Sustainable Living Festival 2016, Melbourne

Economic growth to save the planet?

Growth is stagnating, inequality is rising, resource constraints are pressing, and environmental impacts are worsening. So is this the end of economic growth as we know it? If so, how do we transition to a new model of work, business and economics for thriving societies, while avoiding economic collapse? And if not, how do we transition to a new model that keeps growth contributing to thriving societies, without social and environmental collapse?

We ask a panel of prominent Australians for their propositions.


Jan Owen AM, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, the Inaugural AFR/Westpac Woman of Influence 2012, & Board member for the Australian National Development Index (ANDI).  For more about Jan, click here.



Miriam Lyons, Senior Campaigner for GetUp, co-author of Governomics, & the former ED of the Centre for Policy Development. For more about Miriam, click here.




Ian Dunlop, formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chairman of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a director of Australia21 and a Member of the Club of Rome. For more about Ian, click here.


Saturday 13 February 2016, Melbourne

1.30pm to 3pm, Greenhouse Tent, Federation Square, Melbourne

Free entry, no bookings required

Hosted by Anthony James, Executive Director of the Understandascope. For more about Anthony, click here.

For more info on the festival, click here.

To download the media release, click here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Big Ideas Breakfast at the DISCONNECT Festival

Anthony James on Big Ideas Breakfast panel

‘Start-up or f**k-up’

Everyone has an idea for a start-up, but how do you avoid making it a f**k-up? A panel of people who’ve seen it, done it and flunked it chat about the nuts and bolts, and any other metaphors that can help or hinder you.

10.15am to 12pm, Saturday 12 December 2015

The Mess Hall, Fairbridge Village, Western Australia

DISCONNECT is a contemporary arts & lifestyle festival. It is an experience for the body, mind, spirit and soul, bringing together Music, Art, Comedy, Big Ideas, Local Artisan Food & Drink, Vaudeville Performance, Camping and lots and lots of Fun.

Featuring a fantastic International and Australian line-up, DISCONNECT is a creative, interactive environment, full of surprises and unexpected moments, set to appeal to music lovers, nature fans, kids and their families, foodies, funksters, adventurers and folkies alike.

For more info & to purchase day or weekend passes, click here.

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Anthony James interview on Radio Adelaide

Anthony James, Convenor of the Understandascope

Following his recent article about ‘conservation mining’ in The ConversationRadio Adelaide sought out Understandascope Convenor Anthony James for a chat about the ‘cleanest power source of all’.

The interview with Ian Nelson from the Barometer program explores some of the how and why of conserving energy, at both the personal and societal level.

To listen to the interview, click here.

To read the article that inspired it, click here.

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2 articles on the shifting cultural narratives behind energy and race

Anthony James, Convenor of the Understandascope, published a couple of articles in the last month on the shifting cultural narratives underpinning how we think about and engage with energy and race. These issues are not often considered together, but it is telling how the underpinning narratives of dislocation from community, culture and country are shared.

Cutting back on wasted electricity is the cleanest power source of all – as our household shows

The Conversation featured a personal experiment with a general principle that Frank Fisher dubbed ‘conservation mining’. Starting with this … 

A few years ago, I couldn’t read an energy bill beyond the charge levied. I couldn’t tell you how energy was measured, or ultimately how its use related to making my life better or worse, let alone how it affected broader society and the planet. I resolved to change this. I studied energy and sustainability at university, and have gone on to teach there. Throughout this time my wife and I have made many changes to how we use energy at home. Yet when we decided to take a closer look into our electricity bill, we were surprised by what we found.

To read on, click here.

Short Book, Long Story: Long, Goodes & the story of reconciliation

The Footy Almanac featured a review of Martin Flanagan’s recent book, The Short Long Book: A portrait of Michael Long, the man who changed the Australian game.

Two significant things happened at the AFL’s Indigenous Round this year. In the lead up, Martin Flanagan’s book on Michael Long was launched. Days later, Adam Goodes’ dance renewed all sorts of questions about what it means to be Australian. The latter has coloured 2015 as Long’s ‘incident’ did 1995. John Harms responded with this. ‘On this rather complex issue, I’m not even looking for guidance in what to think. I’d like to go back a step and seek help in how to think in relation to it.’ He went on to say, ‘This is not about the booing. In my view, it’s about the failure of a community to understand itself.’

To read on, click here.

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Major new report on energy systems, assumptions & futures

Economic Trend Report: Energy Descent, Transition and Alternatives to 2050, by Josh Floyd

Josh Floyd, the Understandascope’s Advisor on energy, systems and societal futures, brings a unique mix of sustainability, foresight and engineering expertise to understanding the energy-economy nexus. He has recently made freely available a report summarising the findings to date from more than a decade’s research.

The report takes a whole-system perspective on the implications of macro-scale transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Among its findings are that a number of conventional assumptions about energy and economies require significantly further consideration. The brief reference to battery storage in the conclusion provides a notable contrast to the popular view that has gained such momentum in recent months. There’ll be more on that soon.

To read on & access the freely downloadable report, click here.

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Donate to the 3rd annual Frank Fisher Memorial Appeal

Anthony James in conversation with Frank Fisher

The Frank Fisher Memorial Fund was launched in 2012 in honour of Professor Frank Fisher, to further his legacy through the education, events and publications of the Understandascope.

This year, help create the Frank Fisher Companion book

Soon after Frank was diagnosed with cancer in late 2011, filming commenced for a documentary about his life and learning. Sadly, he was only with us in the flesh for another 6 months. But in that time, we generated hours of footage, including many with Frank in a series of conversations about his life’s insights and experiences. These conversations are now being turned into a book. And we need your help to bring it together.

The Frank Fisher Companion book will provide a conversational companion to Frank’s body of writing. It’ll offer a more informal point of introduction, and otherwise complementary companion, to those interested in (or yet to discover) the life and thinking of this remarkable man.

The book will be edited by Frank’s friend, Swinburne University colleague, and successor as Understandascope Convenor, Anthony James, with Frank’s eldest son, Editorial Director at Broadsheet, Tim Fisher, and former student Terrie Hamilton-Smith.

Thanks to our team of generous volunteers, transcripts are now complete. We are now preparing to select and curate content, towards publication in 2016. We hope you can help us get there!

Donations are tax-deductible and all funds go towards the production of the book. With thanks to Swinburne University of Technology, hosts of the Frank Fisher Memorial Fund.

You can make your secure tax-deductible donation here. 

Thank you very much for your support.

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Article out now on a pioneering course developed at CERES

Appearing in the current edition of the New Community Quarterly Journal is an article about a pioneering sustainability short course developed at CERES. Drawn together by a team from CERES, the Understandascope, Swinburne University and the Fitzroy Uniting Church, the course also featured invitees from the Groupwork Institute, Moora Moora, RMIT University and OASES Graduate School.

The article, Educating for Sustainability Transformations, brings together some of the key insights from the development and running of the course, by 3 of the founding group, former course coordinator Catherine Keady, and Understandascope personnel Josh Floyd and Anthony James.

“Transforming the cultural roots of our environmental dilemmas will involve shifting from consumer culture values, towards a renewal of inner wellbeing, social connectedness and community. These relational elements are clearly linked to a greater sense of health, wellbeing and resilience. If becoming sustainable entails living more connected lives, then this raises questions: what is the role of community organisations in fostering this? And how can education enable it?

To read more, click here.

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A Will for the Woods, screening at the Transitions Film Festival, with Q&A

This award winning documentary by Australian Filmmaker Amy Browne shares the profoundly intimate story of musician, psychiatrist, and folk dancer Clark Wang as he prepares for his own green burial. While battling lymphoma, Clark has discovered a burgeoning movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas, forgoing typical funeral practices that stress the ecosystem.

Understandascope Convenor Anthony James hosts Q&A afterwards with the filmmaker, Amy Browne. All part of the Transitions Film Festival. Hope to see you there!

6.30pm, Wednesday 4 March 2015

Cinema Nova, Lygon St, Carlton

For more info, click here.

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Video & illustrations of our recent events are now available

SLF 2015 at Fed Square & Charles Eisenstein at the State Library

Pic: Chris Grose, Scout Films

The Understandascope’s two feature events to begin 2015 (see previous posts below for details) are now available for viewing, both on video and via illustration.

Last Thursday, 12 February, at Federation Square, and as part of the 2015 Sustainable Living Festival, an expert and diverse panel examined the place of the legal system in ‘Preventing Crimes Against Nature’.

Three weeks prior to that, a full house at the Village Roadshow Theatrette at the Victorian State Library joined in conversation with US writer and advocate, Charles Eisenstein, on how to transition to a more sustainable economic system.

To watch these events & browse the wonderful illustrations, click here.

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Preventing crimes against nature?

Ongoing biodiversity loss and mass extinction indicate that decades of legal protection for nature haven’t stopped us destroying it. How can we change the legal system to better protect nature and sustain life?

Doors open 6pm for a 6.30 start, till 8.30pm, Thursday 12 February 2015

Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne

Free entry, no bookings required (donations invited online or on the night to help cover venue costs)

Featuring special guest panel:

Professor Kate Auty, former Victorian Commisioner for Environmental Sustainability and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Melbourne

Dr Alessandro Pelizzon, Lecturer at the School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University

Nicola Rivers, Director of Advocacy and Research at Environmental Justice Australia

Ellen Sandell, Victorian MP for Melbourne

With a closing address by cartoonist, poet and artist, Michael Leunig

(pictured left to right)



This event will be hosted by Understandascope Convenor, Anthony James, and is part of the 2015 Sustainable Living Festival.

For more info on the event including our special guests, click here.

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