Last July, I wrote about focusing on positive actions we could take during months of lockdown to keep our hopes alive.  As Victorian’s emerge from another lockdown – a ‘circuit breaker’ – we now need to re-focus and accept that the pandemic’s impact will have long-lasting social, economic, and emotional effects.

The Committee for Geelong’s research report, Resilient Geelong – Reasons for Success and Challenges for a Post-COVID-19 Future (Deakin University, L. Johnson et al 2020), asserts the following major trends due to COVID-19:

  • a different, greener, digital economy, where those in schools or displaced need to be trained, reskilled and upskilled;
  • localisation of life;
  • decentralisation of people and activities from major cities and CBDs;
  • online/digital ways of being; and
  • quest for health and safety as well as social inclusion.

Business leaders and governments across the world agree that taking action to protect the environment is key to our economic recovery. “Climate action can help accelerate economic recovery and enhance social equity, through the use of new technologies and the creation of new industries and new jobs” (Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, C40 Cities, 2020). A recent Australian report by Ernst and Young found that a renewables-led economic recovery will create almost three times as many jobs as a fossil-fuel-led recovery (Slezak, 2020). In Resilient Geelong, the Green Recovery & Sustainability section outlines international and national evidence to support the need for more focused and committed action (pp.74-77). This includes a range of recommendations for the Geelong region:

  • Adopt the ‘live locally’ principles of 10-15 minute neighbourhoods to inform other urban planning decisions for existing areas of Greater Geelong to ensure a more connected and sustainable city.
  • Deliver active transportation, greener and more sustainable environments (with employment, education, health, recreation and other services all located in localised, walkable and active transportation hubs or High Streets) in Armstrong Creek and the Northern and Western Growth Areas.
  • Seize the opportunity to build a better, greener economy for the future, explore the possibility of Geelong becoming a site for the Beyond Zero Emissions Million Jobs project.

The City of Greater Geelong recently endorsed its new Sustainability Framework Action Plan (2020-22).  Geelong stakeholders and community have a significant opportunity to collaborate and create a greener and more sustainable future to support Council’s Action Plan that includes the need to “renew and implement the City’s Zero Carbon Emission Strategy to inform the Climate Change Response Plan and prepare a roadmap for the region to become zero-carbon by 2047.” This is no small task, but we have the opportunity, need and willingness to transform our economy for the long term.

Last July, I referred to the Stoic philosophers as a way to help navigate the pandemic. Stoicism believes that energy is better spent thinking of creative solutions to problems, rather than the issues themselves. As we move on from our recent ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, perhaps we need to think about a larger circuit breaker for our city and focus on a newer, greener, and more sustainable way of thinking, living, and doing business.

Jennifer Cromarty will be part of a panel discussion during Geelong Design Week, ‘A Circular Approach’ to a pandemic on 22 March, and is a guest speaker at Geelong Sustainability’s “Green Drinks” at Beavs Bar 31 March, presenting ‘Resilient Geelong – where to from here?