thomas m wilson

New Zealand and How it Became Middle Earth

March 16th, 2007

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I’ve been thinking about New Zealand recently, partly because of a related essay I wrote a while back which is soon to be published. I’m not going to say much about the essay here, but I will say something about the land that is the South Island.

Looking back through my journal I find the following from my time there in 2004:

“Not only seeing nature, but also smelling the wet earth and the fast flowing stream at the bottom of the valley. Further up we passed through a high ridge and looking down on the scene below made me think: well, there is nothing left. It isn’t possible to see any more impressive topography on this blessed planet. D. H. Lawrence said he only felt a deep sense of the religious in his world travels when he arrived in New Mexico. My New Mexico.

Being here, these experiences of green mountain ringed plains, dell-filled beech woods, pine bordered, iridescent lakes, drift wood tossed shores, gives me a grounding in extra-human meaning, meaning outside the realm of human artifacts and social interactions. I’m glad to have had this time, its memory will help me persist through the knocks and setbacks that are endemic to suburban day-to-daying on my return to Perth.”

There is a way in which Wallace Stegner’s comment that ‘a place needs a poet’ is meaningful. Peter Jackson has, in a way, sung these beech woods, and given them added significance. I have a chapter in a book called ‘How We Became Middle Earth’, which is forthcoming later this year. It is out with Walking Tree Press – check it out.

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I haven’t taken any good photos of New Zealand… apart from the following one of the farming country near Christchurch. The shades of green in this land are so deep compared to Australia!

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Although I don’t have a great gallery of New Zealand photography, I can direct you to a few photos taken by others. These photos will give you some idea of what I’m talking about.
The river flows

The clouds drift

Mt Cook stands guard

Now look into the lake, and wash away your mental clutter…

Bespoken Hemp

March 9th, 2007

My private and unofficial Eco-Dandyist Manifesto stipulates that a gentleman dresses well. But where to from there?

Hemp is a great plant fibre, environmentally speaking, in that crops of it don’t require the application of large amounts of environmentally harmful pesticides, like the cotton you are probably wearing as you read this sentence. Hemp comes from canibis, and canibis plants more or less just shoot up by themselves. So that sorts out the kind of the plant fibre we’re aiming for (although bamboo is another one worth thinking of nowadays – even softer than cotton).

Making the clothes is next…

Most of the clothes we buy come from Asia, where hundreds of women sit in ugly and noisy factories and do boring work for hardly any money. So why not spend a little more on your clothes and get them made by someone in Australia, or whichever first world country you are probably reading this blog from?

Time to find a bespoke tailor. What’s ‘bespoke’ mean, I hear you ask? It means a tailor that makes your suit to measure your body, by hand. Well, better read the explanation of Thomas Mahon, a tailor on Saville Row in London who writes a blog called ‘English Cut‘.

So now you know all about bespoke tailoring. If you live in Western Australia you might get some hemp from the Margaret River Hemp Company and ask a local clothes designer to go to work.

So is the suit I’m wearing made from bespoken hemp?

No, it came from a local op-shop and cost seventy dollars. Even better for the environment than getting a locally tailor-made hemp or bamboo suit, is going and collecting a suit that was just sitting there unclaimed in an op-shop around the corner (as long as you can find one you really like, that is).

Time to hit play on some Gregory Isaacs and drink a gin and tonic.

Climate change and Australian politics

March 7th, 2007

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[Thanks to Linda Zacks for letting me use her illustration.]

What is my take on politics and climate change in this election year in Australia? As you’ll see from my recent blog entries, I’m not a fan of the current government.

The Labor Minister for the Environment is Peter Garrett. He is actually now called the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, a move that you might think was made to hint that his party takes the climate crisis seriously. Labor proposes to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, cut Australia’s greenhouse pollution by 60% by 2050, establish a national emissions trading scheme; substantially increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, and build greenhouse gas triggers into Australian law.

What do I mean by this last bit about greenhouse gas triggers? The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA) is the single most important bit of national law relating to nature. In its four or five years of operation it hasn’t done much about the two major threats to biodiversity: greenhouse gases and land-clearing (it has had a few minor successes, like protecting flying foxes in Queensland). State laws are more important when it comes to protecting the environment. But the EPBCA could become important if it had a greenhouse-gas trigger built into it, so that when a proposed development was considered and it was going to pollute the air with too much carbon it would be rejected. Labor, it seems, might build such triggers into the EPBCA.

But then I have a feeling that Labour here would be like Labour in England right now. Plenty of talk about climate change, and even some targets, but they probably won’t actually keep to the targets for reductions of emissions by 2020. Despite the green-friendly rhetoric, Labour in Britain looks set to fail to deliver sufficient reductions.

The Australian Greens actually would make targets and keep to us to them. Of course the Greens have very little money for campaigning, usually a bunch of thousands, that’s all. If only some philanthropist would donate $2 million for the greens to have TV ads on prime time commercial tv – where an ad costs about 50 thousand to make and four thousand to air for 30 seconds each – just before the federal election. Maybe shouting the truth into Australian sitting rooms that we live in a country on the front line of the effects of the climate crisis would sway a few more politically comotose voters. And after the election we’d end up with a few more compassionate and honest humans in Parliament House. Hard to imagine I know.

Well in the absence of a couple of million dollars, the Greens can do what? At least become a bit more canny….

In 2007 I’d like us in the Green party to remember Guy Rundle (editor of Arena magazine), looking back on the 2004 Australian federal election, and saying:

‘[The Greens] have not yet made the leap from the politics of the New Left to one that addresses contemporary society’.

I support nearly all the policies of the Greens, but I think there is an urgent need for us involved in the Greens to appreciate the cultural and political climate in which we act. In the February 2005 issue of The Ecologist Aidan Rankin wrote of how the European Greens have, lamentably, been captured by an authoritarian and unelectable left. Rankin goes so far as to suggest that a new Ecology Party be formed to remedy the situation. In America, Kevin Phillips recently argued in Harper’s Magazine that the decline of liberalism began because “liberal intellectuals and policy makers had become too sure of themselves, so lazy and complacent that they failed to pay attention to people who didn’t share their opinions.”

This election year the Australian Greens need to ask, how do we start bridge-building with the mainstream, and get more people into parliament,? The dire predictions of climate change make the stakes much too high for us to sit contentedly on an unelectable moral high-ground (even while our membership numbers continue to climb).

The Greens drug policy is hurting the Greens vote. James Norman, Victorian Greens Media Assistant during the last federal election, wrote recently in Arena magazine: ‘One of the key differences between the Greens and the other Australian political parties is that the Greens released extensive policy documents on the party website for all to see months before the election. Most other parties don’t do this.’ The Greens ‘went overboard in making long, detailed policies too freely available. For example the much misrepresented drug policy should simply have read: ‘The Greens support the principals of harm minimisation and wish to see drugs considered as a health, rather than criminal problem.’ Leave it at that. There is no need whatsoever to isolate particular drugs, like heroin and ecstasy, as drugs earmarked for liberalisation. It’s political dynamite.’

If you’re reading this, please join the Greens, run as a candidate, and don’t sit too high up the moral high-ground.

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