Fancy footwork


I’ve spent so much time lately looking up at the sky and worrying about the buildup of greenhouse gases that I haven’t paid much attention to my feet – until today that is, when I trod in a puddle. And boy did I notice that! I had a big hole in the bottom of my shoe.

I’d been wearing crocs for the last year but they’d finally worn out (and are currently being turned into garden planters – see May 3) so I pulled out an old pair of “real” shoes. And lo and behold they had a hole in them. Right, I thought, time to take them to the bootmaker. It was then that I realised I’d been living in the Blue Mountains for 6 years and had no idea if there even was a bootmaker. I did the quick ringaround and discovered there was still one in Katoomba. I then went through my wardrobe and gathered up all the shoes that needed repairing and, a woman on a mission, I headed to meet “the man”. “The Man” in question took one look at all my shoes and said no. Can you believe it? He said no to a whole bag of shoes. As it turned out, my most expensive pair of beautiful black leather shoes had rubber soles made in one piece with foam in the heel (THAT’S why they felt so light and comfy to wear!) – virtually impossible to repair. With shame I discovered that I’d worn another pair just that much too long that he could no longer fix them and the other two were another type of rubber-in-one-piece job that is also impossible to repair. I was devastated but kept saying: “do you really mean none of these can be repaired at all?”

In his beautiful Czech accent he nodded sagely and said, “It’s AmWay – the American Way – buy it, use it, chuck it out.”

I was overwhelmed with guilt, having just spent the last year selling crocs myself and being completely sucked into AmWay.  Bootmakers are definitely struggling to survive with our new shoe wearing trends.

Being stubborn, I kept looking at him and saying, “but these black ones are such beautiful shoes … are you really, really sure you can’t do anything about them?” He finally relented and said he’d give them a try but couldn’t guarantee anything. It’s going to cost a fortune, so I understand why people choose “AmWay”, but I’m determined to break free of the trap. I’ll save money other ways (more home brew should do the trick!) He then showed me how to recognize shoes that are repairable and ones that aren’t … and also highlighted the need to look after the ones you do have. Another guilt attack.

I was definitely “brung up” right – every week, when I was a child, my mother would get us

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to polish our school shoes and our girl guide shoes until they shone. So what went wrong? Partly, I guess, it was the advent of joggers and a variety of shoes that didn’t need polishing; partly laziness, being too busy to think about it and partly just getting out of the habit. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t even given my children the habit to get out of. Another guilt attack.

OK – enough wallowing. I’ve left my beautiful black shoes in the shoe hospital and my fingers are crossed that the life saving operation they’re about to have “may” work, and in the meantime I’m going to set up a shoe polishing ritual for the boys’ school shoes and my shoes. Every Sunday night like my mum used to do.

I then started thinking about the whole issue of shoes. While I was monopolising the Bootmaker another Blackheathen walked in and told me about a show she’d seen on SBS last night – Future Focus: Waste=Food This is an inspirational project initiated by an amazing architect, William McDonough who looks at making sure everything lasts cradle to cradle, rather than cradle to grave. NIKE shoes, for example, are now made to be biodegradable and NIKE also collects joggers to recycle.

Worn Again is a fantastic British company that makes shoes that are all unique one-offs out of things like old parachute sails, old car seats, prison blankets … you name it, they use it to make new shoes. Would be great if someone could kick something like that off here.

I found a site where you can also buy children’s hemp shoes with recycled tyre tread soles and discovered that another thing to consider when buying shoes is their means of production This is where shoes like those produced by No Sweat Apparel come into their own. Their shoes are produced by independent trade union members in the US, Canada, and the developing world. They believe that the only viable response to globalization is a global labor movement.

Another shoe designed “to kick megacorporate ass” is one of my favourites, the Blackspot Unswoosher

But when you talk about the problems of buying clothes made in sweatshops by kids, nobody ever did it as well as the Onion, with this breathless coverage of the Gap’s New “For Kids By Kids” Clothing Line“. A Gap rep says “those kids are so devoted, they work all day long and don’t even break for lunch!”

There are lots of great tempting ideas on the web but a problem is still the carbon emitted when you import products like shoes. The best news I discovered was that there’s actually a girl who’s a bootmaker in Lithgow. She makes those soft leather baby shoes and all sorts of “real” shoes. She’s behind L&S Upholstery. With a bit of luck it will be years before my shoes wear out but if I need another pair soon I know where I’ll go.

Anyway, I pretty well wore myself out worrying about shoes. Suddenly it was nearly midnight and I still hadn’t done my political action for the day. I did a piece of fancy footwork (pun intended) and reworked the letter I sent Kerry Bartlett. Emailed it off to our Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

I actually also received an email from Kevin Rudd’s office in response to my email about Labor’s nuclear policy. Still thinking about this one:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me in regard to Federal Labor’s policy on uranium.

At the ALP’s 2007 National Conference in Sydney, the party’s platform was amended to remove the ban on new uranium mines. The policy change is recognition of Australia’s ongoing role as a major uranium supplier. This change in Federal Labor’s policy does not alter the right of State Governments to approve or reject any proposed new uranium mines within their borders.

Labor’s revised platform takes a strong position on nuclear non-proliferation and international nuclear safeguards and commits Labor to work towards a number of outcomes, including:

· strengthening export control regimes and the rights and authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);

· appropriate international responses to violations of existing safeguard commitments;
· limiting the processing of weapon usable material (separation of plutonium and high enriched uranium in civilian programs);

· tightening controls over the export of nuclear material and technology;
· criminalising actions of individuals and companies that assist in nuclear proliferation; and,
· revising the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to prevent countries from withdrawing from the NPT and passing a new resolution in the UN Security Council addressing the penalties for withdrawal from the NPT.

The 2007 National Conference has also reiterated Labor’s opposition to the establishment in Australia of nuclear power plants, and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, and to the importation and storage in Australia of nuclear waste that is sourced from overseas.

Nuclear power is not the answer to Australia’s future energy needs. It will be at least 2020 before nuclear electricity can be delivered to the grid, long after Australia will have to begin reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the introduction of nuclear energy could place greater stress on an already overstretched water system, and there are still significant concerns over the safety of nuclear waste disposal.

Labor is focussed on energy policy which tackles climate change, maximises our existing energy advantages and provides long-term energy security. Labor’s approach includes: the introduction of a carbon trading scheme and carbon reduction target of 60 per cent by 2050; a substantial increase in the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target; and our National Clean Coal Initiative. Labor will continue to argue for a future energy mix based on clean coal and gas, geothermal and other renewable energy sources – not nuclear power.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me in regard to this important issue.

Kind regards,

Kevin Rudd
Federal Labor Leader
Member for Griffith