We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children
(Native American proverb).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reclaim Your World

Food security is soemthing almost as foreign to us Australians as rabid dogs, yet at the CarriageWorks Kitchen Garden Project launch last September I was confronted with a very plausable reality: we are only three days away from hunger! Pesimistic it may be, but the fact remains that we are SO reliant on our economic systems that we are literally enslaved to them to the point of having our very survival compromised should the external shock be significant enough.

Dont' believe me, check out the doco "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" at www.powerofcommunity.org and see how easy it was for Cuba to have their physical survival compromised by forces very much beyond their control.

Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist, nor am I a pesimist by nature, but I am concerned about my ability to withstand the externalities associated with decisions made by faceless men in foreign lands upon my quality of life. The powerlessness that invokes is enough to make me question the wisdom of the global village in which we live. Surely our local village would not be so quick to condemn us to servitude, poverty and ruin as they would have to face us each an every day, yet our global village has the advantage of distance. We are only as close to our global villagers as our telecommunications allow us to be, yet we can also be a world away at the flick of the proverbial switch.

I cannot accept a world where my livelihood, my quality of life, even my very survival can be determined in a board room on the other side of the world and then ignore my oposition by disconnecting their internet link or cable network. The countries of the North have been doing it to the majority world for centuries, but in this era of rapid communication and global webs the speed at which this can just as easily be applied to any one of us at any given point in time. Human evolution may just have gone too far!

What do we do? Reclaim what is ours! It is our life, our world and our future, why can't we claim it. I think it is time for us to take back our sovereignty and take charge of what is rightly ours. Sure, globalisation has led to massive improvements in life expectancy, biomedical science, unprecedented wealth for some of us, but maybe we have won this glorious prize of human ingenuity which is a high standard of living at the expense of our quality of life... and in the process forgotten the difference!

As an EarthKeeper I would like to be practical in my attempts to wind back the perils of progress and suggest some ways we can all take control of our lives, not leaving decisions to multinational corporations and their puppet governments (lets face it, many of them are! Just look at how much power BHP and Rio Tinto can have over a "successful" government such as Australia's). My pledge is to give share some ideas I have on achieving these ends, and hopefully to hear some of your ideas to the same end.

Reclaiming the earth for all keepers and not simply those who would mine its very soul,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Education Evolution

School's back again in NSW. Have you been to an Australian school lately? I teach at one. Gradually I've seen our campus being covered slowly but surely by metre after metre of cement in landscaping, sports halls, libraries, and so on. Don't get me wrong, these all have an important role to play in the education of our children. What concerns me is that there are so many schools signing on to be slowly yet surely covered by GFC salvation spending for which we will be paying for a generation.

Enough of the economics. What about the other side effects:

1. Nature deficit is a term coined by American author Richard Louv and was used to describe our lifestyle being increasingly removed from nature and the resultant 'ecophobia' which could criple our ability to understand and work with natural systems in the future. Whilst clearly not empirically validated, we are doing nothing to stem the flow of the forced removal of our children from natural systems; when was the last time your kids were able to run outside on a rainy day, or play in the mud? Several other studies have shown that the amount of 'green space' on campuses directly correlates to academic performance, usually as a result of increased satisfaction with the learning environment.

2. While it is wonderful to have new facilities, if, like in the school I teach at, it results in more cemented play spaces and reduced grassed or natural surfaces such as wood chip or bark, injuries will increase and in all likelihood, academic performance, the very thing the policy has set out in part to improve, will suffer. Cement IS less forgiving than grass, sand or woodchip, and you don't learn much in the school nurses office.

3. Space itself is also an issue. Schools with scarcely enough room to provide outdoor play space have miraculously found space to build more facilities. Much has been said in the media about cases of waste and abuse, but the overcrowding of campuses could be further restricting physical activity in a context of increasing obesity. Don't fence me in!

4. Finally, many schools are focussing more on the construction projects rather than on the teams they manage or the student welfare they are responsible for. This lack of focus on the individual is likely to lead to a growing dissatisfaction among teachers, students and parents eager to have their concerns heard and responded to.

Yes, we have now got beautiful, well constructed schools (and I haven't even mentioned the computers!), but we also have a $16billion hangover, and with all this expense we still have trouble holding on to great teachers whilst student satisfaction, academic performance and childhood/teen resilience are worsening. If this doesn't ring alarm bells, nothing will.


Keeping the future for our children.

Greed, for want of a better term...

Today I spent the day with my family. Nothing unique, but sometimes the greatest clarity comes in the simplist of tasks or most common of days. We spent the day in Sydney at the Powerhouse Museum. The EcoLogic exhibit displayed in large type on one wall that 86% of the world's resources are consumed by 20% of the world's population. This is nothing new; I first heard a ratio similar to this at university in the early 1990's nearly 20 years ago. The troubling part however is that back then it was more like 80:20, rather than 86:20. But really, this is mere semantics. Why would we split hairs over a paltry 6%. Surely the real issue is the huge discrepancy between those who have and those who do not.

As a father, I spend a great deal of time with my wife trying to teach our sons the importance of sharing, to live together in harmony, and spurn greed (ironically, something also discussed at the museum today in their exhibit on the 1980's where they quoted those immortal words so poigniently delivered by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street: "Greed... is good. Greed works."). In my last post I alluded to the double standard that exists in relation to opportunity in our country. This really is but the tip of the iceberg however. We are rapidly becoming one of the most prosperous nations on earth, and with the freedom this brings come responsibilities. How can we, as a nation, celebrate that we have escaped the GFC better than nearly all other OECD or G20 nation and not have an increasingly signficant role to play in global humanitarian and refugee operations? Yet our first response is to pass the repsonsibility of illegal entries to one of the world's newest nations; one that still struggles with their own ethnic and economic chasms; one that we still push our own interests upon in our economic use of offshore oil and gas fields. If any country can afford to accept, support, train and assist those fleeing religious, political, economic or any other persecution, we can, and increasingly so. Anything less is nothing less than greed. We have it good, really good, and yet we are collectively reluctant to "share with the other kids" in our region.

It's a simple issue and simple solution yet our response is just mean spirited and so politicised. When the Howard Government unveiled its Pacific Solution it was met with widespread condemnation. Now the Gillard Government is trying a similar approach, people are generally applauding it, but really, it is more of the same with a different wrapper. So we're short of skilled labour, but have thousands knocking down our doors and being turned away or told to wait. Can't we build an education revolution by training refugees to fill our shortages? Won't that inject stimulus money, solve a skills crisis, provide hope and maybe solve the unsolvable.

Keeping the world for those for whom nobody else will.
Earth Keeper

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Fair Go in the Lucky Country

I hear a lot of talk about "God's Will". Jesus himself said that the poor we shall always have with us, yet he spent his entire life shunning material gain, admonishing others to give all they have to the poor, to follow him in a life of service and humility.

Australians have forgotten their birthright, their core values, and have sought to temper their values with material wealth. This has wrought all sorts of mean spirited policies and there are few left to advocate the true values of being Australian. Australia is the land of opportunity, yet if you happen to speak another language, believe in a different religion, pray to a different god, admonish the rights of humans rather than citizens, then your opportunities are somewhat less than those who maintain the status quo of a power base long forgone in search of the quick buck which is only available because of the global village we now find ourselves in.

Think about the irony here: we ride the wave of wealth that comes from the orient of old, yet we mistrust those upon whom our wealth is built when it comes to who we allow to share in the rites of citizenship. We can scarcely contain our excitement at the bargain we have obtained in our favourite store, yet spare no thought for the wages the one who has formed the object of our favour has earned as a result, nor the conditions of their lives, their freedoms, rights and responsibilities in their communities. Would we be so eager to accept the prizes of consumerism at its peak if we were the ones to bear the costs of such wealth? I dare say "no".

Australia is dead to opportunity if we believe in a fair go, yet cannot find the humanity to accept those from other countries whose only hope for "a fair go" is to seek it in distant lands without expectation of success. What is the price of wealth? It is the responsibility to help those upon whose sweat and blood the wealth is wrought, both domestically and internationally.

Our new Prime Minister has promised much but has yet to fully realise this. My prayer is that her constituents, our fellow Australians of diverse backgrounds, exercise their rights in a free and democratic society in order to remind her of our collective responsibilities which inevitably will result from our position of wealth, opportunity and advantage.

Keeping our earth for our children and our children's children.
Earth Keeper.