Thursday, 4 August 2016

Let's talk resilience - Your Bioregion Part 4

"The end of the age of cheap and easy energy, the vast mountains of both private and public debt that we have incurred, and the snowballing costs of climate change impacts are all forcing us into an as-yet-undefined post-growth economic system…whether we are ready for it or not." ~ Six Foundations 

Goodbye sustainability, hello resilience.  The sustainability mantra was held together by the idea that by following the right mix of community leadership, social change and green tech solutions we could stop the effects of a changing climate and resource depletion before we crossed a certain threshold. Well there are good indications that we missed the boat on that one.

So now resilience is the idea of the moment. The resilience mantra is about reducing vulnerability whether that be to natural disasters, financial shocks, increasing wages disparity/low wage growth, supply price increases (e.g. electricity), or breakdowns in supply chains.

Consider, now, your own bio-region in terms of resilience. What is its  culture? For instance in my bio-region our present culture is dominated by a low socioeconomic demographic, as we have a significant number of aged persons and younger persons living on welfare. Additionally, wages are lower when compared to capital cities. These factors increase the vulnerability of our population.  Our educational levels attained across the population are lower than that of the capital cities. Degree educated young women head off to the cities or larger regional areas for career opportunities resulting in a young adult male population who find it harder to find partners. The area is also known for obesity, and poverty and educational levels are no doubt a contributing factor.

Like many other regions throughout Australia our manufacturing sector has lost major manufacturers over the last few decades. Like many areas without much of manufacturing sector we have high levels of unemployment.

Though we are known as a food bowl due to our large and diverse agricultural sector I was interested to see how quickly our stores ran out of supplies like bread and milk during major flood events earlier this decade. This happens too when cyclones start travelling down the coast as people rush to prepare themselves for a possible disaster.

During one of the aforementioned floods there was widespread concern throughout the community that fuel supplies would be cut off due to the Bruce Highway being cut a few hours north of us. This led to long queues at petrol stations. On one occasion during this period my husband filled up the petrol tank on one of our vehicles and filled a jerry can because he was going to mow the grass. When he went in to pay the lady at the console had a dig at him about panic buying. I wonder how many other people with acreage to mow were treated with the same suspicion? It just shows how edgy people become in extreme situations. In actuality our  fuel supplies come from down south, so the panic buying was unnecessary anyway.

Our local public transport system is basically non-existent. What about yours? If you had to, could you use public transport to travel from home to work? What about grocery shopping - how easily could you take your groceries home using public transport?

Organisations and members of the community have tried over the last decade to start a community garden in our local area but the initiatives did not take off.  There are no LETS, Time Banks, or Community Exchange Nets, operating in the region. The only cooperative is the local fruit and vegetable growers co-operative. What about where you live? Does your community have any of these types of initiatives operating?

On a more positive note we do have some good markets run throughout the region.  Markets can help build a sense of community connection and could, with the necessary support, be utilised in times of supply chain breakdowns to provide the community with food and other items.

In my opinion the people within our bioregion are very vulnerable to changes in climate, economic shocks and supply interruptions and our community is definitely not ready to transition to a post-growth economy. How resilient do you think your bio-region is? 


  1. Interesting thoughts. I was quite surprised by our local community, when the 2011 floods went through the Lockyer Valley. People started opening their homes to strangers, so they could shower and sleep in a dry home, because there's was ruined. People started donating their furniture to those in need, and started emptying their freezers.

    In our street, we attended a bbq, because the neighbours didn't want to waste the meat in their freezer. The local pub/tavern which was protested against being constructed initially, suddenly became the local meeting area. It had only been open a few months before it was effected by flood water. The community got together, and cleaned it up. It was where everyone got the low-down on how to get in and out of the place, which had been cut off, in several places.

    I guess it was the loss of life, which probably bound us together though. I'm not sure about the casualties in the flood you experienced, but we (as in our community) lost several family members. The churches and local business people, were the first people on the scene, seeing what they could do to help. The government support agencies (including the military) only came several weeks later.

    We are called the salad bowl in the Lockyer Valley, and it was the local green grocers (only a few still operational in competition with supermarkets) who were still receiving food. The supermarket shelves were empty, but the green grocers were full. I got into a conversation with one of the shop assistants, and asked, why they still had food on their shelves. They said, they sold the locally produced milk, value added on the farm, so not part of the State cooperative. They also had familiar relationships with farmers who supplied them with produce, outside of the Rocklea Fruit and Veg markets, run through Brisbane.

    So my recommendation, is to support your local businesses, if you want to build resilience into your community. Support a farmer too. Look to purchase your food as domestically as possible. In relation to public transport, we're out in the boon docks too. We only get a bus service for school. On the other hand, I know our mail man, still has Clydesdale horses he runs with a buggy. He just lives up the road from us. I think he (and his horses) would be in peak demand, if fuel was unavailable!

    What I learned from our experience in the floods, was how diverse a local community we actually had. We're all so busy most of the time, we don't talk with each other. But in a crisis situation, that changes. If people want to get more involved in their community, they can join the rural fire brigade, the local church or P&C Association, just to mention a few outlets. These organisations are use to working in groups, and looking out for the community's interests.

    1. It's a good recommendation Chris to support our local business because they are the ones best placed to support us in the event of food supply problems. Diversity within a community can be an important facet of a resilient community.

  2. I loved this post Sherri - I am still pondering about my bio-region and if it is resilient or not.....

    1. The Sunshine Coast Regional Council did a comprehensive study into how the area could cope with peak oil. They published a peak oil action plan and a energy transition plan. I found it interesting to read and see just what type of factors could become issues in the future and how they might be addressed. Not just because of vulnerable energy supplies, but also because of climate change and the global economy.

  3. I found your thoughts on your community very interesting and reflecting how I feel about my own community. In my community there is zero public transportation, majority of people are living in poverty, no manufacturing heck hardly any local businesses to speak of. To top it off the educational system is poor and I have only met one other couple who grow and preserve most of their own food and one person who has a back yard garden. With that being the case I see my community as very vulnerable.

    1. Lois it is a concern isn't it? And it seems like people today in many places only know how to buy things and not produce any of their own needs. I had a little chuckle today when I read a headline in our local newspaper which described our city as leading the uptake of renewable energy and the fight against climate change. The large article featured only one business that had installed solar panels. The local radio station also featured the same business as their only example. There is not much being done to build resilience in our local area.