2016 Christmas Wishes— PolisPlan

First published by www.polisplan.com.au on 25 December 2016

We hope this finds you relaxed and ready for the holidays. It is now 18 months since we first took that leap of faith to become a mobile consultancy — living and working from our motorhome. We are temporarily back in Sydney to spend Christmas with our families. We love our new life and feel grateful for the serendipitous way in which our life is now lived, bringing us in touch with like minded people looking for alternative answers to dealing with a future we feel is already here.

We’ve set out on this journey because of our firm belief that we need a new paradigm for land development and town planning. One based on ‘Freedom, Equality and Compassion’, rather than ‘Jobs and Growth’. Our vision for future cities is to develop a network of local village scale settlements (including transitioning existing suburbs and towns), designed with integrated systems that will provide a discrete population with efficient living and working spaces and an abundance of water, food and energy.

You might think this is being too idealistic; that such a utopia could never exist but history tells us that for most of our time on earth, this is how we lived. We believe this can be achieved through the merging of ancient knowledge — that designed places to be in resonance with the natural environment — with new technologies, that enable efficient storage of renewable energy and treatment of harvested water. As robots take over our jobs, local access to all of our basic needs freely will mean less work, thus liberating us to pursue our passions and collaborate to build the cities of the 21st century. We can then begin the transition to a zero waste lifestyle — creating resilient cities that will function on the principles of a Circular Economy, emulating the cyclic nature of the natural world.

Our vision is both to collaborate in the creation of a network of such One Planet communities, and also to be a conduit that facilitates the connection between them through the sharing economy and peer-to-peer trading — a vision inspired by learning how indigenous people survived and thrived as they travelled from one water hole to another.

Creating a network demands that you live life as a nomad and so we started the year in Tasmania. We drafted a project proposal to demonstrate how this model could be applied at the Tasman Ecovillage in Nubeena. We are grateful to the lecturers at the University of Tasmania who embraced the proposal, giving us opportunities to present a public lecture, to conduct guest lectures to students, to supervise student placements at the Ecovillage and to engage in a design charrette.

Over Easter, we were involved in ‘Tarkine in Motion’, a project organised by the Bob Brown Foundation in the Tarkine Wilderness of northwest Tasmania. Together with 120 artists we immersed ourselves in the lush rainforests, windswept coasts and wild rivers, taking photographs and engaging in creative writing to raise awareness about both anthropogenic and natural threats to one of the last great wilderness areas of our planet — a place that would benefit greatly from obtaining World Heritage and National Park status.

While in Tassie, we also worked with the community of Cygnet, to present ideas of how an existing town could transition to a Circular Economy. After facilitating a workshop around the ‘World Café’ format, the community prioritised projects that ranged from ideas for sourcing food directly from local farmers to options for setting up a work hub in town. We were excited to hear that Circular Economy Cygnet is now an Incorporated Association and we look forward to our continued partnership with this community.

Our time in Tasmania was broken up by a 3-month stint back in Sydney over winter, during which we were invited to participate at the Assembly for Alternative Futures, a 2-day event at the Sydney Biennale. We interacted with professionals from many fields which led us to being invited to participate in our first artist residency at Frontyard in Marrickville. During the year we also conducted guest lectures to numerous audiences ranging from graduate students & Heterodox Economists at UNSW to Year 10 Geography students at Santa Sabina — a first for us. Steve is progressing well with his research in the Dept. of Political Economy at Sydney University, working towards his PhD thesis. Nilmini continues to indulge in her passion for photography and blogging, keeping everyone who follows our journey updated. While we love the simplicity of our life, we’ve also enjoyed house/pet sitting this year, which has added variety to life on the road in a tiny home.

The year has had its ups and downs. In early August we said goodbye to Steve’s dad. His passing just shy of his 82nd birthday saddened us but there was also a feeling of gratitude for a life lived with love for his family and much involvement in the Greek community of Sydney.

The latter part of this year saw us travel to Far North Queensland to commence work with an Indigenous community looking at options for projects on Country — land they have been granted through Native Title. We are very grateful for the opportunity to get to know an Indigenous community so closely and the chance to gain a deeper knowledge of a part of Australia’s history that is not well understood in the broader community.

Living in a motorhome enables us to be immersed in the world around us. There is no routine to life but rather time to enjoy the rituals of waking up to watch the sunrise or winding down with the sunset. There have been many highlights such as hiking Cradle Mountain, watching the seals in the Southern Ocean off Bruny Island, camping in the Daintree Rainforest, and photographing Aurora Australis. Yet no matter where we are, we embrace the spontaneity of allowing life to unfold and relish the unexpectedness of never knowing what lies in wait around the corner.

During our travels we have engaged in long conversations with many interesting people working on similar ideas. We have come across innovative ideas for home ownership that would eliminate the need for large mortgage debts and learnt about the value of incorporating ‘land for wildlife’ into developments. We are excited that we have commenced conversations with CSIRO who are researching similar ideas around the theme of ‘Resilient Cities for the 21st Century’ and have expressed an interest in partnering with us. We have also commenced a conversation with a local government keen to explore the possibilities of developing a pilot project in their local government area. The chance to demonstrate what we have been talking about for the past three years seems close at hand now and we are looking forward to 2017 with enthusiastic anticipation.

We believe that if you build it they will come, so the imperative for us to be involved in demonstration projects is a huge driver.

We don’t know where the road will take us but feel excited by the possibilities. Please be in touch if the ideas of the Circular Economy interest you or you are looking for a couple of keynote speakers for your conference! You can also follow our journey on the blog @ www.polisplan.com.au

As you step into a New Year, we’d like to inspire you with the words of Albert Einstein, “The world as we have created it, is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

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