For the last year I’ve been thinking about the purpose of this blog. I started bookishgirl in December 2010 to blog about reading and writing, about the books I love and the books I’m reading. I also planned to write about economics and the environment, because in 2010 they were the subject of my next book. Well that next book was Double Entry, which led me into the underbelly of global capitalism and to write Six Capitals. My travels with these two books and the jaw-dropping crazy-making way we humans continue to destroy our beautiful earth—despite knowing just how destructive our activities, including ‘business as usual’, are to the planet—have left me wracked by a single question: how to change our ways so we don’t keep destroying the earth?
For me this question leads inexorably to Indigenous people, and especially to the Indigenous people and cultures of Australia. Thanks to their ancestors’ genius for living sustainably on country, today Aboriginal people embody the oldest continuous culture on the planet. As Professor Iain McCalman said on 23 November 2016 when he opened the ‘Global Ecologies, Local Impacts‘ conference at the University of Sydney, it behoves us at a conference on global ecologies to consider Australia’s Indigenous people. They’ve looked after country for 60,000 years and left us with one of the greatest legacies this continent can offer to the world: caring for country, ‘one of the most profound and important ideas that exist within environmental frameworks’.
The Aboriginal English word ‘country’ contains multitudes. It not only contains Aboriginal knowledge systems, it also designates an active living presence. Deborah Bird Rose writes that country
is not only a common noun but also a proper noun. People talk about country in the same way that they would talk about a person: they speak to country, sing to country, visit country, worry about country, feel sorry for country, and long for country. People say that country knows. hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, is sorry or happy. Country is not a generalized or undifferentiated type of place … Rather, country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness and a will toward life.
Because my imagination has been so seized by the future of the planet, after six years of blogging about books I’m feeling a lot more like earthwoman than bookishgirl—so this will be my last blog post for bookishgirl. Thanks SO MUCH to all of you who’ve been visiting me here these last six years, I’ve loved this online bookish adventure and your comments and company.
I’m going to leave you with five photographs taken earlier today at the awesome Purpose 2016, a two-day conference being held in Sydney at Paddington Town Hall and environs. As I wrote here last year, the inaugural Purpose conference last December so overwhelmed and inspired me that I struggled to write about it. The second one promises to be just as inspiring.
Purpose seems an apt way to conclude for three reasons:
First, because business has to be part of changing the world and the people who’ve gathered at Purpose for the last two years really are using business to change the world for the better. They are working at the cutting edge, taking massive risks, being incredibly creative and innovative. They are so inspiring. The first two pictures are of the superstar Sally Hill, co-founder of Wildwon, the ‘meaningful experience agency’ that created and runs Purpose, and the multitalented Matt Wicking, the conference MC. And surely it’s the prettiest conference room you’ve ever seen?
Second, because it gathers extraordinary speakers like Jirra Lulla, who founded Kalinya Communications to promote the importance of Indigenous knowledge. Jirra spoke about Aboriginal knowledge and practice, including the connections she sees between Aboriginal ways of doing business and sustainable business initiatives such as B Corporation. She said she loved Purpose 2015 because it made her realise there was a new movement in business that was similar to Aboriginal thinking—and she wants to continue the legacy of what has always been the Aboriginal purpose-led economy.
Jirra said there are two things we can learn from the Gunditjmara business model: first, when you look after country it will look after you; second, they had a succession plan, elders taught the young people. She also mentioned important lessons she learnt from her elders, like when collecting eggs, never empty the nest, because you have to leave eggs to produce the next generation of birds to lay eggs. She said stewardship is the key thing she learnt.
The session Jirra was part of was called ‘Cathedral Thinking‘, which is a buzzy new way of talking about long-term planning and acting, similar to the popular concept ‘Seven generations stewardship‘. Jirra said she struggled with this idea of cathedral thinking: ‘for us there is no cathedral, no end purpose’. Aboriginal practices will never be complete, they’re ongoing, open ended. I love Jirra’s distinction between medieval cathedral building and Aboriginal practice, it’s one I’m taking with me.
Third, because it featured bookish girl Kyra Maya Phillips and her book pharmacy—’the written word as salve for the soul’. And what better way to sign off from bookishgirl than with another bookish girl. Last year Kyra was at Purpose talking about her book The Misfit Economy. Kyra studied economics at the London School of Economics but her first love and true passion is reading, and she’s decided to move away from economics to devote herself to books and reading. So my parting words: seek out Kyra Maya Phillips on twitter, google her, I highly recommend her for all your bookish fixes.