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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 November 2010) . . Page.. 5483 ..

Royal Institute of Architects—Walter Burley Griffin lecture

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (5.08): I rise today to talk about a very interesting lecture which I and fellow MLA Brendan Smyth attended a few weeks ago. It was a lecture by Robert and Brendan Vale. It was the ACT Branch of the Royal Institute of Architects annual Walter Burley Griffin memorial lecture. It was all about sustainability. They started off talking about the concept of ecological footprint, which I think many of us here are probably aware of. But what that is talking about is trying to measure how much land it would take to support the lifestyle of a person, that global average land.

The important thing is that the amount of land in the world is effectively finite. The Dutch have done a little bit of land reclamation but we can basically say that it is a finite resource. This technique of calculating the ecological footprint was first started in Canada in the 1990s by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees. Using that, it has been worked out, as you can find from the ACT commissioner for the environment’s report, in the ACT, each person is responsible for about 8.5 global hectares. That is what it takes to keep each of us.

However, if you look at the number of people in the world and divide the amount of arable land by that, you will find that we can only afford 1.9 global hectares per person. Basically, the ACT is using in the order of four times our equitable, sustainable long-term allowance. We, of course, are not alone in this. The whole developed world is over-consuming along these lines.

The other thing to note, of course, is that, as the world’s population increases, the amount of space per person in effect decreases. But the Vales did not start by pointing out the problem. They are incredibly practical people and what they spent their time doing was pointing out solutions. They have written a whole book on the solutions, which I bought a long time ago, Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living. They did some work comparing different pets and hobbies and decided that golf was not nearly as bad as people thought it was but that very large dogs were somewhat problematical.

In the talk they gave in Canberra, they went through two areas in particular. They went through food and concluded that we could all get down to an equitable, sustainable amount of land for food production if we made some changes, which some people would find significant and some people would not, to our food habits. They said we need to eat local, we need to eat organic food, we need to largely eat non-meat. And we can do that. We have got the Farmers Market in Canberra. We have got it at EPIC and on the south side. Canberrans are starting to embrace that sort of change.

The other thing they talked about was buildings. They made the totally obvious point that the easiest, most effective way of reducing energy consumption from buildings is to reduce the size of buildings. You may or may not be aware that Australia has the dubious honour of having the largest new buildings in the world and Canberra has the honour of having the largest new houses in Australia. So there are certainly areas

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