Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

[The Birthday Boy]

Yes, I'm 27 today and still going strong! (Anyone wishing to send me a present, please see the previous post.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Send me to Prague - Please!

[Send me here]

Okay, I need $3500. And I want to lay out this challenge up front: who can provide me with a way of raising $3500? Sponsorship? Scholarship? Publicity stunt? Street theatre? I will try (almost) anything. Spread the word people! Blog it. This boy needs $3500.

Why? Because I am a struggling early career theatre researcher with no institutional backing (and no money) who has just heard about the conference of his dreams. Today I received an email advising me that the Architecture Working Group of the International Federation of Theatre Research will be holding their first meeting, in Prague, from the 18th to the 20th June, coinciding with the Prague Quadrennial. This is the conference for me. I attended the Scenography Working Group conference in Prague in 2003, and that was good (and you can read the results) - but this will be better. I have spent four years writing a thesis on the finer points of theatre architecture, and now is the time for me to get out there and discuss the results with the heavies! This will not be a holiday!

(Okay, a little qualification, I do have enough money to live, but my wife has been supporting me rather heavily over the last few years and now I need to return the favour by not directing my income (and hers!) towards conferences, books and other academic follies. So, if you think I'm a bit crazed, think of this as a favour to her.)

That's the gist. Help me out! Who has a killer idea for how I can raise $3500?*

*A free foot massage and simultaneous lecture on the backstage areas of Sydney theatre buildings for the person with the best idea.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Home Truths

The Federal Government's increasingly blatant manoeuvring on the issue of climate change is really starting to get to me. Firstly they are going down the well-worn route of casting themselves as the practically minded rationalists, and anyone else (opposition parties, scientists, environmentalists) as idealists and academics, all talk about climate change, but not offering any real world' solutions. The government are set on depicting any possible ways of addressing climate change as 'subject to debate', and are instead trying to play up the worsening drought as the real issue. The absolute short-sightedness of this is daily astounding me. And yet it continues ...

Yesterday, reading the Sun Herald, I was drawn to the headline at the bottom of the front page: "PM's home truths: What John Howard thinks really matters to you." According to the article, Howard has nominated "the home-based issues of economic prosperity, national security and 'self-contained' Australian environmental issues as the keys to a fifth successive victory." The article goes on to quote Howard directly:
"Water, water, water. It's the biggest environmental game in town by a long way. It's within our capacity to do something about it in the forseeable future - it's a self-contained Australian challenge."
Now reading this quote raised a number of concerns. I'll direct my attention to these as dispassionately as possible (but let me leave you in no allusions that I was literally kicking the walls when I read it.)
  1. First is the blatant attempt to posit water, not climate change as the 'big issue'. This is smart politics; even urbanites like myself can turn on the television and see the effects of drought on the Australian landscape. Likewise, hearing the percentage left in water storage and imagining the prospect of turning on my taps at home and having nothing come out is particularly concrete (and elicits a rather direct fear). But incremental increases in temperature or sea levels can't be witnessed so directly and so can be more easily edged to one side.
  2. Then Howard talks about the 'capacity to do something ... in the forseeable future.' Who exactly is he talking about here? Him? His government? The Australian nation? In essence Howard is betraying his very short-sightedness. His idea of the 'foreseeable future' is the next election, not the time when I might be the age he is now. His concept of 'capacity' is measured in terms of how his government might address an issue without incurring political damage. Tackling water entails much less potential for political damage than attempting to curtail carbon emissions.
  3. Finally, there is the breathtaking phrase that water is a 'self-contained' environmental challenge. What!? There's a fundamentally disturbing nationalistic echo to this, aside from the fact that the 'containment' label is simply illogical. It's also an amazing side-step. Howard isn't worried about whether climate change is important (ie: if it is an important factor in influencing the severity of the current drought), he's simply concerned about what impacts us in the here-and-now of an election year. And if that means reifying our national borders to the extent that they seem to be a factor in the environment, so be it!
Finally, and this is going beyond the article I read yesterday, I heard another disturbing - and related - phrase. I can't remember who it was, but I heard a government minister utter the words 'water security' on the radio yesterday morning. And it struck me that 'water security' sounds an awful lot like 'border security'.

So, if you've read this far, help me out. Apart from kicking the walls and blogging, what constructive approach can I take to countering this line of rhetoric from the government and drawing attention to what I see as the most important environmental issues?