01.01.2007

Happy New Year, 2027 Future visions with Environment colmunist Adrian Glamorgan

Welcome to the New Year, 2027. No, that's not a misprint.Over the break I installed some new software on my desktop,to tell me the wind movements in Cairo and Bogot‡,as well as when daylight saving operates in Ulan Bator,but now every time I go online the news from 2027 flashesin front of me as a pop-up. Go with the flow, I say. Apparently2027's a mixed bag.

Reading between the lines, (and leaving out the celebritygossip about people none of us have heard about yet)it seems the West finally got savvy about greenhousegases not a moment too soon, (and, regrettably, toolate for large parts of Bangladesh), but luckily bythe time China and India were supposed to take up theirKyoto share, in 2012.

The world's two largest democracies solidly threw theirweight behind climate change, and announced that theywould be going straight to the Fifth ERA InformationRevolution, that would incorporate the best and smartestin techno fixes, and skip the wastrel stage altogether.Whole cities were being designed from the ground upto leave less ecological footprint than ever before.

While cars existed, they were able to sell to the Westhybrids that outperformed some of the more sluggishDetroit versions, because they were designed to morestringent legislated standards. Borrowing from theseurban planning efforts, and sometimes leading them,in Australia we've had lots of building code redesignand retrofitting, with entire suburbs required to givehouses northern street orientation for passive solardesign, R4 insulation subsidised, mums and dads sellingelectricity from their sliver solar cells to the grid(and making money), airconditioning carbon taxes, andurban limits. Micro sewage works in each suburb supplycommunity gardens and provide street lighting (frommethane!).

Public transport has been revitalised, with light railcircles feeding across and around town, prompted bythe 2010 Peak Oil Collapse. The Great Oil Depressionof 2011 hit hard and since 2020, a few lucky familiesnow go out in their petrol vintages on Sunday-drives.(Try telling the kids you drove a petrol motor downto the supermarket in 2007 for milk, and they won'tbelieve you.)

Yet, of all shortages, the big challenge has been water.Southeast Queensland went dry in 2009, northern NewSouth Wales has been contending with a steady annualtemperature rise and rainfall drop, and Melbourne hasbeen on Stage Three from the Wednesday following theMelbourne Cup for as long as anyone can remember. Somepeople say successive governments left the water questionall too late, fearful of voter backlash about drinkingrecycled water and paying premium prices for splashingonto Kentucky blue lawns. There were grand madcap schemesto bring in water from the Daintree, but....

When the Murray dried up in four places, and the algalbloom of the Darling River showed how bad things couldget, there was a surge of support for the country'sleaders to do something more systematic. The biggestsurprise was the suggestion to redraw state boundariesto follow watersheds and bioregions resource management.Since 2017, the state of northeast Victoria (the capitalis Glenrowan!) has managed its quality education schoolingprogram by selling water rights to downstream buyers;the Darling cotton industry went into voluntary "liquidation",freeing up substantial amounts of fresh water, but thereis much to repair from a century of damage. Regrettably,of the 639 Australian species listed as threatened withextinction in 2007, only 105 remain. Along with environmentalaction, there has been grief, and for others, disbelief.

There have been a few outstanding winners, like thebeleaguered town of Goulburn which, from an early time,had pioneered water restrictions, now a national leaderin water-saving technologies and water management regimes.It offers advice not just to metropolitan councils andstate governments, but to overseas buyers too, anxiousto stop the spreading deserts and empty dams.

The collapse of oil has especially hurt Australia.It's meant that agriculture can no longer rely on expensivefertilisers, nor send produce great distances. We'vestarted to grow and eat local, turning to the labourintensive practices of organic and biodynamic farming.This became a blessing in disguise, for a number ofreasons. Firstly, these types of farming saw an easingof the saltification, acidification and desertificationof marginal lands. Secondly, many environmental refugeesfrom the Pacific Islands, and a long coastline of theIndian subcontinent, their homes drowned by the risingwaters caused by climate warming, were now welcomedin Australia for their contribution as a labour forceon farms. If our human rights record was still questionable,at least this time we could see self interest apply.

The switch from agro-industry has also mirrored a floweringof a diversified New Health system, based on diseaseprevention, good food as first medicine, and teachinghospitals where Bach Flower diagnosis, movement therapy,garden therapy and service learning dovetail with ourtechnological achievements.

Few ordinary Australians travel overseas now. Avgasbecame almost unavailable from 2010 on. Nowadays, theadventurous join the 21st century sailing boats thatstill take some minerals northwards. But compared tothe heyday of budget travelling, we can only think globally,not travel there.

But wait! There's another pop-up. Dang machine. Analternative future. I thought this was going to be onlyone. Something wrong with the random generator here.This pop-up says each capital city from the originalstates has a quota of five nuclear power stations. Onlyhalf were built, three were shut down within a yearbecause of technical defects in the much vaunted, butuntested, Generation Four design. The good news is thatsynrock may actually be an answer to our nuclear wasteproblem, perhaps by 2070 (and still counting from thefirst promise made in 1979), and while we're confirmingthat, nuclear waste continues to be stored under militarisedcontrol. Roxby Downs continued to pump out one hundredmillion litres of water per day for uranium mining,without charge to the company, until the Great ArtesianBasin dried up.

ah, another pop-up. Nothing, after all, is certain.The future is in our hands. Get ready for the changesahead. They're going to be a doozy. But oh, what a talewe will have our grandchildren: how the world will besaved. Not with a bang, but by community effort, thegoddess of small things done with love, and determinationunrivalled.

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