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EcoArts Australis Conference

Earlier this week, I attended a stimulating event – the EcoArts Australis Conference, held in Wollongong. EcoArts Australis is a new organisation based in Wollongong that aims to bring together environmental and arts practitioners to use the arts in creative ways to promote sustainability. The conference was their first significant event. EcoArts Australis formed when environmental and arts practitioners came together to use the arts in creative ways to promote environmental sustainability. It is based in Wollongong, New South Wales Australia. EcoArts Australis draws on the experience of people working across the natural resources and arts sectors across Australia. It includes ecologists, environmental managers, specialists in museum management, environmental theatre, community facilitation, the visual, performing and community arts, project and event management and monitoring and evaluation. I came to the conference expecting an experience that would stretch my emotions as much as my mind, and I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, the need to engage both intellect and affect, reason and emotion, if we are to be to more successful in moving towards sustainability emerged as a key …

Thanks to Airbnb, this is what I saw this morning when I woke up

Staying with strangers – my first experience of Airbnb

I’ve just spent a few days in Melbourne, which gave me a chance to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – try out Airbnb. I’ve written about collaborative consumption here before and Airbnb is the poster child for collaborative consumption. Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries. The idea is simple. Some people have spare rooms or entire homes that they are not using all the time. They might be interested in renting their spare accommodation out to the right person, at least some of the time. Other people need somewhere to stay, and they are looking for something that delivers a more authentic local experience at a reasonable price. Airbnb connects these people up, via a very slick …

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Imagining utopia – a review of News from Gardenia

I’ve just finished a fascinating novel by Robert Llewellyn called News from Gardenia. The futurist Richard Slaughter – a colleague and mentor of mine – introduced me to the book when he gave a guest lecture recently in my home town of Thirroul. An aside for sci-fi fans – Robert Llewellyn is probably best known for playing the android Kryten in the television series Red Dwarf. Llewellyn attempts to create a utopian future, in the guise of a science fiction novel, as an antidote to the dystopian futures that dominate popular culture. This is a topic I think about a lot. Across multiple forms of media, dystopian futures where civilisation collapses are commonplace. Think of movies like Terminator, Mad Max, The Road and 28 Days Later, comics and television shows like The Walking Dead, and games like The Last of Us and pretty much every first-person shooter out there. If you studied our popular culture, you would be forgiven for thinking that humanity is doomed to a nasty and brutal future. The problem is, coming up with compelling …

Whale, 2011 by Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan’s message from the gyre

I’ve been an admirer of Chris Jordan’s digital photographic art for several years now. His Running the Numbers series paints an unflattering portrait of American and global consumer culture that presents environmental messages in a fresh light. He creates images using repetition of familiar consumer items and waste, typically with an ironic twist. For example, below is his work ‘Whale‘ from 2011. What at first glance seems to be a nice picture of a whale turns out to be something more sinister. The work is constructed (digitally) from 50,000 plastic bags, equal to the estimated number of pieces of floating plastic in every square mile in the world’s oceans. The website allows you to zoom in to see the individual plastic bags, as shown in the view below of the whale’s eye. It’s a sad indictment on the state of the Earth’s oceans. On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of …

William Shakespeare - a master of rhetoric

Language Intelligence – the art of rhetoric

I only read one serious book over my summer break – Joe Romm’s Language Intelligence. The rest of my reading time was devoted to indulging my love of science fiction – hey, I was on holidays after all! Language intelligence is a book about the neglected art of rhetoric. The subtitle is ‘Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga’. Joe Romm has pulled together the secrets of the greatest communicators in history to show how you can apply these tools to your writing, speaking, blogging — even your Tweeting. Joe Romm is best known for his blog Climate Progress, founded in 2006 with the support of the Center for American Progress. It’s a blog about climate science, solutions and politics that speaks truth about climate change to the politicians, bureaucrats and sceptics that seek to delay an effective response to climate change. Romm works tirelessly to debunk lies and misconceptions about climate change. He lives and breathes climate politics – particularly US politics – and is the embodiment of a ‘climate hawk’. …

Greenhouse Nightmare

The ethics of climate change

Last night at the Australian Museum, Clive Hamilton gave a blistering speech on the ethics of climate change. Hamilton has little time for those who deny the scientific evidence of climate change. In a particularly memorable part of his speech, he said that: To turn away from enormous suffering in order to avoid having to re-examine one’s beliefs is not just unethical, it is wicked. That is the moral failing of those who deny the science of climate change. The suffering he refers to is the loss of life and reduction in prospects of those around the world, particularly in poorer countries, as a result of climate change. Hamilton made it very clear that he sees denial, rather than scepticism, as the appropriate term to describe the outlook of those who do not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Climate scientists, he argues, display healthy scientific scepticism. Deniers, on the other hand, will not be convinced by any evidence. Deniers employ five strategies: The identification of conspiracies The use of fake experts and front organisations …