Category Archives: Social Justice

Brisbane Climate March

IMG_5719

During the last weekend in November 785,000 people in 175 countries took to the streets to march in support of Climate Justice. Did you hear about it? Did the politicians convening at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris hear about it?

I live – rather happily most of the time – without a TV. This means I saw relatively little of the news coverage.

However… I did one-up on watching. I made sure I was there – walking tall among the 5,000 or so individuals who marched in Brisbane, Australia on the 28th of November, calling for ‘Climate Justice’ and an end to our government’s dirty but lucrative addiction to coal.

IMG_5713

I’m glad I attended the march. It was heartening to be there. I realised there are plenty of us involved in the movement to realise a clean-energy revolution – people who desire a massive re-think of how we interact personally, locally, nationally and globally with Land. Environment. Earth. The future. Continue reading

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Climate Change, Culture, Earth Care, Permaculture, Social Justice

Invitation – Join me for my confirmation presentation!

If you’re in the Sunshine Coast area (Queensland, Australia) I invite you to attend my confirmation presentation where I will be exploring the doctoral research I’ve undertaken to date and the anticipated future directions of the research leading to submission for examination within the next year or two.

Details of the seminar are:

Title: Seed: cultivating permaculture-travel memoir through applied permaculture design.

Presenter: Nina Gartrell, DCA Candidate

When: Friday 10th April 2015 between 10am-10.30am

Where: KG.07 Business Conference Room, Sippy Downs campus, University of the Sunshine Coast

Staff, students, graduates and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Abstract
My research endeavours to productively fuse permaculture and travel memoir to create new understandings of sustainability. The project grew organically out of the rich lived-experiences I accumulated during an extended period of wanderlust and experimentation in sustainable living practices. It marries my recent experience as a permaculture practitioner with my ongoing passion for travel and writing.

The concept for the research is to apply the principles of permaculture design to the analysis, contextualisation and creation of an innovative form of travel memoir. The aim is to generate a prototype of permaculture-travel memoir and a blueprint of how permaculture can be used and adapted as the basis of an ecologically informed creative writing praxis.

The creative artefact, entitled Seed: the Art and Mystery of Permatravel, is a permaculture-travel memoir inspired by a flightless journey from England to Australia that I undertook in 2012-2013. The journey was conceived as an experiment in permaculture-designed (ethical) travel and will be portrayed in the creative artefact as a personal quest to locate and learn from individuals and communities who embody the ideal of ‘permanent culture‘ and who practice ‘permanent agriculture‘. From forest gardening in the UK, to rammed earth construction in the Middle Atlas Mountains and from synergistic gardening in Tuscany to biological pest control on the island of Koh Phangan the creative artefact explores the diverse techniques individuals use to meet their needs for food, energy, water and shelter sustainably from their local environment. The research draws on key concepts and critical discourses in ecocriticism, environmental anthropology, environmental philosophy, sociology of tourism and applied permaculture design.

Bio
In 2007 I resigned from a position as a research assistant at a reputable Australian university to travel to India. Within two months of leaving Australia I met my lifelong partner and ‘discovered’ permaculture. I spent the following six years abroad: gaining accreditation as a permaculture designer; planting a food forest; building a turf-roof barn; traveling extensively; and working in London as a freelance journalist. In 2013 I returned to my home on the Sunshine Coast where I am currently putting down roots and cultivating a garden: a space in which to grow the many seeds (literal and figurative) I collected over the course of my travels. The biggest seed I am tending is my doctoral research on ‘permatravel’ and ‘permaculture-travel memoir’. I have a Bachelor of Communications (Literary Studies; Film and Media Studies) and a BA(Hons) awarded from Griffith University. I received the University Medal for my Honours dissertation.

Here’s me in the role of ‘perm-traveller’ (I’ll try and look a little more presentable on friday… hope to see you there!

12 Comments

Filed under Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Permaculture, Social Justice, Travel, Writing

circus, streets, stars of Woodford

IMG_9620

the flying machine

IMG_9721

mandala dissolution ceremony, Monks of Tibet

IMG_9757

Bamboo installation, Wang Wen-Chih & volunteers

IMG_9776

Imagine the Land, Artisania

IMG_9790

Sideshow Wonderland

IMG_9568

TaikOz

IMG_9684

volunteer butterfly

IMG_9541

girl

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Culture, Earth Care, Food, Social Justice, Travel

my country

IMG_6516

On the outskirts of Charters Towers giant mango trees appear, signalling with their torrid green foliage that we’re back in habitable country. The returning sight of veggie plots and herbaceous borders quiets me. I wave goodbye to the Outback. Not long now ’til the sea.

After the parched, upstart ugliness of Mt Isa, Charters Towers is paradise: well-proportioned civic stone buildings line the streets, vying with one another for shoulder space and the largest share of generous Queensland winter sun. Tidy bakeries, hardware stores and cafes crowd the pavement, offering their assurance that, in Charters Towers, the scaffolding of a well-functioning civic community is still intact: every tile, masonry block and wrought iron bannister attests to the gravitas of the town’s rich cultural history.

The nexus of streets at the heart of town is awash with people: good, simple folk out for a stroll with dogs, or gone to fetch the morning paper for an elderly aunt or neighbour. I have a brief but compelling urge to throw myself on a pink iced finger bun; the kind you only get in really really uncouth Aussie bakeries.

Around the corner, a group of mourners spill out of a church, down the pavement, smoking cigarettes and scuffing their shoes, looking nonchalant; heedless of their grief as they keep one another company under the flimsy canopy of the bus shelter. A contingent of police stand ready, watching for signs of dissonance. In our white-man van we glide, slower than Kennedy’s black limousine, past the mourners, wondering what it is all about, who has died, and why the police feel it necessary to be present.

At this rate, there are two hours remaining until we reach the East Coast; two hours to rescind my old values and re-form my opinions of my country, myself.

IMG_6696

An 18-month journey is coming to an end. In a matter of days I’ll be home. The conscious process of re-configuring, re-inventing… over… for the time being, superseded by a string of expenses, reunions, outings, job-seeking, home-making. With the strictures of arrival firmly in mind I draw my awareness back to the present: to the space I am occupying in Norman’s car; to the sight of the mourners and the giant waving branches of the mango trees of Mt Isa, who have seen it all, and survived.

IMG_6613

ratatouille on the balcony – Couch Surfing in Townsville

The following night, on the balcony of Steve’s apartment in Townsville, Richie and I are privy to an impromptu recitation of Dorothy Mackellar’s ‘My Country’. Headmaster Kevin has put away all reserve and is up on the table amid bottle tops and discarded empties, reciting lines of Australia’s most iconic poem. After a confident first verse, Kevin loses nerve, bolstering his bravado by forcing us up out of our chairs, onto our feet, goading us to repeat after him:

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

Of drought and flooding rains

I love her far horizons

I love her jewelled sea

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me.

Caught midway between the novelty and splendour of this rash, drunken moment, I look about at the faces around the table, feeling faintly uneasy to be participating in such a flagrant show of patriotism. Glancing across at Richie’s animated schoolboy face I wonder, what meaning, if any, the words have to him: a visitor of 10-days to this country.

Hearing the words shouted wilfully, late, on the balcony of a suburban home feels wonderfully affirming, wonderfully Australian! I am bemused to hear the Maltese, French and English persons in our midst affirming their love of and allegiance to this ‘wide brown land’. I feel involuntarily moved by the image of my country that the poem conjures; brown foliage, dry creek beds, expansive vistas – the aspects that make it unique, different to the ‘green and shaded lanes’ and ‘ordered woods and gardens’ of the world from which my ancestors (at least some of them), came, and in some cases, fled.

Since our arrival in Darwin 10 days ago, and our journey through the Outback, Richie and I have heard a lot about what it means to be Australian. We’ve heard plenty of points of view and a fair bit of nonsense. I’m anxious about the impression my country is making on Richie and keen to make amends.

IMG_6633

roo balls – Richie embraces ‘Australian culture’

That night, on the balcony in Townsville, Kevin’s performance is followed by a lengthy discussion of what it means to be Australian. I’m among friends and as an absentee of six years, want to know what the hell is going on in my country; why my fellow Australians are hell bent on erecting a razor wire fence along our borders to keep the ‘good’, ‘worthy’, ‘legitimate’ citizens in, and the ‘greedy’, ‘opportunistic’ migrants out.

I hold my breath and listen to what my peers tell me.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, History, Social Justice, Travel, Uncategorized

A Memory from Darkness

IMG_1190

The orchard of longans, the becalmed water in the reservoir, the seasonally-neglected rice paddies, shaggy tamarinds and midday bleat of insects belie the burden of grief that lies below the soil at Choeung Ek Killing Fields.  Like so many visitors to Cambodia I’ve been drawn to this site, 20 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, by a desire to wrap my credulity around the facts of genocide.

On this day of hot placid magnitude I cannot fathom what the audio guide tells me: that fragments of bone and teeth rise from the earth here from time to time, testifying to the presence of mass graves –  lives ended in terror: children, mothers, civil servants, students, professors, farmers, diplomats, party cadres. Gone. Whole families. Gone. The systematic extermination of life. 

Voices of survivors and ex-Khmer Rouge cadres lisp plaintively from the black box around my neck. The audio tour is a forceful document: Khmer Rouge propaganda songs; an epic lament in strings (‘A Memory of Darkness’ by Him Sophy); tales of rape, hard labour, and the abandonment of hope.

IMG_1335

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Culture, History, Social Justice, Travel

COPE: Legacies of War

IMG_0778

10am. Vientiane is on fire. Quench flames at local pool. En route, COPE Visitor Centre. Limbs hung from ceiling, cluster bombies reconfigured, given new life: makeshift rice cookers, canoes, raised garden beds, sculptures. Stories of horror. Sound of heaven torn asunder. Rice fields rupture, moonscape  craters – mum, dad, brothers, sisters… gone in a bloom of earth and shrapnel. A neat new crop sewn, round metal seeds lay in wait the tender touch of human flesh, the seeking fingertips of children at play. Living in a minefield… life to this day.

survivor artwork
survivor artwork

During the American War in Vietnam, Laos was subjected to American aerial bombardment, representing the heaviest US bombing campaign since World War II, and making Laos the most bombed country in history. The deadly legacy of this destruction continues, with the country still scattered with unexploded ordnance.”

IMG_0780

IMG_0829

IMG_0797

COPE is a not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) to provide access to orthotic/prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

There are a range of reasons why someone may need to use the services from COPE:

  • Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)
  • Children with Disabilities
  • Polio
  • Club Foot
  • Leprosy
  • Trauma

To learn more about COPE or to make a donation, visit their website. Alternately, if you find yourself in Vientiane on a hot sticky day dive into the COPE Visitor Centre and take refuge in the air conditioned exhibition rooms or cinema. Free of cost.

IMG_0811

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under History, Social Justice, Travel

Arriving in Laos

IMG_0002

That Phoum Pouk

As soon as we crossed the border from China into Laos it became apparent that Lao moves to a different tune than its oversized neighbour to the north.

Entering Laos might entail a change down in gear,” our friends in Dali warned, a day before departure.

This is the part of the journey I’ve been looking forward to since day one,” Richie reminded me as we handed over our passports at the border. Even the security officials seemed happy to see us. We smiled and made our first attempt at the greeting, ‘sabaidee‘, which sounded softer and more childlike in our mouths than angular ‘ni hao’.

IMG_9958

entering Laos on a bus from Jinghong (China)

IMG_9960

laidback at the border, visa on arrival (US$32 for Australian nationals)

I hadn’t realised how uncomfortable the pace of development in China had made me until I entered Laos. Except for the presence of rubber plantations and new roads, sure signs that China’s influence in this region extends well beyond its border, Laos felt a world away. Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Culture, Earth Care, Food, History, Social Justice, Travel