Bringing people-power to the table

The Sustainable Hour no. 449 | Podcast notes

Climate assemblies and food villages build new power in our choices: Sonia Randhawa from Coalition of Everyone helps organise climate assemblies, while John Shone and Alex Fearnside from FoodVillage invite us to join their new food-producing community.

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[12:25] Sonia Randhawa is co-founder of the Coalition of Everyone and project manager at the Sortition Foundation – two groups in which she’s heavily involved. Additionally she refers to the 100 “Climate Assemblies” that have occurred world-wide, the smallest of which occurred at the Borough of Queenscliffe on the Bellarine Peninsula (our neighbours) . We hear how this is an ongoing process.

All of these exciting projects are based on the premise that local grassroots-based groups are the people best placed to create that sustainable future they want to live in. For those who want to find out how these climate assemblies, see more information and videos below on this page.

Sonia has offered the Geelong and district community support to run one of these assemblies. We at The Sustainable Hour are eager to be involved in making this happen.

→ Find more information about Sonia’s two groups on and

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[30:44] John Shone and Alex Fearnside from FoodVillage are inviting you to become one of 5,000 people co-owning and regenerating their own food system. They are launching a “FoodVillage Community” to bring together climate conscious eaters who co-own and connect with food and wellness, aligning their finances with regenerative values. More information below on this page.

→ To connect with FoodVillage, see and, and have a first glance at FoodVillage’s (closed) online community.

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[01:13] We start today’s program with Mik Aidt speaking enthusiastically about Victoria having negative energy prices for a whole week because of the amount of renewable energy – sun and wind – we had. He follows this up by asking: Did we hear anything about this in our mainstream media? Why is this not treated as breaking front page news to be shouted out from the rooftops?

In another piece of positive news, Mik draws our attention to the roadmap to a net-zero economy that the Victorian Chamber of Commerce has recently brought out – a clear sign that the message is getting through to more people, also on the generally more conservative side of society, as they realise the economic benefits of making a fast transition away from our current toxic fossil fuel-based energy sources. This in spite of the lack of coverage in our mainstream media and public broadcasters.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce has called on the Victorian state government to raise its ambition on climate action and achieve 95 per cent renewable energy state-wide by 2035. This is significant, because this organisation representing business interests has been slow to pick up the need to change from business as usual. It is almost like they are trying to make up for lost time. And it should be a wake-up call to the local business chambers all over Victoria, including in Geelong.

→ More details on their roadmap can be found here: Achieving a Net-Zero Economy: Roadmap for Victorian Businesses

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Finally for today, Mik decries the extent of the current complaints about the cost of living, especially at a time when multiple reports highlight rising gas prices without ever mentioning that people have an alternative to paying more and more for gas, which is to get off gas and switch to electrical devices. Mik mentions a report which outlines the considerable savings that will follow replacing gas- and oil-burning appliances and fossil fuel-powered cars with electric machines powered by renewable energy to highlight this point. As the report says: “The electrification of households, powered by renewables, can halve energy use, fire up the economy and cut our living costs.” Australians can cut emissions – and save $5,000 a year. Again Mik asks: why isn’t this message being shouted from our solar-powered rooftops?

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Between our two interviews today we play a brief and powerful World Wildlife Fund video entitled “The TR-33 is here”. How good would it be if all advertisements were as simple and at the same time revolutionary?

The songs we play towards the end are John Lennon‘s ‘Power to the People’ and Missy Higgins‘ ‘The Difference’.

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[03:40] Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook this week begins in the United States, where ex-vice president and inconvenient truth-teller Al Gore has given a wide ranging interview that praised the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act – the package to fight climate change – as ‘the biggest and best climate legislation ever enacted by any country, ever.’ Having said that, he qualified it by saying: “And, having been through legislative struggles for many years, I can say this is the kind of outcome that needs to be celebrated, even though many people, including me, had worked for much more. But having said that, and having noted the wonderful progress that has been made, it is still undeniably true that the crisis is still getting worse faster than we have yet begun to deploy these available solutions.”

Al Gore finished on a note of pure optimism, saying: “Now we are gaining momentum, and I’m certain that we will soon be gaining on the crisis itself. And, by the way, the latest IPCC report has buried within it some startling good news that if and when we reach true net-zero, the temperatures on earth will stop going up with a lag time of as little as three-to-five years. That’s a source of great hope and optimism. And if we stay at true net zero, half of the human-caused CO2 will fall out of the atmosphere in as little as 25 to 30 years. We can remove massive amounts of CO2 if we just stop putting it up there, and let nature work for us instead of against us.”

To Italy, where weeks of dry winter weather have raised concerns that the nation could face another drought after last summer’s emergency, with the Alps having received less than half of their normal snowfall, according to scientists and environmental groups. The warning comes as Venice, where flooding is normally the primary concern, faces unusually low tides that are making it impossible for gondolas, water taxis and ambulances to navigate some of its famous canals.

The winter has seen Italian rivers and lakes suffering from severe lack of water, with figures showing the Po, Italy’s longest river, which runs from the Alps in the north-west to the Adriatic, has 61 per cent less water than normal at this time of year.

Meanwhile, new figures published by the International Energy Authority show that fossil fuel consumption subsidies worldwide soared in 2022, rising above $US1 trillion for the first time. That’s paid in subsidies by governments around the world, while the fossil fuel companies are reporting record profits. The IEA report provides the first estimates for 2022, which show that the escalating outlays were in sharp contrast with the Glasgow Climate Pact, which in November 2021 called on all countries to “phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable people.”

Meanwhile in Australia, the mining giant BHP has revealed plans to sell off two more of its Australian coal mines after posting a sharp fall in half-year profit driven by soaring inflation and weaker commodity prices. BHP, which is Australia’s largest mining company, told investors it had launched a process to divest its Daunia and Blackwater metallurgical coal mines – two of the nine coal mines it jointly owns with Japan’s Mitsubishi in central Queensland. The move is the latest sign of the company repositioning its portfolio away from fossil fuels and towards what it terms ‘future-facing’ commodities such as copper and nickel that will be needed as raw materials in renewable energy and electric cars.

Since 2021, BHP has sold off one of its thermal coal mines, a series of metallurgical coal mines and its entire global oil and gas divisions. But that’s not closing them down – it’s selling them to other companies who will attempt to still run them to make money, much as Viva Energy has done since it bought the Geelong refinery from Shell.

Finally, news from the world’s greenest football club, Forest Green Rovers, which sits at the bottom of the English First Division after what can only be described as a disastrous first season after winning promotion. Well, the club sacked its manager two weeks ago and appointed a Scottish former Everton defender, Duncan Ferguson in his place. His first week in charge, the club lost 4-0, but last weekend they did a bit better, drawing 1-1 with Lincoln City. The new manager said that he approved of the club’s green credentials, but he was grateful that chips were counted as vegan. It will be a wonderful achievement if he manages to help the Rovers avoid relegation with only 12 matches left of the season. They will need to win the majority to stay up.

No such problem with the club’s Women First side, which won 10-1 against Tuffley Rovers Ladies First putting them in line for a cup semi-final as well as sitting on top of their ladder. And that has to put them in good stead for next week’s International Women’s Day edition. That’s also our global round-up for the week.

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A major theme that we often focus on is certainly highlighted again today. That is: “People power”. Both projects we talk about today show that we can get to where we need to be as we face up to the climate crisis much more quickly if we realise just what is possible when numbers of people work together towards common goals. The choices we make in how we live each day are very powerful levers to change the business as usual that has got us into this mess.

We’ll be back next week with the entire show celebrating International Women’s Day. Till then all the very best in the choices you make as you join us in the climate revolution.

“In the long run, Climate Assemblies could be a real game changer in how we formulate climate policies in a way that brings everybody with us and still allows us to move at the speed at which we need to move to get to net-zero and beyond that. While the Liberal and National parties at the national level have been obstructive on climate, coastal communities like Queenscliffe are already experiencing the impacts of the climate catastrophe and have a more realistic approach to what needs to happen.”
~ Sonia Randhawa, project manager, Sortition Foundation

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we
are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millennia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How disrespectful and unfair is that?

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“Building a New Economy for Australia: Foundations for Learning and Practice” will be running again this year so don’t miss out! It will be held from Tuesday 2 May until Tuesday 2 June, with classes at 4pm to 6pm AEST each Tuesday. If you are interested you can complete the Expression of Interest Form (EOI) on NENA’s website, and they’ll send you all the information and registration details in late February.

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Founding a community of ‘foodbuilders’

Alex Fearnside and John Shone at the Foothills Organic Farm
Alex Fearnside and John Shone interviewed in The Sustainable Hour no. 449


FoodVillage Community aims to bring together 5,000 climate conscious eaters to co-own and connect with their food and wellness, aligning their finances with regenerative values.

“We are a group of talented, highly capable and driven people that believe everyone has the right to own and participate in the growing, making and distribution of healthy, nutritious and affordable food.”

Membership to FoodVillage Community 
A one-time payment of $100 gives you access to FoodVillage’s closed online community, which is found on

For more information about FoodVillage, see and

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Sonia Randhawa
Sonia Randhawa interviewed in The Sustainable Hour no. 449

Climate assemblies

Queenscliffe near Geelong is one of the smallest local government areas in Australia, but in convening a public deliberation on climate change it has joined some major world players. The UK, Scotland, Denmark, Germany and France have all convened citizens’ assemblies on how to tackle climate change.

In the United Kingdom, Climate Assembly UK comprised 100 people who met over six weekends in 2020 to discuss how the UK should meet this target. Their report was published in September 2020. Read more

→ BBC News – 10 September 2020:
What is the Climate Assembly and how does it work?

In Scotland the remit was ‘How should Scotland change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way?’ The Assembly’s Interim Report was laid in Scottish Parliament on the 24 March 2021. On 16 December 2021, the Scottish Government published its response to the recommendations. Read more

→ Bürgerrat – 30 December 2021:
Scotland’s Climate Assembly: the recommendations

Germany’s nationwide Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change started on 26 April 2021. The 160 members are discussing possible measures to deal with the climate crisis – specifically how Germany can still achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, taking into account social, economic and ecological aspects. Read more

Denmark’s national citizens’ parliament of 99 randomly selected citizens were invited in August 2020 to work in depth on solutions to the climate challenges and give recommendations to the responsible parliamentary politicians. Read more

In France, the President’s Citizen’s Convention on Climate in 2020 was described as “an unprecedented democratic experiment”, which “aimed to give citizens a voice to accelerate the fight against climate change.” Read more

Belgium has more recently launced a Citizens’ Climate Assembly: – 18 November 2022:
Brussels unveils a Citizens’ Climate Assembly to democratize the policy
“The body should help bridge the gap between what climate action citizens want and what politicians do.”

Australia started out early talking about launching a Citizens’ Assembly to assist the federal government in decisionmaking already in 2010:

→ ABC News – 22 July 2010:
Gillard to ask the people on climate change
“A re-elected Labor government would ask a new “citizens’ assembly” for climate change advice, under a key part of the ALP’s new climate change policy set to be launched by Prime Minister Julia Gillard today. The ABC understands Ms Gillard will outline plans to set up a committee of scientists to advise the Government on climate change. The committee will be paired with a citizens’ assembly, consisting of 100-200 volunteers who will gauge feeling of the community on its attitude towards putting a price on carbon, and feed it back to the Government.”

Independent Australia – 6 April 2023:
Corruption stalks our weakened democracy
“With corruption on the rise, there’s a case for creating a political system in Australia where no one, irrespective of wealth or power, has any more influence than anyone else, writes barrister Victor Kline.”

→ The Guardian – 1 February 2023:
Citizens’ assemblies: are they the future of democracy?
“A look at the surge in popularity of randomly selected councils that offer an alternative to politics as we know it.”

→ Forbes – 26 October 2021:
Global Citizens’ Assemblies: A Bold Idea That Needs Our Support!
“A Citizens’ Assembly “is a body of citizens who come together to deliberate on a given issue and provide a set of recommendations, options, or a collective decision to the convening body.” It is not a new idea, with its origins going back to the Athenian democracy, although its modern form appeared early in the 21st century.”

→ Participedia:
Citizens’ Assembly
“A Citizens’ Assembly is a body of citizens who come together to deliberate on a given issue and provide a set of recommendations, options, or a collective decision to the convening body. Problems and Purpose”


What is a Climate Assembly?

Policy actors attitudes on climate assemblies

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The week in December 2022 when wholesale energy prices went below zero in Victoria

→ RenewEconomy – 17 February 2023:
Wind and solar take wholesale electricity prices below zero for whole week in Victoria
“The state of Victoria in December became the first state to experience negative wholesale electricity prices for a whole week, as high wind and solar output and mild demand pushed prices below zero.”

→ Australian Financial Review – 11 February 2022:
How Australians can cut emissions – and save $5000 a year
“The electrification of households, powered by renewables, can halve energy use, fire up the economy and cut our living costs.”

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Better Futures Australia wrote in their February newsletter on 27 February 2023:

“February saw significant developments for Australia’s ambition on climate change. Friday’s meeting of the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council recognised the impact of high energy prices facing Australians. Ministers agreed on five strategic priorities for the coming 12 months. They also agreed to expand the Australian Energy Regulator’s gas and electricity market monitoring powers, review the National Hydrogen Strategy, and to support scoping Australia’s first National Climate Risk Assessment. 

The government’s struggle to pass emission reduction measures through parliament under the updated Safeguard Mechanism has been front of mind for many this month. Read Adam Morton’s helpful outline of the state of play in Canberra and see our joint-submission to the Safeguard Mechanism here.

Last week, the Australian released its second annual list of Green Power Players in 2023, acknowledging 100 leading innovators, developers, financiers, policymakers and activists working to bring about positive change for a carbon-neutral Australia.

\\\ Positive Developments

\\\ Climate Challenges

Tweet of the week

“As challenging as it will be to transform our civilization right now, it will be near impossible if we wait a few decades and try to build that transformed civilization once this one has collapsed.”
~ Climate Dad

Excerpts from the Twitter stream

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of running petitions where we encourage you to add your name

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