Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Living Closer Together in Australian Cities

Posted in Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on June 14th, 2011

Source: The Age

Image: xenization via flickr CC

From “Love thy neighbour. Gen Y embraces closeness of urban living” by Tarsha Finney:

Research released last week entitled ”Why We Buy”, published by RAMS Home Loans and the market research firm, IPSOS, has shown that despite the increase in the value of residential property, young Australians still want to own their own home. But now, they are just as happy living in and buying apartments as they are houses.  This is exciting news for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is the beginning of the de-coupling of our domestic fantasies from an economic pragmatism that sees wealth generation in the ownership of property. This is good for the city; it’s good for the production of housing, for the creation of density and for the making of public space.

With the loosening of the grip of this fantasy over our capacity to imagine a future, we can now as a community and as planning and design professionals start on the real work we need to do in our cities — to plan for two inevitables: population growth and climate change.  Whacking a couple of solar panels on the roof doesn’t cut it (although I agree it makes some of us feel good). We need to fundamentally rethink our cities in terms of transport infrastructure and density. And to do that, we need to begin to rethink the issue of housing and what that means: how we organise our private space.

But, probably more importantly, this news of the beginnings of a shift from houses to apartments is indicative of what might seem like an astounding fact. Actually, most of the time, we really like each other and we like living together. We like being known by our neighbours, but also I would argue, we like the anonymity of the civilised urban crowd. Apartment living, despite the myth of isolation, is actually about less private space coupled with more collective urban living space. This is sociable space. Space where we get together in groups and hang out.

Gen X and Gen Y Australians know this. They know it from their experience as backpackers, not consumers of organised tour groups, who in their early 20s and 30s, have spent weeks if not months gloriously bumming around cities in Asia and Europe. There’s an exciting creative dynamism to this shared space and being together, where we get to look at each other and engage in civic life — even if it’s just for 20 minutes of lazy gossip while we get some sun on our backs and grab a coffee. But in a more profound sense, it’s this collective public space and environment in which we get together and look at each other; where we work out who ”we” are as a collective: as a neighbourhood, as communities of interest, as city dwellers and as citizens of a nation.

In small, but important moments, these informal meetings are known as the ”bump” factor. Interestingly bio-medical research institutions all over the country have examined these creative ”bump” scenarios. What these institutions have noticed is that some of the most important exchanges we make with each other happen in informal settings — over coffee, walking together up the stairs, over lunch, at the gym — they don’t happen at conferences or when we sit in our own private offices. These ideas have been harnessed by organisations such as the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland when building new research and work spaces.

Read the full article by Tarsha Finney in The Age.


Shaping Tomorrow’s World: Website Launch

Posted in Opinion, Research, Seeking by Kate Archdeacon on May 17th, 2011

From climate change to peak oil and food insecurity, our societies are confronted with many serious challenges that, if left unresolved, will threaten the well-being of present and future generations, and the natural world. This website is dedicated to discussion of those challenges and potential solutions based on scientific evidence and scholarly analysis. Our goal is to provide a platform for re-examining some of the assumptions we make about our technological, social and economic systems.

The posts on this site are generally written by domain experts, specialists and scholars with an interest in these problems and we hope they will generate informed and constructive debate. We will archive seminal papers and posts for future reference.

We are now open for conversation. Our initial posts provide a preview of what’s to come. At the moment, most of the categories of topics remain to be filled, and we need to take up more policy issues. This will all happen over time—we have lots more content coming over the next few weeks and months. Just sign up to our RSS feed and you’ll stay informed.

Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Public Lecture

Posted in Events, Opinion, Research by land-environment on April 27th, 2011

3 May , 2011
5:30 pmto7:00 pm

Image: lizkdc via flickr CC

Climate change is not “a problem” waiting for “a solution”.  It is an environmental, political and cultural phenomenon that is reshaping the way we think about ourselves, about our societies and about humanity’s place on Earth.

Based on some of the ideas contained in Prof. Mike Hulme’s recent book, Why We Disagree About Climate Change, this lecture dissects this idea of climate change – where it came from, what it means to different people in different places and why we disagree about it.  It also develops a different way of approaching the idea of climate change and of working with it.  Rather than seeing “stopping climate change” as the universal project around which the world must be mobilised at all costs, the idea of climate change gives us new resources – new insights, new vocabularies, new myths – which can be used creatively in our bewildering diversity of human projects.  We must use the idea of climate change to open up new spaces for innovation, change and diversity, rather than try to align the world in search of one unattainable utopia.  And we must accommodate disagreement by adopting a plural approach in our responses to climate change.

Mike Hulme is professor of climate change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA).  He was the Founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research from 2000 to 2007.  His work explores the idea of climate change using historical, cultural and scientific analyses, seeking to illuminate the numerous ways in which climate change is deployed in public and political discourse.  His two most recent books are Why We Disagree About Climate Change: understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity (2009) and, with Henry Neufeldt, the edited volume Making Climate Change Work For Us (2010) which is a synthesis of the research findings of the EU FP6 Integrated Project ‘ADAM: Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies’.  He is editor-in-chief of the new review journal: Wiley’s Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs): Climate Change.

Tuesday 3rd May
Time: 5.30pm

Speaker: Professor Mike Hulme
Professor of Climate Change
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Location: Lower Theatre, Melbourne School of Land and Environment Building, University of Melbourne

To register, visit:

Farmers Cannot Afford to Ignore Climate Change: Article

Posted in Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on April 8th, 2011

Image: Looking Glass via flickr CC

From “Climate Change Convert” by Kate Dowler in The Weekly Times:

Farmers cannot afford to ignore climate change, whether they believe in the science or not. And if agriculture does not have a seat at the negotiations table with big industries such as coal, they will “end up on the menu”.

This is the view of leading Western District farmer, Mark Wootton, a self-described climate-change sceptic turned renewable energy lobbyist. The trained geographer says his view changed as the weight of scientific evidence that human actions were causing climate change grew, and he now accepts the validity of the mainstream scientific view. Now he argues that whether they “believe” the science of climate change or not, farmers can benefit by learning more about carbon markets. And he says farming is to play a big role in solving climate change but to enable this, governments urgently need to put more money into extensive agricultural research and development.

Mr Wootton began looking at climate change from a business-risk perspective in the late 1990s. “The risk is there’s a high probability that the science is absolutely correct,” he said. “From a farmer’s perspective, I think we have to accept we’ve moved into a carbon-constrained world. Forget about the politics and look at the risk to your business.” Mr Wootton runs 5000ha at Hamilton with wife Eve Kantor. They produce beef, wool, lambs, crops and agroforestry. He also chairs the Climate Institute, a non-partisan, independent research organisation. “My fear now is there’s a high probability that the climate is changing much quicker than the scientists’ earlier models showed,” he said, “What is unfortunately becoming clearer is that predictions were way too conservative.”

“From a business perspective, I’ve concluded the cost and advantages of acting are not detrimental to our business; if we can be more energy-efficient, if we can be better converters of feed so we produce less methane, if we can use shelter belts for stock protection and increasing lambing percentages – all of those aspects we can do on an integrated, carbon-constrained farm, then they are good for business.”

Read the full article by Kate Dowler in The Weekly Times.



Employment, Mobility and Living in a Growing City: Melbourne Conversations

Posted in Events, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on March 29th, 2011

30 March , 2011
6:00 pmto7:30 pm

Image: Hammarby Sjostad by La Citta Vita via flickr CC

Melbourne is expanding to the inner north and west and the notion and dominance of a CBD is changing. What type and proportions of living, working and playing places should be provided, and how will mobility in these renewed areas be facilitated? How do comparable cities cope and thrive? Join the conversation about jobs, dwellings, services, planning, and improved public transport, walking and cycling.

6.00pm to 7.30pm, entry from 5.30pm Wednesday 30 March 2011
BMW Edge, Federation Square, Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets, Melbourne

More details:


  • Professor Graham Currie – Chair in Public Transport, Monash University
  • Halvard Dalheim – Director State Strategy, Department of Planning & Community Development, Melbourne
  • Professor Moura Quayle – UBC Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Dr Marcus Spiller – Director SGS Economics, Melbourne

Moderator: Peter Mares – Journalist and Presenter ABC Radio National.
Discussant: Dr Ruth Fincher – Professor of Geography University of Melbourne

Urban Renewal, Urban Growth and Creative Opportunities: Melbourne Conversations

Posted in Events, Opinion, Policies by Kate Archdeacon on March 23rd, 2011

23 March , 2011
6:00 pmto7:30 pm

Photo of Fishermans Bend by novakreo via flickr CC

Parts of North and West Melbourne, Kensington, Fishermans Bend and Docklands have been identified for renewal, but will this relieve the strain on the metropolitan fringe? What forms could it take, and who might it provide for? Informed commentators will discuss the types of development, ‘up versus out’ and multi-centred cities, residential densities, appropriate business spaces, affordable spaces for artists and heritage in the city’s old industrial zones.


  • Jeff Gilmore – Executive Director Strategic Policy, Research and Forecasting, Department of Planning and Community Development, Melbourne
  • David Moloney – Industrial Historian, National Trust of Victoria
  • Dr Kate Shaw – ARC Research Fellow, Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne
  • David Waldren – General Manager, Grocon Carlton Brewery Development

Moderator: Peter Mares – Journalist and Presenter ABC Radio National.
Discussant: Dr Ruth Fincher – Professor of Geography, University of Melbourne

6.00pm to 7.30pm. Entry from 5.30pm, Wednesday 23 March 2011
BMW Edge, Federation Square, Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets, Melbourne

More details:

Some Key Points On Carbon Pricing from MEFL

Posted in Movements, Opinion, Policies, Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 10th, 2011

Source: Moreland Energy Foundation

Moreland Energy Foundation have released a bulletin on the Carbon Pricing debate (and upcoming Get Up rally) with the hope of clarifying some of the facts involved.  Thanks MEFL!

Image of 2006 fuel prices from phatman via flickr CC

Key points on carbon pricing

Both parties agree to 5%: Both parties have committed to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020.

It will cost to cut emissions: Any policy designed to reduce emissions will have a cost to the government (i.e. taxpayers) and/or the economy, at least in the short term. However, a carbon price also has potential to stimulate green industries and create new jobs.

What’s the best way to reduce emissions? If we cut through the media storm, the real question we and our Parliament should be asking is what is the best, most efficient, most effective way to reduce emissions.

Government’s position: The Government argues that its plan for a carbon price (an emissions trading scheme with a fixed price for 3-5 years, which will operate as a tax for this initial period) is the most efficient way to reduce emissions because it is a market mechanism. It says it will provide compensation out of the money it raises from the carbon price to assist householders and businesses. Note that even with compensation, there is an incentive for businesses to reduce emissions in order to avoid paying the tax.

Opposition’s position: The Opposition argues that its plan to directly fund businesses to reduce emissions will be cheaper.

It won’t kill the economy! Whatever you think about the merits of the parties’ arguments, it is clear that neither plan would destroy the economy:

  • We’ve been through worse: The impacts of either plan will be less significant than many other impacts we have experienced in recent years, including the impacts of events like the global financial crisis, currency fluctuations, oil price rises, conflict in the Middle East, and over $40 billion of big new investments in electricity infrastructure (poles and wires) over the next five years
  • Others have done it: What’s more, much stronger policies to cut emissions (via taxes, emissions trading and other mechanisms) than those proposed by either major party have been introduced around the world in economies that are still running smoothly and in many cases thriving (for example, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an emissions trading scheme involving a number of American states)
  • There are opportunities: Reducing emissions can create job opportunities and stimulate economic growth, and has done so in countries with strong clean energy policies such as Germany and China
  • There are risks if we don’t act: Not changing to a low emissions economy is a significant risk, because high emissions activities are being phased out around the world and Australia could be left behind.

MEFL’s position

MEFL believes that the introduction of a carbon price is an important first step in reducing emissions. We accept that market mechanisms help deliver the most cost-effective solutions to complex problems such as greenhouse gas pollution. However, a carbon price will not in itself be sufficient to drive the required emissions reductions and the corresponding social and economic responses. We urge the Government to develop complementary policies and programs designed to support renewable energy and energy efficiency, and assist businesses and communities to respond to carbon pricing appropriately and with minimal disruption. In particular, we encourage the Government to promote energy efficiency as an effective and long-term way to counteract any price increases resulting from the introduction of a carbon price, both for businesses and households.


Our Food Future: Local More Important Than “Ugly”

Posted in Models, Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on January 26th, 2011

Image: beccaplusmolly via flickr CC

Reprinted with permission from Greenleap:

Dear Greenleapers,

See the article below – the big Australian supermarket chains are thinking of importing food on a very large scale, rather than selling flood/weather blemished stock.

Wouldn’t it make more sense if we had to live with the consequences of severe floods/extreme weather events and had to buy the local less than cosmetically perfect food? It’s a bit like having to cut water consumption in droughts.

If we import food on a big scale we will drive up international prices and in the end this will cause more poverty and even starvation overseas (as we push out problems onto others who have less purchasing power).

Maybe this is a campaign the Transition Towns and sustainable living movements could take up?

Cheers, Philip

Supermarkets, consumers face food price rises by Kirsty Needham, The Age, January 24, 2011

BIG supermarkets are contemplating the mass importation of fruit and vegetables — and are already stocking shelves with damaged produce from local growers desperate for cash after the floods.  In what looms as a dilemma, Coles and Woolworths are weighing up whether to support Australian producers — and sell their water-damaged crops — or favour imports and keep prices down.

Coles is already selling so-called ugly fruit, which has blemishes, relaxing its quality classifications to keep shelves stocked. Woolworths said it would do the same with some products. Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday warned households they will ‘‘inevitably see a spike in prices at the checkout’’, particularly fruit and vegetables, after flooding wiped out large parts of eastern Australia’s food bowl.

Read the rest of this entry »

50 Ways to Give to the Community this Christmas

Posted in Models, Opinion by Rob Eales on December 17th, 2010

From “50 Ways to give to the community this Christmas”, courtesy of

#4 Get your kids involved. Talk to your kids about scaling back your own family’s Christmas present-giving to one gift per child. Encourage your children to think about the community groups that make a difference in their lives by donating a few coins, or by doing a few jobs around the house in exchange for a donation to a group. Ask them to pin-point toys they have outgrown that they would like to contribute to a community group that works with children, or that can sell the toys to help fund their work.

#5 Swap gifts for donations. Instead of giving out Christmas presents yourself, make a donation on your friends’ behalf to an appropriate community group. Give your friends a card telling them that you have made a donation and provide the receipt. Again, the benefit will last longer than a pair of socks, a packet of soaps or box of chocolates.

#6 Sponsor a native animal. Tragically, more and more of our unique Australian fauna are becoming endangered. Icons like Tasmanian Devils, koalas and other great creatures are under threat from disease, introduced species or diminishing habitat. Consider sponsoring a Tasmanian Devil, a koala, a grey nurse shark or a native animal through Our Community’s Giving Centre.

#16 Buy your Christmas tree from a community group. Consider buying your Christmas tree this year from a local scouting group or community organisation selling trees. Real trees smell better than plastic ones, and after Christmas they can be recycled by being cut up for garden mulch (remember to take off the decorations first!). Think Green. Think Community. Try the list of community groups selling trees at Often scout groups, service clubs and CFA brigades sell Christmas trees as fundraisers, so if there isn’t a local group on Our Community’s list, approach one of these organisations to see what they are doing.

#23 Help by having a party. If your workplace, family, neighbours, friends or others are getting extra festive this festive season and having a party, think about who you’re going to get to cater it. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Catering Service not only produces great food, but uses the money it generates through catering to support asylum seekers and their families. See if there’s a similar group in your area that can cater for your party.

#40: Attend a local Christmas concert. Many schools and community groups hold concerts at this time of year – lend your support by going along and clapping loudly. You could also offer to help make costumes or sell tickets.

Read the other 44 at, or visit — a commission-free website listing thousands of good causes and creative ways to give.

The Ethical Christmas Resource Kit

Posted in Movements, Opinion, Research by Kate Archdeacon on December 13th, 2010

Source: Ethical Consumer Group

Do it differently this Christmas!

I buy. I wrap. I give. I get. I get caught up. It’s easy to become lost up in the busyness, anxiety and the frenzy of over-consumption at Christmas time.  So how do we reclaim the essence of Christmas? One that reframes relationships as being more important than possessions and quality time more significant than the rush. One that recognises that all our purchasing choices are connected to wider issues in the world and there is a story behind all the things we buy and receive.

This resource kit explores some things you can do to make a difference with the way you celebrate this Christmas. There are many positive choices you can make for the health of the planet, your community, and yourself.  It may be buying a ham that hasn’t travelled halfway around the globe to get to you, or choosing a non-factory farmed turkey. Perhaps you could choose coffee where the owner of the company has guaranteed a fair wage to the plantation workers, or seafood that has been fished in a sustainable manner. You can also avoid companies with a negative track record, and find good gift alternatives that minimise waste.

‘With every meal, we have the opportunity to support a different food production system – one based on producing vibrant, healthy food with the well-being of people, animals and the land at heart.’ from Beyond the Supermarket, page 5, the Guide 2011

There are options for better buys within the supermarket and department store. Yet at the same time, the real answers are in supporting alternatives beyond. We’ve tried to give you a sense of what to look for, but also outlined some resources to help you where to find local, free range, organic, sustainable and waste free options.  Remember to focus on one issue at a time. Your choices do make a difference, but at the same time it’s no use being overwhelmed. Do what you can with the resources available.

This resource kit divides information into three sections, covering food; gifts; and decorations, lights, trees. It is designed as a companion to the 2011 edition of the Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping and referenced throughout with links to the website and the guide itself.  We recommend you grab some print copies of the guide to give to friends and family this Christmas. It’s a good way of speading the message and equipping people to make a difference in the preparation for Christmas.

All the best in having a great day and making it count this Christmas.