How green is our city? Not very. Not enough.

Brisbane has a facade of green – bushland which is great until you look closely and see the invasive weeds, parks which have trees and grass but lack the diversity and multiple layers of planting that are needed for small birds and other wildlife, and all those barren grass verges (aka native strips, footpaths) that are mown and whippersnipped in submission or neglected to become a mix of bare earth and invasive weeds.

Development was a big issue in the most recent council election but the campaigns were dispiriting with neither side showing any real interest in the issues and possibilities of well-planned, environmentally-sustainable development. At a time when we must increase the density of our urban population to reduce urban sprawl, was it too much to expect some thoughtful discussion of the best ways to achieve this in an environmentally sustainable manner? Apparently so.

So now I watch the new estates being built in our area with large houses on small blocks and that thoughtful discussion is still missing. Developers are in the business of making as much money as they can within the rules. They build houses without eaves, designed for airconditioning, with little rainwater harvesting and permeable ground. It is the rule setters – local, state and federal governments – who have the responsibility to lead change by setting the standards required for this new housing.

While we need our various levels of government to create sensible policies, we can’t assume they’ll do it unless it is demanded by their citizens, ie the voters. We don’t need to wait for them to act. We can change our shopping habits and gardening practices without waiting. We can build community movements with, without or despite their input. We can lobby for change.

Since the 2016 Brisbane City Council election, residents have already had a victory with the BCC finally giving in and changing their policy on what we can plant on the nature strip in front of our homes that we don’t own but are required to maintain. There is a campaign about getting rid of the African Tulip street trees that kill our native bees.

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