Tag Archives: Sustainability

Advance Australia Fair? What to do about growing inequality in Australia

The wealthiest 20 per cent of households in Australia now account for 61 per cent of total household net worth, whereas the poorest 20 per cent account for just 1 per cent of the total. In recent decades the income share of the top 1 per cent has doubled, and the wealth share of the top 0.001 per cent has more than tripled. At the same time, poverty is increasing and many of those dependent upon government benefits, including the unemployment benefit, have fallen well below the poverty line. If we do not pay attention to the problem of financial inequality, current economic circumstances are likely to make it worse.

I may have missed it but it seems this report coming from a 2014 federal government round table has flown under the radar. I’ve had a read and it presents some challenges for us as a nation indeed. In the words of the report itself:

In 21st century Australia, do we still care about equality of opportunity, ‘a fair go for all’? If so, what are we prepared to do to make it happen?

The full report is quite readable and presents much for further reflection.

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A history of lost happiness

“Who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behavior,” said media scholar George Gerbner. “It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it’s a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell, but a great deal to sell.”

The conversation about sources of fulfillment and joy has been colonized by the advertisers that manufacture the mindset of the consumer culture.

– Sarah van Gelder

A topic I have returned often to is the pervasive nature of the consumer culture. Van Gelder’s article looking at the loss of American happiness brings forth the argument for what she calls ‘sustainable happiness’ –  “…a happiness built on a healthy natural world and a vibrant and fair society. It is a form of happiness that endures, through good and bad times…You can’t obtain it with a quick fix; [it] cannot be achieved at the expense of others.”

It reminded me of the words of Kristin van Ogtrop:

“Don’t race to the top. Never race to the top. If you want to aim for the top, good for you. But try to get there slowly, deliberately, without knocking everyone else out of the way. Or missing the beautiful view.”

You can find van Gelder’s article here.

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A way around the ridiculous mortgage idiocy

When I was an intellectually promiscuous doctoral student my eyes happened to fall upon a copy of Henry Thoreau’s, Walden, a fiery “simple living” manifesto, first published in 1854. This book, like no other before or since, ignited in me a shift in consciousness that I can only describe as an earthquake of the soul.

It shook me awake from a deep slumber, opening my eyes to how consumerist cultures were foolishly celebrating a mistaken idea of freedom, leaving people materially rich but too often empty and twisted inside.

We have heard it before. ABS figures show that in 1984 the average wage in Adelaide was $25k with an average house price of $68k. in 2014 the average wage is $66k and the average house being $410k. In 1984 the average salary represented 36% of the average price of a house. In 2014 the average wage represented 16% of the average house price.

I will leave a commentary on the ridiculous current state of fiscal affairs facing younger Australians for later and focus on a reactionary movement that is gathering both momentum and my interest – the tiny house movement.

Samuel Alexander provides a summary of the movement in an article titled Sick to death of consumerism? Find freedom in a tiny house

Now to figure out a way around the price of land to put one on.

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An introduction to minimalism

We work and work and work to only buy and buy and buy–but is all that material wealth really contributing to our happiness? And are we stuck in a cycle where we don’t even have the time to enjoy what we purchase in our lives because we are so focused on working to accumulate more? Are we filling our time with Netflix binges, Facebook stalking, and countless latte runs, when we should be filling our time with friends, value and service?

In a piece entitled Why Minimalism should be your 2015 resolution, Paige Pope puts forward a succinct but values driven suggestion that Minmalism has much to offer a world caught up in consumerism.


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Sunset on the Nile, Egypt. (Photo: T Brennen)

Sunset on the Nile, Egypt. (Photo: T Brennen)

Wow! Is it really the end of week 6 already? Where has the time gone?

With NAPLAN, Edendale Farm excursion, enrolment interviews and what not we have barely had a chance to catch our breath. Now we begin
report writing and have a public holiday soon too! Not to mention the Year 3/4 camp.

Last week we had a great time at Edendale Farm – principal included. We all learnt a great deal about the importance of caring for God’s earth. Fortunately for the current Christian Studies teacher (the principal!) it fitted in nicely with the learning focus this term which is caring for God’s Creation’. Great conversations took place about how we should care for the earth as God gave it to us as a gift. I have seen the flurry of excitement in the classrooms as students have tried to eat better, recycle more, use less electricity and water, and keep things tidy.

Edendale Farm is actually called ‘Edendale Sustainability Farm’ as it is a farm that focuses on doing things in a sustainable fashion. God is very much is the business of sustainability too I think – and not just in the earthly sense.
Without sustainable practices it is possible that the earth will no longer be able to sustain humans. Think about that for a moment. Sustainable practices are needed to allow something to sustain us.

Christians should be using sustainable practices and I don’t just mean looking after the planet. If we move so fast that we don’t allow God to sustain us we cut our selves off from a vital resource. God needs to be our sustaining life force.
When I was working in Egypt I often thought of the following verse from Isaiah “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom…Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert” (Is 35:1-3)

Are we allowing God to sustain us or are we trying to sustain ourselves? The everlasting water provided by God must be our source of sustainability.

May we always be a sustainable people sustained by God.

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Seeing clearly

Kerak Castle, Jordan (Photo R Brennen)

Kerak Castle, Jordan (Photo R Brennen)

This week the students and teachers have been reflecting on the idea of ‘seeing clearly’.

In the Gospel According to Luke we read the very interesting story of Jesus appearing to his disciples.
Jesus appeared to his disciples after his death while they were walking along a road but they did not see that the person that was walking with them was Jesus. Jesus talked with them for some time but they did not see that it was Jesus that was talking to them. Jesus ate with them but they did not see that it was Jesus eating with them. How often do we like the disciples not see Jesus clearly?

This term I have the pleasure of teaching Christian Studies to all the students and the topic this term is ‘God’s Creation and our response to it’. I love engaging students in the study of God’s beautifully complex creation and encouraging students to take responsibility to care for all the parts of it. This week many parents joined us for a parent night which discussed the importance of eating and drinking the right foods to ensure good health in our children. The timing is indeed interesting.

As human beings we are part of Creation and caring for our bodies is an act of caring for Creation. I discovered that my daily Diet Coke could be causing me to do damage to my body. I see clearly now that I could be looking after God’s Creation a little bit better.

There is a beautiful prayer that Lutherans use in worship. “Most merciful God, we confess that…we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.” It is indeed a merciful God that forgives us even when we do not see our actions clearly.

I pray that God will bless us with clarity in order for us to see and do what needs to be done to fully care for God’s Creation.

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