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Care and counting

Hello from day 35 of lockdown in Italy. I’ve been taking some time to rest and be offline this long weekend, but here’s a quick update just to add links to a couple of articles I’ve written from the inside of this strange container:



Agents of Care
, in Overland – on war analogies, and the labour that needs witnessing now; and


The Rhythms of These Numberless Days
, in Meanjin – on trauma, dyschronia, and keeping count.

Take care, all.


Lockdown solidarity

Life comes at you fast, as they say.

I’m sitting on the terrace of my apartment in Torino, writing, while H is inside teaching children through a screen. I haven’t left the house for a week. Outside, everything is closed except essential services. I can hear the garbage removalists downstairs, the lifting and closing of supermarket shutters, and occasional, awful sirens, but other than that the city of Torino, the whole of Italy, seems to be holding its breath.

I have written a couple of things about this experience.

Italy in Lockdown: ‘An old reality and its assumptions have slipped away from us’ is up today in the Adelaide Review, about just how fast the pandemic has changed everything and some of the ways that Italy is facing the challenges.

On a more practical note, I wrote Working from Lockdown on Medium/@paythewriters about my experience working from lockdown in the hope it will help other freelancers to prepare for lockdowns/self-isolation during the pandemic.

Another essay, The Unconcerned, was published in the Sydney Review of Books last week. It’s about the arrival of climate catastrophe at the Venice Biennale, and art in the Anthropocene. It’s eerie to see Venice empty again so soon.

There will be more to come, of course – I am fortunate in that I can still get work done from here, and grateful for the semblance of a routine I am managing to maintain.

Solidarity to all in this challenging time, especially to doctors, nurses and other health care workers who are on the front lines, and to waste removalists, checkout operators, factory workers, delivery drivers, food couriers, and anyone else who is risking their own health to keep essential services working.

While I’m here, I think it’s also worth sharing this message from young Italians, who wish they knew 10 days ago what they know now:


More climate fictions

I was asked last week to write an essay about Australian climate fiction for the Danish weekly Weekendavisen, it’s here if you happen to read Danish: Katastrofen og Litteraturen

If you don’t, never fear! The English-language version of the essay is now up at LitHub. It contains a good but non-comprehensive reading list on the subject, so it’s been great to see that being shared and discussed.

I also chatted briefly with RN’s The Book Show about the fires – the audio is not great but the segment is online here, and includes some lovely shoutouts to fireys and the Authors for Fireys auctions.

As part of that fundraising drive, I auctioned off some of my prints to raise money for the CFS Foundation, and was really thrilled to be able to contribute… in the end the auction has raised over half a million dollars which is just incredible! Huge thanks to the organisers and all the writers and artists involved.

As if news of destruction to habitat and homes, the awful death toll (33 as I write, six of those firefighters) and losses were not enough, we are also dealing constantly with denialist reactions to this crisis, the pathetic responses of a corrupt and reckless government, and a lot of irresponsible reporting in the Murdoch press and online, designed to spread disinformation. It is hard to avoid despair at times. It is hard to maintain the ‘optimism of the will’ that turns fury and grief into action. However, the evidence of cultural change at work is everywhere too. One of the things I keep coming back to is the way that so many people are stepping up and helping each other now, volunteering endless hours and resources to offer assistance to strangers. Active civil society, pushes for public accountability, and cultures of reciprocity emerging in the crisis are all deeply encouraging. I know that we can turn this work into a re-engaged and renewed democracy. Activists, artists and writers all over the world are giving so much energy towards making our time count, making us better able to face what we need to face and change what we need to change. I feel less isolated in this struggle, less despondent, every day.


A quick fire-related update

I was invited to write an opinion piece for the Washington Post about the Australian bushfire crisis, which you can read here:

In fire-ravaged Australia, climate denial goes up in smoke

And here is an easily accessible Climate Council report on the link between bushfires and greenhouse gas emissions, in case you or any folks you know aren’t up to speed on the science.

I am also joining in the #authorsforfireys twitter auction and selling a full set of my Emergency Services prints to raise funds for relief efforts. You can bid in the replies, and the winner will donate the amount to either the CFS Foundation or South Australia’s Emergency Relief fund (your choice!). The auction will end at 10pm on 11 January (AEST). I’ll post to anywhere in the world.


There’s more info about this printmaking project on etsy.

It can be hard to focus on art in the midst of crisis, while feeling so much anger at wasted time and at denialist spin, as well as horror at the scale and impact of these fires. I am frustrated not to be there on a strike team, and feeling for all the volunteer firefighters battling exhaustion and flames to save lives. As well as the terrible loss of life and damage to ecosystems, the trauma and health effects of these fires will be felt for a long time.

It helps to have something useful to do – to write, to help where I can, and to organise. It’s amazing to see so many people offering assistance through initiatives like findabed.info. The generosity and solidarity of ordinary Australians shines through the smoke. The climate emergency has well and truly arrived; it is up to all of us to turn the energy of this moment into the change we need.