Grave - Revisited
"...a provisional figure for the per capita ecological
footprint of the citizens of Adelaide, drawing on statistics
for the whole of Australia, is around eight hectares per person.
If everybody on Earth lived and used resources like Australians
do, four planets would be required, yet we have only one increasingly
damaged planet available for us to live on." ...
"Thinker in Residence" Herbert Girardet - "Creating
a sustainable Adelaide" page 8
world has been familiar with the proverbial "Golden Cage"
, South Australian visionaries have for many years worked on
an equally poignant metaphor for the world of architecture and
urban planning: the "Golden Grave". One of Adelaide's
most sought after "Golden Graves", the north-eastern
suburbs development "Golden Grove", can be taken as
a striking representation of the Australian dream: a nightmare
in environmental, and not least social, terms once the conclusions
of the very politely phrased Girardet-report sink in.
though, I was euphoric. Having escaped the stony city of Berlin
with its 5 floors of apartment gravity in the darkness and cold
of late November, I felt as if something, that was mine, but
forgotten, was returned to me. The sweet fresh air and a lush
Burnside garden, which merged with the vast blue sky and the
continent it sheltered, was like one of the kept promises this
land once seemed to make.
crucial years of my life in Adelaide, which is home to my closest
family members and very close friends, the place is familiar,
very familiar. So familiar in fact that coming here doesn't
seem like a holiday, which it nevertheless is. Whenever I am
confronted with the question, which place in the world I consider
home, my intelligebility drops to irritatingly low levels leaving
me and my opposite confused and eager to change the subject.
However, one image with which I seem to associate home in my
head tends to always be the same: the egg-yolk yellow carriages
of Berlin's underground railway, the "U-Bahn".
Berlin "U-Bahn" is only by a very general principle
connected to the Adelaide "O-Bahn". Both fall under
the category of "public transport". But whereas the
"U-Bahn" is a monument to civic urban pride and a
sense of equality, the O-Bahn is a memorial to a hopeless situation
in a state that has no vision regarding the efficiency of its
urban transport system and which divides its citizens in two
classes: car-owners and non-car-owners. The O-Bahn is a token
gesture in times when the world tries to give meaning to such
noble concepts as "sustainability". Adelaide has no
integrated tram-system, which could use existing railway-lines
to Noarlanga, Gawler etc. nor a bus-service that converges on
one single central bus-terminal with coordinated arrival and
departure-times. Instead, passengers coming from, let's say,
Tea Tree Plaza are dumped in the city in order to continue their
journey to, let's say, Skye from a busstop somewhere - sometime...
Crosstown journeys will not be something that any person will
attempt unless forced to do so by their social status.
there are obvious disadvantages to living in an evironmentally
more efficent city, as is Berlin, the claims to convenience
that are implicit in the total car-culture of a city like Adelaide,
elude me. I fail to see the convenience of the "into the
car - out of the car" routine in order to buy a bunch of
flowers. My Berlin conveniences are spread over a few streets,
those in Adelaide over a number of suburbs, the main streets
of which have a curious resemblance to the navigation on commercial
websites. The occurrence of real live people on either often
seems of equal proportions. It's worse in the "side-streets",
if this is an appropriate term. Even though the signs of human
habitat can not be overlooked, sightings of the species are
rare and probably under the investigation of the BBC "wildlife
and nature" staff. The atmosphere, even during rushhour,
is eerie, when cars, seemingly remote controlled disappear behind
real remote controlled roll-a-doors. No kids playing on the
front lawn, no pedestrians, no shops, no streetcafés.
It is ironic,
even though the "al fresco" chique of the Adelaide
middle-class insinuates a "mediterranean" way of life,
very little about Adelaide is mediterranean other than the climate.
Mediterranean cities, styled on renaissance and antique visions,
were more concerned about the "res publica", the public
life. In Adelaide public life is an option, not a passion like
that which can still be witnessed in mediterranean cities of
is a pedestrian affair, something that is conspicuously absent
in Adelaide. The "tyranny of distance" is not created
by the vastness of the continent but by the policy of declaring
ownership of a quarter acre block an inalienable right for all
Australian citizens. This in turn leads to the tyranny of the
motor morons with their absolute claim to the right to own a
V8 "killing machine".
Many Australians like to malign the Americans for waging a war
for oil in Iraq. This is totally hypocritical since Australians
consume petrol with equal disregard to the environment and world
politics. And nowhere more than in Adelaide where, statistically,
every second person between the age of one and a hundred years
owns a car.
true. Among all my friends in Berlin I know a couple that own
a car. In Adelaide I have none who don't.