Sustainability In the Regions – Where The Real Action is Taking Place, Not the City?

Well, that title was a bit “click-baity” I’ll admit, but now that I’ve got your attention there is something to be explored in this question.

Not quite six months ago, so still a newbie really, my husband and I moved out of the big, bright lights of Melbourne and out to the country. We now call a wee village, a hamlet really, just outside of a small to medium sized town in central Victoria, home.

And I have some interesting reflections and observations to make based on this initial six months of residency from a sustainability perspective. Interesting enough I think (I hope!) to share, and that this may develop into a bit of a long-term series of posts over time potentially as I experience and learn more.

 

 

 

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So anyway, back to the subject in hand.

Yes, I realise the question in the title is a bit provocative and simplistic too really. Obviously there are layers of complexity involved, different sets of parameters, and things are not so simple as city versus country, but I can’t help but think from my initial observations and feelings that regional locations, such as the one I’m living in now, “sustainability” in not just words but in real tangible actions is leaps and bounds ahead of that occurring in the Big Smoke of Melbourne.  There, I said it!

We know sustainability as a concept is a multi-faceted beast, so I’d like to just focus on the energy side of things for today.

The regional councils, communities and local action groups don’t make a point of hiding what they have been doing and are doing from an energy perspective, but they’re not exactly shouting it from the rooftops either. They’re just getting on and doing it, and proving that living and providing for communities in a more sustainable way, with plans to become ever more sustainable in an energy sense, is a real possibility and is happening now.

For example, according to the Mount Alexander Draft Council Plan 2017 – 2021 27% of the Shire of Mount Alexander’s residents have solar photovoltaic systems. That’s two and a half times the Victorian State average, and all the signs are that the level of take up is increasing steadily. That is something not to be sniffed at, and a real positive good news story about changing approaches to energy provision in action.

Yes, as I said above, I appreciate that there are complexities associated with this – communities historically tied into the electricity grid and having to serve millions of people versus those where tying into the grid is not always the first, cheapest or easiest option. But there are those in regional towns, where grid connection is or was the easiest, “natural” option where opting to go for renewable solutions is becoming the go-to solution. This is a significant shift in my view.

There are programs in place to help with this kind of shift. There are community programs whereby pensioners and people on lower incomes can have very low interest loans for purchasing solar systems for their homes.

The same community programs use the power of leverage and purchasing power of effectively an entire Shire-worth of people to make said systems cheaper for the community they serve. The same community programs, when one system is purchased, another system is given to a local school or other community asset free of charge.

There are folks in regional areas making their entire living out of installing, maintaining and upgrading solar systems.

Now we’re all under the impression that our cities are the hotbeds of innovation, and of course they are to a degree. But let’s not overlook regional areas – there are some really exciting things going on here in terms of on-ground activities and programs to facilitate those activities that the cities could take a good look at and learn from.

This is but a brief post, and not even scratching the surface of things that are going in the region I’m now lucky enough to call home (let alone what’s happening in other parts of regional Victoria and regional Australia). I just wanted to highlight the fact that perhaps sometimes city dwellers can be blinded to what’s happening elsewhere, and to bring attention to the fact that there are some quiet achievers out there doing the do outside of the bounds of our major metropolitan areas.

As I get to learning more, understanding more and connecting more with my new community and all of its goings on with respect to sustainability I’ll share here on the blog. Until then…

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