Terence Blacker: Top marks for green Australians

Related Topics

Because the world's New Year dawns in Australia before most of the rest of the world, the celebrations are taken seriously here. Sydney is "the New Year's Eve capital of the world", according to Make Your Mark, an environmental campaign which has been launched for the occasion.

It is not difficult to poke fun at Sydney's worthy intentions. Making your mark, it turns out, involves not making your mark on the planet over the coming decade. Taken, predictably enough, from aboriginal culture, the idea behind the campaign is that, whereas the indigenous peoples of the past made a mark on a rock, today's Australians can do the same in their daily lives. "We can make a difference by being more efficient in our energy and water consumption, reducing waste, recycling, always choosing the most sustainable transport option," writes Sydney's Lord Mayor in her introduction.

The launch of this sensible campaign is a spectacularly unsustainable firework display – the biggest since the turn of the century – in Sydney Harbour. 700 kilograms of explosives are to be used, including 11,000 shells, 20,000 rockets and 100,000 "individual pyrotechnic events".

Yet the Make Your Mark campaign confirms that in many ways Australian attitudes to the environment are streets ahead of our own. Buried deep in the explanatory leaflet, for example, is this quietly revolutionary commitment: the city will on New Year's Eve be distributing personal ashtrays "to help reduce cigarette butt litter".

How sensible, how effortlessly grown-up that is. Instead of the usual prim scolding about the effects of tobacco, about passive smoking, about the evils of dropping litter, the city leaders have provided a simple, no-fuss solution. People will smoke. They will need to have somewhere to put their fag-ends. Personal ashtrays are the answer.

Perhaps this practical good sense should not be a surprise. When it comes to civic virtue, Australia is in a different league to the UK. For decades, its people have been asked to "do the right thing" by putting litter in bins. As the ferries of Sydney Harbour approach their destinations, passengers are invited over the intercom to take their rubbish with them and dispose of it responsibly – a marked contrast to the railway stations of Great Britain, where members of the public are expected to dump refuse wherever they happen to be sitting or standing.

That communal spirit feeds back into the political process. Green policies, even when they fail, are on the right track because they are addressed to the lives of ordinary people. The trick, Australia has discovered, is not to preach and scold, but first of all to show how, with a bit of thought and planning, consumers – even smokers – can make their mark.

A winning attitudeto cricketing defeat

As his team limped sadly towards defeat, the Australian Test cricketer Shane Watson was asked what the mood was in the team camp. "Morbid" was the answer.

It was an odd word and, since the game was not yet over, uncharacteristically defeatist, but then most of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne felt distinctly odd: Australia were too bad, England too good, the game too absurdly one-sided. The situation seemed so generally against nature that it was more embarrassing than enjoyable.

The public reaction to receiving a thumping in what had been billed in one newspaper as the most important cricket match in Australian history, has been interesting. After the initial rage – "I mean, the Pommies – they're virtually not human," said one radio phone-in listener – the general mood has been regretful but, well, sporting.

The better team won, the consensus seems to be. The time has come to rebuild for the future. It is a good attitude, providing a useful reminder that the best way to win at sport is to know how to build on defeat.

The embarrassment that a teenager can cause

Never mind WikiLeaks, it was a scandal called Dickieleaks which enlivened Australia's domestic news over the Christmas period. For a few short days, an out-of-control 17-year-old girl on a revenge mission used the internet to enrage and humiliate famous players in the Australian Rules football team St Kilda's, running rings around the mainstream media in the process.

Her weapons were a series of nude photographs of four players taken in a hotel room. One was said to be framing his genitals comically with his hands; another more graphic shot showed a player, to quote a local journalist, "in a state of rapt self-communion" on a bed. To keep the story going, the "Nude Avenger", as she was described in the press, posted gigglingly defiant video messages online at regular intervals.

Eventually, the law caught up with her but, as in all the best scandals, some bigger questions have lingered on. The first is whether the political, sporting and media establishments will ever again be able to keep the lid on a story now that a not particularly bright teenager has shown how easy it is to outwit them by using the speed and freedom of the internet.

Then there is the delicate question of the photographs themselves, which were not taken by the Nude Avenger but by the players as they romped about taking naked photographs of one another. There have been stories in the press of how group sex has become a sort of extra-curricular bonding exercise for teams, although the captain of St Kilda's is reported to havedenied this.

It has certainly been a month when the image of Australian sportsmen – tough, wholesome, successful – has taken something of a bashing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - Accountancy Software - £80,000 OTE

£50000 - £60000 per annum + £80,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Sou...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - BIM Software - £55,000 OTE

£40000 per annum + OTE £55,000 +Pension : h2 Recruit Ltd: An excellent opportu...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Commodities Brokers / Sales / Closers / Telesales

£10000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Investment consultancy firm sp...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is recr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
More vegetarian and vegan options are now available for consumers  

The stereotypes around vegetarians and vegans must stop: I've never worn tie-dye, I'm not weak, and I can't stand Morrissey

Liz Cookman

You wouldn't give your child untested medicine, so why would you give them an untested education?

Oliver Wright
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital