Storytelling and Culture Change

Posted on 17 January 2024 | Comments Off on Storytelling and Culture Change

Shelves of Edwardian books.

image by ulle.b

Culturally we live within a highly distorted reality due to sloppy, pandering, and toadying storytelling.

If we hope to get ourselves out of the crisises we are facing, we absolutely have to change our culture. We need a culture that favours accuracy over unrealistic feel-good portrayals of life.

That doesn’t mean shift to cynicism and pessimism. It means representing life so that we better understand the problems we all face. In that way we can more effectively address them.

Peace and kindness,

K Phelps

The Future of Employment

Posted on 17 December 2023 | Comments Off on The Future of Employment

Wind turbine tour

This last year I taught digital literacy at a university to people studying to be primary and secondary educators. Part of that was how to prepare students for computing jobs. For the last class of the term I put up the below list of careers I believe are more likely candidates for paying jobs that need bright young people.

Sustainable materials development (chemistry):
We still need more ways to get off plastics.

Agricultural science:
Change in climate will mean that we cannot sustain growing many of the same crops in the same way any more.

With the coming population crash we will need robots which are made to care for the sick and the elderly. We will also need robots to clean up plastic and space debris, and to plant trees, seaweed, and the like for rewilding.

Electrical engineers:
Everything has to go electric and off petrol chemicals.

The means by which to further decentralise our society:
Communications, manufacturing, workplaces, energy production, storage and dissemination of goods. Floods and fires make this critical.

Loads of cultural things need to change:
How soon you can get a paying job in this field is hard to tell. This includes how we educate our young. We need schools to go off grading systems and onto project-based learning.

I was told to educate teachers about how to teach programming. The computing industry loves this. Not because they need more programmers, but because programmers have been expensive. Flood the market with programmers and you can start reducing their pay, since we have more programmers than jobs for them.

AI has made this easier for companies, because programs that once took five people to develop can now by done by an AI and one programmer to check on the work. It’s certainly useful for everyone to understand something about programming in order to understand what it is doing, how, and how it is affecting them–but job-wise it may no longer be the goose that lays the golden egg.

Most of all we will need to stop identifying ourselves with our careers. We need to have a mindset whereby we are prepared to shift careers as needed. One of the reasons we need to change how education is being delivered is that we need people to actually like learning, because we are all going to have to be life long learners, no matter what field of employment we go into. This shouldn’t be frightening. In fact it might even make for a more enjoyable life that isn’t stuck in a rut. The problems stem from a lack of safety-nets in order to make these shifts. There should be no shame in changing jobs, no shame in being between jobs, and every reason to expect that we will always have enough to support ourselves and our families. These are things we must demand from our politicians.

Peace and kindness,
KJ Phelps

Solar, Hope, Cosy, and Functional

Posted on 29 June 2023 | Comments Off on Solar, Hope, Cosy, and Functional

I am excited about how many people have embraced solarpunk! I feel great that people are imagining the means to a better future! I am equally excited by the growth of hopepunk. We need to stay strong in our visions of a bright future.

I am bringing “cosy” and “functional” into my work, because it is easy to think stories must have grand spectacles and nearly insurmountable conflict to be interesting. Many movements for change may have had notable moments, but most of the heavy work was done on a persistent everyday manner.

Rosa Parks deliberately sat in a seat reserved for white people on a bus. She did not come riding a horse up to the steps of Congress, swinging a magic sword over her head. She was not a “chosen one”. She did not carry laser pistols. And yet that moment captured people’s imaginations. Suddenly, we all understand that we can have a part in creating change.

Portraying genuinely good friendships that help sustain us while we do the work for change is not only cosy and functional, but can prove pivotal in making our world one of kindness, security, and a healthy environment. So many new and important things can be said through the arts. They need to come from our experience of what is good, and true, and compassionate.

Keep up your awesome efforts!

In peace and kindness,

Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers #1) MCA Hogarth

Posted on 23 June 2023 | Comments Off on Review:
Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers #1) MCA Hogarth

Wow! Has it really been over a year since my last post? During lockdown introspection became difficult. It was also a time where I ended up rethinking my creative directions. Each time I take a creative leap, I teach myself what I need to know by writing thoughts and reviews about where I want to land. Here's the prep for the new direction!

I am a great fan of storytelling that inspires us to create a healthy and humane future. These sorts of stories can come from many different genres. Right now I am focussing on #solarpunk, #hopepunk, and #cosycore. Also, I am adding my own literary genre #funkyfi. This is fiction to do with functional behaviour in basically functional worlds. Utopia can set unrealistic expectations. Good things and bad things will continue to happen for as long as we exist, but if we all learn how to behave in a functional manner, we are more likely to sort things out.

Mindtouch is about a future where animals and even some humans are the result of genetic engineering. The sapient animals were created to perform dangerous tasks for humans, and at some point in the past left Earth in order to find freedom. As such they chose to colonise distant solar systems. One set of humans, the Eldritch, were developed to live long lives. Despite the long lives, they are not reproducing sufficiently to preserve their species.

The story itself is about the friendship that develops between a “Pelted” person and an Eldritch person when they become roommates at a medical university. Part of this relationship is also shared with a group of child patients who are terminally ill.

We do get a certain amount of futuristic technology, but it’s not clear if this is particularly appropriate technology, ie solar-powered. However, we do have alien peoples who have learned from human mistakes. We also discover the wisdoms of their various cultures, as well as some of their weaknesses. Ultimately, this story is about how these peoples uniquely and well sort out their various emotional challenges through introspection, friendship, and kindness.

Hogarth writes in an intelligent manner with enough twists and turns in the plot to keep things interesting. Mindtouch is not high literature, but it is exceptionally competant, and quite an achievement for someone without the help of a professional editor. We can all use professional editors for long projects like this! I felt uplifted by it, and have ordered the second book in the duology in order to find out what happens to the characters. This has all the charm of a Becky Chambers book. I can recommend it!

Peace and kindness,



Posted on 22 January 2022 | Comments Off on Acceptance?

Can you accept yourself in silence
     without the validation of important voices,
     or a million voices.

Can you accept yourself without comparison,
     without having to push others down.

Can you accept yourself without being special.
     Can you accept others 
     without their being special.

          the humility
to accept yourself and others as we all are.

Katherine Phelps
22 January 2022

‘Disappointment and disbelief’ after Morrison government vetoes research into student climate activism’

Posted on 19 January 2022 | Comments Off on ‘Disappointment and disbelief’ after Morrison government vetoes research into student climate activism’

Darren England/AAP

Philippa Collin, Western Sydney University; Brendan Churchill, The University of Melbourne; Faith Gordon, Australian National University; Judith Bessant, RMIT University; Michelle Catanzaro, Western Sydney University; Rob Watts, RMIT University, and Stewart Jackson, University of Sydney

Between 2019 and early 2021, we developed a research proposal asking for funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC). The project was to investigate the mass student climate action movement and its relationship to democracy.

A few weeks ago, on Christmas Eve, we learnt via Twitter that the ARC had recommended our research proposal for funding, but acting Education Minister Stuart Robert vetoed the recommendation.

Robert also vetoed five other humanities projects. He did so on the grounds they “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest”.

This political intervention is a problem for many reasons. Chief among them, it breaches key principles of academic autonomy and – in our case, also silences research working with young people on a crucial policy issue.

boy holds sign
The decision silences research into young people on climate change. Darren England/AAP

‘Freedom in research and training’

Since 1988, almost 1,000 universities in 94 countries have signed the Magna Charta Universitatum, including ten from Australia. The charter affirms the deepest values of university traditions.

In practice, it means a university “must serve society as a whole” and that “to meet the needs of the world around it, its research and teaching must be intellectually independent of all political authority and economic power”.

Central to the charter is that “freedom in research and training is the fundamental principle of university life”.

The ARC administers the National Competitive Grants Program, which delivers around $800 million to Australian researchers each year.

The ARC grants process involves several rounds of rigorous review and assessment, by internationally leading scholars. The ARC then recommends to the education minister which proposals should be funded, and the budget. The minister makes the final funding decisions.

The Morrison government claims it wants to protect academic freedoms. And it commissioned a 2019 review of freedom of expression and intellectual inquiry in higher education.

However, Robert’s veto of the ARC’s decision to fund six projects is a clear breach of the core principle of academic freedom.

What’s more, it’s not the first time Morrison government education ministers have ridden roughshod over the funding processes of the ARC and university research.

In 2018-19, Simon Birmingham vetoed 11 research grants recommended by the ARC. In 2020, Dan Tehan vetoed five.

man touches head
Robert’s veto is a clear breach of academic freedom. Lucas Coch/AAP

An important new phenomenon

The project we proposed for ARC funding was titled “New possibilities: student climate action and democratic renewal”. It involved working directly with young people to investigate a significant new phenomenon.

Since 2018, millions of students across the globe have worked hard as leaders, organisers and advocates for action on climate change. Their actions include the school strikes for climate and various legal actions. In Australia since 2018, we estimate at least 500,000 school students have participated in the movement, including coordinated school strike actions online and in the streets.

Our project was designed to document such actions and to establish:

  • why young people participate
  • what activities they undertake
  • what we can learn from the movement to address climate change and strengthen our democracy.

Our project would have led to vital new knowledge on a global phenomenon. It had the potential to help address falling trust in governments and dissatisfaction with democracy, and to give new insights on engaging with young people in learning about and responding to climate change.

It also provided jobs for early-career researchers already facing cripplingly precarious employment in the university sector.

Our proposal relied on a vast body of academic work and expertise, and previous scholarship by the research team. It was connected to a global research network exploring young people’s climate politics and broader possibilities for democracy.

Developing the proposal involved hundreds of hours of additional research, writing, editing and consultation with professional staff across five universities.

For the ARC to judge the project worthy of funding, it must have determined it passed the national interest test and that it was value for money.

Significantly, we have no formal right to appeal the decision.

students walk and yello at protest
The project aimed to learn more about the student climate movement. James Ross/AAP

‘Disappointment and disbelief’

The minister’s intervention is a serious blow to Australia’s reputation for research excellence and its commitment to academic freedom.

The Morrison government has also sent a negative message to Australia’s young people – essentially saying research into their views on climate change is irrelevant.

We asked students who we work with to respond to the government’s veto, and they stand with us in disappointment and disbelief. Audrey, aged 10, who has participated in climate action, said:

“I personally think that the vetoing was to stop the research from public view to make the government look better, as they aren’t doing enough on climate change. Another main reason why the vetoing is so bad and unfair is that the government is sending the message that young people’s views aren’t important to both young people and the community.”

Urgent change is needed to ensure academic autonomy, freedom, and independence of process are not subject to political interference in future.

Addressing urgent and complex problems such as climate change involves research across the full spectrum of society – and that includes Australia’s young people.

Philippa Collin, Associate Professor, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University; Brendan Churchill, ARC Research Fellow and Lecturer in Sociology, The University of Melbourne; Faith Gordon, Associate Professor in Law, Australian National University; Judith Bessant, Professor in School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University; Michelle Catanzaro, Senior Lecturer in Design / Senior Research Fellow (YRRC), Western Sydney University; Rob Watts, Professor of Social Policy, RMIT University, and Stewart Jackson, Senior Lecturer, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why Aren’t Writers Paid Better?

Posted on 7 January 2022 | Comments Off on Why Aren’t Writers Paid Better?

This was a question put to people in an online writers group I am subscribed to. Below is my answer.

Artists sit in an odd space where they are both loved and hated.

They can lift us out of our daily struggles, soothe our trembling hearts, say the things we want to say, shine a light on what is good and what is bad in the world, and provide visions of the future.

They are hated because they reveal our dark sides, point out wrongdoing, have influence over how people think and feel, are doing what they love rather than slaving away at a thankless job, they seemingly skip the queue for wealth and status through fame, and they get the attention others want.

Artists are often treated as enemies of the state. They can also be treated as enemies of the people for stripping away the lie that if you just work hard and not make waves, you will have a secure if not exactly happy life. Artists often stir up self-reflection and many people don’t like themselves or their lives enough to withstand this.

All of this adds up to artists being a class of people others want to control. These controllers want to either use artistry for their own benefit, or severely constrain art to what is “safe”. Keeping a class of people seriously insecure, while offering up a few safe examples of their people who have made it big, is a good way to do this.

This causes people to emulate the current stars of their art form, hoping that with hard work and not making waves, they too can do what they love while being rich and famous. Does this have a familiar ring? Artists also end up competing with one another, tearing each other apart in jealousy, rather than cooperating and supporting one another. After all only a few can achieve the extreme pinnacle that corporate media makes possible.

There are things that can be done, but they require we as artists see ourselves with more humility, that we work hard to help create culture change, and that we participate in politics. And I’m sure just saying that is making people feel nervous. Writers especially can be conflict averse. This doesn’t have to be about conflict, it can be about caring. Even so, some people will be angry with you for defending the poor for instance.

What can I say? Please take what courage you found to be an artist and use it wisely and well.

Our League

Posted on 1 October 2021 | Comments Off on Our League

Take a deep breath. Now take a moment to cherish all the kind, strong, and committed people in your life. They along with yourself are the league of ordinary people who can save us. Now go out and empower one another!

In peace and kindness,


Leave the Cocoon Behind

Posted on 27 July 2021 | Comments Off on Leave the Cocoon Behind

Our culture tends to worship the past and fear the future. We make statues to people who are gone, but fear the changes the future represents, and so tell stories about surviving a bad future where nothing about ourselves has changed. We need more stories where we represent ourselves as caring and mature people who can grow…and it is safe to do so. Growth is only loss in the way that a butterfly loses its cocoon. Understand that if you only focus on the cocoon, you won’t spread your wings and fly. The future can be better. We can make it so.

Peace and kindness,


Baby Steps to Culture Change

Posted on 17 July 2021 | Comments Off on Baby Steps to Culture Change

So many practical things we can do to repair our living world. So many things that don’t get done properly when people don’t connect with each others humanity, or every being’s desire to live and to thrive.

“Funktionlust”, according to behavioral scientists, is the characteristic whereby animals enjoy doing the things which keep them alive. Animals who run, like running. Animals who climb, like climbing. Since animals need to eat, they enjoy eating. We all feel joy and pain according to how well we are able to function within our environment. Some research suggests various plants have a similar experience.

Humans have a real problem when we cut off our ability to recognise others pain or joy in order to serve a felt need for status and dominance. Other animals indulge in hierarchies. A few other animals have wiped out their sources of food, and thereby wiped themselves out. We are so effective that we are taking down a whole planet with us.

Logic is failing to convince us to do the right thing. We have a tremendous capacity for empathy, because it is critical to cooperation. We even enjoy empathising, which is why we enjoy stories. Re-engaging our empathy is a good way to quieten our dominance behaviour and start seeing things from other’s perspectives: the first step to start doing what it takes to repair things for everyone.

At least so says the professional storyteller. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Peace and kindness,


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