Friday, 27 November 2020

Submission on the Climate Change Act 2020 proposed by Zali Steggall

Submissions on the Climate Change Act 2020, proposed by the independent member of parliament Zali Steggall, are being taken by the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy. They were supposed to close today (27 November 2020) but extensions appear to be available. More information here https://www.zalisteggall.com.au/submissions_open_for_climate_change_bill_inquiry. 

I urge anyone interested to make a submission, even if short. This is a great opportunity to encourage parliament to end the 'climate wars' and take a non-partisan approach, which all MPs should have the responsibility and maturity to do.

My own submission is below - made in a very short time, but hopefully if necessary the committee will  ask for follow up information and evidence if needed. My submission obviously highlights my qualifications and experience, but I urge anyone interested to make a submission, because this is a matter that affects all of us, most particularly young people, and we are all entitled to have a say.


My submission:

Submission to the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy on the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020

From: Valerie Kay, PhD

Dear Committee members

Background to this submission:

-        In 2018 I completed a PhD on promoting equity, environmental sustainability and health in Victoria. A copy of my PhD is available through the Monash University library here https://bridges.monash.edu/articles/Promoting_equity_environmental_sustainability_and_health_frameworks_for_action_and_advocacy/6199379  and an article with some key findings is available here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hpja.281

-        Since 2014, I have been teaching in the unit MPH5042 Climate Change and Public Health in the Monash University Masters of Public Health course and am currently the Chief Examiner and Unit Coordinator in the unit https://handbook.monash.edu/2020/units/MPH5042. I am happy for this information to be publicly available in the submission, as it is already in the public domain.

-        Unfortunately due to the very limited time I have to prepare this submission, I cannot cite all the relevant sources for the statements in this submission, but would be very happy to provide further follow up information to the committee. If I can obtain the permission of the University, I may be able to provide in confidence to the committee some of the teaching material from the unit, which is in plain language and would be available at short notice.

As someone who has been researching and teaching in this area for over ten years, I am writing to urge you to support this Bill, and to suggest some amendments to strengthen the Bill.

Climate change is an unequivocal threat to the health and wellbeing of Australians, people of the world, and other species. People in Australian and elsewhere are already dying as a result of climate change, particularly through extreme heat events. Other risks, including from floods and other severe weather events, droughts and water shortages in some areas, bushfire risk, and wider range and novel forms of infectious diseases, are also increasing.

It is more than possible, it is unfortunately likely, that significant areas of Australia and other parts of the world may become uninhabitable for humans this century, unless we act now to reduce emissions and do as much as humanly possible to hold global warming to 1.5C.

Even at 1.5C, much of the Barrier Reef is likely to be lost, and at 2C it is likely that all will be. I cannot believe that committee members can stand by and let this happen, let alone face the possibility that your actions will be responsible for more deaths from climate change and a frightening legacy for today’s children and young people.

I say this not to scare committee members, but because my reading of the Bill suggests to me that even the drafters of this Bill, well-informed as they clearly are, have not yet fully understood the risks to health from climate change.

In order to address these risks, it is essential to have a non-partisan approach to climate change in this country. Findings from research outlined in the article linked above, strongly suggests that in the period 2009-16, particularly in the federal election year of 2013, health workers and community members were deterred from acting on climate and environmental sustainability by the politicisation of climate change in Australia.

The actions that they were taking were ones I am sure committee members, as representatives of local electorates, would strongly support. Their work involved projects to increase housing sustainability and reduce energy bills for low income community members, support community members in growing and sharing local fresh food, and increase active transport though walking and cycling. All these actions have direct benefits for people’s health, as well as a wide range of benefits from promoting a more sustainable, fair and socially inclusive society, and reducing carbon emissions. I am confident committee members would never again wish to see a situation where local community members were deterred from such worthwhile actions by the politicisation of climate change. It is imperative that Australia develops a non-partisan approach to climate change, and this Bill, proposed by an independent member of parliament, gives a chance to achieve that. I strongly urge you to support the Bill.

As noted, I also suggest that the drafters of the Bill have not fully recognised the degree of risk from climate change to the health of humans and other species. Similarly, it appears they may not have fully recognised the potential benefits to health and wellbeing from addressing climate change. They also may not have recognised the extent to which the science of climate change has been perceived as ‘top-down’ and remote, detached from the everyday experience of people’s lives. These factors are connected. There is research showing that when people realise the impact that climate change is having, and will have, on health, it becomes much more meaningful to them and makes them more likely to act, and support action, on climate change.

On the basis of this evidence (which, as stated, I am more than happy to provide to the committee), I make the following suggestions for amendments to strengthen the Bill:

S1 Objects of the Act

-          Clause (1) (a) should include reference to serious challenges to health and survival of Australians, other people of the world, and other species.

-          Clause (1) (b) should specify limiting global warming to 1.5C as the primary goal and restricting it to under 2C as secondary.

-          Clause (2) (f) should include ‘community’ as well as government and private sector

S17

-          (2) (a) should include risk to ‘health of Australia’s population’ first, before economy, and not confined to workers.

S18

-          (a) health effects should be first, not economic effects (climate change is genuinely a matter of life and death, and this should be recognised)

S30

-          (3) include benefits to health from emissions reductions, and savings from reductions in healthcare costs due to reduced climate change impacts

 S 37

-          (2) should also include experience and knowledge in social change, community participation and development, health impacts of climate change, and the health co-benefits of climate action and emissions reductions

-          (5) (b) a minimum of two members to be Indigenous Australians (appointing one person to represent previously marginalised groups can lead to further marginalisation on committees when the single representative presents, or is inhibited from presenting, viewpoints that appear to conflict with conventional or ‘mainstream’ perspectives)

 

Thank you for your consideration and my best wishes for the success of this Bill.

Valerie Kay


Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Long rambling post on coming out of lockdown

This is a work in progress which blogger is being completely weird about so I can't fix it right now but will leave it here just for a change

 Haven't written anything on here for ages so thought I might do some kind of long rambling blog post about coming out of lockdown and everything I thought about writing over the last few months, partly to have a record, even if very imperfect, of a historic year.

What a year it's been. Started so positively for me with my visit to Myanmar (Burma) and travelling home over land and sea, as discussed a few posts back. Then the Covid pandemic really got going. Today Victoria has no new cases and no active cases, after an extended and pretty hard lockdown. How do you write about that experience? 

The thing I often wanted to do was a kind of photo essay on parks, and nature, because it was so important. So here is is, probably a bit random, but maybe I can use it as the basis for something more developed one day.
















































Saturday, 20 June 2020

Bad types of women

seeing a lot of anti-women sentiment on Twitter these days so just making a list of bad types of women, old and new

All the insults on this list seem to be (or have been, because some are not used much now) directed towards women. Felmlee et al 'Sexist slurs'  is a good article discussing Twitter harassment of women and how insults to women commonly draw on stereotypes.

There is a debate about whether 'TERF' is an insult or merely a descriptor (similar to bigot) but I've included it here because it's normally directed at women. Similarly to 'Karen', there seems to be no male equivalent word. This suggests to me that it relates to gendered expectations of women as being caring and supportive (see Kate Manne 'Down Girl').

I think words like 'Karen' and 'TERF' are new because they are particularly used by the left, people who would see themselves as supporting social justice, thus they are gendered left wing insults. They take a behaviour or attitude which people on the left agree is bad (racism, transphobia) and direct censure for it particularly towards women, suggesting that either women are particularly inclined to this or that women deserve particular censure for this. It's concerning because it can divide the left (encouraging really bitter fights between women on the left, two of which I've just seen on Twitter) and support patriarchy, which is currently on the ascendant in many countries, including Australia.

As far as I'm aware, there is no evidence that women are more racist than men (I can't find much research evidence on this, but this 2003 article suggests they are slightly less, although the difference is not great) and, as in nearly all violent crimes, men are much more likely to commit violence, including against transgender people (see eg Stotzer 2009). Thus there is no particular reason why there should be no male equivalent for these terms, and it could be expected that men would face even more censure. The fact that they don't suggest these terms fit the category of gendered insults, which draw on stereotypes of how women ought to behave.

There's a recent book out on why women are blamed so much, but I haven't yet read it. Maybe I can look at this further later. Anyway here is my list:

TERFs
Karens
Plain Janes
Aunt Sallies
Bitches
Basic bitches
Dogs
Cats
Cows
Pussies
Witches
Mad fucking witches
Sluts
Slags
Town bikes
Schoolmarms
Barren spinsters
Frumps
Gold diggers
Dumb blondes
Molls
Hags
Bimbos
Feminazis
Breastfeeding nazis
Hairy legged feminists
Harpies
Mean girls
Whores
Madams
Hussies
Tarts

(edited today to take ‘Beckies’ out because think that’s more a term of criticism by Black women for certain behaviour by White women specifically - critique of racism/privilege but could not have male equivalent so it’s different from Karens and TERFs, which could have male equivalents but don’t)

Here's another interesting article https://gen.medium.com/a-cultural-history-of-feminine-nouns-turned-into-insults-4f6d49a3e4be

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Maybe a positive social movement can arise from the Covid_19 experience

‪‪‪Maybe a long term positive social movement could come out of our experience of isolating to prevent Covid_19 infections

Nearly 19,000 people have died from Covid_19. In spite of problems, societies are mobilising to reduce & prevent further deaths

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could also mobilise against Chronic Disease, Air Pollution, Climare Crisis and War which are still causing more deaths

The underlying issues are the same - do we want societies in which all people are equal and valued and we look after each other and share resources fairly and sustainably? Or do we want societies in which 'the economy', power & wealth for the top are more important?‬

This could be a historical moment where people start mobilising collectively to create healthier, fairer, more sustainable societies. ‬

The risk is it could be a moment where existing hierarchies consolidate their power. But it doesn't have to be. The old patriarchal model of an exploitative hierarchal society where those at the top get more than others doesn't have to be the way we live.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Travelling over land, not flying

TLDR: if you're interested in the details of my travel mainly overland from Chiang Mai to Melbourne, read on below. If you just want the key environmental message I see at present, it seems like an elegy for rail. Governments in Australia and much of SE Asia seem to have massive amounts of rail infrastructure which they are just not using effectively, and yet it is the most sustainable alternative to flying.

Reality has crashed right through this post, since with the Covid19 crisis, hardly anyone is able to go anywhere, let alone think about alternatives to flying. But in the consideration that it might be relevant one day, I have posted this here. Whatever kind of world we face when the corona virus crisis is over, people will certainly be aware that life goes on, even when you can't fly.

First posted in early March 2020, updated late March:

This is a post I said I’d write about my recent attempts to travel without flying. This will probably not tell backpackers much that’s new, but for people who are used to flying for work and holidays, maybe it will be of interest and use.

I recently travelled to Myanmar and came back mainly without flying. One of my children moved to Yangon in Myanmar (Burma) for work in November 2019 and I went over to help her while her partner was away studying for a month in January 2020. I flew to Yangon because of time commitments, but while there, and on the way back, I mainly travelled without flying. Below is a report of my journey and its alternatives to flying.

Left Melbourne airport 10 January 2020, flew to Singapore arriving 11 Jan 2020.* Flew to Yangon on same day.

First week in Yangon, I was mainly helping daughter with school pickups for my grandson, shopping and so on, with some sightseeing in between. At first this was mainly by car but I started to walk a bit when I began to learn my way around. Yangon is not very pedestrian friendly, the traffic is often very heavy and the drivers are not accustomed to giving way to pedestrians. Unlike many SE Asian cities, motorbikes are not allowed in Yangon, which I imagine makes traffic congestion worse. At that time of year (winter/ dry season) it also tends to be very polluted.


Yangon has many beautiful buildings (like the famous Shwedagon Pagoda above) and parks.
Later in my travels I met someone who had visited Yangon 20 years ago and she said it used to be very different - much less motorised traffic and you could still see bullock carts on the roads. I often thought how sad it is that two of the major legacies of ‘western’ industrialised societies and imperialism are traffic jams and air pollution.

It also made me aware of how much of my enjoyment of Melbourne is due to it being a relatively pedestrian friendly city, with relatively clean air. Just before I left Melbourne the air had been heavily polluted with bushfire smoke, however.

One of the underlying themes of my research and analysis is that so much of what contributes to our quality of life, health and well-being, aren’t measured by conventional economics. On this theme again - you can’t trade walkability and clean air, but they make life in urban environments so much better and healthier.

After the first ten days in Yangon, I travelled to Kalaw by bus. Kalaw is a hill town in Shan state, in central Myanmar. It's a very popular holiday destination. I travelled by 'VIP bus' which is the more expensive form of bus travel, although still cheap by Australian standards. As in most parts of SE Asia that I travelled through, the bus was very comfortable, with large seats that recline a long way. Blankets and a meal are provided as part of the trip. The air conditioning was too cold in most forms of travel that I used in SE Asia (generally need to take blanket and warm jacket in case blankets are not provided). The bus was much more comfortable than interstate buses I normally travel on in Australia. As far as I remember the roads were reasonable.

The VIP bus

The roads became more difficult as we ascended into the hills
I stayed overnight in Kalaw and then went on a three day group trek by foot to Lake Inle. The distance is about 70 kms, mainly through undulating farmed country in the hills, with a moderately steep descent on the last day. The walking was generally easy although we were walking for long periods. Definitely people can still cover considerable distances by foot even though many of us don't these days! We stayed overnight in houses in villages, all sleeping on mats on the floor upstairs. There were outdoor cold shower rooms and outdoor pan toilets.  The food was good. Most people on the trek were vegetarian and meals provided by the householders were mainly salads, stir fried or sautéed vegetables and rice, with some meat dishes for the meat eaters. Fruit was provided for dessert, and there was always local tea. We could also buy local beer. Myanmar has some very good salads, particularly pickled tea leaf salad and tomato salad, which both use a lot of peanuts.

Starting the trek


Morning of the third day

We were a group of privileged travelers from Europe, England and Australia, but the trek shows that a simple life can provide a wonderful experience. I am not suggesting we would all choose to live like the hill villagers of Myanmar, but it is a reminder that you don't have to have luxurious consumer goods to enjoy life. Somewhere in there is the possibility of compromise, a glimpse of what the future might look like in a sustainable society.

We arrived near Lake Inle on 23 February and were taken by boat to the village of Nyaung Shwe. I stayed two days there, hanging out with friends I'd made on the trek, and then caught an overnight bus back to Yangon.

On the boat to Nyaung Shwe


The following weekend my daughter, grandson and I caught the overnight train from Yangon to Bagan, an extremely popular heritage site in the Mandalay region of Myanmar, with many hundreds of ancient Buddhist stupas and pagodas. Bagan is on the Ayerawaddy (or Irawaddy) river.



Plenty of time for viewing the country. Farming comes right up to the rails.


The overnight train (18 hour journey in fact) was an interesting experience. I don't wish to speak badly of any country I travelled through, or patronise from my privileged position, but there was no doubt the train was a lower standard of travel than the buses I travelled on, or the train I later travelled on in Thailand. I like train travel and it was a great opportunity to view the country, but as my grandson said 'the toilet was not very smart' (he loved the journey though). Trains are government owned and run in Myanmar, they cannot be booked online and it is difficult to get tickets. I'll discuss train travel further at the end of the post, particularly why a form of travel where the infrastructure is there, the emission level is low compared to other transport, and there is capacity for fast and comfortable travel, seems so often to be in difficulty.

Sunset over the Ayerawaddy River

I caught the overnight bus back from Bagan a few days later (my daughter and grandson left before me) and again it was comfortable and convenient.

I left Myanmar on 7 February. The travel agent I'd booked through before my holiday had advised that I should have a flight booked out of Myanmar in order to ensure my visa application was successful (getting a visa for Myanmar is still more complex than for most of SE Asia), so I flew out of Myanmar, to Chiang Mai, to start my (mainly) overland trip home. This was while concern about the novel coronavirus (or Covid-19 as it's now known) outbreak in China was growing worldwide, and Yangon airport was almost deserted when I left.

I arrived in Chiang Mai airport on 7 February and went by car to the guesthouse where I was staying. I generally booked both accommodation and transport through online booking services, and used the 'Grab' app for taxi booking in most cases, which is convenient because you can pay in advance and it prevents any hassles over fares. The guesthouse was just outside the beautiful heritage listed old city, so for the two days while I stayed there I walked everywhere.

Guesthouse Chiang Mai
Road to guesthouse
Flower festival Chiang Mai

After two days I went to an 'Eco Lodge' about 50 kms from the old city centre. Unfortunately this involved a lot of car travel, first to get there, but also later to get some cash out to pay for my accommodation because I had not brought enough. The owners of the lodge were able to take me with them when they went on a shopping expedition the following day, but it still required an 80km round trip to get to a working autoteller where I could get cash (warning, many places in Thailand don't take card payment).

I did go on one walk from the lodge to the nearest village (a Karen hill tribe village), which was a very attractive but slightly unnerving walk because I had to walk past a water buffalo who looked definitely unfriendly. Anyway, I lived to tell the tale! I also went on a bamboo raft down a local river, but that also was a bit unsustainable because I to be driven to the start point and then picked up in a car at the end. It was a lovely ride, but nowadays the rafts are also transported upstream by motor vehicles (utes, as we would say in Australia). I don't know what they would have done in traditional times, possibly pulled the raft along from the bank, because the current was quite swift and it would have very hard to punt back up again. Punting was essentially what they were doing, the river was quite shallow, but the rafts floated downstream with the current.
Bamboo rafting

I went by car back to Chiang Mai central bus station and by overnight bus to Bangkok, arriving on 12 February. Bangkok was the only place where I had some minor misadventures. From the bus station I walked to Queen Sirikit park, one of the few big parks in Bangkok, and then on to a nearby market area for shopping and lunch, before returning to the bus station to collect my luggage and go to my hotel. However, the bus station is huge and I was tired, and it took me ages to find the lockers where I'd left my case, during which time I also lost my shopping. Then I stood in the queue for a taxi, rather than booking through Grab. The taxi driver could not understand the name of my hotel, and for some reason it did not appear in Thai characters on google maps either, so he ended up shouting at me to get out, and in my haste I trod on and broke my glasses! There was another really helpful taxi driver nearby, who came back with me while I tried to find my shopping (which I'd realised I'd lost at the same time as I was being ordered out of the taxi) and was generally very helpful, even though we couldn't find it. The hotel that afternoon also had a plumbing problem and the bathroom flooded and it took ages before someone came to clear it up, so Bangkok wasn't the most successful part of my trip. But really these were the only problems I had in the entire trip, and they were very minor. Most people were very kind and helpful - even when I didn't take enough cash with me to the ecolodge.

The next day I caught a taxi back to the market to replace the gifts I'd lost, and then walked through Chinatown to the museum (a very good walk) and then found my back on the underground system (also very good). I got a Grab taxi to the station and then caught the overnight train to Suret Thani, en route to Phuket. There was a slightly alarming sign in Bangkok station left luggage area, where I left my case while I had dinner, which said not to leave food in your luggage because of rats. However the train was fine. I had a second class sleeper, which was quite comfortable and clean, with curtains for privacy, and very reasonably priced. There is a privately operated luxury train from Bangkok to Singapore, the Eastern and Oriental Express, but as I'd already decided to travel home through Australia on the Ghan, I wasn't interested in another luxury train journey and wanted to see a bit of Thailand, including the islands.

From Suret Thani I caught the bus to Phuket. On Phuket I stayed at Patong Beach, a big mistake on my part because I hadn't done my research! Patong Beach is famous for its 'racous night life' and really not my scene, although the guesthouse I stayed at was off the main drag and fine. But the next day I caught a speed boat ferry to Koh Lipe, a small island down south, where I stayed at a quiet little resort, courtesy of my daughter as a thank you present for my help in Myanmar.

A
part from the beach resort in Koh Lipe (which was lovely but not a luxury resort) I usually stayed at reasonably priced places such as guesthouses, rather than the cheapest places with shared rooms, where backpackers would normally stay. So I always had my own room, sometimes with a bathroom but more often with shared bathrooms. Some of the guesthouses were lovely, though none were luxury accommodation. 
Boat returning after dropping passengers at platform for ferry, Koh Lipe

After three days at Koh Lipe, I caught the ferry to Penang in Malaysia where I was meeting some friends. This was the normal ferry, where you sit internally and don't really have a view. There are actually two separate ferries, one to Langkawi where you have to disembark and go through customs and immigration to Malaysia, and then another from Langkawi to Penang. Both were fine, not particularly interesting because of being inside and not having a view, but very cold because the air conditioning was set so low. Departing Thailand was done on the beach at Koh Lipe and is a very low key affair. Customs and immigration at Langkawi was a bit more formal but still quite straightforward. At that time there was no temperature testing, although some places in Myanmar (shopping centres and hotels) already had that when I left. 

A convenient feature of all borders is being able to get a new card installed easily in your phone so you can always have a local number. Mobile phones make everything about travel easier than when I was young, including the maps which are great for walking. I would have found Yangon in particular very difficult without that, but it was convenient everywhere.

From the ferry terminal in Penang I got a Grab taxi to the guesthouse where I was staying, which again was very near Old Penang, the heritage part of the city. Penang was terrific, a bit hot and humid in the afternoon, but otherwise great for walking everywhere. The guesthouse I stayed in was also really good, a converted row house including original features such as the indoor courtyard. My friends and I climbed Mt Penang in the morning and then walked everywhere in old Penang for the next two days. I then caught a Grab taxi to the bus station and caught the overnight bus to Singapore.
Climbing Mt Penang

By this time, the impact of Covid-19 on travel was becoming very apparent, and my bus was almost empty. When we arrived at the Singapore land border, we had to disembark twice, the first time to exit Malaysia, then a few kilometres on to enter Singapore. The border crossing (in the morning by now) was still very busy as many people commute for work. It was quite challenging to find the way back to the bus but I somehow managed it both times. We were tested for temperature when entering Singapore.

I hung around near the bus station in Singapore for a while, doing a bit of shopping and having lunch, until I could go to my hotel. Again that was by Grab taxi. I'd chosen a somewhat more upmarket hotel in Singapore for the last day before going back to Australia. I walked around a bit near the hotel that afternoon and evening but did not do very much there. At the airport in the morning, there was distance temperature testing (by a small crew using a screen and device on a tripod) but only for arriving passengers, not departing. The airport was fairly quiet although not nearly as quiet as Yangon had been. 

I arrived in Darwin on 22 February. I don't remember much emphasis on Covid-19 at the airport, no temperature testing that I was aware of. (Update: I had said - now deleted - that this was before the ban on flights from China started but that was wrong. Passengers from China were banned from 2 February. There was some statement about passengers from China when I arrived at Darwin airport, perhaps because passengers from China were still coming in via different airports? I'm not clear on this.) Passengers from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where Covid-19 had been found, had already by this time been flown back to Australia from Japan, and were in a hostel in Palmerston, near Darwin. I presume they had been quarantined on entry at Darwin airport, but there was little sign of concern about general arrivals.
Sunset beach Darwin


I stayed a few days with my friends in Darwin and then caught the Ghan back to Adelaide. That was by far the most expensive 'transport' on my trip. I won't describe it in detail, it was very comfortable, the food was delicious, the wine flowed freely, and the views and excursions were wonderful, but it was a luxury experience rather than a standard way of travelling. I arrived back in Adelaide on 29 February, caught up with friends and relations and went to the opening night of the Adelaide festival, and then caught the Overland train back to Melbourne on 2 March.

The Overland, which when I was young was a standard way of getting from Adelaide to Melbourne, and ran I think pretty well every day and night, now runs only two days a week and is in imminent of danger of closing. It is run by a private company, not at the same level of luxury as the Ghan, but is still marketed as an experience. However it is not able to keep afloat. The Victorian and South Australian governments used to subsidise it, but SA will not do so any longer and Victoria will soon cease. Closure I think is expected in May. 
View from the Overland, coming home to Melbourne. Sadly it is due to close in May, after running for more than 130 years.

So the last journey of my trip reinforces the point - in this part of the world alternatives to flying are largely privatised and frequently by road. There is a huge infrastructure of rail and yet for some reason, much of it is either run down or else run by private companies as a luxury experience.  My experience in Thailand shows that it is still possible for governments to run a long distance rail service that is affordable and reasonably comfortable, but it was an exception rather than the rule. It is also possible in Australia to travel up the east coast by train reasonably comfortably and affordably, according to friends, but I have not yet tried that. However the question remains: why in Australia and SE Asia, is comfortable, affordable rail travel the exception rather than the rule, when completely the opposite applies in Europe and Japan? It is clearly not just about distance because it is the case in SE Asia as well as Australia. It seems to be something to do with neoliberalism and privatisation, the neglect and decay of government services, and the availability of cheap bus travel, as well as cheap flights, but I confess I can't unravel this problem at the moment. It needs to be unravelled though, if we want to have sustainable travel, because rail is generally the lowest emitting form. (Update: on reflection I think I may be generalising a bit from my experience in Australia and Myanmar here. In Thailand and Malaysia the train system appears better. But consistently in Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia it was easier to find and book buses than trains.)

Overall my trip was hugely interesting and enjoyable. It could be done much more quickly and cheaply, without the need for much accomodation, although the constant road or rail travel would be strenuous in its own right. However it could not, even with fast trains, be as quick as flying. I will reflect on it further and hopefully return to this subject, but for now it has been over-run by events. I arrived back just as Covid-19 was being recognised as a real threat. Luckily for my journey, I was running just ahead of the real fears, but three days after I arrived back I got a sore throat, and had to be tested because I'd come via Singapore (which ironically has now been seen as one of the countries that has dealt most effectively with Covid-19 so far). I spent 8 hours at the Royal Melbourne Hospital waiting to be tested, and two and a half days days in isolation waiting for results. Fortunately I was cleared, but my experience parallled the start of an intensifying process where every day more people were found to have the virus, and where alarming reports were coming from overseas, first from China then even more dramatically from Italy. Now of course everyone will be aware of the progressive shutting down of much of society in our efforts to prevent infections overtaking the capacity of the health system to care for the seriously ill. 

In this context, my trip seems something like a dream, and my quest to find alternatives to flying seems remote and almost of another era. It does still matter - climate change and environmental breakdown are still urgent concerns and flying is still a significant source of emissions, when it happens. But so few people are flying now that this seems like a question for another time. Perhaps when we are on the 'other side' of this, we may be able to see this question another way: we can live without so much flying, so we could look more at alternatives. But this is all well down the track at present, so I will leave this here.