February 2009

Bay of Fires

Bay of Fires

Mt Wellington

Mt Wellington

Did you realise that you, dear readers, are now Mainlanders?

Yes, we newly-minted Taswegians now live on the edge of Australia, and as a consequence, we will now:
a) act a little bit differently, and
b) judge you.

So just think of me as that lovable Tassie rogue, coming to you from the edge of Australia.

So, regarding this particular project. What, you may ask, will I do with this blog now that I am even farther away from Caba than ever?

Funnily enough, I do not see this as an obstacle, and I do plan to continue posting. To this end, I will bring you stories from people I come across who are attempting to live in a manner that intrigues or surprises me, that I think you might be interested in.

We have already come across boat-dwellers a-plenty. A couple with three kids (who have all grown up now), showed us through their little ark on Geilston Bay. That opened my mind a little wider!

So keep reading, please…

A fog of fear

The fog of fear

If we are coming to a crisis point on this planet, (and I believe that we are, but I also believe that crisis can be a catalyst for change), then reductive, linear ways of thinking are not going to deliver the transformation we need (Well, have they, yet?). For transformation on a planetary scale we may be required to create a bigger context than just you, just me, just your workplace.

A social network is non-linear. But is it an ecology?

The ‘ecologies’ of networks

Network Citizens (available as a pdf download from Demos) reports on the shift of power created by social networking and the rise of ‘network citizens’, who no longer respect hierarchical and bureaucratic structures.

The Network of Public Sector Communicators (NZ) blog has this to say about networks and public sector agencies:

Many public sector agencies view access to social networks, the likes of Facebook, Twitter and – incomprehensibly – LinkedIn, with what can only be described as either fear or deep suspicion. Some of them even go so far as to block access …As if, in the minds of the people that think blocking access to these sites will make people more productive (or protect them from themselves…), there is some sort of impermeable divide between what we do at work and who we are.

The message is clear. Understand the change that is happening inside your agencies. Ensure that you provide people the sorts of tools that will allow them to develop professionally and to invest and grow their social capital. Attempts to restrict the ability of your staff to build their networks (online or off) will only result in a disengaged workforce. (Networked Citizens)

And enough room for all our stuff...

And enough room for all our stuff...

Well we made it. After a week of rushing around, packing, cleaning, driving, arguing, stressing.

So here are a few photos of the shed, which has had a lot more done to it since we were up at Caba a month ago. Look at the doors! (Although apparently there were a few problems…mainly on account of the strong and frequent winds up on the ridge.) Link to Photos

All our stuff fits (except for the other stuff…) And even a bit of room for a couch to sit on. However, the strong smell of napthalene will probably put visitors off.

So on Tuesday we take the Spirit of Tasmania and head for Hobart (like rats fleeing…?)

Leaving fires burning and other chaos around Victoria. At the moment, East Gippsland is basically fire-free. However, there is a month of hot, dry weather to come. Our fingers are crossed that Caba escapes the fires this season (the fires of 2003 were horrendous), and the shed doesn’t burn down.

BowensOrganisations often have a strong sense of what they want to achieve but lack the tools and techniques to achieve their aims. These can be developed through learning experiences which strengthen group cohesion and personal empowerment while building expertise in advocacy, democratic processes and planning and implementing a campaign.

Dr Deb Foskey, Associate at HERENOW Collective offers workshops either as a series, where a campaign strategy is developed by the group; or as single workshops tailored to meet the group’s needs. All are aimed at increasing the effectiveness and advocacy skills of organizations.

Topics include:

1. Working with government and using government processes
2. Developing a campaign strategy
3. Effective group processes which enhance democracy
4. Developing strategic alliances
5. Getting messages out
6. Sustainability in organizations – preventing burnout and empowering members
7. Sustainability in organizations – reducing our ecological footprint
8. Building community climate change resilience through community development

HERENOW Collective can provide facilitators such as Deb Foskey or design workshops in consultation with representatives of the client group.

HERENOW Collective is committed to working in ways and for outcomes which enhance social, ecological and economic sustainability.  Our overall aim is to empower organisations whose work in some way contributes to their own and the Earth’s sustainability.

the centre
As we progress into 2009, and summer hits the south-east of Australia with full force, the issue of weather becomes unavoidable.

by Deb Foskey

Melbourne and other places in Victoria have experienced the longest period of 40+ degree days in recorded history.  Our need for comfort and the predominance of poorly designed housing has led to a mass turning on of air conditioners and consequent loss of power altogether for many electricity ‘consumers’ (weren’t they clients once?).

There are some interesting stories, such as the parrots gathering at a suburban swimming pool in their scores. Luckily the pool owner was also there and was able to rescue all but eight of the birds that fell in. All species must cooperate during periods of intense weather.

Big cities feel the impacts of hot weather in the power outages, the rail-dependent public transport breakdowns and cancellations. I imagine it is very unpleasant to find yourself by-passed on a crowded platform as yet another full train goes past without stopping. Those who can afford it are renting rooms in air conditioned motels. During the 2003 January fires in Canberra, neighbours in my street all visited the only house with gas connected (the electricity had gone) so we could have our drugs of addiction: tea and coffee.

Sadly, most buildings these days are designed on the assumption that they will be air-conditioned, and retrofitting them will be very difficult. However, it can be done, as Australian Ethical Investment has shown with its conversion of its very ordinary (but correctly oriented) Canberra office building which won a Banksia Environmental Award in 2008.  Have a look at Trevor Pearcey House to see how AE and the architects managed to reduce water use by 75% and energy use by 70%. Perhaps this summer’s experiences will entice other office managers to reduce their resource use (as water and energy are proving to be unreliable resources) – but office owners will need to be given enticements and regulation to provide this amenity for their tenants.

The Victorian Government looks as though it never really thought the present circumstances would ever happen – abnormally hot weather and a fire to boot – and seems singularly unprepared. In South Victoria, the fires are serious. Yesterday I was with a friend whose partner was protecting their house in a town too near the Delburn fires in South Gippsland. The smoke cloud was visible just out to sea from Orbost.

The positive theme that comes through in many of the interviews and news reports is that community caring and good communication are key factors in preparedness and ability to handle fire situations. Coping with climate change will throw up many challenges that will need to be dealt with at the community level. Communities organising locally seem better able to cope than the government. Government, even local government, is too far removed to deal with situations at a sub-town or suburb level.

Jane Jacobs had much of it right back in the sixties in her book The life and death of great American cities. Check out the Project for Public Spaces website for more about Jane, her writings and activism.

2009 must be the year that we stop building inappropriately and instead design communities – not just ‘developments’ – with social and environmental sustainability as their focus. We have many planners, writers and examples to guide us. The Transition Towns movement is a growing community-led movement which provides many tools for individuals and organisations to work with (see their website for further info).

Meanwhile, we could be finding out what makes successful local communities work. I believe we have understood the importance of working collaboratively as communities – whether connected by place or interest or kinship – since we started being conscious of being human. But from time to time, we seem to forget its importance and how to do it. The Howard years, wherein we were meant to see ourselves as individuals and (heterosexual, nuclear) families, have necessitated a new attention and relearning of the efficiency and sheer pleasure of working cooperatively. And 2009 is the year to do it.

Dr Deb Foskey will be writing the odd post for Herenow Collective. Her website is: www.debfoskey.com