the voices of First Nations at SEWF whose universal message seems to be: we know what to do. (Check out the Climate Council‘s resources on this if you are new to the idea of climate justice.)

So, this takes me back to the beginning of this piece, the Social Enterprise World Forum. Circonomy is now out in the world, born from the World’s Biggest Garage Sale’s Yasmin Grigaliunas. Yas believes many people, not just things, have been put on the scrap heap, and her model “circularity is the new normal, while creating opportunities for people of all abilities.”  Yas was one of the first ventures supported by Australian activators of what is now known as Coralus (formerly SheEO).  It has been so instructive watching her grow her enterprise, receive numerous awards, generate investment, and most importantly witness the growth and development of an empowered and engaged workforce.

SEWF reminded me we can turn things around. It is not up to one of us, it is up to all of us. We have the tech, the skills, the capacity and now the will has arrived.  We can’t wait another minute, it is time to be visible.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash It was such a treat singing with Anders Nyberg – There is no Planet B in the Blue Mountains the day of the international student strike led by Greta Thunberg during The Global Week for the Future in September 2019.

Year of activism #7

The sunsets are spectacular at the moment and it is the particles in the air, probably from the bushfires, that is making them so. The sun and our blue dot spinning around in the galaxy, with the light waves bouncing off the horizon inviting us in each evening to reflect on what has been, what the darkness is calling us to and as a constant reminder of the rhythm of nature. What meaning do we put on the beauty in the skies? Do we know what we are seeing? Is gazing into the beginning of darkness and being captured by the wonder of it all, desensitizing us for what might be ahead? The glow of summer in the heavens, might well be a version of the afterglow of an affair with a narcissist. We have been seduced by lovers of fossil fuels, so seduced we didn’t listen to our mother, we didn’t notice all the acts of infidelity along the way. And then when it was almost too late we woke up and yet still wanted to go back to the way it was, surely it could be fixed? What did I do wrong? Can’t I make it better? Could we try again? But it is not about us the ones who are waking up. We have do to the breaking up, the aching and grieving. We have to get stronger everyday and keep turning our backs on our old lover. We have to know we were seduced and it is over, give up our addiction and find friends who can keep us on the straight and narrow who can keep us ‘sober’.

We will fall and we will have moments of failure and self-loathing. These sun sets are a version of gaslighting undermining us and giving us fake news about what is really going on. Like a hit of dopamine to keep us in the game and bring on amnesia. We have to be strong and resist – that’s what friends are for – people who can hold us steady, not blame when we falter and who will show us and support us to find our way back.

I have real trouble with people metaphorically shouting at me in their writings and actions about what has to be done. I am sometimes paralysed. The kind of help I need is compassion, understanding and gentle encouragement. I find I need to be coaxed not yelled at. To be noticed and encouraged when I make a little adjustment and take a little more responsibility, really helps me.

Perhaps we need a 12 step program as a world so we can recover from our addiction to fossil fuels? I am sure I am not the first person who has thought of this. My adaptation of the 12 steps for a activist in these times:

  1. Admit you were powerless over fossil fuels — that your life had become unmanageable.
  2. Come to believe that a power greater than yourself (Mother Earth/ Creation) could restore you to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of Mother Earth
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
  5. Admit to Mother Earth, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of your relationship with fossil fuels and where it has led you
  6. Be ready to have Mother Earth remove your defective ways
  7. Humbly asked Mother Earth to remove your shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all species, beings and places you harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends wherever possible and find ways to bring your contributions to join with others on the same path
  10. Continue to take personal inventory, and when you falter, admit and move on.
  11. Foster a spiritual relationship with Mother Earth and all of creation.
  12. Be informed by your spiritual practice on how to invite others to join you

Despite this approach it is structural and even my best efforts and the ones of those around me aren’t enough to turn this ship around. We are tug boats in the harbour, but maybe with enough of us it will be enough. Thinking my little bit isn’t much use is seductive. As Brene Brown’s research has taught us how shame takes hold with two messages: “you are never good enough” and “who do you think you are?” I wonder if this is what is turning up as activists too? Brown says shame is a focus on self and guilt is a focus on behaviour. So picking up that thread I can take some tiny steps, maybe not all the big 12 steps, towards kicking the habit and not being seduced by shame because my efforts do matter,
I am making a difference and when my difference is added to another’s there is the potential for structural change and for today that is enough. Keep a focus on the practice, the behaviour and not on the self, surely another instruction from Mother Earth who spins and toils with the rhythm of night after day. And give up the shame of being seduced by sunsets.