|Melbourne cityscape, image via iStock|
Two years ago I moved from an outer suburb, in which I lived for nearly eight years, to inner city Melbourne. It takes me about 20 minutes to walk to the CBD. I can also ride a bike, which takes about 10 minutes. The nearest shop is two minutes away by foot. I love where I live and life is great. This was not always the case though.
A decade ago, I moved to Melbourne from Europe with my family, and we happened to settle in an outer suburb of Melbourne. It is located about 27 kilometers from the inner CBD and I struggled to accept this new reality. Having been raised in a small apartment, in the middle of a city in Europe, I found large amount of space around me quite overwhelming. I felt isolated and lonely. The train station was some 15 minutes bus ride, which only operated every half an hour and the train ride to the city took some 45 minutes. Add the same for coming back home and the last bus ride from the train station was scheduled at 8.05pm. You can imagine what consequences this had on my social life.
Wait, the worst part is about to come; for one reason or another-unknown to me till this day-the bus schedule never aligned with the train schedule. This meant that most of the time, just as I was arriving on the bus to catch the train to the city: yes, you guessed it - the train was just leaving. I, and other frustrated commuters, had to wait about 20 minutes for another train, which is normal in non-rush hours. It was during these fine hours that I also noticed youth hanging around train station that appeared very bored and frustrated; most people in the outer suburbs were overweight or obese; the roads were filled with cars and in peak hours, all the roads were congested and it was very unpleasant to walk in this setting. Sometimes you could see people walking around parks in the evening but this was a rare site and not plenty in numbers.
I asked myself at that time-without knowing what sustainability really meant: is this sustainable? Is this way of life good for us? Do we have to have large houses and large backyards that we do not have the time to garden or attend to, or entertain in, because we spend so many hours a week sitting in cars, buses or trains? Is there another way to live?
Melbourne is currently one of the largest sprawling cities in the world. With a population of four million people, Melbourne has one of the largest urban footprints of any city in the world. This continuing sprawl demands more resources, more water, more energy and a greater need for transportation. I am concerned about the future of our city - my adopted home - and I want to be a part of the discussion on how to improve not just our environment, but also our well-being. How do we sustain a growing population? Where will my children live? What kind of environment will they live in?
What is Urban Ecology and what can you do about it?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics expects that Australia’s population will grow by 60%, reaching nearly 35 million people by 2056. Most people will choose to live in large, capital cities, which means nearly 85% of our population will be concentrated in urban areas.
The burning question is-what can we do about it?
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that we live in an environment in which there are limits to resources. Human activity has caused biodiversity loss, ozone depletion and deforestation. At the same time, the fast pace of technological change; geopolitical instability; water shortages; and environmental damage pose a significant threat to Australia’s national and regional economic stability on an inter-generational basis.
Second, we also have to understand that not all is bleak: solutions exist and they are to be found in nature. This is what Urban Ecology is about: it is the development that allows us to live within environmental limits of resource use. We are able to achieve this by changing our behavior throughout six major areas of life: Energy, Urban Planning, Transport, Health, Food and Circular Economy.
RMIT UrbanEco Symposium is a platform that provides an opportunity for us to come together and participate in discussion on how to shape our way of life. Change is possible. Let’s start now.
For more information visit: https://www.rmit.edu.au/events/all-events/conferences/2015/march/urban-ecology-symposium/