Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What relocalising looks like in Coburg

I wrote the other day about the film The Economics of Happiness, with the central theme being relocalising for a resilient community. On Friday, I had a wonderful “local” day in my Melbourne suburb of Coburg.

I was working from home, and when feeling peckish for lunch, I went around the corner to my local Lebanese bakery, Akaar Bakery. Those who know Melbourne know Coburg is a Middle Eastern heartland. I don’t know much about Lebanese bakeries, so most of it is new to me. I picked the Lebanese omelette and the Herb Pizza (I think thyme is the main ingredient, plus sesame seeds). It’s clearly a family business with only the young man looking after the store, who quickly put them in the oven for me. Weekends mean quite a few people are behind the counter and in the kitchen.  He made small chit chat, asking if I liked the omelette (beaten egg, poured onto the pizza and baked). I admitted I’d never eaten it before, but am working my way through their menu, though the Herb Pizza is a firm favourite already. I unexpectedly got a discount!

Later in the afternoon, I headed off for the local hardware store (not Bunnings, nor Coles, who both stock what I was after but buying there means most of the price goes out of the local area). Charalambous Hardware is a small shop front. On entering, I was amazed at how much stock they had managed to have in the store. Let’s say that vertical space was well used. The dusty front window is not a reflection of the order found inside. I quickly concluded this was a store to ask for the item not self-service (half the stock seemed to be behind the counter anyway), but before I got to the counter I was distracted by the seed packets – Australian and Italian. Not the run of the mill varieties.

After the gentleman assisted me in finding a watering can and spray bottle, he began quizzing me on gardening. Do I garden? What do I grow? What specific vegetables do I grow? Do I eat salad? Increasingly getting more specific and I think I must have passed a small test, as he then offered me Japanese salad seeds. Wow! He described the vegetable, a green and brown coloured leaf with bite, the seeds of which he was given by a family member. So I’ll go back this week and pick up the seeds. How lovely! Not an offer I would have got in a chain or supermarket!

I saw across the road a shoe store, Quik Shu. I had seen their advertisement in the local paper as it had a closing down sale (closes Friday 27 May 2011, with the Moorabin store remaining). I walked in to the sound of Italian babbling away by the older ladies. As the sale was on, I decided to buy some bright blue leather shoes for a bargain price.

On the walk home, I popped in to a Lebanese sweet shop for some Turkish Delight. The family must live behind shop, as I learnt early on in my move to Coburg that with a ring of the doorbell they would open the shop (they did put this on the sign). It is a simple, small white tiled shop with quite a few platters of sweets behind a glass cabinet. Yum!

So that is what it means to have a local day in Coburg! Very satisfying.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Success at Screening of The Economics of Happiness

Andrew Lucas and Helena Norberg-Hodge

The Melbourne screening of The Economics of Happiness happened on National Permaculture Day, Sunday 1 May. I think fair to say it was a success, with around 300 people coming. The documentary showed both the negative impacts of globalisation on our culture and happiness and environmental and economical stability, plus featured many positive stories of communities who are relocalising, reconnecting with their neighbours and patronising their local businesses. 

 The Q&A Panel: Adam Grubb, Andrew Lucas and Helena Norberg-Hodge

After the screening, we had a Question and Answer session with the film maker, Helena Norberg-Hodge, and Permablitz founder, Adam Grubb, and transition initiative enthusiast and founder of Transition Bell, Andrew Lucas. Themes raised during question time included:
  • how to include the older generation or ethnic groups that the sustainability/transition movement does not initially attract: pass some of your produce over your fence to your neighbour! Even if you don't share a language, you may find your neighbour starts handing you some produce of theirs. Andrew tried and succeeded
  • what to do about going to a Permablitz and the first thing you do is head to Bunnings for a shovel (national hardware store that local hardware stores struggle to compete against): try your local hardware store, or Freecycle or Sharehood: not every house needs a shovel!
  • how to get companies re-regulated so the people have more control: demand it from your politicians

One fact that interested people was a study on spending $100 at a bookshop. They found spending $100 at a book chain meant that only $13 stayed in the local economy, while $40-odd stayed in the economy if spent at an independent bookstore. This extra money went to management who were co-located, as well as services provided locally like accountants, lawyers and tradespeople.

My main aim for hosting the screening was to act as a catalyst for more local activity plus increase the membership of permaculture and transition initiative groups. Going by the buzz in the foyer both before and after the screening, I think the activity definitely affirmed many people were heading in the same direction together and were pleased to see they weren't alone. The groups who helped put the screening on (Permablitz, Permaculture Inner North, Sustainable Fawkner, Transition Brunswick, Transition Darebin and Transition Banyule) all had many people put their name down to find out more information. I'll admit, even though I organised the event on behalf of Permaculture Inner North, not many people put their name down for this. But it was great people connected with the other groups: there is a lot of crossover between us all. 

 The crowd

Thanks to Helena for appearing at the first Melbourne screening, to Adam Grubb, Andrew Lucas and Andrew McClelland for being on the panel, to the above mentioned community groups for spreading the word and to Moreland and Darebin City Councils who supported the screening both financially and through marketing.