Christian PM should have a heart for climate

Australia has always been a land of bushfires, but usually not in winter. This past month, however, the NSW Rural Fire Service was faced with over 80 significant bushfires. Scientists were reportedly shocked by the scale of the fires and environmental change academics have, unsurprisingly, blamed global warming.

And what did our government do in response to these fires (and related widespread drought)? It decided to continue to play Survivor: The Musical Chairs Edition and knock off another leader — on the basis of his desire to introduce emissions reductions, no less. Good times.

As others have noted, climate change policy has played a key role in the political instability of Australian politics over the last decade. And it has mostly been due to the recalcitrance of our political class in resisting any action that might jeopardise its cosy relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

 

Advertisements

Laying waste to waste

This week Coles announced it will give away its reusable plastic bags, after having received a barrage of abuse from a minority of shoppers who were disgruntled with having to bring their own or pay 15 cents to purchase a plastic one.

While Coles has announced this is an interim measure (until 29 August) to allow customers ‘more time to make the make the transition to reusable bags‘, others argue that in the meantime it effectively removes all incentive for customers to bring their own. Worse still, these new reusable bags take even longer than the old single-use ones to break down once they are discarded, and this is often after just one use.

The extreme resistance of a minority of shoppers is one issue, but what interests me is that while 80 per cent of us support a plastic bag ban most of us still accept and use them regularly while out shopping. The fact is that it is all too easy to make daily choices that negatively affect the environment, and there are many incentives for us to do so — cost, time, social norms. This is where policies like plastic bag bans come in — they change the incentives and not only help us to do the right thing but also to normalise it within our culture.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

Us and them: reconceiving trees

Charlie stood frozen in the doorway, tears streaming down his little cheeks. ‘What’s wrong, hon?’ I asked. ‘The tree,’ he said, pointing at the huge Poinciana that lived in our front garden.

A week earlier, a large branch had fallen during a storm and the arborist had arrived that morning to check on the tree. To our dismay, he discovered that it was rotten to the core and would have to go. He just couldn’t save it.

The kids cried all the way to the school bus. ‘I’m going to cry all day,’ said Charlie. ‘I loved that tree,’ my daughter, Lily, added.

It was dusk when I returned home, but through the dying light I could make out a large scar on the landscape of our garden. The empty space seemed to reproach me.

When I spoke to friends and colleagues about our tree, they all seemed to relate. One colleague spoke of the death of a large Jacaranda in her childhood garden. Another, of his and his wife’s valiant efforts to save an old tree in their garden and their delight when it recovered. Other friends spoke of their deep sadness when neighbours sold up, and the new buyers cleared away beloved trees for new development.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

 

Will veganism save the planet?

Last Tuesday 5 June was World Environment Day. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to find out what most people do to try to limit their impact on the environment.

I’m happy to report that, according to my highly rigorous and scientifically valid survey (okay, twitter), we are all making significant changes to our lives — both in terms of daily habits and big lifestyle choices — in order to try to protect our planet.

To give you a feel for the responses, I’ll group them into a number of key themes. The first is consumption. People are consciously reducing their consumption, avoiding ‘fast fashion’ and meat, and trying to buy locally or only second-hand. Right on theme for this year’s World Environment Day, people are also focused on eliminating their use of single use plastics by avoiding excess packaging, and bringing their own containers, water bottles, keep cups, and shopping bags.

— Read the rest over at Eureka Street

 

Rewriting the story: The power of feminist narrative

As the daughter of a staunch feminist, I genuinely expected to grow up into a culture where gender equality had been achieved – or, at least, that it would be a lot closer. Instead, in 2018, women in Australia are still likely to be paid 15.3% less than their male colleagues, to be discriminated against at work (especially after pregnancy), to suffer from sexual harassment, to be the victims of violence, and to end their lives in poverty.

And, as Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has noted, ‘women who experience intersectional inequality often experience higher rates of [discrimination and] violence, and face additional barriers to seeking help and support’.

Given all this, it would be reasonable to ask why I spend my spare time running a feminist writers festival? Aren’t books and writing somewhat trivial concerns when compared to Australia’s shocking rates of domestic violence or coming ‘tsunami of homeless older women’? It’s a fair point, but I’d argue just the opposite. Both are actually central to shaping the narratives that we tell ourselves about our culture, our heroes, and ourselves.

… Read the rest over at Broad Agenda.

The fight to make water a human right

[Excerpt from article over at Eureka Street.]

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council recognised the existence of a human right to water, guaranteeing access for everyone to ‘sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses’.

Eight years on, it is past time that Australia incorporated this right into domestic law. Nonetheless, any push to do so will face an uphill battle, due to the awkward position occupied by human rights within our culture.

Surveys of the Australian population have found a significant gap between those who believe our human rights are sufficiently well protected, and those more disadvantaged groups who experience a very different reality. Our political class also has a history of ambivalence, or even hostility, to providing more comprehensive protection for human rights, and has been especially reluctant to legally recognise socioeconomic rights.

–Read more over at Eureka Street.–

#MeToo exposes legal failures, but ‘trial by Twitter’ isn’t one of them

File 20180316 104671 12l78mb.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
In a 2016 ABS survey, one in two women reported having experienced sexual harassment, but 90% of them did not contact the police. – Cindy Zhi/The Conversation NY-BD-CC

Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University

Six months after the explosive allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light, giving impetus to the #MeToo movement, this series looks at the aftermath of the movement, and if it has brought about lasting change to sexual harassment and gender equality.


Critics have raised concerns that #MeToo has turned into a “trial by Twitter”, suggesting it has turned the legal principle of innocent until proven guilty on its head. The Australian’s opinion columnist Janet Albrechtsen argued this point on the ABC’s #MeToo Q&A special last month.

But such comments reveal an ignorance of the meaning and context of this principle. Leaving aside the fact that some people on social media side with the accused, public discussion – whether it takes place on Twitter or around a water cooler – is not comparable to state punishment.

Those concerned about the failure of a legal principle in relation to #MeToo might better focus on that of justice for victims.

Continue reading

Law, legitimacy and activism in the Anthropocene

In the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred reflects on how she and her fellow Handmaids found themselves in their current predicament – living in a world where a small group of elites have rewritten the law in line with an inhumane and brutally enforced ideology that serves their own interests.

When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists, and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then either. … Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

In the real world, there’s a dominant narrative that we are blindly walking down the path to catastrophic climate change, which is a pretty depressing thought. But the truth is even scarier – we are being shepherded down this path quite deliberately. We may have taken a while to wake up, but ever since we did and began to object, our governments have been making ever increasing use of state power to silence us.

I reflected on this during a recent trip to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Heron’s reef supports around 4000 turtles, while many more return to the island in spring to nest. During one afternoon snorkeling trip, I was lucky enough to see three turtles, including a small juvenile, feeding on seaweed just metres from me. As I watched, my feelings turned from wonder to horror as it occurred to me that they are likely to see the reef die around them; gradually boiled to death.

[Please buy your copy of AQ: Australian Quarterly to read the rest of my article.]

Clearing homeless camps compounds the violation of human rights and entrenches the problem

On Wednesday evening, the New South Wales state government passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city.

In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:

… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law.

As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.

Continue reading

The forgotten people of the Flint water crisis

Last Wednesday, five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the unfolding health crisis in Flint, Michigan — a crisis that has included at least 12 deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, in addition to the possible lead poisoning of a whole population.

These charges are significant, but there are lingering questions as to who else is culpable and why the crisis remains unsolved.

Despite the narrative you often hear, the water crisis in Flint was not discovered by investigative reporters, Virginia Tech researchers, or doctors. The people of Flint were aware that something was wrong from the moment their water was switched over to the Flint river in April 2014. They just couldn’t get anyone to listen.

I have a new article in Eureka Street on the Flint Water crisis. You can read the rest of it here.