Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Windmills, trains, elections ...

Classified as: reflective journal - updates, international comparisons, discourse, politics, advocacy

Here are some photos of windmills I took from the Frankfurt-Berlin ICE train (intercity express).

I wanted to take photos of solar arrays - there were lots on buildings and in fields - but the train was going too fast!

I'm back in Australia now, and the election grinds on. A fast train from Melbourne to Sydney has got a possible (but unfunded?) nod from Mr Rudd, but I haven't heard renewable energy mentioned.

Melissa Sweet of Croakey asked via tweet if there was "even single mention of climate and health" in the health debate at the national press club yesterday. Apparently the answer is no.

Others, including Fran Baum, are concerned that social determinants of health (including inequity, poverty and housing) weren't discussed.

As research participant 'Andrew' would say (see post of June 6th), environment and equity don't even seem to be getting "on the table"  as far as the major parties are concerned.

Yet surely these issues are fundamental to the kind of society we want, and the kind of future we can have?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Home thoughts from abroad

Classified as: reflective journal - updates, international comparisons

I am staying in Frankfurt, Germany, visiting my daughter.  I may not be able to post again before I return to Australia, so some quick thoughts below.

This is a great area. Not all of Frankfurt is like this, but for what it's worth: lots of apartments, lots of cafes and shops, street life, lots of pedestrians and bikes. Cars are present but don't dominate.

I know there's some reasons that are specific to Frankfurt, as it's a small city but a major financial centre. Many people commute from villages and surrounding areas (those who live here are probably more likely to be young professionals?).

Nevertheless, I still think European cities seem to do so easily what Australian cities find so hard - create medium to high density living which is comfortable, with much lower emissions than Australian cities.

Also Germans have great social security. They pay high taxes, but get a lot for it.

It's not utopia, and I am not suggesting that it is, but Germany  - and the Scandinavian countries - make so much of the debate in Australia seem a little foolish. It is possible to live more fairly and sustainably than Australians do, and other countries are doing it.

Meanwhile back in Australia the election campaigns lumber on, with meaningful discussion on these kinds of issues apparently missing. Reading blogs  and comments on the news, I am struck by the number of people who say they don't want to vote for either of the major parties.

For my money, the Greens potentially offer a lot of what people might be looking for in terms of social justice and environment, but they still don't seem to really getting through. Again I have some thoughts on this, based on my experiences with the Greens, but will save that for a later post.

As ever, I am interested in your thoughts and comments.

Next post will probably be back in Australia, and I hope to look at some emerging themes from the latest round of interviews and focus groups.

(PS: 'Home thoughts, from abroad', by Robert Browning, is a nostalgic poem about how lovely the English country-side is, with no relevance to this post!)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Feminism, politics and the world we want

Classified as: reflective journal - updates, discourse, feminist theory

Have been messing round with the design of this blog to make the links more visible. I want to add a few more links soon, so I hope this works.

Also have nearly finished sending out all transcripts, but found a few needed double-checking, so it's going a bit slower than I thought (doesn't everything?).

In the meantime, I want to return to a few thoughts from earlier posts about the way we understand the world, Australian politics and what happened to Julia Gillard.

I've been reading various blogs and articles with a pro social justice and environment stance (eg Larvatus Prodeo, John Quiggin, Left Flank). I've noticed a lot of male writers commenting on what happened to Julia Gillard, with a common theme: yes there was misogyny, yes that's bad, but that's not the real reason for what happened to her.

Then they go on with their various explanations: her personality as a leader, the nature of the ALP, the changing nature of politics, etc.

Various women, including myself, have protested about this, saying you can't have it both ways - as Julia Gillard herself said, sexism doesn't explain everything, but it does explain some of what happened. You can't say it happens but it doesn't have any impact - that doesn't make sense. (Doesn't seem to stop them saying it though!)

Not to make this post too long, I'll quickly sketch my argument and try to tie the themes I mentioned together. We've had hundreds (or thousands) of years of patriarchy in "western" culture. It's only recently been largely dismantled legally, and culturally it's still powerful.

In these circumstances, women get into power by working with existing (generally male dominated) systems. Just because Julia Gillard worked within the structures of the ALP or the current political system doesn't mean that feminist analysis of what happened to her is irrelevant.

In the long term I believe that as more women enter politics, the 'caring' areas of life, that have been seen as less important than competition in patriarchal systems, will come to be valued more - at least I hope so. That's not a view about the essential nature of men and women, it's a view about the way social systems have worked and could work - though possibly still hard for many people to understand or take seriously.

I can't make the whole argument here, but my key point is feminism has a lot to offer in the quest for social justice and a sustainable environment. Your comments are welcome ...