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We are destroying the joint

Without really knowing what he was saying, Alan Jones was right – we are “destroying the joint”. Any dispassionate assessment of the state of “the joint”, both the corner we occupy and the planet as a…

The world is definitely a mess, but women aren’t the ones to blame. AAP Image

Without really knowing what he was saying, Alan Jones was right – we are “destroying the joint”.

Any dispassionate assessment of the state of “the joint”, both the corner we occupy and the planet as a whole, shows that we are making one hell of a mess of it. Increasing consumption and a growing population are accelerating the depletion of our finite resources, including our precious soils. We are polluting our air, land and water, destroying our heritage places and our communities, producing drastic changes to our climate and pushing out other species at an alarming rate. Human distress and inequality are on the rise, despite our increased material wealth. And all the while, most of us seem to be cheerfully – even wilfully – oblivious to the state we’re in.

But the “we” is not women, it’s all of us. And as a matter of record, since most women have not, until recently, occupied significant positions of influence and power, we should be judged less culpable than men.

Given that women are still in a minority in board rooms and executive positions, as well as in politics, I think it’s pretty rich to blame women for the current state of affairs. It’s fair to say that the responsibility for the mess we’re in resides mainly with those who’ve historically made decisions about the way we manage our societies and economies – privileged, powerful, Western white males.

It’s true, however, that many women now in positions of power appear to share the view that the planet’s resources are inexhaustible and that the only serious policy objectives are those which promote economic growth and material acquisition, with little eye to the social and environmental costs.

This was not what women of my generation campaigned for. While we were caught up in a global push to redesign the roles of women and to challenge the many barriers to our full participation in Australian life, many of us we were also impatient with the broader values of our society. It was intrinsic to much of the early feminist debate, that in seeking equality, women were not looking to simply replicate the experience of men. Nor were we enthusiastic about embracing a capitalist ethic which regarded materialism, competition and selfishness as cardinal virtues. We did not think we could – or should – “have it all”.

It is no accident that at the same time as we were questioning the nature of our society and our place in it, we were also beginning to probe our relationship with the natural world and disputing some of the benefits of technology.

In the early 1960s, Rachel Carson released her ground-breaking book Silent Spring. Underpinning Carson’s approach was a strong rejection of consumerism; she placed spiritual values ahead of material ones. Her book was, as much as anything, an attack on the paradigm of material enrichment driven by scientific progress that was so central to post-war American – and Australian – culture. She also had a strong belief that the idea we can control nature is an arrogant one. Silent Spring is often credited with spawning the modern environment movement and has, as a result, been an object of scorn for those, then and now, who see the environment as a limitless sink.

At around the same time, Australian poet Judith Wright, deeply concerned about the increasing destruction of the natural environment and alarmed at the prospect of oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef, helped found the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. Wright was very influential in the fledgling movement, encouraging a focus on educating Australians to embrace “a deeper kind of belonging”.

Later, Wright argued that the future of the planet depended on individuals developing a new relationship with nature which would require a “reassertion of the values of feeling against the economic and technological Gradgrinds of our time”.

While there has been a virtual revolution in women’s education and working lives since these women wrote; while our choices have multiplied and we are wealthier than we have ever been, deeper, nagging doubts remain about just how much women’s (and men’s) lives have really improved. I suspect more than a few women question whether some of the objectives we’ve been encouraged to embrace do really contribute to our wellbeing.

Does it actually improve the quality of our lives to spend endless hours at work, depriving ourselves of precious time with friends and family; time for leisure and creativity? Can we justify our ever-increasing consumption while others live in rank poverty and the world’s resources are being depleted at an alarming rate? Have we forgotten the warnings of prescient women like Carson and Wright? Are we paying too steep a price for our materialism?

Despite renewed questioning of our economic circumstances during the current global financial crisis, most of those in positions of influence still buy the orthodox line that there are no serious limits to our capacity to exploit the planet’s resources for our benefit; they ignore the reality that the economy is a sub-system of the environment. As eminent UK economist Partha Dasgupta acknowledged, “we economists see nature, when we see it at all, as a backdrop from which resources and services can be drawn in isolation … Accounting for nature, if it comes into the calculus at all, is usually an afterthought to the real business of ‘doing economics’.”

Increasingly, I find myself agreeing with the late historian Tony Judt that “Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today”. In his book, Ill Fares the Land, Judt argued that we have come to make a virtue out of the pursuit of material goals to such an extent that “this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose”. He suggested that this pursuit is now firmly entrenched in an orthodoxy which judges achievement and public policy in exclusively economic, rather than moral, terms.

The result is that when we consider whether to support a particular development or initiative, we don’t ask whether it’s good or bad, whether it will help bring about a better society or a better world, but rather, how will it affect the economy, whether it is efficient, whether it will lead to increases in GDP and, if so, how much it will contribute to growth.

Most people do not appear to regard this as a problem; the equation of wellbeing with economic growth is taken as given and the identity of society with the economy as uncontentious. Indeed, they do not see any alternative to this construction; it is simply the way the world works. And the adverse consequences on us and our environment and our communities simply have to be borne.

And the price we pay for despoiling our environment and trashing our heritage is high. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are connected to and influenced by our social and physical environments, our cultural landscape. People typically have strong emotional bonds to places and the communities in them. There is a now a great deal of evidence that our wellbeing depends in large measure on our relationship with our environment – broadly conceived, the relationships we have with the people around us and the natural and built environment we inhabit; if this cultural environment is destroyed or degraded or if people are prevented from enjoying it, their health and wellbeing deteriorate.

At some level, people seem to understand this. Many people are uneasy about the fact that children today are growing up in a winner-takes-all economy where they are encouraged to see the main purpose in life as getting whatever they can for themselves. In popular culture, selfishness and materialism are no longer seen as moral problems, but as cardinal goals in life.

We are all so caught up in this consumption spiral that it may sometimes seem that there is no escaping it and no way of reshaping our economies, but the passionate advocacy of those indomitable women, Rachel Carson and Judith Wright and others like them, serves to remind us that change is possible.

And it is the dispositions that are more common among women that may be crucial in effecting this change. I’m not arguing that women are all virtue and no vice, or that no men share these characteristics, but we do know that women generally are more likely to see the need to protect the environment and to display more environmentally responsible behaviour. They are also more likely to exhibit strong attachments to place and to be less materialistic in a variety of settings. Women also generally show greater levels of cooperation and express greater empathy toward others. Psychological research also suggests that they are more altruistic.

Why attributes like these appear to be more common among women is debatable. Some have suggested that it is the gendered socialisation which is still typical in most societies that is responsible for the difference: females are socialised to have a stronger “ethic of care”, to be more compassionate, nurturing, cooperative and helpful; it is also argued that their roles as carers reinforce these values. Whatever the accuracy of these interpretations, it seems clear that if these virtues were more highly valued and cultivated in men and women alike, we might have some chance of pulling back from the brink; if not for ourselves then, surely, for our grandchildren.

We cannot ignore the fact that high and accelerating levels of economic growth are generating serious problems of resource insecurity, environmental degradation and social dislocation which produce distress and disease: there is a serious downside to growth. One of the reasons policy makers continue to be fixated on increasing growth as a pre-eminent objective in the face of these effects is that they believe there is no alternative. This represents a failure of the imagination by the political class, a refusal to take seriously and develop other possible models which have – somewhat tentatively – been proposed under the heading of steady state or no-growth economics.

Even Robert Solow, who won the Nobel Prize for economics for his work on growth theory, apparently now describes himself as “agnostic” on whether growth can continue and told Harper’s Magazine in March 2008 that, “There is no reason at all why capitalism could not survive without slow or even no growth. I think it’s perfectly possible that economic growth cannot go on at its current rate forever … There is nothing intrinsic in the system that says it cannot exist happily in a stationary state.”

It is surely time for these ideas to be taken seriously so that we – collectively – can stop “destroying the joint”.

This is an edited extract from “We Are Destroying the Joint” by Carmen Lawrence in Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World, edited by Jane Caro, published by UQP.

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  1. John Campbell

    farmer

    We need to alter our priorities from wealth to security and quality of life. As any good ultra rightist knows making people feel insecure increases their desire for wealth, not necessarily for its own sake but as a way of increasing security.

    There is a further issue in that power influence and reputation are increasingly becoming the realm of the rich and powerful.

    And as I have mentioned elsewhere there is little or no research or work being done to wean us off exponential growth to more…

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  2. margaret m

    old lady

    I think that is going to be a little difficult when all is weight against it. The psychology that is underpinning the marketing strategies to ever consume the big BUSINESS media that delivers information for ever increasing profits expansion catch cry productivity and now governments that's income base has been reduced because we have sold off our very important essential service assets to BIG BUSINESS our governments are weakened because of it. If they do not comply with big business ideology big business has the power of the media to turn the population againt them. We also have an IMF that likes to edict how governments should run their countries but not for the benefit of those who elected them but some global ideology of inter relatinships that will help to improve the world. I think exploit it would be closer to the truth.

    Tell me how do you challenge that power

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  3. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    here we go again on the "them and us" bandwagon.

    where did all this come from?

    i haven't read Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World, edited by Jane Caro,
    but even the title is ridiculous..... we ALL have to change the world.

    this article is just a piece of claptrap aimed at keeping the writer in a job at a university.

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      That's in fact what Carmen said Stephen, The book Carmen wrote no doubt is a thoughtful questioning sort of book. The sort you have to think about. This is why she is employed.
      Because you have difficulty comprehending the massive problems we all face on this planet, and don't see the importance or relevance of a female perspective. I don't that you could have understood the relevance of equal employment or the meaning or need for a shift in our society towards greater respect for women. I see the opposite.
      Claptrap= insult/denegration ( typically used to shut some-one up)
      "Writing just to keep the writer in a job at a university"
      = No ability to think about what Carmen is saying
      = No understanding about Universities and their job
      = Resentment at her position.

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      ***And as a matter of record, since most women have not, until recently, occupied significant positions of influence and power, we should be judged less culpable than men.***

      alice if you have bothered to read any of my comments over a number of topics you would know i am well aware of the world's problems......and like many others know how to fix them (!!)

      i don't resent the writer, just her absurd linking of feminism to environmental issues.

      the "book" was called - Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World

      how arrogant is that?

      it's both men & women who need to change the world, and we don't need histrionics about whether women or men are best placed to SAVE the world.

      get off your high horse.

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    3. In reply to Tony Grant

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. In reply to Alice Kelly

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. In reply to Greg North

      Comment removed by moderator.

    6. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      alice just a reminder that ms lawrence was a premier of an australian state and a federal member of parliament, so there was no gender bias in her case.

      she may be bleating now about the lack of power that women have, but that certainly wasn't true in her case.

      the caption under the top photo says a lot.

      **The world is definitely a mess, but women aren’t the ones to blame**

      the message of "destroying the joint" is a very potent one today, but her linking it to the parlous state of women in today's society is just cheap.

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    7. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Tony Grant

      resorting to the baby boomer tirade is becoming tiresome.

      i'm not sure what generation you are from, but whatever i it is, it rides on the back of what went before.

      if you want to improve the world go ahead......but there doesn't seem to have been huge progress in a lot of areas post 1980.......more pollution, environmental degradation, over population, disease etc.

      it's easy to criticise the baby boomer generation, but unless you and your generation can do a better job, stop that particular blame game.

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    8. Tony Grant

      Student

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Boomers and pre boomers control the "market economies" they have the power/finances yes/no?

      Post boomer gen x/y are subservient to their parents and grandparents...inheritance?

      We aren't stupid, we know where the assets are, you'll see us with mum and dad at the nursing home once month or three!

      I'm glad you understand the environmental situation, I agree with you. By the time gen y get control of the market it may be "very much" to late? 10/20/30 years!

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    9. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      'it rides on the back of what went before'

      That suggests that one generation always leaves benefits for the following ones. Sometimes that is not the case. And if kids were not smarter than their parents, we would still be in caves.

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    10. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Well put Alice, some things which were not fleshed out in the article I would now like to address. To limit volume I will use short statements. Once we acquired the ability to manage agriculture and provide a food source the human species has become a plague on the earth. Women comprised 49.75% of world population in 2009, obviously they are disenfranchised. I once read the following: Men are positive dynamic and aggressive, Women are passive negative and receptive. It is those male traits which have lead us to were we are today.Women usually balk at the word negative, they see it out of context. A matriarchal system would serve us better, women would be far less likely to send their sons and daughters into needless petty wars that are our history. Our close kin the Bonobo and some other species of monkeys provide insight into how a passive society could operate.

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    11. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Tony Grant

      i think you'll find that there are a lot of post b.b.s into the finance and markets areas these days.

      it said that the "new" generations are more the me generations......that doesn't bode well for a communal future, and taking care of the environment.

      just keep remembering that even b.b. have to die eventually.

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    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to robert roeder

      If women didn't have a vote then we could rightly claim our current mess is due to males.

      But over 80% of women vote Labor and Liberal, so they share responsibility for the state of the country.

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    13. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      In a couple of hundred years you may well have a reasonable argument. However women do not have 50% representation nor have we had the vote for long enough to make much impact, until the last 2 decades.

      While the only women to rise to power tend to be more like Maggie Thatcher than Rachel Carson. This happens to men as well... more George W than Obama. Thus the pathway is created by those who wish for power - it is their twists and turns that require upgrade.

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    14. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to robert roeder

      Women do send their male country-persons to war:

      Order of the White Feather with support from the prominent author Mrs Humphrey Ward. The organization aimed to shame men into enlisting in the British Army by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform

      Many white feathers were handed out by women to men who would not go and fight.

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    15. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      It's fair to point out that women fought for the right to vote around 100 years ago. Do you think that the subjugation of women for all our past and in some instances present history might have established group unconcscious behaviour.

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  4. Arthur James Egleton Robey

    Industrial Electrician

    So what are You doing about it, other than flapping your gums?

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Arthur James Egleton Robey

      probably the same as you .....what's your point?

      i've done my bit........been employed in equal employment for the victorian government when the issues of equal employment for woemn were first raised by the then labor government under joan kirner.

      and you?

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  5. Murray Webster

    Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

    The "privileged, powerful, Western white males" to whom you refer are, statistically speaking, an almost immeasurably tiny proportion of the male population, it is gross generalisation to apply this behaviour to all men. China and India have the largest populations and are not controlled by white men at all.

    Then there is the question of why men pursue 'power', the answer to evolutionary biologists is clear - it is to secure mating rights with women. The preference of women to want to mate with rich powerful men is abundantly clear and has influenced the evolution of humanity since before time. Eg I have read that Genghis Khan has genes in 10% of the chinese population.

    No doubt we are ruining the joint, and having educated women involved in decision making and government is a BIG part of the solution for a range of reasons - I just don't see the value in discourse focussed on assigning blame to others and avoiding blame for oneself.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Murray, I think that's exactly the point Carmen was trying to make: that tiny group of privileged, powerful people largely running things - almost all of whom happen to be white males - are the problem; not the great majority of men and certainly not the great majority of women.

      As a middle-aged white anglo-celtic male, I didn't experience the kind of offense or sense of being attacked that your post seems to imply.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Murray, I may have slightly misunderstood and under-estimated your post on a second reading - I think you make fair points about sexual selection and the like.

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  6. Tim Mather

    Veterinarian at Veterinary Advisory Services

    Well done Carmen on bringing this important topic to our attention. David Suzuki in 1970s was the most effective commentator advising the world that we had about thirty years to slow the rate of progress and bring the world into balance. That deadline has now passed with a tipping point sending us toward a 4 degree heating of the world now impossible to avoid. In the 1990s George Soros advised that the American Financial system was like an early aviator who jumped off a building with wings strapped…

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Tim Mather

      What a thoughtful letter, I'm also interested in the model adopted by Bhutan, but don't know enough about how it works. And wish we could apply the concept of the highest wage in the country being no more than 10 times the lowest wage, instead of the present and growing inequity and division we have here.
      My daughter has a friend with depression, who keeps running away, another who tried to hang her-self three weeks ago, and another who cuts herself. They are all thirteen. Something is wrong. My…

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Sorry Alice, but why are you thanking Carmen?

      You and I agree that we need a fairer society where the economy is for the people, etc

      Though Carmen pretends to support this, what is she doing about it? What does she suggest that we do about it (other than buying her book)?

      Carmen was a politician and she knows that such changes come about from politics. Yet by not talking about politics, not mentioning the speeches by Christine Milne which are all about these issues, she is maintaining the fiction that we should all be good little vegemites and continue to vote Labor (or Liberal) with the strange hope that Julia (or Tony) will suddenly implement all The Greens policies.

      The reason we are in this mess is not because those who want the economy to come first vote Liberal or Labor, it is because most of those that speak out against destroying the joint don't take a political stand.

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      You assume that Carmen is only a politician. Still a labour politician. That she agrees with the current Labour political paradigm. That I didn't remember her as a politician. And also that I agreed with every -thing she said in the extract above. For what it's worth, I have more to find relevant with the Green Party in Australia, and dis-like intensely Party politics altogether. I think politicians would better serve their constituents if they represented the people they are meant to serve, rather than a particular political ideology.
      And when it comes to the environment, I wish there could be far more females voicing their concerns about the future, than all the usual loud-speaking men shouting with megaphones.
      Michael we probably do share some opinions.

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    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      It is the benevolent dictator who serves her people, and under the dictatorship model if you want change you lobby the dictator.

      If I become dictator things would be very different than if Gina Rinehart become dictator. But both of us would genuinely believe we were doing the best for the country. A democracy accepts that society has a mix of views, and people vote for the policies which they prefer.

      The main reason we are destroying the joint is that most people who want to stop destroying…

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    5. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Look Stephen, I think I understand what your saying,but if she did take that sort of stand, could you imagine the trouble the political nut-cases both Lab and LNP, would hurl at her and UWA. I would imagine the history of her election to office, and the parlous state of the labour party, and the fact that Julia should have had a women's adviser, all would make it plausible that she may be a bit sick of politics. I would have to ask her why she didn't talk about Christine.
      The environment is everything…

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    6. Shaun King

      Designer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Therein lies one of our major political problems Alice.

      The "party" system that has evolved in our parliament is unconstitutional, and thus our parliament is being controlled by interests that are not constitutional, and thus should not be supported by the australian electorate.

      Each elected representative is supposed to represent the electorate.

      Under the present illegal regime, if my representative gets elected, he/she has the potential to be side-lined and alienated, just because he/she doesn't belong to the "party" that has taken control of the parliament.

      The office of prime minister is another unconstitutional office created with the intention of taking control of our parliament.

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    7. Andrew Stiles

      Teacher

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      There are quite a lot of competing factions and differing viewpoints within the Labor Party. I have trouble understanding what's going on behind the scenes there at the best of times. Some of them I dislike intensely. Others like Kelvin Thomson - http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/page/population-debate/default.asp - if he was running in my electorate I would vote for him. Also Bob Carr - http://bobcarrblog.wordpress.com/category/population/. I will probably be taking a break from voting for the Greens at the next election, as much as I admire their policies, and vote for The Stable Population Party just to try and get that message across.

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    8. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I would say it would be largely attributed to apathy.

      A lot of people vote for one party or another because they always have (or their parents always did) without actually bothering to find out or not understanding the policies they are voting for.

      Those that do take a stand are usually plastered with put downs like "loony" "fringe" "tree hugging dole bludger", you get the idea.

      Personally, I can respect a persons decision to vote one way or another based upon informed consent, but those that always do "just because" without understanding what they are voting for or even without any interest in finding out is cause for much "facepalming"

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    9. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      hi alice

      i worked for the victorian government in education. at that time there was a woman premier, a woman director of education, and a woman im charge of the region i worked in -,barwon south-western.

      having an hr background i was appointed equal employment office of the region. the government had introduced a policy of pro-activity to help women gain access vice & principal jobs. at that time only 11% of women had principal positions - mostly primary schools. the policy was also aimed at…

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  7. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    It's so easy to idealise a low-growth economy when you're wealthy. The author's vision means more poverty and fewer life choices for billions of people.

    It's all based on a scientific myth anyway. After initial industrialisation, the richer a country gets, the cleaner the land sea and air get.

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    1. Christopher Wright

      Professor of Organisational Studies at University of Sydney

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James,
      That is not actually correct. The richer a country gets in terms of material economic production the greater its environmental impact. Just observe the the statistics underlying the Social Progress Index (http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/data/spi#performance/countries/spi/sub1,sub2,idr32,sub3) which I discuss here: http://climatepeopleorg.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/measuring-sustainability/
      The point is that large, fossil-fuel rich countries like Australia, the US, Canada and indeed most other 'developed' economies are by far the most environmentally unsustainable in the world. This data makes a strong case that there is a fundamental conflict between current models of economic development and environmental harm (CO2 emissions intensity, water use, energy use, ecological footprint).

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      There's no doubt Christopher that all sorts of developments will have an environmental impact and for that reason alone there needs to be some good reasoning on just how much development is enough.
      Taking all our mobile phones for instance and sure they have benefits as a basic means of communication, great for emergencies etc. and then you do have to wonder at the need for continual updating with Smart phones.

      Just heard on the radio yesterday that there is a projection that by 2015 I think…

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    3. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      What the Social Progress Index highlights has been known for some time, and is shown by other indexes such as the Inclusive Wealth Index, or the Happy Planet Index.

      They all show we actually gain our high HDI and a higher GDP by destroying our environment.

      But the question is “What to do about it?”

      We could have rallies, write letters to politicians, vote for other political parties etc,

      All rather blunt and unreliable instruments getting changes made to political policy.

      I would offer…

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    4. Sam Jandwich

      Policy Analyst

      In reply to James Jenkin

      I more or less agree with James' first point.

      I don't think the article teases out the relationship between wealth and psycho-spiritual fulfillment particularly well, as a more sophisticated and meaningful analysis might.

      I would argue that the wealth and psycho-spiritual fulfillment are not mutually exclusive - two scenarios I could put forward as examples being that spiritual purpose becomes important when there's no alternative than to be poor, or that as we become more wealthy, the opportunities…

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    5. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      I'm not so sure Christopher.

      Some indicators, such as biodiversity, definitely worsen with economic development. However others, such as air and water quality, seem to improve (http://perc.org/articles/environmental-kuznets-curve).

      For example, since 1970, the number of cars in developed countries has doubled, but emissions of carbon monoxide, lead and sulphur dioxide have fallen significantly.

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    6. Andrew Stiles

      Teacher

      In reply to James Jenkin

      I see things the opposite to the way you do James. What I see are a lot of wealthy and Big Business interests pushing the "Big Australia" message for the few to get wealthy while the majority suffers and the environments they live in degrade. They, have so many more life choices available due to the money they will make from overpopulating the country, they can live where they want, and pursue a more laid back lifestyle. I don't even expect politicians to understand, they are well insulated from the negative effects of overpopulation, once their term in politics is over they can still buy a lovely farm or a place on the coast and move away from it all if they desire, and have a nice house near a the city on their generous pensions and whatever work they pick up as part of their due. The worst effects of Climate Change are something they don't have to concern themselves too much about in their lifetime. They are simply not leading us on matters of importance.

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    7. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      maybe a step on that route would be to outright ban politicians from being employed in the industries they facilitate/regulate, ban from being invested in these industries or obtaining any benefit from these industries for 20 years after they leave parliament. The Ian McFarlane/Eddy Obeid case springs to mind.

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    8. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Ban politicians from getting a taxpayer funded pension if found guilty of gross negligence, and that includes financial negligence and also environmental negligence.

      When Australia has low productivity, a declining figure for value adding % GDP in manufacturing and agriculture, it means that the country must extract more from its natural environment to maintain its wealth.

      That was known to our federal government, who then implemented policies to increase our population by nearly 1,000 people per day, thereby increasing the extraction of natural resources.

      So litigation for gross environmental negligence, instead of a taxpayer funded pension.

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  8. Shaun King

    Designer

    A breath of fresh air.

    We seem to be stumped by the problem of "how do we change?" We look for the reasons we're in this mess, and some look to blame the "others" ... whereas we're all complicit in one way or another.

    Regardless of how we individually participate in this rancid, immoral corporate/democratic social structure, we're all essentially of the same belief ... "we just want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our fellow humans".

    The majority of us do not want to rule the world…

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  9. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    In Australia there is very little value adding, so most of our wealth comes from extracting from the natural environment.

    In this article, the author has not suggested how to limit that rate of environmental depletion.

    Instead, the article seems to be trying to point the finger at men, and wants more women on boards of directors.

    But which women?

    “Despite the 23 million milestone, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the country was relatively small but punched above its weight in the global economy. Australia has the 12th largest economy in the world.”

    http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2013/04/24/377701_tasmania-news.html

    The immigration rate, and population growth rate increased with the current government, and its all about money only it seems.

    So, should a woman such as Julia Gillard be welcomed onto a board of directors?

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  10. Christopher Wright

    Professor of Organisational Studies at University of Sydney

    Carmen,

    A timely and important article. As the recent released Social Progress Index makes clear (http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/data/spi#performance/countries/spi/sub1,sub2,idr32,sub3) , the richer a country gets in terms of material economic production the greater its environmental impact. This is particularly evident for large, fossil-fuel rich countries like Australia, the US, Canada which are by far the most environmentally unsustainable in the world.

    This data makes a strong case that there is a fundamental conflict between current models of economic development and environmental harm (CO2 emissions intensity, water use, energy use, ecological footprint). http://climatepeopleorg.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/measuring-sustainability/

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  11. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " But the “we” is not women, it’s all of us. And as a matter of record, since most women have not, until recently, occupied significant positions of influence and power, we should be judged less culpable than men. "

    It is certainly all of us Carmel and some of the all more so than others if you consider how most people in western developed nations and even many people in developing nations live, use and pollute compared to those who live in more a survival mode much as people of their own countries…

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    1. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Greg North

      The funny thing about capitalism and the role of women, in most households it is the women that make the spending decisions and that the habits of mothers tend to be passed to their children.

      So women hold immense power in the capitalist/consumer world. They need only realise it.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Stonier-Gibson

      The polarisation didn't just 'happen', David - it was quite directly initiated by the far right of politics - the historical evidence is, I believe, unambiguous on that. Therefore, I'd argue, suggesting that somehow the polarisation would all just go away ifeople (including the so-called 'left') stopped linking the issue with other matters is naive - a bit like arguing that, if we just smile nicely the huns will stop scaling the city walls.

      I think there's too much naivety of this kind about the very obvious polarisation - I absolutely agree that trying to reduce it would be helpful, but the question how to achieve this, when one 'side' of the 'debate' behaves so aggressively andf shows no evidence of matching compromise with compromise, is moot.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Stonier-Gibson

      Fair point but, while I certainly wouldn't argue for aggression (which I don't think this article represents or suggests) I don't think you can just 'not react' to the level of provocation that is happening so regularly - I think all you can do is speak the plain truth to the best of your ability and continue to do so, loudly, clearly and completely unapologetically, regardless of what the screechers in parliament and the media do.

      I just maintain that a kind of 'don't mention the war' approach simply doesn't work at all.

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  12. John Geoffrey Mosley

    logged in via Facebook

    The steady state economy alternative is no longer "tentative" For the last 8 years the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy has been putting flesh on its bones but it is over to everyone to make it become a reality through a number of targeted steps. Since capitalism is the major vehicle for the endless economic growth system it is very difficult to imagine how it could be successfully reconfigured to be part of a steady state system.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Geoffrey Mosley

      Yeah - all the more saddening that so little practical application of these perfectly sober and well-developed ideas has been able to penetrate mainstream economics.

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    2. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to John Geoffrey Mosley

      I suppose one of the initial steps would be to establish the concept of "reasonable return" something along the lines of "take only what you need".

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  13. Tony Grant

    Student

    Men like to use women...and will say how ,when and why not!

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Tony Grant

      Some women may also liken men to some well laid linoleum.
      Laid nice and flat, they are easy to walk all over.

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  14. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    Women less culpable than men in destroying the joint?

    What a disgustingly sexist rant from someone who should know better.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike, I thought it was a bit more nuanced than that. Personally, as a non-powerful white anglo-celtic middle-aged male, I feel rather the same way about the small elite that tend to run things, and run things badly. The fact remains that they ARE mostly white men. I didn't read this article as an attack on me or as sexist; rather a fair statement of historical fact.

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    2. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike

      If I criticise Andrew Demetriou, I am critical of the CEO of the AFL, not criticising Aussie rules football. If I criticise Alan Jones, I am not denigrating all gay men. If I criticise Margaret Thatcher I am not being sexist, I simply deplore her brand of economics.

      Even if I decry the increasing gap between rich and poor - I am not dissing all wealthy people.

      That the majority of men and women's lives (and the welfare of our environment) are deeply affected by a minority of mostly…

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    3. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I have re-read the article and can confirm - if anyone is in doubt - that gender is a dominant theme, and hence not surprising that we are distracted by gender arguments.

      Whilst it is true that in western society white men have dominated the board rooms and politics, this same system has also resulted in the "virtual revolution in women’s education and working lives" i.e women have benefited.

      Whilst I would like to see deserving women in these powerful roles... just as the "powerful white…

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    4. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Diane

      I "capiche" very well thank you.

      The article is unashamably and disgustingly sexist. It is not 'privileged white males' that are destroying the joint - it is privileged people. Full stop.

      And the article is not 'nuanced'. And you only have to look at statements like this to see that:

      "..... I’m not arguing that women are all virtue and no vice, or that no men share these characteristics, but we do know that women generally are more likely to see the need to protect the environment…

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    5. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      " It seems that some women share those attitudes (unconsciously sexist) as well"

      Well, duh.

      Go back and reread Carmen's article and my post above. There is nothing in either to suggest a "male vs female" theme. Its all in your own interpretation.

      Some people can handle the truth and others tend to overreact. Not a gender thing - just merely human.

      We are destroying the joint - do you have an opinion on that or are you going to continue whining that a woman was critical of some men?

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    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      This is a mine-field Mike, but there's difference between the sexes, I've noticed among some men, who with-hold money from their ex-spouses with no thought for the well-being of their children or their future. They use money/family resources as weapons. Not all, but I see this sort of entitlement/rights vs. sharing /betterment for family welfare enough to not be so quick to scream sexism.

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    7. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      It's all in my own interpretation is it?

      I guess it doesn't count then. I will remember that statement the next time a woman complains about a man being sexist, or that someone is being bullied, or if someone complains that a remark is offensive. Bloody PM and her complaining that Abbott is misognynist - it's just her interpretation.

      And if you opened your eyes a little you would well know my position on whether or not we are destroying the joint. I have posted on this site on numerous occasions.

      But that is immaterial to this point - that a woman made sexist remarks that were completely immaterial to the point being discussed. Why were they even raised in regard to whether or not we are destroying the joint? How about you explain how they are relevant.

      Whining? Men don't whine, they complain. Only women whine.

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    8. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      you may have insulted gay men though, by linking them to Alan Jones.

      I detected tones of what Mike was referring to but also noticed it was "less culpable" rather than 't's all mens fault' which implies acceptance of both sexes complicity, but historicaly the power structures favoured the old white men club, but by no means exclusively, Gina and Maggie demonstrate that fundamentally it's not a sex issue, but a mindset issue.

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    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Hey, Robert, being linked to Alan Jones would insult any man - gay, straight or sheep-shagging!

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    10. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      In Alans defence (yes i know, i struggle with it too) his advocation on behalf of communities affected by coal and csg is to be commended

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    11. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix & Robert

      I apologise unreservedly for invoking the words "Alan Jones" - a complete insult to humans everywhere.

      Mike

      You may well have written a tome regarding environment on TC - you have not inspired me to read any of it. Alas, you're only as good as your last performance.

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    12. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Why thank you Dianna - I will take that as a compliment, since my last performance was impeccable.

      But it would appear your memory is as poor as your judgement on this issue. You have read many of my posts on environmental issues - even commenting on a number of occasions.

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  15. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

    Carmen is right that 'We are destroying the joint'. But who is the we?

    The most significant change, either good or bad, arises from the actions of government.

    The economy at any cost, and let's destroy the environment to make a quick buck, is led by Canberra, led by our female PM, and led by her cabinet which includes many women in important positions.

    Christine Milne provides an alternative which is everything that Carmen's article wants - a more caring, compassionate society which is…

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  16. Paul Reader

    independent researcher

    It may be true that women need to rethink what they ask of the world and men, and we could recognize that matriarchy is well entrenched in Australia given traditional customary law. On the broader scale of things, the last 200 years of colonial visitation may be just a brief hiccup in time, without it, however I think it is worth examining the basics of security, social and ecological justice rather than following that ideological position.
    The root of security is good stable habitat and a sound…

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  17. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    GDP = Gross Domestic Problem. Quality of Life used to be a goal, but now it is Standard of Living that gets all our attention. We have only ourselves to blame for living beyond our means and beyond the ability of the planet to sustain us. Alas humanity.

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  18. Andrew Stiles

    Teacher

    I haven't read the comments yet, but I know in advance that your comments about feminism are going to upset some people, even though you are completely right and they are no doubt misreading what you are saying. The thing is that some women move into positions of entrenched power because they see that as a way of getting power. Instead of changing things for the better than move along well oiled tracks. It's a generational thing too, younger generations are moved along the conveyor belt and are offered…

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  19. Robert McDougall

    Small Business Owner

    of course capitalism can be stable, it just means divorcing the debt funded perpetual growth model we have today.

    The great tragedy of our current system is that it compromises social, environmental and sustainable development by focussing too much on the economic, particularly when economic interests through media and lobbying distorts effective governance.

    The great irony with our current system is that the more unequal the distribution of resources amongst the population, the less stable that society becomes, requiring more and more resources to be diverted from productive purposes to maintain stability.

    Greed is never good, and in nature, that which cannot achieve equilibrium is doomed to extinction.

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  20. Sally Kortekaas

    retired medical practitioner

    There are two components that make up all the physical wealth we have as humans. The first are gifts of nature such as land, its minerals, clean air, clean water, the radio spectrum, DNA etc. The second is the human effort or work that we exert on the first component and extend its usefulness to ourselves and others. The rules we make on how to share the first component determine our prosperity and whether our civilization will last and how much we damage the ecosystem.

    Public policy puts the…

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    1. Sally Kortekaas

      retired medical practitioner

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      What we can do as individuals is limited, especially as there is no political party in Australia advocating land value tax and the likely next federal government will dump the MRRT.

      The Henry Report recommended stamp duty and existing land taxes be converted to a broad based land value tax commencing with properties changing hand after a particular introduction date, so not falling on existing home owners, but converting the housing stock to annual LVT over the years. The ACT has a plan for this…

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Sally Kortekaas

      OK, so even though you express concern on these issues you in effect support the two major parties, and business as usual (which is the rich getting richer).

      Though the Greens are not proposing everything you wish, surely they are far closer to your views than the two major parties. Not only are they far better on taxation, but on environmental and social issues as well.

      Yet you would rather business as usual than make the radical suggestion of voting Green!?!

      Abbott is not proposing to…

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    3. Sally Kortekaas

      retired medical practitioner

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      When it comes to voting it is a matter of listing them in the order of lesser evils and Greens or Independents may well be at the top of the list. As far as I know the Greens have not taken up the Henry Review recommendations re Stamp Duty. This is disappointing as green parties in Canada and Germany have been the ones to promote resource rent taxation.

      It is also very disheartening to discover that many politicians are big land speculators and that applys to all political parties.

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  21. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Of course Momma Nature’s butt is chewed to cadaverous levels when we elect politicians and premiers who never mention the state of Australia's fragile environment but promise the greatest rewards to the greedy masses only to discover that these political hoods are occasionally thrown in the slammer for corruption, accepting bribes, extortion, paedophilia, death threats and stealing. Many get off Scot free.

    Additionally, Mr Howard, who had 12 years to address climate change and mitigate pollution…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley - while Howard fully deserves your condemnation, don't forget our more recent villains.

      Rudd was elected with a mandate to take action on climate change, and called it 'the great moral challenge of our time'. Yet he, with Wong and Turnbull, tried to foist on us a CPRS which would have locked in failure because it ensured that significant cuts could not be made in the future.

      Gillard then went to the last election promising a people's forum and no price on carbon. And though she was forced to put a price on carbon, there is so much compensation that this achieves little. And Labor is part of the massive expansion in coal exports.

      My order of guilt would be Rudd, Wong, Gillard, Howard, Turnbull.

      Of course it is very likely that Abbott will soon join and then move up this list.

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