Author Archives: Zo Zhou

About Zo Zhou

I (Zo) started twospoons as a project first for me to fill in the hours between *ahem* studying, but began to realise that it could be a really useful collaborative thing. The aim is to get students more aware of food, and to discover the joy of being able to make really delicious and healthy food without stretching their credit limits. My focus is really in Christchurch, New Zealand but the principles can be applied anywhere. Basically I try to buy in season (or use ingredients that are quite cheap no matter what the season), stray outside the supermarket and adapt recipes to make them either simpler, more in tune with what's easily available (and findable), and to have some creative fun in the process! Hope you enjoy reading/looking, but most of all, I hope you enjoy cooking :)

Getting along, and moving on.

Political passion can be powerful in creating positive change, but it can also be unnecessarily divisive. Today I attended the Occupy Christchurch demonstration, which is in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. There were a huge range of issues that attendees cared about, from specific (fracking in Canterbury) to general (people before profit). While it was great to see such solidarity in our increasingly individualised society, I couldn’t help being concerned about the potential for Occupy to turn into a binary and oversimplified good/evil movement, ending not in consensus and much needed change but indignant defensiveness and bitter disappointment. This concern of mine is not unique to the Occupy movements, nor left-wing political movements more generally – it applies to any political discussion, media coverage, article or simple slogan. The stubborn arrogance I’m talking about has been espoused by people all over the political spectrum, and is often present in many of those contentious issues: arguments about vegetarianism being a prime example. There’s no way everyone will agree on everything, even if you believe that those who disagree with you are uninformed or stupid. However, I think we are missing far too many opportunities to be nicer to each other, find common points of interest despite our disagreements, and solve common problems.

My concern about the Occupy movements is that they have been painted (a bit unfairly, since that isn’t their sole purpose) as protesting against a certain set of people, rather than a certain set of policies. Occupy has been framed as simply being against right-wing political parties, greedy corporations and the financial industry. Understandably so, some would argue, because many of these groups crafted the policies that have caused the problems Occupy are against. However, there is nothing positive or progressive about name-calling. You’re never going to get someone you just insulted to agree with you (you do give them a reason to insult you in turn though). You’re unlikely to inform anyone, or “raise awareness” about the causes of social problems through clever puns on a politician’s name (you do give the opposition reason to paint you as a raving, mean-spirited jerk though). You’re never going to learn anything yourself by point-blank refusing to listen (you might become so absorbed in your own beliefs that people literally ask what you’re on about though). Perhaps worst of all, you’re never going to enrich your own life or the life of others. It’s easy to revolve around criticism, simplify problems, reduce policies to certain individuals/groups – just don’t think you’ll ever get anywhere if that’s all you’re doing.

Of course, it’s easy for me to just criticise, but I also want to suggest a better way forward. I’m glad that Occupy Christchurch has planned to do the latter as well, in the form of an inclusive discussion that will hopefully welcome everyone. Two things stood out today that give me hope. First, a sign reading something like “I’m in the 1%, but I support the 99%.” Second, someone in the movement shaking the hand of a guy in young ACT who got booed for voicing his opinion that the crowd didn’t like, and thanking him for coming to an event which obviously he didn’t necessarily agree with fully. If we all listened to people we disagreed with more with an open mind, we would not only strengthen our own beliefs, but also discover that we have more in common with our “enemies” than we ever thought. Only on precious common ground can lasting and positive change be built.

So here are my suggestions for participating in politics passionately, but also progressively:

  • If you’re going to criticise something, focus on policies and/or outcomes, not people or parties.
  • Really listen to people you normally disagree with – the only way you’ll ever change their minds is if you can genuinely understand why they think the way they do.
  • Be open to compromise on details as long as you remember the bigger picture.
  • Find and foster common ground.
  • Disagree respectfully, with reason.
I’ll admit I don’t always stick to these principles myself, and that I enjoy the odd chuckle over puns on our Prime Minister’s name. I think it’s time to grow up though, and realise our demands for a better society also need to start from within.

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It ain’t easy being green.

“People buy time from the economy, and the economy then robs them of it”

 

 

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Fast fashion: about as good as fast food.

To kick off this extended review of Lucy Siegle’s book, “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?” I’ll start with a bit of personal background (which kind of reflects the way Lucy guides her discussion in the book, something that I found quite helpful). The next bit will look at some of the core points from the book that particularly interested me, and the last bit will be a critique and discussion of what I think Lucy could have expanded, and where I think I will expand my fashion future. 

In my first year of Uni I met some amazing people. They seemed to know so much more about why the world was so screwed up. Young and eager, I wanted to do right by myself, and others, but I didn’t really know how. I tried to educate myself by attending Oxfam’s meetings about Fair Trade, and joined the Greens on campus. I began to question everything I bought. How was it made, and by who, and at what real cost? It sounded “green,” but was it? What’s the alternative? The questions always seemed particularly pertinent when it came to clothes and shoes (now it’s food). I started appreciating my mother’s addiction to buying things second hand, and bought a pair of No Sweat sneakers, which I walked to Uni in almost daily until they got holes in the soles (it didn’t take long, actually, and I felt a little betrayed to be honest). This is about the time fast fashion, the topic at the centre of Siegle’s book, began to kick off in New Zealand. Anyone who has bought a few new items at a mall in the last few years will know what I’m talking about: clothes and shoes that have become so cheap that even students can somehow afford them. Lots of them. Enough to be on trend for every trend. Then came the fashion blogs, which made buying all these cheap items socially acceptable (with a few gifted luxury extras): if these individuals, who now work with labels at the design level and get interviewed by international fashion magazines, could do it, surely everyone could. With fast fashion, it was. It was all incredible enticing. Like Lucy, when fast fashion emerged, I simply stopped having time to think about the wider consequences of the garments I was about to buy. Every sale item felt like a score, not a sore, even in my fairly eco-conscious mind.

One day I just stopped reading the countless (literally…I was too lazy to count them) fashion blogs in my google reader. I felt tired, and the magical fairy dust of fast fashion wore off. It’s a bit like the feeling you get after having too much fast food actually. Boy do the first few bites feel worth it, but then you need a lie down. Well, during this lie down, I stopped being interested in acquiring the next addition to my wardrobe (which had overflowed so much I had to dedicate a second rack to my wearables). Don’t get me wrong, there are pieces I still adore, and I haven’t stopped caring what I put on in the morning. There are still things I admire (even started a fashion blog dedicated to my admiration). I’m still not sure why I stopped wanting to buy new things, but when I read the blurb of Lucy’s book I felt like my neglected conscience finally broke out and did a smug little dance. My willful ignorance had finally found an exit.

As it turns out, the rather grisly truths about fast fashion were far worse than my conscience had imagined. When Lucy told her story about being sucked in to the sales rack, I felt relieved that I wasn’t alone. This relief soon turned into horror at the reality of continued sweatshop labour that has arguably gotten worse since the Nike and Gap scandals, and remorse for the people (mostly women) making our frivolous bargains a reality. Then there’s the guilt and fear about the ecological consequences of fast fashion that will inevitably come back to haunt us. My boredom with fast fashion turned into revulsion when reading Lucy’s book. I felt physically sick at some points, because quite unlike with food, the fast fashion purchases I had made were totally unnecessary – not just in a survival sense, but I mean they did not make me more popular, or happy…hell, some of my fast fashion doesn’t even make me look more attractive (and I know I’m not alone in doing this!). They were made in vain, in all the senses of the word.

It has been a few weeks since I finished the book, and now I feel a bit empty (not in an emotional way, just in a bit of a “now what?” way). I’ve had a peek at my long-dormant fashion blog feeds, scrolled through some relatively inspiring sustainably-minded designers, and currently am re-coveting some $200 bike pants I’ve been wanting for over a year. No new fashion purchases in months, although I did attend a clothing swap. I don’t feel empowered at all though, and I will elaborate on this in my eventual critique, but for now, I’m still waiting to be woken up, this time not into the nightmare that is the real world, but hopefully something that I realise is not a dream after all.

 

 

 

 

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Eco survival week at UC

A quick message about Eco Survival Week on campus from the 11-15 October. Check out the awesome events and hop along to some if you have time. There are so many amazing events I’d love to get involved in but since two of my papers didn’t get offered formal extensions, I need to get myself into writing mode!

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Filed under Events, Food, Free, gardening, Pre-loved clothing

Mapping your biking route easily

Google maps currently doesn’t let you go anywhere even when you’ve selected that you’re walking, but MapMyRide.com has solved this problem. You can not only go anywhere you want, but turn on/off an option to snap your route to the actual roads. This is great if you’re planning to bike along the road but also take a shortcut through a park or something. Mapping a new route is easy, and you don’t actually have to join. Also it seemed to detect automatically what city I lived in and put me in the city centre (it thought I was in America initially) although I think it helps if you already use Google Maps. You don’t have to be a member already, and it’s totally free to use. They have some sort of iPhone app as well if you’ve got something like that and you’re biking in unfamiliar territory. They are currently testing out their new map which makes it easier to change that setting for “snapping” it to the road or letting your go off road (it’s on the right). Here are some screen shots of a route I drew to get to the Regent on Worcester for the NZIFF:

At the top right it tells you the distance your route is so far. There’s the new beta version of the map. I played with the”hybrid” map type this time, which uses the satellite view overlaid with translucent roads and their names.

In the new beta version, all the view settings are in a handy box in the top left, which looks like this (you can hide it once you’ve selected the options you want by clicking on the little arrow by “map options”):

The marker thing is quite useful if you were going to do a long journey and wanted consistent breaks or something I guess. Or if you’re biking for fitness.

Then there are the route drawing settings:

The “follow roads” button is currently selected, which “snaps” any points you click on to the roads. For example, if I click on one street, then a street three blocks away after a corner, it will navigate itself around that corner. Yay. Clicking the button so it’s not selected will let you go anywhere off road. “Un” is short for “undo the last point” which is good if you accidentally made a point and want to get rid of it quickly. “Cen” centres your latest point drawn and zooms in on it. “Clear all” clears your whole route so you can start afresh.

Then there are helpful options for the points:

I think this could be more straightforward using the delete button on your keyboard once a point is selected. These options are brought up if you click directly on a point.

Go and have a play around! Basically clicking means you want to go to that point, and have a route drawn from the last point (or a line if you’re off roading). Dragging will move the map around. Scrolling zooms in or out. Pretty straightforward really. Personally I do prefer the newer beta version, except it’s not as good as the old one at automatically detecting your location.

PS: If you want to send feedback to these guys about the beta version, I’m sure they’d appreciate it!

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Turtles are cute, and it is freezing.

Just you try to deny it. To start with the turtles, the NZIFF* is currently on in Christchurch, so if you feel like getting the warm fuzzies, go see Turtle: The incredible journey. It looks like a feel good film, just in case anyone tries to accuse me of constantly posting depressing news. If you’ve miss(ed) the screenings and need to acquire it through, er…other means, then you can donate to the Save Our Seas Foundation that appears to have commissioned it. You don’t even need a credit card. Yay. Unfortunately I can’t find info about a DVD release date. Anyway, the trailer really did warm the cockles of my heart.

Speaking of warmness (which the living room is currently not), the Greens are currently campaigning for a “Warm Healthy Rentals” bill that calls for minimum energy performance standards for houses. I’ve emailed Gareth and asked him what the Greens would support in terms of specifics, but the basic idea is to legislate basic housing requirements for rental properties. This is not to vilify all landlords, but it is meant to address the HUGE number of unacceptably insulated houses. It’s a real problem in the South Island, where temperatures get below zero quite often over winter. If you’re a fan, send the e-card and join the facebook page to show your support and join in the discussion.

*I forgot to blog about Inside Job, which was a pretty funny doco about the 2008 financial crisis that included interviews with some of the key players. Their faces are so funny when they realise the doco maker is not on their side. Its screenings have finished in Christchurch, but it should come out later in the year again (not as part of a festival probably). Interestingly it’s paid for by Sony, and that means the film is slick and looks totally professional. Cheers to the Dim Post for the heads up.

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Filed under economics, Film/Documentary, Government policy