Cities and towns throughout history have faced the future during difficult times, choosing to either generate hope or to fall into fear and despair, sometimes leading to collapse.
To generate hope we have to bounce forward, not just bounce back, with a new vision for the economy.
Josh Frydenberg has been talking about all this government money they are providing as building a bridge to the future economy. But what sort of economy do we need and can it address some of the deeper issues like climate change?
In January the IPSOS poll on Australians showed we are now more worried about climate change than anything.
So, we need to join the world in making this a major thrust of the new economy in Australian cities and regions. The virus will have changed the priorities for sure as we plummet towards a depression like the 1930s but this is why we need more than ever to have a vision for how we emerge.
There are two obvious things we can do now.
We need to grasp the new opportunities of technology to achieve the face-to-face needs of our families, communities and businesses. Fossil fuel-based planes and automobiles have been the solution for most of our travel both locally and globally. These options are drying up and it's time to make this far better with face-to-face quality through phones and computers. Australian regions are global leaders in doing this, lets do it better now.
Use all the government money to demonstrate the new economy
The past big global depressions/recessions were used to gear up for the economic transition. There is no doubt the present economy has burst its bubble and the future one must be zero carbon.
In the past 30 years we have seen demonstrations emerging of zero carbon homes, communities, industries, transport, agriculture... but we now need to mainstream them. The Resilient Energy project in regional NSW is rebuilding zero carbon communities in Cobargo and Goongerah after the fires. This is how we rebuild our economies using these new technologies as the basis, not just building back what we had but building forward.
My suggestion is that the Federal Government should set up a special Next Economy Fundthat can be used by small and large businesses in cities and regions to demonstrate next economy projects that can fulfil zero carbon goals.
Peter Newman AO, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University