Social Upgrade: Innovation is key to the survival of our society, Pt. 15

Sydney Inner City Apartment Living By Alex E. Proimos

To begin this section, I wanted to make a personal remark. After close to a decade of relying on Adelaide’s bus service which appears to consider timetables as a mere suggestion, where drivers will chose to pull over for a smoke whenever the moment takes them and the observably apathetic customer concern line, I am the least likely to advocate public transport lightly. Over the past few years of driving, I have resisted opportunities to catch a bus and have witnessed my fiancée being turned down for jobs simply because she doesn’t drive (it was never a problem in Melbourne with their public transport system). The stigma with public transport in SA certainly speaks for itself. However, as Prof. Peter Newman discusses in [2], in Perth, the Southern Railway has demonstrated how efficient public transport can alter commuting habits and such techniques, as part of Transit-Orientated Developments (TODs), can change the needs and distribution of people. As rail can be electrified and light rail is practical within nodal regions, it is an easy and practical way to remove one aspect of fossil fuel use – thus relying on source energy to provide the next step in a shift away from fossil fuels.

By investing in TOD infrastructure, governments are only providing the foundation on which business and consumers can build upon for benefit, rather than governments capping and condemning progress.

I know that I will upset some readers by not covering much in the way of renewables. Like biofuels, I feel that they have limited benefit and potential at this point. Sprawling suburbs should, in my opinion, be encouraged to collect water, capture wind and/or solar energy and have on-site grey water processing. Similar should be taken on in nodal higher density developments – such that toilet water is recycled grey water – and a number of passive and renewable energy sourced climate controls are used within buildings. As vehicles are pushed outside of these regions, it is possible to reduce other wastes (both in water and thermal energy) within these regions which are practical and will help decrease our impact on neighbouring environments. The removal of vehicles also opens much more pedestrian space and floor space by the removal of congested roads and parking spaces. Roof spaces should also be used as valuable floor space.

Robot in plastic grass, by Evan

Obviously there will be those who will prefer their space at the expense of work of yard maintenance. Through a combination of policies and incentives, this can also provide a number of benefits both socially and environmentally. As the concrete slab is laid, there is little question that this covers useful land. That would be fine, were it not for landscape design that covers the rest of the yard in concrete, stone or worse – fake grass. Why have a yard if there’s no visible yard? If it’s for entertaining, a property of higher density can provide adequate yard (town house) or balcony space (apartments) or the newly opened spaces in the reduction of sprawl will provide open places to lay a picnic rug and kick a footie with the kids.

That’s not to say that land use such as this should be stopped – if someone wants a yard of concrete, that should be their choice. However, it should be reflected by their rates/taxes as an understanding of their dependence on other services. It has been only been since the end WWII that there has been a reduction of personal vegetable gardens and a retraction of fruit trees. Proper water collection and on-site treatment can provide the required water (and many of the minerals) – even with low energy units, it’s foreseeable that every house can have a cheap watering computer that does much of this work – you just need to prepared the land and collect the yield. This will also open the opportunity to interact with neighbours to trade and share produce, providing an increased sense of community (see link 1). It should also be encouraged to re-introduce local flora species (and other suitable substitutes) that provide a number of services to local fauna. This, coupled with open space and roadside re-introduction will help to re-establish local biodiversity and assist in species movement across a landscape (both in response to climate changes and for general dispersal). Favouring species that provide different local services (such as for pollinators, storm protection etc) also will assist with biodiversity resilience and infrastructural protection as climate continues to change. Also something that is often overlooked; there would certainly be an increase in a sense of not only community, but also place with increasing local biodiversity richness.

Whether you live in bustling new higher density areas, or fringing open spaces, if properly encouraged, there is room not only to reduce congestion, but a cities impact on the local environment, personal fitness and interaction (both very likely to improve mood), cleaner area, reduce energy consumption, increase population and biodiversity and other open space entertainment; all while assisting to improve species resilience to current climate change.

Pretty cool, huh?

References
[2] Opportunities beyond carbon: looking forward to a sustainable world. Editor O’Brien J. (2009)
Link1) there are some excellent points made by David Holmgren in this piece
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