03 August 2010

Steady As It Goes Is Fast Enough

Reposted in full from the Brisbane Times, 3 August 2010

'Approval of an expansion of Melbourne's boundary is the death warrant for the city's 12 green wedges. When it came to the crunch, our green lungs were regarded as dispensable.

Amendment VC68, which passed through Victoria's parliament last week, not only sanctioned a 43,600-hectare extension of the urban growth boundary into the green wedges. It also showed how easily future expansion could be approved in a society that puts growth before everything else.

The green wedges were established to protect "rural and agricultural uses, natural resources, landscape, heritage, open space, and conservation values". In other words, they were there to provide recreation and food for the people of the city and the protection of scenery. The Brumby government's action indicates that, in its view, these have a lower priority than growth.

The Victorian government is not alone in its pursuit of virtually unfettered economic growth.

Other state governments, the federal government and the Coalition promote economic growth.

Further afield, China and India are the most prominent of developing nations following the West's example.

Yet there is a clear alternative to endless economic growth — the Steady State Economy.

First outlined by philosopher John Stuart Mill in 1848, this vision is now backed by a rapidly growing worldwide movement. The Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy was founded six years ago and is now active on every continent. Indeed, Greens leader Bob Brown mentioned this new vision for our world at the party's campaign launch last week.

In the Steady State we will no longer base our lives on consuming an ever-increasing amount of non-renewable resources such as coal and oil, but will live within our ecological means. Our populations will be in balance with the resources that are sustainably available. It will also be a fairer world where there is equal access to services for all, as well as the freedom that will develop from a much closer relationship with the environment.

This clear philosophy shows up the disconnect between the Victorian government's actions. It says it is concerned about climate change and wants to begin phasing out Hazelwood power station, while at the same time it is paving the way for a massive increase in the demand for every kind of energy from expanding Melbourne's population. Does the government understand the relationship between supply and demand, or is it so committed to growth that it does not care?

Who is to blame for this disaster? The environment movement put up a strong fight to protect the green wedges but it was overwhelmed by the development interests that benefit from a Big Melbourne. The problem is that defensive trench warfare is not enough. What happens on the ground is determined by whatever society as a whole is prepared to accept.

The real failure of the environment movement and our politicians is that they have not developed an alternative vision for our country. Instead we have an all pervasive development ethos powered by a default vision of endless economic and population growth. To avoid a never-ending series of attacks on the environment and a failure to connect the dots, we must make the idea of developing a sustainable vision a top priority for all Australians. At least the Greens have recognised this.

Geoff Mosley, a former chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, is Australian director of the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. His book Steady State – Alternative to Endless Economic Growth will be published in October.'

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