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Getting the sheep off our backs: a new green agenda for our cities

By Edward Blakely - posted Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's pretty clear that a Green agenda is an urban agenda for our nation. Greens oppose logging, most mining and the export of live animals. So, with the Greens controlling the Senate, the cities and compact urban development are going to be at the forefront of their agenda. This is good for the nation. We have been too dependent for too long on exporting raw materials to the rest of the world. This can continue for 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years. But if we have not made any moves to generate and new globally competitive economy in the next decade we will face a dire future. The Greens can help us face the real facts of the nation. While both of the major parties bicker over what is a good or bad public policy on 'boat people' the Greens can take a higher road on national policy and the future of Australia.

The clear path for Australia with our small and highly urbanized population is to become a knowledge intensive economy and get off the sheep's back. Make no mistake the sheep, coal and other natural resources have made us a lucky country. But luck is not and cannot be a national strategy in a globally connected world. The Chinese and Japanese along with most of the world are backing away from more coal to fuel their economies. Both countries are doing this for environmental as well as economic reasons. China is urbanizing so it cannot sustain its economy on imported energy. Japan is postmodern and must post disaster move to renewables. So, even if we wanted to we cannot and should not provide pollution to the rest of the world or live animals as our base economy. We have to change and the Greens are pushing for these changes.

A Green agenda to date has been against things and not for them. But the future of the Greens will be measured by what they accomplish and not what they stop. Moreover, the Greens are city based. So, they have to deliver for cities. The most plausible Green agenda will be for them to develop a positive profile in the cities advancing the notion of innovative clean technologies, research for universities to produce new products and services and to make cities more liveable. The Greens in Europe started out as a "no" political parties and transformed into leaders for environmental and social justice. Hopefully our Green Party can and will move in the same direction.


In every respect, the Greens are set to move the nation to a place it has to go. For the Greens to succeed politically they must show their "the past is not prologue". They have to be solidly for cities or they will have no platform to stand on and no constituency's support. A greener, cleaner nation could be a nice political agenda for a nation with one of the largest carbon foot prints. The Greens will be measured on how will be measured by how weel they steer the nation toward the next century.

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About the Author

Edward J. Blakely is Honorary Professor of Urban Policy at the United States Studies Centre, Sydney University. Professor Blakely is an international expert on urban planning and development and most recently head of recovery in New Orleans. He also served as the Chair of the Sydney Metropolitan Plan Reference Panel 2003-2004. He can be heard on the radio Sunday nights at 8PM on internet radio Blakely City Talk broadcasts the same podcast anytime.

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