With election fever now pushing up the mercury in Oz and the prospect of the happily whacky Donald Trump fighting for the presidency in the US, media has well and truly flicked the switch to vaudeville.

Meanwhile our Senate reforms, designed sweep our own whacky pollies out of the House, look like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as far as Labor’s Penny Wong is concerned.

Wong this week said the Greens had miscalculated in their support of the government to reform the way minorities are voted in (currently through a series of complex preference distributions that rely on reading the vapours or some such). What will happen, Wong says, is that the decks have been cleared to kill off the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

As you will recall it was the outliers in the Senate that created pretty much the only reprieve during the six-year Reign of Terror by saving a bit of the architecture of the climate fight, the CEFC included.

Now, by reforming the Senate, the electorate will need to face a few home truths. One is that it can no vote for these parties and hope for the best. Or that it needs to throw legitimate sized votes to the minorities so that in the event of a small minority or hung parliament, the minorities can continue to block extremist government behaviour, generally unleashed after a barrage of lies and false promises during the hustings.

Who believes for instance that the GST will stay off the table for long?

It would be a serious loss to the environmental movement if the Clean Energy Finance Corporation were abolished as the Coalition continues to threaten.

It would also be a serious loss if things continue unchanged as they are under Turnbull, with no other change in environmental/climate issues at all, bar some ethereal change of tone, whatever that means.

So we have our not-so-new PM Malcolm Turnbull in power but powerless. Hoping to win a sweeping majority at the next election, no doubt, and with it hoping to clean out the rabbit hole once and for all.

But that’s the kind reading. The other reading is that the climate deniers and fossil fuelers are deeply entrenched and will continue to exert power, even as the coal industry sinks into oblivion. So he should get used to the end of the honeymoon, so piercingly evident in the plunging polls.

Gavin Gilchrist, who did a fantastic job last week, covering the Summer Study  See his crop of stories on the conference here pointed out in one of the stories the extent of that oblivion with these share price changes in coal companies between 20111 and 2015:

  • Peabody $1040.25 to $2.09
  • Arch Coal $3599.00 to $0.45
  • Alpha Natural Resources $56.77 to $0.02
  • Cloud Peak Energy $21.29 to $1.60

In the US we hear the climate deniers have won over all but one of the Republicans. But then again can this be true? Maybe the political system there is just another Hollywood script, designed to entertain the masses at the taxpayer’s expense. The ultimate reality show. Hmmm…with Donald Trump the major investor.

Business is keeping its head

Thank goodness business is starting to work all this out. It’s ignoring the funnies as best as possible and brushing off those pesky pollies snapping at their ankles.

In the corporate world right now, there’s a back to the future kind of revisionism afoot.

Last week we brought you news of chooks on the roof of MacBank HQ in Martin Place. (CBD that is. Yes.) Plus grass and vegies and a fig tree to boot. Inside the building proper the good people who helped bring you the GFC are now enjoying a yoga room and a music room. What this means for the next GFC is too scary to contemplate. Maybe it’s when there’s an oversupply of eggs on the market and the banks repossess the chookpens.

As part of this returning to earth and fundamental values, this week we read about peak hipster. That’s the world where we live forever and everyone suddenly gets very serious about their health because they want to be vaguely compos for the ride. Which is why there are chooks on the roof probably. And why the WELL building standard is rocketing through the industry.

Australia in particular is kicking up dust to get aboard WELL, leaving other countries in their wake, Worktech 16’s Philip Ross told us during a break in his conference last week.

The Green Building Council is teaming up with WELL to deliver courses and integrate requirements into their Green Star framework.

And this week it announced it would also partner with the Living Building Institute to bring you extreme green standards that go well beyond six star Green Star.

Simone Concha, JLL’s director of sustainability Australia, says if tenants want a better healthier environment the landlords will deliver.

If tenants want “a visionary point of view, a beautiful space that is healthy and sustainable and enlivens inspires their employees” then they can have it, she says.

“The reality comes down to how much they can afford. You have to bring it down to a practicality.”

It’s all getting easier to measure and map anyway thanks to a raft of new technology.

Retail, the old landfill industry shoots for reform

Even more amazing is what’s happening in retail.

Frasers Property, which kept breaths bated while it absorbed or was absorbed by Australand (would they/wouldn’t they be more or less green/greenish or greygreyer?) has leapt into the dramatic spotlight with plans for a Living Building Challenge shopping centre in Melbourne. Say what?

Aren’t shopping centres the landfill industry? Since when did they care about putting on a green face? Since a while back apparently.

Again it’s all technology driven.

The algorithms, the data mining, the analytics coming out of superbrain central are making our wildest dreams come true, including the one of saving the planet. Because we can now. We can track, map and interrogate everything in our world, so why not how it shapes and wrecks or heals our world? 

According to Dr Caroline Noller who founded and is chief strategy officer for The Footprint Company, and one of Australia’s foremost experts on life cycle impact of materials, retailers are rethinking everything about their business.

They’re getting with the values program, she says. They want to deliver more than quick land fill.

Here’s a quote from Christopher Sanderson of The Future Laboratory in an article in the AFR on Thursday on “Peak Hipster”.

“If you as a business cannot show me where your cotton is from, where your denim is from, where you are manufacturing, who is manufacturing, then I am not going to buy because I care about quality, process and honesty.”

This is the customer speaking but it’s why the retailer and the landlord have to go the same way.

In this spirit, Noller says, landlords are finally crossing the big divide of the split incentive.

So if they can help lower the typically huge outgoings for their tenants then the likelihood is they will benefit too (maybe the tenants won’t go out of business quite so fast for instance). Outgoings can be $300  to $400 a year, on top of the rent, so saving energy is a great help.

So if even retail landlords are now getting the collaboration spirit and realising we are all part of a complex web that feeds of each other and influences all, then hell, why do we need the pollies at all.

Stay tuned.

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