Robert Howell, Canberra Regional Meeting.
In July 2013 I visited Albany, Denmark, Bridgetown and Perth. My visit was arranged and facilitated by Friends in those places, and in addition there were some people I suggested could also be included in the schedule. I have many happy memories and am grateful to Ruth and David Watson, Heather Williams, Kathy Matthews and James Mumme in particular. These are some of the highlights that I felt would be of interest to Friends.
Ruth Watson arranged for attendance at a Royal Institute of Science public presentation and discussion on the future of energy in Albany. (Albany has a local wind farm that supplies 80% of their energy.) At the end of the evening the three panellists were asked for one recommendation they would give to Albany residents. Two out of the three responses said – grow your own food.
Denmark has two community-owned windmills that provide energy to the town of Denmark. The level of carbon used in the manufacture of the windmills was offset with 3-6 months of their use.
Denmark is the base for the Centre for Sustainable Living that includes Green Skills, an organisation that has played a key role since 1989 in developing local skills and supporting innovations in farm forestry, landcare, organic agriculture, seed collection, eco-tourism, and energy auditing (www.greenskills.org.au). Green Skills provides a useful model for local sustainable programmes.
The Friends group was started after watching a Compass programme on Quakers a number of years ago. One of their recent projects was promoting the Earth Charter.
James Mumme arranged for attendance at the World Renewable Energy Congress. Highlights:
a) Siemens Ltd has around 30,000 engineers working on new wind technology.
b) nuclear energy systems are high users of water.
c) the Lochiel Park Green Village in South Australia through government policy processes is creating a suburb of (nearly) zero-energy homes in a near zero-carbon estate (http://www.lochielpark.com.au/lochielpark/home.htm);
d) the efforts of Cockburn City to be sustainable.
The City of Cockburn won the national Australian Sustainable Cities Award 2012. Their State of Sustainability Report is available at http://www.cockburn.wa.gov.au/documents/CouncilServices/Environment/Sustainability/COC_Sustainability_FINAL.pdf. One of the important frameworks they used was the Liveable Neighbourhoods policies from the WA Government (http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/dop_pub_pdf/ln_text_update_02.pdf). The first aim of the policies is
To provide for an urban structure of walkable neighbourhoods clustering to form towns of compatible mixed uses in order to reduce car dependence for access to employment, retail and community facilities.
The policies are very similar to the principles described in Towards a Vision of a Peaceful and Sustainable Australia: Quaker Voices and I would have liked more time to pursue the WA experience in these matters. Perhaps a WA Friend might make this a subject for a future article, and an SA Friend likewise about the Lochiel Park Green Village.
The last day of the Conference was based at Professor Peter Newman’s Curtin University Sustainable Policy Unit in Fremantle. The theme was decarbonising cities through local initiatives. Peter Newman spoke about his efforts to protect and extend Perth’s railway systems. Peter has a long history of focused local action research to deal with sustainable cities, and his work and support of others is admirable.
Colin Ashton-Graham spoke about TravelSmart and LivingSmart, programmes run by the Department of Transport to encourage behavioural change. TravelSmart works directly with individuals in their households to help them make informed travel choices about how to get to places using their cars less and walking, cycling and using public transport more. Living Smart Households is an innovative community-based behaviour change program that engages with households on a personal level and encourages them to reduce their energy and water use, waste disposal and car-based transport (http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/activetransport/24605.asp).
Josh Byrne (WA presenter for the TV programme Gardening Australia) has built two 10 star homes. One is for his own use and it shows how a sustainable house could be built for an average price and in a similar length of time to an average Perth house. The aim is to showcase the benefits of sustainable housing to the community (http://joshshouse.com.au). Josh has made a lot of his design and technical features publicly available. It is a very impressive example of how to apply and model sustainable house methods.
Overall I found WA Quakers actively involved in the issues of earthcare, peace and simplicity and the application of these testimonies to their own lifestyles. Many expressed an interest in reading and using the Towards a Vision of a Peaceful and Sustainable Australia: Quaker Voices to develop further discussion. They are likely to write a Discussion Paper on water.