From economics + accounting + ‘saving the planet’ to poetry and novels: a little monkishness till November

This weekend I’ll be at the Women of the World Festival in Brisbane, which looks fantastic. I’m speaking on Sunday morning in a session called Mother Earth: Women Saving the Planet with four amazing women: Senator Larissa Waters; sustainable farmer Lynne Strong; founder of Nomads Palace, Sam Cook; and GetUp’s Anne Coombs, who’s chairing the panel. Here are the details:

10.30-11.30, Sunday 21 June 2015 Mother Earth: Women Saving the Planet
The very name ‘Mother Earth’ conjures the truth about our planet and place on it. At a time when its future is threatened, what will it take to ensure the survival of the Mother Ship? There are many women whose lives are dedicated to this task – and their approaches are varied and perhaps surprising, and call on skills and knowledge which are much broader than waving placards in front of bulldozers. Who are these women? How did they come to be involved in this important work? What are the pressing challenges in their special fields? And how can we help them to make a difference?
Venue: Room 360, Building Y, Queensland University of Technology, Gardens Point campus, Brisbane

And then I’m going to leave questions of accounting, economics and ‘saving the planet’ behind until November, to work on the novels of Alexis Wright and Kim Scott for my PhD. And to read more poetry. I’m missing poetry like water in a desert.

But first, to wrap the economics and planet-saving posts for a while, comes the news today that Pope Francis has called for action ‘here and now’ to tackle climate change and halt the ‘unprecedented destruction’ of ecosystems.

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Also, there’s a new film called The True Cost about the way the fashion industry is destroying its workers and the planet, which looks like required viewing. Executive director Livia Firth says she first became aware of the true cost of our global fashion industry in 2009:

‘I went to Bangladesh in 2009 with Lucy Siegle and for the first time in my life I saw the impact of what I was wearing was having miles away from me. It was like having someone throw a bucked of iced water on you … Today, as Lucy puts it, “brands, retailers and consumers have all become fantastically adept at divorcing fashion from the very fact that it has been made by an army of living, breathing human beings with resources which are depleting the environment”.’

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And last on the economics front, an update on two books I mentioned here in April:

1. The Economics of Good and Evil: The quest for economic meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street by Czechoslovakian economist Tomas Sedlacek. So far I’ve read only the first three chapters, which are:

Introduction: The Story of Economics, From Poetry to Science
1. The Epic of Gilgamesh: On Effectiveness, Immortality, and the Economics of Friendship
2. The Old Testament: Earthliness and Goodness

And so far, so good. It’s uneven and sometimes feels poorly translated, but there’s enough original thinking and provocative teasing out of the economics contained in these religious texts (the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament, so far) to make me very keen to return to it in November. The idea is a brilliant one: to reconsider economics as the cultural phenomenon it so evidently is and to examine its emergence in the myths and religions of the ancient world, and their manifestation in the economic thinking we’re more familiar with today. Or, as Sedlacek puts it, ‘to look for economic thought in ancient myths and, vice versa, to look for myths in today’s economics’.

2. Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? I mentioned I was reading this book at the end of April. Based on the title, blurb and first few pages, I was very excited by the prospect of reading it. For anyone who might be interested, unfortunately for me it did not live up to its promise.

Which might be the perfect moment to turn to poetry. Thanks to a beautiful poem by Seamus Heaney, ‘The First Words’, which Alexis Wright chose as the epigraph for her extraordinary novel Carpentaria, I discovered this poem by Heaney called ‘North’. It got under my skin.

I returned to a long strand,
the hammered curve of a bay,
and found only the secular
powers of the Atlantic thundering.

I faced the unmusical
invitations of Iceland,
the pathetic colonies
of Greenland, and suddenly

those fabulous raiders,
those lying in Orkney and Dublin
measured against
their long swords rusting,

those in the solid
belly of stone ships,
those hacked and glinting
in the gravel of thawed streams

were ocean-deafened voices
warning me, lifted again
in violence and epiphany.
The longship’s swimming tongue

was buoyant with hindsight –
it said Thor’s hammer swung
to geography and trade,
thick-witted couplings and revenges,

the hatreds and behind-backs
of the althing, lies and women,
exhaustions nominated peace,
memory incubating the spilled blood.

It said, ‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
your hands have known.’

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This entry was posted in Economics, Novels, poetry, book news, poetry, Six Capitals, The Earth and environmental activism. Bookmark the permalink.

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