Sunday, October 31, 2010

No time to relax

The election euphoria has settled into a semi-distant memory, and life has taken on some normalcy once again. Many great things are going to come from this 'balanced' federal parliament, even more so when the new Senate is formed in July next year. Yet, everyday I'm still confronted with increasing evidence that this 'progress' is not enough.

Just in the last week, we've seen the continuing government deals with the fossil fuel industry, our female Premier not willing to change archaic, sexist abortion laws, and the GM lobby stealing food security research funding - I'm starting to realise we've got a long way to go baby!

A couple of weeks ago, I read George Monbiot's piece and got fired up again. He said progressive movements have gone missing when it comes to communicating their values:
So here we are, forming an orderly queue at the slaughterhouse gate. The punishment of the poor for the errors of the rich, the abandonment of universalism, the dismantling of the shelter the state provides: apart from a few small protests, none of this has yet brought us out fighting.
He says we must lead with strong intrinsic values and cease to be embarrassed by them. We must argue for policies on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel, and we must do so assertively.

These ideas resonate with me profoundly. When I attended the Dreaming Festival in June this year, I attended a hypothetical by the brilliant Grant Sarra called, "To Understand the Present, We Must Understand The Past", where he challenged us 'whities' to announce our values. Disturbingly many couldn't state what their values were. For a long time, Australians have ridden on the wave of 'the lucky country'. We have always bounced back from various challenges due to the abundance of gifts from our natural environment.

However, we must ask ourselves are all Australians really so blessed? Have we shared the luck of some, to benefit the not-so-lucky? Can we ride on this wave for much longer without planning for that luck to eventually run out? What is it that we need to do to make our so-called 'luck' last? What kind of place are we leaving for our children, and what sort of gifts should we be planning to hand on to them? I invite you to read the online book, "More Than Luck: Ideas Australia Needs Now", released by the excellent Centre for Policy Development.

I'm off to assert my empathy and kindness!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Swing is Green in Griffith!

Well, what a day! Great stuff.

Thank you to the people of Griffith for your belief in Greens policies and in the wonderful people who make it such a great political party.

I spent the whole day visiting most of the booths in Griffith with Robert and Elsie in the Greenmobile, handing out little Food Connect bags of fruit and juice. The buzz at the polling booths was palpable, and it was so much fun handing out How-To-Vote cards to people saying, "Vote for me, I'm the one in the picture there!"

With the main message of our campaign being "Vote 1, Larissa in the Senate", Queenslander's now have a voice in the Senate with Larissa Waters gaining 20% of the vote. I've learned so much from Larissa about campaigning and policy communication - she is the ultimate professional and will really serve us well in Canberra.

Here in Griffith, we nearly doubled 2007 numbers with nearly 10,000 votes, or 15.24% of the vote, and a whopping 7.4% swing towards us! The ALP suffered a 9.11% vote against them, so it seems Rudd didn't get that sympathy vote after all.

With the Australian Greens having the balance of power in the Senate from July 2011, we'll be in a powerful position to make legislation better, introduce new ideas to the Parliament and push all our politicians to adopt more constructive and progressive outcomes for Australia.

It's been exhausting, but very exciting, and it's so reassuring to know that you've shared the Greens' positive vision for Australia with your neighbours, your colleagues and your families, and that's what's led to these stunning results. I'd love to know the difference in campaign budgets between the parties, and I can tell you now, the Greens would definitely have got the most bang for their buck - all due to our amazing grass roots support!

I want to thank my wonderful partner, Robert who played house-hubby, campaign adviser, and chief child rearer for five weeks, my ex-hubby for taking care of the boys, thanks also to Gary Kane, Jo Bragg and Gary McMahon (Griffith campaign organisers), Wilf (Griffith campaign manager), Ellen Brogan and her wonderful filming skills for the great YouTube profile, Stewart Shuker and the Green Graffiti gang, the wonderful people who hosted and attended the Eat Your Greens dinner series, all those 180 booth attendants and scrutineers, the wonderful members of South Brisbane Greens branch who held stalls on the weekends, and of course all the brains at state HQ - Sam La Rocca, Dom Jarvis, Karrina Nolan - you all rock, and to my gorgeous circle of mums who I get to hang out with at West End State School - I love you gals, and to my mates on Twitterland and my now 600-odd Facebook buddies - it's been a fun time with the banter and shared links and laughs.

On the second week of this campaign, my mother began her second journey of fighting breast cancer. She's been a strong role model for me over the years, and despite having conservative leanings, she has been nothing but supportive of my wish to go for it with the Greens (and I suspect, has enjoyed learning a bit about the greens too) - so thanks Mum - I'll be with you soon.

Feels good to be part of the great turning in Australian politics - the changes are just on the horizon!

Go well,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eat Your Greens

It's something we do every day. I'll be doing it tonight, and so will you, and that is having dinner.

Last night, I kicked off the first of many events for the campaign which I've called "Eat Your Greens". A small group of interested voters in my electorate of Griffith offered to host their friends to provide an opportunity to talk 'politics'. Along with religion, politics is a subject that is normally taboo at dinner parties, but we're turning the tables and getting engaged again.

My own journey of living a more environmentally sustainable life came about because of a number of one-on-one conversations with a few key people. It is my strong belief that that the greatest catalyst for change is through dialogue. Imagine if the leaders of the USA and the Taliban actually sat together over some good food and talked about things? OK, I'm probably being slightly hopeful there, but change does happen through talking about things, and in this age of twittering and FBing and texting, an opportunity to meet face to face and have those deep and meaningful conversations are simply priceless.

It might all sound a bit old-fashioned, but that’s kind of the way I like it. As a people-powered party, we don’t have the deep corporate-lined pockets of Labor and the LNP to spread our message through multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. We need to do politics a different way: neighbour-to-neighbour, friend-to-friend.... and over delicious food!

Email me to host your own Eat Your Greens event!

Even if you’d prefer to do a lunch, breakfast or afternoon tea instead – it’s all great. All you need to do is invite between 5 to 15 people to have a conversation, whether at your favourite pub, cafe or inside your home, and I'll be more than happy to come along to talk about the issues that matter to you in the lead up to the election.

  • Tuesday, 27 July - Highgate Hill - Dinner
  • Wednesday, 4 August - Morningside - Afternoon Tea
  • Wednesday, 18 August - Cannon Hill - Afternoon Tea

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Young Voter

It's no surprise to me that we're seeing an old-style, aggressive campaign being run by the ALP & LNP parties, but what I'm concerned about it is how it impacts the young voters out there. The Electoral Roll closed on Monday night, there were still over one million people who missed their chance to vote in the 2010 election. A friend of ours reminded me the other night in his own words, why there is so much disenchantment from young people:
"I think that young people of voting age have just graduated through what Jeremy Griffith's calls 'resignation', or they are still going through the depression that precedes that. Resignation in this context is resigning to life as an adult, blinkered to the anguish and the hatred and the injustice of the world. As young adults they acutely feel the injustice. They ask the hard questions, 'why are we going to a swanky party when people of the world are starving?', 'why do we lock up children and women and men from other countries that we are have invaded when they come for our help?', 'why do I hear you preaching love and support and acceptance, and then I see you doing exactly the opposite?', 'why do you and mum fight so much?', 'why do we trade with china when they oppress one billion of their citizens and kill anyone that protests?', 'why do we allow companies to pay politicians?', 'why do our politicians preach acceptance and trust, then lie and invade?'.
In effect the young can see that the emperor has no clothing, and they do not understand why adults pretend that he does."
It gave me a good dose of reality in a time when so many Candidates take people's votes for granted. So how are the Australian Greens different to the other parties? What is it about our policies that young people can step up and be enthusiastic about?

Firstly, Students. We have seen that too many students are under enormous housing stress and struggle to make ends meet on the current levels of income support. This is why the Greens have a plan to:
  • Increase Youth Allowance to the new rate of Newstart; and
  • Increase the levels of affordable and fair student housing. Here's an article from this week's papers, when Senator Sarah Hanson-Young released our policy.
The Australian Greens also believe that integrity, accountability and openness in politics are vital to a healthy democracy. While there have been some moves to increase scrutiny and set codes of conduct for the activities inherent in the political process, these changes have been predominantly in the form of policy decisions by governments. Recent events demonstrate that voluntary codes of conduct and Government regulation are too easily set aside for the sake of political convenience. The Greens have a legislative package to ensure that key aspects of the political process - independent oversight of the activities of parliamentarians and public servants; the conduct of lobbyists; and spending on government advertising - are enshrined in law and can only be changed with parliamentary approval.

Young people particularly want action when it comes to their future, and there's no bigger issue than climate change. Today, a friend of mine put himself on the line for his and other generations' future by challenging Julia Gillard during her polished Climate policy announcement.
Brad is a young hero, but also a normal young person wanting our so-called 'leaders' to have the courage to take real action on Climate Change. I applaud his bravery, dedication and wisdom in taking direct action in a non-violent way.

The arts, cultural experiences and creative artists are vital to the social wellbeing, economy and cultural life of Australia. The Australian Greens are committed to supporting and promoting Australian artists and their work. Check out our policy released today.

Remember, your vote really does matter.

FICTION: A vote for The Greens is just a vote for Labor

FICTION: If you vote Green, you 'risk' Tony Abbott.

You have the power to decide for yourself who you vote for and in what order you preference candidates. Those How-To-Vote cards that you get at the gates of polling booths are just a guide. So if you really want to exercise your right to a decent democracy, tell those politicians through the power of your pen stroke on election day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grass Roots Democracy

Well, it's on! Our Prime Minister has set the date for the 2010 Election, and for me, that means the start of an exciting journey along the campaign trail. Reflecting on the days ahead, I keep coming back to one of the things that attracted me to The Australian Greens in the first place. It is their belief in Grassroots participatory democracy.
Real progress comes when enough people believe it is possible to make a difference and decide to do something about it. All Greens members and supporters are driven by the desire to work towards a better Australia. In contrast to the two major parties, which are run by executives in head office, the Greens involve members in key decisions and our campaigns are powered by thousands of ordinary people volunteering their time, skills and support.
In our day to day struggle to make ends meet, when do we ever stop to think about whether we are actually involved in the decisions our country's leaders make? We all have this implicit trust that their decisions are for the benefit of everyone, not what's popular, or worse, for the benefit of an elite few. Raj Patel, in his latest book, 'The Value of Nothing' explores this concept and asserts that with governments these days being co-opted by corporations, it's now time for citizens to reclaim 'the commons'.

Traditionally, the Commons were described as a sort of 'right' to access for day to day survival of every human being. That is, access to water, food, fuel, and medicinal plants - the poorest people's life support system. But it was also more, it was a process of freedom as well, " which people fought for the right to shape the terms on which they could share the commons."

Unfortunately, the Commons have been 'enclosed' by the rich, multinational corporations, and now is the moment for dispossessed groups and disempowered citizens to reinvent the Commons.

So, today I did my bit to reclaim the Commons, by participating in a local permablitz day. Participatory democracy is one such process, as demonstrated beautifully today by thirty strangers getting together in a neighbour's yard and creating a permaculture food garden. This is hardly an act of radical protest. Rather, a fun, educational, heart-warming step forward to create individual bonds and the collective strength to become resilient, and determine our own future.

What does gardening have to do with participatory democracy? Nothing, really. Not at first glance, anyway. But if you ask those strangers how they felt at the end of the day, the overwhelming response was one of connectedness, self-organising without red tape, and no need to listen to 'populist' politics in determining what they planted, where they planted it, and who was going to eat it! Essentially, it's an act of establishing food sovereignty for our community, and this sets the basis for change, wider change where the idea of "a right to have rights" is being used to reshape our urban space, and reclaim the terrain on which Kurilpa lives.

Through these participatory processes The Greens and in particular, the Transition Town movement are at the cutting edge of creating new ways to value the world without owning it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Greenlight Weekend!

There must be something going on with the planets, because it wasn't just Canberra experiencing all the action. Brisbane dished up a taste of its own!

Thursday night saw us attending the premier screening of the much anticipated and Academy Award nominated documentary, Food, Inc.
How much do we really know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? You are what you eat. It is a simple expression that bears scary implications. The film explores how modern developments in food production pose grave risks to our health and environment. There are stories of heartbreak and outrage, but the film carefully channels these emotions towards opportunities for activism. Worth the watch, and don't plan on eating out afterwards - it kind of kills your appetite.

Saturday night saw the official launch of my election campaign for the Greens. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young gave Larissa Waters, our lead Senate candidate, and I the green light to get out there and spread the word that the Australian Greens are the only credible alternative in the seat of Griffith. The last week showed us that politics as usual cannot allow any leader to wrestle with the great moral challenges of our time. Fundamental changes are required, and the Green movement is one which is reflecting the mood and sensibilities of the Australian people, and more importantly our precious planet.
It was a fantastic night of inspirational speeches by Sarah and Larissa, and I felt very honoured that Andrew Bartlett came along in support as well. Great acts by local bands, Yellow Bird and Peter B and the Homeless Souls, and stage performance by Phoebe Manning as "Eustace, looking for love" got the crowd into the swing of things. Over 100 guests were treated to some beautifully prepared dishes, with locally grown produce donated by Food Connect.

The success of the night should be credited to Jo Bragg and her team of volunteers from the South Brisbane Greens, who organised some fantastic raffle prizes from local businesses, and signed up lots of campaign volunteers. I'd also like to acknowledge the support of my family, my beautiful friends at West End State School, my campaign manager, Wilf, and my beloved Robert, and our daughter Elsie - all endless sources of inspiration, encouragement and love.

Sunday started early with Food Connect hosting breakfast for around 100 local farmers, community leaders, and delegates from the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina. We brought everyone together for a whole day of riveting talks and discussions about the way of the family farmer and how it is being threatened by the global industrial food system.

Thursday's viewing of Food, Inc. fired us up for this day, and after listening to our wonderful guests from Indonesia, Timor Leste, South Korea and Japan, we finished with robust plans and a commitment to join the global movement. Today the delegation is off to a couple of South East Queensland farms to see first hand the threat of coal mining on our most fertile food growing areas.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Annerley Sustainability Day

The folk at Transition Annerley are making a huge debut tomorrow in their local community by hosting a great event at Junction Park State School. It's going to be a great collection of local businesses showing off their eco-wares, sustainable community organisations, and of course all the great environmental work being done by the school children.

I'll be speaking at 3pm on why your vote matters at the next federal election, but I'll be there with the South Brisbane Greens team from 9am, helping out on the stall. Should be a fantastic event, and if you can make it, please come and say hi!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Greenlight fundraiser

With the press reporting the possibility of an earlier election, we need to hit the ground running! It's pretty short notice, but this will be a great event as we launch into campaign mode.

Please join the South Brisbane Greens for their Greenlight fundraiser: a fun, inspirational evening of Green politicians and sparkling musicians! The event will be held at the Kurilpa Senior Citizens Hall on Saturday 26 June 2010 at 6.30pm and will feature the following guests:

Sarah Hanson-Young
Australian Greens Senator for South Australia

Larissa Waters
Australian Greens Lead Senate Candidate for Queensland

Emma-Kate Rose
Australian Greens Candidate for Griffith

Tickets will be: Adults $25 | Teen/concession $15 | Child over 5 years $5 | Family $65
Delicious, homecooked food will be provided.

For more information, go to the Queensland Greens website.
To RSVP or book advance tickets, please contact Jo Bragg at or on 0409 498 871

Local talent, Peter B and The Homeless Souls are the lead act, supported by beloved locals, Yellow Bird, and other surprise performances!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Robert's TEDx Talk now up on Youtube!

Well, after a long wait, those who couldn't get to the TEDx Brisbane event can now see all the talks on YouTube! After seeing it again, it disappointed me that the organisers weren't specific enough to allow Robert to talk more about Community Supported Agriculture, but when you only have 18 minutes to fit in half a lifetime of stories, it makes it pretty difficult. Anyway, enjoy!

Part 1

Robert's TEDx Talk now up on Youtube!

....and.... Part 2!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Time to get ready!

It's official! For those of you who follow my other blog, I recently announced my endorsement as a Candidate for the Greens in the electorate of Griffith. Thanks to all the members of the South Brisbane branch who have put their faith in me for this year's election.

This will be a very exciting time where the aim of the game will be to get Queensland some representation from someone other than the two major parties. Since my fellow Candidate for Brisbane, Andrew Bartlett left the Senate in 2007, we haven't had an alternative voice, and there are many citizens in Queensland who have lamented the lack of representation here in recent times. So I want to help those voices be heard once again by trying to get as many votes for the Greens in Griffith in the lower house, but more importantly in the upper house, which is why I'll be telling everyone to vote for our lead Senate Candidate, Larissa Waters.

The slogan we're running with is: "Because who you vote for matters."

My first taste of campaigning came along recently when I attended the May Day march to promote the Greens' excellent industrial relations policy, and to drive home the message that our future jobs will be green.

The following weekend was lots of fun when Bob Brown came to Brisbane for a fundraiser at The Edge. It was a great event, followed by a fabulous brunch in New Farm Park the following morning. Bob and Larissa loved the lemonade fruit we supplied from Food Connect!

I'm getting busy now planning our own fundraising event and I want to invite as many local musicians and performers as possible. Should be lots of fun. Next up, I'll be speaking at the Annerley Sustainability Day on June 19, organised by the Transition Annerley folks. While the election hasn't been called yet, I'm really keen to get out there and start listening to people in the electorate. I really can't wait to work with all the great people at the South Brisbane branch and of course, my great mate, Wilf Wilford has offered to be my campaign manager, so I've got some wonderful help. A couple of weeks ago, Wilf teed me up to join the team on the 360 Show at the community TV station Bris31. It was lots of fun, and while I haven't formally received any media training, it was a great chance to be exposed to a much bigger audience.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A time to pause... and to get ready

It's been a while since I last blogged. I have attempted to post a couple of items lately but never got to finish them, so they landed in the bin of old news. There's been a bit of news to update you all on, so I'll be brief:

:: Cause for a pause
After 12 years in remission, my mother is hit with breast cancer yet again. I am currently writing from her home in Narrandera, south west New South Wales, while she recuperates in hospital in Wagga Wagga. I have all three kids with me here, and it's nice to have them away from school and Kurilpa life because we've been able to explore the streets and surrounds of my maternal grandparents hometown and have those spontaneous conversations we never seem to have time for at home.

I've been feverishly researching alternative cancer treatments for mum, before her pathology tests come back. All I can put it down to is trying to alleviate stress and eating really well. The best two things I've come across is the Food Matters website and their movie, and this very revealing TED talk by William Li. It seems food is the answer folks! I must say, I'm really impressed by my mother's stoic resilience in the face of adversity, and despite my deeper feelings that she may secretly be hiding her fear, I admire her ability to emotionally and intellectually accept the inevitability of her surgery and loss, and her willingness to look to the future. If that is the only thing she leaves me, then I've learned a great deal.

While there are no rituals for me to draw on in this circumstance, I ensured that we honoured the feminine, celebrated the nourishment her left breast gave to her children, over red wine and a roast dinner at my cousin's home before her surgery. This seemed to be the most appropriate thing to do.

Because we've been through this before with mum, as well as the death of our father, my brothers and sisters have been loving and as involved as they can be, and this, out of everything, gives me much hope for our future together, and really honours our parenting. We're now all planning a Christmas together for the first time in many, many years!

:: Food Connect - deepening business
Speaking of love and good food, Robert and I have been busy deepening the business at Food Connect Brisbane, while the replications interstate are taking off. We're also getting serious about shaping the future for the Food Connect Foundation and have teamed up with a couple of great folk at Reciprocity to host the first ever visit of La Via Campesina, the 700 million member organisation representing peasant farmers around the world. Should be a blast, I reckon.

:: Greens Candidacy
It's official. I'm running for The Greens in my electorate of Griffith. Yep, that's right, I'll be running against our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Like many citizens, I am tired of the two parties treating the public like we don't really know what's going on. It's time we were represented by people who have a good grasp on Australia's future challenges, not just the issues over the next election cycle.

Now, rather than campaign on a bucket load of mistakes, er... material Kevvy's government has given us, my goal is to run a really positive campaign highlighting all the great stories currently being told by so many wonderful people in the electorate. You can keep up to date on my new election blog: "greens4griffith"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One big happy, formidable family

It seems the neocons are beginning to feel the threat of their demise, and John Birmingham nails it on the head with this fantastic piece on his blog. It's an interesting observation of human ego and its relationship to power when things just aren't going their way. It seems they will stop at nothing to defend their turf. To me, it all points so positively to the 'Great Turning' as Joanna Macy terms it. It's a clear sign that the old pillars are crumbling to make way for the new era of compassion and life-sustaining civilisation on the planet. Keep screaming Johnny!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food Shaping our Cities

As some of you may know, two of my great passions are the design of the urban environment and local food. Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? Architect Carolyn Steele discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world. It's a timely message and cuts to the core of how we have got it so wrong since the dawn of the industrial age.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Robert's Rant - Local food: Is it good or bad?

There's a blog debate happening at the moment between a Locavore and a Toronto University Professor who thinks globalisation will solve the world's sustainability crisis.

Dear Pierre,

I hope you don't mind if I call you a local food naysayer.

Right now, our industrial food system is not sustainable. It uses too much fossil fuel and is destroying the environment – we are eroding our soils, chemical fertilizers are destroying our waterways and oceans. The only way we can feed ourselves into the future is by cultivating local and sustainable food systems.

Dear Sarah,

I hope you don't mind me calling you an eco-doomster :)

Soil erosion and unsustainable agricultural practices were what made environmental activists tick in the first decades of the 20th century. But back then, the main fear among activists was that traditional agricultural practices were not sustainable. You might have heard of the dustbowls of the 1930s, but many people believed that the problem was truly worldwide at the time.

Fortunately, modern agricultural practices, especially innovations such as no-till agriculture that are based on the development of new seeds and herbicides, have gone a long way in addressing those problems. Modern farming in the best locations and increased international trade is the way to go to improve human nutrition while addressing environmental degradation.

This is my response:
Common sense needs to prevail here. The solution is a mix of mostly local produce grown by small / medium scale farmers and the non perishable food stuffs sourced from the closest countries that grow the best Coffee, rice etc.
Any one who has farmed both a monoculture and a highly diverse small scale farm knows that the productivity per / acre for both food and ecological services if far better in the small scale poly culture. The green revolution and the mainstream UN (FAO) goals have produced huge problems both in poverty and ecological destruction not to mention increased farmer suicide rates and dis-empowerment of whole countries.
The only problem is the food system is controlled at the moment by distribution monopolies only interested in profits. That is a pretty hollow use of our potential as humans. When we know what we are potential of (and we are only just starting) we can feed more than 10 billion easily and affordable. Wow, you say, how do you come at that.
I billion are hungry, I billion eat three times more than they need, while the developed world can easily drop probably 30% of what we eat. We currently waste at least 50% of the food we grow through the long distribution supply chains and the ridiculous 'glamor' criteria placed on produce and last of all some of the best farmer I know can grow enough F & V for 50 families / acre (without any new fan-dangle bio-tech seeds or any other industrial and costly inputs on way less water than the best intensive mono-culture's. When you work all that out out you can see it makes sense. We just need more Social businesses in the Food system working with farmers and consumers not separating them!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Topping up on Intellectual Inspiration

It was a dark, rainy morning (the tenth in a row) in Brisbane, but we were oblivious to the weather as we wheeled in the bananas and grapes for the punters to enjoy over morning tea. Today was the day we'd been excited about for quite a while. Finally, the legend that is TED, introduced to us by Morgs at Paddington's Urban Grind many years ago, had come to Brisbane.

For a few years now, Robert and I have enjoyed the inspirational talks, and the chats with fellow devotees like Adz (whose photos I've stolen for this blog) and Carl in Morgs' cafe, freely available online by In fact, TED is pretty much solely responsible for our complete abandonment of our television set. Apart from the odd BBC murder mystery series, and the occasional need to pop in a DVD for the kids, we'd have given it away long ago.

Even more exciting was the fact that Robert had been asked to line up alongside twenty or so other speakers and 'brain bursters' to tell his story and the plight of farmers in today's global industrial food system.
It was one of those days you wish could go on for a week. Where your brain is so enlivened by the subject matter and the personal stories, interspersed with urgent chatter in the breaks while our lovely friend, Morgan Daly from UrbanGrind, served the world's best coffee under the Bedouin Tent. My personal favourites were Nigel Brennan, the photo journalist who was held hostage in Somalia for a record 463 days, and Chris Sarro, the inidgenous educator whose aim it is to 'furnish the dreams' of young Aboriginal Australians.

Organised by Carl Lindgren, founder of map magazine, and his friend Paul Fairweather, these two blokes have conspired to feed the collective Brisbane enthusiasm for TED talks to bring us our own Brisbane version. It's taken them over three years since the seed of the idea took form, and we can't thank them enough for having the foresight and capturing the right sponsors to support such a wonderful concept. A totally free event, and purposefully inclusive, their aim was simple:
"We hope that we can get the community together and get them fired up and get them thinking in perhaps ways they haven't thought through some of the discussions - that people can get connected and be part of a network that can help change our community positively for the better."
Within minutes of Robert's talk the twitter activity was wild. We had to email the conversation department at Food Connect to expect a busy day on the phones on Monday. Now I call that 'fired up' Carl!
Elsie enjoying the TEDx fun - Adam Sebastien West, Zenstick Photography

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Fingers Are Yellow With Aphid Juice

I spent my morning smooshing as many aphids as possible on my chilli bush. Those succulent new sprouts of growth must taste damn good, because the poor thing has no chance! I stole a poem in my disturbed state from a fellow frustrated blogger, but tweaked it to suit my chilli tree:

My fingers are yellow with aphid juice
I won't be calling any truce,
won't be waiting any longer
to quench my aching hunger.

Aphid guts. Aphid guts.
For an hour in the Autumn wind
I pressed aphids for their sin!

For an hour dodging 7th floor rain
I chase in maniacal vain,
squirting the slaughtered aftermath
in a rush of white oil bath.

In the evening I'll raise my hands
against the window, cover the setting sun
with the fading yellow almost undone--
on my skin, in my eyes... aphids, aphids, aphids

Oh and don't get me started on my poor little lime tree and the leaf miner turning its leaves inside out...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Good Bye Summer...

I saw the twitters coming in hot and fast last night about the earthquake in Chile. I immediately hopped on to facebook and sent a message to a couple of friends to see if they were OK. Amazingly, Macarena shot back immediately with her cute English: "Dear Emma, thanks God we are all ok!" While not related to climate change, these earthquakes that mother earth has dished out lately are starting to resemble an irritable mother, tired of sustaining those around her, and giving them a bit of a shove.I logged on to the BoM website today (which would have to be THE most popular website in Australia) and read a press release confirming that this summer was the hottest on record in West Australia. It gets worse. It was also their driest... "Provided no measurable rainfall is recorded in the remaining few days of summer, Perth is heading for its driest summer since rainfall records commenced in 1876".

It's these daily reminders, these small pieces of a very complex jigsaw, that drives me to the need to act on climate change. While I feel daily despair in varying degrees for the planet, I choose to put my energies into positive actions wherever I can. For a start, my kids would freak out if they saw us strung out and hopeless. It's really their futures that are at stake, isn't it, so I guess we owe it to them to create a positive way forward.. with enthusiasm... well, at least with a 'nose to the grindstone' kind of resolution.

Many of our friends know us as 'doers' in this household, but we're not totally gun-ho - we are also thinking doers. So we get nourished by locking ourselves indoors on rainy pre-Autumn weekends, where we get to think about the bigger picture, researching, reading and watching wonderful things that wonderful humans are doing around the world. And we always come back to the appeal of the Transition Towns movement. It's a positive, empowering process for communities to take the ideas and make it their own. The best thing about it is that we don't really know how it's going to end up, the idea is to make a start. Here in Kurilpa, the kinship and love for our fellow community members has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
Here's an example of the sorts of things that gets our mojo pumping: Robert just came across this idea today... Carrotmob. The idea is to collectively arrange friends (consumers) to support business to do the right thing (seeing the government is taking its time to act). It's a positive message and the idea is that businesses will always respond to the carrot, not the stick - especially when the carrot means extra money! Ideas like this are transition ideas - ways to get us off the treadmill of business-as-usual, and to start thinking about the ecological economy. It's the Blessed Unrest of our times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A new era for Brisbane City

Finally, some good news for Brisbanites. The Council has allowed a private company to set up the Parisian-inpsired Velolib cycle program in the inner-city. Fifty bike stations will be set up in the CBD, West End through to Newstead at the end of the year.

Nearly 200 carparking spaces will be ripped up to encourage day trippers and inner-city employees onto bicycles - Yay!

Now all the Council needs to do is provide decent bike lanes to make the trip safer.... hmmm, something they forgot to do in the planning. Perhaps they were too busy building tunnels and bridges ;-) There's a bit of an uproar on the part of residents and opposition Councillors saying that the loss of carparking spaces will be an issue.
It amuses me endlessly that, had the BCC not been so short-sighted when I started GWhiz Carshare service, there would, by now be a network of carshare spaces dotted all around the inner-city which would complement the bike-hire scheme proposed. Since Brisbane lost its carsharing service late last year, membership in the USA and Europe grew 117%.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Watch Out!

OK, so this is blatant green washing, but it really appeals to my ex-criminologist career!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poor thinking plagues humanity

It's been a huge battle for the West End community of late. This inner-city community on the Kurilpa peninsular is already busting at the seams with development and traffic. Now the Brisbane Lord Mayor has just pushed a local plan through that will see an additional 30,000 residents on top of the existing 8,000. Is it a case of NIMBY? No, see we want more people. We agree urban sprawl is bad, and higher densitiy is the answer. We think it's much smarter to accommodate people in a mix of medium density, medium rise, sustainably designed buildings. Access to parklands, social infrastructure, and affordable housing will ensure this community grows appropriately while maintaining our cultural heritage.

But there's something sinister going on because just across the river, Brisbane's CBD currently has a glut of commercial office space, and Newman wants to add another 72,000 day-time workers to our community by building a series of 30 storey commercial office sky scrapers in our suburb. Add that to the extra residents, and we have a city the size of Mackay dropped on top of us! We understand the pressures of population growth. What we don't understand is unjustified, unsustainable, unnecessary (& vacant) developments being imposed on the fabric of this community.

No where in the plan is there any mention of sustainable design, no where is there provision for public transport infrastructure, no where is there extra green space, no where is there mention of affordable housing, and no where is there provision for extra schools.

But wait, there's more. We're not the only ones suffering from the politicisation of the Lord Mayor's Office. Community resident action groups are popping up simultaneously in Albion, Bridgeman Downs, Sherwood, Milton, Kelvin Grove and East Brisbane. I think we should all get together and have a chin wag about this 'Johnny Howard on Heat' and see if the arrogance remains after we collectively face him. Apparently, he entered our neighbourhood earlier this week and was too scared to go into the main street!
I want to know what price for objectivity in this city when communities aren't listened to, and developers get a seat at the Lord Mayor's desk on an all too regular basis.

Someone said to me recently that the community should stop whingeing and start doing positive things. I'd like the Lord Mayor to come down to West End and see first hand how a diverse, cohesive community really celebrates life. This place is an asset to Brisbane. A place where all Brisbanites come for a dose of culture and community. Not some expensive piece of land ready to be exploited. It shocks me how short-sighted our 'leaders' can be. It only proves how disconnected they are from the realities of life on our streets. It also worries me that the Lord Mayor isn't getting out enough, winding down, allowing some creative thinking time in his life. A trip to Malmo, Sweden might just be the place for him!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adelaide now has a Food Connect

With the impending launch of Food Connect in Adelaide, Robert & I booked a last minute campervan ($1 a day!) and headed to the outback enroute to South Australia. More and more these days we grapple with our growing distaste for flying everywhere 'just because it's cheap' and have opted for more sustainable modes of travel, and more sustainable modes of thinking - that is, slowing things down.
There's something about driving in Australia that makes you feel really free. The changing landscape and the big skies that go on forever really make you feel tiny on this planet. We took four days through Goondiwindi, Moree, and Bourke chasing the water that was flowing down into the Darling River. Many roads were closed and I was disappointed not to get to Tilpa for the trip into Wilcannia and Broken Hill, still we saw some wonderful sights, and enjoyed the art galleries at Silverton while I recovered from a mild bout of mastitis (I know! can you believe it!!).
Robert also recalled the few months he spent living in Broken Hill and his work mustering on a sheep station during the middle of the drought - he told me of the heartbreaking decision by the owner to kill hundreds of sheep and bury them in mass graves because they had no food, and their meat wasn't fetching a good price. Going south to Adelaide, the desert stretched out to the horizons, and it seemed hard to believe that somewhere along the dusty side roads were grand homesteads belonging to these huge sheep stations. It made us wonder at the human being's arrogance/stupidity/naivety in thinking they could tame the country & live out here perpetually... I mean it's the DESERT for goodness sake! Desert soon turned into grasslands and the sight of wind farms were awe-inspiring, and the small towns of Burra and Saddleback were gorgeous with all their tributes to the recent Tour Down Under event.

We stayed in a very old pub on King William Street in the heart of Adelaide while we attended the Plains to Plate convergence at the University of SA. It was kicked off by Gay Bilson and her propositions for the future of food. Always insightful, and provokingly emotional, her central theme was that as a society we really need to work out how much we really 'need' and look for ways to reduce waste and over-consumption of water.
The event created a great platform for the crew to launch Food Connect Adelaide, and Robert told his moving story (once again reducing me, and a few others, to tears) and the need for a fairer food system. It was wonderful for me to meet and get to know the fantastic people committed to getting things off the ground. The team has such a warmth and genuine intention to care for each other and their community of farmers and subscribers, reminding me of our wonderful team in Brisbane. They really know what they're doing down there and if their social marketing is anything to go by, the buzz being generated will no doubt ensure its success.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hill End Eco House

At the invitation of Emma Scragg, our lovely cycle-mad friend and Food Connect City Cousin, we dropped in to check out the completed eco-house that she had designed and Rob Peagram built. It has been a six year journey from conception to completion for the owners, and Emma admitted they were the kind of dream clients every architect wishes for, never wanting to compromise on any sustainability principles throughout the whole process.

These people must have some serious money to throw around because no cent was spared in the attention to detail and clever finishes throughout the house. What impressed us was that although the old house was demolished and removed from the site, most of the timbers were re-used in the framing and features of the new house.

It was great to see the wonders of modern green technology at play, and to see what a 6 star house looked like, but for me, there's something much more charming about maintaining an old place and retrofitting bits & pieces to enhance the sustainability factor. The tour also reminded me of those plans Emma did for me a few years ago before I sold up in the suburbs and moved to West End... dreams that didn't take flight - perhaps another house and another time...

Check out the blog for more info:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Balcony Garden 3 months on

OK, so three months after 'the planting' at Dornoch Balcony and this is where we're at. It is amazing what lots of prior planning can do - by that I primarily mean the issue of water. Had it not been for the auto-timer attached to the watering system Scarlett recommended, my attempt at being a high-rise horticulturalist would have failed pretty much within a week. Here I was saying to myself, "oh yes, now it's there, I'll be out there ALL the time, it will flourish with my love & attention"... well, it's nice to have good intentions and all, but with my lifestyle it just hasn't turned out that way. The other surprising thing for me to cope with was my secret intention to get Robert (an ex-farmer) enthusiastic about growing our own, but alas, he has managed a couple of disinterested glances, preferring to soak up the mountainous view to the south over a beer & cheese platter! (actually, I lie - he did check the water system a few times for me when I thought it was playing up ;-)

Produce successfully gleaned to date:
  • About 1kg of beans (our biggest success so far)... although Scarlett says they look like they might like a sprinkle of dolomite - "a bit pale, looks like they might be being eaten by white fly, which preys on magnesium deficient plants"
  • half a kg of strawberries
  • endless handfuls of basil and pinches of oregano, thyme, sage leaves, garlic grass
  • pinches of asian greens and english spinach and other small leafy lettucey things
  • tall strands of dill
  • Tumeric (albeit wind-whipped)
  • Chilli Tree (prolifically happy)
RIP Rosemary (neglect), Cucumber (just didn't like me), mint (hard to please) and other things I can't remember planting.

So the credit should all go to Scarlett - I have literally done NOTHING apart from throwing encouraging glances through the glass kitchen windows.... Perhaps the new season's planting will mean a new chapter for me as a reluctant, but hopeful balcony gardener... with a little bit more help from Scarlett, who has already suggested some ideas.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Car-free holidays

Car-free holidays are pretty easy if you have a couple of cargo bikes. School holidays are always a challenge for us with three very active boys, and we wanted to keep it local & minimise the travel. Our boys love camping and there are plenty of options in South-East Queensland, but with such hot weather, the beach was beckoning. Peace and tranquility was another important ingredient for us parents, so a packed caravan park or beachside campground wasn't appealing. We've been to North Stradbroke before during the holidays and it was a little nightmarish with raucous neighbours and the lack of consideration for the environment. Redland Shire Council is yet to provide bins for recycling and composting, which we would have thought essential on an island. So we came across Coomera Houseboat Holidays, and seeing it was a slow week for them, we had no trouble in making a last minute booking at half-price rates!

We packed the cargo bikes up, complete with a Quiver Caddy loaded with surfboards and life jackets. An easy downhill ride to South Bank station, via the Lucky Duck cafe, and then we caught the express Gold Coast train to Coomera. A comfortable and air-conditioned trip, we were off again on our bikes in less than an hour. The Gold Coast City Marina was an easy four kilometre ride from the station where the Houseboat crew met us with astonished looks - apparently we were the first family to ever turn up without a car!

It was lovely to get reacquainted with the beauty of the islands and broadwater up through to Moreton Bay - getting stuck on a few sandbars contributed to the fun and gave us some forced relaxation time while waiting for the tide to lift us off again. The dugongs, bird life, bats, fish life and loggerhead turtles connected us with the wonders of the natural world, and made it hard to believe that we were so close to hustle and bustle of Brisbane.

Our trip home was a copy of our trip down - trouble free (apart from Joseph getting a flat on a steep hill) and most-importantly stress-free! While waiting at Coomera station for the Brisbane train, we could see the 'Tower of Terror' at Dreamworld in the distance, taking people up, leaving them hanging for a while, then dropping them at great speed. It caused me to reflect a bit on society and why us westerners need theme parks to provide us with adrenalin rushes in order to 'feel' something. Robert reckons that none of that 'dreamworld pseudo-thrill' stuff compares with getting the downhill speed wobbles with 80kilos on the trailer pushing a 200kg loaded-up cargo bike! That, combined with the lower environmental impact and savings by not owning a car makes it even more common sense. A great car-free holiday, definitely worth repeating.