Food: a dialogue

Words by ANDY MASON and BREANA MACPHERSON-RICE

Thoughtful foods veggie box
Weekly organic veggie box from our local food coop, Thoughtful Foods

 

b: what should we have for dinner?

a: god, i don’t know – it’s so complicated. i feel overwhelmed by so many different ideas about food, i just don’t know where to begin. it’s too hard, let’s just go get drunk?

b: don’t be a goose, we have to eat. what are you worried about?

a: i don’t know where to start, i feel like any choice i make will be wrong in some way. i’m just always alone in the kitchen, alone in the supermarket or wherever and it’s impossible for me to make choices that don’t harm me, or animals, or forests or communities somewhere. it’s easier not to bother.

b: yeah, i can relate to that. i always feel really anxious whenever i’m in a supermarket – i go in with this idea that i can make my purchases align with my values, but it always seems futile, especially on my measly budget.

a: and sometimes it just feels impossible to do the right thing. i’ll be buying stuff to make mum a mothers day breakfast, and she really likes smoked salmon & scrambled eggs on toast, so i’ll go to buy the salmon and eggs and my vegan friends will stare daggers at me or tell me i’m doing something awful. i feel like concerns about where the salmon is from are important, but equally important is doing something nice for my mum, who i don’t see enough and who doesnt often get an opportunity to relax and have her favourite breakfast made for her.

b: yeah, that’s something i’ve always found so confusing. like, i find it really hard to see what  i eat as this solely ethical issue where things are either right or wrong – i mean, food is such a social thing, and it’s so tied to identity – really aggressively sometimes, it freaks me out. i’ve spoken to a couple of friends about ‘coming out’ to their family as vegetarian, and their decision usually just becomes part of some greater narrative of their personality. it can be really alienating.

a: absolutely. my vegan friends say a lot of stuff about the awful environmental effects of the meat, dairy and fish industries, and that made me interested in the effects that other agriculture has as well. it turns out that all industrial farming is pretty awful, no matter whether they’re growing tomatoes or beef – it still involves lots of nasty chemicals, fertilisers, land-clearing, erosion and so on. even tofu is grown under these kind of practices!

b: yeah fully, it’s so complex. i think it’s really important to remember that there’s no good reason to assume humans are better than any other species, but at the same time, a blanket rule of not eating animals or animal products won’t fix this systematic discrimination. i think that we need to transition to practises where our other-specied friends  are afforded some of the respect they deserve, as beings and not factory-farmed commodities.

a: i think you’ve hit the nail on the head – it should be about respect. i remember going fishing with my grandparents when i was younger – we would hike into the national park near their house, where introduced species like trout were pushing out all of these endangered native fish. grandma taught us how to catch trout, kill and clean them and everything. she would say that it was really important to remember that the fish was alive and conscious like us and to treat it with respect. but taking them for dinner was also a way of respecting the natural ecosystem which was threatened, and restoring an imbalance caused by other people.

b: that makes so much sense. that reminds me of when i was living with friends in nepal – 90 per cent of what we ate came from the fields around our house, and when we rarely did eat meat it was usually goat from the neighbour or the market. i’m not saying it was all completely rosy over there, but that part of it worked – you know where food comes from, it’s a community effort.

a: yeah, i always get angry when people talk about this stuff as if it’s all in the past, as if theres some ladder of progress from garden to supermarket or something. nobody ever told my grandparents! before they got sick, they were both doing something similar – all the houses in their neighbourhood had awesome gardens and everybody would swap veggies, jam, fish, cakes etc with each other. every meal we had there, grandma would say “go out and get me some carrots” or “go out and catch us some fish”.

b: totally, right! i have so many fond memories of going to my nan’s place and picking tomatoes that we would make into relish with her grandmother’s recipe. that knowledge is only a generation away – yet it often feels like we’ve lost it so quickly. so many of my friends freak out and won’t even attempt to grow some basil because they don’t know where to begin. it doesn’t need to be that scary though – it’s really easy to reestablish that connection.

a: and look at our garden – a couple of weekends’ work and we’ve already got beans, basil, coriander, parsley, rocket, chillies, potatoes, passionfruit, cumquats, sweet potato, onions, leeks, beetroot, carrots, spinach, silverbeet, bok choy, eggplant, oranges, limes, lemons, it’ll all be ready within a couple of months… and in spring the chooks will start laying!

b: it’s so exciting! and also really therapeutic – i don’t know about you, but i like the pace that having a garden brings me back to.

a: i feel like it’s been easy since we decided to do it. some people think having a garden would be too much effort, but we both love the work! i guess it depends what you’re looking for.

b: exactly. and it’s not like we try to do everything ourselves, that would be silly. i’m so grateful for the food co-op – thanks to this community of people who put in a little bit of effort every week, heaps of people are able to eat a bunch of fresh, delicious veggies that haven’t travelled very far. also, it’s insane that we get a big box of veggies for the two of us for ten dollars each a week!

a: it makes things so much easier when we have other people to support us, hey. it’s like you said before – food should be a social thing, should be something that brings people together.

b: that’s what makes the difference to me. if i’m eating alone i’m liable to eat cereal or something, but when i’m cooking with you, or with our housemates, we inevitably have a great time and make something that’s nutritionally sound and also bloody delicious. i’m so glad.

a: me too. hey, there’s a bunch of rocket and basil in the garden – want to make pesto?

b: i’d love to.

 

This was originally published in Germinate 2015 and has since been republished in Tharunka: Food for Thought

Lizard Bites Back: a photo essay

Lizard Bites Back: a photo essay

Words and images by ANDY CALLER.

Protestors set up camp on Kokatha country for Lizard Bites Back

Roxby Downs Protestival – The Lizard Bites Back! – saw activists use non-violent direct action to raise awareness of: the expansion of pre-existing mine at Roxby Downs, the significant impacts of the exposed waste in tailings dams (contaminated water containing radioactive material that is a by-product of mining), and the continued occupation of the First Nations people of Kokatha county and surrounds.

Protestors face off with police at Lizard Bites Back

Willing to confront the mouth of the beast at the “gates of hell”, Olympic Dam uranium mine, the activists, environmentalists and concerned citizens present were not deterred by the threat of a high police presence – armed as they were with defection stickers, horses and a stone-cold resentment for being there.

There has been criticism in response to the use of the non-violent direct actions at The Lizard Bites Back. Some have called out the aspects of white privilege present, with activists not taking into account of the use of mutated white babies as props, when it was not white children that were buried by their mothers after the fallout at Maralinga. Still, the bombs dropped there were remembered and named as a long list of global radioactive spills, disasters, plants & bomb tests was recited for the crowd, after which bodies collapsed in a die-in to commemorate the fallen.

Die-in at Olympic Dam mine gates for Lizard Bites Back

The high police presence was intrusive and blunt through the use of drones and stationary cameras on the camp and at the gate. Continuous patrols operated along the border of the camp, which doubled as the parameter of the exclusion zone in which police had enhanced powers of authority by application of anti-protest laws. In this zone, unprovoked searches are the norm, and a refusal to present identification would result in arrest.

March to the gates of hell at Lizard Bites Back
Although the police were relatively placid in their dealing with protesters, the use of a sacred fire as a road blockade on the third day caused an aggressive and frustrated response to the delivery of more firewood, as well as stretching the patience of the police and stretching the composition of the hardline regiment. Allegedly, questions of the validity of the force’s presence in such numbers caused infighting through the ranks of officers.

Police scuffle with protestors at Lizard Bites Back

 

Proposal to dump on SA

There was also an aim to raise awareness of the placement of 3 high-level radioactive waste dumps in South Australia, one of which is set to be positioned on the first thoroughly recorded Songline northwest of so-called Hawker. This is recognised as a significant cultural route of the Adnyamathanha People, and the site has been nominated without their consent.

The other two proposed locations are bordering Pinkawillinie conservation park, posing a threat to the area’s unique biodiversity and likely impacting the economic contribution of the Flinders Ranges as a financial asset to South Australia’s tourism industry. (Between 2013-14, The Flinders Rangers contributed an estimated $281 million to the tourism industry in South Australia’s regional income).

A group gathers to learn about the proposal for multiple nuclear waste dumps at Lizard Bites Back.
The news that South Australia may become a nuclear waste dump for the world comes despite a lack of consultation with First Nations elders and communities. It represents a spit in the face to the significance of land and connection to country that traditional owners maintain, and further depicts the continued reach of colonial dominance through economic forces.

A workshop on the second day saw activists forming affinity groups around the country to raise awareness of the dump proposals, networking to establish a national resistance (pictured above).

Together, we say: wanti, uranium, keep it in the ground.

 

University research should be for public good, not private interest

When receiving an award for her proficiency at exploration geophysics, Jodie dropped a banner to draw to attention how University research is often driven by private interest – to the detriment of the urgent issue of climate change.

By JODIE PALL

When receiving an award for exploration geophysics, Jodie dropped a banner asking for research in the public interest of climate change

I dropped a banner at the School of Geosciences awards night earlier this year that read, ‘Geologist wants research for climate justice, not corporate interest.’  As an environmental activist, it seemed ironic to be receiving a prize for being a whiz at the methods used in locating coal, oil and gas reservoirs for resource extraction. I doubt I am the only geology student or researcher at the University of Sydney grappling with the dilemma of loving the science of geology, but not at all wanting to be involved in mining.

Blocking research on climate change

The imminence of the threat of climate change in abundantly clear, as is the contribution of fossil fuel extraction to this ecological emergency. Geoscientists work and research at the intersection where human livelihoods meet the geo-hydro-biophysical and ecological systems that our lifestyles are embedded in, and this research consistently shows that we’re rapidly approaching planetary limits. This is why I find it so bewildering that geoscientists here at USyd seem to be doing so little to pressure the university to show leadership on climate change.

As an undergraduate majoring in Geology, my academic learning has heavily incorporated mineral and resource extraction, which has been undeniably underpinned by corporate interests. Time and time again, I read in Unit of Studies outlines of how each geology course will equip me with the graduate skills sought after by mining industries. I am upset that hydrogeology, urban geology, geomorphology, environmental geology and oceanography aren’t offered as subjects. It is dispiriting that at industry information evenings, the majority of speakers are directly employed by mining companies, which may lead one to believe that there are no legitimate career options for geologists outside of extraction industries.

In second year I was appalled that my ‘Fossils & Tectonics’ lecturer told us to invest in mining projects in the Bowen and Surat Basin in Queensland. Moreover, he would turn off his lecturing microphone and ask us to legitimately consider ‘creation science’, specifically the idea that rocks dating back millions of years were created by God six thousand years ago and were designed to record ages that, when radiometrically dated, would pre-date the creation of Earth. It was infuriating, and because complaint procedures were not sufficiently anonymised and there were no recordings, there was no avenue for students to protest.

Universities’ responsibilities as thought leaders

I’m not naïve about the relationship of geologists and resource extraction in Australia. I also know that in the current political climate the corporatisation of tertiary education is welcomed and free education is a relic of the past. However, I also believe that corporate interest should not dictate what undergraduate geology students study and learn. I think that the pursuit of knowledge in geology should not start from the idea that the geosphere can be reduced to an energy source. And further to that, I don’t believe that geology is incompatible with climate change research or research on alternative energy solutions, especially when those solutions can be found in the geosphere (i.e. geothermal energy).

Universities have a responsibility to pursue knowledge for the benefit of society as a whole, rather than pursue only a profit motive. It is disappointing that despite the university’s advertising slogan, ‘Leadership for good starts here,’ USyd has shown an incredible lack of leadership in actually doing something about climate change. Notably, no steps have been taken by the Vice Chancellor Michael Spence to honour the university’s 2015 commitment to divest 20% of their investment portfolio from fossil fuel and extraction projects by 2018.

By the time I graduate, it would be truly novel to see this university honour its divestment commitment and show true leadership, like La Trobe University has done recently. It would be fantastic to see the geosciences school respecting the intelligence of the students by actively engaging with climate change discourse and by challenging the university to be the leader in the sustainable future that it fancies itself to be.

Roadtrip to Newcastle

Yesterday the ASEN road trip crew travelled up to Newcastle and was taken for a tour of the Newcastle Port by our travel guide Jonothan Moylan. From Nobby’s Headland, we saw the dredging boat taking out sediment to dump it offshore widen the channel to accomodate more coal exports. We stood over the large arterial railway that takes coal trains to and from the port day in and day out, not even breaking for holidays. There coal trains are not covered and the coal dust poses a health risk to the 23,000 children who go to a school within 500m of the train line.

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