Media people are meant to be in touch. Finger on the pulse. A kind of mandala of information which wends its way into the core and then fans hopefully out again in useful contextual formats to the people who need it.
But even we were surprised by the response we had to the webinar promo that went out on Thursday on how to slash embodied carbon in buildings. The webinar is a collaboration with Built who we’ve been getting to know rather well during a promotional program with its team centred on this topic, and which seems to have hit the pulse of the moment.
It felt like the minute the newsletter hit the inbox the registrations started streaming in, and they are still going on Friday morning! (Spoiler alert, we’re not a big burly event company so no, not thousands. But we like to think we’re part of the insiders group in the built environment that drives change. “Small but loud” as one fan said a few years ago, much to our delight.)
What’s clear is that this is the next frontier in the battle for our climate and that there is a massive appetite to find out how to tackle it.
And why wouldn’t there be?
After years of what feels like domestic abuse from our federal government on climate, constantly gaslighting us on whether global warming is real or not, and forcing us to a diet of filthy coal (with massive subsidies from our own hip pocket) there’s now a twinkle of light that someone up there has finally been to a reform group. An AA of climate denial.
And learning how to be a tad respectful to the rest of us.
We can hope. We must always hope.
Certainly, there have been minute shifts in language to support stronger targets (the world is demanding it for a start) including in Frydenberg’s speech on climate last week, albeit in double speak when he said we needed to make sure Australia was not punished by the markets that might “falsely assume” Australia is not acting as Sean Kelly on the SMH pointed out. It’s another attempt to have you cake and eat it too: look like you’re coming across the line, but holding the coal fort for the rabbit hole dwellers
Double speak. Like we said.
Sure being feted by the Americans must have given our PM Scott Morrison a thrill and as they supposedly encouraged him on climate targets, we hope a bit of mettle to try to finally stand a little taller for the Glasgow climate talks in November. But goodness knows how he took the strange words from none other than US Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi who praised Morrison on climate leadership in what everyone hoped was an audio (or mental) glitch but which she backed up the next day, to make it clear.
Leadership? Australia? Has she too been gaslighted? Or was it part of the deal with the crazy nuclear subs solution that has been so roundly castigated and rejected by anyone with a grain of sense? Morrison must have been confused. He wants the praise from the Americans on climate but must be terrified of what the rabbit hole dwellers back home would be thinking.
It’s possible he really wants to break stronger ground on climate and it’s part of his clever Machiavellian tactics to do so.
OK we’re probably dreaming again.
But look at the good news coming out of the Australian states. This is real and signals a shift because the states, like local government, are closer to the people and to business and the action already underway on the ground.
A few weeks ago, we were thrilled with the new direction signalled by the Victorian government’s infrastructure agency recommending actual mandates of a few measures on new housing development to mitigate climate heating. Such as 30 per cent canopy cover.
Then energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said if the National Construction Code failed to deliver higher energy ratings in its new iteration, then Vic would seek to make its own rules over and above the code. Like nearly 30 collaborative councils in that state are already doing.
But NSW, being the competitive thing it’s always been, is determined not to be outdone on either Covid numbers or sustainability it seems, and it’s been another delight this week to watch the growing trickle of good news. It announced a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.
Taking the limelight on anew were the Premier Gladys Berijiklian and NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, but the true star was energy minister Matt Kean who backed the move with some really clever footwork on the coal industry.
The modelling for the new emissions target he said “considered the growth of the coal sector” in NSW and explained how much of the industry produced coal for export. To countries which are also committing to net zero.
“So the coal industry here in NSW won’t be affected by domestic policy makers, it is going to be affected by the decisions of borders overseas and governments overseas.”
Now why didn’t Bill Shorten think of that at the last election and tell the folks in far North Queensland that the future for coal was “nothing to do with me” “Lobby China instead”.
And the wonderful sustainability leader and architect Caroline Pidcock said a few years ago, When the motor car came along the horse and buggy merchants had to find something else to do.
Progress, thy name is change.
Watch out now for growing attention and more concern on nature.
In NSW the planning minister Rob Stokes has also been scoring a few greenie points holding out against the wanton destruction of heritage areas of the Blue Mountains by raising the dam walls a massive 14 metres.
UNESCO is asking questions about the destruction of natural capital and there are huge concerns about multiple Indigenous sites that would be destroyed. Even the Insurance Council of Australia also dropped its support for the project.
Property Council’s Western Sydney director Ross Grove rightly pointed out to us that people already in the area need protection from flooding through raised roads and new freeways to allow escape routes.
But we suspect it’s also future residents that developers have in mind.
Heres’ a thought: if the place floods and there are whole lot of people already subjected to floods, how about not putting even more people there?
Especially as we all know that the temperatures have already nudged 50 degrees.
And we havene’t even mentioned yet the threatened wholesale struction of koala habitat in the south west.
The destruction of natural environment has gone on pretty well under the radar for many years but here’s sticking our necks out (not much by the way) – we reckon more and more people will be increasingly furious at these major sacrifices of our natural capital for the sake of new house and land packages.
In what global city do people expect to have a quarter acre stand alone housing plus all the massive infrastructure needed to enable that and protect them from floods?
There are so many other creative options to house our population, sustainably.
It is not brain surgery. It is not genius. It’s not even breaking new ground. But it does mean some changes in thinking.
Then there’s Queensland.
Poor greenies in Queensland.
Not only are they dealing with the cohort of coal loving people who have for a while now decided on who rules the nation but they are also dealing with what looks a lot like the legacy of another domestic abuser the former Campbell Newman government (2012-2015).
People might forget. But we don’t. When that man was elected the first thing he did was cancel the Premier’s literary prize. Just to demonstrate clearly what he thought of sensitive and intellectually aspiring folk.
Next he sacked overnight 14,000 (or was it 16,000?) of the state’s public service. In one fell swoop he obliterated the corporate knowledge of his government on energy efficiency. He banned the use of the words green and sustainable. Former PM Tony Abbott did much the same, (also insisting we use the colonial English spelling of program, just to rub it in.)
So, lest we forget. There were many casualties of truth and honour and believers in a better future in Queensland and we fear that legacy persists in the timidness we find when we go looking for good green news in that state.
We try to go easy when we look with dismay at the lack of progress and the squeaks of “not us” and “nothing to see here” whenever we pick up the phone to find out what’s happening in sustainability. Even in buildings, apart, of course, from a few fabulously outstanding leaders; unfortunately a few leaders do not a revolution make.
Duncan has done a great job this week in finding the stars and reporting honestly on what’s happening. But it’s taken him so much longer than usual for such a story –simply to get some answers; or people picking up the phone.
For Chrissake Queensland, you have just won the right to host the next Olympics in 2032.
Time to get your green skates on, wouldn’t you reckon?