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The lifestyle choices that will shape Canberra’s future

By Anne Treasure - 20 July 2017 16

South Australia’s recent deal with Elon Musk to build a new energy system for that state made headlines worldwide, while here in the ACT we have a target of 100% renewable energy and zero net emissions by 2050. The ACT now has some of the lowest electricity prices in the nation, with significant investment in wind and solar generation.

ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury addressed the COAG Energy Council meeting this week, appealing to the federal government to set a Clean Energy Target.

“We know from experience that our clean energy targets have generated millions in new investments from local renewable energy industries, and created hundreds of new jobs,” Mr Rattenbury said.

A study released this month suggests that individual behavioural shifts have much better immediate potential than waiting on infrastructural changes reliant on politicians. “Reduced reliance on cars can begin immediately, whereas improved power plant efficiency occurs on a decadal time frame.”

The study into how education and government in the US, EU, Canada and Australia address climate mitigation points out that anthropogenic climate change is the result of billions of individual decisions. While action at a global level is essential, there are lifestyle choices we can each make on an individual level that will contribute – and some choices are more significant than others.

The four individual choices that can most substantially decrease your carbon footprint are:

  • having smaller families
  • living car-free
  • avoiding air travel
  • eating a plant-based diet

“These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (eight times less).”

Of course, these lifestyle choices rely on access to a different kind of infrastructure, such as safe and appealing cycling infrastructure, appropriate reproductive medical care, a variety of plant-based food stuffs, and living in a region that is as enticing to visit as overseas destinations.

The study emphasises that adolescents are an important target group for climate change mitigation. They are just at the start of establishing lifetime patterns that will affect the environment in the long term, yet they are not receiving effective information about how they can help at an individual level.

“We recognize these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has. It’s especially important for young people establishing lifelong patterns to be aware which choices have the biggest impact,” said study co-author Kimberly Nicholas.

If riding a bike for transport has a far bigger effect on climate change mitigation than recycling, should the ACT Government provide a rebate for purchasing a bike (or e-bike, or cargo bike) like governments in Europe do?

In London, the Government’s Cycle Scheme provides up to £1,000 worth of bike and accessories through employers in a salary-sacrifice arrangement. Oslo has invested $1billion in cycling infrastructure, including grants for citizens to buy e-bikes for transport.

If you’re not ready to give up steaks, overseas holidays or reproductive freedom just yet, forgoing a car might be the least painful personal choice on the list. Particularly in Canberra, where we have a superior network of bike paths and a wonderful community of people who ride bikes.

Would you consider giving up your car, becoming a one-car family or at least leaving the car at home most days in order to safeguard our future?

Anne Treasure is the Communications Manager for Pedal Power ACT. She writes on bike riding in the ACT from the perspective of a Canberran who mostly rides for transport. 

What’s Your opinion?


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16 Responses to
The lifestyle choices that will shape Canberra’s future
bryansworld 5:52 am 24 Jul 17

We leave our second car at home during the week because it is faster to get from one side of the lake to the other in peak hour on a bicycle.
Something also needs to be done about the increasing rat running through the inner suburbs by drivers trying to avoid the main traffic choke points.

Maya123 10:16 pm 23 Jul 17

John Moulis said :

dungfungus said :

In what way is having smaller families going to decrease our carbon footprint?

Smaller families and a smaller population would harm Australia in the long run. More people means more people buying goods, a healthier economy and more jobs. You don’t have to be John Maynard Keynes to understand this fundamental economic argument. A falling population means stagnation, higher unemployment, more people on welfare, a higher foreign debt and a growing budget deficit.

Increased population is a Ponzi scheme. It can’t go on forever.

John Moulis 2:19 pm 23 Jul 17

planeguy said :

dungfungus said :

In what way is having smaller families going to decrease our carbon footprint?

Smaller families, insomuch as it leads to smaller population will necessarily lead to a smaller carbon footprint – less people to feed, transport, house etc… means less consumption and hence less carbon.

Now, John Moulis below points out that there are economic impacts as well as environmental factors were we to decrease population growth. However just because your branch of politics thinks something will be economically good or bad, should not impact the science, that should be looking for observable, testable, repeatable cause and effect.

Posts like this and the story above provide the reason why environmentalism is currently on the nose and why people are turning away from The Greens. We are told to stop eating meat when Australia is a meat eating nation. In short, you cannot have a healthy life unless you eat meat. As for reducing our population, consuming less and having a smaller carbon footprint, how will that maintain our standard of living at a first world level? It won’t, we would just slip further down in the global figures.

Australia will not work properly as a sophisticated first world country until we have a population of at least 100 million. New cities should be built in northern Australia, new transport infrastructure can be put into place, more migrants brought in to populate those places and the subsequent boost in economic growth would mean more jobs and a higher standard of living for all.

We have to build up this country with more people and economic growth, and those people eating healthy, protein filled food like meat. We shouldn’t be hoodwinked by the simplistic and illogical arguments of the environmental movement and their unhealthy, xenophobic fantasies.

planeguy 12:47 pm 23 Jul 17

dungfungus said :

In what way is having smaller families going to decrease our carbon footprint?

Smaller families, insomuch as it leads to smaller population will necessarily lead to a smaller carbon footprint – less people to feed, transport, house etc… means less consumption and hence less carbon.

Now, John Moulis below points out that there are economic impacts as well as environmental factors were we to decrease population growth. However just because your branch of politics thinks something will be economically good or bad, should not impact the science, that should be looking for observable, testable, repeatable cause and effect.

planeguy 12:39 pm 23 Jul 17

dungfungus said :

Who is “Dr Karl”?

‘Dr Karl’ – Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, is the ex doctor, now dedicated science communicator who you might hear on various radio programs, including Triple J.

My statement above was a bit glib, but basically what the saying refers to, is that every substance in excess can be toxic. So just because water is good for us, it doesn’t mean that too much water won’t kill us.

Similarly, just because CO2 is required for plant growth, it does not mean that increasing it will have an overall positive on the environment.

John Moulis 10:10 am 23 Jul 17

dungfungus said :

In what way is having smaller families going to decrease our carbon footprint?

Smaller families and a smaller population would harm Australia in the long run. More people means more people buying goods, a healthier economy and more jobs. You don’t have to be John Maynard Keynes to understand this fundamental economic argument. A falling population means stagnation, higher unemployment, more people on welfare, a higher foreign debt and a growing budget deficit.

dungfungus 9:04 am 23 Jul 17

planeguy said :

dungfungus said :

Welcome back Samuel!

Well, with “opinions” like that, it will sure lead to lively conversation. I’ll just ask what a “healthy dose” of CO2 in the atmosphere is, SGS? For as Dr Karl likes to say, “everything is a poison, what matters is the dose.”

Who is “Dr Karl”?

planeguy 1:57 pm 22 Jul 17

dungfungus said :

Welcome back Samuel!

Well, with “opinions” like that, it will sure lead to lively conversation. I’ll just ask what a “healthy dose” of CO2 in the atmosphere is, SGS? For as Dr Karl likes to say, “everything is a poison, what matters is the dose.”

dungfungus 9:27 am 22 Jul 17

Samuel Gordon-Stewart said :

None of those things are necessary to safeguard our future. If people choose to do them, then that’s their choice to make, but it’s silly to pretend they have anything to do with safeguarding our future. If done to reduce one’s “carbon footprint” they may actually damage our future.

Man-made global warming is an egregious hoax. Carbon dioxide is important for our future as our plant life and ecosystem depends on healthy doses of it. People hoping to live on a plant-based diet would do well to increase their “carbon footprint” if they want those plants to grow up nice and healthy for the harvesting. Mind you, I think anyone who chooses to forego meat entirely needs their head read.

Becoming entirely reliant on others is a bad thing for your own safety and survival, especially in an emergency, thus going car-free only makes sense if you have your own alternative transport. A bicycle might work depending on the emergency, but public transport is unlikely to get you away from a raging bushfire in a hurry, and good luck getting that carshare when 50 other people want the same car. I don’t oppose going car-free if it works for you, but I encourage you to think about the consequences and how you would plan around them.

What really baffles me on that list is the notion that having smaller families requires “appropriate reproductive medical care” (read: abortions and contraceptives). No, the simplest and safest way to avoid having children is to avoid “doing the deed” which produces them. This is also much healthier as it avoids the risk of spreading certain nasty diseases.

As for bicycle grants. No. Just reduce taxes on everyone and everything. If people want bikes they will be able to afford them.

Welcome back Samuel!

Samuel Gordon-Stewar 5:29 am 22 Jul 17

None of those things are necessary to safeguard our future. If people choose to do them, then that’s their choice to make, but it’s silly to pretend they have anything to do with safeguarding our future. If done to reduce one’s “carbon footprint” they may actually damage our future.

Man-made global warming is an egregious hoax. Carbon dioxide is important for our future as our plant life and ecosystem depends on healthy doses of it. People hoping to live on a plant-based diet would do well to increase their “carbon footprint” if they want those plants to grow up nice and healthy for the harvesting. Mind you, I think anyone who chooses to forego meat entirely needs their head read.

Becoming entirely reliant on others is a bad thing for your own safety and survival, especially in an emergency, thus going car-free only makes sense if you have your own alternative transport. A bicycle might work depending on the emergency, but public transport is unlikely to get you away from a raging bushfire in a hurry, and good luck getting that carshare when 50 other people want the same car. I don’t oppose going car-free if it works for you, but I encourage you to think about the consequences and how you would plan around them.

What really baffles me on that list is the notion that having smaller families requires “appropriate reproductive medical care” (read: abortions and contraceptives). No, the simplest and safest way to avoid having children is to avoid “doing the deed” which produces them. This is also much healthier as it avoids the risk of spreading certain nasty diseases.

As for bicycle grants. No. Just reduce taxes on everyone and everything. If people want bikes they will be able to afford them.

dungfungus 1:51 pm 21 Jul 17

thelonius said :

Calm, safe, walkable city streets with vibrant, dense, residential, commercial, and entertainment activity? It’s possible. But not here. We must have massively expensive over-sized highways dumping vehicles into the inner city. We must use valuable urban land for parking unoccupied vehicles during the day. We cannot be like Denmark, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, with their public transport and cyclists. No way. We’re different.

Yeah, we’re different as we don’t even have safe or walk-able (no footpaths) streets in the suburbs. And if we have walk-able streets why do we need cyclists?

thelonius 11:29 am 21 Jul 17

Calm, safe, walkable city streets with vibrant, dense, residential, commercial, and entertainment activity? It’s possible. But not here. We must have massively expensive over-sized highways dumping vehicles into the inner city. We must use valuable urban land for parking unoccupied vehicles during the day. We cannot be like Denmark, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, with their public transport and cyclists. No way. We’re different.

astrojax 7:15 pm 20 Jul 17

Holden Caulfield said :

Overpopulation, the elephant roaming free all over the planet.

Meanwhile, rebates for buying a bike? Haha, that’ll go down well with the “make them pay registration” crowd. Although you could easily formulate sound policy reasons for doing so. Selling it to the voting public might be an altogether different proposition however. Interesting.

i don’t think the crowd you evoke is anything at all to which we should listen. evidence for sustainable urban spaces having a strong correlation between behaviour and that sustainability is compelling and extensive. just google ecocity world summit held in melbourne last week for a start… so yes, not only could you easily formulate sound policy reasons, it would in fact be reprehensible to do otherwise. i think trying not to evoke a rabid and insidious, and denounced, point of view could be a great help in its acceptance by the community, but it is anyway becoming clear that it will soon no longer matter…

dungfungus 1:47 pm 20 Jul 17

In what way is having smaller families going to decrease our carbon footprint?

Holden Caulfield 12:15 pm 20 Jul 17

Overpopulation, the elephant roaming free all over the planet.

Meanwhile, rebates for buying a bike? Haha, that’ll go down well with the “make them pay registration” crowd. Although you could easily formulate sound policy reasons for doing so. Selling it to the voting public might be an altogether different proposition however. Interesting.

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