Sitting on Canberra’s beautiful Lake Burley Griffin on a Sunday afternoon with the sun hitting my nose and I look over towards the yacht club and the green landscape makes me think about Canberra as a resilient city?
Jared Diamond, an American leading scientist and author once described a possible future as follows:
“Thus, because we are rapidly advancing along this non- sustainable course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetime of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease, epidemics, and collapse of societies.”
In relation to the future of Canberra it’s really our choice. Canberra is in a very lucky position to have a general well established and well- educated middle class with the highest average income in Australia. Committed community leaders want to drive change from the bottom up.
The city prediction is geared up towards growth, the ACT government undertook an enormous community consultation “Canberra 2030 –time to talk” and reformed its public service in order to achieve a whole of government approach.
But the challenges ahead cannot be underestimated and will hit us hard if we don’t use this current opportunity to work together.
Personally I don’t want to picture a future for Canberra that proves “climate doomsayers” and “peakers”, with their apocalyptic projections right. But I pretty much believe that in an age of high fossil fuel consumption there will be continued growth in forms of mobility, which are predominately fossil fuel based. I still believe that Canberra will find a transition to a post- oil economy on its own very difficult as long there is no real united response while we have still time.
Looking at the recent mortgage meltdown in theUS, increasing oil prices are invoking panic. This crisis also showed that within a short time period entire suburbs can collapse. These are usually located on the fringe, where public transport services are perceived as very inconvenient, access to social services, quality open spaces are outside of walking or cycling distance and households find it hard to pay off the mortgage.
Suburban sprawl has given us many advantages, based on cheap oil, but this honeymoon time has come to an end. The obesity epidemic is evident.
If we keep providing the existing rational of greenfield development that will consume valuable land and other natural resources it will seriously undermine the future resilience of Canberra, within or outside of our 10 km growth radius as indicated in the Canberra Plan.
Also Canberra has a higher car dependency than the national average and is about ten times less dense than Melbourne and Sydney. Under the bottom line the Australian capital is one of the lowest density cities in the world.
Also by distracting us from seeking just solutions to the issue of energy, water, waste and food production in favour of individualised approaches is not equitable.
ACT Government website www.measuringourpgrogess.com.au shows that contact outside of households is declining.
Canberra as a city is a collective entity that needs to find common good solutions to avoid the risk of becoming highly exclusive for some members of its population.
I hope it is not in the interest of the greater community to support the fact that the amount of road infrastructure needed to be maintained has grown by almost 30 per cent since 1990.
International best practise exemplar shows that there are solutions which are working very well on different levels. For example Freiburg Vauban in Germany or Somerville in Western Australia show wonderful creations of communities that drive innovation and share social, economic and environmental goals on an equal basis.
Decision makers we count on you!