Friday, 29 January 2010

Local Government and resilience

I have tried to stay away from political comment in this blog.  After all,  it is really about my own struggle with the environment, earwigs and lack of water in a dry climate, growing my own vegetables and my own adventure in self-sufficiency.
However,  I am an elected member in local government and a candidate for state parliament for the Greens party and I feel as though I have a double life.

I heard a debate on TV this evening about the climate/population/economic issues that face the community now.  It was interesting,  as it included a diverse group of people representing a number of different interests.  Opinions were varied...  unusual for a television debate.
It appeared to me that this debate devolved into a discussion of  which environment... urban,  suburban,  regional or rural would be environmentally sustainable.  Sustainability seems to be the new "trendy" word or idea to use.  The idea of sustainable development (sounds like an oxymoron to me) was canvassed.

There appeared to be a serious consideration of the lack of infrastructure for suburban development, and the attendant social problems that go along with that...  it began so well.    Then the discussion tended towards how to accomodate a significant increase in population in our cities and associated areas in the near future without any significant disruption to the "Australian way of life."    I  have no doubt that increasing global population and the serious social effects of climate change will produce significant population pressures on our nation... cities and towns included.  This population pressure will change our communities.

As an elected member in local government, the lack of concern with infrastructure for many years is a serious issue for current and future councils and the long term strategic planning and viability of many communities.   This has led to a serious under-estimation of the depreciation of those assets that we have all taken for granted,  from roads and bridges to town halls and even community organisations such as the CWA or the CFA,  for all of these are a significant part of our way of life and they all need re-building.

We are left to consider our own situation with respect to environmental sustainability,  for this is the only long term consideration.  Sustainability and an ever increasing Gross National Product are not compatible and this  means that there needs to be a reconsideration of where we are to go from here. (Increasing GNP is a pre-requisite for the maintenance of this way of life.)

The population of the earth is increasing at such a rate...  it now doubles more and more rapidly...  but this will stop,  whether voluntarily or because,  like any other animals that exceed their environment's "carrying capacity"  a population crash occurs.   Population crashes have been seen in the past,  usually by war, famine or disease.  I am not sure what makes this civilisation so confident that we can avoid such a fate.   Population crashes do not occur evenly.   It is neither even, fair nor just.   Should such a catastrophe happen,  how would any of us fare?

Already,  with the financial difficulties that our society faces, we see a significant variation in the ability of people to withstand the financial, social and psychological pressures.  

I have no answers,  except that the more resilient people and communities seem to be better equipped for whatever might befall them.

Resilience is the capacity to recover from stress or catastophe and I think that this is what we may need in the future.  Perhaps we should be encouraging resilience as much as our vegetables.

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