I write this note from a hotel room in Melbourne. There’s a lot going on around here – I’ll be keen to see it when it’s finished.
The people I met with yesterday (a community group interested in urban agriculture – one of my fields of research) mentioned that many of the high-rise apartment blocks in the city are half-empty, while we passed multiple sites that were scheduled to be demolished to “make way for more housing”. Weird.
We also passed a 3,000 square metre (three-quarter acre in the old language) site that has been proposed for a six-storey, 500-student school. It is completely surrounded by dense development so there is zero open space – none on site, and none nearby. I guess the “vision” (using that term loosely) is for students to eat their recess and lunch while sitting down staring at screens. I am trying to imagine the bizarre, pale lifeform who concocted such a vision, and I’m picturing Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
On a more positive note, I met a like-minded academic, Samuel Alexander, from the Uni of Melbourne. Sam is heavily involved in the Simplicity Institute, which essentially holds that human civilisation cannot be sustained, and we need a positive vision of a future without rampant consumerism and high per capita resource (especially energy) use. To that end, they’ve created a demonstration project – an ecovillage in Gippsland – where a small community of people are experimenting with “tiny” housing and other aspects of “sufficiency”. (I deliberately didn’t say “self-sufficiency”.) I recommend thumbing through their publications and watching their award-winning documentary film. (And if you’re wondering where Sam stands on population, see page 9 of his article “Policies for a Post-Growth Economy”.)
By the time this is sent out, I will have met with Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation. My hope, from that meeting, is not to get ACF to launch a population campaign or publicly endorse SPA. That may disappoint some of you, but what I’m hoping is to gain insights – from one of the biggest environmental organisations in the country – as to why our advocacy seems to fail at engaging the mainstream environmentalist movement.
But enough from me!