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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.

On fire

Dyschronia has been shortlisted for another award, this time the Fiction category of the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature!

I am thrilled of course, and want to thank the judges and congratulate everyone who made the shortlists. I also long for a day when the book becomes less relevant, a historical document about a time when we used to fail to understand the implications of our actions…

Instead, Australia is on fire.

I generally keep my writer self and my volunteer firefighting self pretty separate. Watching the terror and intensity of Australia’s current bushfire season unfold, in particular watching the way that volunteers are being abandoned by a government that refuses to help with resources let alone discuss the climate emergency, silence is not an option I can wear. So when the Adelaide Review asked me to write something for them on the subject I couldn’t say no. Here it is, written a couple of weeks ago before the PM went to Hawaii in the middle of a national emergency and several people including two young firefighters died. My heart goes out to their families and to all the brigades out there risking life and limb.

There are no climate denialists on the end of a fire hose

Here in Italy we have had major flooding – the Po burst its banks and a weekend trip to Venice last month turned into an adventure in a labyrinth of the Anthropocene, which I’ve been writing about in a long essay that I hope will appear early next year. Standing in floodwaters checking on family in NSW felt both strange and galvanising. I’ve been to several climate strikes here and the courage of young people to take up this fight gives me courage too.

I wish you all a safe break, and may you get a bit of rest between smoke, fire and heatwaves, if you’re in Australia. May some much needed change come out of all this, and soon.

Sharing a post from seven months ago again, because it sums up many of my feelings about 2019: The other side of climate grief is climate fury