The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Affordable Frontrow Living! Selling fast!

Lorne PierOn an afternoon stroll to check out Lorne’s newly opened and rebuilt pier (and very nice it is too) I came across a real estate agent’s sign for an apartment near the Pacific Hotel offering AFFORDABLE FRONTROW LIVING. It struck me as an apt metaphor, not only for the Lorne lifestyle, but Australia and Western economies generally. Don’t we all want front row seats in the theatre of life?

A couple of weeks ago 80 people attended a Community Opportunity Workshop in Lorne to discuss issues of concern to the small community of retired residents, service workers and business owners providing the infrastructure to service the needs of an ever-growing population of baby-boomer sea-change retirees/wealthy holiday home owners, all of whom seek to maintain the amenity and the character of the once sleepy fishing village (after they’ve finished developing their little piece of it). Typical of most Australian coastal towns these days. A couple of generations ago the local economy was based on fishing with some incidental tourism and shack culture. Now, they are mostly turning into investment and retirement developments. If you have a lazy million or so, you can still snap up a frontrow lifestyle with ocean views most weekends in Lorne. But the problem is that the small business owners and service workers are finding it increasingly hard to afford living in the town, let alone their work-aged offspring. You certainly couldn’t buy in as a mere service worker. A hardworking couple, maybe. That’s the trouble with a frontrow lifestyle. It can make life difficult and marginal for everyone else in the back rows. A microcosm of the global economic struggle.

And speaking of frontrow living. From Ted Tainer in The Age today a refreshing perspective on global economy and sustainable communities. I spent most of my early adult to middle-age years involved with two very different ‘intentional communities’, and influenced by my formal background in zoology, ecology and biochemistry, I find Tainer’s premise to be self-evidently a rational analysis of the economics of growth and sustainabaility.

THE fundamental cause of the big global problems threatening us now is simply over-consumption. The rate at which we in rich countries are using up resources is grossly unsustainable. It’s far beyond levels that can be kept up for long or that could be spread to all people. Yet most people totally fail to grasp the magnitude.

The reductions required are so big that they cannot be achieved within a consumer capitalist society. Huge and extremely radical changes to systems and culture are necessary.

If the question is how we can run a sustainable and just consumer capitalist society, the point is that there isn’t any answer. That cannot be done. We cannot achieve a sustainable and just society unless we face up to a huge and radical transition to what some identify as the simpler way. This is a society based on non-affluent but adequate living standards, high levels of self-sufficiency, in small-scale localised economies and co-operative and participatory communities. It would have to be an economy that is not driven by market forces and profit, with no growth and, most difficult of all, little concern with competition, individualism and acquisitiveness.

It hardly needs to be said that our chances of making such a huge and radical transition are negligible. For 50 years you have been told about all this, by many scientists and reports. You have taken not the slightest bit of notice. This indicates that you do not have the wit or the will to save yourselves. Your chances in the next few decades will depend very much on whether your region manages to build local economies and on whether the people living there are willing to shift to frugal, co-operative and self-sufficient ways.Just ask yourself, when oil becomes very scarce, what shape will you wish your neighbourhood was in? You had better get out there and start remaking it.

Of course, our friends on the right will protest and argue that we can never know the future. Technological advances may bring both economic prosperity and sustainability. A virulent mutant virus might wipe out 3/4 of the world’s population. If it all goes to shit, we’ll barricade the place, ‘300’ style, and kill every last one of them if we have to, to protect me and mine and all I believe in and willing to die for! The strong will survive according to the laws of nature, and that can only be a good thing for the purity of the species.

In my teens I gave up having faith in the technological future solving the problems of mankind let alone making life easier. Must of been all those cheesy US documentaries, Simpson style, promising a better and brighter future for everyone. Nothing from experience since gives me any confidence that it’ll happen anytime soon. So it looks like it’s the mutant killer virus or a fight to the death. Hmm… Lemme see now…

I think I prefer the sustainable community model. For decades, people have been trying to promote these notions of the human need for both community and economy, and the importance of sustainability for long term environmental health and human peace. Many of them were once hippies and their feral offspring. So it has been easy for the Green Party to be characterised in a dismissive and pejorative way by folks on the right as a bunch of new age whacko fairies stoned at the bottom of the garden. Nevertheless, they speak some truth we all need to attend to.

We can argue the toss about carbon emissions, climate change, Islamic or Christian Fundamentalism, free market economics and socialism, but we may well be running short of time if we are indeed up against what was once called The Limits to Growth. Although Paul Erlich got some of predictions spectacularly wrong, his model is still valid. It’s a question of time. Sooner or later. Are you gonna be part of the problem, or part of the solution?

I’ll leave you with a postcard from local artist/musician/author Jeff Raglus, formerly of Melbourne 80s band Bachelors of Prague, advertising his current exhibition at Qdos Arts gallery in the tall mountain ash forest behind Lorne. It’s more like the Lorne I know.

Summer in Lorne

Filed under: Australian values, Big Picture, Economics, Environment

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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