Based in Melbourne, Australia, I am the senior...
I believe we need to get away from an economic order based on ever-increasing consumption where individual wealth creation is seen as the most desirable or only goal. It is simply not sustainable, as Hannes Kunz pointed out in his Thoughts piece Less material wealth, more happiness.
As part of a more community-focused approach, I believe we need to think of taxation as a positive contribution to society as a whole and a good thing, rather than demonise it as a dirty word. The proviso is, of course, that governments spend it wisely, although we will never all agree on the priorities.
I happily pay my taxes and many people think I am mad. But seeing governments in Australia spending tax revenue on healthcare, public infrastructure, education, the environment, refugees and asylum seekers makes me a happy person.
I wish they taxed us more, not less. I wish there was much less disparity between rich and poor. Denmark is the model for me – I spent considerable time there working on the Fehmarnbelt tunnel project and watching how Danish society works.
We also need governments, the private sector and creative individuals to do more on matters such as agriculture and food production, healthcare and preventing disease (especially in countries which are less well off), climate change and education on population control.
There are some big questions that need to be answered. Is 9 billion by 2050 an inevitable or desirable global population? How can we better share and spread global wealth? How do we improve public transport and other infrastructure in our cities and our rural areas for full community benefit? Do we really need an ever-larger plasma TV when we have four in the house already?
We at Arup, and those with whom we collaborate, can help answer these and other pressing questions. Given the chance, we can, and do, influence, plan or design better, more equitable cities. We can help develop more sustainable land-use, agricultural, water usage and economic policies. And we provide strategies for healthcare, for adapting to climate change and for making our buildings more energy-efficient.
However, I believe we have to do more as individuals and I believe collaborative consumption may provide the answer. Renting and borrowing products and services is growing in popularity and can now be seen all over the world, from the cycle and car hire schemes in major cities, to the proliferation of websites that facilitate the borrowing and lending of everyday stuff. Collaborative consumption can reduce expenditure, lower carbon footprints and increase happiness and contentment due to positive social interactions.
I think this is one approach to the solution that is required to create a cultural and economic change and ‘shape a better world’. As Paul Kelly and Kevin Carmody wrote in their inspirational song about Vincent Lingairri and the land rights battle of the Gurindji indigenous people of northern Australia, From Little Things, Big Things Grow.
Ever-escalating wealth and power for some should not be our priorities. Evolving sustainable communities and economies, sharing our wealth, and creating greater happiness for all are far greater objectives. Don't you agree?