A blog about governance for urban sustainability and resilience
For some reason the end of the year gets people in reflective mode, so let me join the trend. This has been my fourth year in Australia and the switch of seasons still hasn’t fully settled in. Sun, 30+ degrees and long days does not feel like the end of the year to me. Sun, 30+ and long days feels like mid-Summer (well, it’s only the start of Summer, we’ll get the 40s soon). And I don’t associate mid-Summer with the end of the year. This is a little strange, because I am now pretty used to December being Summer (used to be Winter for me) and June being Winter (used to be Summer for me). I’ve heard lots of people who’ve been here for decades and still have a difficulty to experience Christmas (chrissie) and New Year as actually happening (this is why we celebrate “Christmas in July”. Really we do).
Perhaps it’s the slightly compulsive exporting of everything that reminds me of Winter by Australians (well, by Australian commerce). There are Christmas trees with lights that do not really make sense because the sun does not set till late. There are Christmas songs telling me that I have to hope for a white Christmas. I’m currently wearing shorts, a shirt and thongs (that’s flip-flops, for the other side of the world). I don’t WANT a white Christmas. Too cold. The shopfronts are decorated with fake snow, snowmen (haven’t seen any snowwomen yet), and icicles. Really? Snow, snowmen and icicles whilst it is 30+? My hipster cafe/baker sells stollen. A ‘stollen’ is the Ozzie take on the traditional Northern European Christmas bread (but without the almond paste) – over there (in Europe) they are just called ‘stol’ or ‘stoll’ and more than one makes for a couple of ‘stollen’.
This all adds to me being reminded of the euro-christian end of year traditions (which there make sense as it took over from pagan traditions to celebrate the short Winter days, etc) but which are a little strange in the Australian context. All the more because for most Australians this all is absolutely normal. So I find myself doing things that feel unnatural and natural at the same time. That’s a paradox right there.
But this is, of course, not the only paradox of this time of year. As a society (the Western part of it) we probably won’t “use” more short term plastic and paper than any other time of year. We probably won’t waste more food than any other time of year. We probably won’t waste more energy to make things “gezellig” (which is Dutch for cosy, friendly, warm and feel-good – all at the same time): Christmas lights, candles, the heating/arco on and doors open because we don’t want our guests to suffer the hassle of ringing the doorbell. That won’t make for good hosts, would it? On Boxing Day (that’s Second Christmas Day in Northern Europe) we run to the malls to get some new furniture, clothes, and what not. It’s end of the year sale. Better get your cheap goods now. Not that the old stuff really needs replacement, but it’s nice to start the new year (next week; just like any other next week) in the new. Or maybe we’ve even deserved it. These new things. I’m moving into a three bedroom house all by myself again next week, after over six years of not having had such a thing, including the last four years of being without a permanent address at all. When I told my parents, their first reply was “you deserve it”.
Let me stop the rambling and get back to reflecting – and the book reviews that I’ve promised in the title. Professionally, it’s been a BIG year for me. That’s it. I’m not going to brag about it. The best thing, perhaps, is that I’ve found a nice challenge just last week. The editor of the CUP series that (hopefully; fingers crossed) might accept my book manuscript on “Cities, sustainability and governance innovations” (working title) sent me a very, very critical review of the first full draft of the intro. And that has been great! It was the metaphorical kick in the butt that I needed after all the good stuff that has been going on.
So this week I’ve read a number of highly interesting books on urban governance, urban sustainability and even some works that address governance for urban sustainability:
That’s it. Get these books on your Kindles, iPads, or other eReaders. Or just read them for free on Google Books (see the links – only Pierre’s book is not there, but it shouldn’t take too much work to find some of his articles that summarize the book). Or be unsustainable like me and get the books in print. They are absolutely good reads for the end of the year holidays. May this be in Winter or Summer.
Happy holidays! And thanks for reading me in 2014.