In the evening on 28 October 2014, Geelong’s Council approved a new Environment Management Strategy. It was a cheerful moment for both the councillors and the local residents who had been following and influencing the process. The paper has been almost three years on the way, because it has been amended, rewritten and changed over and over again.
“It has been a huge project. The document incorporates over 11,000 comments,” said Rodney Thomas, manager of Council’s Environment & Waste Services, who has been in charge of the process:
“With over 100 significant actions, including development of a Greenhouse Strategy, and with the One Planet Living Principles as the framework, I believe that it will serve Council and community well into the future. We are already switching from development to the implementation stage of the strategy.”
‘One Planet Living’ is a practical implementation framework of holistic environmental and societal principles based on sustainable consumption and sustainable development. The model is based on ten simple principles which provide the framework to make sustainable living easy and affordable for all. One Planet Living is free to use and helps people and organisations around the world to live and work within a fair share of our planet’s resources.
The One Planet Living program will now replace Council’s EcoChallenge program as the principle guiding framework and marketing mechanism for environment and sustainability programs.
A detailed draft Implementation Plan for the strategy has been developed, told Rodney Thomas who is currently in the process of working with the printers to get copies printed. This will be completed around 10-12 November, he hopes, and subsequently it will delivered to key stakeholders. An online version will be up and running at the same time as well.
Many of the over 100 actions which are mentioned in the paper will now be built into normal business operations in the Council. Any additional funding for specific actions can be considered by Council’s Executive Management Team – a team consisting of the CEO and five General Managers and which oversees policy, strategic direction and overall management of the organisation – through normal budget processes.
“Future budget proposals will be forthcoming,” reads the minutes from the Council meeting.
See the strategy document
If you live in Geelong, you can obtain a hard copy the Environment Management Strategy 2014-2017 from Councils Environment department. You can also download a digital PDF copy:
» Download the strategy document (PDF, 4.5MB)
» Council’s web page about the EMS:
One Planet Living
» One Planet Living home page:
“Climate change didn’t come with a manual…”
“…but this strategy is a good step in the right direction,” said Mik Aidt as he addressed the mayor, councillors and officers of City of Greater Geelong at the Council’s meeting on 28 October 2014. The following is the original manuscript of his speech. It is more detailed than what he read to the councillors on the night.
“On behalf of Geelong Sustainability and Frack Free Geelong, I would like to first of all acknowledge all of the development that has taken place since the initial draft of this Environment Management Strategy – and the complex document we now see before us.
In particular, the inclusion of the One Planet Living principles and the interweaving of all that “One Planet Living” means and requires into the broad fabric of this new Council policy.
We commend you for this. We think this is a bold and important step for both the Council and the Greater Geelong community. It shows strength and leadership and it demonstrates commitment to renewable energy and a lower carbon footprint for us all.
Climate change didn’t come with a manual. But this Environment Management Strategy is a good step in the right direction. So: Bravo, councillors! We have come here tonight to congratulate you on this.
It puts Geelong in the very good company of cities – such as the City of Fremantle, Lismore, Canning, Yackandandah, and Canberra – all of which have legislated ambitious target to source its power from renewable sources and become carbon neutral in just some few years from now.
Geelong can be on this list too. We’re taking an important step today: We’re on our way, we have a strategy – a new Environment Management Strategy!
While we celebrate that, here is something I believe is important for you to consider:
The title of this new policy describes it as an “environmental” strategy. But I can’t emphasize enough that Council must communicate climate change as a human health issue and an economic issue as it is outlined in One Planet Living principles: It involves all those things that are important to us in our daily lives, such as employment, our health, our happiness and our mental well-being. We need to focus on the human impact rather than focusing discussion on an “environmental problem”.
A quote from the new report ‘Impacts of climate change on public health in Australia’, published recently by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, says:
“Many people in the community, including decision-makers, consider climate change as a threat to social, biological and physical environments distant from themselves. Shifting the climate change focus to an issue of human health and well-being may engage a much broader cross-section of the public. Research has shown when individuals view climate change as being harmful to themselves and other people they are significantly more likely to support climate policy responses. Communications will be more effective and will generate wider engagement if the focus is on solutions rather than problems.”
By the end of the day, the success of this strategy boils down to whether you will also be showing the political will to follow up on these principles.
Will you demonstrate leadership – upfront, in the newspapers, on the web, Twitter, Facebook, and places where people see it all the time – will you show leadership by example, by taking initiatives, visible and remarkable initiatives… – and will you find the money to ensure the targets set out in the policy are met?
Which leads to our question to you, which is:
Given the absence of commitment to the environment and sustainability in Council’s last budget, how will the importance of this new Environment Management Strategy be reflected in the next budget?
• City of Fremantle, which over the last decade has demonstrated leadership in sustainability as the first carbon neutral local government in Western Australia, installing both wind and solar.
• Lismore City in New South Wales which is looking to a range of innovative measures as part of its plan to go 100 per cent renewable by 2023.
• City of Canning (close to Perth) which is also leading by example, undertaking exemplary projects and practices aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel dependence.
• Moreland Council in Melbourne’s inner north with a Zero Carbon Evolution strategy to reduce community GHG emissions by 22 per cent by 2020 and is the first council in Australia to divest.
• The town of Yackandandah (near Wangaratta) which is aiming to become Australia’s first town to operate off 100 per cent renewable energy by 2022.
• The northern New South Wales town of Uralla with 2,300 residents has been chosen as the model for a community energy project called Zero Net Energy Town with the goal of moving the town, which features several foundries and other metal manufacturing business, to 100% renewable energy
• and Canberra which has legislated an ambitious target to source 90 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, a quarter of which will come from wind energy.
Cr Andy Richards talks to the residents of Geelong at the City Hall about the Council’s new enviroment strategy, and about his experience of “democracy at work”.
» Minutes from the Council meeting (page 84-90 in the PDF)
Local media silent about Council’s strategy launch
Now more than ever, it is important that the message of the new Council strategy comes across to the residents of Geelong. So far it doesn’t look like the local press has any intentions of helping Council with that challenge.
Journalist Mandy Squires from Geelong Advertiser who reported from the meeting for the newspaper didn’t find the launch of the Environment Management Strategy worthy of mentioning even with a single word.
What could be the reason for not mentioning the fact that Geelong Council now has approved a document which has been two years on its way and could be one of the most important strategies the city has ever made – and something which 40 residents came to City Hall to celebrate with the councillors?
When not even journalists who are trained to read and write understand the significance of this new policy paper, how will the residents of Geelong? Clearly the communications about this strategy and the role it is intended to play in the Council departments and in the broader community will need a strong helping hand from councillors themselves now.
Media has a huge responsibility for the current mess Australians are in with shocking levels of apathy and ignorance resulting in climate change inaction and denial among people in general. I would recommend that Council’s enters its new strategic era promoting the One Planet Living principles right there – among the editors and staff who are responsible for the media output.
Carbon communication: media training needed
It appears that editors and journalists in local Geelong media could use some consultation, councelling and some guidance, a helping hand or some personal training – maybe a series of workshops? – as they have clearly not yet understood which kind of danger our collective carbon emissions represent, and apparently feel no responsibility or concern for the role they play as communicators of the community.
They still live under the misconception which is general among Australians that the issue of carbon emissions and solutions to the problem is a ‘greenie’ topic that only ‘greenies’ would care to read about.
(In Australia, ‘greenie’ means either ‘left-wing’ of ‘hippie’ and is generally ridiculed by mainstream media as a minority with extreme views that will stop economic growth and disrupt the comfortable daily lives of the average Australian).
They have clearly not yet understood which kind of danger our collective and continued carbon emissions represent, and apparently feel no responsibility or concern for the role they play as communicators of the community.
The way they run and write their newspapers, printing one climate-denying letter from the readers after the other, publishing full page ads for the gas industry and ignoring events that relate to climate change, renewable energy or fossil fuel issues, is a disgrace and an embarrasment for a municipality that now has taken leadership on the issue within the walls of the Council.
You would think Geelong Independent, for instance, considers Mr Alan Barron from Grovedale part of their editorial staff as he is given metres of column space in the paper over the years with an apparently endless stream of climate- and renewables-denying letters.
It would take some genuine journalism to ask the right questions, when for instance your own newpaper brings consecutive half and full page ads about ‘natural gas’ right after Geelong council has made a decision to ask for a permanent ban on onshore gas mining.
A full page ad from the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry, APPEA, stated that gas is “good new for Geelong”, and that residents should “keep an open mind about natural gas and say ‘yes’ to a stronger Victoria” at this state election which is due on 29 November 2014. Gas “can fuel the state for generations”.
Another full page ad, from the Victorian Government, showed a map of the 14 towns near Winchelsea which have been connected with a gas pipeline infrastructure which will enable “over 18,000 residents and industries in region Victoria to connect to natural gas”.
Why would the Victorian Government think that people reading a local Geelong newspaper be interested in knowing this? It has nothing to do with Geelong. Or does it? Is this what we are supposed to be reading between the lines?
Which are all the things that are not being said in these ads costing more than $5,000 a piece. Why should tax payers in Geelong be appreciative of their government spending that kind of taxpayer-money, not to mention the $80 million spent on rolling out that regional gas infrastructure, on how government is locking its communities in to use a fossil fuel which will get more and more expensive over the years to come, and which is damaging our climate?
What is APPEA really saying between the lines in their advertisement? If gas is “good news for Geelong”, what does “keeping an open mind” mean in voter-terms? Would the translation of this coded language in normal English have stated something like: “Don’t worry about the environmental impacts of gas, it is not as bad as they say. So when election day comes, of course you can keep voting for the current government as you have always done. Gas is good, and you shouldn’t listen to those who say otherwise.”
Who is personally responsible and who has written the text for these gas advertisements in Geelong papers?
What do they mean when they ask people to “keep an open mind about natural gas” – and why do they think this is worth spending that kind of advertisement money on to reach Geelong readers?
The gas industry and the Victorian government clearly seem to have coordinated this communication effort. So where is the money for each ad actually coming from? Are the ads layoted by the same graphic designer? Has the newspaper offered special ‘bulk deals’ to them?
Which Geelong journalist is following up on these kind of questions?
Geelong Independent: ‘Fracking ‘okay’’
Geelong Independent’s John van Klaveren has written numerous critical articles about onshore gas mining, but has not been seen writing about the topic since the APPEA gas ads began to appear in the newspaper.
Not even when the big news broke on 14 October 2013 – news which has gone around the world, from Melbourne to Scotland – that Geelong Council has rejected onshore gas extraction and now supports permanent ban on fracking did the newspaper follow up on this.
Instead, a small article with the headline ‘Fracking ‘okay’’ and no byline was published on 31 October 2014. The article, not surprisingly, consisted of an interview with an APPEA spokesperson.
Starting point: information and education
As long as editors and journalist themselves don’t even understand which kind of crisis humanity is in with its profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities, the responsibility lies on our local leaders, our mayor and councillors, who have now launched a wise and comprehensive policy document. With Cr John Irvine’s words, they have the “duty of care”. Council must begin to lobby and advocate for more carbon emissions awareness in the media, the business sector, as well as among council workers and general public.
Media needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. With ‘direct action’, Geelong councillors have what it takes to influence and inspire the city’s media workers and leaders to get on board.
A place to begin would be to help get make the right journalists, editors and council staff workers attend this exclusive forum on renewable energy, which is organised by GetUp and Geelong Sustainability at GPAC on 14 November 2014.
The rest of us, in the meanwhile, can begin singing about the optimistic message and the importance of this new EMS policy paper from the rooftops all over City of Greater Geelong.
» Geelong Independent – 31 October 2014:
Article about the new Environment Management Strategy in Surf Coast Times on 6 November 2014.