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Every day, we are creating our future. Although our environment and climate are facing challenges, there are many ways Australians are taking action to create a more healthy, safe, fair and affordable way forward.
Explore the benefits of sustainable living in the Future Now pop-up exhibition created by the Australian Museum.
Whether you’re looking for small changes to make in your own home or want to be inspired by larger-than-life solutions, we will show you that there is plenty of hope and potential for tackling climate change in our communities.
Greening our urban spaces is about planting more trees. It is about conserving and creating more green spaces and parks. But we have to think bigger than that. Green walls, green façades, green roofs - our buildings are there, ready for us to create urban oases with plants. Basically, plants are amazing for our urban environments. They make our urban environments more livable and more resilient. We can actually look at all those vacant urban spaces, fill them up with food and really, you know, turbocharge our cities so that they're absolutely just full of food that we can all share together. We think community gardens play this vital role of, you know, getting the community together, learning all those skills about gardening. They're in a most amazing place to just acquire the skills you need to get up and growing and meet like minded people who are going to change the world with you.
The other thing about growing more food locally is it really builds resilience into our food system and actually starts to take it from resilience towards regeneration. I see the connectivity between our parks and our green spaces as green corridors coming and traversing through the cities with green roofs and green walls inside and outside and everywhere in between. We must see our cities as the as the fabric for our new green landscape. And I see people leaving home not to go visit a park, but to literally traverse and experience the cultural diversity of the city whilst getting that nature experience. It's a growing movement, and it's something that we'll see a lot more of. We can do things like planting more trees and vegetation around our homes because trees don't just provide shade.
They also provide evaporative cooling effects. So they make not just our home, but our suburb cooler. Issues of extreme heat in our cities and our towns aren't just caused by rising temperatures, they're caused by the urban heat island effect, which means that you've got streets, you've got suburbs with not very many trees with lots of concrete, lots of dark surfaces that attracts the heat and the sun and holds it out to radiate out throughout the night and during the day. Those areas can be over ten degrees hotter than cooler suburbs or areas on the coast. You can't evacuate everybody from a heat wave. And so people have to usually remain in place if they can. So we need to make the environments in cities as cool as possible. There's three things we can do to combat heat in urban places.
The first one is to increase the tree canopy. The second one is to make space for us to be able to grow trees and vegetation in urban areas. And the third one is to change the materials that we use in urban spaces so that they don't store heat and re-radiate it. Extreme heat impacts the way we live, work and play. We need to start building the livable, sustainable, equitable cities of our future right now, because the decisions we make today are going to affect all of us in the future. Electric vehicles are far cheaper to run than our traditional cars. So refuelling a tank of an electric vehicle will cost you between five or ten dollars.
So we're seeing more electric vehicle models of different varieties coming onto our roads every day. Whether that's different types of cars, but also more busses, trucks, motorcycles, and including the latest technology in flying cars called EVTOLs, able to take us from point to point without even hitting the road. Transport is fundamentally about enabling people to access each other and access services. What we'd like to see in the future is that people are able to do the things that they want to do in their lives without having to worry about polluting the earth or making their neighbours sick. When somebody buys a new car that ultimately makes its way into the second and third-hand car market, where in fact most Australians participate and are able to buy a new vehicle So the faster that we get more electric vehicles into our market today, the sooner that more and more Australians will be able to access them into the future.
Finding a second-hand EV in Australia has been really hard up until now. We don't have enough supply of EVs in Australia to have a second hand market, so we've created one from scratch. We import EVs from Japan and the UK and make sure that we have all the consumer protections in place, so it's almost as though you're buying a new vehicle. The main benefit of EVs is that they're cheaper to run, they're faster, they're smoother and more fun to drive. And then the environmental benefits is that we have cleaner air and quieter cities. And more importantly, we can use those big batteries in the vehicle to be able to support the grid. So that we can get well beyond 100% renewables by providing storage when we need it. It won't be long before EVs and all their benefits are accessible to all Australians. It's an exciting future and we're on our way there now.
Turning turbines large and small, the wind is helping create our 100% clean energy future.
Travelling by foot, bike, public transport or electric vehicle helps give us healthy air.
Zooming with electricity
Fast and reliable, electric vehicles (EVs) are taking off in Australia. Electric cars, buses, motorbikes and vans have no polluting exhaust fumes. They are cheap to run and now go far on a single charge.
➔ Did you know that charging an EV creates fewer emissions than using petrol because there’s a growing amount of renewable energy going into the electricity grid. Charging from solar panels means driving with no cost or emissions.
Even when the sun doesn’t shine
Batteries for storing solar energy are becoming cheaper. They let you use renewable energy at night and on cloudy days. An electric car battery can also be used to power a house.
Tough road tiles that capture solar energy can help power towns. Soon, they may also be able to charge electric cars as they drive.
There are now plastics made from plants and algae! They are not as polluting as plastics made from fossil fuel.
Light-coloured roofs and paving reflect heat. This keeps us cooler in summer.
The tiny, bright green algae at work on this building use up waste carbon dioxide gas and turn it into fresh oxygen. They also make fuel and fertiliser that are good for our environment.
Solar - the cheapest electricity
Australians are installing solar panels on rooftops at one of the fastest rates in the world. Already over 31% of Australia’s free-standing homes have them. Solar power is now the cheapest form of electricity.
➔ Even without panels, you can tap into solar by asking your provider to switch you to renewable energy or join a community solar project.
Neighbours – your rescue team
As climate change disasters increase, with more fires, floods and heat waves, experience shows that rescue services cannot reach everyone. In many cases it will be people in your community who will provide support and rescue.
Food to share
Groups like OzHarvest deliver good-quality surplus food from supermarkets, food businesses and restaurants to charities that help feed people in need.
Planting indigenous foods
Fruits, herbs and spices that are native to Australia are not only delicious, they give a home to local birds, animals and insect pollinators. You can ask your council or nursery for advice.
Towns with solar farms or shared rooftop networks and a shared battery are giving everyone access to dramatically lower-cost, reliable energy. Community solar brings people together and keeps money in the community.
In a community garden you can grow delicious, fresh food and meet people in your neighbourhood.
➔ Your council can help you to find a garden in your community and give advice on how to start one up.
Swap and share
Around Australia people are sharing cars and setting up skill swaps and tool-sharing sheds. All of this helps us waste less and make good, strong connections in our communities.
Taking our broken things to a repair cafe for fixing saves precious resources.
Data networks that respond to weather, light and heat are used in smart buildings. These systems save energy and money by lowering shades, opening vents and adjusting lights as needed.
Fashion for the future
We can help reduce fashion’s major pollution and waste problems by buying fewer items, keeping them longer and buying from sustainable and ethical brands. Think about recycling old clothes and hiring outfits to support the circular economy.
A great way for farmers and communities to connect, markets bring us food with less energy and packaging (and more fun!).
➔ We can create healthier places for us and other species by planting native trees.
Trees give fresh air and shade. As our country gets hotter, trees help us cope. Pavements, street and playground surfaces are on average 20°C cooler when shaded by trees.
Sheltering from heat
Our summers are getting hotter. Buildings and bus shelters that keep us shaded will help.
➔ Using energy and transport that is clean, and doesn’t burn fossil fuels, is essential for reducing global warming.
Roof gardens keep our buildings cool, provide food and give us and other species healthy living spaces. Gardens build resilience.
Vertical gardens: growing cleaner air
Planting in the city means more pollution is absorbed and we have cleaner air to breathe. Plants also keep our buildings cooler as Australia heats up.
Power from windows
Fluorescent solar concentrator windows don’t just look pretty; they’re making electricity. When sunlight hits their coated surface, energy is sent to the edges. There, solar cells in the window frame capture electricity for us to use.
A new type of concrete is now available, made without the usual damaging greenhouse gas emissions. It is stronger too! Another new type of concrete is permeable, letting water soak through instead of running off to add to floods and polluting waterways.
Electric aircraft, eVTOLs (Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing), will soon be ready to take passengers to the sky. Useful as air taxis or for emergency services, these vehicles are safe, clean and fast.
➔ Check out the Australian ‘Vertiia’, expected in 2025. It can travel 250km on electric batteries or up to 1000km on hydrogen.