The Future

What do Australian Futures look like? Or rather how can we help shape them? The 2010 Future Summit organised by the ADC Forum tackles these questions head on.

This year marks a dramatic shift for the Forum. While the summit creates a unique and irreplaceable dynamic, by its very nature there are inherent limitations – it’s in one place, for an (all too) limited time and our futures are complex, interconnected and dynamic.

To address this, in partnership with Google, the Forum is introducing a year-round digital platform. Google Wave will offer leaders in business, government, community and the arts the chance to engage fully in an ongoing national dialogue.

This kicks off at the summit with six Thought Leader Groups. GreenMode and I are very honoured to be invited to facilitate the Australian Futures group. Other groups will include Investment and Innovation, Green Economy and Global Economy, Local Impacts.

Watch this space, the Future Summit website and Michael Roux’s blog for more.

Experts agree but we don’t do

Scientific opinion presents facts and, for example with climate change, often a very high likelihood of sustained and significant economic, social and environmental pain. Yet, even when nearly all scientists agree we don’t accept the facts, can instead frame the information in ways that suit our own contrary beliefs or, as individuals or societies are not willing to act.

Why? This perplexing and dangerous circumstance is true even when action is manifestly in our self interest – financial or otherwise. This is certainly the case for climate change. Consequently the Cultural Cognition Project’s research is a very welcome addition to our knowledge.

A Cultural Cognition study suggests that, although people view scientific opinion as important, people from diverse cultural outlooks form different perceptions of what most scientists believe. That is, people draw conclusions about the risks of things like climate change that are congenial to their values.

Bottom line – it’s not just about the facts. It’s how people perceive and value this information and often hold significantly different worldviews. Such views influence perspectives, the ways in which we construct meaning and, priorities we place on action and inaction. See A Climate For Change for a short worldview background.

Picture: From the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

Factor 5 change

Click for larger Housing Ecological Footprint imageCan you significantly reduce the energy requirements for standard homes? Yes!

A major project by Delfin Lend Lease, the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, the Centre for Design at RMIT and GreenMode, using commonly available and off-the-shelf technologies, home impacts can be cut by more than a Factor of Five without any substantial redesign of the home.

The improvements are achieved on typical homes in new South-East Queensland residential development sites. Importantly these changes are affordable. Additional capital costs are approximately paid back by savings on power use.

The project models the performance of a representative selection of 35 standard homes approved and/or constructed at Springfield Lakes near Brisbane. A set of sustainability changes – including efficient appliances, construction materials, shading and only mirror changes to orientation (flip the house on one axis) – were applied. The home’s environmental impact was then re-modelled.

The results are outstanding. Affordable change, little or no redesign, and no need for extra architectural input.

Factor Five change is not only about homes although they are responsible for nearly a third of an Australian’s environmental footprint. The Natural Edge’s Factor Five book shows the way for our whole society beyond just homes.