Sunday, February 28, 2010

Good Bye Summer...

I saw the twitters coming in hot and fast last night about the earthquake in Chile. I immediately hopped on to facebook and sent a message to a couple of friends to see if they were OK. Amazingly, Macarena shot back immediately with her cute English: "Dear Emma, thanks God we are all ok!" While not related to climate change, these earthquakes that mother earth has dished out lately are starting to resemble an irritable mother, tired of sustaining those around her, and giving them a bit of a shove.I logged on to the BoM website today (which would have to be THE most popular website in Australia) and read a press release confirming that this summer was the hottest on record in West Australia. It gets worse. It was also their driest... "Provided no measurable rainfall is recorded in the remaining few days of summer, Perth is heading for its driest summer since rainfall records commenced in 1876".

It's these daily reminders, these small pieces of a very complex jigsaw, that drives me to the need to act on climate change. While I feel daily despair in varying degrees for the planet, I choose to put my energies into positive actions wherever I can. For a start, my kids would freak out if they saw us strung out and hopeless. It's really their futures that are at stake, isn't it, so I guess we owe it to them to create a positive way forward.. with enthusiasm... well, at least with a 'nose to the grindstone' kind of resolution.

Many of our friends know us as 'doers' in this household, but we're not totally gun-ho - we are also thinking doers. So we get nourished by locking ourselves indoors on rainy pre-Autumn weekends, where we get to think about the bigger picture, researching, reading and watching wonderful things that wonderful humans are doing around the world. And we always come back to the appeal of the Transition Towns movement. It's a positive, empowering process for communities to take the ideas and make it their own. The best thing about it is that we don't really know how it's going to end up, the idea is to make a start. Here in Kurilpa, the kinship and love for our fellow community members has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
Here's an example of the sorts of things that gets our mojo pumping: Robert just came across this idea today... Carrotmob. The idea is to collectively arrange friends (consumers) to support business to do the right thing (seeing the government is taking its time to act). It's a positive message and the idea is that businesses will always respond to the carrot, not the stick - especially when the carrot means extra money! Ideas like this are transition ideas - ways to get us off the treadmill of business-as-usual, and to start thinking about the ecological economy. It's the Blessed Unrest of our times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A new era for Brisbane City

Finally, some good news for Brisbanites. The Council has allowed a private company to set up the Parisian-inpsired Velolib cycle program in the inner-city. Fifty bike stations will be set up in the CBD, West End through to Newstead at the end of the year.

Nearly 200 carparking spaces will be ripped up to encourage day trippers and inner-city employees onto bicycles - Yay!

Now all the Council needs to do is provide decent bike lanes to make the trip safer.... hmmm, something they forgot to do in the planning. Perhaps they were too busy building tunnels and bridges ;-) There's a bit of an uproar on the part of residents and opposition Councillors saying that the loss of carparking spaces will be an issue.
It amuses me endlessly that, had the BCC not been so short-sighted when I started GWhiz Carshare service, there would, by now be a network of carshare spaces dotted all around the inner-city which would complement the bike-hire scheme proposed. Since Brisbane lost its carsharing service late last year, membership in the USA and Europe grew 117%.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Watch Out!

OK, so this is blatant green washing, but it really appeals to my ex-criminologist career!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poor thinking plagues humanity

It's been a huge battle for the West End community of late. This inner-city community on the Kurilpa peninsular is already busting at the seams with development and traffic. Now the Brisbane Lord Mayor has just pushed a local plan through that will see an additional 30,000 residents on top of the existing 8,000. Is it a case of NIMBY? No, see we want more people. We agree urban sprawl is bad, and higher densitiy is the answer. We think it's much smarter to accommodate people in a mix of medium density, medium rise, sustainably designed buildings. Access to parklands, social infrastructure, and affordable housing will ensure this community grows appropriately while maintaining our cultural heritage.

But there's something sinister going on because just across the river, Brisbane's CBD currently has a glut of commercial office space, and Newman wants to add another 72,000 day-time workers to our community by building a series of 30 storey commercial office sky scrapers in our suburb. Add that to the extra residents, and we have a city the size of Mackay dropped on top of us! We understand the pressures of population growth. What we don't understand is unjustified, unsustainable, unnecessary (& vacant) developments being imposed on the fabric of this community.

No where in the plan is there any mention of sustainable design, no where is there provision for public transport infrastructure, no where is there extra green space, no where is there mention of affordable housing, and no where is there provision for extra schools.

But wait, there's more. We're not the only ones suffering from the politicisation of the Lord Mayor's Office. Community resident action groups are popping up simultaneously in Albion, Bridgeman Downs, Sherwood, Milton, Kelvin Grove and East Brisbane. I think we should all get together and have a chin wag about this 'Johnny Howard on Heat' and see if the arrogance remains after we collectively face him. Apparently, he entered our neighbourhood earlier this week and was too scared to go into the main street!
I want to know what price for objectivity in this city when communities aren't listened to, and developers get a seat at the Lord Mayor's desk on an all too regular basis.

Someone said to me recently that the community should stop whingeing and start doing positive things. I'd like the Lord Mayor to come down to West End and see first hand how a diverse, cohesive community really celebrates life. This place is an asset to Brisbane. A place where all Brisbanites come for a dose of culture and community. Not some expensive piece of land ready to be exploited. It shocks me how short-sighted our 'leaders' can be. It only proves how disconnected they are from the realities of life on our streets. It also worries me that the Lord Mayor isn't getting out enough, winding down, allowing some creative thinking time in his life. A trip to Malmo, Sweden might just be the place for him!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adelaide now has a Food Connect

With the impending launch of Food Connect in Adelaide, Robert & I booked a last minute campervan ($1 a day!) and headed to the outback enroute to South Australia. More and more these days we grapple with our growing distaste for flying everywhere 'just because it's cheap' and have opted for more sustainable modes of travel, and more sustainable modes of thinking - that is, slowing things down.
There's something about driving in Australia that makes you feel really free. The changing landscape and the big skies that go on forever really make you feel tiny on this planet. We took four days through Goondiwindi, Moree, and Bourke chasing the water that was flowing down into the Darling River. Many roads were closed and I was disappointed not to get to Tilpa for the trip into Wilcannia and Broken Hill, still we saw some wonderful sights, and enjoyed the art galleries at Silverton while I recovered from a mild bout of mastitis (I know! can you believe it!!).
Robert also recalled the few months he spent living in Broken Hill and his work mustering on a sheep station during the middle of the drought - he told me of the heartbreaking decision by the owner to kill hundreds of sheep and bury them in mass graves because they had no food, and their meat wasn't fetching a good price. Going south to Adelaide, the desert stretched out to the horizons, and it seemed hard to believe that somewhere along the dusty side roads were grand homesteads belonging to these huge sheep stations. It made us wonder at the human being's arrogance/stupidity/naivety in thinking they could tame the country & live out here perpetually... I mean it's the DESERT for goodness sake! Desert soon turned into grasslands and the sight of wind farms were awe-inspiring, and the small towns of Burra and Saddleback were gorgeous with all their tributes to the recent Tour Down Under event.

We stayed in a very old pub on King William Street in the heart of Adelaide while we attended the Plains to Plate convergence at the University of SA. It was kicked off by Gay Bilson and her propositions for the future of food. Always insightful, and provokingly emotional, her central theme was that as a society we really need to work out how much we really 'need' and look for ways to reduce waste and over-consumption of water.
The event created a great platform for the crew to launch Food Connect Adelaide, and Robert told his moving story (once again reducing me, and a few others, to tears) and the need for a fairer food system. It was wonderful for me to meet and get to know the fantastic people committed to getting things off the ground. The team has such a warmth and genuine intention to care for each other and their community of farmers and subscribers, reminding me of our wonderful team in Brisbane. They really know what they're doing down there and if their social marketing is anything to go by, the buzz being generated will no doubt ensure its success.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hill End Eco House

At the invitation of Emma Scragg, our lovely cycle-mad friend and Food Connect City Cousin, we dropped in to check out the completed eco-house that she had designed and Rob Peagram built. It has been a six year journey from conception to completion for the owners, and Emma admitted they were the kind of dream clients every architect wishes for, never wanting to compromise on any sustainability principles throughout the whole process.

These people must have some serious money to throw around because no cent was spared in the attention to detail and clever finishes throughout the house. What impressed us was that although the old house was demolished and removed from the site, most of the timbers were re-used in the framing and features of the new house.

It was great to see the wonders of modern green technology at play, and to see what a 6 star house looked like, but for me, there's something much more charming about maintaining an old place and retrofitting bits & pieces to enhance the sustainability factor. The tour also reminded me of those plans Emma did for me a few years ago before I sold up in the suburbs and moved to West End... dreams that didn't take flight - perhaps another house and another time...

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