Category Archives: Activism

Climate action round up

What with bushfires in Australia, famine raising its terrifying face as locusts swarm across parts of Africa already in drought, floods in Indonesia and NZ, and a pandemic spreading across China and beyond, I have not decided to give up on pressing for action on climate and ecological crisis. I’m often doing some role at actions I attend but sometimes I get a photo in! So here’s a round up of a few from the last month or so through to early February.

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High Vis vests

I’ve found them in op shops across two states… and they keep trickling in…

It’s a bit of recurring task, dealing with the Extinction Rebellion vests! We were given some pre-loved vests last year and Crafternoon gave me some patches… so eventually this job came to the top of my queue and I re-faced the vests. Well, one of them was just too far gone even for my tastes. I could not rehabilitate it even with two washes and trying several stain removal approaches!

Nothing too complicated going on here!

These go on to be used to keep people safe–doing small road swarms or doing banner drops–and here are a couple being used to make small people visible in a bike swarm…

They are also used to make marshals, arrest support and police liaisons visible and identifiable, where needed. And–we even use them at training so people can tell who is in what role in role plays!

Ah, the humble recycled high vis vest….

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Around the house

It won’t come as a surprise to hear that I reckon collective political action is what we need at this point in history. The science says we are now in such profound trouble on the climate emergency front that small scale individual actions, even multiplied many times, aren’t going to sort this out. We need to join together, get active and get vocal.

As I write, large parts of this country are on fire and in drought. Remote Aboriginal communities are living through record breaking temperatures without decent housing or airconditioning, or even guaranteed water supply. Daily life for many people here and all over the world, is hard. And our government has done all in its power to block progress on climate action in Madrid, as well as continuing to support coal, oil and gas mining at home.

Meanwhile, my quiet suburban life is an incredible privilege! While recognising the crucial role of collective action–we are all living day by day, and at that level ethics and educating ourselves form crucial parts of our daily lives. So here are some things I’m doing at home. I love hearing about what other folks are up to, so feel free to suggest!

Eat your weeds! Above are dandelion and sow thistle ready to be added into a silverbeet pie. Delicious, nutritious, easy–and motivating if you’re not a lover of weeding.

Litter picking. For me, this has become an end use for plastic bags that have gone past the point of being used in the kitchen, but have come into the house somehow. I pop one in my bag, along with a pair of gloves if that’s the main purpose of my walk, and pick up the trash I find around the neighbourhood. Sometimes I do it on my bike. Just stop at a messy spot and collect whatever is there.

[I digress to give you an image of a dung beetle. I was so excited when I saw it!! Surely the emblem of the litter picker if there is one…]

Compost it. I deal with our rubbish as close to our house as I can, and when the occasion arises, compost the street leaves dropped on our street, ditto for bark. The worm farm will accept natural fibre items that are beyond repair and reuse. I give a decent burial to the victims of cars and other sudden deaths in our suburb. I know what happens next will not be prettier as surely as I know that leaving a glass bottle in the street will likely lead to smashed glass unless I put it in my recycling bin.

Use it up! I’ve been working harder at making sure the wilted sad fruit and veg get their chance to be delicious dinner. Here, the no longer crisp apples become roasted stuffed apples, delectable (also super easy).

On the use it up front, I’m a maker of stock and have returned to what I used to do at the lowest ebb of income in my life–turning peelings, tops, celery leaves, sad and wilted vegetables and such, into the stock that makes risotto or lentil stew or whatever you fancy, sing.

More using up–as my beloved is on a gluten free diet, I’ve been making GF sourdough bread at home (YES!! Totally Possible). At times the freezer holds quite the collection of stub ends, crusts and such. I’ve discovered I can turn them into crumbs straight from the freezer, and since I make things like spinach pie with no pastry these days, I top them with these crumbs (yes, direct from freezer to dinner via food processor), a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a drizzle of olive oil for a tasty, crunchy topping.

Sharing! I had some serious time on the couch (nothing life threatening–fret not) in the last while and I have been using the local free libraries and book nooks to swap books I’ve read for ones I haven’t, and keep books and magazines circulating. I’ve read books I would never have bought. I now find there are three book nooks like this one (in Penola! where I dropped in a book picked up in Mount Gambier and took away a historical novel) walking distance from my house.

BYO. I know you all do this too. Keep cups and all that. This is me at a stop on a long distance road trip. If I have access to two of these thermos things, I travel with breakfast in one (porridge or “bircher” muesli depending on the weather) and something hot and decent for lunch in the other. Often I grab cutlery from the drawer at home, but if the occasion seems likely to risk losing cutlery we want to keep, we have plastic cutlery that we had no choice about at some stage, saved for just such cases. I often attach it with a rubber band for simplicity’s sake.

Make your own. Sorry, not a food stylist! I know you do this too. I’ve had a breadmaking breakthrough and I love saving plastic that used to come into the house with double wrapped GF bread in particular, by making my own and making for friends.

But above all, take to the streets, and your phone, and your keyboard. Don’t be alone with your fear and despair, or with your longing for something to happen. Gather with friends. Make new friends. We need all of us to take action in defence of life on earth now.

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Bike swarming

In the spirit of Critical Mass, our Extinction Rebellion group has been organising a bike swarm each month.

It’s a pretty sweet event when all goes smoothly, and lots of lovely folk roll up to ride together through our streets calling for climate action and making the streets safe for low carbon travel by bike.

I’m not up for taking photos while riding, so here you have photos of the friendly opening and closing. For a great photo of our October Rebellion bike swarm–click here!

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From little things…

This morning I felt quite unwell and scaled back my expectations of the day. But, I decided on a quiet stroll to the Farmers’ Market nearby as a pleasant undemanding outing. I’m blessed to love walking distance from this weekly market. I love that it sells local produce; I love that packaging is much less of a feature here than at a supermarket. I love that there are small organic producers selling here. It’s spring, and on the way I saw another woman walk up to a bottlebrush and run her hand over the flowers with evident pleasure–we had a lovely conversation about their beauty and she said she had seen streets full of jacaranda but never a whole street where the street trees are bottlebrush. A sister!

So I set out and decided to litter pick on my way. A few weeks back I bought three kilograms of rhubarb from the farm gate when I was out and about, and it came in three rhubarb–length bags with holes punched in them. They’ve gone to the litter picking bag stash rather than into the re-use for food stash because of the holes. One had already been used to pick litter when I was out on my bike. So I put the other two in a calico bag with my garden gloves and set out. I filled one bag on my way there. In my neighbourhood, I pick up a lot of cigarette butts, bottle lids of all kinds, advertising, confectionery packaging, fast food containers, straws, cable ties and tissues. The tissues make me want to continue with the [making and sharing] hanky project! On the way there I also picked up a beer bottle. In my experience it is always a mistake to leave a glass bottle on the street because the next time I see it, it is usually shattered. I arrived at the market, put my litter bag in the bin and the bottle in the recycling. I got a lovely smile from a woman pushing a child in a pram just as I arrived–looked to me as though she could see what I was doing and wanted to share her approval.

First stop, cheese. I ran into a friend and complimented him on his photos of the School Strike for Climate, which massive here as in so many parts of the world. The woman running the stall joined in the conversation, and when my friend said we just have to keep the momentum building, she said she thought there was an event coming Monday week–and what do you know? She was referring to one of the events for the Extinction Rebellion Spring Rebellion–which is a global week of action–and I’m part of the organising team for our city. As he stepped away, I told her I was an organiser and we had a chat about what she might do, and about the local group near where she lives. That was very cheering!

Next I bought some seeds for my spring garden and had a lovely chat with the seller who also had a gorgeous selection of flowers.

Then I decided on a treat from a stall that sells apples and delectables featuring apples and other home grown fruit. I have been bringing my own bag to this stall for years, and the couple who run it have always expressed their delight when I bring my own bag. When I buy a tart or brownie from them I bring my own container and they love that too! It’s so nice to have people respond positively, especially as some folks will refuse to co-operate in this strategy. Many will embrace it, however, and I now use it for sushi, cheese at the Central Market, one of the few places I can still find cheese being cut from a block and not pre-packaged, and all manner of things that need a container but don’t need a single use container. This stall provides paper bags, and has moved to cardboard trays for squishy fragile delectables, but clearly the owners are still hoping for a non-single-use strategy, so we talked over some of the possibilities, including just advertising that you can bring your own tub.

And then I walked home and filled another bag with litter. But I felt quite heartened by today’s chat. It made me think, yet again, that you do not know the ripples your efforts might have. I often think that individual efforts, while educational and ethically significant, are not especially impactful–and that is one reason I focus my effort on activism when I am able. Yet the apple-store woman said she had been prompted to go further in her quest for less waste by my bringing my own tub week in, week out. Our conversation held one new idea from me and one new idea from her own imagination. The cheese-store woman is one step closer to coming along to an Extinction Rebellion event because she has had a warm conversation with a customer. And the neighbourhood has less plastic going into the storm water system.

For those who don’t recognise it–the title of this post is a reference to “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, two giants of Australian songwriting. It is a tribute to the movement for Indigenous land rights in this country, and in particular to a key leader of the Gurindji: Vincent Lingiari, who led the walk off at Wave Hill, a key moment both for land rights and sovereignty. It was also a key moment for the right of Indigenous Australians to be paid equal wages in a period when some white landowners were still “paying” Indigenous Australians in rations–just one appalling practice in a lengthy history of exploitation which has continued into my lifetime.

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Crafting for the Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion is a wonderful hive of every kind of activity in our city (and in so many other places around the world). I went to a crafternoon last weekend where people were screen printing thrifted t shirts and patches, cutting out stencils, and carving lino blocks for block printing. Meanwhile, I was taking instructions about how to sew a snail costume and insert zippers into it–some from my stash and some other that showed up from someone else’s stash.

fluorescent yellow flags with the extinction rebellion logo in black, on bamboo poles

Meanwhile, one of this week’s crafty projects at home has been cutting out some ripstop nylon to form pennants for our critical mass extinction bike swarms. The nylon came from the Remakery, and while Sue from the Remakery and I were in agreement that nylon is evil stuff–we were also in agreement that this piece of nylon is otherwise destined for landfill. So I cut out pennants, used a cardboard stencil to draw the image on the pennant, and then painted the design in.

woman on a bicycle with red panniers and a LOT of flags sticking up, riding along a pathway with large trees on each side.

I sewed a casing on each pennant and stitched across one end. Then it was off to the local bamboo patch to cut long slender bamboo poles, and to the hardware to get staples for the heavy duty stapler (we don’t want the pennants flying off!) And then onto our bikes to go to the swarm.

Above, a picture of our pre-swarm briefing. And below, a picture of us all taking up space on the road and letting passersby and road users know that we want climate action!

Bicycle swarm in action waiting for the lights in Tarndanyangga (Victoria Square).

And we finished up at Parliament House!

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First guerilla gardening of Spring

Autumn’s cuttings and seedlings are ready for planting around the neighbourhood.

One of my dear friends died recently, and on the day of her funeral I decided I’d go out and plant. Somehow it seemed right. Here they are ready to go.

I planted them along a corrugated iron fence, where some have lived, some have been poisoned, and some have been pulled out. Here’s hoping these make it! Then as usual, litter picking, weeding and home.

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A belated Australia Day post

Dear friends, this post is not about craft. Just so you know in advance.

Australia’s national day is January 26, so this post is well past its original date.  I was overtaken by events in January. But I was also overtaken by my own feelings on this subject and having revisited this post several times since, still find it hard to choose what exactly to say.

‘Our’ national day is supposed somehow to commemorate the claiming of this continent as part of the British Empire and also to celebrate our nation and people. This is a tough balancing act. Impossible in a colonised country, I would say. On the date commemorated, the colonising power had only the vaguest idea of the coast and knew even less about the interior.  Of the hundreds of first nations and language groups–they knew almost nothing. Indigenous Australians were never conquered: at the point of colonisation most had never encountered anyone British.  They never ceded sovereignty over their lands. The few places where efforts at treaty were begun were abandoned by the colonisers.

Although it was bloody and violent, in my own lifetime this process has often been called ‘settlement’ by non Indigenous Australians; and almost never referred to as a war. So non-Indigenous and white Australians (I speak as a non-Indigenous white person) have a long history of not  being able to speak the names of what our ancestors did here. Those whose families arrived here more recently sometimes find this just as difficult: but in recent decades and since the end of the white Australia policy, more people arrive here from countries which have themselves been colonised, so this may yet change.

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I had just a small number of days at home around the date. We are currently having an intermittent national debate about whether to change the date of Australia Day. Doing so would at least acknowledge the pain of Indigenous people who are now expected to tolerate ‘the nation’ being celebrated on a date representing colonisation and dispossession. Some prefer to call it Invasion Day. Some call it Survival Day. This graffiti was amended by a racist response, and then a riposte, and then obliteration–all in the course of a week.   January 26 is not a date I celebrate, and this year I got up and ran as usual. I know I was planning   a blog post, but all that I have of my thoughts are some images.

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This first is one of my guerilla plantings of carprobutus, after we had a heatwave that went all the way to 47C. That is not a typo, and Adelaide was not the hottest place in the state. When I was planting this, a gentleman came past apparently bent on persuading me of the futility of my endeavours. I told him I really thought this plant could make it and that was why I had chosen it. He responded by almost claiming I was cheating–so tough is this plant. Just look at it here. Sometimes when I am at a railway station or beside a road, I am looking at ugly (though–often important) infrastructure, and the blighted land that so often surrounds it, regularly poisoned, covered in rubble, a repository for rubbish all too often. I think about the fact that once, and not so long ago, none of this was here.  In this place, now a suburb, was dense forest of which no visible clue now remains. This land, and not only places that are still forest or desert or scrub, was once revered as the mother by people who had not faced colonisation.

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A little further on, the intense heat has killed trees. This is not exceptional–our city is scattered now with full grown trees that have died since that heat wave. Here is part of the landscape I run through, near where the graffiti above appeared. Care for land is central to every account of Indigenous life and law and ethics I have ever encountered from a person or in a written account. Nothing like the city I live in could spring from this ethic. Nor could the inaction on climate change that has us already facing 47C. IMAG2248

From here, I run into the parklands and then into the cemetery. Here too, vegetation is scorched. Right through the suburbs, even now there are shrubs and trees covered in crisp leaves like these. If they were not regularly watered, these plants could not live here at all.

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It’s interesting running through the cemetery.  It has me thinking about all manner of things I otherwise might not. For instance, about the imperial war graves.  So many of them.  Yet these are only the graves of returned servicemen from particular wars, who died after returning from those wars. These very numerous graves are therefore not the total picture.  They do not recognise the frontier wars, for instance. They gesture toward the carnage of war which is in reality so much worse than this, and they make the violence that created what we know as Australia today, invisible.

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The remainder of the cemetery is relentlessly sectarian. Mostly Christian, with strict divides between Christian sects as well as between Christian sects and other faiths. I run past the Druse and Jewish sections as well as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox graves. If there is an Indigenous section in this cemetery it is well hidden. But you can see how dry the unwatered parts of the cemetery are here.

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Weeds in all their destructiveness, on the other hand, are everywhere. This is one of my nemeses, weed-wise, caltrop that punctures feet and tyres alike (yes, I pulled it up!) I have studied weeds and colonisation both, in different ways, and there are some key ways in which the damage of colonisation is out in the open to be seen, and yet, is not seen.  In this way it is rather like weeds–many of us do not know where they came from and the damage they do is not always as easy to see as in the case of caltrop. They have changed the ecology of this ancient land.

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Prisons were unknown to Indigenous peoples prior to colonisation. What cruel irony, for this place to have been made a penal colony first of all, and in the present for Indigenous Australians to be so over represented in Australian jails. This is the old Adelaide jail. A horrific place even in the 1980s when I visited someone there, and appalling even in the visitors’ area as distinct from the cells. Historically, people were sent here for the crime of being poor, among others. It is now being partially redeemed by a community garden within the grounds where those put to death for their crimes were buried without the requirements of their faiths as part of their punishment–an idea that horrifies even my atheist sensibility.

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In short, I can think of nothing to celebrate about colonisation. In all honesty, I am no fan of the concept of the nation. When it comes to our national anthem, which celebrates Australia as “young and free” when in reality this continent is ancient and so are the cultures of the original peoples whose cultures and ancestors have been here since time immemorial–I think this song by Tiddas expresses it best.

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I’ll consider celebrating Australia Day when we are telling the truth, acknowledging the suffering and loss of the past and present, and rectifying the injustices of colonisation. And in that spirit, I give you a revegetation site where once stood weedy, neglected, abused land. Australia: we can do so much better.

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The rebellion begins

Needless to say, every big day takes preparation by many people. I can’t completely imagine the preparation that has gone into the thousands of people who have joined the Extinction Rebellion and converged on London, blockading streets and bridges in an effort to compel their government to act on climate change and ecological breakdown. In our relatively little place, though, I can say some of what’s been happening behind the scenes.

As high vis vests continue to trickle in, (for marshals to use in keeping people safe on the streets or when doing banner drops) and patches emerge from the screen printing (and stitching) rebel, I’ve been stitching them on to keep our collection growing.

Then there was doing a quiet recce at parliament house, where I can highly recommend the tour. It is informative and there are some beautiful things to be seen as well as some evidence of the corruption that featured in the colonial period to be heard of!  Above, some of the suffragists responsible for our state granting women the right to vote (after Aotearoa/New Zealand led the way) as well as the right to stand for parliament (included in the Bill as an amendment, expected to sink the Bill and defeat the suffrage–there has to be comeuppance sometimes!)  The women’s suffrage centenary tapestries in the lower house of parliament were woven by local weavers as a community arts project and there are many members of my Guild listed as weavers.

Here, the red line in the carpet over which a white gentleman (Indigenous people not even recognised as citizens in this period, let alone as able to stand for parliament or vote) must not step with a sword.  Yes, a throwback to English history.  Then  there was the preparation of a rebel outfit for a certain poster child, at the request of her mother.

And then came the big day.  Inspired by Scottish rebels, 13 of us who had trained and prepared for the role went on a tour of parliament and then declined to leave the lower chamber, where we formed our own citizens’ assembly and each delivered a speech about our fears for future generations if our governments do not begin to tell the truth and act on it by taking emergency level action on climate change and the ecological crisis. Here our police liaisons explain the situation to our charming and very informative guide. He was astounded that we would pass up the opportunity to see the upper house!

Here one of us is on the phone to the Premier’s office.

A lighthearted moment with a possum who survived two boys’ childhoods and told me “if we don’t get action on climate change, and soon, we’re all STUFFED” at which I had to point out I thought the possum was (just barely) stuffed already.

I suggested rebels bring a pack of cards or their knitting just in case of a long wait.  Then I left my knitting at home–oops–but others were better prepared!

And then eventually we were, as the TV news put it, “forcibly removed” with our suffrage foremothers looking down on us.  I think they would have understood. And Joyce Steele (in blue on the wall in the image below) the first female MP in the state, elected in the 1950s–she was looking down on us too. I have a soft spot for her, having encountered her reading Hansard. She spoke to the Bill that eventually decriminalised abortion in our state in 1975, the first time in the history of the state that a woman had been able to speak to this matter in parliament in the period since English criminal law was imposed over Indigenous law through colonisation. Though clearly not a big fan of abortion, Joyce Steele was equally clearly unable to remain silent.  She had heard the terrible stories of the women in her electorate who had come to see her on this issue over her life as an MP, as well as being prepared to speak to the lack of sexuality education and access to contraception in her time.

With Joyce looking down, we were removed from the chamber and taken out to the stairs where our fellow rebels and some media and my beloveds were waiting. And may others join us as a result.  ABC TV coverage from 8.05 here.  Local news here.  More at xrsa.com.au.

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A report on recent climate action

There was a great report on the Australian government’s climate action on national TV this week. And lest I be misunderstood by people who are not from around here, what I mean is our government’s virtually complete inaction.  The barrier our politicians represent to real action. The world’s scientists have declared that we need 12 years of emergency level action on an unprecedented global scale to avert catastrophe, and the Australian governments federal and state are doing the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, chanting “rhubarb rhubarb”, pushing cash in a brown paper bag toward the fossil fuel industry, and behaving as though there is nothing to worry about.

Meanwhile, the schoolchildren of the world and supportive adults are organising in the streets. #climatestrike. Because schoolchildren know the gravity of the situation.  That is how smart they are; that is also how transparent government inaction is. So I added myself to their number in solidarity, and when I had to squeeze myself onto the train to get to the rally, I already knew it was going to be BIG!  My pictures don’t do it justice. I love being able to stand behind children’s leadership on this issue.

Extinction Rebellion in four states of our country delivered our demands to our governments in March.  Here in South Australia we read out our demands and hand delivered them (yes, we did it by email as well just in case) to the government, the parliament and the Advertiser as a representative of the media.  I realise it’s a lot to ask when the planet is at risk (cough)–but we are demanding government and the media tell the truth about climate change and take serious, emergency level action. Our collection of upcycled high visibility vests for marshals and police liaisons have been screen printed by an awesome friend; cured in the hot sun (the photo) and aired out after use ready for a good deal of future action.

And then there was Paddle Out for the Bight, an action designed to let Equinor (a Norwegian fossil fuel giant) know that we do not think drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight is a good idea.  Because–whale sanctuary and wilderness–oil spill modelling shows unbelievable damage would result from a spill in these treacherous seas–and, you know?? CLIMATE CHANGE is a mighty good reason to keep it in the ground. See you on the streets and on the beaches, my friends.

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