Saturday, 10 March 2018

Who do you follow?

"What you eat today walks and talks tomorrow!" announced the billboard as I passed through Redfern Station in my last year of high school. I forget what it advertised—biscuits or breakfast cereal perhaps—but 50 years later that sign should say "What you read today walks and talks tomorrow." Problem is, we have way too many options. 

Choosing who to follow is a delicate task. You want a balance between what supports and encourages and what provokes and perturbs. With the right mix, you have a rich feed in your email in-tray and support for your action as a committed environmentalist. Complement this with face-to-face time with real people, and you’re less likely to get lost in cyberspace. Here are some of the people I follow.

George Monbiot, columnist with the UK Guardian, is an informed and acerbic critic of environmental matters. He's a big picture thinker who gets across the details. For example, calling the recent UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan "a work of cowardice", Monbiot lays in:

"In terms of policy, it ranges from the pallid to the pathetic. Those who wrote it are aware of the multiple crises we face. But, having laid out the depth and breadth of our predicaments, they propose to do almost nothing about them.”

Richard D. Bartlett is a new voice I'm following via a platform called Medium. I think the technical name is ‘aggregator’, a business that culls stories from many sources. Most such platforms are a disappointment—lowest common denominator, designed to entertain. Medium draws on activist, socially critical thinking, and isn't afraid of posts that take 20 minutes to read. They use the comment function intelligently.

Bartlett is one of the people behind Loomio, a software platform for deliberation and decision making in distributed groups. I had a play with Loomio last year, then found he spent last year visiting activist communities around the world, posting often. He has a sharp mind and writes clearly nails issues with a snappy turn of phrase. On Facebook:  

"We’re normalising a form of public discourse which is optimised for virality, not meaning."

His purpose is pretty much what I do and he's younger than me, so I get a different generational lens on a similar set of interests. Reading someone with whom I identify affirms my purposes, and it's good to have those affirmed. Plus, he’s in networks of people who care about the things I care about, and I can link through to those people from his writing.

For a pure news feed, Making Enviro News gives me a daily email of clippings from print and web media. They are well organised: Issue date: Mon 22 January, 2018. Estimated Reading Time : 05 Min 31 Seconds. Number of items : 65. I don’t always open the email, but when I do, I get a scan of what’s making news from the mainstream to alt media.

For a mix of local news and opinion, the Landcare stall at the monthly Riddells Farmers Market is hard to beat. Informed people with long memories chat, and I get the latest on who's doing what and what people think about that, in a free-flowing and open stream. 

My other dose of the local is an old-fashioned long phone call with someone like Rob Bakes, my colleague in the Forum for Democratic Renewal. Rob is at his desk early, and will phone me around 8.00 am to get my opinion and give me his latest thinking about how to enliven democratic process in the Macedon Ranges. I put down what I am doing and join in: a long phone call is a rare and wonderful thing.

So there are four of mine. Who do you follow? How have you found them? Why are they good for you? Email me at, and I'll compile a list of good places for environmentalists to hang out.

Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare