By Lynne Blundell
13 October 2011 – We are on the cusp of a wave of progress and innovation that will transform the way we live and the types of dwellings we choose to live in, Jane Nathan, president of the Australian Population Institute told delegates at the Property Council’s Growth Summit 2011, held last week in Melbourne.
Nathan cited James Bradfield Moody’s book The Sixth Wave: How to succeed in a resource-limited world, which proposes that since the Industrial Revolution, the tide of progress can be described as five distinct waves with the sixth now happening.
“Each wave started with innovative, disruptive new technologies and with a global depression – they have transformed societies, our industries and economies almost beyond recognition,” Nathan said.
From milling and steam power to steel and electricity, and from mass production to information and communication technologies, the innovations that defined these waves not only shaped the technology of each era, but also had a profound impact on social structures, where and how we lived and resource consumption.
“The sixth wave of innovation will be based on resource efficiency and clean technologies. Put simply, it is a revolution that is already seeing our world transformed from one heavily addicted to the consumption of resources, to a world in which resource-efficiency will predominate,” Nathan said.
Technologies are emerging that significantly impact how we operate at work and at home.
Australian consumers are early adopters, said Nathan, and we have the capacity and the capability to embrace new innovations/gadgets. Public and private enterprise is also being forced to adapt.
It will be a world in which we don’t think so often in terms of products’ but of ‘services.
“Australia already has a thriving services economy to build upon,” Nathan said. “Services generate nearly 80 per cent of Australia’s GDP, nearly 85 per cent of employment and contribute over $40 billion (or 21 per cent) of total exports at an annual growth rate of 3.5 per cent.”
Australia is also operating in a global environment in which the service sector is rapidly becoming the greatest contributor to economic activity, currently worth around $2.4 trillion in exports.
“Change happens when the time is right,” said Nathan. “Innovation needs attitudinal change which a global depression opens up, forcing governments and and business to adapt.”
As with past “waves” recession/ depression will remove the legislative bars to innovation as the necessity for doing things differently becomes an imperative for financial wellbeing
Perhaps the most fundamental principle that is already starting to drive business, said Nathan, is that waste equals opportunity. This was driving energy efficiency in houses and office buildings. If plastic was one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, what materials would mark the 21st century?
“Population, building materials the way we move and transport goods, the way we educate, the way we work are all growing in diversity. France. California and Japan are expanding their fast trains as they are vital in building the economic health of regional areas,” said Nathan.
Concerns over food security may lead to the communal vegetable patch within 600 metres of each dwelling.
Households would continue to shrink and by 2026, single occupants would represent 35 per cent of all Australian households.
“Combine this with increased mobility of the population, growing class distinctions, technological change, the impacts on community of the low birthrate with the rising financial independence of women – these changes will affect our communities, our dwellings and how they look and feel. It all makes for an exciting landscape,” said Nathan.
“The next wave of innovation – the sixth since the Industrial Revolution – will see us finally break free of our dependence on the unsustainable consumption of limited resources. We will evolve to a new way of life in which nothing is wasted, everything has a value, and economic growth is decoupled from resource consumption. If we can rise to the challenge, we are well positioned to take advantage of this new economy.”
Other speakers at the summit included media commentators Paul Barry, Stephen Mayne, Virginia Trioli and Waleed Aly, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority Peter Clarke, Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy, Victorian deputy premier Peter Ryan and chief executive of the Property Council of Australia Peter Verwer.
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