Resilient Fremantle

Resilient Communities.

 Global warming is the major challenge of our time and addressing it will be crucial for the fate of future generations.  As the climate changes so will our lives and our lifestyles, but let’s not slip into the doomsday trap, that will only debilitate us and inhibit innovation.  When face with a big challenge we need to have a positive outlook, Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t say in 1963 “I have a nightmare!  He said I have a dream!”1

We can and must prepare ourselves and our cities for climate change and this will be best done by making them resilient.  Resilience in infrastructure, energy, food and water is important but also is resilience in community.  Strong communities are far better prepared to deal with adversity and Fremantle has that advantage through its strong cultural, social, economic and environmental base.

Fremantle’s strong cultural heritage is grounded in our history and the heritage buildings that tell the story of Fremantle’s past.  There are still people who question the compatibility between sustainability and heritage buildings, well I can assure you there is synergy; the peak sustainable building organisation the Green Building Council of Australia has stated:  “With the increasing importance of ‘building green’, companies do not need to go a long way to tap into one of their greatest resources – heritage buildings.  Using existing buildings as a basis for a green refurbishment not only contributes greatly to a company’s sustainability credentials, but also preserves our nation’s precious heritage.” 2  This comment was stimulated when a 5 Green Star rating was awarded to the Railway Institute Building, Chalmers Street, Sydney.  Closer to home Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) specialists Gentra have made a stunning makeover of the old Commonwealth Bank at 84 High Street, proving cutting edge sustainability is compatible with properly protected heritage buildings.   Older buildings tended to be designed and built with our climate in mind as there were no air conditioners 100 years ago, they now need only modest air-conditioning to bring them up to today’s standards.  Their higher ceilings and use of natural light also make them pleasant productive places to live and work and visit.

Social capital is an essential component of the most successful cities and strong networks create community resilience.3  Many Fremantle networks are built on clubs and other organizations, from FreMan Shed to Harbour Theatre and everything in-between.  Without our cultural and social base we could be just another ‘elsewhere’ town.  Our social strength is legendary; however its future may be at risk if we cannot sustain venues for our clubs, theatres and meeting places.  Emerging artists, actors and musicians who have called Fremantle home are moving out as a result of increasing property prices, the time has come to mandate affordable housing within the Fremantle mix to stop that loss.  Like all of us, artist etc need an income, so this Christmas do your carbon footprint a favour and buy family & friends tickets to performances, memberships or pieces of art and craft rather than stuff which will be forgotten as quick as the wrapping comes off.  If you are broke take family and friends to a Free Fremantle Arts Centre Sunday concert and they will love you for it.  We shouldn’t leave all the creativity to others, we can get creative with our street by planting verges, playing cricket/bocce or dragging that old sofa onto the verge and talk with people as they go past, it becomes catching…!

When the cultural and social bits are right the economic bits fall into place, because people want to live, work and play in vibrant community.  Environmental sustainability may prove a little harder because much is in the hands of higher authority.  We need to care for our river and ocean and we can work through our community networks to maintain biodiversity in our parks and open spaces.  We should lobby State & Federal Governments to slow down the seemingly endless program of road building in favour of funding public transit and rail infrastructure.

My Christmas message to you is….continue helping to sustain your local community resilience and have a Happy Christmas spreading goodwill around your neighbourhood.

  1. Nic Marks, TED Lectures, July 2010
  2. Green Building Council of Australia, online magazine,11th October 2010
  3. Pierre Bourdieu, 1973

Published Fremantle Herald 3rd december 2010


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