9 November 2012 – On big big conferences, greening and turning

Suddenly everything is about America. The presidential election, hurricane Sandy, which seemed more than any other storm to be the harbinger of a more volatile climate, and next week the massive GreenBuild conference in San Francisco, California (pictured).

GreenBuild is where 35,000 people will gather to show the world that the green economy is well; it’s firing and it’s ready for business.

And this year, for the first time, The Fifth Estate will be there to bring you a taste of that action.

Someone once said that where California goes, the United States goes. And where the US goes, so does the western world…more or less.

We were talking green at the time. And there is no doubt that California is the centre of the green universe.

US author and green building consultant Jerry Yudelson who was a co-founder of the conference more than a decade ago generously briefed us in a long Skype call on Tuesday. Other contacts from Australia have been keen to share tips. Many will be there in person.

We’ll do our best to bring snippets, photos and tweets, with stories to follow later, but the most valuable thing will be to better connect you are readers to the global nexus.

If you have suggestions please send them to

  • editorial@thefifthestate.com.au

Tweets will be

  • @FifthEstateAu
Moscone Center San Francisco, where GreenBuild will be held

An interesting time
This is a really interesting time both for America and Australia.  Let’s not underestimate it.

When Barack Obama was re-elected this week it signalled a shift. Voters from black neighbourhoods and Hispanics turned out in force, prepared to brave long queues to have their say.

The win wasn’t marginal as many expected, it was decisive.

What is also decisive is the rejection of the extreme views that have dominated the past few years through agencies such as the Tea Party and what we love to call the loony right, the people who pushed the anti climate agenda into the closet. Climate was barely mentioned in the election, but as GreenBuild will show, that’s irrelevant, because at the economic and local level and across some of the progressive states, the green agenda is alive and well.

What can happen now is more decisive action, Congress – bless its star spangled cotton socks – notwithstanding.

With any luck the moves away from the extreme in America will resonate in Australia.

After all the Australian climate deniers started their dance down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole not long after those from the American Tea Party did so. They shared tactics –  between the Homeland Institute and the Institute of Public Affairs – they shared funding sources – the miners – and they probably shared the stuff in the jar marked “Drink Me”.

We think the shift in Australia has already started.

We picked up the first scent of this at our Political Salon when the thinking was that the best outcome for the green movement was that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott wins the next election, would soon be sacked by his party because of his fundamentalist hardline views, especially on the carbon tax, and former Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull elected instead. Turnbull is an unabashed greenie who would steal many a vote from the Labor and green side.

But things really are volatile. Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech may have changed the dynamics, by giving Gillard a sudden political surge, coupled with the realisation among voters that the world did not cave in with the carbon price.

The danger for Gillard is that the pendulum swings too fast against Abbott.

This possibility had last weekend’s newspapers tipping an early election to ward off this possibility, maybe as soon as March.

The hope is that with some of the politics out of the way, either side  (the planet won’t give a hoot who)  will consider  resurgent  support for a greener agenda. Especially after the International Panel on Climate Change releases its long awaited second report, expected soon. Word is it it will be on the bad side of scary.

Either way this is no time to give up on a green and sustainable built environment.

As they say in India, and increasingly everywhere else it seems, “anything is possible”.