Friday, March 12, 2010

Australia's Bigfoot

The environmental cost of spending on energy, water, goods and services in Australia is outlined in the interactive Consumption Atlas from the Australia Conservation Foundation. It accounts for the costs and risks to nature from using resources to develop and maintain urban living and its supporting activities. This idea is dubbed "Bigfoot" since that communicates pretty clearly that there's an impact that has to be considered.

The ACF has weighed in with a comprehensive system of benchmarking the impacts of human civilization and the public policies that drive increasing pollution and emissions from building costruction, product demand and energy production. In alignment with the Copenhagen Accord, they provide specific guidelines that require an accounting of natural capital in the fiscal balance sheet of business and communities. They also have a specific Climate Project page that covers climate change, since Australia is one of the countries seeing the biggest impact of this change, with record heat and drought during this decade.

This is an outstanding example of how local urban systems can be surveyed, calculated and benchmarked in order to communicate to the public and the government the impacts on the natural environment that have to be priced into the system. It's part of an evolving effort to develop the standards for "natural captial" that are accurate and realistic. These standards will necessarily incorporate the rapid energy descent scenario that is in the future as the supply of energy goes down per capita, worldwide. Remember those "Blade Runner" scenes?