Saturday, 30 July 2016

Hows, whys and Ecofeminism

Classified as: theory, reflections

I've been writing my theoretical and methodological chapters and trying to make sense of the fields of theory I've used in developing the research and analysing the findings. These are: health promotion theory, political economy (largely based on Marxist and neomarxist theory), theories of discourse and practice (sometimes called cultural theory, to distinguish them from the economism and structuralism of Marxist theory in particular, I think), ecohealth and ecofeminist theories.

One of the things I have to explain is how I moved from beginning the research with a personal belief in feminism but not a strong over-arching feminist approach, to the current position where I now see Ecofeminism as the strongest explanatory framework for the research findings.

The simple answer is this: there have been over 100 people involved in this research project now, including about 40 as research participants (I will try to include a table with specific figures next week). The overwhelming majority have been female, particularly when you analyse down to 'those employed in the health and community sector' and then 'those who are research participants'.

You can explain the 'how' of this quite easily: women are over-represented in the caring professions and women are somewhat more 'pro-environment' than men, therefore more women are involved in the research. But the 'why' is deeper, and involves asking about things that are generally taken for granted, such as why 'caring' (both paid and unpaid) in this society is predominantly done by women.

For that, I have turned to history and feminist theory, and finally to Ecofeminism, to understand that our public discourse is dominated by exchange, trade, competition, money and hierarchy but is built on a taken-for-granted realm of subsistence, cooperation, everyday life, care and nurturance and 'nature' or the ecologically given.

As I've noted before, in recent history dominant knowledge was patriarchal, created by ruling class white men. Within that knowledge, women, 'inferior races', peasants or working class people and the natural world, were the given - that which constituted, or produced, the natural and human 'resources' that could be traded or fought over (summarised so clearly by Weber, as discussed here).

I have become increasingly impatient with social theory that doesn't deal with gender (as so much of it doesn't). I think that only by understanding this patriarchal world that has created our current reality, can we move on from it - but so many people seem reluctant to do so (partly because it's still all around us, of course!).

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Adjusting to the new reality that's quite like the old one, or maybe not

Classified as: reflections, updates, politics

So the election has not brought any apparent policy change in regard to equity, environmental sustainability and health. There also appear to be some worrying trends such as the election of Pauline Hanson and possibly some other One Nation representatives in the Senate. This is likely to mean continuing verbal attacks against Muslims, and probably against Ms Hanson's previous targets of Asians and Indigenous people. What this will lead to I'm not sure. Previously in Victoria, it seems One Nation was largely defeated by strong positive leadership on multiculturalism and non-violent civil action. I hope this can be repeated but it also needs to extend to other parts of Australia, and we need to understand what the appeal of One Nation is.

Similarly I would say we need to understand what is the appeal of boat turn backs and detention camps for asylum seekers, which are policies of both major parties, so they are not just appealing to fringe groups. I think advocates are doing a really good job of drawing attention to the inhumane nature of detention camps, and that is probably achieving some change of attitude. (Will try to reference this at a later time when I am not working on my mobile). However I think we also need a stronger discussion on why people support those policies and what the alternatives are - I'm sure that's happening but I'm not seeing much of it in the public arena, so it needs to be brought out somehow. I guess it's always an issue of defining the problem AND presenting solutions, for effective policy and political change.

The broader political front is also pretty depressing, not just because of constant news of violence such as the latest shooting in Munich, but because of political decisions like Brexit and the nomination of Trump as Republican presidential candidate in the USA. It seems clear that those movements reflect people's concern over inequality to some degree, but they also reflect fear of immigrants and the 'other'. Thinking about what is happening with inequality world wide (where approximately 64 people, the majority of them white men, hold half the world's wealth in monetary terms), the fear of immigrants and the turning to someone like Trump as a saviour is deeply, deeply midplaced if it is a reaction to inequality. However there must be some social meaning to this and I think it is important to understand it.

In the USA it seems pretty clear that Trump's appeal is related to old style white patriarchy - the feeling that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are illegitimate upstarts. That was pretty clear in Trump's convention speech, where he and his supporters were saying Hillary Clinton should be jailed, without any resort to due process (indeed one of them claimed she should be shot). Of course, this is also 'Strongman Dictatorship' of a classic type, that's not only directed against women or people of colour, but I think a key reason he can say these things without provoking more outrage is that many people do see women (in this case) as not being legitimate players and therefore not entitled to the protection of the normal rules of the game. The same was true when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister here, when very nasty verbal attacks, of the kind that are not usually made in Australian political life, were made against her (including sexualised attacks, remarks that she should be drowned or culled like an unwanted animal, and attacks on the occasion of her father's death).

In the UK however the reaction seems a bit different - with the election of Theresa May, it seems more as if people have turned to a woman to clean up the mess that men (largely - eg David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage) have created. That's certainly not an unheard of thing in politics though!

Both of these phenomena fit with my 'grand theory' about competitive, hierarchical patriarchy - that it has a dominant ideology of competition, inequality and reliance on violence, but that the underlying assumption of this is that someone is around to do the caring, the cleaning up, to keep things going no matter how violent and chaotic the world becomes. It is this assumption that climate change in particular calls into question.

Big leap there that I'll discuss later. This will be updated. Also my earlier post on Malcolm Turnbull and climate change will have to be updated because the speeches I analysed all seem to have disappeared from his website. To be continued ... 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Election wash-up - reflecting, musing, trying not to brood ...

Classified as: reflections - musings, feelings

I'm going to try to blog more frequently for the rest of this year/until I finish the PhD - whichever comes first. After that the blog may take different directions, or I may stop doing it, I don't know. It concerns me somewhat that I feel as if I can't say entirely what I think because this blog is linked to my research (of course!) but also to Monash. The university does have some control over what I say - in the obvious sense that is right, in that the things I say shouldn't be abusive or offensive. Yet at the same time it seems as if it is limiting my ability to be truthful, which I guess is what some people talk about when they talk about 'political correctness'.

Normally I take comments about 'political correctness' to be code for 'I want to make negative comments or judgements about women and minority groups, but I might get into trouble for it' and I don't have much sympathy for them. However I feel a sense that I am limited in two ways: one, not being able to express emotion, and two, having to appear politically 'impartial'. The first I think has a basis in that being emotional can turn into swearing and being abusive (my mother used to say 'swearing indicates a poor vocabulary' meaning you should be able to find other ways to express your feelings, but I don't know - it's pretty ubiquitous!). I think part of having an egalitarian society is definitely treating others with respect, but at the same time I think we should be able to express how we feel. The political impartiality thing I think is a mistake - researchers and teachers at university level should be able to express who they would vote for and why. It's a fine line - they shouldn't use their position to campaign for a party, because they do have a personal-emotional influence on students, as well as an intellectual one, but they should be able to say why they think particular policies are better for Austrslia, I suggest.

Which is all a long winded way of saying that I am angry and disappointed about what has happened in the federal election. I am angry at Mr Turnbull for being dishonest about climate change (see previous post) and disappointed and a bit angry that just over half of Australian voters supported his government nonetheless. I am disappointed that even though most Australians apparently think our society should be more equal, they won't vote for that (presumably because they are worried about 'the economy', that identifiable 'thing' we are all supposed to fear and venerate).

Let me be clear - I am not saying people shouldn't worry about losing their jobs and not having enough money - of course they do. But 'the economy' is simply the sum total of our work, trade and exchange, and how we look after our environment and each other. If we want to have a society that is fairer and more sustainable, we should be able to do, but people seem scared to try. I think the fear is essentially, that one, we (ordinary people) don't have the capacity to do so, we will stuff it up somehow, and two, rich and powerful people will punish us if we try (of which two is probably more realistic).

As I am getting towards the end of this thesis, I am strongly convinced that we need major social change to create societies that are fairer and more sustainable, but I am becoming depressed about the possibility, not just because of what's happened in our election, but because of what's happening in the world (like what's happening now in Turkey or the massacre in France, to name just two recent events). I'm depressed, to be frank, not seriously depressed I suppose, but just flat - finding it hard to get motivated in any way. I still get delight in my family and my grandkids and the natural world, but so much else seems misguided. There are so many people, mainly women, but also some men, particularly those who aren't in the full time paid workforce, in this project who are working quietly at community level for fairer and more sustainable communities - yet when I look at the national or international political level, it's just not reaching there.

I'm writing this on my mobile, so it's a bit difficult, and I think I'll stop there. It's probably not entirely clear what I mean either, but perhaps I can expand or explain in later posts. I'm not giving up, and I hope others aren't either, but it is a weary path at present. There are therapeutic group sessions being offered in Melbourne for climate activists at present, I think I might try to get to one. Anyone else who is interested, please contact me for details through my Monash email address (see side panel of blog).

Friday, 1 July 2016

Overwhelming consensus: LNP Fail, Labor Could do Better, Greens Good on climate change

Party leaders have been talking a lot about health in the last days of the election, but climate change and health has hardly been mentioned - yet unchecked climate change is the biggest global threat to our lives, health, homes and livelihoods, as well as other species.

A wide range of groups have recently released score cards on the political parties on climate change. The consensus is overwhelming: it can be summarised as LNP Fail, Labor Could do Better, Greens Good.

I really hope people think about this before theyvote.

More score cards below:

Australian Conservation Foundation

World Wildlife Foundation

Turnbull, "Terrible lies" and climate change

I think that some politicians tell terrible lies
(Malcolm Turnbull, 30 June 2016)

Climate change is the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of Australians and people worldwide. Unchecked climate change has the capacity to destroy the lives, homes and livelihood of millions of people, as well as other species. Australians want action on climate change.

Malcolm Turnbull has made approximately 110 speeches and verbal statements in this election campaign. It's an impressive total, but what has he said about climate change? Practically nothing.

In all those thousands of words, he has made only four brief statements about climate change. 

About eight interviewers have also asked him questions about climate change, though only one, Amanda Keller, really tried to pin him down.

Mr Turnbull says he is committed to action on climate change, but  insists that Australia's current actions and targets are adequate - or even outstanding - even though climate experts have clearly said they are inadequate. 

Mr Turnbull claims credit for initiatives funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) although the LNP government tried to get rid of the CEFC, and was only prevented by Labor, Greens, Independents and minor parties in the Senate - the same people Mr Turnbull claims are a threat to good government.

Labor and the Greens both call for much higher targets for emissions reduction. Mr Turnbull acknowledges that higher targets are likely to be necessary following the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change - yet at the same time he scare-mongers about higher targets. On several occasions he insisted they would lead to higher electricity prices, in an obvious attempt to raise community fears.

Mr Turnbull said on 30th June 2016 "I think that some politicians tell terrible lies". Yet I have to ask, what is the difference between lying and pretending? If you say that you care about climate change, while pretending that clearly inadequate measures will make a difference, taking credit for measures like the CEFC that your opponents introduced, and scare mongering about meaningful targets, is that any different than "terrible lies"?


Australians' views on climate change
Australians' attitudes to climate change
100+ speeches and verbal statements by Malcolm Turnbull *
Expert views on climate change targets

*Update 14 Feb 2017 - after I posted this, the speeches and transcripts seemed to be removed from Mr Turnbull's website, so I started putting my notes here for the record. I didn't complete that at the time, and have come back to do so recently due to interest in the issue. The transcripts and speeches appear to be back on the website again, but I am not sure that they are all there and it is very slow to navigate around the website so I am continuing to add my notes here time permitting. Unless stated, there was no spontaneous mention of climate change by Mr Turnbull and he was not asked about it by journalists.

8th May - election announcement
9th May, Petrie, no mention, journalist asks - MT says Australia has very good plan and by offering higher emissions reduction targets Bill Shorten is losing the ability to negotiate (presumably for lower targets). All about cost.
10th May - Brisbane
12th May - Mornington Peninsula, MT mentions he has had discussion with Barack Obama who "thanked Australia for our commitment [on CC] ... and we committed each other to both our nations continuing to support the achievements of those targets that had been agreed by all the nations of the world at that very important conference [Paris Climate conference 2015]"
13th May - leaders' debate Sydney, MT no mention of CC (cf Shorten mentioned it in opening and closing remarks)
14th May, doorstop Sydney
15th May, health announcement Sydney
16th May, health statement Sydney
16th May, statement on ships, jobs
16th May - doorstop WA - asked about Labor and Greens deal, spoke about threat of "higher carbon tax"
17th May - statement on traffic link Darwin
17th May - Australian Border Force Darwin
17th May - radio interview Darwin
17th May - radio interview Darwin
18 May - radio interview Darwin
18 May - statement re Cairns Marine Precinct
18 May - door stop with Warren Entsch, Qld
18 May - Townsville
19 May - doorstop NSW
20 May - doorstop
21 May - doorstop
23 May - doorstop
24 May - doorstop
25 May - doorstop
26 May - doorstop re Indigenous issues
27 May - doorstop re Indigenous issues
28 May - doorstop re Headspace
30 May - Emu Plains announcement - asked about Great Barrier Reef, MT refers to existing emissions reduction targets
31 May Childrens Hospital NSW (twice) (asked about cuts to climate science at CSIRO, says CSIRO determines its own priorities)
1 June - doorstop Brisbane
1 June - forum in Qld
2 June - doorstop at mattress company, Vic
3 June - radio Adelaide
3 June - doorstop Adelaide
4 June - campaign speech Adelaide (brief mention CEFC projects but not CC)
6 June - girls sport Malvern
6 June - address young engineers
6 June - doorstop Melbourne
7 June - Press Conference Picton
8 June - Ulla Dulla
8 June - radio interview Alan Jones
9 June - doorstop Tas floods, qu re floods, climate change, talks about silt removal, says can't link directly with CC
9 June - address American Australian Association
10 June - stronger economy statement
11 June - doorstop
11 June - doorstop Sydney
13 June - doorstop Townsville (mentions CEFC money re Great Barrier Reef measures [which don't address CC directly])
13 June - doorstop Townsville
14 June - Petrie
14 June - doorstop
15 June - doorstop Perth
15 June - Alan Jones
15 June -  Perth
16 June - Qantas
16 June - press conference with Treasurer
16 June - Ramadan speech
17 June - Doorstop Alphadale
17 June - Neil Mitchell 3AW
17 June - Jobs North coast
18 June - Netball Deakin
19 June - Truck Rally
19 June - Trucking Industry
20 June - Southwest motorway
20 June - Lunch
20 June - Oran Park NSW - CEFC sustainable infrastructure mention
20 June - Smart Cities - climate change mention, CEFC mention
20 June - City Deal West Sydney
21 June -  Doorstop NT
21 June - Kenbi land claim handover
21 June - Territory  FM
21 June - Q and A - asked a question on position - said position consistent, higher targets were unspecified, claiming to have strong targets
22 June - M1 Gold Coast
22 June - 'Space' Bungalow, Qld
22 June - Alan Jones
22 June - Jobs, Cairns
23 June -Quickstep Geelong
23 June -  Doorstop Quickstep
23 June - Investing Geelong
23 June - CFA Highton
24 June - Devonport Sports facility
Updating to be continued