Tom O’Connor: Who do we want to be

Can we turn the 2020s into ‘The Regenerative Decade’? In this series of interviews about what that would imply, we talk ecology, deep adaptation, grief, compassion and passion, connecting with nature, resilience, revitalisation, restoration, revolution… – the bigger picture, in other words.

Lead with values – not with politics

Can we – with our thoughts, feelings, experiences and visions expressed in words – build a foundation that will allow us to start an entirely new journey? That in itself is the journey I have set out on with my series of “regenerative village” podcasts… as we mobilise and get ready for the next local election in our region.

In The Regenerative Hour no 22, I’m in the inspirational and confidence-building company of the long-time – I would say legendary – Bellarine community-organiser Tom O’Connor

Tom O’Connor is a former Geelong councillor, swimming coach and an active local community organiser, who lives in Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula. He will run for the Geelong Council election, which begins in August 2020.

→ Tom O’Connor’s Facebook page and Linkedin profile

Articles mentioned in the podcast

→ The Guardian – 18 June 2020:
World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert
“International Energy Agency chief warns of need to prevent post-lockdown surge in emissions.”

→ Voice of Action – 6 June 2020:
‘Collapse of civilisation is the most likely outcome’: top climate scientists
“The world’s most eminent climate scientists and biologists believe we’re headed for the collapse of civilisation, and it may already be too late to change course.”

→ World Economic Forum – 6 June 2020:
“The great sustainable reset: The new world of work after the pandemic”

Zoom meeting with Tim Hollo on Saturday 27 June 2020 at 11am

Tim Hollo is the executive director of the Green Institute and will be in Shepparton this Saturday.
Well, he won’t actually be here in person, but he will join those who gather Beneath the Wisteria virtually, via Zoom.
Tim, who is based in Canberra oversees the Green Institute, which is a non-profit organisation, established formally in October 2008.
Its mission, according to its website, is to “support green politics through education, action, research and debate“.  
Further, it says, “Green politics means broad community-wide change grounded in the principles of ecology, social justice, democracy, non-violence, sustainability and respect for diversity.”

Tim featured recently on an episode of the Shepparton-based “Climate Conversations” podcast.
Beneath the Wisteria was set up nearly a decade ago to give people the chance to learn more about the climate crisis and consider how they should respond personally or how the community should react.
Tim is a highly respected environmentalist and musician, having worked for organisations including the Greens, Greenpeace, ands as the communications director for former Federal Senator and Greens Leader, Christine Milne. His musical talent took saw him perform in venues from Woodford Folk Festival to New York’s Carnegie Hall. He is the founder and Executive Director of Green Music Australia, he has sat on the board of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and has been published in the Guardian, ABC, Griffith Review and Crikey.

Those keen to meet and chat with Tim should join on the Zoom gathering on Saturday 27 June 2020 at 11:00am can phone the convenor, Robert McLean, at 0400 502 199, or contact him via email at

“Seek discomfort”

Bill Eckstrom: Why comfort will ruin your life

“What makes you comfortable can ruin you, and what makes you uncomfortable is the only way to grow. Let me say that again: What makes you comfortable can ruin you, and only in a state of discomfort, can you continually grow.”
~ Bill Eckstrom, TEDx talk, 2017

Eckstrom talks about four stages – four ‘rings’, he calls them – in society and in our minds:


He sees “Order” as a threat – and finds that “Complexity” is the zone where we should strive to be and to live. Thus, he puts “order-disrupting” people up on the piedestal.

“It is order you should fear the most, because it is a threat. And order-disrupting people like Jesus, Gallileo, Claudette Colvin, Aspen’s trainer, and maybe even a few of you, have already proven: It’s not the complexity-triggering individuals, or events, you should fear the most, but it’s your own willingness to accept or seek discomfort that will dictate the growth of not just you, but our entire world,” Bill Eckstrom told the audience during his TEDx talk in 2017.

Excerpt: Mik’s call to action towards the end of the hour

Make change happen

There are many organisations who offer excellent community engagement and activist training and resources. If we want to make effective and lasting social change, we must understand power dynamics, social systems and how change really happens. If you want to dive into that now, check out this free online course from Oxfam International, Make Change Happen, and also spend some time in The Commons Social Change Library which has a collection of resources and key lessons of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe. 

“The Commons is a social change library. We collect, curate and distribute the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe.”

People and place at the heart of the transition
The Community of Practice was established in August 2019, and within a Collective Impact framing, puts people and place at the heart of the transition to zero-carbon by 2050. The purpose of the Community of Practice is to amplify the impact of city-led carbon reduction strategies and projects across Australia, and to design and implement a structured collaboration process between capital cities across stages of program development.  

Voices for our community

If you’d like to hear how the community of Indi managed to mobilise, engage and empower itself, have a listen to Robert McLean’s inspirational podcast interview with Denis Ginnivan:

Having a chat with a champion of community

Denis Ginnivan champions community and has great faith in its ability to take control of and change its circumstances. So much so that his life has been peppered with involvement in the community events and activities. He has his own business, “Events That Matter“, he played a key in the creation and success of “Voices for Indi“, he is the vice-president of “Totally Renewable Yackandandah“, and has been on of several speakers on a series of webinars organized by “Farmers for Climate Action“.

Denis celebrates the ongoing success of independents in the Federal seat of Indi, which is presently held by Helen Haines, but was first won in 2013 by Cathy McGowan.

→ Open or download the podcast audio file

“One way we can look at the human body in health and disease is to think of ourselves as a set of complex, interactive ecosystems linked by two common circulations, the blood and the lymph. We can think of the health of the planet and life on earth in the same way. The air and the oceans.”
~ Professor Peter Doherty, University of Melbourne Laureate Professor

“Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t. Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible. And that is up to you and me. Because no one else will do it for us.”
~ Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist

We’re all players in a grand unifying delusion

Climate scientist Kevin Anderson speaks out strongly on scientists, journalists and climate campaigners understating the speed and scale of change required:

“As for whether honesty, integrity and robust bluntness would have significantly changed where we are now, – well in my judgement, yes and significantly so. I can understand the levels of measured optimism of the early 1990s; that substantial but nonetheless incremental changes to business as usual could have led to a timely decarbonised future. But by 2000 it was becoming obvious that such optimism was now misplaced. Rising emissions & more locked-in fossil fuel infrastructure and associated expectations, had kicked the potential of incrementalism into the long grass. (…)

As the years have passed, through 2005, 2010, and onto 2015 and Paris, we’ve adopted increasingly exotic technologies, technocratic fraud, dodgy accounting and eloquent nonsense as a salve for ever-rising emissions. There is no group that can be singled out for this abject failure. Certainly the academic community learnt credibility to the fluff and nonsense that has filled the void left by failing to mitigate. But the journalists have played their role – more spin and glossy stories than investigative reporting. The policy makers, the business community, the unions, civil service and the electorate, at least in democracies, don’t come out of this any better. And nor do the climate great and good – from Gore to DiCaprio, Attenborough to Goodall, Musk to Branson – all have been party to a greening of business as usual.

On mitigation and particularly cutting emissions in line with Paris, we’re all players in a grand unifying delusion – we’ve become mitigation-deniers.“

“What we do in the next five years will determine the next thirty.”

This is what Prime Minister Scott Morrison said recently when speaking about recovering from this pandemic.

Excerpt of newsletter from Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of Australian Conservation Foundation

“I have to say… he’s right. And saying that aloud, I felt compelled to write to you today. As a country, we do need to work out what we want our future to look like.

Invest in gas expansions or future-proof jobs… continue to fund fossil fuel subsidies or invest in renewable energy infrastructure… risk longer, more frequent extreme weather events or safeguard our future and climate by taking urgent, science-based action?

If our elected representatives take us down the wrong path, we face irreparable harm.

So why has Nev Power – a fossil fuel salesman and lifetime gas lobbyist – been appointed as the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) chair?

Set up to create recommendations for the federal government on how we rebuild after this pandemic, the NCCC has the ability to steer us towards a path to recovery. And one of their first actions was to commission a report recommending taxpayers underwrite a multi-billion dollar national gas expansion.

Let’s go back to PM Morrison’s words:

“[What we do now] will set up an entire generation of opportunities for Australia but it all hinges critically on the decisions and actions we take now, so each day we have to check ourselves and say: what’s important?”

So then PM Morrison, let’s check ourselves and ask: what’s important?

Locking us into the fossil fuel industry and pushing us further into the climate crisis? Or building a future that protects our threatened creatures, provides future-proof jobs and sets us up as a leading renewable energy exporter?

ACF has passionate campaigners, expert policy-writers and economists, and a dedicated investigations team. We have the expertise needed to show how we can build back better from this pandemic. And we have an incredible, passionate community of 700,000 people to demand our elected representatives and businesses listen and take action.

Being independent and community funded – by generous and committed people like you – gives us incredible strength. We make decisions together, and we don’t answer to the vested interest of fossil fuel corporations.

We must push our elected representatives and businesses to be better, think bigger, and ensure we rebuild on a foundation of clean jobs and renewable energy that will allow us to bounce forward.

It’s a big task, but we’re up for the challenge and we know it’s possible. Just look at our work a few months ago, pushing the fossil fuel lobby group, the Business Council of Australia, to publicly announce support for Australia to be at net zero emissions by 2050. Our work creates change.

Everything we do now will set the course for decades to come. So let’s get it right.

Thank you,

Kelly O’Shanassy
Chief Executive Officer”

Let’s build back better

How honesty eroded in Australian politics

“We still have no national integrity and anti-corruption watchdog and no prohibition on political donations from property development, mining, tobacco or gambling industries. This is the virus corrupting our democracy.”
~ Zali Steggall, independent member of the Australian Parliament

“The public interest just doesn’t seem to play into the equation any more. It’s another big middle finger to everyone who reckons it matters who’s buying and selling our politicians. Politicians from both major parties are allowing themselves to be bought and sold by the highest bidder, it’s appalling and it has to stop.”
~ Jacqui Lambie, Tasmanian senator

→ Voice of Action – 18 June 2020:
‘Democracy is dead’, MPs declare, as politicians ‘bought and sold’
“Crossbenchers say there is a “virus corrupting our democracy” with the major parties weakening integrity safeguards and environmental protections on behalf of corporate donors.”

→ The Guardian – 13 June 2020:
Gas ‘completely dominated’ discussion about Covid-19 recovery
“A member of a Covid-19 recovery taskforce has rejected the overwhelming focus by the Morrison government on gas as the path out of recession, saying the country risked ending up with stranded fossil fuel infrastructure and should be backing renewable energy.”

“The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems. That isn’t an opinion. That’s a fact.”
~ Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist

Villages of regeneration – voices of Greta

If you liked this podcast, I’d recommend you also listen to:

Inspirational reading

“The pandemic is very quickly teaching us what’s important: health, love, food, a safe and comfortable home, creativity and learning, connectedness, and being able to get out into nature. Shouldn’t those things be the pillars around which our societies are organised?”

→ Open Democracy – 29 April 2020:
How to fix the world
“Beneath our current problems lies a deeper crisis: a crisis of imagination. But the ideas we need to fix the world are already here.”

→ Medium – 22 April 2020:
Towards a Manifesto of the ReGeneration
“50 Years of Earth Day: Drafting a Regenerative Manifesto.” By Daniel Christian Wahl 

→ Shift Australia:
“At Shift, we know that the issues confronting our communities and our planet can be overcome, but only if we engage in collective action to create big, systemic change.”

“In the forty-three years between World War II and creation of the IPCC, nothing was done about the slow accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, because governments didn’t recognize it as a problem. Through the following thirty-two years, however, emissions accelerated and catastrophe loomed ever nearer. Yet even with warnings flashing brighter orange and then deeper red, emissions were still left largely unrestrained. That failure resulted, and still results, from the single-minded focus of Big Business and its backers in governments worldwide on limitless wealth accumulation.”

→ – 30 April 2020:
The Recent History of GDP Growth, CO2 Emissions, and Climate Policy Paralysis, All in One Table-Runner

The artist who created a ‘new economy’ built on trust and generosity

→

Democratised energy: a fairer and faster transition

“Only the youth of the world, like Greta Thunberg, are saying, “Stop the fossil fuel madness.” Shame on us all if we don’t demand that governments put global emissions into rapid, sustained decline immediately, with the ending of the fossil fuel era and its rapid replacement with clean, zero-combustion, renewable energy sources. Then we will have a future. Today we do not. If our governments can do it for Covid, they can do it for the climate, for humanity, and for all life on this precious planet.”
~ Peter Carter

Who do we want to be

An important—and well-documented—new study from Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy quantifies what the plummeting cost of solar and wind power could mean for America. If the country adopted policies for a rapid buildout of renewable energy, it could supply ninety per cent of their electricity carbon free by 2035, and that electricity would cost customers less than it costs them today.

“In the climate crisis, each fight against a pipeline or a frack well, against an oil company or a bank that backs it, is important in its own right. But each also serves as a way to build the pressure that will, eventually, move us psychologically from a world that sees the fossil-fuelled economy stretching out into the future to one that understands we need to change.

“There are signs that we’re reaching that paradigm shift, both because of powerful organizing (eight million people in the streets last fall for global climate strikes) and because environmental events, such as the wildfires in California and Australia, demonstrate our scary reality more plainly all the time. Around the world, more and more cities and countries are rolling out economic-recovery plans that emphasize climate action, as if that was the most obvious idea. (It is.)”
~ Bill McKibben, in his weekly newsletter in The New Yorker

The news from Denmark: Carbon taxes work

Carbon taxes are the most contentious climate tool of our time. But one thing is certain: They work

In Denmark, several parties are calling for a green tax reform with high carbon taxes. And while they are negotiating a final climate agreement before the summer holidays, experience from abroad shows that the taxes are climate-effective – and without major consequences for business, the Treasury and inequality, says researcher.

While the energy-intensive industry accounts for a few percent of jobs, it accounts for 60-70 percent of process industry emissions. Therefore, energy-intensive companies should also not avoid CO2 taxes, says Professor Mikael Skou Andersen.

In Denmark on 19 June 2020, a political majority formed for the most debated climate policy instrument of the time: Radikale Venstre (the Danish Social-Liberal Party) and Venstre (The Liberal Party of Denmark) joined forces to demand that a green tax reform must include a “uniform” CO2 tax across Danish society according to the polluter pays principle.

Thus, during the ongoing climate negotiations, there is now broad support for a ‘principle decision’ on a green tax reform with a CO2 tax, which should basically apply to all industries.

The government has not directly rejected the idea of high carbon taxes – but also has not it embraced it.

In the exchange, climate minister Dan Jørgensen (S) has called the Climate Council’s recommendation for a “Georg Gearless-like model”. The independent expert body is proposing to gradually double the tax to DKK 1,500 per tonnes of CO2 emitted by 2030, encouraging businesses and consumers to lower their emissions.

→ Source: Dagbladet Information

CO2 levels in the atmosphere keep rising

Scientists have warned for more than a decade that concentrations of more than 450ppm risk triggering extreme weather events and temperature rises as high as 2C, beyond which the effects of global heating are likely to become “catastrophic and irreversible”.

According to NOAA-ESRL, the atmospheric CO2 reading from Mauna Loa, Hawaii was 416.34 part per million on 13 June 2020. This time last year it was 414.39 ppm. 10 years ago it was 392.70 ppm.

→ The Guardian – 5 June 2019:
Latest data shows steep rises in CO2 for seventh year
“Readings from Hawaii observatory bring threshold of 450ppm closer sooner than had been anticipated.”

→ CBS News – 15 June 2020:
2020 likely to be the warmest year on record globally
“With a dramatic rise in temperatures in the Arctic, the world on track to break heat records again.”

→ ScienMag – 15 June 2020:
Carbon emission from permafrost soils underestimated by 14%
“Picture 500 million cars stacked in rows. That’s how much carbon–about 1,000 petagrams, or one billion metric tons–is locked away in Arctic permafrost.”

→ ScienMag – 15 June 2020:
A carbon sink shrinks in the arctic
“UD researchers show Canada Basin’s diminished capacity to absorb carbon dioxide”

“The corona pandemic, a pretty mild affair in the scheme of things, is telling us that we are now in the middle of a historic cycle where hyper-connectivity combined with hyper-complexity could rapidly lead to decline, if not collapse.”

Lessons in failure

What is needed in an existential crisis is government transparency and cooperation. The asteroid analogy:

If the world were to respond to an impending asteroid impact the way it did the coronavirus pandemic, then we would all be utterly hosed. That’s according to scientist and retired NASA astronaut Thomas Jones, who told ( that the uncoordinated and delayed attempts to contain COVID-19 ought to serve as teachable moments — lessons in failure — that should help world leaders to better prepare for future crises.

“The novel coronavirus is a good case study of mistakes to avoid when planning to prevent an asteroid impact,” Thomas Jones told

In order to do better, Jones says that governments and intergovernmental agencies would need to act with much greater transparency and cooperation. It goes without saying that the opposite happened during the pandemic, with the World Health Organization making sense of faulty data and political leaders acting in their own selfish interests.

“This is understandable, but it’s not a good model for dealing with an asteroid impact threat. A fragmented, staggered and uneven response to an impact threat is a recipe for delay and inaction, foreclosing options to deflect the asteroid.”

And the exact same can be said for climate change. Instead of scrambling when a disaster presents itself — is crucial to plan ahead. Be ready in advance. Seek to understand the nature of the threat and how we can avoid a disasterous result.

The deep shock, the climate crisis, the local future

Nicole Foss talks with Aaron Wissner and Steve Keen in a live youtube stream

→ Eudaimonia – 26 May 2020:
If the future is like the present, our civilization will collapse
“Why the 21st century is going to be the most dramatic and disruptive one of all.” By Umair Haque

→ New York Magazine – 19 May 2020:
Welcome to the End of the ‘Human Climate Niche’
“We tend to think of climate impacts as discrete threats: a wildfire, a hurricane, a drought. By the year 2100, it’s possible that parts of the planet will be hit by six climate-driven natural disasters at once. Wildfires tearing through communities cowering terrified by a rolling pandemic only counts as two.” By David Wallace-Wells

→ Nexus Media News – 25 January 2020:
These Apocalyptic Myths Are Coming True Thanks to Climate Change
“That could be a problem. If people start to believe the end is nigh, they might give up on tackling the carbon crisis.”

→ The Atlantic – 4 January 2020:
Australia Will Lose to Climate Change
“Even as the country fights bushfires, it can’t stop dumping planet-warming pollution into the atmosphere.”

→ ABC – 3 January 2020:
Omnicide: Who is responsible for the gravest of all crimes?
“This is the killing of everything. Omnicide. All of us have conspired to create the conditions in which this mass killing of humans, animals, trees, insects, fungi, ecosystems, forests, rivers — this ‘omnicide’ — became inevitable.”

→ Eudaimonia / Medium – 11 October 2019:
The Beginning of the End of the World
“Why we have to take the idea of civilizational collapse seriously, and what it really looks like.”

→ Medium – 17 July 2019:
The Darkness is Descending
“This may be the fall into another Dark Age. We are actually in a battle to prevent the dark forces from destroying us and our planet.”

→ New York Times – 16 February 2019:
Time to Panic
“The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. The age of climate panic is here. And fear may be the only thing that saves us.” By David Wallace-Wells

Rethinking how we live and work

“I have a view that capitalism isn’t the problem – it’s consumerism that we need to attack.

People seem to love buying things, and that propensity makes it easy for people to be manipulated by marketers.

As a thought experiment what would it be like if people could be persuaded to work less and consume less?

Working less means earning less money, not necessarily a lower quality of life. Let’s look at less money and less material consumption first, then what to do with the ‘spare’ time freed up.

Maybe the first expense to go would be a private car. Too expensive to buy and run so we have to walk, ride a bike or use public transport. Positive for degrowth and personal health.

Another big expense is housing, but the main cost of housing is the value of land, urban land with roads and services specifically. If we work less maybe that means we need to live in the city less of our time, less competition for urban land and it’s price goes down (I wonder sometimes if the cost of homes in popular suburbs is only limited by what a dual income family can afford).

Less working hours would probably mean the end of all unemployment, thankfully no longer having to listen to politicians saying they created X thousands of jobs.

If we each worked just three days a week, on average, what would that mean? Less money to spend obviously but more time for other things. Maybe we would have a place to live in the country and one in the city too. It’s a common thing in parts of the world, a city apartment and a country ‘shack’, probably self made.

Travelling backwards and forwards is costly, maybe we go by train or maybe the work time is one week on one week off.

Maybe it’s 6 months paid work and 6 months other, many people live this kind of life, work then travel, work then travel. I don’t see travel as necessarily bad, in fact if you walk, ride, sail it’s low impact. Also 6 months is enough time to go to another continent and back without flying.

Of course you might use your 6 months of other for some worthy cause in the countryside. Planting trees, helping an organic farmer, helping scientists with a study, building houses.

Possibly the time of life when this isn’t possible is when a family has dependent children. Ok, but the costs aren’t for material things so much, and it’s often that we combine kids with house mortgage repayments.

Maybe we should be doing this stage of life differently? Oh but we have to have careers and kids, or do we? Not if we each work less I’d say. Maybe we could have our schools in the country and families go to live in villages around them to raise their kids with low costs, and higher enjoyment.

One problem might be what happens in retirement. Have we put enough superannuation aside to have a happy retirement. With this kind of living isn’t retirement a weird notion?

~ Stephen Cameron – on Facebook

Listen and take action

“A person who use facts as weapons, compassion as a tool and has the will and intellect to know what needs to be done but only is 17 years old… This is Greta Thunberg! The Swedish girl that never surrenders but is the bearer of a very important message: Most people don’t have a clue of what’s at stake, that the system of infinite growth on a finite planet must change to a circular flow and balance with the resources we have. This can be done but we all need to act on the climate crisis we now all face, just like or should I say, we should do with the pandemic, with cóoperation and science, rather than fear or self interest because in the end we all loose if we fail to meet the existential threat climate change is. Listen and take action in your own micro cosmos and inspire others, together we can make this planet great again!”
~ Johan Landgren – on Facebook

Voices for Greta

Step into the climatesafety bunker – our carbon clarity clubhouse

Are we ready to shift our mindset and choose a different future?

I am. If you are too, let’s meet. And I don’t mean physically, for now, but in The Tunnel – the digital tunnel.

We have a members’ area on which is growing little by little. Its a space for figuring out how we can act as individuals and as a community in a climate emergency.

The choices we make right now matter. Words matter. Have a positive think about how you will step in and become part of a regenerative and transformative renewal. It’s all happening in The Tunnel. What we need to do, is get ready for the action, once we come out on the other side.
~ Mik Aidt

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“The most important word in today’s world is ‘together’.”
~ Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General

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→ See more Regenerative Hours from The Sustainable Hour team