Anthony James & Josh Floyd feature in a new publication

The City as Commons: A Policy Reader

The City as Commons brings together 34 contributions from around Australia and the world, exploring policy options and strategies for creating cities as commons. Anthony James & Josh Floyd each wrote a chapter for the book.

Anthony’s is entitled Active Transit & City Commons: Putting People Back into the City & the City Back into Place.

While Josh explores City Commons & Energy Demand.

The book is already drawing high praise as a vital and practical contribution to gearing urban development initiatives towards life sustaining pathways. As human populations further gravitate towards cities, this work only increases in importance.

Edited by Jose Ramos, with assistance from Emily Sims and cover by Scott Boylston. Published by the Commons Transition Coalition, Melbourne.

The City as Commons is freely downloadable under a Creative Commons Licence, by clicking here.



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Phasing out fossil fuels for renewables may not be a straight forward swap

Ground breaking new report on energy transition

Pic: Challicum Hills wind farm, once the largest in Australia, initiated by Understandascope founder, the late Professor Frank Fisher (Source: The Conversation)

Ground breaking new research by the Understandascope’s advisor on energy, systems and societal futures, Josh Floyd, is covered in The Conversation today. Anthony James, of Swinburne University and Executive Director of the Understandascope, has co-authored the article with Josh. 

“To have any chance of preventing dangerous climate change, the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or even negative by mid-century. Many experts suggest this means we need to completely phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

“Several studies have concluded that 100% renewable energy supply systems are technically and economically feasible. This informs the widespread view that fossil fuels can be more or less “swapped out” for renewables, without significant economic consequences.

“We are strongly sympathetic to the need for a rapid global shift away from fossil fuels. But new modelling conducted independently and made publicly available by my colleague at the Understandascope, Josh Floyd, suggests that such a transition may face significant challenges.”

To read on, click here.

To access the report in full, click here.

Monday 2 May, 2016.

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This Might Change Everything – the Pope & other culture shifters

This Might Change Everything: Finding shared meaning beyond consumerism

Last year was a pivotal one towards necessary change in the systems and stories underpinning human societies. A growing number of influential figures made substantial contributions to this end. Among these, the Pope’s Encyclical turned a significant tide with over a billion Catholics worldwide.

Robert Manne, twice voted Australia’s leading public intellectual, recognised the growing global movement towards cultural change. His archetypal nemesis in Australia’s political commentariat, The Australian’s Paul Kelly, saw things differently, at least on the surface. Their exchange was instructive, and features in the latest article by the Understandascope’s Anthony James, appearing in Earthsong Journal. Featuring illustration by Greg Foyster.

‘Naomi Klein’s latest book is called ‘This Changes Everything’ but it’s the Pope’s encyclical that just might.’

To read on, click here

Walking Into Life

Also featuring in this edition of Earthsong is fellow director of the Understandascope, Keith Badger. This is the first time he has published the remarkable story of unintended transformation that he experienced in walking across the UK with his wife Debby. 

‘I’m a city boy and never thought connection with country was in my veins. It certainly wasn’t in my mind growing up on a South London council estate. My life was more about congestion, concrete, cars, and nervous nightly returns home through the hubbub of humanity. Choosing accountancy as a profession took me even further into artifice, counting illusory riches rather than any reality of Mother Nature’s gifts. Suddenly I was in my late 50s, a family reared, a supposedly successful career achieved, a wife lost to cancer, another loving partnership established, and then it happened.’

To read on, click here.


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Nominate for the 3rd annual Frank Fisher Award

Nominate yourself or someone else by Wednesday 23 March 2016

The Frank Fisher Award recognises individuals who have made a significant contribution to several areas of sustainability in the City of Yarra.

The Award aims to build on the legacy of the founding Director of the Understandascope, and Australia’s Inaugural Environmental Educator of the Year, the late Professor Frank Fisher. It also aims to remember Frank’s constant querying of his own views and understanding, and his efforts to respond kindly yet provocatively to understandings around him. Nominees will have engaged and inspired people around them and demonstrate qualities of mindfulness, insight, humility and civic spirit.

To nominate yourself or someone else, click here for more info.

Presented in partnership with the City of Yarra.

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Polyfaces Australian premiere at the Transitions Film Festival


Costa Georgiadis with film making family Isabella Doherty, Darren Doherty and Lisa Heenan, in conversation with Anthony James. Pic: Transitions Film Festival

One of the most popular films at last month’s Transitions Film Festival, premiering not once but twice, was followed by lively Q&A with these highly charismatic film makers, joined by special guest Costa Georgiadis and host Anthony James.

The film is an intricately told story of Joel Salatin, dubbed ‘The world’s most innovative farmer‘ by Time magazine, and his family. The family of Australian film-makers spent their life savings and 4 years documenting a style of farming that they hope will help change the fate of humanity. 

For more info on the film including how to purchase a copy or host a screening, click here.

For more info on the festival, click here.

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Video, podcast & illustration of major forum at 2016 SLF Festival

Economic Growth to Save the Planet?

Sustainable Living Festival, Federation Square, Melbourne, 13 February 2016

Ian Dunlop, Jan Owen, Miriam Lyons & Anthony James. Pic: Chris Grose

Can economic growth save the planet? Has economic growth itself got a future? And what should we do about this precarious state of affairs?

The Understandascope’s major forum at the annual Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne drew a full house of around 250 people, to put these questions to 3 esteemed panellists.

Ian Dunlop, former fossil fuel industry executive, Jan Owen AM, CEO of Foundation for Young Australians, and Miriam Lyons, Senior Campaigner with GetUp!, join Anthony James from the Understandascope in this vital conversation.

To watch the event in full, click here.

To listen to the podcast, click here

And for an entertaining snapshot of what happened, check out the illustration of the event by clicking here or on the image below.

For more info on the event, click here.

With thanks to Chris Grose from Scout Films and illustrator Sarah McConnell.

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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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