I didn’t watch Q&A last night, and the transcript doesn’t go up until 2pm-ish today, but this paraphrase from LeftyE over at LP in Exile struck me as a hammer-nail-head moment:
Agree with Waleed Aly on qanda: so much of this “population” debate is really about the crap nature of services and infrastructure in the outer suburbs of our cities.
Our cities really need to look deeper into dispersing the concentration of resources poured into our CBDs and the city districts closest to them. We need a hub and spoke model of Urban Business Districts, with the CBD acting as a hub for SBDs (Spoke Business Districts) in places like Parramatta and Liverpool (Chatswood and Hurstville?) in Sydney and their parallels in Melbourne and elsewhere, serviced by not only the new ring motorways but also by ring networks of trains and buses for commuters that run frequent and reliable timetables. Get reliable ring commuter transport systems in place and watch SBDs grow, and watch them generate more and better jobs for those in outer suburbs.
So how can the inertia of State government and municipal planning departments be overcome to make this or any other decentralisation plan that recognises and offers equal opportunity to the outer suburbs commuter belt actually work?
Categories: environment, social justice
I don’t know how congenial this proposal is given Australian cultures and Australia’s geography, and it’s an even longer term project than moving cities to a spoke model, but Australia seems so strongly inclined towards metropolises, and I wonder how necessary that is. One major difference between Australian and US cities, for example, is that the research universities are concentrated in the centre of metropolises, which drives a certain amount of the centralisation of professional/white collar jobs nearby. There aren’t medium sized cities (say 250 000 to 500 000) which are leaders, a first choice for some subset of workers, except for location tied industries (mining, agriculture, forestry, etc).
The NSW government had a short-term go at trying to push regional cities a little bit in the early 1990s, trying to move a few departments out there. Orange got the Department of Agriculture, I am not sure how many, if any, of the other mooted moves actually stuck.
we are seeing the australian population debate being swiftly turned around to go down the same sinkhole/hoodwink over the eyes as the term ‘sustainability’, i live in the bush near a disappearing coastline on the south east of the country and more housing etc development is coming. The issue is not just about whether urban city dwellers (the majority, and therefore the loudest and most powerful voices in the debate) can obtain drinking water/parking spaces/ a seat on trains, it is about the very survival of this nation’s environment. Will our native mammal and bird and insect species and diverse vegetation and ecosystems survive humans? probably not in many cases, it makes me incredibly sad to see these being ignored. I saw q&a last night and i was gobsmacked to see a ‘flavour of the month urbanite, multicultural political analyst- Waleed Aly being put on some panel discussing population- and he himself admitted (rather shamelessly) that he didn’t really know or care much about the issue!!! That is what happens when city based latte drinkers get put on panels! If you really care about all of the life in this country and this planet you must acknowledge human population numbers- NOT THE LEVEL OF RECYCLING is the main issue.
The program was not just about population, and biased clichés like that don’t help your argument. Right now I feel too insulted to engage with any of your other points.
I’m a bit skeptical about the hub/spoke model. It’s sort of what Canberra’s design is based on, although because of population numbers Canberra struggles with decent public transportation – given its low population its probably about as best can be expected though. I don’t think it works that well for Canberra.
One problem for families is that its common to have two working parents and the chances of both parents being able to work and live in the same regional centre are low, so at least one ends up with a longer commute. The other is length of job service is lower (or the business you work for moves) and so you can end up with a house on one side of town and end up having to travel to the completely other side of the city, rather than just elsewhere in the CBD.
btw I don’t think the larger population debate is just about infrastructure – its winter now and we’ve had pretty good rains, but water is an ongoing serious issue for some cities.
@Chris, no doubt the poor public transport is what makes it not work as well as it could for Canberra. I’m sure Burley Griffin envisaged lovely trams along those spokes and rings. It should have happened.
I can see a lot of large companies whose different departments/divisions mainly communicate by email anyway choosing to have one smaller HQ in the CBD and a constellation of other small-ish offices in the SBDs, so that generally new hires should be able to be given a desk within their region. As long as there’s sufficient attention paid to teleconferencing it should work.
Some rather large attitude adjustments would be required from a lot of corporations and from their staff (some of them really want that corner office with that prestigious view) but that shouldn’t make it entirely impossible.
Hi Samantha, could you please clarify your point? I’m a bit confused by what you have written. Are you arguing:
1. That drinking a latte clouds one’s judgment?
(Do people have more to contribute if they drink flat whites or tea?)
2. That you would like ‘city-dwellers’ to live out near you on the coast?
(Wouldn’t that make your area more crowded?)
3. That there are too many people living in non-urban areas and it is ruining the local environment?
(Don’t you live in a non-urban area? Could you explain why your believe that you are currently more entitled to live in a peaceful natural environment than other people? What is it that gives you priority of access?)
4. That Australia needs to limit it’s total population and this is the only issue that is relevant to sustainability?
(If we all consumed less, lives in smaller houses, recycled our waste and our waste-water, and lived less energy intensive lives, wouldn’t this change our current level of per capita impact on the environment? Don’t recycling facilities, public transport and better regional infrastructure all contribute to making this shift possible?)
5. That the issue of population only effects people living in non-urban areas like yours?
(Could you explain how this exclusively an issue for non-urban areas? Do you believe that our cities are not currently quite crowded? What do you make of the traffic jams and the lengthy commutes that many people have to endure in order to get to work? Should they give up and move out to your area? Why are their needs irrelevant in this debate?)
Apologies for the multiple typos…
I got the impression that Samantha was pointing out the way certain voices seem to dominate discussion of the issue while other voices are silenced. quanda debates do seem to reflect this, not just in the panelling but in the audience too.
Right, so dismissing people as “city based latte drinkers” is a good way of widening the scope of the debate? Also, what is the point of dismissing recycling? It certainly isn’t a panacea, but not many credible people are claiming that it is…
In 2006 68.4% of the Australian population lived in urban centres, an additional 19.7% lived in inner regional areas (and this includes Hobart, for example, where I’m sure they drink lattes), and an additional 9.5% lived in outer regional areas (and this includes Darwin, for example). This left only 2.3% of the population living in remote or very remote areas.
Given these statistics any debate on population and sustainability has to address urban living front and centre. It is meaningless not to. Of course, this should include limiting the negative impact of these urban centres on the natural environment that surrounds them, but clearly the city-dwellers themselves need to be included in that debate in order to make it relevant to them and effective.
The views of people living in more remote areas are also very relevant. However, at 2.3% of the population you might want to be realistic about how much priority these views are entitled to.
Yeah I totally agree Cristy. It’s just that I didn’t take “city-based latte drinkers” to be a reference to all city dwellers, just the few whose voices seem to be allowed more space than those of anyone else, including other city-dwellers whose voices are never heard.
Personally I think that it is a useless and offensive cliche that fails to categorise anyone adequately. Instead it reminds so many of us of Howard’s repeated and quite successful attacks on progressive voices as “the latte-sipping Left.” I realise that it takes more time to avoid these kinds of short-hands, but it might well be worth it.
Oh, I think I get what you’re saying Samantha. I haven’t watched Q & A. You’re saying that an increased population will be bad for nature and its resources for us? Sorry if I’m slow. I think you’re saying both that sheer numbers crowd out the country in taking up physical space AND that sheer numbers use up resources. They’re actually two different issues in my eyes. Firstly, Australia is pretty sparsely populated compared to most other countries (come and live in the Top End if you want some space, plus you get a remote area tax break even in Darwin), so I’m sure there’s enough room for a few more in the country without it being completely horrible for humans and nature. I’m sorry you live in a country area which is becoming increasingly popular with those wanting a similar lifestyle to you/cheap housing. Obviously greater density housing (like I saw in Turkey – high rises in the country!) would help, but I’m not sure if Australians really will be willing to go there, I’m certainly not myself. On the other hand, YES, using less resources per capita WILL support a denser/greater population. Recycling is just part of an overall strategy to reduce/reuse/recycle, personally I think the first is best, then the second, recycling’s the last resort, but is the easiest and least painful.
I do think city voices tend to dominate these discussions. And I’ve never lived in the country proper (yet), though Darwin is quite educational, but I’ve talked to people who have who resent the city for sucking the resources out of the land and farmers, and not giving enough back in return, and it made me think about who might be being heard and who isn’t, and there might not be a lot of primary industry people/farmers compared to the rest of Australia, but we sure as hell depend on them for our wellbeing, and need to listen to their concerns about what’s going on with producing food/the environment just that much more. (Though I realise sometimes conservation values conflict.)
I think what generally happens is that when companies are large enough to start multiple offices they end up allocating teams to certain areas, rather than allocate desks based on where people live. Which kind of makes sense – most people at the moment are pretty inexperienced/inefficient at working well remotely with people. Compare face-to-face meetings with conference calls for example.
As teleconferencing technology improves and gets a lot cheaper I think things will get better – but with respect to white collar jobs suspect it will be more towards people working from home rather than regional office hubs. There’s not much advantage of being in an office full of people who may work for the same company but don’t do much stuff related to what you do.
Sorry if this is too much of a derail, but as a working-from-home student with a working-from-home salaried partner, I can see planning problems with that model too, particularly the desire for a working room/study (if you have young children around, in particular, since they do not understand “I’m at work, can’t play now”), thus adding at least one extra room to houses, and the desire, if not need, for temperature control, meaning that a lot of working from home people want to add aircon/heating that they wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise.
“Coworking” spaces are starting to appear in some sufficiently white-collar cities, particularly ones with IT workers. (I don’t know if they are thought of as “cow-orking” spaces, they should be.)
I rather like the idea of councils and community groups offering cow-orking spaces for people who are telecommuting. Even working from home without children underfoot can be socially isolating in a way that negatively impacts on mental health for many people.
Mary – my wife and I both work from home and have an almost 2 year old. I do agree for the need for a separate office space.
I think that if you have the self discipline required (its not easy!) to work from home, and have an accommodating employer there can be huge benefits. Just for starters you lose the wasted time commuting and I think I have a better relationship with my daughter because of it.
On the environmental side – its a bit of swings and roundabouts – we have one less car and drive a lot less, though we do use more electricity. At least some of that power would have been consumed at a real office though and the employer doesn’t need as much office space with the associated overheads. Overall I think we’re ahead.
co-working places sound great too for those who need more social contact. I try to make myself go out once a day to at least see other humans.
Feeling righteous anger for all the cows orked by heartless satellicious urbanites. If it wasn’t enough we import foreign beef into our already crowded supermarkets, causing traffic in the aisles and promoting disharmony with the pork…
Kim, are you saying we should go vegan? Or are you having a go at people on the fringes of the city (often low income people)? Actually, people in the country have the most meat in their diet – there’s a lot of health problems because of this.
Kite, methinks AK is merely playing with words, as we were above, with co-worker => cow-orker, which is a venerable internet typo-turned-trope.
Ah! An attempt at humour. *nodes sagely to cover confusion*
*hangs head in jokefail shame*
hi,firstly, thanks for the many responses to my ‘cliche’ comment about latte drinkers- note it was just a comment, funny how it ensures nobody really responded to my concerns for the ENVIRONMENT. I grew up in the biggest city here, i drink coffee, let’s move on, it’s just a term. It’s offensive to me that so many self-dentified ‘sophisticated urban’ people i talk with about this issue 99% of the time react with an uppity air that somebody dared to criticise their ‘lefty’ (oh no sterotype alert!) politically correct views on population. Usually one is labelled a racist or a nut.
Titog wrote: ‘The program was not just about population, and biased clichés like that don’t help your argument. Right now I feel too insulted to engage with any of your other points.’
– well, tigtog, your post (and on q&a) was about population so i don’t really understand your dislike of my response, and your ability to immediately shut down any debate on the topic makes you a walking urban lefty sterotype indeed. Better shut people with smelly views such as mine right down hey? it’s easier to act as if we weren’t here.
The problem is that most of us don’t really know the facts about the ability of this arid land to support large numbers, the overwhelming majority of people do live on the coastal strips- basically the only certain areas for habitation. A good starting place are the books by mark o’connor about this issue. He can explain it far better.
Re- commentator ‘Kite was calyx’- who writes: ‘I think you’re saying both that sheer numbers crowd out the country in taking up physical space AND that sheer numbers use up resources. They’re actually two different issues in my eyes. Firstly, Australia is pretty sparsely populated compared to most other countries..’—-
Yes, that is what i am saying, and i am witnessing the sale of ex-farmland and native bushland for new housing developments on the eastern victorian coastline personally. These are locations which are currently also at the mercy of politically motivated (not ecologically motivated ) large scale fire reduction burns, a renewed push for a woodfired power station, and devastating woodchipping regimes. These areas cannot sustain increased development- which is closely tied to speculative real estate investments linked to the coming population growth. I wouldn’t feel confident that darwin misses out on similar growth. All these problems are related, it’s not a simple matter of how we live, it’s how many of us live here.
samantha, I didn’t shut down debate on your comment. Far from it. I just didn’t personally engage with it. Very different thing. I expected that other people would respond and engage with your comment, which is indeed what happened.
I happen to agree entirely that the real problem is the poor carrying capacity of this arid land and that this is exacerbated by current building development explosions that keep cutting into our already inadequate arable land. I even agree that these questions are what SHOULD be driving the population debate.
I bet Waleed Aly believes that these questions are what SHOULD be driving the population debate as well. His point was that what is ACTUALLY driving the broad sweep of the population debate (in outer city swinging/marginal electorates) is, however, not these things, and I think he’s absolutely right.
The Amazing Kim, the fail was on me!
So would you support higher density living, Samantha? Preferably in concentrated urban areas?
There’s a lot of REALLY poor people in Darwin, including a lot of homeless people, partly because the Govt will NOT release new land to lower prices. (And the public housing crisis, gah!) (There’s a lot of very well to do landholding voters reluctant to see their investments fall here to take account of!) As a result, the housing and rental prices are absolutely crazy, I mean for real. Tiny settlement in the middle of nowhere, with vast tracts of army land not only AROUND Darwin, but IN Darwin, and prices are like Sydney. You begrudge your beautiful countryside being taken up with all these city folk, I begrudge the misery of those who don’t have much option (one big reason people move Down South to join the crush). I know that’s probably just a Darwin issue (although, wait, compare the land/rental prices in Moe to Melbourne), but in terms of actual “space” taken up, there’s not just a wee bit more room, you know, to spread out, without it being an ecological disaster, in the same was as using MORE RESOURCES is. I acknowledge that controlled burnings are an issue that are more to to with a lower-density population than a higher population, but c’mon, the other issues you raise are much more to do with wastefulness PER person, like, what’s your personal carbon footprint?
* Actually, I am rather confused about the burnings issue. I’ve heard Victorian bushies complain about the greenies in the cities not burning off enough in Victoria, thus creating nastier bushfires, and Top End greenies complain about there being too much burning off in the NT to sustain biodiversity, and I’m not sure how much Aboriginal people have burnt off traditionally compared to now. I know the western plains of Victoria were burnt off every year, but beyond that I need to do some serious research. Most of the wilderness IN Darwin (I live north of the CBD and have a lot of Aboriginal land to the south and west) seems to be burnt off yearly, except the mangroves. Except there’s some fucker who set fire to the land to the south this year in an uncontrolled way, unfortunately the Maccas at the edge was saved.
There IS a feeling of crowding in the country in the dense south-east along the coastline – funnily enough people like living there. Further north and centre isn’t so popular.
Personally, I think a whole lot of dense hubs would be better than people spread out over the countryside, because that cuts down on the resources needed for infrastructure, for getting around, as well as impact on bushland. (And culture/support when lots of people live close together.) It’s possible to live in the inner city and have a very small carbon footprint (I’ve done it, calculated it) – much harder in the bush.
But I think we’re arguing about whether Australia can sustain more people, yes? I think if we lived like those in a majority-world country do, there’d be no question of us being able to. More of us would have to put up with those unsightly arid-ish / humid-ish areas though (like the NT with 1 person / 10 square km), or those unsightly high rise buildings. Obviously I’d like (quite selfishly, I feel) Australia to not grow in population, for the sake of conservation, but there’s a growing pressure from the rest of the world, both in numbers, and in resource-use, and we are the lucky country still. Oh and yes, will the Government listen the fuck seriously to its CSIRO who’s been banging out brilliant radical sustainable farming advice for Australian conditions for years? Like how to reduce salinity, water use, or to take advantage of the Wet/Dry conditions in the North? Put some serious frelling money into it! We need innovative farming science up here stat!
…And, er, bearing in mind I haven’t seen what Waleed Aly was talking about, so what point might I have missed?
As an anti-logging, Green voting member of VNPA let me say that “Samantha” doesn’t sound like most of the environmentalists I come across. Please don’t take her comments as indicative of the environmental movement!
Samantha, disagreement =/= “shutting down debate”. What were you expecting, people throwing flowers? As for city dwellers, it’s a better use of resources for the majority to be in medium density with relatively few country dwellers (preferably growing food or otherwise leaving the environment the heck alone) than to have the populace scattered on hobby farms all over the State, which they drive to and fro in their petrol driven conveyances.