Toward a sustainable Queensland – A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Dear Australian friends and colleagues,

We all know this old saw but this is a time and place where it is, I believe, truly worth thinking about. In this context I have three immediate questions for you:

1. Is it possible that the tragic events of the last weeks could now be turned into an opportunity to develop a new and far more sustainable pattern of mobility (and location) in Queensland?

2. Is it possible – and I certainly hope that it is the case – that a group of highly talented, highly committed Australians are already working to mobilize a collaborative effort to create a world-class strategic frame for rebuilding, redeploying and reorganizing the state’s transport and mobility system, according to a new set of advanced and ambitious sustainability principles. Because even as the waters descend now is the time. Later will almost surely be too late.

3. If you have already created or are working on creating a working group on this, may I take part? And what if anything can I do to help?

As we have seen in almost all cases after such devastation strikes, the immediate gut reaction of a community or nation under these circumstances is to find, to rebuild what they had before. A combination of understandable but not, I think, acceptable nostalgia which is almost always a very big mistake. Nostalgia is not much of a path to a better future. What was there before certainly had its interests and charm, but whatever it turned out to be it was not created on purpose. It was the result of an unplanned, largely chaotic and unthoughtout, time-lagged, largely reactive process, which yielded results that were costly to the citizens, to the government, to the environment and to the planet. Queensland and Australia can do far better.

What’s the hurry? Well, it’s like we say in France about safe cycling on the street – the goal has to be to “occuper le terrain” (occupy the space). Because other players with other interests and ethics will get started on this soon enough, and it is not sure that all of them will be aiming to put sustainability, efficiency and equity at the top of their priorities.

There is a new generation of talented people across Australia who are world level in their thinking and work on this topic. And on top of that you have a very large group of pretty well networked international colleagues who will be eager to contribute if ways can be worked out to integrate them creatively into the process.

So when do we start? Where do we start?

Kind regards from Paris,

Eric Britton

PS. If you consider that there is any merit at all in this proposal, I invite you to share it with your colleagues and lists.

| 8-10, rue Joseph Bara 75006 Paris. | +331 75503788. | eric.britton@newmobility.org | Skype: newmobility |

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2 responses to “Toward a sustainable Queensland – A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

  1. Eric. I agree in spirit, but Aussies are very resistant to panic; it’s actually one of their best traits. They also have plenty of lore about the brutality of their continent’s weather, which inures them to news that the climate may be changing.

    My impression is that Aussies are relatively aware of the contours of the climate change debate, because it was hashed out in great public detail in 08-09. Everyone knows that when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd backed down on his commitment to action on climate change, his party immediately lost about 15% to the Greens, and a few points to the right win Liberals, which is part of why Gillard was able to bring him down. The Gillard government is promising action on climate change but given this history, political leaders in the center-left Labor party are terrified of the issue.

    While there’s a lot of interest in sustainability in Australian cities, the fact is that coal and other mining is the mainstay of the economy, and everyone knows that. You don’t get political power, even in the state level, without some coal in your pocket, so to speak.

    One thing that Paris-based commentators could probably opine on with some authority is nuclear power. I find my own resistance to it is melting away, given the limited options for baseload power.

    I do think there’ll now be an interesting debate in Brisbane about how to rebuild in the flooded areas. In rural areas, you’ll probably see some flooded areas abandoned, but Brisbane land is so expensive that there’ll be a bit of a dance flood protection options to keep these areas developed.

    All the best, Jarrett

  2. Michael Yeates

    Hi and thanks for thinking of us … in fact we are high and dry (being an architect with environmental management well what else ???) but sadly, the floods have exposed the cruel social problem of people being misled by “slippery” politicians armed with quite literally 100s of people to write media releases and speeches etc who thought the floods would be prevented (??) by the massive Wivenhoe Dam built after the remarkably similar floods in 1974 … about which I know quite a bit.

    NEVER have I seen in my say 45 year “career” so much media control exerted … to the point where a USA expert in post disaster social matters who was visiting Sydney at the time suggested the first step is for the community to accept that the city is disaster prone ie in our case flood prone but also closely aligned, global warming issues due to a massive low level flood plain ..!

    In fact we were staying about 100kms north and decided to stay there … only problem is some food gone “off” during a 24-36 hour power “blackout” … so I am heading to the bulk spoiled food dump in a few minutes.

    If you want to see some good info and get a snapshot of the situation, I understand that http://www.nearmap.com has some recent and very current images which with GOOGLE Map/Earth or whatever should give you a “feel” for the sheer size of the watershed aka catchment and topography involved …

    And Zvi … “The Boatshed” where you kindly fed me that steak was under about 12 feet of water .. or more … hard to imagine unless you know it has happened so many times before …!

    As for the future, doesn’t bode well with the political machines all emphasising rebuilding rather than re-planning … and a #1 priority has been getting roads working again and while public transport is free for a week to try to encourage less use of cars, nothing positive in terms of longer term nor in fact the much reduced public transport service being provided …!

    One fact nobody is discussing is our rather arrogant assumptions based on a little over 100 years of living here in any numbers … whereas we know from the geology and environment these are regular … ie 1840s, 1890s, 1930s, 1950s, 1974 and now this one and most of those worse than this one despite efforts to paint it as being really bad … in my view it is the outcome of really bad planning that is really bad and has resulted in the really bad outcomes … and more really bad, there seems to be no intention to do anything other than more of the same …! T

    This of course is almost 100% inevitable given any other course would be an admission of some degree of responsibility and as well as that, would make life too easy for the political opposition parties … so much for the benefits of a democracy …!

    Quite literally billions of dollars of new road and rail infrastructure was made completely useless by sections of new work that were built too low thus creating a single blockage that cut the link – apparently no attempt to set a minimum flood level if flooding was even considered and obviously not the 1974 level. I should also add that there seems to be a fair degree of confusion as to the levels and the impacts although I am as yet not sure whether it is deliberate or the effect of a kind of gossip or Chinese whispers – but given the level was supposed to be well below the 1974 river flood level, some areas still seem to have been higher. A bit odd …! Also worth noting that the major flood of the 1890s (there were three floods in 1893) was apparently a staggering 4m aka 13 feet higher …!

    You might also find some info as to how experts are dealt with if a critiques is not supportive of government-backed development if you do a media search in The Courier-Mail for a project called “North Bank” which involved building in the river … criticised by some experts who were virtually demonised … and prior to that in the same paper you may (if not prior to being put on the web) find a political battle regarding the flood levels and relying on Wivenhoe Dam …!

    Thanks again …

    MY…………….

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