Sunday, 16 June 2013

So you think you’re smarter than a Chinese high school student? WELL DO YOU?



Global times Facebook page:

Over 9 million Chinese high school seniors take the most important test of their lives on June 7. Experience all the pain and glory by taking a crack at our Gaokao Mini-Essay Contest during June 7 to June 16 on Sina Weibo and Facebook. There’s no character limit, so go nuts. Post as much as it takes for you to get your point across in our Facebook page, and cross your fingers. Winners will be announced on June 20, keep checking our Facebook page and Weibo account for updates!

And if you know anything about Gaokao questions, it's that:
1. They are a literal equivalent of life or death for students and for animals (in one city, frogs from a nearby lake had to be put to death so they didn't disrupt Gaokao exams with the noise they made)
2. They have the most fucked up questions you'll ever encounter in the course of your academic life or just, life in general.
3.  It's so competitive that diligent students get hooked up to IV drips in the classroom

Beijing Cream recently posted a hilarious parody piece about the sort of questions the Gaokao churns out to those poor mainland students every year and here is an example:


“If Edison was able to visit the 21st century” is a short stone’s throw away from, “If Jesus were alive today,” or, “If dinosaurs landed in San Diego…”
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Old McDonald’s farm was glorious and prosperous, except for foreign agents who hated cell phones. Explain your high school existence, keeping in mind Isaac Newton loves apples.
In conclusion, WHAT WOULD YOU DO if donkeys could mate with the skeletons of pigs?
And check out this explosive diarrhea of a question:


Again, that’s:
Everyday [sic] we strive for what we think is important, but there are more important things in this world. People have different opinions on the matter. Please select a point of view and write an essay about your thoughts.
Can I pick the point of view of a rubber duck?
Every day, afloat upon the patchy waters of Victora Harbor, I wake to a red sun that speaks to the cold flame of my solitude. There is an everlasting sadness that you cannot know, burning fierce in the east where the schoolchildren of our country once tilted their heads to sing. Where is that joy, now?
I look west, and the pebbly eyeballs which glance back are not round with a child’s wonder but flat like a jianbing, grown-up but not mature. The adults that stand at their side flick the butts of cigarettes at me, as if my skin, though made of rubber, does not react to the embers of their scorn.
They speak to me, too. They squawk and squeal and cluck in coarse imitation of language, but I do not understand because I am a duck and do not speak Cantonese. I turn my back, face south, the tears glistening behind plastic eyes, yet they do not stop. Nothing stops them. They come. More of them come. Like a great tsunami, the waves do not wane, they come, oh they come.
I am a duck. What do they want? What spiritual void can a duck fill? What dialectic truth can we discern, them on the shores, me on these choppy waters of Victoria Harbor, staring into a horizon that reflects the recesses of the human condition? Boundless, bottomless, what is the difference? Infinity that wallows, sinkholes of the soul which drag us down, past paper bills that flutter like falling butterflies. Their problems are copper, less real than these eyes under God’s blue sky.
I am a duck, a humble duck. The sun sets in the west and the cool comfort of night’s veil is pulled over my head. In this silence, I listen. There is the sound of water. The faraway exhale of a tugboat. And if I really try, something sweeter, something like laughter, from a child who was here, and thought it important.
Holy shit I would’ve flunked so hard.


Also.


Sorry. I had to.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong



Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend -- not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let's change the way we think about changing the world.
Everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, says AIDS Ride founder Dan Pallotta. He aims to transform the way society thinks about charity and giving and change.
---------------
My thoughts:
Everyone wants to own their own home, have their own car, support their family and be able to afford all the nice perks of life that would make living a little more enjoyable - a luxury sedan, an expensive watch, some designer goodies, a trip to Paris, a night out with friends at Nobu.  It's why people work so damn hard.  And I'm assuming that most of us have similar material aspirations.  If we earn enough money, why not lavish ourselves once in a while?  
But what if you're someone who's also really passionate about charity; someone smart and innovative and able to provide appropriate technical advice on projects?  What if you want to work for an institution like WWF, World Vision (or a smaller institution) and want to take a direct part in project development and research?
Well, forget about that European sports car with the orgasmic obsidian paint you've been saving up for.  Working for a NPO may be morally rewarding but it means you will face a lifetime of socio-economic limitations - what you can do with the money you earn is strictly governed by moral standards attributed by society to those working in the non-profit sector.  And if you breach those standards for even the tiniest exhibition of using your own finances for personal pleasure (and not for saving African kids), then you're an uber demonic capitalist/satan/father of all lies.

You want to drive a luxury Audi A8 instead of a fugly green Toyota Prius?  Well NO.  Because everyone will be like "you could have given that money to starving Ethiopian families man."

You want a nice Hugo Boss suit tailored to fit your absolutely ripped body instead of a Target t-shirt and op shop jeans?  Well NO.  Could've sponsored a hundred kids from World Vision.

You want the newest generation iPod?  Well NO.  Could've fed a bunch of homeless people for a week.

You see the problem here?  Where does it stop?  What extent of frugality must we exhibit to show that we are dedicated to our charitable cause?  
So I guess, either you work for a NP organisation and sacrifice all the nice perks you would and could have bought (remember that it is NORMAL to want these things), or live like an ascetic so you don't face the backlash that comes with working for a NPO but also wanting to buy the newest LV bag/Louboutin shoes.
I know there are people who would be outraged at this idea - "if you're TRULY passionate about helping people and working for charity, then you shouldn't give a shit about money and material things because that's not what's important.  Saving lives is more important.  Feeding hungry mouths is more important.  Fuck your Audi."
But if you REALLY think about it, why is that so wrong?  What in the world is so wrong with wanting to enjoy your own life while helping the needy at the same time?  I don't see how a love for fast cars or high tier fashion should be considered mutually exclusive to a love for helping those in need.  
As long as you're making a difference and doing so effectively - fulfilling your personal material aspirations with the money that you earn (legitimately) should be none of anyone else's freakin' business.  So please shut up, purist sanctimonious vegan dread-locked hippies.  I mean, I don't see you guys giving upper east side philanthropists shit for driving around in Aston Martins.  Ya know why?  Cos these people (and yes, they are people) are some of the most important agents of change in the NP sector as well as the profit sector.  Sure, they buy lots of things they don't really need but if they've worked hard for the money, why shouldn't they?  They're still giving a fairly big amount of money back to charity and that's what counts.  They're making a bigger difference than most people.  
Obviously, I'm not going to extremes and saying that Tim Costello (CEO of World Vision) should be buying three Maseratis if he really wanted to.  But (I'm going to segue into a second point now) it's just this screwed up notion that NP workers should be receiving the barest minimum in pay since anything above that is considered a gross perversion of their job, is something that really irks me.  It also makes a lot of young people second question their ability to make a decent living out of the NP sector.  This isn't selfishness or some sort of fucked up Gen Y/Gen Z characteristic, it's realism.  It's pragmatism.  It's not wanting to be underpaid for overtime.  It's whether we can get what we deserve for the effort we put in.  Whether we have agency to exert personal freedom in the structure we've been confined to.

If not, people will start looking for different paths that are both personally rewarding AND helping starving kids is in developing countries.

And people wonder why there aren't more top graduates going to the NP sector instead of the profit sector/becoming investment bankers at Goldman Sachs lul.
As Dan Pallotta said, why not just go into the profit sector and earn tonnes of $$ and then give part of that back to charity?  Then I have some more leeway to buy all the crap I want while promoting a humanitarian agenda - WIN WIN.  I may even be able to make a greater contribution because I'm able to take more risks with my money and invest it in specific projects that no medical institution or government would sponsor, either because they have more pressing priorities or because they only want to work on issues that affect the majority and not the minority.    
Finally, that entrenched view that NP organisations should strip overhead to a minimum as well ....  ugh.  UGH.   Just watch the video and you'll get what I mean.

He's so right when he implies that we need to revolutionise the way we think about charities.  People need to STOP thinking that money spent on advertising, fundraising, campaigning and workers' salaries should be minimised as they don't contribute directly to donations and thus, the mission.  They are just as freaking important.
Watch the damn video.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

tweet dump









Understanding what reclaiming the word 'slut' and 'victim-blaming' means


From Io9: 

“Honey, your skirt is a little short.”To be fair, it was a little short. It was short intentionally. I was dressed in a science officer costume from Star Trek: The Original Series. Not the sleek little work-appropriate but still sexy jewel tone tunics from the new movie, but the flared, strangely-constructed, unapologetically teal and chartreuse polyester cheerleader dresses that fit perfectly with the (now) retrofuturistic vibe of the original show. It’s a screen accurate dress. And by “screen accurate” I mean “short”. And at the beginning of the day, I just assumed the lady who commented was pointing out that I needed to tug down the dress a bit. That was the first comment. After the next 30 or so, I had had enough.

  ........ 

I do need to point out here, that none of this came from people involved with the con. In fact, everyone even slightly officially affiliated with Balticon was respectful, concerned and nerdily-excited about my outfit, my hair, the screen-accurate seams. The staff, the volunteers, the program participants, even the people working the tables for other events were all wonderful.

The people attending, on the other hand, were Not Comfortable With The Way I Chose to Present. I felt like they really, really wanted me to go back to my room and change into a long, historically accurate, shapeless Medieval dress. Or jeans and a geek t-shirt. Either would be acceptable: not too aggressively feminine, but not dressed nicely enough to make them nervous they were being invaded by mundanes.

We in the nerd community have a tendency to make fun of the “fashionable people” or the “cool kids”. The ones who dress alike and spend their lives being sheep to the newest styles. Part of the fascination on social media with watching Abercrombie and Fitch’s fall from grace seemed to be a form of schadenfreude, against the pretty people who had made our lives hell in high school/college/life and who so proudly wore that brand as a mark of tribal membership. 


....


There is no reason I should have to do this, but I came to realize something in reflecting on events at Balticon: I am, at all conventions, surrounded by people who accept me, who care for me and who are willing to hand me a gin and tonic or three when I look like I’m about ready to punch the next person who comments on my skirt. It’s not a position of power, but it is a position of safety. Every place I go will not be a safe space, but the people around me make it one for me.


So my solution? Not be invisible. Not anymore. Not let my legs and skirt short speak for my presence, but speak for myself. Challenge the male gaze both metaphorically and literally. Sitting in the bar and fuming at other convention attendees won’t help. Opening my mouth and answering them just might. Or it might make other people witnessing the exchange think about what happened. Point out that I can both wear a short skirt and have a brain under my beehive. Out loud. And probably snarkily.


Click on the above link to read full article.  It's really good.


Comments:


EridaniUEmily Finke – This View of Life

Hmm. I guess this is supposed to be striking a blow for feminism. You bust out some 3rd wave feminist terms here to make your case. However, I'm about to drop another layer of feminism on you.
And it is this:
Most of the geek costumes for women originated directly from the male gaze. For example, that tiny skirt was designed by, and for the enjoyment of, men. That it's now an iconic symbol of geekdom changes that not one bit. When you are wearing it, you are a walking billboard stating "this is how the mens want a geek girl to look" flashing over your head.
And here you are, ardently defending your right to comply.
That's the real rub here. You want to be free to wear things that were designed by men specifically to showcase women as sex objects, yet not be treated like a sex object. That's what I want you to be aware of. That's what I want you to understand when you're getting all feministy. If that's the tack you want to take, at least talk about how you're trying to own it or something. Taking it back from the patriarchy or whatevs. Because it's one hell of a mixed message you are sending, and the dudes who are receiving it aren't bastions of social awareness, generally.
So, wear that skirt. You look great. But understand that the issue is at least one layer deeper than you've made it out to be. Friday 7:47am

OssifrageUEridani
There's nothing complicated about victim blaming, and you aren't as insightful as you seem to think. Friday 7:55am
EridaniUOssifrage
Any intelligent rebuttal about anything I said would be very welcome. Where is anything I said not true? Specifically, mind.
I'm not saying it's cool for those people to treat her that way. I am saying that when you take a stand, it's a good idea to comprehend just what you're standing for. Friday 7:59am
PeregonUEridani
That's stupid, insulting, condescending, and ignorant of how society functions.
Problematic systems change hands by generation. Cultures internalize, own, and remix problematic ideas and make them "their own". Look at every genre of music, the pop cultures and subcultures we live in...hell, half of the socially-maladjusted things geeks do. It's all tied into owning once-shameful traits. Nerdy is cool. Redneck is cool. Gangsta is cool. And you know what? Sexuality can be reclaimed from patriarchy.
The true sign of success is when we are allowed to define our own terms, consciously, rather than just accept what's given to us. That includes from you. Friday 8:00am


Monday, 10 June 2013

Game of Thrones: Ultimate Birthday Rap Battle

I don't think anything else I will watch for the rest of the week (maybe except tonight's season finale) can top this:

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Purge



Given the country's overcrowded prisons, the U.S. government begins to allow 12-hour periods of time in which all illegal activity is legal. During one of these free-for-alls, a family must protect themselves from a home invasion.

Reviews:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/review-the-purge-is-a-provocative-and-subversive-home-invasion-thriller-thatll-be-sure-to-give-you-the-willies-20130604

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b2ff72e6-c90a-11e2-9d2a-00144feab7de.html#axzz2Urgq7KCH

Apparently, it's actually good.

Gimme pasta

As if my taste buds aren't already stultified to the max, my grandma and aunt just arrived from China.  It means that there is now a 0% chance I get to eat Western food for lunch or dinner unless I make it myself, which is equally as devastating because I can't cook anything other than pasta and chicken risotto (that one time I cooked out of pure necessity to feed my friends) using the microwave half the time.  This will also make me sound like a spoilt noveau riche kid but I have never even fried an egg.

Yes, shake your head.  Cyber slap me.  Tell me I'm naughty.  Reowr.

Honestly though, I don't know how the other Chinese kids do it.  How? HOW?

There should come a certain point in your life when you put your chopsticks down and go: "No, I cannot take any more bowls of plain white rice, bok choi and sweet and sour pork.  Give me pasta, lasagne, pizza, steak, chips, gravy, mashed potatoes and pavlova okay not really that last one."

And yes, my mum actually does make a hell of a lot of sweet and sour pork.  It's a true stereotype.

Personally, I just can't stand Chinese food anymore.  Or maybe if we get to the bottom of it, it's just the food my mum cooks.  Because she cooks the exact same thing almost every day.  Or maybe I'm just a really ungrateful little shit.

There's also the issue of me not really liking meat.  I'd much rather prefer vegetables.  But when Chinese people make vegetarian dishes, they just dump a whole lot of broccoli, mushrooms and carrots onto a plate and try to pass that off as a legitimately satisfying dish.  Bloody hell.

So yeah.  I crai.

For the time being, I still have a fridge full of Lean Cuisine boxes.  Once they run out though, consider my gastronomic life over.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Friendzone v Girlfriend zone


You know how it is, right, ladies? You know a guy for a while. You hang out with him. You do fun things with him—play video games, watch movies, go hiking, go to concerts. You invite him to your parties. You listen to his problems. You do all this because you think he wants to be your friend.


But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend. And then if you turn him down, he may never speak to you again. This has happened to me time after time: I hit it off with a guy, and, for all that I’ve been burned in the past, I start to think that this one might actually care about me as a person. And then he asks me on a date.

I tell him how much I enjoy his company, how much I value his friendship. I tell him that I really want to be his friend and to continue hanging out with him and talking about our favorite books or exploring new restaurants or making fun of avant-garde theatre productions. But he rejects me. He doesn’t answer my calls or e-mails; if we’d been making plans to do something before this fateful incident, these plans mysteriously fail to materialize. (This is why I never did get around to seeing the Hunger Games movie. Not to name any names, but thanks a lot, Tom.) Later, when I run into him at social events, our conversations are awkward and lukewarm. This is because the moment we met, he put me in the girlfriend-zone, and now he can’t see me as friend material.

I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I’m a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don’t want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can’t help it, I guess; it’s just how they’re wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It’s true—I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class.

So what’s the answer? Should I take up mammoth-hunting in an attempt to appeal to the friendship centers of men’s primal lizardbrains? Should I keep making guy “friends” and then prevent them from making a move on me by subtly undermining their self-confidence? Should I just give up on those manipulative, game-playing, two-faced bastards once and for all? I don’t know. I mean, I’d really like to have a true friendship with a guy someday, but it’s so hard to trust and respect them when they never say what they mean—and you never know when you might be relegated to the girlfriend-zone.


Racist stereotyping: "Where are you from? Your English is perfect!"

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Another isolated incident or a sign of pervasive racism in Australia?


School boy racially abused by 50-year-old woman on Sydney bus


FOOTAGE has emerged of yet another racial attack on a Sydney bus - but this time, the victim is a school boy.
Video posted to YouTube and aired on A Current Affair last night shows a 50-year-old woman hurling verbal profanities at a young male of Asian descent in a school uniform.
It all starts when, in order to protect "fragile equipment" stored in boxes, the boy and a friend decide to stand in the aisle of the bus while keeping the equipment safe on bus seats.
It's this that agitates the woman, who claims the pair are blocking her view.


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/national-news/school-boy-racially-abused-by-50-year-old-woman-on-sydney-bus/story-fncynjr2-1226657226955#ixzz2VFHJJ2vs




Fortunately, I have never been a direct victim of racism but I think I know exactly how this boy feels.  Being subject to explicit racism is an incredibly scarring experience that stays with you for a long time - maybe for the rest of your life.  And when it's 2013 and you're living in one of the world's most affluent and multicultural cities, having this happen to you is gut-wrenchingly demoralising.

This incident was particularly disheartening for me because no one spoke up for him and also because he immediately reminded me of my younger brother.  My brother is very shy and can be quite socially awkward.  My friends used to say hi to him outside the school gates while we waited for my parents to pick us up and he would literally - not even kidding - scurry over to a tree or behind some foliage and retreat into the shadows.  Not saying a word.  That's how much confidence he lacks.

So if something like this ever happened to him...

He'd probably keep his mouth shut and look away, shrinking back into his seat and digging himself further into his little bubble of timidness.  Scarred for life.  And the worst thing is, he might not tell us about it.  He'd keep it to himself and feel bad all the time, and no one can help him.

Really, this video just makes me feel: wow, that could've been my little brother taking the bus, being abused by some random.

Very sad.
Makes me want to freaking destroy/punch the f out of anyone who makes him feel that way.

But overall, I still hold an optimistic view for the future of multiculturalism in Australia.  I always assure myself - once my peers are the ones running society, we will have a generation of leaders where most have grown up in very multicultural communities and are great champions for anti-racism and acceptance.

Anyway, it's important not to get too bogged down by this new incident.  While we have seen quite a number of racist incidents being reported by the media recently, we must not forget that there are definitely leaders out there who are actively supporting and fuelling multiculturalism in Australia:

Multiculturalism and anti-racism were key messages at the fundraiser for the Liberal Candidate for Bruce, Emanuele Cicchiello.  And yes, here's a video of my time that night:




emanuele cicchiello fundraiser from Cincity on Vimeo.


Reactions to 'The Red Wedding' episode of Game of Thrones


If you've read the GoT books, then you'll know that author George R.R. Martin is a sadistic bastard.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Everything is temporal.

He likes to kill off the main characters in the most brutal and undignified ways.  The characters he knows you all love and care about the most.  The ones he has spent the most time developing over the course of the series, garnering the loyalty of readers and viewers... suddenly - 'AHHHHHHHH!'  The silvery gleam of a traitor's sword flashes for half a second as it slides across ******'s throat, leaving a trail of fresh vermilion. One of the most loved main characters has just been killed.  Now dead.  Just like that.  You sit there, mouth open, eyes wide, not believing what just happened.

And then you read that passage again and Martin is just like "yep, that just freaking' happened. Deal with it."  Resentment boils up inside you.  You think of him sitting at home, surrounded by wads of cash, sipping tea in an armchair and then pausing to let out an insouciant chuckle.  Yet you know you can't stop reading to find out if they're REALLY dead.  So at the same time you keep reading all the books, your mind is like "SCREW YOU GEORGE. SCREW. YOU."

The world of fiction can be cruel and as a celebration of what is hitherto the greatest of Martin's massacres, video reactions of GoT fans who had no idea 'The Red Wedding' was coming has been compiled for your amusement.  For those who have already read the books and knew exactly what sort of shit was going to hit the fan - feel free to snigger at the collective screams of diehard fans worldwide.






Sunday, 2 June 2013

I really want to see this movie



NOW YOU SEE ME pits an elite FBI squad in a game of cat and mouse against "The Four Horsemen", a super-team of the world's greatest illusionists.

"The Four Horsemen" pull off a series of daring heists against corrupt business leaders during their performances, showering the stolen profits on their audiences while staying one step ahead of the law.


Liberal Party Fundraiser for Emanuele Cicchiello: photo-dump

If you are unaware of my glamorous lifestyle as a passionate rookie journalist, then I have provided some evidence of what it looks like to work in a rapidly dying industry.  Yay.

I doubt anybody remembers or really cared but if you've read my other blog (which I know is much more interesting when I fill it with anti-Bruno Mars rants), I have been to a number of political fundraisers and I did volunteer work for former Liberal candidate Gladys Liu during her campaign a few years ago.

Yep.  Pumping helium balloons.  Handing out flyers.  Going around tables selling raffle tickets.  Not doing exam revision and getting a crappish score for my Chinese sac.
T'was the lyf.

Experience is always a positive thing though.  Yes, it actually is.  We all need to be taken advantage of  work hard for nothing but experience early in our careers.  And here I am networking.  And being a photo-w.


With Melbourne City Councillor and former
President of the Chinese Association of Victoria, Ken Ong,
who only seemed to register any sort of interest in making
conversation with me after I told him I studied arts and law
at Monash Uni.  He was all like "my son does the same course
 and is in your year." Something about how I should know him
because his son is so heavily involved with club activities etc.


With the star of the night, Emanuele Cicchiello, who is
the Liberal candidate for Bruce.  He went to MWSC and
was a teacher before becoming a principal and now a pollie.
Seems like a very nice guy.
But can a nice guy be a good politician?
A trenchant question one must consider before September 14.

With the President of the Legislative Council and
State Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region,
 Bruce Atkinson.  Conversation with him was extremely awks.
I think I just need to practice being more laidback, Aussie style.
Get an Australian accent.  Which REMINDS ME, Reuben watched
the St Kilda FF video and said I HAD A LISP.
A LISP.  I know I can't pronounce 'th' but it's not as bad as an
actual freaking lisp.

With someone all of you Asians living in Box Hill should recognise
at once - he's your rep Robert Clark and the Attorney General.
He went to St Alban's High School and then graduated from University High.
I found it quite lovely that two of the most important people in the
room both received public school educations. 

Liberal for Hotham, Fazal Cader, who was really enthusiastic
about doing an interview with me.
 And... a guy in a Qing Dynasty hat.
Or something.  He might have been someone important.
Sorry.

MCs: Cr Ken Ong and the wonderful Gladys Liu

Singing and dancing.

More singing and dancing.
Took some footage.  Haven't edited it yet.  I might when I have time.  And because I haven't really described what happened at the event, I guess I'll just do that when/if I upload a video.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Green Steps: a brief outline of why it's better than other activist organisations

A small child could fit in that gap.
Michael and Keith - the Green Stepping bros.
On the 30th, Michael - the avid Green Stepper (that's what they call themselves, it's very cute) took me to a Green Steps alumni event, primarily to learn about environmental sustainability but also to take advantage of free food and booze.  Embarrassingly, I got very dizzy/head-achey after half a beer.  Face palm.  I mean, is that even possible?  I have no idea.  I hadn't eaten for the whole day and as soon as I got there, the first thing I made a beeline for was a bottle of Pure Blonde. And heck no, that was not the first time I had alcohol.
#lifemistakes
#lightweight

It was a rather formal networking event where a bunch of expert panellists did a Q&A (you know the ABC show, right?) type session on the future of sustainability in business practices.  By sustainability, they didn't limit themselves to the definition of 'environmental sustainability' but also corporate social sustainability and risk.   Being mature professionals, they recognised that sustainability meant different things for different businesses and so they were not going to impose their priorities on others.

The panellists:

  • Professor Kate Auty - Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Victoria
  • Alison Read - Head of Environment & Sustainability, National Australia Bank
  • Will Symons - National Practice Leader, Sustainability and Climate Change, AECOM Australia
  • Matthew Belleghem - Principal Consultant | Environment, Sustainability, EHS & Renewable Energy, envirosearch


I'm wearing green for Green Steps.  Really trendy.

The event was incredibly enlightening, at least for me. As an organisation that aims to raise awareness of environmental sustainability and encourage businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable practices, they really distinguish themselves from other activist groups like Amnesty International (which I am a member of) and Greenpeace, whose usual tactics are to pressure institutions into reform via protesting and petitioning.  And sometimes, marching down streets holding placards full of puns and screaming into megaphones.  On the other hand, Green Steps completely and deliberately veers away from that sort of confrontational approach.  Instead, they work with government and other businesses to create sustainable projects and business practices, meaning they are there from the very start to offer input and ideas for improvement.  

It's a very fascinating approach. Green Steps educates students, no matter what they're studying, into incorporating practical strategies for sustainability into their thinking so that when they get jobs, they can make an impact from the inside and not from the outside.  It's like a really cool infiltration process.  And yes, they actually make efforts to help kids find internships in companies (which they hope will lead to an actual job) so they can fulfil the Green Steps mission.  Instead of confrontation, they negotiate.  While concessions have to be made at times, at least you're part of the process and you know you're making a change to some extent.  I find this very admirable.   And as you can see from the panel, these people are very very high up and are evidence of this nascent 'change from the inside' approach.

When you think about it, although Amnesty Int and Greenpeace are huge multinational NGOs who have undoubtedly made a mark on certain government policies, is putting pressure on governments and other institutions using the above strategies really the best way to go?  And is it really that effective?  One thing's for certain - protesting raises awareness but in terms of creating change, it really doesn't offer much and relies solely on the other agent or institution to buckle under pressure and thereby comply with their demands.  Obviously, I don't want to undermine any of their achievements and I actually know that both Amnesty and Greenpeace have at times moved toward a more cooperative and consultative approach, but Green Steps just seems so much more effective, perhaps at a more grass roots level.

This hippie guy, dressed in jeans and a hoodie and sporting a ponytail, was sitting at the front and was all like 'but what role does activism play in your approach?'  
LEL.  You can tell from the panellists' brief moment of silence that activism - in the way that that guy was thinking - did not play a role in Green Steps.  Green Steps is an environmentalist organisation that has established a highly professional and reliable team for businesses to turn to - obviously, not wanting to fuel the dichotomy that already exists between them and environmentalist groups.  

Will, one of the founders, said that when he was younger and at university, he was heavily involved with activism.  However, he realised that that sort of activism seemed to fuel arrogance and egocentric "about me" attitudes among the group.  People were so adamant about protecting the environment that they seemed to forget that businesses and governments have other priorities and values as well, and not necessarily for selfish/self-interested reasons.  So instead of imposing their values on them, they work to align their values.  

And that was what I took away most from that night.  It's a simple concept but it's not a very widely disseminated one among activists, who are much more likely to join large NGO groups focused on pressuring authorities into action instead of choosing an approach similar to Green Steps.  

+  I still think Amnesty Int and Greenpeace are very important and the world needs them.  Just, maybe, if a minority of their millions of members moved over to Green Steps-like organisations, it would be....interesting.