Ah .. the irony.

A couple of days ago I started a Diploma in Sustainable Living. This is a new course offered online by the University of Tasmania. A super generous scholarship available to all domestic students makes the first semester FREE. Yep, writing, researching, discussing, collaborating, creating visual content, annoying your tutors with banal questions, and just generally expanding your brain in a tertiary environment for absolutely no money. Reminiscent of my free undergraduate degree in the 70s, courtesy of the marvellous Gough Whitlam PM (muchos gracias). If you’re still engaged and excited enough after completing the first 4 units then you get second semester at half the price. Love a bargain, count me in.

I’ve been nerding out on sustainability for a while. Here’s the thing though. My life, in the broad sense of the word, is anything BUT sustainable. I can’t elaborate. It’s too big, too personal. In the micro sense though, the minute by minute version, sustainability is my constant invisible friend egging me on. Every day, she never lets up. Sometimes I have to talk her down. But not often. I’m hoping one day she’ll just bugger off because I have in fact become her.  I can’t see that happening anytime soon or ever because sustainability is kind of … everything.

My biggest issue with sustainability, as I’m sure it is with many people, is the word – I don’t like it much. Phonetically it’s a clunky, unattractive thing. On the personality front it rocks a local council vibe that reeks of do-goodism. And of course, it’s been hijacked by the greenwash brigade and who wants to ride on that bus? Not me.

I was determined from the get-go NOT to use sustainable in the title of this blog. For all the superficial reasons above. Clearly I’ve bowed on that one, all the way to the bitumen and then sideways at a rather odd angle, towards that gorgeously weird little film starring Bill Murray – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  Now there’s a title that rolls beautifully off the tongue, the first three words of it at least.

The Life Sustainable – not such an easy tongue roll.

I surrendered to the S word because the domain name was up for grabs. Pressed a button and here I am.

Now that I’ve read the excellent introduction to Paul Thiele’s Sustainability I’m on a new mission to embrace this much-loathed word because I think he’s right; cringing and running away from it is probably not the best response. Instead I’m going to try and infuse it with greater clarity and “make it’s practice more measurable and impactful”. Too earnest? Come on, no harm in giving it a crack.

My adventures in sustainability started, I think, around 7 years ago. When I did a weekend permaculture course in Wollongong, NSW. At the time I was desperate to give up my Life Academic, was trying to get to the bottom of my Life Unwell and all the while sitting in the discomfort of a Life Uncertain. That last one seems to be a pesky, ongoing thing.

Uncertainty and sustainability are the oddest of friends and they’ve been steering me off in all directions for some time now.  

This blog is the latest collaboration between the three of us. The loose plan is to simply conjure up some words, add links to my other various projects, panic a bit, then calm down and dive deep and far and maybe a bit off course into all things sustainable. There’s very little on this Planet, including the Planet itself, that can’t be considered in terms of the S word. If you haven’t read the IPCC report which came out last October I suggest you do. Or if you’re lazy like me head over to Sarah Wilson’s summary of the key points, still filled me with terror. As it should have.

Long before I started this diploma caper I handwrote the first draft of this post far from terror with a sight line that skipped through native bush, over the Great Ocean Road and far out across Bass Strait. It was a new Spring day, my first visit to the Wye River Hotel, a cold beer and bowl of hot chips for lunch. Things could be more ordinary.


I’m completing this rant now in the dead of Winter on the most miserable day in a small boxy room with no view. Not a prison cell, a friend’s unit in Carlton, the epicentre of Melbourne. I’m reclining in the deep comfort of luxurious soft furnishings, it’s warm in here, hygge even, I’m not complaining.

And so it starts. Me writing about sustainability from the irony of my big picture unsustainable life. 

One response to “Ah .. the irony.”

  1. Read your article in Renew, and was surprised to see that you did not mention Shewell-Cooper. He set up the first no-dig garden in the UK in 1960, and opened his gardens at Arkley Manor, near Barnet, to encourage the public to adopt the no dig method. I’ve certainly been reading books for some 50 years, and have implemented some of his ideas.

    From Wikapedia:

    Dr. Wilfred Edward Shewell-Cooper, M.B.E., N.D.H., F.L.S., F.R.S.L., F.R.H.S., Dip. Hort. was a British organic gardener and pioneer of no dig gardening. He was the author of Soil, Humus and Health, The Royal Gardeners, Grow your own food supply, The ABC of Vegetable Gardening and many other books on gardening.

    Jennie Bond


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