A whole raft of events for Sustainable Living Week (26 May–8 June) started in Whitehorse with a free evening of laughs from award-winning Australian comedian Rod Quantock OAM and his sustainability-themed show The Last Tim Tam.
Rod is known for his thought-provoking standup comedy and the ability to use laughter to focus a spotlight on the political issues. The Last Tim Tam takes a look at climate change and sustainability, subjects Rod is passionate about, has researched extensively and has spoken about in performances for the past decade. In a hilarious and thought provoking way he sets out to establish where we are, where we are going and what we can do when we get there.
Chris Gray caught up with Rod to probe the mind behind the comedy and found that, while quietly despairing of the future, he was passionate about influencing it positively. With regard to climate change, Rod declares
“We’ve missed the boat by 20 or 30 years on this issue, and the boat’s not coming back. Around these issues, there’s no federal government policy worth talking about; local governments are the most active in delivering sustainability to people. Ultimately that’s the way it has to be; it’s all going to be local in the future. There’ll be local communities living within their own footprint or not living at all”.
That’s what Sustainable Living is all about – about modified expectations and practical responses to living – and surviving – into the future. As Rod says about The Last Tim Tam, it’s about what people will miss, combining scientific research and academic collaboration to create a catalogue of what people will and won’t have, where they can and can’t live and what they can and can’t do in 2030.
“I chose 2030 because it’s close enough to be personal and far enough away to plan for. And what we plan for is key. At the moment it’s illegal to create a local area grid, but in the future this will have to happen to keep the power going”.
Rod is serious about the need to reimagine the future. He declares that he has read some pretty grim predictions, but even after subjecting those to due analysis he feels it is more than possible that we’ll lose a lot of things we take for granted, like national and international sporting events which countries aren’t going to be able to afford to host.
“When I go out to give this talk my job is to make it funny – if you can – but what I’d like to do is make people realise that it’s a lot later than they think, and that what they think about now has to change. The future is going to be extremely communal. I’d like to see councils pushing urban gardens; I’d like to see state governments changing legislation so that you can have a local power grid and that you can treat waste water and put it back into the system yourself. “
It’ll be a talk about encouraging people to think realistically, and it’ll be a talk about options. I always ask people to do something in the public sphere about this, whether it’s just writing letters, or volunteering for local environment group activities. And once you start doing those things you meet some really fantastic people. If you put a year into these activities your health improves, your sense of well-being improves, your sense of community improves – in ways that buying a flat plasma screen or buying a bigger car can’t do for you. There are so many benefits to people in living more modestly and sustainably and realistically”.
Rod started performing at university in the Architects Review. He acknowledges that the first things you do are generally autobiographical – even if you pretend they are not. “You can only write about what you know – and when you’re 18 or 19 what you know is pretty much yourself. I never found myself very interesting, but I found things that happened to me interesting. “When I was working with a group there was always some social and political awareness; but when I became a solo comedian I realised that comedy is a tool. You can talk about relationships, the football, getting drunk, or whatever you like – those things never interested me – but what does interest me is basically the things that I see that are wrong with the world. “Comedy is a tool, you can use it to change the world . . . that hasn’t happened! I often tell people I’m like Vera Lynn – I just keep the troops happy . . .”