David Holmgren, the co-founder of Permaculture, once said;
“The suburbs of our Australian cities have, in the main, become sterile wastelands, lacking in any true spirit of community, impoverished of local resources, and filled with fearful people whose daily efforts are focused elsewhere.”
I reckon he hit the nail on the head with this quote. Looking around my own town on the weekend, particularly the parts of it built over the last 5 or so years, I have noticed a few trends that I would like to share.
|Typical Australian Suburb|
Our town of Melton has become a ‘dormitory suburb’ or a collection of them, designed for cars and not the people that live in them. With less or infrequent public transportation servicing these new suburbs, people are forced to have to own a car or even two. With few jobs, retail or industries, people are forced to work in neighbouring areas closer to Melbourne and only come home to roost so to speak.
The average household size has been shrinking with extended family units becoming scarce. However the home sizes, or as I like to call them McMansions, have increased, and yards are getting smaller and smaller. Windows often overlook the neighbours garage, or a picturesque view of the back fence which is no more than 5 metres away, or if there is a view, it is of streets devoid of people.
People treasure entertainment areas which sacrifice what little backyard remains. No space left for growing food, with their only idea of food security only a drive away at the supermarket. Speaking of food security, urban boundaries get forced further out each year, gobbling up prime agricultural land and space for market gardens. This in turn forces the use of more and more transportation to get food to these suburbs, and discourages land use for local food supply due to high land prices subject to residential development.
So what can be done to retrofit the suburbs when energy decent is looming not so far in the future? Will be able to do something with diminishing capital being available to us?
Well, over the next few days I will be writing about a few possible solutions that we could do to fix up the ‘burbs that would make a difference to the current modus operandi.
I have a few ideas that maybe useful 😉
Hi Linda, you nearly started to steal my thunder there :-). Glad you stopped! I agree which your comment, as we don’t have to deal with too much wildlife where I live, however in inner Melbourne, possums are a big pest.
Linda Woodrow says
Hi Gav, David Holmgrenalso says, “It’s technically possible that the traditional older suburbs could actually produce all of the food needed to sustain the people living there. The amount of open space – both public and private space in backyards – means that you’ve got a population density not that much greater than some of the densest traditional agricultural landscapes in the world.” I live in a rural community, but before you get jealous 🙂 in some ways I think it is actually easier to garden in the suburbs. The wildlife in the bush is truly voracious, unless you live in an area where there’s been a concerted effort to exterminate it (and you’re willing to carry on the effort). And you have so many little niches and microclimates. And barter partners right nearby. And unlimited sources of worm food. And…I’d best stop. I might need to move if I keep going. Looking forward to hearing how you’d redesign the burbs.
Yep, the outlook is… challenging to say the least.
I always wonder that Councils can’t plant out median strips and the like with fruit trees/edible plants.
Of course, being the ‘now’ someone would sue because they slipped on a stray orange, or some kids would be flinging ripe fruit at the retirement village or wahtever. But really.
There IS a little park not too far from us that has fruit trees all through it. Beautifully maintained and that doesn’t cause a problem so I have hope for median strips yet!
Oh and one median strip planed out with olive trees… but then… is it safe to eat fruit that’s been steeped in car fumes day in and day out?
*sigh* lol looking forward to some of your theories
Gav – i am very interested in your ideas – can’t wait to read about them! i know that you won’t let us down! lead the way, monsieur!
what shocks me is the mass of black and dark coloured, heat absorbing roofs in such a hot country.
Bruise Mouse says
Gav, I am really looking forward to your ideas. Since we have been living in Berlin we have noticed so many things about how our home town (Perth) does not really seem to encourage ‘community’. As the public transport is so amazing, we haven’t needed to buy a car. We live in an apartment and because of the high density living, I see neighbours regularly. I am starting to miss my yard but there are parks and playgrounds within walking distance.