Germany – not just land of beer but more importantly of solar

It is estimated that the huge number of solar PV panels covering the roofs of houses factories and barns in Germany are capable of producing more than 20,000 megawatts of power – the equivalent to more than 30 average sized coal fired power plants.

In fact, according to Beyond Zero Emissions, if all the solar panels currently in service in Germany were installed in Australia, they would generate a quarter of Australia’s electricity needs. Despite Germany having a whole lot less sunlight than we do in sunny Australia if you average this out over the whole year and 3% of Germany electricity is coming from solar. This is not to mention their wind farms.

Importantly the German focus on solar through their feed-in-tariff didn’t only make solar a key part of the energy mix in Germany but it had the impact of making solar globally an economically viable source of power and a major industry worldwide. This ultimately resulted in the bringing down solar PV prices through scale that has now made solar a competitive energy source on a global scale.

It made me think that the time has come for the Fremantle Tip to be used as a large scale solar farm. It would fit nicely next to the Freo Farm idea perhaps?

As we rode through Northern Germany large scale solar was everywhere. On barns, factories, in fields, on the side of buildings and of course on the roofs of houses.

Beer was good too.

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China – a land of unfinished futures

Rather than fly directly to Fremantle’s newest friendship city in China, I decided to catch a train most the way through China. Below are some reflections on an extraordinary train trip.

China – a land of unfinished futures

Travelling through China is like riding through a land of unfinished futures. A nation changing and modernising more rapidly than any nation in history

Perhaps there is no better way to appreciate the unprecedented changes going on in China and watch the future unfold than through a long train ride the length China. In this case it is the 24 hour journey from Hong Kong in the South to Beijing in the North.

I boarded the train in Hong Kong – once again part of China but still very different. A Bladerunner landscape, a vertical city of unprecedented proportions. A place whose population intensity is often mind boggling for the Australian psyche used to our flat urban landscapes. Its population density is rarely matched anywhere else in the world and it keeps growing as apartment buildings reach new heights. 6400 people per sq km compared to 300 odd in Perth.

All of this is coated in the sparkle of endless shops and neon lights.  As you leave Hong Kong and travel North and into mainland  this glitz starts to fade but not before you pass through the mainland city of Shenzhen with the biggest glitziest entirely  gold skyscraper I have ever seen. It is a less than subtle monument to the new prosperity of the world’s second biggest economy.

As you gaze out the window an astonishing theme starts to emerge. One minute you are gazing over green fields and orchards and forests of eucalyptus. Then out of nowhere a nameless half built city emerges from the green fields of rice and corn.

Huge, grey, partially-completed skyscrapers under construction everywhere. Uncountable, anonymous and unpainted– topped by cranes and covered in bamboo scaffolding.

Along with them huge unfinished freeway interchanges, train stations the size of football stadiums and factories the size of small Perth suburbs. You can’t help but wonder why a huge city is emerging here in what otherwise appears to be an unremarkable place.

This new city, seemingly built from scratch, that will soon be home to millions of people moving from west to east as part of the biggest, most rapid process of urbanisation the world has ever seen.

It is hard not to marvel at these structures emerging from the countryside but as you head further north it rapidly becomes apparent that this amazing nameless city is not unique but a rapidly emerging norm for an increasing majority in China’s 1.4 billion people. As the kilometres of comfortable train travel pass, the green and rural China of forest, river trees and fields is increasingly punctuated by more and more of these new mega cities. Most not yet occupied, all half built, all with taller buildings than almost anything we have in WA.

From the narrow strip of China you can see through window of the train you can see as the hours click by the hundreds if not thousands of high-rise buildings spouting from the otherwise flat earth.

It is interesting to think how connected WA and our mining boom is to this China building and development boom. There is a little of the Pilbarra scattered all over the China countryside in the steel that holds the skyscrapers and freeways together.

There is of course a dark side of China’s growing development and prosperity. As you head North the growing pollution that makes blue sky permanently a dull shade of brown/ grey is everywhere. It is like there is a permanent fire smoke across the whole country.

The China century has become a cliché –  as has China and the WA boom. But from the window of T98 HK to Beijing it becomes very real and very powerful moving picture of the unfinished future of the world’s most populous nation and the major role WA is playing.

It is like watching modernity half-built on a scale never before seen in human history. In many ways it is not only train ride across China but also a ride that gives you a very powerful glimpse into the 21st century and its very Asian future.

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Imagine exhibition – visions for a sustainable future.

This Thursday is an exhibition of inspiring future visions of local sustainability practitioners as visually expressed by talented local artists will have its opening night next Thursday the 27th at 6pm. Some great local artists like Dave Wolfy, Reboot, Susanna Castleden and Twenty Eleven will have works on show. Come on down

What – Imagine, Visions for our Sustainable Future
Where – Little Creatures Upstairs Gallery, 40 Mews Road, Fremantle
When – 27th of September to 13th of November

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Georgia Taylor-Berry article on ‘Connecting Fremantle with the Waterfront’

For those of you that attended the last Fremantle Network event you would have heard Georgia Taylor-Berry speak ‘Connecting Fremantle with the Waterfront’. She has had her research published in The West along with her supervisor Nigel Westbrook, associate professor of Architecture at the University of WA. For those of you that missed it it is worth a read.

Back on board

I have just returned to Fremantle after 4 weeks away which was a combination of holiday leave and Fremantle Council activities. The trip included attending a UNESCO conference in South Korea, visiting our newest friendship city in northern China and doing tours of a number of sustainable cities in northern Europe.

I also got to have a bit of a break from all things Freo and am feeling very refreshed – jetlag aside. As part of the holiday part some friends and I rode/trained and ferried from Berlin to southern Sweden to Denmark and back down to Hamburg.

Over the next days and weeks I’ll report back on what I saw as some of the highlights and look at what the implications might be for Fremantle’s future.

It’s good to be back!

Lushun, Dalian, China – Fremantle’s emerging friendship city.

Apologies for the radio silence. Over the last week I have been in China and Facebook and Blogs and a range of other websites were blocked. Despite that minor inconvenience it was an extraordinary trip to an amazing country.

The primary reason I was in China was to visit the new friendship city that the City of Fremantle is developing with the port city of Lushun (population 250k approx)  near Dalian (population 7million approx)  in the North East of China.

Tim Milson (CEO of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce) also attended.

We were invited to attend both the Dalian international fashion festival and the international youth arts festival.

It would be fair to say that the Chinese have a reputation for not doing things in a half-hearted manner  and they did not disappoint. The fashion festival opening was was one of the most spectacular events I have ever seen. The Youth Arts was also very good and it is planned for a number of Fremantle schools to attend and perform next year.

We also had a number of meetings with government officials both from the Dalian Foreign Affairs Office and the Lushun Local Government to talk friendship, trade and cooperation between our port cities. Tim also met with the local chamber of commerce and industry as well.

I’ll post some more detailed reflections shortly on the dramatic changes going on in China. In the meantime enjoy the photos

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Seoul’s amazing stream restoration project.

One of the places I, like many people interested in environmental sustainability, always wanted to see was Cheonggyecheon Stream in South Korea’s capital Seoul.

The Cheonggyecheon stream was formed during the Joseon Dynasty in order to provide drainage for the city. It lasted for hundreds of years until the 1940s, when the city became so populated that a shanty town popped up around the stream and began polluting the area. The stream was gradually covered over with concrete, and by the 1970s  it was totally buried beneath a busy downtown highway.

In 2005, as part of a vast urban renewal project, the highway was removed and the stream was recovered and turned into a beautiful 5.8 km long urban park.

The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project took two years and cost around $281 million, but it has created a thriving stretch of green public space in the middle of the city.

What was once a dividing line between the north and south parts of the city has been recreated as an urban park that bridges the gap and brings people together. Over 75% of the material torn down from the old highway was reused to construct the park and rehabilitate the stream. Now fish, bird and insects have made their way back into the urban river, and the area surrounding the park is about 3.6 deg C cooler than other parts of the city.

In addition to the restoration project, Seoul has also implemented transportation planning, rerouting traffic through other corridors and adding more public transportation. As a result there has been a decrease in the number of vehicles entering the city and bus and subway use has increased.

Here are some photos before and now.

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