The container mall – from a city shaping our future

My hometown has been devastated, care of a certain natural disaster. Namely, the catastrophic 6.3 magnitude, 10km deep, February 2011 earthquake. 185 people lost their lives that day. The earth continues to rumble, though not nearly as forcefully. Today, people are still coping with destroyed homes, outrageous rental prices and a sense of loss from the damaged historic buildings across the city.

I recently visited Christchurch – my first trip home following that fateful day. I was very interested to see the damage, and I was particularly keen to see the green shoots of emerging growth. You see, Christchurch has been voted as number 9 on a global list of cities that are shaping the next century. Or more specifically – “A massive rebuilding effort following this year’s New Zealand earthquake is a unique opportunity to rethink urban form”.

To help city centre businesses get back on their feet, a container mall – Re:START, has sprung up in what was the old Cashel Mall. Container as in shipping container. All are painted bright colours and combined to produce single and double level stores. The urban space is surrounded by demolished buildings spaces , some of which are used as open air carparking. Discounted parking rates are there to encourage people into the city centre. 

Within the container mall music is everywhere, as are sculptured garden features which are most appropriate for the Garden City. My favourite Greek food cart, that has sold me donor kebabs through my university days, is located near the outdoor dining areas where one can take in the atmosphere and sun. Speaking of sun, the lack of tall buildings in the surrounding area means an abundance of light to the mall. The container mall is so good, it’s a shame to think it will eventually be replaced as new buildings return to the centre. This is all part of the urban renewal process as the temporary gives way to more permanent structures.

I watch with interest the evolving shape of the new city of Christchurch and hope that sustainable concepts feature in the new development.


The new economy is…..Circular!

There has been a great deal of dialogue recently on decoupling economic growth from resource consumption, or revenue from resources. A new report, “Towards the Circular Economy” comes the closest to providing solid examples of how this can be achieved.

It’s all about sound product design where waste is designed out and products are designed for disassembly. Products are designed with a systems view, understanding how they will be used and how they will be reused at end of life. This is the concept behind industrial ecology. New business models that sell the service, not the product, encourage business to take ownership for product end of life. This model has been shown to cost companies and consumers less in resources and costs.

The report provides a kind of roadmap for shifting from a linear to a circular economic system. It demonstrates that it is not a niche concept. We need more examples that prove doing good for the environment adds value to your business. However, breaking the ‘take, make and waste’ habit will not be easy and it will be innovative companies who will secure first mover advantage and start to shake up our current system.
In the manufacturing sector, we often speak about the growing opportunity of manufacturing services. There are countless opportunities in shifting to a services offering, or packaging product and services together. An example in Australia is Orica Mining Services. Once upon a time they sold mining explosives. Today they sell services alongside the product to the sector. By selling the service in addition to the product, they not only secure additional revenue, they retain expert industry skills which will continue to add value to their business through product development and delivery.
Download the report, read the executive summary, and select a case study that is closer to your business to understand the benefits of the circular economy.

Seven Billion, and counting…

With foundations based upon the inter-connected fortunes of People, Profit and Planet, one of the reasons I like sustainability so much, is recognition of the fact that none of us live in a vacuum. The world is one connected ecosystem, with many parts. Meaning that, while we may like to pretend otherwise, what we do here in Australia, DOES have the potential to affect countries around us, and around the globe.

If you’d like a recent example, just look at the social and financial impacts Qantas meted out to travellers, it’s own bottomline, staff and even tourism, when CEO Alan Joyce grounded the fleet on the weekend. The Australian federal government even became embroiled in the dispute. In his own words, it only took Joyce “eight minutes” here in Australia to stop, disrupt, and inconvenience over 80,000 of Qantas’ own passengers worldwide. Many ramifications of that ‘snap’ industrial action haven’t even been felt, yet.

Like it or not, the vigour of our human society, and our very existence is connected. No one social group or country is completely immune to the potential impacts of another.

Which brings me to the attached 2010 TED talk from Hans Rosling, which I hope you’ll watch.

In the last twenty-four hours, the world’s population has just reached the milestone of seven billion peeps. As always around these big moments in human civilisation, there has been a flurry of activity about it, in all forms of media, exhorting a range of views and opinions. The views are both good and bad, positive and negative.

Regardless of the commentary (mine included), the fact remains that the world’s population has reached seven billion, irrespective of personal opinions or arguments. It’s still quietly ticking over from that total, with more of us human ‘beans’ being born every minute.

It does not seem sustainable, that our global population double every fifty years or so. I’m no scientist, and I think that. Smallish planet, finite resources, limited ‘crawl space’, and no extra-terrestrial fleet sighted on the horizon to whisk anyone away, to date. Need for sustainable solutions and practices? No-brainer!

However, guaranteeing our future is not just about sustainability. A burgeoning population is about more than one country, one race, one issue or solution. It requires a range of initiatives from all affected parties (so, everyone), to positively influence future outcomes for all.

So, for me this milestone is cause to pause and reflect – and think. I’m encouraged to see the issue from different angles, and think laterally. Some people see population growth as a threat to the world, a rampant de-stabilising force. I see it as providing humanity with a raft of opportunities on many levels – to think creatively about creating solutions, to raise people out of poverty, engage investment and investors in new and different ways in creating wealth, and investing in greater social equality across the globe, to name a few.

Whatever your personal situation today, Hans Rosling’s TED talk is an eloquent, user-friendly demonstration that brings up some interesting issues for our future. The world is getting smaller, and social equality (and inequality) is becoming harder to ignore. Australia has its part to play. As Rosling demonstrates so clearly, one of the population growth solutions is contingent upon ending poverty and raising social equality. If nothing else, this 7 millionth person milestone gives us an opportunity to examine and question existing social mores and motivations, challenge and perhaps change our current perspectives about the world around us, as we look to define and influence our future.

We could all just stick our heads in the sand, and wait for someone else, or governments of the world to take care of it. If we do, where will we all be in 2050, I wonder?

Seven billion, and counting…

For more information about Hans Rosling, check here and here

Contributing Writer: Trudi Barclay, Visual Prose

A New Kind of Growth

Commentary on future economic status is not bright. The recent IMF half-yearly report paints a gloomy picture for economic growth and global stability.

Europe and the US have their work cut out for them in maintaining stability, creating new jobs and avoiding recession.  In Australia, the high dollar has hit exporters hard. These are certainly challenging times for the global economy as growth begins to slow. 

There are a growing number of voices that challenge our perspective of continued economic growth. Clive Hamilton’s book, Growth Fetish, is one such voice. He challenges economic rationalism and its impact on our society and politics. Clive discusses a post-growth world where our relationship with the environment is redefined. 

Further explorations into a different type of growth have been undertaken by the OECD and UNEP. They have been working on how to decouple economic growth from resource use. In essence, maintaining some form of economic growth with more efficient resource consumption. This concept has given rise to the term ‘Green Growth’. The OECD have developed information on policies, frameworks and monitoring tools to support green growth. More information from the OECD on Green Growth can be found here.