Where to next? [fashion, Part One]

Looking at international Fashion Week designs for Winter 2017/18, it suddenly stuck me something is wrong with fashion.  It’s out of fashion.

What is supposed to be cutting edge has stagnated.  The biggest movement in the last eight years is preppy hipster wear, which first made an appearance in the 1920’s.

With global awareness of climate change, population growth, fair trade, ethical manufacturing, sustainable and closed loop production, making clothing from new materials suddenly makes no sense.

After this revelation, came another; that clothing for him or her is no longer a thing.  Our next generation is moving away from gender specific branding in every way, and now focuses on being authentic with what they like, who they are and how they identify.  This freeing up of gender specific clothing design goes beyond the unisex or androgynous looks of the 70’s to 90’s.  It’s not a fad based trend but a genuine social upheaval that is influencing how we dress at the grass roots level.

And finally, the old ‘travel the world for inspiration’ resulting in cultural appropriation is over.  Themed parades appropriating First Nation head-dresses, artworks and ceremonial clothing by designers who have nothing to do with that culture, and without the permission of the First Nation peoples, are stealing intellectual property.

I think this uprising social awareness pushes artists and designers further into their own culture(s) to find inspiration.  Now more than ever, we can quickly access global information and images, but are challenged to process them in a visual language that is unique to our own experience.

Maybe the final awareness of the change in society, is the growing acceptance of street art and graffiti.  Art is coming out of the galleries in all forms of expression, and into our faces on the street.  After years of generic paid advertising creating visual pollution, it’s refreshing to see the work of random artists.  People who are willing to pay for their own materials, donate their own time, and at their own risk, make the city a more interesting place.  I’m waiting to see how this influences fashion beyond creating a backdrop for fashion shoots, a hoodie and pair of jeans that accommodates a spray can.


Young people are very good at shaking up the status quo, and pushing us into a new way of thinking.

South Australia leading the Nation

Or Old Ideologies v’s the Future.  I’m starting this post with a fascinating live link to the energy sources powering Australia at the moment:


The next installment of the Perfect Storm II began earlier this week when our Premier, Jay Weatherill, announced South Australia was taking control of its own energy needs.  This came after constant sniping from the Federal Liberal National Government over our blackouts the last few months.

Some history to the blackouts

South Australia wasn’t the only state experiencing blackouts over summer, but the other states are powered mostly by coal.  The Federal Government has an unusual obsession with coal.  Against majority international scientific opinion, they regard coal as the future, and do everything they can to ensure Australia’s main energy source is coal.

After each blackout the Federal Government would blame our high uptake of renewable energy.  In every case, this wasn’t the cause.  In contrast there was silence when the other states experienced blackouts.

The last coal fired power station in South Australia and the Leigh Creek coal mine closed last year.  This was due to economic reasons.  The Victorian Hazelwood brown coal fired power station is also going to close this year.

In contrast, the Queensland Government with assistance from the Federal Government, is in the process of allowing Adani to open the biggest coal mine in Australia, and is attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to over-ride any opposition from the First Nation peoples.  The Adani CEO was responsible for a major environmental disaster in South Africa, and here are some more reasons why the mine shouldn’t go ahead:


The Announcement

As part of our state taking control of its energy needs, our Premier announced we would install a 100mWh battery storage system, after visiting Tesla boss Elon Musk offered to solve our blackouts by installing a 100mWh system in 100 days or it would be free*.  Tesla has already installed a 80mWh system in California.  Germany is also aiming to increase their storage from 60mWh to 200mWh this year.

The announcement included increasing our gas extraction (we are assured it doesn’t including fracking) and also building a new government owned gas fired power station to ensure (cheaper?) reliable energy supply.

We are told gas is a bridge between coal and 100% renewable energy for our state.  Port Augusta is very keen on building a solar thermal plant, and the Government is due to make a decision on this by June.  Many renewables supporters think we should stop investing in gas and put all the money into renewable energy sources only.  As more money is invested, the cheaper renewable energy becomes.

The fact is, the power purchase solar panels on our roof have generated an average of 23kWhs/day from October to January, and with battery storage we could have easily powered our household and put energy back in the grid.  There are many roofs without solar panels in SA.

Like most other Australian states and territories, there is massive land space in South Australia for wind, solar thermal, and solar panels.  With battery storage, we have the weather to power South Australia and further afield.  Our Federal Government has removed incentives for renewable energy and recently talked about using the clean energy fund to finance a ‘clean coal’ power station, to the disgust of many.  it is extremely frustrating watching the Government bypass opportunities to support renewable energy based on old ideologies.

Our Premier’s announcement sparked a panicked policy announcement by Prime Minister Turnbull to increase the size of the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme by 50%.  Along with the newly elected Labor Government in Western Australia, hopefully this is the beginning of a turnaround towards renewable energy.

*The SA system is going out to tender so one or a multiple of companies can bid for the project.

Money Tree II

Since writing the post on the Money Tree, I came across this excellent article, and spoke to some friends about the reality of home ownership in 2016.

Paying for it: In hock to the greatly outdated Australian dream

My parent’s and my generation were brought up with the expectation that we would own a home, with assistance from our parents in the form of a loan or deposit.  In the mid to late 20th century full-time, permanent jobs were achievable, and the cost of living low enough for couples to live off one wage.

All of this changed around the turn of the 21st century.  People started to invest in housing instead of stocks and bonds, or self manage their own superannuation.  The government offered incentives on investment properties, that weren’t available for personal home loans.  This drove the price of housing up at a rapid rate; 300% in South Australia, and more in the eastern states.

To add to the difficulties in securing a home loan, banks were spooked by the Global Financial Crisis, despite our government going guarantor, and tightened lending regulations for home buyers.  As a result, a fat deposit is no longer the step into home ownership.  It has to be backed with a good credit history and proof of a permanent minimum income.

Permanent full-time jobs are steadily decreasing in Australia, replaced with contract and casual or part-time work.  There is no such thing as job security anymore, and most workers are pushed to their limits with performance management, long hours, unrealistic work expectations, with under-training and an ultra-competitive work place that is constantly looking for ways to streamline procedures and cut costs.

For manufacturers, tariff reduction and free-trade agreements mean making locally is no longer a competitive option, with labour costs far cheaper in poorer countries with lower living standards and workplace conditions.

If you aren’t part of the lucky generation, or politicians, who receive tax free superannuation benefits for the rest of their life after retirement, the next retirement generation is going to be working until they are too old to do so.  Then living on the aged pension with a mortgage or rent still to pay, and adult children to support both financially and physically with day-care for grand-children.

The CityMag article referred to above, looks at the realities of housing today and a change in the way people are living.  We used to live in multi-generational housing, as many cultures still do, but the last century was an odd bump in the road with the “nuclear family”.  The future of housing has to address a much larger population, mass migration due to climate change or war, and less money moving around in the economy.

I don’t think these forced changes to our way of living have to be a bad thing.  The excesses of the 20th and early 21st century in western societies can move to a more inclusive and community based way of living.  Technology allows us to see how other people live and we can learn a lot by simplifying our lives.  I look forward to seeing what an affordable, adaptable, totally self sustainable home can look like.  By removing the expectations of the past, we can start with a clean slate and ask, what are our needs and what makes a meaningful life?

The Perfect Storm

During the storms in South Australia last week, two tornadoes flattened twenty-three transmission towers, which resulted in a state-wide blackout for three hours. Power was out in some parts of the state for several days.


“A preliminary report into the mass three-day power outage has been released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The report says it remains unknown what role wind power played.”

“Renewables were supplying 70 per cent of generation in South Australia at the time of the incident and we know that they work differently to conventional thermal generation,” ” abc.net.au

Clearly  wind power via the tornadoes played a large part in the blackout, but politicians were quick to blame green energy in the state for the outage, long before knowing any facts.

The first reaction was from Independent Senator Nick Xenaphon, who instantly blamed SA’s high take up of renewable energy.  “Mr Xenophon said while he supported the renewable energy target – 40 per cent of South Australia’s energy supply comes from renewable energy – the transition had been “reckless” and heads should roll over the blackout.”  afr.com  He was soon joined by Liberal and National Party  politicians, including the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who questioned the speed of the take up of renewable energy:

“Now, I regret to say that a number of the state Labor Governments have over the years set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security.” Huffingtonpost.com.au

Paul Gilding in The Great Disruption, says we have done too little too late to avoid catastrophic climate change events.  He also argues that once we see the effects of climate change we will act fast to radically reduce carbon emissions.  We obviously haven’t reached the point of peak stupid. (My observation, not Paul Gilding’s).

“NASA’s data showed that each month in 2016 was the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880. This trend suggests 2016 will surpass 2015 as the hottest year on record, NASA said.Jul 20, 2016″ livescience.com

I’m astounded that with a consensus of scientific opinion around the world, that politicians still can’t get their head around the urgency in reducing carbon emissions.  Do they think they are reflecting the will of  the people?  Our former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was voted in on a platform of scrapping the Carbon Tax.  At present, the Right of the Coalition wields power over a Prime Minister who was previously passionate about addressing climate change.  The present Government is also funded by powerful coal interests.

If Paul Gilding is correct, and we have left the move too late to avoid catastrophic weather events, then I hope we have a better attitude to accepting climate refugees.  Given our current acceptance of off-shore detention and refusal to settle refugee boat arrivals in Australia, we need to reflect on our future as global citizens.  The irony is, Australia may be one of the countries most effected by climate change, and do we expect our neighbours to show more humanity towards us than we have towards them?  What goes around comes around.

Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption

To end on a more positive note, this is from Paul Gilding’s book:

“Apart from the lack of CO2, the extraordinary amount of solar energy arriving on the planet means renewables make intuitive sense.  Consider this: Every hour an amount of energy equivalent to what all of humanity uses in a year hits the earth’s surface from the sun.  Even after allowing for the limits in accessibility and converting this into useful energy, a year’s supply arrives every week.

Another “annual supply” of energy is available from the wind every month and another one again each month from geothermal.  Then there is the hydro from rivers and energy in the waves and tides.  So there is just so much energy available, it is implausible that we cannot access it effectively and at a reasonable price if we put our minds to the task.”



Closed loop, Sustainable, Recyclable, Renewable Economy

As we move through 2016 with another unsettled Federal Government and the search for meaningful policies, I thought it was time to look at the big picture of The Economy and how to tackle present and future policy.

I’ve written a little before about Closed Loop production and Paul Guilding’s book, The Great Disruption part one and two (three is still coming), but not the big picture of the economy.

I think we are working backwards with economic policy.  We start with what we have done in the past, then try to steer it towards making some concessions to our situation today.  We should be working in the reverse, starting with the situation of today and then building economic discussion to a transformative yet workable outcome.

The basics are:  We are the environment and part of the eco system, so should stop talking about it as if it is something separate from us.  What affects one thing affects all of us, either directly or indirectly.  We have a world population of 7.4 billion people, compared to 7.125 in 2013, and here are some sobering figures.  Population growth at this rate is unsustainable and we are already feeling the effects of  people in first world countries consuming more than the planet can provide.

Studies have shown education leads to lower fertility and greater prosperity.  That in itself is an argument to prioritise free and accessible quality education to the highest level possible, for all people.  Of course children can only access education if their families other basic needs are met, such as healthy food, safe shelter and adequate healthcare (starting with preventative by meeting the other needs).  We still struggle to provide these basic necessities in Australia for all our citizens and people in our care, though it should be achievable.

Starting with where we are today,  look at what we have; what is a finite resource; what is renewable; what is sustainable and what is recyclable.  Sustainable and closed loop production is a principle based on how our earth runs and looking wider, we are made from star dust from the universe in a constant state of decay and regeneration.  If we constantly feed our economy with resources that have either zero or little impact on the environment and ideally improve it, we are setting up an economy that is sustainable and will provide for the world’s population.

I’m interested in the Federal Government’s new Innovation agenda, that could focus on investment in technology that meets the above criteria.  Technology could be widened to include all practises that add value to our planet, such as First Nations’/Aboriginal knowledge of fire control and burning to ensure less destructive bushfires, a costly escalating event in Australia.  It could also re-fund the CSIRO recognising future-proofing our environment is an essential investment.  Australia has a golden opportunity to invest in sustainable and closed loop production and transform our economy, to become an example internationally.