Editorial: politics and the imagination

Green Agenda is excited to publish Scott Ludlam’s essay “The oldest game in town”. The second in a series of Senator Ludlam’s evocative contemplations of contemporary life, this essay focuses on cities and urban living.

The first essay, “Checkmate”, found on Senator Ludlam’s blog, concerns the implications of the growth economy. He writes in that essay:

“An economic system that demands exponential expansion on a finite planet, that premises its survival on doubling the throughput every twenty five years, is nothing more than the setup for a brutal high speed collision with reality.

Keep in mind that industrial societies have been playing this doubling game for centuries, that bacteria play it in nutrient-rich petri dishes and metastatic cancer cells play it in us. The endgame is always the same; runaway growth followed either by some form of accommodated plateau or a gruesome population crash and the exhaustion or death of the host medium. In economics, we see it in asset bubbles that rise out of the background static on steep curves of hype and self-interest, then burst spectacularly in events known ironically as ‘corrections’.”

Following on from “Checkmate’s” assessment of crisis, in part two of the series, “The oldest game in town”, Ludlam imagines our survival as a species through a re-visioning of what is recognisable and familiar in the urban habitats in which most Australians currently live.

We are used to reading political polemics that tell us in no uncertain terms what is wrong and what needs to happen to fix it. In contrast, “The oldest game in town” uses metaphor and imagery to show us our cities as organic, and tilted towards survival, in a way most of us have not thought of before. In the essay Ludlam fosters hope for livable cities that bring nature back into our urban life.

You may well find yourself lost in the beautiful use of language and metaphor, before remembering there is a bigger picture Senator Ludlam is wanting us to see, issues he wants us to grapple with. It is an essay that we think calls out to be read more than once.

Ludlam shows a deep sense of place in his writings. A Western Australian sensibility comes through in both the essays which can be challenging for the majority of Australians not from WA. Place is also central in the way he refuses to see our urban environments as separate from the natural environment.

This is not the sort of writing we are used to from our politicians. And yet, it makes clear that to plan for the future and to inspire in us images of systems worth investing in, such imagination is needed. His writing includes vivid imagery alongside feasible and achievable proposals and future directions. The mix of the creative with the real is what we believe gives this essay its power.

We hope this essay provokes much discussion about the relationship between politics and the imagination, and the potential future of urban life in Australia.

Comments are welcome in the comment threat and also responses of at least 500 words can be submitted to be published alongside the essay on Green Agenda as part of our intention to encourage debate and discussion.