You’re all familiar with the populist narrative that greenies and lefties are all out-of-touch elites who like to “sneer at” ordinary (suburban, small-town) people. (Current example: the Sarah Palin campaign vs. the elitist, arugula latte-drinking Obama). It’s so popular in Australia at the moment, you can hardly open a newspaper without being scolded for daring to suggest that the way we build our cities, and travel around them, could possibly be improved. Public transport is a concern for upper middle-class wankers; Real people love their cars so much, they don’t care that they’re trapped into using them. As for the price of fuel, well, er… something will come along, don’t worry.
As for not building great swathes of housing development, inappropriately sited, overlarge, artificially cooled and out of reach of train or tram lines, that’s just those greeny lefty elites forcing their elitist concerns on the Real People again. Real People want big houses and they want them to look Tuscan and have no eaves and anyone who wants to take that dream away from them is just an over-educated latte-sipping poopyhead. Development good, conservation – and re-thinking our ways of building and getting around – bad.
This view is as popular in Labor and certain self-identified “left” groups as it is in Liberal and right-leaning groups.
I do wonder whether the deep and abiding love for Tuscan-style villas built to the fenceline isn’t the product of lavish and expertly targeted marketing rather than something deep in the Australian soul, and such marketing couldn’t have created an equally enthusiastic market for more appropriate housing, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Last week, an entire suburb was evacuated because the developer had built on land next to a landfill containing methane gas. The developer chose to build on the land to make money, and probably got the land at a bargain price because of the proximity to landfill. The council which owned and operated the landfill first opposed building so close to the area, as did the toothless Environment Protection Authority, but the developer went to VCAT. The bureaucrats at VCAT overturned the opposition and now we have a complete dog’s breakfast out at Cranbourne. None of these entities are from the greenie left. They represent the “hooray, development!” mentality.
This is a disaster. Without warning, these people have had to pack up their houses and find accommodation for themselves and their young children for an indeterminate period. If and when they’re allowed to return, their houses may be worthless. Many of them are walking a financial tightrope already and this will send them to the wall.
Cranbourne and Casey have been a byword for urban sprawl for years. We’ve had item after news item about the lack of infrastructure, social isolation and car dependence, debt, poverty and disadvantage. It’s time the boosters of road-based suburban sprawl admitted the problems with this social model. The methane problem is acute, but the problems of this area are chronic.
I wonder how deeply these non-elitist, non-green, pro-development business suits and bureaucrats care about the people in that suburb. Let’s call this Roveian anti-elitism for what it is: an excuse for governments to neglect infrastructure and due process and private companies to extract maximum profits from the “ordinary Australians” they’re supposed to represent, and then move on. They are the out of touch elites.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom