VIEW: If this is our last chance, who is our best hope?

This is a guest post from Teigan Margetts, Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. 

With Sydney engulfed in the worst floods in more than a century, not even 18 months out from when the entire state was suffocated by generation-defining bushfires, it’s not hard to start to draw conclusions. Just as scientists predicted, the effects of climate change are beginning to show. Weather events like we’ve seen are set to become even more common, with storms, floods and droughts plaguing us on a more consistent basis. 

Just how much more can we withstand, and should we have to? 

While an intellectual debate still rages on the causes of climate change, so too does debate ensue on the solution. But one thing is for sure: we’re running out of time. So in what – or more importantly- in whom – should we invest to ensure a better future? 

Time is of the essence 

As popularised in David Attenborough’s game-changing documentary, A Life on Our Planet, the world is, indeed, running out of time to address climate change. As the documentary highlights, life on our planet will become extremely more challenging if we don’t do two things, and fast: reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and find ways to draw down more carbon from our atmosphere. Doing these two things won’t solve climate change, as it has already happened, but it will mitigate its most disastrous effects. 

Fortunately, we do have a solution: many in fact. As the incredible documentary 2040: The Regeneration showed, there are many (currently available) solutions to help the world reach our climate change goals. They may not all be easy to execute, sure, but should we be willing, they’re readily available. 

The ‘should we be willing’ is the part that is the most troublesome. Fighting climate change involves, firstly, believing in it, and secondly, making holistic changes to the way we live, which may involve changing our attitudes on a whole bunch of topics. As famous scientist Gus Speth once said: 

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change.”

“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation.”

Who will make real and lasting change? 

There’s no doubt that making the changes required to limit the impacts of climate change will be difficult, and we’re running out of time to do just that. So if not us, then who? 

The answer is right in front of us: our children. While it may be difficult for many in our generation to change, if we educate our children on the issues at hand and help them grow up imagining the world differently, then it will be much easier for them to create it in their favour. 

Between the ages of 3 months and 6 years old, children learn the majority of values that they will hold dear to them for the rest of their lives. Values such as caring for the planet, valuing equality and understanding their impact can – and should – be taught from a young age so the next generation can have the best chance of creating a better world.  

About the expert 

Teigan Margetts is the Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. Ethicool creates beautiful children’s books on topics that matter, including climate change, sustainability, equality, mental health, and many more. All of Ethicool’s books are printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink to minimize their environmental impact. 

Teigan founded Ethicool after the 2020 Australian bushfires. She was terrified that burning summers and flooded winters would become the ‘norm’ for her two young sons, and wanted to start important conversations early about the positive impact we can all make to our planet’s future. 

Image description: Headshot of Teigan smiling at the camera. She has long brown hair, wears a light blue top and is in front of a green blurred background.


VIEW: Inequalities for men create inequalities for women

The following is a guest post from Deborah O’Ferry, an Australian women’s fiction author and copy writer.

International Women’s Day is an important day internationally.  It looks at the steps still to be taken for equality. But I feel that in Australia, International Women’s Day is too often celebrated with a cup of tea after a free yoga class. It’s the day that the sought-after public microphone is handed over to talk about the gaps that still exist for gender equality, and we shouldn’t be wasting that opportunity to hand out tea.

I’m incredibly proud to live in a country that has come so far in supporting women, but we can do better. Intersectional feminism looks at the overlapping factors that create an individual’s experience of feminism. But one of the many gaps I feel passionate about, and needs propping up, is actually the male experience, and looking at inequalities for men. In particular, inequalities for fathers.

As women make progress, complementary changes are needed to support men as well, to complete the circle.

I never knew the gaps between genders more than when I became a parent. When my role became so domesticated. When people would ask me how the kids were, and my husband how he was going at work.  My self and my career became unseen, and I’d often be told how lucky I was to be able to be at home. Which I was. But for me to be at home, my husband’s role as a father appeared to be seen as financial. And to make those finances, my husband had to not be at home.  Our roles became polarised.

Within partnerships, the beauty and ugly truths of parenthood can often be experienced solo for women. Yet, socially, women are offered a world of Motherhood which is quite different to Fatherhood. There are networks, courses, Mothers Groups, social media pages; filled with professionals and other mums, cheering each other on and offering wisdoms, information, empathy and friendship.

But from day one, a different tone is set for Fatherhood, and they are often on the back foot.

When my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world, over tears (that only one of us is usually welcome to shed), we fell in love. We had our family, and we could have watched her all night. But, at 8pm, we farewelled each other in the maternity ward, where I was left to work out that first nappy alone and he was sent away from his family.

Day three, he was at work —business as usual. With no permissions to fall apart.

Those early days are the foundations that can set our families up for the years ahead, but they can also set us up to fail— as a family, as a partnership, and as an attitude on roles and expectations.

There are so many fights to be fought for equality, and our position in Australia is exceptionally strong, but change needs to support men as well. There needs more movement in policies and culture socially, medically (family health care) and within workplaces, to catch up to women’s progress, to allow men to support the women in their lives and feel connected to their own families. Looking at feminism with a parental lens, mums of Australia can’t be CEO’s, be financially independent or go out and join a soccer team, if they are not supported and given the room to make those choices. But men, as parents, can’t support women if they are not given the empathy, flexibility or the information to, either.

I believe, that for girls to grow up to be anything, we need to better acknowledge that inequalities for men, create inequalities for women.

About the expert

Deborah O’Ferry is an Australian women’s fiction author and copy writer based on the outskirts of Sydney. She has also worked in the community development sector for many years and is a passionate advocate for women, parents, and mental health. Her writing has been featured on various websites including Kidspot and Babyology. Deborah’s first women’s fiction novel, 500 Miles, has received exceptional reader reviews over its first year of release, and she is working on her second novel.

You can follow Deborah O’Ferry on  Facebook or Instagram.

Image description: Headshot of Deborah from the waist up smiling and looking straight at teh camera. She wears a multi-coloured wrap blouse with short sleeves and has long, curly hair.

VIEW: Why we need to write women into history

A guest post from Alison Booth discussing her new novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, and the importance of writing women into history.

To understand history, we rely upon the reports of others. And when we read those words we might ask ourselves whose stories are missing. Typically, it will be the stories of those who were losers, of those who had no power at the time: the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the defeated. This is where writers of historical fiction can present different perspectives to those that are found in standard straight historical texts, because they can tell stories that include the marginal voices that history left aside.

The beauty of historical fiction is that it doesn’t only report what happened in the past, it also makes the reader feel what happened, and in so doing it creates empathy for preceding generations. It helps readers understand what was experienced by people living through different times and in different places. It also helps readers understand who we are now, and how we got here, so we can appreciate what progress humankind has made. For example, we can see – and perhaps better comprehend – the extent to which female and racial equality have evolved, and we can see this in a much more personal and moving way than in a straight history text.

Feminism and female emancipation feature strongly in my latest novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, and so it never occurred to me not to make the principal two characters female. When I first conceived the idea for The Philosopher’s Daughters, I kept imagining 1890s London and two strong young women, the daughters of a moral philosopher. Someone like John Stuart Mill, a great advocate for the emancipation of women. Someone who gives the girls a relatively modern upbringing. Then I thought of altering the sisters’ circumstances so that they separately choose to journey into remote and wild Australia. What might happen to them?  How might they see life at the ‘frontier’ once they are confronted with the brutal dispossession of the Indigenous population? How would their characters develop as they faced danger?

Of course, there were other reasons why I wanted the two principal characters to be female. In particular, I wanted to capture the north of Australia through fresh eyes, and the female perspective would certainly have been that up north in the 1890s. Women of those times faced prejudice at every step, and I felt that my two female protagonists would be well-equipped to empathise with a lot of the displaced Indigenous inhabitants. Because I wrote the novel from the separate viewpoints of the two sisters, I was also able to present a nuanced view of what was happening, for these young women saw the world in different ways in spite of their common upbringing.

People often ask what is the difference between fiction and historical fiction. All types of fiction are products of the imagination, but historical fiction is set in a carefully-researched context that will survive the scrutiny of historians. It’s worth pointing out here that the historian’s approach to what is history probably differs from that of the Historical Novel Society, which defines historical fiction as being written at least 50 years after the events described in it, unless written by someone not alive at the time of those events. Thus, a novel written in the last two decades of the Cold War wouldn’t, by this strict definition, be viewed as historical fiction by novelists, unless it was written by someone under the age of 30, but it would be viewed as historical by historians. And I have to say that I find this slightly odd!

What can historical fiction say about gender equality and race relations in modern times? Historical fiction brings characters to life in a way that captures not only the essence of an historical period but also the deeper truths of human existence. From this we can better understand how the past contributes to the present. And we can also better comprehend how to right the wrongs of the past. There’s a sense in which The Philosopher’s Daughters might be thought of the 1890s meeting of the #MeToo and the #BlackLivesMatter movements. These movements in their present manifestation show that we do indeed have a way to go yet in improving gender equality and race relations.

About the expert

A novelist with a keen interest in history, Alison Booth is an ANU-based Emeritus Professor of Economics. She is a regular contributor to academic journals and has previously published four novels, Stillwater Creek, The Indigo Sky, A Distant Land, and A Perfect Marriage. In 2017 she received the ESA Distinguished Fellow Award, and she is also an elected Fellow of the Econometric Society and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Image description: Alison stands in a white blouse, black blazer and black pants in front of a bright tree with yellow leaves and surrounded by greass. She is smiling with one hand in her front pocket.

VIEW: We need to give boys and men permission to feel

Jessica Sanders took the book industry by storm when she created the first iteration of her book, Love Your Body through Kickstarter in 2018. Two years later the book is available in 26 countries and received the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) for Small Publishers Children’s book of the year 2020. 

Now, Jessica is releasing her new book, Be Your Own Man. In this interview, Jessica explains why she believes the current definition of masculinity is hurting boys and men.

  • What inspired the messaging and direction of this book?

Not long after his 18th birthday my friend Ben took his own life. This loss shook me to my core. As a young 18-year-old, about to finish school and enter the ‘real world’ I couldn’t understand how such a tragedy could occur. After Ben’s death I heard conversations around mental health come up. It was the first time we had really spoken about mental health as a school as far as I can recall. Other students were saying that around 25% of our cohort were on antidepressants of some kind. I still don’t know if that statistic was true but looking back knowing what I know now I feel it could have been accurate.

This book was motivated by a desire to reach the hearts and minds of boys early, before they reach a place where they feel that there is no one or nowhere for them to turn to. I wanted to normalise vulnerability and asking for help because they are essential parts of a healthy and happy life. I also wanted to provide the tools to process and release emotions. 

  • How is society’s definition of ‘male’ hurting boys and men?

A survey of 1,000 young Australian men aged 18 to 30 conducted by The Men’s Project found that young Australian men who believe in outdated masculine stereotypes such as ‘men don’t show emotions’ were themselves at higher risk of using violence, online bullying, and sexual harassment, engaging in risky drinking and reporting poorer levels of mental health.

Our narrow definition of masculinity causes boys and men to conserve any part of themselves that they consider to be ‘feminine’ such as vulnerability, emotional expression, and asking for support. This is harmful because those behaivours are human before they are feminine. Emotional expression, for example, is an incredibly important part of staying mentally and physically well and we are hurting boys if we don’t give them boys and men the permission to feel.

  • What should parents and adults be keeping in mind when purchasing and reading this book to children?

I would recommend reading the discussion questions at the back of the book and sprinkling those questions in as you work your way through it. This will most likely open up some vulnerable conversations that you may have never had with your child. You will need to be ready to match their vulnerability – for example, share insecurities you used to have and how you overcame them. Or you could share times that you had to lean on others and ask for help (in an age-appropriate way obviously). Children learn best through observation. When you express vulnerability without shame you are giving them permission to do the same. It can be incredibly powerful.

  • What else can parents and adults be doing to keep conversations around masculinity going in a constructive way?

The most powerful thing you can do for your child is to create safe spaces to talk about feelings and identity. You need to ask them how they are feeling several times a day until it becomes an effortless part of your interactions. Challenge them to reflect on why they might be feeling what they are feeling, and support them in building their self awareness and emotional vocabulary.

The book is a great prompt for reflections on masculinity, use the discussion questions to help you open up those reflective questions about gender. You can also start reflective conversations in your community. We all have work to do when it comes to unlearning our internalised gender bias and we need to support each other to do so through conversation and resource sharing.

About the expert

Jessica Sanders is a best-selling, award-winning author and social worker. Jess has a passion for creating resources that nurture positive mental health and promote gender equality. Every project she pursues is born from the question, ‘Why does it have to be this way?’ Her first Love Your Body was originally crowdfunded through Kickstarter and was born from Jess’s refusal to accept that every girl is destined to grow up disliking her body. Jess has since published Me Time: a self-care guide to being your own best friend and the follow up to Love Your Body for boys, Be Your Own Man.

Jess spends her day writing books, facilitating school-based workshops, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee and running a social justice campaign for young people.

Image description: Jessica is standing outside a book store, wearing glasses and a beige long-sleeved top, smiling to the side.