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Automatic Earth Tour with Nicole Foss - Writer's Account

On 21st April the writer attended the Automatic Earth Tour in Melbourne, an all day workshop in the Fitzroy Town Hall. The event hosted one international presenter, Nicole Foss, a sustainability expert from Canada and editor of ‘The Automatic Earth’. She was joined by three Australian guest speakers: Adrian Whitehead (founder of Beyond Zero Emissions); Geoff Mosley (Director – Centre for Advancement of the Steady State Economy); Theo Kitchener (founder of neighbourhood sharing website thesharehood.org). The event was to discuss the implications of a worldwide economic collapse and how best to prepare for it.

Nicole Foss presented for the morning, and her outlook for the near future, to which she refers to as ‘the perfect storm’ was a pessimistic and heavy-going hypothesis, at least for the short- term future. Nicole does not place much hope in some of the proposed solutions to our current economic and environmental crises such as political intervention or green-tech. Instead she believes localized DIY collectives based on self-subsidized permaculture will be the most likely long term solution.

Several of the other speakers had other views. Geoff Mosely talked of practical ways that political and social intervention can result in a healthy zero growth economy. Adrian Whitehead believes that green tech is humanity’s best bet in regards to reducing global greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and Theo Kitchener introduced the audience to a number of local initiatives in Melbourne that are assisting people in being more self reliant and community orientated.

Population was an issue brought up by attendees during table discussions and as questions to the presenters. It was reassuring that many attendees at the event believe that efforts to stablise or reduce population, both worldwide and locally is a necessary step towards humanity’s long- term survival prospects. It was also refreshing that the speakers did not shy away from answering population questions publically when directly asked from members of the audience. Geoff Mosley was of the opinion that reducing net immigration and readdressing the baby bonus were practical moves in reducing to a stable population size, which is critical for a zero growth economy. Nicole Foss talked about population growth on a global scale. She believes that international intervention measures are problematic as it is hypocritical for developed countries to request developing countries to reduce their population until developed countries lead by example by addressing their own levels of consumption. She does not perceive that the world population will reach 9 billion and above as an economic and environmental collapse within the near future will inhibit the capacity for population growth. She predicts the world population will be reduced to 1 billion people within 100 years following such a collapse. The details of this were not discussed in further depth but the implications painted a suitably pessimistic end to a heavy going day for all involved.

The writer believes that the workshop was applicable to the SPA and SPP members who are opposed to the infinite growth ideology within a finite planet and to all those who believe that zero growth economies with a more local community DIY focus is a viable alternative.

Michael Bayliss – SPP Melbourne Candidate and SPA committee member