Community Balanced Living

Keywords: Localisation; well-being; balanced living; alternative enterprises and exchange; caring for commons.

Key emission reductions: Reduced consumption, local living and sharing economy 

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This is a city of low consumption, strongly reflecting values to do with the creation of a socially and environmentally meaningful life. In this community, shared wellbeing, liveability and face-to-face social interaction are more highly prized than material possessions.

There is still a market economy, however there is a thriving and diverse set of alternative forms of enterprises that are not profit oriented, including cooperatives, B-corps and other types of social enterprises.

“As soon as you start to create a local community again, you start to ask your neighbour if you can borrow something and it all requires interaction and it’s all about bringing back the whole concept of the community in some way. I see local community centres, there being a nice mix between community, energy, even art, there being hubs where people hang out. It might be a public space like a park but it will have a solar field. We’re going to have to create these hubs” – Ross Harding

This is a strong collaborative economy, with exchanges that are driven by a shared sense of social responsibility and altruism, operating on a non-profit basis. There is also a strong local community dimension to these exchanges, with an emphasis of local production and trading systems. A high proportion of the population works only part-time in the mainstream economy, with time freed for other pursuits that range from creative activity to cooperative work contributing to building community resources. Some community work is supported through local currencies. Communities generally have much greater responsibilities for the creation, improvement and maintenance of commons spaces or essential resources, including food production, renewable energy generation, rainwater collection, storage and distribution, the maintenance of built infrastructure, urban forestation, education and training, aged care and so on.

Recycling and repair of most goods is an important service for small businesses and cooperatives. A high proportion of new building and building refurbishment depends on the contribution of cooperative, community labour. While this description fits the city as a whole, there is a great diversity of social and community cultures across the city – communities are diverse with some degree of specialisation in their contributions to the creation of goods and services and patterns of consumption.

The 80% reduction on greenhouse emissions has been achieved through the significant reduction in consumption of energy and materials, the sharing of resources and a highly diverse system of small scale, renewable electricity generation. Transport energy consumption has reduced greatly with more localised living. With less circulating capital from lower participation in the money economy there has been less investment in new public transport. Financial and community resources have been focused more on the maintenance of critical existing transport infrastructure, improving bicycle and walking conditions and the conversion of older vehicles to electricity and bio-gas for local use.

“[I can envisage a] transition to an economy of care so that we put a lot more human labour power and work and a larger segment of our economy is directed to providing human services. It could be everything from childcare to supporting aged people, [in an] aging society” – Professor Brendan Gleeson.

The economic identity of the city is characterised by: measures of prosperity that are not related to growth in GDP or material/resource consumption, with a cultural focus on more complex and nuanced measures of human flourishing (with these measures being a regular topic for community debate).

People and social relationships are valued more than material possessions. A high proportion of overall economic value is derived from creative activities. Working is not seen as critical to identity and the average weekly hours in salaried employment is almost half of what it was twenty-five years ago. Governance is distributed or polycentric.

“A radical low carbon resilient Melbourne would be an inclusive place … and would have everybody pulling together to live in a place that looks after people. A place of sociality where our culture is one of sharing, low waste, walkability, and of making sure that we’re using technology so that we’re not being used by it.” – Kate Auty