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an urban lead recovery? « Previous | |Next »
February 5, 2009

The news from corporate Australia is bad profits are slumping and job cuts deepening. It's a battening down the hatches as they struggle to address their debt burden during a credit squeeze and slow global growth. The economic reality is that a small open economy with low savings cannot grow faster than its trading partners. Another economic reality is that the global economic recession is beyond the ability of central n banks and national governments to fix.

Eric Johnston in The Age says:

For business, the speed of the downturn underscores the limited ability of regulators to insulate Australia from a global crisis that is rapidly spreading beyond the banking system and is starting to take hold across almost every sector of the economy.

It's not a question of insulating Australia with its open economy in a global world. It's more a cushioning of the national economy from the negative effects of the international crisis:

Tandbergunemployment.jpg

Calling it an economic 'downtown', as some commentators do, fails to acknowledge that this is no ordinary business cycle recession. The storm-tossed seas of current global recession may well give rise to a deep and lasting global depression. It is to the US that the world looks for a solution, however unrealistic that hope may be----the crisis is a product of the global economy and it cannot be cured by the US alone.

So why not use the crisis to start doing something about our choked up, unhealthy cities with their ever expanding suburbs? Start redesigning them for the new times ahead. John Whitelegg, from Eco-logico, indicates in the Canberra Times the issues that need to be addressed. He says:

A clear metropolitan strategy that will reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gases. This would cover transport, renewable energy and energy use in buildings.

A clear transport plan that focuses on active travel and the greatest possible increase in walking and cycling. A minimum of 500km of segregated cycle paths is needed in each city.

A thorough re-engineering of urban space so that pedestrian pavements are widened and pedestrian journeys rewarded with waiting times at crossing points reduced by at least half.

A comprehensive organisational re-engineering of rail, bus and ferry systems so that total integration of all kinds is hard-wired into the system.

A large-scale local food project based on no more loss of agricultural land, the doubling of food production by 2012 and de-coupling food-growing from oil dependence.

We don't think in terms of making our cities better ( in a social justice + sustainability sense) as a response to a global crisis. They are seen as containers in which things happen. The container itself is not addressed. Nor are the creative industries seen as a way of creating employment in hard times in a digital world.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:58 AM | | Comments (8)
Comments

Comments

The Coalition would say that this proposal would plunge the country even more into debt The Rudd Government is already reckless, as it drives the country so far into debt that it would bankrupt it. Labor takes the country into debt and never gets it out. It took the Coalition a decade to pay back Labor's previous debt

Julie Bishop on Radio National Breakfast this morning playing the politics of fear game.

Nan
the Coalition is hoping that it can spark old public fears about government debt, now that billions have to be raised to finance a deficit.

An urban lead recovery--good idea. We have the opportunity and capacity to do it.

Simon,
most of the infrastructure spend in the Stimulus two package is on social infrastructure (primary and secondary school maintenance plus community housing), not on making the cities better places to live and work in a warmer world. It looks as if the aim is to take the edge of the current recession until such time as the RBA's interest rate cuts in and generate a recovery.

Robert Reich makes an interesting distinction between:

those who support the stimulus as a desperate measure to arrest the downward plunge in the business cycle might be called cyclists. Others, including me, see the stimulus as the first step toward addressing deep structural flaws in the economy. ..These two camps are united behind the current stimulus, but may not be for long. Cyclists blame the current crisis on a speculative bubble that threw the economy's self-regulating mechanisms out of whack. They say that we can avoid future downturns if the Fed pops bubbles earlier by raising interest rates when speculation heats up.

Those who talk about addressing climate change or transforming our cities are structuralists. Reich argues that without policies that put the nation on the path to higher median incomes, higher productivity, renewable energy and a more accessible and efficient health-care system, we'll face deeper and more prolonged recessions, followed by ever more anemic upturns.

Whatever your political flavor is it is a reality that one day the opposition will come to a point that it looks the good thing. Whether that is justified or it just comes up with a good campaign is neither here nor there.

At that point they will inherit the debt and lets face it it will be. So it makes good business sense for them to reject heavy borrowings by the Rudd government. Thats a no brainer guys.

Personally I think it would be a good thing for the Ozzy to do it tough for a while. We have lost our identity along the way of late and have become almost Americans.

Les,
you are right, The Coalition had to differentiate themselves from Rudd + Co and they needed to find an issue to voice their own position and principles. They choose government debt to make the stand, and they deemed this issue as being better for them than IR or an emissions trading scheme.

They now have to argue their case

Peter,

I am neither a cyclist nor a structuralist in the US sense. I see matter from a very simple minded Aussie angle, which would better serve our needs.

We have long lost the opportunity to improve our cities in boom time. Now we have to put money to boost the economy. We may give more handout to people to buy more underwear. That’s fine and that is a way of boosting our economy. But I don’t think money should be spent in that way.

An "Urban Lead Recovery" would decrease the neurological toxicity of this nasty heavy metal, particularly on developing children.

There ain't that much lead polluting polluting areas outside of urban and mining zones anyway... so it's got to be recovered from urban areas.

(Yeah, couldn't resist nitpicking your spelling, but I agree with your push for an Urban-led recovery)