17 August 2015, Resilience, Moral Discomfort, Privilege, and the Politics of Air-Conditioning…..Consider the cultural and historical perspective. Of course you could survive without air-conditioning, just as your grandparents and great-grandparents did and just as most people living in far hotter parts of Africa, South America, and Asia do. At least a billion people of the world, mainly women, wash clothes exclusively by hand, and in climates much hotter than ours. Most people still don’t own cars, but manage somehow nonetheless. We often pity them but without really understanding their lives, supposing that we are the only people with happy and fulfilling lives. Humans are far more adaptable and resilient than we are led to believe, and find joy and meaning in a broader range of conditions than we, who can command comfort at the push of a button, are often able to imagine, our sense of possibility withering under the cool dry air, perhaps. Very few of us would actually be stricken with heat stroke by continuing with our daily household toil in all but the rarest of conditions. Read More here
27 July 2015, The Conversation, Don’t panic! Traffic congestion is not coming for our cities: There is a new fear on the block. Not just ISIS, home invasions, wind turbines and the budget deficit, but now we must fear … traffic congestion. The Infrastructure Australia report on the future needs of our cities emphasises the growing problem of urban traffic congestion all over the country. It is echoed by the State of Australian Cities report. Congestion, it warns, will overwhelm our futures, making them unlivable, uneconomic and ungovernable as we fight for every piece of road space. But do we have to accept that congestion trends will overwhelm us? Is it really right to fear congestion? The fear: According to the IA report travel times are going to increase by at least 20%. The total cost of such congestion will increase from A$13.7 billion a year to A$53.3 billion by 2031, an increase of nearly three times. The loss of time will apparently cripple us.
The public policy reaction to fear is to jettison economic analysis and throw money at it. No benefit-cost ratio is needed as we need to act now or it will overwhelm us. Kneejerk reactions like this are usually regretted in hindsight but at the time we have no choice, it must be done. In this climate of congestion-fear big roads are not being assessed, just announced. The congestion peril is coming. We must honour the Abbott government’s election commitments to around A$40 billion of high-capacity roads such as the East-West Link in Melbourne (now discredited and dropped by the Victorian Government), the Connex West system in Sydney (causing similar pain with communities subject to its impact) and most recently the Perth Freight Link (which looms as the biggest election issue facing the Barnett government that never actually wanted it). All of these roads have benefit cost ratios that make them very questionable. Read More here
20 July 2015, WRI, An opportunity not to be wasted: The waste sector permeates almost every aspect of our society, and its mismanagement can lead to serious problems. Worldwide, we generated 1.3 billion tons of waste in 2012, which accounted forabout 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This volume is project to rise to 2.2 billion tons by 2025, with most of the increase expected in cities in the so-called emerging economies like Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. The waste management utility sector is in the eye of the storm, and its evolution will be crucial to humanity’s response to various environmental challenges. As discussed in my previous blog in this series, the utility ecosystem is unable to respond to our social and environmental challenges because of entrenched interests, archaic infrastructure, systemic rigidities, and corporate inertia—all of which are painfully evident in the solid waste sector. Read More here
29 June 2015, Renew Economy, Victorian solar project to create ‘perpetual’ fund for community renewables: A former timber mill in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges could soon host a community-owned commercial solar array, with a tender process for the government-funded and community-led project set to begin this week. The Woodend Timber Mill project, which was awarded a $100,000 grant by the Victorian Andrews government in February, aims to install an initial 30kW of solar PV, and then use the tenants’ electricity payments to reinvest in more solar panels, thus creating a “perpetual fund” for community renewables.
Coordinated by the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group, the initial 120-panel commercial-sized project is expected to cater to most of the needs of the current tenants at the mill, and potentially attract more to the site, presumably with the promise of lower and more stable electricity bills. Funds generated would be directed to a newly formed Macedon Ranges Renewable Energy Fund. “We are hoping to reinvest this money on other solar projects and we intend to do that after consulting the Macedon Ranges community on where an appropriate site may be,” Group renewable energy adviser Barry Mann told the Herald Sun. Read More here