• Comments Off on QCC: A 50 year history of Queensland Conservation Council

QCC: A 50 year history of Queensland Conservation Council

In 2019, Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) celebrated a milestone — Queensland’s peak environment body turned 50.

To commemorate the event, I researched and wrote a (reasonably brief) QCC history. It took a lot of willpower not to let the research take over! Fascinating information is hidden in the hundreds of boxes of documents held at both the State Library and UQ’s Fryer. I found joy, reading of the good fights fought – and sometimes won.

And sadness at campaigns lost.

Magazine article about developer Keith Williams battling greenies over the Port HInchinbrook resort

I’ve recently realised this history page is now live on the QCC website:

https://www.queenslandconservation.org.au/our_history

Chrysalis 4101

Local art emerges from Brisbane’s cultural heart

Caroline Gardam

Bake sale supporter Rhyll greets Chrysalis Projects' Carmel Haugh

Bake sale supporter Rhyl greets Chrysalis Projects’ Carmel Haugh

It’s just passed 9am on a warm Saturday in Brisbane, and already the temperature is nudging 30. At West End’s Hope on Boundary, a popular, earthy social enterprise café, it’s market day. Between a plant stall selling $2 begonias and justice advocates Micah Projects’ sausage sizzle lies a colorful array of baked goods: the Chrysalis4101 Knead our Dough bake sale.

Behind the brownies, Midget Boy Universe cupcakes, Greek biscuits, banana bread, and three glamorous tea cakes, a smiling pair of colourful, high-energy arts wranglers greet friends, take photographs, juggle phone calls, and accept baked donations while they flog their wares. Carmel Haugh and Rebecca McIntosh (also known as Bec Mac) are founders of PlaceLove, the venture behind a new initiative to deliver place-based, artistic regeneration projects: Chrysalis Projects – the first of which is Chrysalis4101.

Established creative arts industry leaders and placemakers, Haugh and McIntosh share a vision that centres the arts firmly in place, nourishing artsworkers and their communities.

It may sound like the buzz-term of the moment, but placemaking is an approach that’s been used by urban designers and city planners since the 1960s, says Haugh. “It’s about designing for lively neighbourhoods and inviting humans into public spaces,” she explains.

Haugh’s passion for creative economic development drives a career managing a diverse range of creative placemaking projects, with a focus on public programming, creative business development, and cultural tourism. Haugh and McIntosh have collaborated on public projects over the past six years in both the public and private realms. Placemaking is frequently embedded in McIntosh’s own practice, which lies at the other end of the spectrum – she works as an artist and creative director of innovative work both nationally and internationally, including LOVE TV and POPSART.

“(Placemaking) is about place attachment through a series of experiences that actually build an emotional connection to your place and its community,” says McIntosh. “There is the hardware of a city – its glass, bricks and mortar – but what really makes a place are the memories and dreams and relationships generated there.”

“4101” in Chrysalis4101 references the South Brisbane peninsula, and in particular, its “heart”, West End. The area is known to the Turrbal people, its original inhabitants, as Kurilpa – or place of the water rat. Staunchly community-minded, the locale hosts a high proportion of residents actively working in cultural industries. Within the 4101 postcode lies QAGOMA, QPAC, QCA, Qld Ballet, Qld Theatre, Opera Qld, Qld Conservatorium, Qld Museum, Metro Arts, the Convention Centre, the State Library, and a number of commercial galleries, artist-run ventures, independent theatre companies, and live music venues. It’s easily Queensland’s cultural hub. But it’s not the “legacy” arts organisations the Chrysalis concept initially has in its sights (despite attracting a few big players already).

Chrysalis4101 aims to create a series of creative experiences within its community, by pairing artistic ventures with local businesses. These artist-led projects are funded via a “shared value” model of localized giving, designed to foster philanthropy within the community. Donations of any size are welcomed, from baked goods up to a five-figure sponsorship of an entire project.

The Chrysalis concept was hatched in March 2020, as the reality of the impact of a pandemic-imposed lockdown on those working across creative fields became evident. Many associated with artistic industries work from project to project, and are hence not eligible for economic stimulus support such as the Jobkeeper allowance.

“When lockdown was announced, I saw six months of my own employment vanish overnight,” says McIntosh. “I realised there would be many of my peers in similar situations.”

But it wasn’t just the creative community that faced a miserable winter. Beloved local businesses of all stripes were considering their own insecure futures … the vibrant fibre of the Kurilpa peninsula was threatened. Haugh and McIntosh convened a hasty meeting of a handful of locals with links to the arts and business, and passion for their community. From this anxious round table emerged a nucleus of the Chrysalis concept, finessed quickly over subsequent cups of tea at McIntosh and Haugh’s homes.

“In Australia the arts are reliant on an increasingly dwindling arts funding program,” says McIntosh. “On the other side, artists and organizations needed to reassess their relationship to the community and audiences they are meant to be for.”

“Bec and I had been discussing the ‘broken-ness’ of arts funding and the immaturity of philanthropy in Australia for a couple of years… In March, as we were to host a panel discussion with (South Brisbane) local council candidates on ‘Attachment to Place’, Covid crisis response hit hard and fast. Festivals, events, concerts were cancelled and galleries and gatherings closed,” explains Haugh.

The placemakers put their “entrepreneurial brains together to re-imagine a place programming model based on resilience building for local and creative economies.”

“We could see the tsunami of devastation coming for the creative sector and the small businesses in the beating heart of our beloved West End and 4101,” adds McIntosh. “We identified three clear actions in our plan to ‘protect’ our place: employ the creative workforce, energise the retail experience, and reconnect the community.”

Individual projects partner with local businesses, physically or virtually. At the centre of CHRYSALIS PROJECTS is what the founders call “a new model of philanthropy designed to fund creative purpose driven public programming”. They present an invitation to their community to invest in “the creative energy of their ‘place’”.

Participation is not prohibitive and the model is anti-elitist, but the outcome will be top shelf culture. All support is welcomed. The cream of creatives may be on board, but the project remains resolutely grass-roots. Anyone can make a donation, whether it’s $5 or $5000 or a plate of cupcakes.

“Lessons are being constantly learned in this prototyping phase, and we did confuse our messaging in the early days, with people thinking ‘philanthropy was only for the wealthy’,” says Haugh. “(But) the power of creative arts economy will be stronger from ‘citizen philanthropy’… whether your donation is $2 or $2000, you are a part of a public creative process.”

Three projects are already in train, comprising the pilot phase of the Chrysalis “experiment”. Beloved bookstore Avid Reader was a natural fit as pioneer, paired with Vernon Ah Kee, an internationally acclaimed artist with long-standing links to the Kurilpa peninsula. Store owners and West End heroes Fiona Stager and Kevin Guy are keen supporters of the Chrysalis philosophy, hosting information sessions, writing about the project in their newsletter, and enthusiastically giving their time and energy as advocates.

Carmel Haugh, Fiona Stager, Kevin Guy, Vernon Ah Kee, & Bec Mac

Carmel Haugh, Fiona Stager, Kevin Guy, Vernon Ah Kee, & Bec Mac

“At the beginning (of the Covid-19 lockdown) it was terrifying,” explains Stager. “I was waking in a cold sweat thinking we’d lost everything. But we’ve been very fortunate (that) we’ve been supported by the local community and by the Avid Reader community throughout Australia and the world.”

With Avid Reader’s business holding its own, Stager’s worry shifted to her peers. “(In West End) we are a strong ecosystem and we all need each other to survive…  (knowing) we were going to make it, the concern then was for the other businesses around us, and … for my friends who are artists and performers.”

Stager believes Vernon Ah Kee’s large public artwork, to be painted on the front and side of their building with the blessing of Avid Reader’s landlord, will ultimately become an artistic destination in itself, to the benefit of the local business community. An artist who usually works in solitary practice, Ah Kee is looking forward to working with a team at a level of collaboration he doesn’t usually experience. He’s also anticipating new challenges related to the scale of the work, as well as the challenge of the work being so publically visible.

Chrysalis collaborator, global public arts facilitator UAP is on-board as Designer in Residence to help with the practicalities of physically securing Ah Kee’s vision, but he sees a personal limitation when considering the public-facing nature of the work.

“I’m not used to censoring myself so there will be a few little challenges here and there,” he explains. While the work is still in conceptual development, he notes this mural will not reference Covid-19 or the BLM movement.

Ah Kee was a keen Chrysalis supporter from the start. This project arrived “with equal amounts of desperation and passion, and both of those aspects of the project are attractive,” he says.

“I think it’s pretty exciting just thinking about how much support there is out there (for Chrysalis4101)… 2020 had no rules so you’d expect leaps of faith everywhere… people taking risks.”

Avid Reader supports the project because, as Stager explains, “you can see real benefits, and this will make a difference to real individuals’ lives. It will give them a little bit more of the support that they need  — not just financially, but also knowing that art matters.”

As McIntosh’s own practice during Queensland’s lockdown swerved from location-based interviews to mastering the Zoom universe, some local artsworkers used the downtime to hone their own works. In addition, artists and performers usually travelling across the globe for their work found their wings suddenly clipped. Chrysalis’s second and third projects benefit from grounded stars.

Applauded cultural couple and Opera Queensland luminaries Sofia Troncoso and Dane Lam will perform at Caravanserai Turkish Restaurant, providing an urbane yet accessible experience for patrons and a surprise gift for passersby in project two: The Little Opera. A baroque repertoire will be sung in the intimate setting, reminding Opera Queensland’s Artistic Director of hearing opera singers perform in a rehearsal room.

“That is where I fell in love with opera,” says Nolan. “My first time I was in a rehearsal room with opera singers it was like ‘Wow, there is something really extraordinary going on here’ and (we look forward to) creating that opportunity for people who come to the (Chrysalis) show, to actually be present.”

Conductor Dane Lam celebrates the community aspect.“This awful pandemic has made us realise that we need to connect to our communities… We’d gotten to this stage where orchestras and conductors and musicians were interchangeable, flitting in from one country to another.”

Lam believes Opera Qld connects to its communities at a grass roots level.

“Chrysalis epitomizes that really: a community that wants to get behind local arts and local artists as a way to galvanise and bring people together and explore what we have in common, what sets us apart, and how we can come together.”

Where Opera may be the grand old dame of the performing arts, Chrysalis4101’s third project, “Redlight Distancing”, returns to signature West End eccentricity. An experimental physical theatre live art project directed by David Carberry in collaboration with the Sideshow West End, this “Circuslesque” work will showcase local cabaret and acrobatic artists and transform a corner of Vulture Street into cheeky “Tableaux Vivant”.

These three Chrysalis4101 pilot projects (and supporter funding) fell into line perhaps speedier than their organisers had intended; participants and locations were paired quickly. Existing arts networks delivered three striking pilot projects, and some locals questioned whether emerging or lesser-known artists would get to have their time in the spotlight.

Definitely, say Haugh and McIntosh. The pair is aware of the optics of quickly organizing these big-ticket projects, and pledge a participatory structure for determining the remaining suite of Chrysalis4101 projects. In 2021, a public expression of interest stage will open, setting out themes of creativity that diversify the current program. Potential participants should understand the objectives of Chrysalis Projects, which encompass creative employment, benefits to small business, and a connection of community. Chrysalis4101 has also pledged a minimum of three projects to be delivered by first nations artists.

McIntosh is hoping one of these projects will fuse her two passions, art and sport.

“I am obsessed by the relationship between sport and art,” she says. “Imagine a project that integrates and build relationships between rugby league and their audience and contemporary artists and the work that they do! I’d like to see Johnathan Thurston become a (Chrysalis Projects) Patron of Place!”

With cultural and creative activities in Australia contributing more to Australia’s GDP than the agricultural, forestry, health care, retail, or education industries, this sector is a significant economical driver, says Haugh. It might make you feel good, but it’s an opportunity to “build back better”, post-pandemic.

Bake sales may seem suburban, but that’s the idea. It’s a grassroots concept with big scope, and it already has the support of major organisations and the Queensland government through Arts Queensland.

Haugh dreams that the Chrysalis model can be rolled out and shared with as many places and people as possible.

“There is so much value to be added to our society with culture, arts and creativity,” she adds.

 Avid Reader’s Fiona Stager agrees. “If we’ve learned anything during Covid, it’s that art is fundamental to our lives. (During lockdown) so many people went to books, to music, to Netflix – they needed art in their lives. That has to come from somewhere, and this is a grass roots support for artists.”

The Chrysalis philosophy recognizes that artists support and sustain their community equally in return.

 

Learn more:

www.Chrysalisprojects.net

Get Art into your Place Chrysalis 4101

 

Photographs: Jonathan Oldham, Caroline Gardam, and Chrysalis Projects

Caroline Gardam is Chrysalis Project’s Writer in Residence.

Bin flamingo

 

I broadcast myself nude during lockdown.

This isn’t habitual, and wasn’t planned, of course – what minute of that horrid glitch of a year was? – but there I was, across my channels, in my birthday suit. On your screen.

The route to déshabillé started months earlier: as I put the bin out, in fact. Taking the bin out – we know now what collective mania that phrase wrought. But before the Facebook groups, the dressups and act-outs, in those early weeks of homeschooling and flour-hoarding, as I wheeled my green bin one glorious autumn Brisbane afternoon, with the balmy backyard glowing in just-the-right quadrant of the golden hour, I understood exactly what to do. I raced upstairs, dug out a ruffled mid-80s Diane Fréis, threw on serious heels and an overblonde wig. And I took the bin out.

Taking the bin out

Later, my partner confessed, he did wonder (as he filmed me prance about with the bin) about my mental stability – worried about the psychological effect of all the homeschooling and flour hoarding. But I was into it. I posted the video, and waited.

Next week, the regular bin was taken out, danced up the driveway. I picked a replica 1966 “Mondrian” YSL, a large black sun hat, and thigh-high aqua boots. The following Wednesday, vintage Swiss sequins and gruff 10-hole Doc Martins from the early 90s. Dusty wardrobe corners uncovered treasure. The Stephen Glass gown my grandmother wore to my parents’ wedding. Vintage fox and French lurex. Nana Mouskouri–esque pink polyester with yellow curls. 70’s tunic, turban, turn-of-the-century Sass & Bide animal print “rats”.

Friends laughed, and said kind things, and a few said even nicer things in private messages. Sometimes, strangers shared the videos, which was both weird and quite splendid. A few sent special requests. I hid someone’s birthday message in the bin lid. A friend said she’d shown the series to her honours students, virtually, as an example of maintaining creative practice while “locked down”. Addictive, utter fun, it was a punctuation mark in the middle of the unfettered week. An event.

It felt great, taking these old mates out for a stroll. I abandoned the bin, just the once, and dusted our rumpus room mirrorball for Fashion Critical while wearing my long silver sequin halter frock; although it didn’t feel quite right mincing around binless, it did extract funny comments from strangers.

Then, as this bin-thing gained mass, and started to take over real and online conversations, I grew weary of myself. I don’t usually work in front of a camera. It’s rather tiresome, I discovered: a skill I probably lack. And if I was becoming bored of the sight of myself, others wouldn’t be far behind.

How to withdraw gracefully?

Everyone (especially me) would tire of vintage combos and bad dancing before long. With a milestone birthday looming, the ultimate choice was simple, a celebration, and a definite finale. For my final bin outing, I would wear my birthday suit.

 

And Captain Rex’s helmet.

 

Bin videos are all over on Instagram and YouTube.

This was originally written for, and rejected by, QWC’s lockdown diaries.

Do your own real research

As I watch people whom I care deeply about flirt with conspiratorial cults, I believe I no longer have the luxury of ignoring ridiculous posts, or writing off those who share them as gullible or worse.

Back in March, I wrote an essay on the need to understand how to analyse the source of information we read. Where it comes from, who put it there, and why. How to query veracity. It was referring to climate denialism and, contrary to a ‘don’t feed the trolls’ philosophy, I advised to help provide these tools of healthy skepticism — not to argue with the person sharing fake information — but perhaps to help others reading post comments understand how to discern what is simply not true. It was quite a good essay, I thought, but Covid-19 shoved it to the back of the editorial queue, and then, over the next few months, social media information sharing became even weirder, and climate denial suddenly was just one tentacle of a big fake monster that grows daily.
The weird marriage, lately, of the new far right and the ‘wellness’ mob is quite bizarre, hard to grasp. The article linked to the quote below is one of the better ones I’ve seen lately to try to explain it. And I’ve read a few. I’m still ‘doing my research’, as has been suggested

Our Inside Voices

I was delighted to be invited to co-edit Our Inside Voices: Reflections on COVID-19 recently.

It contains essays, fiction, and poetry from a wide range of Queensland writers. My mate Brad Marsellos, whose amazing locked-down playground pic features on the cover, said he felt calm after reading the stories.

Getting back behind the red pen is so enjoyable. Working with writers to help polish their fabulous words sparks much joy.

Our Inside Voices Reflections on COVID-19

  • Comments Off on Netiquette: 3 essential guidelines for online behaviour

Netiquette: 3 essential guidelines for online behaviour

I’m frequently asked for advice regarding online communication, and, in particular, social media etiquette. It’s a conversation I’ve had with people of varying online experience over many years, about a conversation about communicating with clarity, with regard for ethics and etiquette.

Plenty of guides exist, as a simple search would reveal. For example, the BBC‘s netiquette page is a sturdy place to start. Many are geared toward social media behaviour for younger people: Achieve Virtual offers a comprehensive guide aimed at students, and also lists pertinent references. The sources are a few years old, but still relevant. There’s a particularly handy hint here, too: Read everything out loud before you post.

The nature of online communication means that messages must be simple, as they’re digested quickly. Misunderstanding abounds.

Include sarcasm and you dance beside an online minefield. Emoticons may shield you from explosions of misunderstanding, but be prepared for collateral damage.

Same goes for “quirky” humour (*see below).

Some people will judge your poor grammar and spelling. They may be potential clients, employers, friends, or lovers. These are not necessarily mean people; they just have high standards*.  (*Insert jokey emoticon of your choice here.)

Don’t steal other people’s stuff. Acknowledge where that meme, image, clever sentence, or concept came from. If you don’t know, at least acknowledge that it’s not yours. It works wonders for your credibility.

Understand that someone’s own perception is their reality, and try to empathise, perceptively, their reality. Understand that there’s a world of cultural differences out there.

After working with and teaching online communication (and using it personally!) for decades, I realise the conversation can spiral outwards like a lovely Mandelbrot iteration. Which is not a bad thing. But understanding the needs of social media communication, both ethical and etiquette, begins with three brief points. If you start here, you start well.

 

Netiquette: guidelines for online behaviourNote that we’re talking here about online communication for individuals, mainly. There’s a further level needed for commerce (including individuals – “influencers” – who virtually operate as businesses if they accept products and/or payment), but that’s an issue for another time.

  • Comments Off on Plastic bag ban backflip backflip: Coles the supermarket gymnast.

Plastic bag ban backflip backflip: Coles the supermarket gymnast.

 

*** As I wrote my way through this rant earlier today, Coles doubled down in backflip town. NOW they will cease handing out free bags at the end of August. While this will be, eventually, good news, I thought I’d set this piece free anyway. Because, honestly, some of you bloody whingers need to get your act together.***

Oh, I am more than a little annoyed.

And I’m supposed to write nicely to you. I understand that the philosophy behind public engagement encourages a supportive approach to making people feel like a valued part of the proposed change, to assist in dealing with the challenge of adopting different behaviours (particularly when these behaviours are beneficial to society), to speak kindly and help people feel loved and relevant, as part of the behavioural change that’s happening, so they’ll own a slice of the conversation and not walk away from it all…

But BUGGER IT, I AM BLOODY CRANKY.

You are a bunch of big whingeing entitled waste babies.

Seriously.

Coles, all you had to do was get your message right. You even had a scapegoat, for Uma’s sake, since the plastic bag ban IS LAW.

And people. You big waste babies. All YOU had to do is REMEMBER TO CARRY YOUR OWN GODDAMN BAG.

Yes, Coles, you are freaking commercial cowards. But, this time, blame doesn’t rest solely with the big guys. Because I’m sure those “reuseable” thicker plastic bags cost a stack of a lot more than the thin grey turtle killers. I guess this current situation is not your ideal choice, either. Your stupid competitive approach, rather than collaborating with Woolies on this issue, has done you in.

No, wastebabies, this one’s on you. Con-freaking-gratulations, you win. You’ve taken a positive piece of legislation (here in Queensland) and MADE THINGS WORSE THAN BEFORE.  ‘Cause look around – do you see many of those “reusable” bags walking with their big wastebaby owners back into Coles?

You asked for it, no, demanded it, when you whinged and whined and bullied checkout operators for the plastic you see as your entitlement.

Over the past week, I have visited an Indian takeaway in West End, a bakery in Highgate Hill, and a general store in Darra. Each of these establishments displayed a sign at the counter, prominent and at eye level, stating that because of the new Queensland law, they could not provide plastic bags, but a “reusable” bag could be purchased for ten cents. Yet, at each of these three stores, the assistant automatically moved to place my purchases in a plastic bag – without even asking me, and definitely without asking for ten cents. Why? My guess is to avoid the hassle/drama/angst/abuse they’ve been copping from customers, those wastebabies who feel that somehow they are missing out on their free plastic bag entitlement. So these small businesses now absorb a fee that their customers should be paying, a fee designed to encourage people to remember to carry a bag into a shop. Even if Coles stops giving out free bags at the end of the month, will all these smaller businesses cop it? Lose, lose.

It’s not as if Australia is leading any plastic-bag-free charge here. (South Australia, maybe.) Dozens of countries have instigated bans or levies over the past decade or so. Bangladesh was the first, after plastic bags waste contributed so seriously to floods in that country. For Bangladesh, it was, literally, a life-and-death decision.

 

Where? When? Ban or levy/tax?
Antigua and Barbuda 2016 ban
Bangladesh 2002 ban
Belgium (Wallonia, Brussels, Flanders) levy
Belize 2019 ban
Benin 2017 ban
Bhutan 2009 ban
Botswana 2007 levy
Buenos Aires, Argentina 2017 ban
Bulgaria 2011 levy
Cambodia 2017 levy
Cameroon 2014 ban
Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Prince Edward, Quebec) ban
Catalonia 2017 levy
China 2008 ban
Croatia 2019 levy
Cyprus 2018 levy
Czech Republic 2018 ban
Denmark 2003 levy
England 2015 levy
Eritrea 2005 ban
Estonia 2017 levy
Finland 2016 levy
France 2016 ban
Gabon 2010 ban
Gambia 2015 ban
Georgia 2017 ban
Germany 2016 levy
Greece 2018 levy
Greenland 2004 levy
Guinea-Bissau 2016 ban
Haiti 2012 ban
Hong Kong 2015 levy
India (Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Mumbai, Maharashtra)
Indonesia 2016 levy
Ireland 2002 levy
Israel 2017 levy
Italy 2011 ban
Ivory Coast 2014 ban
Kenya 2017 ban
La Paz, Bolivia
Latvia 2019 levy
Lithuania 2018 levy
Luxembourg 2004 levy
Madagascar 2015 ban
Malawi 2015 ban
Mali 2013 ban
Malta 2009 levy
Mauritania 2013 ban
Moldova 2017 ban
Morocco 2016 ban
Mozambique 2016 levy
Myanmar (Rangoon, Mandalay, Naypyidaw)
N’Djamena, Chad ban
Nepal 2015 ban
Netherlands 2016 ban
Niger 2013 ban
Northern Ireland 2013 levy
Panama 2020 ban
Papua New Guinea 2016 ban
Penang, Malaysia 2011 levy
Poland 2018 levy
Portugal 2015 levy
Republic of the Congo 2011 ban
Romania 2011 levy
Rwanda 2008 ban
Sao Paulo, Brazil 2015 ban
Scotland 2014 levy
Senegal 2015 ban
Serbia 2018 ban
Slovakia 2018 levy
Slovenia 2019 ban
Somalia 2015 ban
South Africa 2004 levy
Spain 2018 levy
Sri Lanka 2017 ban
Sweden 2017 ban
Taiwan 2019 ban
Tanzania 2005 ban
Tunisia 2017 ban
Turkey 2018 levy
United States(California, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Hawaii)
Vanuatu 2018 ban
Wales 2011 levy
Australia
South Australia 2009 ban
ACT 2011 ban
NT 2011 ban
Tasmania 2013 ban
Queensland 2018 ban
Western Australia 2018 ban
Victoria 2018 ban

 

 

What drives this international swell against plastic bags? Concern about the impact that bags have on the landscape? Self interest (some African bans follow loss of livestock after eating bags)? Marine impacts (heard of floating syndrome in turtles? It’s awful.)? Aesthetics? Common bloody sense?*

Apart from being a decent and conscious human being, yes, I have historical skin in this game. In 2012, I accepted a contract to work with an environmental organisation to coordinate a campaign designed to remove free plastic bags from shops in Queensland. When I began, the fledgling campaign had been tentatively named “Ban the Bag”, but in the interests of a more positive approach, I changed this to “Plastic Bag Free Queensland (PBFQ)”.

409632_456551054408693_1850491534_n-2It was my first engagement in the environment sector since 1989, when I worked at the incipient Brisbane office of Greenpeace Australia as one of their original volunteers, helping launch the “Adopt-a-Beach” campaign. This, the first Greenpeace campaign for Queensland (somewhat presciently) involved cleaning up waterways and beaches in a forerunner to the excellent work now done by organisations such as Tangaroa Blue.

Like Adopt-a-Beach 20-odd years earlier, PBFQ was launched with a function on the shores of Moreton Bay, as marine impacts were (and are) one major reason why the removal of plastic bags is so important. More on that, elsewhere*. Clean Up Australia’s legendary Ian Kiernan AO joined John Phillips OAM from Keep South Australia Beautiful to help launch the campaign. Within months, an online community of over 2000 supporters rallied.  Key public figures from Bindi Irwin to Michael Zavros pledged their support. Chef Ben O’Donoghue donated a day of his life to film a fantastic short film called “Gutful” thanks to the generosity of Phil MacDonald and his team at GPYR. No less than three Australians of the Year (Kiernan, Peter Doherty AO, and Ian Lowe AO) joined supporters Nick Earls, Veny Armanno, Jessica Watson, and many others.

 

The PBFQ position was not without its challenges, and not just the political climate in which it dwelled. I’d brought my inner teenage environmentalist along to the gig, and her naivety was tested by office bullies and personal politics. I was working in an unwell organisation. In addition, I experienced a little shades-of-green environmental angst. A certain corner of the movement felt that plastic bag ban campaigns were a misguided use of limited resources that should be directed towards serious, pressing “dark green” issues such as climate change. I understand the validity of this argument. However, in an interesting discussion with Ian Kiernan, I saw how waste issues could be considered a gateway to a deeper form of environmentalism. His philosophy was that waste is tangible to all (eventually, even those who forget their reusable supermarket bags), and that an awareness of the waste that we produce as humans leads to an awareness of our environment in general, and our impact upon it. When you realise “there is no away”, you question much of our consumerism and disposable society.

PBFQ was smashed to bits in a single morning. A new import, a right-leaning editor of the state’s newspaper got wind of a discussion paper (considering a possible plastic bag ban or levy) being considered by the LNP government. His front page dog-whistle (the incorrect and histrionic “Shoppers will be slugged $2 for a bag”) to the premier was answered by Newman’s unilateral decree “There will be no slug” – which he announced immediately, without any cabinet consultation (Welcome to Queensland). Death by slug.

And a certain mindset of plastic bag entitlement was strengthened, a progressive opportunity lost. Why do people think they are losing some basic right when losing access to free plastic bags?

On a distant acquaintance’s Facebook, I read a boast about how she just “used lots of those produce bags” to get around the ban. Really? What an effort. How about applying that energy towards carrying a big reusable bag? Whatever would you do with all those bags afterwards? I guess they’d go straight in the bin, being too small for much else.

One main reason behind removing free plastic bags is to prevent them from escaping into the environment, particularly the marine environment. They’re slippery little suckers. Granted, when they are wrapped around household rubbish, they’re less likely to blow away. But is this even necessary?

“But what will I use in my bin?”

Oh, please. I’ve been having this friggin conversation for six years. I guess another hour won’t hurt.

  1. You don’t need to line your bin. Simple. Got a hose? Dump the kitchen bin into the big bin, and hose your kitchen bin out.
  2. Too icky? Put a bit of newspaper at the bottom of the bin. Or junk mail. Or scrap paper.
  3. Use bread bags, or pasta bags, or juice cartons, for the meaty/messy stuff. Make compost with your scraps rather than putting them in the bin. I’ve had two healthy worm farms on tiny unit balconies; it’s not hard.
  4. Use a box.
  5. Wrap rubbish in newspaper if you’re in a unit and need to put it in a chute.
  6. Really must line that bin? Then buy a goddamn bin liner. You’ll still use less plastic if you take your own bags to the supermarket and buy bin liners. Look for compostable, not just degradable. Bags labelled biodegradable bags are frequently still plastic, and still stay in the environment for 1000 years.

In ACT and SA, sales of bin liners, it was reported, did increase a little after the plastic bag bans – but not as much as expected. And in ACT, bin liner sales actually dropped, as people looked at other options.

And even if bin liner sales HAD increased by 100%, this is nothing like the amount of plastic supermarket bags that had stopped being handed out. The South Australian government estimates that their ban has saved 400 million bags annually.

Happy birthday! Taking part in a beach clean up on Moreton Island, May 2012.

Happy birthday! Taking part in a beach clean up on Moreton Island, May 2012.

 

*For more information about the impact of marine and other impacts of plastic bags and other plastic waste, here are a few links.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-12/what-you-can-do-to-reduce-plastic-pollution/9642352

https://www.boomerangalliance.org.au/impacts

http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-02-27/plastic-and-plastic-waste-explained/8301316

https://ntepa.nt.gov.au/waste-pollution/plastic-bag-ban/environmental-impacts

http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/publications/impacts-plastic-debris-australian-marine-wildlife

https://greenerideal.com/news/environment/0613-how-do-plastic-bags-affect-our-environment/

http://qldbagban.com.au/plastic-bags-costs-environment-economy/

https://www.idiveblue.com/ocean-plastics-environmental-disaster/

Other references

http://www.abc.net.au/news/specials/curious-canberra/2017-08-28/does-a-plastic-bag-ban-cause-a-spike-in-the-use-of-bin-bags/8819504

http://wastemanagementreview.com.au/ban-the-bag-debate/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-out_of_lightweight_plastic_bags

http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/plastic

 

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