The Garden of Villages – a new approach to Regional Development in Peri Urban Areas

Tomato (Tamatar)Garden of Villages™ is an integrated system that delivers sustainable regional development. It is a leading innovative and wholistic approach to tackling the issues of food and water security – a paradigm shift in the way that village and farm development is integrated, facilitated by new funding structures, advanced training programs, and the application of clean technologies to farming methods.

We take the seeds of the world’s best master planned sustainable cities and cross them with our experience in rural towns, and with developing and operating intensive sustainable farms. The resulting vigorous hybrid is the Garden of Villages™. Integration of food, living centres, energy production, industry, water capture and recycling establishes new paradigms. Garden of Villages™ has been designed to transition regional and rural areas close to growing cities into vibrant, secure food growing, processing and distribution centres.

These village scaled “food baskets” protect and enhance land of high agricultural value, produce high quality clean fresh food, catch rainfall and reuse water after appropriate treatment, generate energy from solar and gas sources, are hubs for light food processing and preparation of food for market that minimises waste in rapidly growing cities, and provide quality employment in regions. We are building our first Garden of Villages™ in the Mary Valley, Queensland. We have support of universities and we are identifying master farmers and supporting technology businesses to participate.

The project has earned recognition and support of local, state and federal government. Over time we will help create a global network of sustainable productive family based farms and villages producing and securing food, water, energy and homes for millions while managing waste efficiently and effectively.

Dr Julian Bolleter, Assistant Professor, Australian Urban Design Research Centre will speak at the Making Cities Liveable Conference, 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda

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Three major floods, four reviews, but still lessons to learn

By Karen Hussey and Jamie Pittock

The last few years provided plenty of data to help us reform our approach to floods. With devastating flooding in Queensland and Victoria in 2011 and 2013, we should have learned a great deal about which approaches to flood mitigation work and which are less effective. A review of four recent Australian studies of mitigation and adaptation, and a comparison to overseas recommendations, shows we are lagging behind international practises in a number of important areas.

The Australian approach

We looked at four recent reviews of flood mitigation and adaptation in Australia: the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, Brisbane City Council’s Flood Response Review, the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Flood Mitigation Infrastructure in Victoria and the Victorian Floods Review.

These reviews varied greatly in scope, and all produced a comprehensive list of considered and much-needed recommendations to improve Australia’s resilience to floods in the future. But one surprising fact was none of them dealt with future climate impacts. Some didn’t even mention climate change. Government reviews are expensive, but the cost is justified if they identify reforms which improve society. By not taking into account the risk of future climate change and its exacerbation of flood risk, governments are missing an opportunity to include those risks in the current reform agenda.

Australian governments take the attitude that we can re-make flooded communities exactly as they were before. As soon as a disaster is declared, federal funds are made available to rebuild to “pre-disaster” conditions. There is little or no expectation that infrastructure should be made more resistant to flood damage. In the United States 15% of federal funding is allocated for “betterment”; here there are virtually no resources to plan for, relocate or strengthen flood prone infrastructure to make it more resilient.

The Australian approach to “flood proofing” communities is to build levees. Levees essentially take the same body of water and squeeze it into a smaller space. They don’t encourage evaporation, and they push water to higher levels. They work well in small floods, and under those conditions are very effective at protecting communities. But in recent years we’ve seen bigger floods, and these are likely to get worse. In bigger floods the levees are often overcome, and the potential for serious damage becomes much greater than it would be without them.

“Non-structural” or “ecosystem” approaches to flood mitigation work much better than structural measures like levees. But in Australia, we rarely consider these types of measures.

International ideas

Internationally, the story is very different.

In our research we also looked at flood reforms in the USA, China and the Netherlands. In all three, climate change was a driving force behind their significant recommended reforms.

All of these countries recognise they have reached the limit of what levee banks can usefully achieve. Instead, they have instigated a range of reforms built around the concept of ecosystem management.

The first of these is “making room for the river”. The river channel is widened or deepened to allow more water to flow through while remaining within its bounds. Flooding of surrounding areas is reduced.

Since its devastating floods in the 1990s, China has been restoring flood plains, buying land around river channels and relocating people to higher ground. This has happened most famously as part of the Three Gorges Dam development, which attracted a lot of negative media coverage. But we’re finding that years after relocation, people have shifted to crops that are less prone to flood damage which, combined with being on higher ground, means they’re hit by floods less often, and they’re better prepared to deal with those that come along.

All three countries have changed the way they manage their floodways. Where cities and towns are vulnerable, the government diverts the river into agricultural land around the town. In a flood season the city is protected and agricultural areas are flooded instead. The farming communities are paid by the government to forgo income during floods, but still use the land at all other times. Australian research has shown that for graziers, more frequent flooding can actually improve farm incomes.

What could Australia learn?

Australia has dabbled in ecosystem approaches and relocation, but often in an ad-hoc way.

Critics of ecosystem approaches point out that it’s all very well to deepen a river upstream, but if you don’t deal with the towns downstream, flooding there will be much worse. For ecosystem approaches to work, management and planning have to be undertaken on a much larger scale.

In the southern Murray-Darling Basin, the government proposes removing constraints such as bridges and dams to allow for bigger peak environmental flows (that is, floods). This work is very promising, but what about the rest of the Murray-Darling Basin and, indeed, the rest of the country?

Currently, we don’t have coordination and integration across jurisdictions within and between states. But rivers don’t respect administrative boundaries: when you’re developing ecosystem approaches, you have to use the natural environment as your point of reference.

There have also been a few examples of relocating communities: Grantham and Gundagai being the most notable. This relocation is expensive, but as floods become bigger and more frequent it’s something Australia needs to do more often. The financial and social costs of retaining and rebuilding flood prone towns over and over and over again will soon add up. When the taxpayer is picking up the bill, at some point you must decide whether rebuilding is an economically viable solution, or whether in some situations relocation is the more sensible approach.

And of course we must take account of future climate risks. While none of these reviews seriously studied those risks, change is happening elsewhere. The Australian Rainfall and Runoff Guide is one of the most important national reference guides, and is used by planners and builders to help them allow for floods. It’s currently under review, and future versions will take account of the effects of both natural and anthropogenic climate change. This attitude should spread to all flood reform.

Karen Hussey receives funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

Jamie Pittock receives funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Does the Chinese emissions ‘error’ matter?

By John ED Barker, Murdoch University

Recent analyses that China’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions might be 1.2 gigatonnes or 20% higher than previously estimated have generated something of a feeding frenzy in the media; and not just the daily tabloids. Even The Scientific American has jumped on the bandwagon, adding a few more factoids to increase the alarm.

It is understandable that we could be alarmed by a figure of 1.2 gigatonnes; that’s a mighty big figure. It’s equivalent to the total of Japan’s annual emissions, the SMH repeated, without providing the more useful fact for its readers that it is also about three times all of Australia’s annual emissions.

It reminds me of the caption of a famous Punch cartoon, after it was announced that the postwar census of elephants in Burma suggested that many thousands were missing: “are you sure you’ve looked everywhere?”.

Three questions come quickly to mind: Is it true? If so, why? If so, so what?

First, is it true? The original Nature article is an impressively detailed analysis, which finds the discrepancy between the aggregate (national) Chinese emissions and that of the 30 provinces. According to Guan et al, energy accounting is poor in China, particularly in the myriad of small enterprises in the provinces.

Very few people would be in a position to corroborate the analysis; however, Professor Wang Yi, director of the Climate Change Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing has immediately counter-claimed that the official figures may be overstated by 10-20%. He claims that the authors of the Nature article have not taken into account the differing calorific content of the different grades of coal used across China.

This is understandable; the energy content of coal can vary from less than 10MJ/kg for wet brown coal (lignite) to almost 40 MJ/kg for dry, clean anthracite. Australians are very familiar with this situation when Victorian coal is compared with Queensland coal. China is a mix of all of these types. So a familiar situation is emerging; dispute between experts in the light of inadequate data.

Even if the Guan analysis is correct, does it matter? It does, to the extent that if emissions abatement is attempted in China via a carbon tax, then the figures would be skewed and there would be free-riders. But this is no different to Australia, where the Gillard government is only going to tax the top 500 (or so) carbon emitters. The whole abatement business is very approximate, so a 10-20% error is not significant.

On a global scale, the “error” of 1.2 GT or 20% of China’s emissions is not as impressive as the media announcements make it out to be. China emits about 24% of the global total, so even taking the top end estimate of a 20% “error”, China would be emitting about 28% of the total; that is, another 4% of the global total. In perspective, China’s emissions are increasing at an annual rate similar to this; possibly 5-8%. So the “error” amounts to an adjustment of perhaps several years; meaning China is emitting at a rate now that we thought that they would be emitting perhaps two years hence.

So what is the fuss about? Certainly, accurate data is always desirable, but does it change anything? China is leading the world in most areas of renewable energy manufacture and is rapidly increasing its domestic use. Its energy intensity is dropping dramatically.

I suspect that the media attention paid to the Guan et al paper is partly justified; we need to get the numbers right. But it is also partly due to what I see is a persistent inclination by the media to portray China and its achievements as lacking credibility. For example; China announces its quarterly economic outcomes quicker than the ABS and each quarter our pundits disparage their data, only to find year-on-year the data is as good as ours (is the ABS disparaged for its quarterly revisions?).

But as always, as soon as the buzz-words of “gigatonnes” and “Chinese error” are splashed across the media, the caravan moves on, leaving The Conversation to try to make some sense from it all.

John Barker has no direct connection with any organisation mentioned in this article.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

The Myths of Recovery – Ed Blakely

The the worst is over in Queensland and Victoria. We can now turn our attention to what went wrong and how we can get it right in the future. But before, we try to get things moving in the right direction, we need to know what the best directions to go in are. As the Tin man said to Alice: “If you don’t know where you are going, any direction will do”.

Some directions provide false hopes and inevitably lead to repeating the same or worse problems. Here are a few myths that can and should be avoided. Here are the issues I suggest are the Five big myths of disaster recovery.

1. Put it all back together-she’ll be right mate!–It is tempting to think that if we just do what we have been doing and leave people to their own devices, everything will work out well. We feel the only thing government can do is get in the way. We want to get back to normal with everything in the same place. In fact, this idea is re-enforced by government leaders saying after disaster: “We are going to put it all back just like it was and soon.”

2. Just Fix what’s broken– putting in another dam and cleaning up will not be enough, no matter how tempting such ideas are. New Orleans had many levee failure pre-Katrina. If the levees don’t work in one time, more of them will not serve in another disaster. it is time to look at the fundamentals of what is causing and what will cause new disasters and make fundamental changes, as the Dutch have done, to deal with the problem or to recognize it can’t be dealt with.

3. We can do it alone–we had the disaster and we don’t need anyone form another place telling us how to handle our problems. We have plenty of smart people. It is true local people have a lot of good local knowledge but other experts may have more information and more experience–borrow it.

4. Property rights are first–our nation is built on the fundamental right to own and dispose of property as one sees fit-with a few rules. but how do we deal with property that exposes everyone to danger? who pays for rescuers and what is the role of government when the property right conflicts with the safety of the total community? We have to tackle this isue by making sure that everyone is re-settle in ways that benefit the entire community and without financial loss or too great a personal sacrifice.

5. Better warning systems is all we need–warning are good but the new storms are coming faster and hitting harder than our systems can cope with. Since we know the primary cause of the problems, we need to use the first warning by making sure natural systems flow properly and that new building in the hills or on flat land do not disrupt natural system to the point greater dangers are created.

In essence the trust is always the best antidote to any myths. so, we need to get as much information as we can before we act. Unlike Alice, we have to know where we intend to go

Ed Blakely, in charge of the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after “Katrina”, he will present at the Healthy Cities Conference http://www.healthycities.com.au/

Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th July  2011
Venue: The Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa NOOSA, Queensland

“Sustainable Growth ???”

Is there such a process as “sustainable growth”? The term appears frequently in government reports and in company strategic plans. “Sustainable growth” holds out the tantalising prospect that a society can achieve the holy grail of sustainability – the modern term for alignment with environmental imperatives – without forgoing the benefits of economic expansion. These benefits include rising standards of living, full employment, increasing opportunities for investment or professional development – and generally rising wealth for all. 

 “Sustainability” implies a steady-state condition, not one built upon expansion or increasing throughput of material resources, but if it is based upon utilisation of renewable resources, then the steady-state condition may be satisfied. “Growth” is commonly used as a shorthand term for “economic growth” which relies upon geometrically expanding extraction and throughput of material resources, which is unsustainable in a finite planet, but there are forms of community advancement other than “growth” in this material sense.

We need to address related questions such as: Is there any way of decoupling a rise in living standards from throughput of biophysical resources? Is it possible to have rising real wealth other than by accumulating more physical goods which means more demands upon the earth’s resources? Is it possible to slow down economic expansion without risking plunging the economy into recession? The paper is particularly relevant to healthy cities because most expositions of what “healthy” means include an economic dimension. Is there such a thing as a healthy economy other than one that is actively expanding and so placing growing demands upon the resources of the biophysical environment?

Dr Geoff Edwards, Adjunct Research Fellow, Centre for Governance and Public Policy

4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference. The Outrigger Resort and Spa,  Little Hastings St, Noosa – 27-29 July 2011

Green designs – How do you make your Green building GREEN?

Due to the increased urban density there is a definite demand in the current built environment to incorporate more positive urban design and increased green space into smaller areas. Greenwalls and Greenroofs are being incorporated into more and more buildings throughout Australia, but how do we reach the full potential of the environmental benefits that can be achieved from this technology?

 Join Jonathon Grealy from PlantUP  at the 4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference for an interesting look at the secrets of a successful Greenwall and learn what designers can do to make them more than just a bit of side dressing.

Sustainable Urban Development: Responding to Extreme Events

Australia, particularly Queensland, has recently been struck by a sequence of extreme weather events. Cyclone Yasi and the floods of December 2010 / January 2011 saw more than 75% of Queensland officially declared a disaster zone. The impact on infrastructure and homes was devastating but the scale of the tragedy became that much more apparent as news of human fatalities was relayed by Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh.

Sustainable urban development is a useful concept in considering opportunities to alleviate the impact of extreme weather events, and extreme floods in particular. Sustainable urban development provides a framework focused on creating urban communities where both the current and future needs of residents are met. There are two important principles—resilience and connectivity—that underpin sustainable urban development.

By defining the risks associated with potential extreme events and translating those risks into planning and design solutions urban planners attempt to increase an urban feature’s capacity to absorb change. This capacity, otherwise known as its resilience, allows it to persist in the face of the change and thereby improves its sustainability.

The elements of the physical, biological, social and economic system in which we operate are fundamentally connected. This interconnectivity is relevant in all systems, but particularly in urban environments, where the proximity of the component elements and the frequency of interactions are higher.

These high-level principles point to four areas of response available to help manage the impact of extreme flood events before they occur. Looking particularly at existing and future developments and structures, this paper will discuss the management imperatives needed to ensure our urban fabric is planned, designed and constructed to not only respond proactively to extreme weather events and the ‘human contribution’, but also addresses the need to remove the barriers to decision making when related to complex, interacting systems.

Mr  Matt  Coetzee,  Development Manager – Community Development  Aurecon

Healthy Cities: 4th Making Cities Liveable Conference – Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th July  2011 Noosa Qld, Australia