Why this farm girl is voting Green…

Apologies to any of my lovely followers that are based overseas, but today’s post has a local flavour. There is a bee in my bonnet and I simply have to get it out…

It is time for a confession that may well get me shot by my family or at the very least disinherited.

*Deep breath. Last will and testament in order… Check*

At the last Australian Federal Election, I voted for the Australian Greens. To make matters worse, upon hearing that Western Australia will in all likelihood going back to the polls owing to some ‘lost’ ballot papers leading to confusion over who was victorious in the Senate (don’t ask), I contacted the Greens and volunteered my time to help get them over the line in this election.

Forget money, forget managed funds or property portfolios – I personally believe that TIME is the most precious asset that we have. So why on earth would I be volunteering to support a party that I’m not 100% convinced by with the most precious asset that I have?

The answer is simple. I agree with The Greens on the issues that matter most.

As an Australian I’m angry that the Abbott Government has cut foreign aid and removed poverty alleviation from the list of international aid objectives. Despite appearances, we are not a purely self-interested nation, willing to help others only if there is a measurable benefit to our trade balance.

As a Mum, I’m horrified that my children’s future is being jeopardised by politicians sticking their heads in the sand over climate change. (For an unbiased and purely factual view of Australia’s changing climate, check out this video from the Bureau of Meteorology).

And finally, as a human being, I am appalled and disgraced by the attempts of the current Australian Government to portray asylum seekers as criminals, despite their legal rights to seek asylum.

Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with The Greens on some issues in the agricultural sector, but it has come down to a simple choice of choosing policies that support people’s lives, or choosing policies that support livelihoods. At the end of the day, which is more important?

In Australia we are blessed. Despite my joking at the outset of this post, our political views are unlikely to get us shot (just don’t tell my family). We each have the power, and the right to make our voices heard, and most importantly we have the freedom to choose who we vote for at each and every election.

So, if you are Western Australian like me and are heading back to the polls soon, ask yourself one very simple question. Where does this party stand on the issues that matter to me?

As a former rusted on Nationals / Liberals voter (I’m a farm girl ok, forgive me), I can guarantee that this one simple question may change your mind AND your vote.

P.S – Congratulations and thank you if you made it to the end!

xoxo

Go ahead, cut someone else’s grass… I dare you!

G'day! I'm your new neighbour...

G’day! I’m your new neighbour…

Less than 48hrs after reading this post over at Down to Earth Mother, I was lucky enough to enjoy first-hand the benefits of being friendly with your neighbours.

Following the recent downturn and subsequent redundancies, our street is looking somewhat empty at the moment.

Unfortunately, living in a company town means that only current company employees (of which there are now less) are eligible to live here. As a result, our little street of 13 houses has said goodbye to five families, leaving only 8 houses occupied.

Regardless, those that are left are a good bunch, particularly the neighbours that are directly across from us; a lovely Islander gentleman, his gorgeous Thai wife and their ‘cute as a button’ 11month old son. Despite significant language barriers we often trade herbs (their Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass is exceptional), cooking (I take over scones, cupcakes and brownies while delicious Thai dishes are often sent our way) and we let the little ones play together whenever the weather allows. Our neighbour’s English is improving and I am learning about Thai geography and some basic words! It’s a win-win…

Yesterday we loaned our lawn mower. No big deal and certainly nothing that we would ever expect any form of repayment for, after all sharing resources is one of the beautiful benefits of being neighbourly. Upon glancing out the window as I was washing the lunch dishes, I suddenly noticed that our wonderful neighbour had not only mowed his own lawn, but had now started work on our verge (my least favourite area to mow)! Naturally we asked if he was lost…

Even more surprisingly and delightful, late in the afternoon after the lawnmower had returned to the garage, a plate of delicious, freshly made Thai spring rolls arrived on our dining table. What a treat!

Getting to know your neighbours can be an absolute delight. Collectively you can share resources (saving both money and the environment), and learn from each other, regardless of cultural or lifestyle differences.

Easy tips to get to know your neighbours!

• When you first move in to a new neighbourhood, take the time to introduce yourself, exchange phone numbers and share any significant details that may be relevant (shift work, large family, friendly dog…)

• Bake extra – baking a little extra to share with your neighbours takes almost no time at all, yet delivers amazing amounts of goodwill. Nothing extends the hand of friendship better than pumpkin scones or chocolate brownies.

• Is your herb garden overflowing? Let your neighbours know – you may save them a trip to the shops and prevent your lovingly tended herbs from being wasted.

• Host a neighbourhood BBQ and invite everyone to bring a plate that celebrates their heritage

• Initiate a conversation. Rather than just a brisk hello as you rush past, linger for a moment and ask about their day. It may just be the start of a wonderful new friendship.

• Do you have kids? Concerned about their safety? Start getting to know the other parents in your neighbourhood. Not only will your children suddenly be surrounded by friends (less requests to be driven to distant friend’s houses), you will also feel reassured about your children’s safety.

• Mowing your verge? Take an extra five minutes to look after your neighbours at the same time.

• Bring the rubbish bin in. Less than 30 seconds to perform a random act of kindness to make you both happier!

Not only will knowing your neighbours give you greater peace of mind, it may help save you money and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Now who is up for that?

‘We need a revolution. Revolutionary thinking. Revolutionary action… It is easy to mouth the words ‘sustainable development’, but to make it happen we have to be prepared to make major changes – in our lifestyles, our economic models, our social organisation and our political life.’
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon 2011

5 Tips to Get Rich Quickly

Who doesn’t want to be richer? If you’re looking to instantly increase your riches in just a few minutes without succumbing to a Nigerian scam, then the below list is for you!

Be warned, it may not be exactly what you anticipate…

1. Want less.

‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone’ HD Thoreau.

The quickest (although not necessarily easiest) way to feel richer is to want less. The benefits of wanting less include the opportunity to genuinely increase your material wealth through reduced spending, increase your happiness through the reduction of ‘wants’ and untold benefits to the environment through reduced material consumption and waste.

2. Reflect on all that you do have.
So, you’re devastated because you can’t afford the latest Wii, but you’ve already got a PS3, a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad and buried somewhere a Nintendo? Sometimes it’s worthwhile reminding ourselves of everything that we do already have. For some these may be wonderful intrinsic things like good health, good friends and a loving family. For others, it may help to reflect on your existing material wealth. Chances are, all of us already fairly rich.

3. Give
A little bit of philanthropy is one of the most generous ways to make yourself feel richer. Not only are you reminded how lucky you are to be able to give, but it also keeps this issue of wealth and richness in perspective.

4. Do something meaningful
Focus on those intrinsic values mentioned under number two by doing something meaningful. For some this may mean volunteering in a soup kitchen, for others it may be spending precious time with loved ones.

5. Break free from the trend cycle.
Getting caught up in the ‘cool’ cycle is a sure fire way to be ultimately poor in those things that are truly important. Is your credit card debt piled high from shopping sprees and keeping you awake at night? Do you have a cupboard full of clothes that are no longer cool (leopard print /neon spring to mind)? Do you feel compelled to queue outside the Apple store in the wee small hours to be a ‘trend setter’? Ask yourself, is this stuff making me genuinely richer?

So, there you have it, a five step plan to instantly boost your riches! Do you feel rich, regardless of your financial circumstances?

Why Bother?

So, yesterday I had one of those ‘why do I bother’ moments. It was 43 degrees (Celsius), there was a scorching wind blowing off the desert and the flies were excessively friendly. Yet there I was, dutifully leaving the car in the garage once more and walking down to the local swimming pool, pushing the pram and cursing the flies.

On the way, I was passed by 3 vehicles all owned by people that live considerably closer to the pool than I do, yet they had opted to drive, subsequently arriving for their swim beautifully refreshed from the car air conditioning. Me? Well, I arrived sweaty in a swarm of flies! Possibly not my most glamorous moment…

The thought crossed my mind of why the hell do I bother? At 7 months pregnant and with a young toddler in tow, why am I the one that’s walking in the heat while others enjoy their air conditioning? Why do I continually go to so much effort when no-one else around me does?

As we eased our way into the deliciously refreshing cool water and a little of my positivity reasserted itself, the answers came to me. I opt for walking partly because I like to remain fit, but mainly because if I don’t do it, who will?

Remember Gandhi?

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

Right now, I can’t talk to members of the United Nations about the urgent action needed on climate change and global resource depletion. Nor can I physically shake our beloved Prime Minister until he begins to see sense. (Well, not without getting arrested).

But, what I can do is be the change that I wish to see.

Sometimes this may mean a sweaty and undignified arrival at the local pool. Sometimes, it may mean braving the public ridicule for not having the absolute latest in material consumer goods. Occasionally, it may even mean initiating an uncomfortable conversation about our environmental impact. Maybe, just maybe, I might even inspire just one person to do the same.

So, guess what? This afternoon, I’ll strap the toddler back into the pram, soak her fly veil in cold water and don my enormous hat before once again walking to the local pool. I’ll guarantee that our swim will be even more rewarding as a result of the effort put into getting there!

Do you have those ‘why bother’ moments? How do you stay on track with your commitment to a more eco-friendly lifestyle?

Live and let live

‘Live simply so others may simply live’ – Gandhi

Last night I was watching a report on the unfolding humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. Men, women, children and babies have fled escalating conflict, often with nothing more than the clothes on their back and at least 75,000 people are now camped on the banks of the Nile with no sanitation, limited food and only dirty water to drink. Children that were already malnourished are now dying for lack of fresh, clean water and sanitation.

As is often the case when I watch / read these reports I was frustrated by my own inability to make a difference and I had begun to ridicule myself for blogging about happiness and a simpler, greener way of life when there are people in the world with real problems. Who was I trying to kid?

Suddenly, I remembered the above quote from Gandhi.

Through the feelings of futility, despair and frustration, it finally hit me.

Change begins at home. When we make the choice to rebel from materialist values, to adopt greener practices and to view the world through a veil of optimism, we pave the way for others in the developing world to begin doing the same. By adopting a simpler, more ecologically sustainable lifestyle and pursuing intrinsic values, we lift both ourselves and others…

Ecologically… By choosing to reduce our consumption and waste, we reduce the pressure on already strained and scarce global resources. By opting to use renewable energy, we drive growth, research and development in this field, meaning that renewable energy technologies will gradually become more widely used throughout the entire world. By supporting companies that operate with environmentally and socially responsible practices, we are helping to drive improvements in global labour and environmental standards.

Socially… Simply because our household has opted out of ‘keeping up with the jones’, we have spare financial resources that we can use to support the work of World Vision, the International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Because we would rather volunteer than shop, we have time to physically support Shelterbox, The Salvation Army and to pack shipping containers of school supplies for charities operating in East Timor. Realising that we don’t need 13 baby blankets (we got a lot of gifts when our daughter was bornJ) has enabled me to send the majority off to developing countries to babies who really need them. Making changes in our own lives has freed us up to benefit the lives of those that are less fortunate.

Spending time working on your own happiness, decluttering your possessions, building a garden bed or sourcing eco-friendly products may feel selfish in world with so much poverty and despair, but change begins within our own sphere of influence. I’ve always been a fan of the ‘Think Global, Act Local’ slogan and I believe that it carries more significance today than ever before.

Living simply not only makes us happier, it also helps us to enable others to simply live. And isn’t that worth doing?

By the way, if you have the means to support the work of any of the organisations mentioned in this post, please do so generously. Check out the relevant websites for further information.

xoxo

The Fallacy of Economic Growth

So, the world is rejoicing, global markets are up and all is well because the US Federal Reserve has made the decision to slightly reduce the monthly stimulus package. A collective sigh of relief went around the world as outgoing Chairman, Ben Bernanke reassured us all that should there be the slightest signs of a slowing in growth, stimulus will again be increased. Thank heavens for that…

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an economist, nor a financial guru of any description. However it seems to me that a fairly fundamental element is missing from the global discourse on economic models.

How are we to maintain infinite economic growth in a world that is physically governed by finite resources? (Please don’t come at me with theories of decoupling, as the automotive industry demonstrates, the idea of decoupling as a saviour is fundamentally flawed.)

The Global Financial Crisis provided an opportune time to address these issues and evaluate whether continued economic growth is an appropriate goal for developed nations. But instead of questioning whether a system that has failed to protect environmental and social interests and then spectacularly failed to even protect itself is still the best course, we ploughed on blindly pursuing renewed economic growth at all costs.

Now, I’m not for a second suggesting that economic growth doesn’t have its place in developing nations where it provides a route out of poverty. However even to my untrained eye it is apparent that the relentless pursuit of economic growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally.

To quote from the UK Sustainable Development Commission’s 2009 report Prosperity Without Growth ‘In the last quarter of a century the global economy has doubled, while an estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded. Global carbon emissions have risen by 40% since 1990’. In addition, poverty is still widespread and political / social unrest is still rife throughout the world. Are these outcomes acceptable trade-offs?

Even more striking is both the anecdotal and scientific research demonstrating that the economic growth model fails to deliver happiness once a base level of material needs have been met. Think about your own neighbourhood. Divorce rates are skyrocketing, depression and anxiety are common and suicide is distressingly frequent. Are these problems belonging to the individual, or are they indicative of a flawed economic, social and political system?

I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I do believe that we need to start the conversation…

Do you believe that economic growth is still an appropriate model for the richest nations?