As ‘Green’ gets trendy, what can be said for the dirty word ‘Density’

7 03 2013


More people are choosing to live in Cities than ever before in human existence. Our new urban culture is driven by a transformation in the way we do business, the way we recreate, the way we connect with each other…. But are our Cities going to keep up?

For most people, when they think high population density, they think traffic congestion, increased pollution, antisocial behaviour… And of course, if manager poorly, they’d be right. But does it have to be that way?

Population density has been a key discussion topic at this years Greener Cities Conference. The experts are saying that high density cities are not only a desirable outcome for a sustainable future, but a reality that is coming to a City near you, whether you’re ready for it or not. It’s a global trend, and it’s happening, so we better start preparing for it.

The CEO of Green Cross, Mara Bun makes an interesting point, suggesting that as a result of this global shift towards Cities, our conversation needs to change around how our Cities are built. Instead of focusing on whether we want high growth or not, which is out of our control, we must shift to talking about what our Cities will look like in 30 years, and what decisions we need to make today to ensure that our Cities can maximise the opportunities created from growth, not just cope with it. This enables a more intelligent conversation, and one that will influence our decision makers to ensure a sustainable, thriving City for the future.

Mandurah’s population has been in rapid growth for some time, and while it has slowed recently as a result of the downturn in our economy, the reality is, our City will continue to grow.

This could mean a strengthened, vibrant economy, sustainable innovations, an intact and recognisable identity and culture, diversity in our people and a sophisticated and well planned City….. Or it could mean traffic congestion, urban sprawl and Mandurah simply becoming an outer metropolitan suburb of Perth.

But if all this talk of high density is still of concern, lets put our population into perspective. A quick bit of research on some dodgy Wikipedia figures (I can hear my university lecturer groaning from here!) demonstrates what Mandurah would look like, population wise, if we took the population density from a handful of Cities across the world:

If Mandurah had the same population density per square kilometre as the Cities below, here’s where our population figures would sit (population density per km2 of Cities mentioned below x City of Mandurah area):

Density of London: 903,241
Density of Sydney: 357,063
Density of San Francisco: 1.15m
Density of Gold Coast: 168,642

With a current population of 78,000 forecast to grow to 100,000 over the next decade… Let’s not panic just yet!

Let’s have the right conversation.

Feeling a little green…

6 03 2013

It’s with excitement that I’m blogging this week from the Greener Cities Challenge conference in Sydney, Australia’s premier ‘Green’ conference.

Considering the theme is ‘sustainability challenge’, The day started by getting into the spirit of things. The morning began with a session of yoga (kind of… I could see people doing yoga from the hotel window!), a quick hunt around the hotel room to turn all the lights and power switches off, and a sustaining breakfast, before navigating my way around Sydney’s public transport system to the Sydney Convention Centre for the conference… Sustainable morning? Tick!

The day begins with a key note speech from Gunter Pauli, an entrepreneur and activist from South Africa. We talk about human beings having great capacity… This man speaks seven languages fluently, and has become a world leading entrepreneur on the basis of transforming waste products into products of competitive, sustainable and social value. Simply inspiring!

Farming maggots on the waste products of abattoirs to cure diabetes and providing one of the worlds richest sources of protein (maggot saliva!), growing mushroom fields on unused waste from coffee plantations, turning coffee plants into clothing and carpet, making paper from rock… Gunter’s view is that we need to focus on doing more good, rather than less bad

The key message that stands out clearly so far is that a subtle change in the way we do business is not going to drive us along the path of a sustainable future. We need a rethink, of everything… from the way we structure our tax systems to the way we flush our toilets.

With over half the worlds population living in Cities for the first time in human history, and an overwhelming percentage of CO2 generated from our Cities, a cleaner city is a cleaner planet… So what an we do to rethink the way we do our business in our little City?

I’ll be blogging for the next couple of days on all of the interesting themes explored throughout the conference… Please follow along 🙂