Our Oral History and Folklore collection records the voices that describe our cultural, intellectual and social life. The collection consists of over 55,000 hours of recordings, the earlier ones dating back to the 1950s when the tape recorder became available. More than 1000 hours of interviews, music and accents are added to the collection each year. Increasingly the collection is available online or may be requested from the catalogue. You can listen to:
Folklore recordings – popular culture, traditional songs, dances, music, stories and more
Interviews with distinguished Australians – scientists, writers, artists, politicians and sports people
Interviews with people who have lived through significant social trends and conditions – unemployment, the impact of child removals from families, the Depression, and migration to Australia
Environmental sound – the historical sound of the built and natural environment.
Some interviews have transcripts or summaries and our online audio delivery system helps you search the content of our collection, which can be searched through Trove.
Interviews by Hazel de Berg – 1,290 recordings of interviews and readings dating from the 1950s of prominent Australian poets, artists, writers, composers, actors, academics, publishers, librarians, scientists, anthropologists, public servants and politicians.
Folk music by John Meredith – over 500 recordings between 1953 and 1994 of traditional Australian folk music, songs, recitations, bush dance music, yarns and reminiscences. John Meredith was a foundation member of the Bushwhackers and helped form the Bush Music Club and the Australian Folklore Society.
Bringing Them Home oral history project – These include over 300 interviews collected between1998 and 2002 of Indigenous people and others, such as missionaries, police and administrators, involved in or affected by the process of child removals. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
Our daughter Monika said the other day: ‘I knew, Mum, that you’d like Frances.’ She wasn’t surprised at all that I very much loved having her around. Peter and I were always very much looking forward seeing her here at our home. This was some weeks ago. Very soon now we should get the result of these recording sessions with Frances.
I think Frances saw our daughter Gaby just a few days before Gaby died. Sadly the planned interview with Gaby could not take place at the time. There was some difficulty with incoming calls Gaby was expecting that day. Apparently Gaby was reluctant to switch off her mobile phone!
Gaby’s passing must have been a shock to Frances as it was to all of us. Frances had already been looking with Gaby at some of her documents. She was aware how Gaby caught polio at age four, and that she had lived as a quadriplegic with breathing difficulties for over fifty years. After Gaby’s passing she was keen to interview someone of Gaby’s family.
Frances found out from daughter Monika that we, Gaby’s parents, had gone overseas soon after Gaby’s death and wouldn’t be back for quite some time. In the meantime Frances started interviewing Monika. This is how Monika did get to know Frances. Monika agreed to be interviewed about her life in connection with Gaby. So Frances recorded twice one hour with Monika. Some time later, after our return from our long overseas trip, Peter’s and my tale was recorded too. Peter’s took eight times one hour, mine seven times one hour.
This interview is part of the Europe Matters podcast. A bold, fresh and curious podcast series that delves deep into thought-provoking questions pertinent to where Europe is at and where it is heading. You can listen to other episodes here: https://pod.link/europe-matters ————————————————— Subscribe: Website: https://europematters.com
2 days agoI do love his wide lens view and years of experience. I have read him over the years and honor his opinion. Shame about Assange. I will watch this show again, not listened before. Comments here are rough, I wish I had an ounce of his knowledge even if I don’t always agree, He deserves respect. As he comes to his last years He must be sad to see this world as is. I have Hope in our youth to carry on and find the missing links to save people and planet in a non violent way and work toward equanimity.Show less
3 days agoYou (the interviewer) showed some incredible intelligence in just letting Mr Chomsky talk. Too many interviewers try and make themselves appear intelligent by shoehorning their ideas into a Chomsky interview. And doing so they normally prove themselves quite the opposite.Read more
15 hours agoHow brilliant. I cannot thank Mr Chomsky enough. It is still the clearest voice I have heard on world issues. I try to follow all the non mainstream media I can from different regions in the world and I’m still massively ill informed. Until I hear Mr Chomsky link all the strands of the past that shape events today. How one person can have this depth of knowledge, perspective and integrity I do not know. But I do know that we all need to do better.Read more
1 day agoFunny how Noam Chomsky can sum everything in just a few words. I was just remembering the Russian tank that came back to our scrap yard in Saudi to be melted down. Whilst these tanks were stuck on the road trying to get back to Baghdad, the American planes were flying up and down firing depleted Uranium shells killing everybody they could. Just like in Vietnam. Kill as many as possible. Even in WWII, red cross vehicles weren’t targeted because they work for both side. Not in Iran however. I saw for myself. The US have long ceased giving quarter due to their arrogance. Please don’t complain when the tables are finally turnedRead more
3 hours agoWhat will we do without Noam Chomsky? He is like a walking, living version of cliff notes with keen insights. He’s literally read every book, every government memo, so you don’t have to. Not advocating not reading or certainly not being a critical thinker but he is such a wealth of information. He can recall the Minsk agreement and how it could help. The what? Well you remember whe Gorbochev conceded West Germany to join Nato but not a step east agreement. Oh, ya . . But he does make it easy to jump in and get up to speed on a number of issues and proposed solutions along with examples of the same issue happening 75 years ago and how it was handled. Great interview!Read more
5 days agoIt’s a joy to listen to someone with such a grasp on the actuality. Chomsky is the guru of the 21st century. We have to listen to him. Those who have the means to make a difference must take on the Chomsky mantle of wisdom and carry it forward asking his guidance whilst he is still around to give it.
5 days ago“Brains are not concentrated in rich countries.” Noam Chomsky you are and Always be my Hero. I love and respect you. I wish I could have Seen you in person. You make me feel so peaceful… Wish you all the best. Thank you for this great interview.
1 day agoWith all respect, I believe mr Chomsky is very naive regarding the intentions and way of thinking of Vladimir Putin, in relation to the internal situation in Russia. At the end of the day, Russia has developed into a corrupt, autocratic state.
1 day agoThe Misk agreement is officially dead after Russia has proclaimed independence of the so called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics and started moving more of their troops (not hiding this time) on the Ukrainian land.
21 hours agoChomsky refers to the Taiping rebellion when he discusses the most devastating war outside of China – it’s really very obscure in England, I never learnt about it until I started researching precursor’s to the Boxer rebellion (also looking up Gordon’s actions in Sudan), yet claimed a comparable number of lives to the devastating world wars and was instigated by a millenarian cenobitic Christian, incredibly unusual.Read more
1 day agoThe US devotes more money and resources to their military and have sadly used it and their media to utilize it as their solution to disagreements and conflicts worldwide. Hardly difficult to see others being wary or even hostile to US actions. The EU does not speak as one. China and Russia do ( like it or not within their internal boundaries) and they see Ukraine entering into NATO and the EU economy as a threat. US dominance in the decision making weakens the EU’s integrity and influence in world affairs.Read more
8 hours agoGreat Interview. Prof Chomsky is always on point and great at reading the pulse of the global situation. I think you guys should definitely interview Diem25s Yanis Varoufakis, hes great at local European politics.
3 days agoThe Russian people have suffered and sacrificed for centuries, in fact for its entire history, in ways Americans will never be able to comprehend. Meanwhile we Americans continue to revel in our material greed and point our weapons of mass destruction at anyone we deem will get even a tiny share of the world’s resources. Our collective karma is coming for us.Read more
Europe Matters4 days ago (edited)We have added Italian, German, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese subtitles. Most of these translations have been made automatically with Google Translate, so if you find any mistakes please reply to this comment with the time stamp and text to be improved. Don’t forget to subscribe for our upcoming video with Social Innovator of 2022 professor Alberto Alemanno.Read more
1 day agoThank you Noam for talking about the USA as a backwater, that Bernie could run run as a Christian democrat in Germany, but in America he’s a radical big bad wolf…universal healthcare, free university education, these are too radical when profit is the last word….
1 day agoLuckily my medicare (government insurance) covered my emergency room when I was stung by a swarm of ground bees in my yard (I’m allergic to their venom as it turns out) and I got prompt care upon showing my medicare card. Prior to turning 65, I had no insurance at all. The bill they sent to medicare was over 5 thousand dollars for my 45 minutes in the ER.Read more
3 days agoFantastic interview! In spite of being purely speculative, I think that counter-factual regarding Assange was actually quite an interesting thought-experiment to consider the degree of domination the US has over Europe.Read more
4 days agoI love Chomsky! It is always a privilege to be able to take away a piece of his wisdom. I have to ask, though, why has no one responsible had to answer to the world for this pandemic? So many deaths with roots to the decisions of certain people. Is it simply politics? If it is, do the deaths of these innocent people truly mean less than some form of face value? Side note here; it is absolutely gut wrenching to know how the poor of the world take the biggest hit in regards to lack of care.Read more
1 day agoI am deeply ashamed to be European. At least US is saying what it does and does what it says. In contrast the EU is spineless, coward and unprincipled. They sanction but benefit as well all the while they communicate a third thing.REPLY
6 days agomy gratitude for your mercy. If’s the European Union 🇪🇺 going’s out of the USA and the British government, I found that the European Union 🇪🇺 is more strong than the past of the USA propaganda stirring awareness against them for the Russia wrongs but it’s the democratic alliance threatening with no respect for the government’s policy of the European Union . The USA has no cultures but violate laws and selfishness against their beliefs with Nato as the human in control of the military justifying.Read more
1 day agosorry but I need to point that some notions here are very naive – implementation of Minsk agreement would not make Ukraine neutral but rather dependent on Russia and unable to freely integrate with EU against the will of Ukrainian people…REPLYAllNoam ChomskyListenableRelatedRecently uploadedWatched1:09:13NOW PLAYING
The Chinese artist’s latest documentary, “Coronation,” was filmed remotely by a team of amateur Wuhan filmmakers. Ai Weiwei spoke to DW about how an authoritarian state stopped the COVID-19 outbreak in its tracks.
After three years in Berlin, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei now lives in Cambridge in the UK, but his latest film, Coronation, is set in the Chinese city of Wuhan as it undergoes a draconian lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Using footage filmed by citizens after the Chinese state locked down the city on January 23, Coronation observes the militarized and often brutal nature of the government-enforced quarantine until it was lifted in early April. It also reveals its efficiency in stopping the spread of the virus.
DW: What was your motivation for making Coronation?
Ai Weiwei: As with most of my activities, the motivation for making Coronation was to try and gain a deeper knowledge of a new and unfamiliar incident, such as with the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the refugee crisis in 2015. I wanted to provide a first-hand experience in understanding China and the Chinese people and how they responded to the coronavirus. Under these dramatic conditions, we can better understand the politics and humanity of any society.
Ai Weiwei: New film a window into understanding Chinese society
What was the biggest challenge directing a film from a remote location?
With today’s technology, remote directing a film is possible. The biggest challenge for a director when approaching a subject is the concept.
You can see in the film that young people, nurses and doctors and other health professionals came to Wuhan within days on buses. China is probably the only nation that could achieve that with such speed and spirit. You can see how the state built the infrastructure, including the emergency field hospitals, and equipped those on the frontlines with the necessary rescue equipment. Those details surprised me and are a profound revelation of human behavior under authoritarian control.
We also managed to show how they recruited those young people into the Communist party and the celebration after the lockdown was lifted. Those positive, objective parts about a very highly controlled authoritarian state are difficult to film.
You can see another person, a construction worker who came to Wuhan to assist the emergency effort, prevented from leaving the city. He attempts to navigate this typical Kafka-esque bureaucracy to get out. Unfortunately, we later learned Meng Liang managed to return home to be with his family, but he had financial issues and decided to hang himself. A tragic and banal story about life in these times.
How did you make sure your Chinese crews were safe?
I cannot make sure anyone is safe. I gave them daily instruction and they have the absolute choice to film the way they think is safe. They are all equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and instructed on necessary medical protocols. Still, [it] could have been very damaging for the people filming. So we asked them to send out the material every day through the internet to protect those materials. We did not know what we had until we started to review and to edit. Most of the cameramen are amateurs, and this is their first time working on a film.
A still from ‘Coronation’: Wuhan’s deserted train station
You have often critiqued China for its strict policies. What would be your critique at present?
China, as an authoritarian state, has been the most efficient in taking on a situation as challenging as a pandemic. In doing so, China’s suppression of human rights, individual rights, privacy, and personal will has been heavy. Basically, China has consumed everyone’s liberty into its own power. That is the basic character of this nation’s fast development and how it has closed the gap between itself and the West. It has worked very well over the last 30 years.
At the same time, China has created a society which has no trust, the controlling party has never gained legitimacy through the people’s recognition but rather through police force, heavy propaganda, and by limiting balanced information. The Chinese state and its population do not trust each other but the state must be obeyed because maintains control through law and violence.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.462.0_en.html#goog_2042824759Volume 90% Watch video06:21
Ai Weiwei says China is subjected to ‘extreme’ censorship
Instead of strictly cordoning off Wuhan, could there have been a more appropriate response to the initial coronavirus outbreak?
They made a good decision to seal off Wuhan. China has another 100 cities of similar size to Wuhan. If they [had not limited] the travel to and from the root city in this pandemic, we would [have seen] a true humanitarian disaster. At the same time, the method of sealing the city should not have been through literally sealing off people’s doors, placing people in detention, or hiding the truth about the situation. This has caused a great panic.
Before the authorities sealed off Wuhan on January 23, there was a month or two when they knew the coronavirus was human-to-human transmissible. They covered up the number of infected and the death toll.
Do you think that societies will be forever changed due to the pandemic?
I am very pessimistic about what we will learn from this. I think that things will return to normal, people will simply take off their masks and throw them away into the rubbish bin. I don’t think people will learn that much in general. Even if they have learned something, it will be superficial, like what has happened in China.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When will China replace the US as global leader? How do we assess the impact of China’s rise compared with that of previous hegemons? Why is the West so ignorant about China? What is the meaning of China as a civilization-state? How to understand the question of ethnicity in China? These are some of the issues discussed by Martin Jacques in this fascinating interview with Aaron Bastani from Novara. For the first time on video, Jacques discusses recent events in Xinjiang. And he argues that, contrary to the Western belief that China is incapable of change, history suggests the opposite, that more than any other culture, China has been extraordinarily adept at reinventing itself multiple times over the course of two millennia.
Harinder’s husband, the author Martin Jacques, remembers a most extraordinary person
Harinder Kaur Veriah was born in Assunta Hospital, close by Assunta Primary School, on December 31st, 1966. She came from a Punjabi family. From the beginning she faced great adversity. Her father, Karam Singh, a leading lawyer, who was also Malaysia’s youngest MP, was held for four years in solitary confinement under the Internal Security Act for leading a march of rubber plantation workers, who were demanding better conditions. Her mother, Harbens Kaur, a primary school teacher, died when Hari, as she was later known, was just six. Karam was a mercurial and inspirational figure but a largely absentee father. Hari, her older brother Kesh and sister Jessie were frequently left to fend for themselves. Money was of little consequence to Karam, he was motivated by a desire for political change: as a result the former was always very scarce. The children came from a materially poor but culturally rich background.
At the age of six, Hari went to Assunta Primary School and then at 12 to Assunta Secondary School, both all-girls schools. When Hari was in her mid-teens, she and her siblings went to live with two of her aunts and uncles after Karam remarried. Her last two years of her schooling were spent in Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan state, in the far north east of Malaysia, whose population was overwhelmingly Malay. Hari was often the only non-Malay girl in her class, an experience she came to greatly value. Hari was a proud Malaysian who counted Malays and Chinese as well as Indians as close friends.
Although several of her friends at Assunta Secondary School later went to the UK for their higher education, this was not an option for Hari. There was no one to provide for her: whatever money she had she had to earn. When it came to a career, given that her father was a lawyer and likewise two of her uncles, law was the obvious choice. She scrapped a living together by doing bits of teaching while in her spare time studying for a London University external degree in law. Once qualified, she began to practise in Kuala Lumpur as a commercial lawyer.
I met Hari a couple of years later, on August 21 1993. I was spending a few days holidaying on Tioman island, off the east coast of Malaysia. I went for an early morning run and as I was returning I noticed, at some distance, this figure walking between a couple of chalets. She stuck in my mind: I can’t tell you why. An hour or so later, I joined a group congregating for a jungle trek. Suddenly a voice behind me said: ‘Didn’t I see you earlier? Weren’t you running through the village?’ I turned round and before I could muster a word, she said with an impish grin, ‘Only a white man would do something as stupid as that.’ Then, reeling in the face of her audacity and wit, ‘she added, ‘Why did you come to Tioman?’ ‘A friend recommended it’, I replied weakly. ‘There are much more beautiful islands than this,’ she replied.
In a few short sentences Hari turned my life upside down. The jungle trek started to move off. I fell into animated conversation with her. Who was this woman I had just met and yet with whom I instantly felt enormous intimacy? She was from the other side of the world, from a former colony, now a developing country, from equatorial parts, her skin a beautiful dark brown: I was a pinky white colour, from a cold and wet island 6500 miles away to the north west. She was 26, I was 47. What did we have in common? Everything. In that moment, I knew I had met my soulmate. I fell in love with her in just a few short minutes.
Hari was a life force. She was possessed of great energy and vitality, a magnetism that drew people towards her, a humanity that made people instantly at home with her, a face that danced with emotion and warmth, a beautiful smile that lit up the world, an infectious humour that was irresistible, a kindness that was etched into her being, a wisdom that I had never known before. She already knew so much about life even though she was only in her mid-twenties. In that instant, I entered Hari’s gravitational field, never to leave it, even now, as I write, fifteen years after her death. The jungle trek was our beginning. The best thing I have ever done was to trust my emotions and feelings in that moment – and to move heaven and earth to make our relationship work. We both did.
A year later Hari moved to London. She did a masters in law. And then, after much angst and difficulty, she got a job as a lawyer in what is now Hogan Lovells, one of the City’s top law firms. It had not been easy. She was dark brown, from a developing country, not a product of privilege, and she had a 2:2 from her London University external degree (which, given her circumstances, was a formidable achievement). She was up against an army of privately educated candidates with firsts and upper seconds from Oxbridge, all with white faces. But once Hari finally managed to get an interview – which had begun to seem impossible – she got the job. As I always thought she would. She was irresistible, possessed of magic.
After two years working in the London office, the firm suggested that, in order to advance her career, she should consider a three-year secondment to the Hong Kong office. She thought it was probably a good idea. And it suited me: I was about to start work on my book, ‘When China Rules the World’. By now, Hari was pregnant. In November 1998, when we left for Hong Kong, Ravi, our son, was nine weeks old.
We enjoyed our time in Hong Kong but it was marred by the endemic racism that Hari was to suffer. Before we left, Hong Kong seemed like going to Hari’s part of the world: she spoke fluent Cantonese and some Mandarin, it was her time-zone, just over three hours flying time from Kuala Lumpur. Moreover, she had the kind of job that Hong Kong respected. In contrast, I was a self-employed writer, which enjoyed a rather lowly ranking in the Hong Kong pecking order. But soon we found that colour trumped all: Hari was bottom of the pile, I was at the top. She suffered racism in the street, from taxi drivers, in restaurants and, not least, in her workplace. Hari was not one to complain. She was never in denial, the opposite of naïve, she was, on the contrary, worldly wise about such matters. But she always sought to rise above such behaviour, to try and help those of such a mindset to overcome their prejudice.
But what if you are in hospital…
On the night of the millennium, we were out celebrating with friends when Hari had an epileptic fit, only the second of her life. She was taken to the Ruttonjee Hospital and kept in overnight and the following day. That evening I complained to her about the attitude of the doctor that was responsible for her care. Her reply was deeply disturbing. ‘I am bottom of the pile here.’ What do you mean, Hari, I asked, expecting her to tell me what had been going on. With resignation in a manner most untypical of Hari she said: ‘I am Indian and everyone else here is Chinese’. Hari could feel the prejudice. And she could hear it. She understood Cantonese. The staff assumed she couldn’t. I needed to get her out of that hospital. But it was late in the evening. I told the nurse on duty that I would be discharging Hari the following morning.
When I was getting ready to leave in the morning, I got a call from the hospital. Hari had had another epileptic fit. I should come to the hospital immediately. I arrived at her bedside just eleven minutes later to be confronted with an appalling scene. Hari was unconscious, the nurses clearly out of their depth, no doctor in sight. Hari died shortly afterwards, a victim of abject negligence resulting from racism.
She was just 33.
Her death became a major issue in Hong Kong. It led to a campaign for anti-racist legislation which was finally rewarded with success in July 2008. I fought a long court case against the Hospital Authority. For ten years they denied any responsibility. At the end of March 2010, just as the case was about to go to trial in the High Court, they raised the white flag and rushed to settle.
Hari was the most extraordinary person I have ever met. She was highly intelligent, destined to go far and, if she had so wished, reach the top of her chosen field. But it was not this that marked her out as so special and so different. It was her humanity, her compassion, her kindness, her empathy for others, her wisdom, and her outlook on life.
She would have been delighted with our Assunta programme. Hari came from great hardship. Some people cannot relate to poverty because they have never known it. Others have known poverty but react to that experience by wanting to distance themselves as much as possible from the poor. In contrast, Hari’s experience of poverty ennobled her. She related with ease to those less fortunate than herself, felt an affinity with them, a need to befriend them, a desire to help them.
On Hong Kong Island there was a pedestrian underpass along which people with severe disabilities and without any means would congregate and solicit financial support from passing strangers. One Friday evening I met up with her after work. She asked if I had any change and I gave her what I had. As we walked along the underpass, she would give Ravi, who was then a little over a year old, some money, and he would walk up to one of the people and give it to them. She didn’t miss a single person. The look of surprise and delight on their faces was something to behold. It was one of the most heart-warming sights I have ever seen. It was so Hari, forever seeking to reach out to others. What a wonderful attitude to pass on to a toddler.
Geraldine Doogue seeks powerful connection with prominent Australians through an investigation of their sacred space. Filmmaker James Ricketson talks about his connection to his home in the northern beaches of Sydney.Share
THREE years ago, Stan Grant whisked his two sons off to live with him and his partner Tracey Holmes in China _ leaving his ex-wife Karla nearly 9000km away from her kids.
Finally, Karla will get them back for good.
The SBS Living Black host, at the centre of a messy marriage breakdown with former Today Tonight host Grant after he was caught with sports reporter Holmes at the 2000 Athens Olympics, will have boys John, 12, and Dylan, 9, back under her roof later before the end of the year.
“They’ve been away for a couple of years now. It has been tough,” Karla said yesterday.
“It’s been a great experience for them in terms of going to school, learning a whole new different culture and meeting kids from all different countries so I think it will help them in the fture.”
Karla, who presented an award at last night’s Deadly Awards, said it had been a mutual agreement with her ex-husband for the boys to join him in Beijing, where he works as a presenter for CNN.
“I’ve got custody of the kids but he asked me if he could take them over there and I thought it would be a great experience for them,” she said.
Karla also added weight to rumours Grant himself may return to Sydney with now wife Holmes and their own son, Jesse, to be closer to his family.
“He’s looking at coming back. I’m not sure whether he’ll be back for good,” she said.
Karla was joined by 19-year-old daughter Lowanna at the Deadlys, where, ironically, Grant’s father Stan Grant Snr picked up the award for Outstanding Achievement in Education for his contribution to preserving the Wiradjuri language.
Other major winners of Indigenous Australia’s highest honour included Troy Cassar-Daley for artist of the year, Anthony Mundine (male sportsperson of the year) and Jamie Gulpilil (actor of the year)
I copied the following interview from the above link!
“Coronavirus has forced the global economy to shrink. Is this what a more sustainable world without growth could look like? DW spoke to environmental economist Niko Paech about his ideas for a post-growth society.”
“As countries around the world slowly emerge from lockdown, many are crawling into a reality characterized by economic crisis and soaring levels of unemployment. According to the World Bank, the global economy is set to shrink by 5.2% this year, rendering this the deepest recession since World War II.
But even this historic contraction doesn’t go far enough for environmental economist and degrowth proponent Niko Paech. He argues that we need to transition permanently to a post-growth economy if we want to ensure our survival on this planet.”
DW spoke to Paech for the new series of the environmental podcast On the Green Fence.
DW: You would like us to switch to a post-growth economy because you say it’s the only way for us to survive on this planet. How do we reduce production and consumption without jeopardizing our prosperity?
Professor Niko Paech: Our prosperity must be compromised because it is killing us. It must be reduced, especially since there is no right to this prosperity. The same applies to other consumer democracies whose prosperity is the result of decades of blatant plundering. This means that by reducing prosperity we are not relinquishing something, but rather giving back the booty that we in our insolence have presumed to claim as ours.
On the Green Fence: Degrowth – is less really more?
DW: What would people have to relinquish if your concept of a post-growth economy were to be implemented?
Paech: Your question is all wrong from the outset. It’s not about relinquishing. How can you relinquish something that you’ve never been entitled to in the first place?
DW: But isn‘t that a question of perception? Many would argue they are entitled to this…
Paech: Hang on! I can’t just rob a bank and say I am entitled to this booty and the two dead people lying on the floor are simply collateral damage. It’s the same with the ecologic side effects of my air travel or consumption. Or let’s say you go to the doctor tomorrow and the doctor says: “You have a huge malignant tumor on your back. I’ll have to cut it away for you to survive.” Of course I’m not going to make a fuss and say: “Oh God, how can I do without this tumor?” No! It’s a relief to get rid of it. I wouldn’t mix up relief and renunciation. That is way I don’t talk about renunciation, but prefer the more neutral terms of reduction or self-limitation.
DW: So what would this self-limitation entail for us in concrete terms? What would change?
Paech: First off, the vast majority of holiday travel by plane, cruise ship or car is simply no longer tenable in the twenty-first century. Next it’s crucial to dismantle digitalization. We will not survive in a digital world. Then of course there is consumption. We must learn to use durable goods in a way that their useful life is at least doubled, if not tripled. And we will need a major change in the agricultural sector. Meat consumption must be cut by at least two thirds. Creating more living space is also off the cards. But above all, we will need to share more at a local or regional level, for instance with neighbors sharing a lawnmower or car.
This will not only save a lot of ecological resources, but will also reduce our dependence on money and consumption. And that in turn will create greater resilience, including socio-political resilience. This means that people are no longer so dependent on their current jobs or transfer payments from the state. Instead, they become more adept at providing for themselves in networks in a more collaborative manner. But having a big clear out also means we need to dismantle things without replacing them. This is crucial.
How much is too much?
Can frequent fliers be moved to stay on the ground?
DW: Don‘t you think you are overburdening people here? Do you really believe this can be achieved by consensus?
Paech: No. Of course this won’t be achieved by consensus. This can only be achieved if people rise and act together by forming alliances within social niches and by creating counter-cultures with a post-growth lifestyle that challenges society as a whole. It’s never an attack on democracy to simply say no. No to air travel, no to meat, no to smartphones, no to home ownership or to some absurd new acquisition. No one can take that right away from you in a democracy.
DW: But to actually stop people from flying or driving cars, you‘d need very strict measures and lots of bans, or not?
Paech: There are all sorts of bans in a democracy. In Germany you can’t drive through red lights for instance. Nobody would consider this dictatorial. People often pretend that bans are not democratic. We currently don’t have a majority for this anyway. But there will come a point when people will revolt and then they will confront those are still behaving like ecological vandals at the expense of others.
DW: Aren‘t you worried that a sustained shrinking of the economy would wreak havoc with our social systems?
Paech: Our social systems will have to be restructured, of course. We would even, in the sense of socio-political autonomy, make people more resilient. So instead of feeding the factors that people are fighting over all the time anyway, wouldn’t it make more sense to make people more independent and reduce the rivalry? The resilience I’m talking about simply means being less dependent on consumption.
DW: A lot of the change you‘d like to see would probably be hard to accept for most people right now. If you tried to give it a positive spin, what could people look forward to in a post-growth society?
Paech: We’ve never been so free. We’ve never been so educated. We’ve never been so rich. We’ve never been so eager to assert our moral superiority at every opportunity. And at the same time, we’ve never lived in such an ecologically ruinous way. And this contradiction is eating away at us. Mental illness is on the rise. We are in the midst of a rampant identity crisis. It’s clear that the quality of life needs to be improved. We also need to reduce our fears about the future. No one can have a good life if they are constantly afraid of what the future might hold.
We also need to become more independent of markets, of technology, of money, of the state, of companies. Achieving that is perhaps the highest degree of freedom. We are not free today. In fact, ultimately, we are all puppets of a consumer dictatorship. If all supermarkets in Germany were to close for four weeks, we would become extinct, because as we grew richer we also lost our ability to satisfy our most basic needs.
Are we addicted to our consumer lifestyle?
DW: You‘re not just critical of consumerism and economic growth but also of green growth in particular. Why?
Paech: We have established a new religion. It’s what I would call the Church of Progress. Our faith in technology is helping us create completely new alibis and excuses. We argue that it is not really our lifestyle that is the problem but rather the fact that we still haven’t achieved the necessary technological progress. Take Germany’s energy revolution for example – it’s the perfect alibi. I can fly to the Caribbean as long as I buy green electricity. It’s all a bit reminiscent of the Catholic trade in indulgences. One could say that the air traveler’s guilty conscience is drowned in organic lemonade.
And this technological compensation logic is fueling a green economy which is setting new records everywhere, not only in Germany. But the ecologically harmful things are also setting new records everywhere at the same time. And that is no coincidence, but rather the systemic connection between eco-vandalism on the one hand and a new ecological indulgence trade.
DW: Do you have an explanation why it‘s so hard for us to slow down, consume less, and produce less?
Paech: As long as people haven’t practiced how to reduce things they won’t be able to do it even if they have long understood that it is necessary. And we are not practiced in reducing things, on the contrary we have been collectively trained in the logic of growth. But if a society really wants to practice reduction, somebody must set an example. We need pioneers. But we simply don’t have any role models for a sustainable life.
DW: We‘re running out of time over the climate crisis and we need a global solution. If we look to the developing or emerging countries, how realistic is your post-growth model there? Surely we can‘t just tell them: ‘Don‘t make the same mistakes as we made! Don‘t grow! You mustn‘t reach our standard of living or the world will have a problem.‘
Paech: Until a country of the global North actually implements a post-growth society, there is absolutely no chance to inspire so-called emerging and emerging countries to follow suit. I believe that there is a moral duty on the part of the North, which has caused so much damage through colonialism and the subsequent industrial plundering of this planet, to take the lead. Especially since the very people who are suffering most have not contributed to the damage at all. We need to implement this as a blueprint for others. And the rest is fate. The rest depends on how crises impact on us, like corona for instance.
Environmental economist Niko Paech is one of Germany’s leading sustainability researchers and growth critics. He’s a professor at Siegen University. Paech believes that transitioning to a post-growth economy is the only way for mankind to avoid global environmental catastrophe.
Paech was interviewed by Neil King and Gabriel Borrud for the DW podcast, On the Green Fence. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
CORONAVIRUS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 7 CHANGES TO EXPECT
Better air quality
As the world grinds to a halt, the sudden shutdown of most industrial activities has dramatically reduced air pollution levels. Satellite images have even revealed a clear drop in global levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a gas which is primarily emitted from car engines and commercial manufacturing plants and is responsible for poor air quality in many major cities.
Can the pandemic help us to embrace refurbished electronics?
As the pandemic has impacted supply chains, some electronics manufacturers have struggled to produce new equipment. Could this be the moment for refurbishing and reusing existing equipment? (15.06.2020)
Green growth: Africa chooses between renewables and fossil fuels
Africa emits less than 4% of global CO2 but struggles to provide electricity to half its population. Energy infrastructure built today could have massive impacts on future emissions and living standards. (06.12.2019)
Opinion: Let’s not return to business as usual after coronavirus
The coronavirus crisis has provided us with the opportunity to make our economies more sustainable. We should be courageous and seize this moment for the environment, says DW’s Neil King. (05.06.2020)
I started yesterday morning with looking at some of my drafts and I decided it was about time that I should get rid of all the drafts that I did not need anymore. The first draft I looked at I wanted to publish rather than seeing it ending in ‘trash’. I love Di Morrissey’s books and am very impressed that she is able to write a comprehensive well researched novel every year. She wrote already 27 novels. I believe most of these are bestsellers. Here is what I found in Wikipedia:
“Di Morrissey AM is one of the most successful novelists of Australia with 27 best-selling novels and five children’s books published. Wikipedia”
And I referred to this video in yesterday’s diary:
“Jennifer Byrne presents an interview with Bryce Courtenay, Lee Child, Di Morrissey, and Matthew Riley.”
I always liked to watch and listen to the Jennifer Byrne interviews. Bryce Courtnenay’s books I used to be very familiar with over many years. I still own some of his books. Wouldn’t I like to read again and again these books: Maybe, maybe one of these days when due to the Coronavirus I am going to have lots of spare time, I am going to read, read, read!
Further on yesterday I published this item about how migrant workers had to clean up university students’ mess. So what I had observed about the life of cleaners during my long life, this is what I really had wanted to write about.
In my following diary posts I mentioned about the help that my family used to be able to afford. Some people were actually honorary helpers, like Tante Mietze who for many years lived with Peter’s family and tirelessly did all sorts of work for the family right into very old age. She was a real jewel and all the family still hold her in high esteem many years after her death.
I guess that most people cannot afford hired help any more these days, is partly because cleaners and all sorts of workers can these days demand higher wages. If for instance people employ migrant workers and try to underpay them, it is said they are being used as ‘slave’ labour.
I always had this opinion when in a family with several children both father and mother have outside well paying jobs, the wife’s salary should in the first place be used to employ some home help. Why else would a woman want to have an outside job if it did not pay enough for some home help? Now, I would very much like my readers’ thoughts on this. Please, do not hesitate to make a comment, when you do not agree with my opinion on this.
Another topic would be how do families cope these days with separation or divorce of parents, and how do wives fare then if they do not have a well paying job.
Brittany Knupper in ‘Mary Sue’ says she went ahead and captured the highlights from the Chomsky interview. One of the highlights is this ominous warning that sounds about right to me:
“. . . looking back across his 91 years, leaves us with this ominous warning:
“The current moment, not just political, is the most grim moment in human history. We are now in a situation where this generation, in fact, in the next few years, is going to have to make a decision of cosmic significance which has never arisen before: Will organized human society survive? And there are two enormous threats. The threat of environmental catastrophe, which at least is getting some attention, not enough. The other is the threat of nuclear war, which is increasing sharply by the Trump administration, in fact. These have to be dealt with quickly. Otherwise, there’s nothing to talk about.”
I said recently the following: My worry and great concern is that if the masses are going to try to overthrow the very top people, that this will lead only to unimaginable disastrous wars. Isn’t it better to do anything to avoid such wars by continuing to do whatever is possible to reduce climate change in a peaceful way, and by for instance avoiding any clashes with the authorities? I think there are still a lot of things that can be achieved in a totally peaceful way!!