Our interconnected future — a Green Building Day wrap up

The more we understand how our world interconnects, the more opportunities we have to act in positive ways for the good of all.

That’s the message from this year’s Green Building Day series, which brought together more than 500 of the industry’s keenest and greenest minds in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

Ian Dunlop, an energy expert and chairman of Climate Safe Australia, set the scene at each event with what he called a “realistic not pessimistic” assessment of our planetary future.

Referring to Disaster Alley, a new report which he co-authored on behalf of the Breakthrough Centre for Climate Restoration, Ian predicted that global warming could displace tens of millions of people, sparking waves of humanitarian crises, political instability and military conflicts.

Ian, who chaired the Australian Coal Association in the late 1980s, pointed to the six-year Syrian civil war, which has killed an estimated 450,000 and forced more than 5.5 million people to flee their homelands. This conflict was sparked by an extended drought, aggravated by climate change, he says.

Interconnection became a theme that wove its way throughout each session – and the nexus between climate change and humanitarian disasters was just the beginning.

EY’s Director Climate Change and Sustainability Services Graham Sindon explored the eight interconnected megatrends – from large-scale urbanisation to technological advancements – that are reshaping our world forever.

Meanwhile, WSP’s Associate Director of Sustainability, Patrick Campbell examined how the health and wellbeing of our communities is linked to the way our cities are formed in the first place.

Rochelle Phillis, Mirvac’s Residential Sustainability Manager, joined us in all four cities to unpack sustainable living as the last frontier of the green building movement. She argued that capturing hearts and minds, and connecting people to more sustainable living, demanded a new lexicon of layman’s terms.

The network of infrastructure connecting our cities and how to build up rather than out were also hot topics. “Perth’s population is set to nearly double in the next 30 years requiring schools, housing, infrastructure and facilities to be developed in a resilient, connected and sustainable way. Perth’s metropolitan area already stretches 150 kilometres. Sydney is twice as dense as Perth, London three times as dense,” said Melinda Payne, Associate to the WA Government Architect.

The same story was told over and over as we moved around the country: creating connected, sustainable community demands a new appreciation of density.

Modern slavery, human exploitation and opaque supply chains were scrutinised, with Lendlease’s Jeremy Mansfield and Cundall’s Hannah Morton agreeing that a factory fire in Bangladesh or an incidence of human exploitation in Thailand can have global ramifications.

Global supply chains simply reinforce the symbiotic links within our planetary ecosystem that stretches back millennia. The world is interconnected in one way or the other, whether it’s through economic supply chains, artistic movements, family structures, the worldwide web or our shared humanity.

While our interconnectedness is a source of fragility, it can also be a source of strength. One small change can create a ripple that, in turn, becomes a great wave. 

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