Monday, October 2, 2017

Street verges are valuable PUBLIC open space

I remember reading years ago that "future wars will be fought over water."

As the world's population grows and its climate changes, it's starting to sound more and more feasible. Access to bountiful, clean water will be a precious thing indeed.

You wouldn't think so here in Perth though. We're still allowed to pour world-class drinking water on the ground to water grass that no-one uses.

I'm referring primarily to street verges. It's time to recognise them as public open space, not the property of the adjacent land owner. They belong to all of us. They are a fantastic resource and should be used to grow trees (with no irrigation) rather than swathes of useless, water-guzzling grass that require constant fertilising and mowing*.

Councils: TAKE BACK YOUR VERGES. They're yours. They're part of the road reserve. You can no longer allow the public to do with them as they wish. You need to manage them for the common good.

For the planet's good.

* This such a no-brainer. It solves the water problem AND the tree canopy problem. Councils just need the intestinal fortitude to make a stand.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wash up

About to start heading home so a good time to reflect on what I got out of this trip.

Firstly, I LOVE THE BEACH! Apparently the negative ions the sea gives off lifts our mood. Don't know about that, I just know that something about it works. If you're Australian you don't live far from a beach (sure, I know some do, but work with me here). It's something we take for granted but travelling always makes you appreciate how blessed we are in that respect. It's what I most enjoyed about Helsinki. It's basically on a promontory and has water all around. And man, do they love their boats! I wouldn't have thought the climate particularly lent itself to recreational maritime pursuits but it obviously doesn't bother them. This is a country by the way that gets to 17 C max in summer, minus 20 C in winter and has an annual average of around minus 4C!!

Madrid: I related a lot to the Spanish. They are kind of what Aussies used to be but are slowly losing in our relentless push to make life "safe".

Berlin: cool place. You can be whatever you want it seems and no-one cares. Sort of the New York of Europe.

As far as public open space goes?


Definitely lots to like there and something Australia should study. Millennia of living in a hot, dry climate has allowed them to figure out exactly how to do it. We've still got a long way to go. We're still too tied to our English heritage in that sense. It has only been a couple of hundred years I guess so in a way not surprising. But we need to start learning fast. And it's actually not hard:

1. Lose the irrigated turf (except for playing fields)

2. Plant MEGA more trees - like really close-spaced

3. Break wind - well, make that break the wind. I notice this every time I go away. Perth is so windy it makes living outside very unpleasant a lot of the time. If it's not howling from one direction it's howling from the other. WE NEED TO DESIGN OUR PUBLIC OPEN SPACE ACCORDINGLY. And we're still not. Elizabeth Quay is a classic example. It's all oriented the wrong way. Unbelievable that this wasn't taken into account. As a result the place is virtually uninhabitable. We are the third windiest capital city on the planet after Chicago and Wellington. Our outdoor design needs to reflect that.

When all's said and done, I'm pretty happy that my passport has "Australia" on the front. But we have to grow. We can't trade off past glories. Places like Finland (and even Estonia where we went for a day) are surging ahead in terms of developing new, 21st century economies. We have unlimited potential in Australia to do the same but we seem still too content to just dig stuff out of the ground and sell it. I think we're waking up but, heck, pretty slowly it seems to me. I just hope it's not too slowly and we miss the ferry.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fact Checker: City of Joondalup story

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Let's take a closer look at this piece on WA Today:

"Digging up turf or paving…"

Really? "Cutting out a small section of …." would be more accurate. But that doesn't sound as thuggish does it?

"It's a life-threatening thing for me…"

Really? That tree will take 20 years to get to the point it's producing large quantities of pollen. The resident will probably have moved on or be dead from something else by then. And even if she's still around, the other trees in the street are not going to be life-threatening to her? I call hysteria and NIMBY-ism.

"Some residents are waking up in the morning to discover a tree planted in front of the steps leading to the front door…"

Really? So the council has been out planting in the middle of the night? And how many times has this actually happened anyway? Once I'm guessing…

"Another resident complained the tree was planted only metres from a water main which could eventually cause damage…"

Pretty much every street tree ever planted is only metres away from one service or another. Use that as your guide and you'd never plant a street tree again. Besides, if it's a WA Peppermint it won't damage nuthin'. The sky is always falling according to some people...

This article illustrates just how uphill the battle is going to be to green Perth. And the media reporting it this way sure isn't helping. Where are the responses from the vast majority of residents who no doubt support the program?

Donald might be a bit "out there" but that doesn't mean fake news 'aint a thing. Lift your game WA Today. You have a responsibility to support initiatives to green the planet, not undermine them.

Monday, September 18, 2017

As you do

The outside area of this waterside cafe in Helsinki had an open fire which customers could cook their cafe-purchased sausages on using long skewers (you can see them just beyond the fire pit).

I said to my wife "we wouldn't be allowed to do this at home because a kid might fall in the fire or the fire might burn the neighbourhood down or …."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Way to go

They do this a lot in Helsinki: separate bicycles and pedestrians on dual use paths.

It's so much more relaxing when you're out walking. You're not always worrying about being cleaned up from behind.

And it's better for cyclists too. They don't have to be constantly ringing their bell.

Basically it works because you're separating users according to speed. You know it makes sense...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cafe on the beach - Helsinki

Click photo for a better look

Glass all around.

Log fire.

People of all ages.




Light music.

Didn't want to leave.

Public CLOSED space

After some time in Berlin followed by some time in Madrid followed by some time in Helsinki, I was feeling a bit "citied out".  

Crowds, cars, pedestrian crossing lights telling when you can and can't go… it was all grinding me down a bit.

And then I found this wonderful little wooden building in the centre of the Finnish capital. It's windowless, minimal and completely silent. Like walking into a womb. You're instantly cut off from the outside world and descend into a surreal calmness.

I sat in there for about ten minutes and definitely felt refreshed when I came out.

Every city should have one...