Towards a Vision of a Peaceful and Sustainable Australia: Quaker Voices has been produced by the Quaker Peace and Earthcare Committees as a contribution to the public discussion about the future of Australia.
The Vision describes the way a number of Australian Quakers perceive various aspects of a future peaceful and sustainable Australia, writing from the perspective of people who are already there. It has been assumed that the considerable damage done by ecological abuse including climate warming has been substantially repaired.
It has also been assumed that for Australia to be sustainable we will have to expect to have less energy available than today. It is not possible to be precise about the level because there will be future technologies that we yet do not know about that will contribute to greater energy efficiencies. What is likely is that these technologies will not allow us to return to the abundant energy use that we enjoyed in the twentieth century. Centralised governance systems for national and international government, business and civil society based on energy intensive transport and communications will not survive. The demise of a global growth-driven economy means that we will need to think more locally and regionally.
The principles necessary for a peaceful and sustainable Australia are equality, integrity, community, peaceful resolution of disagreements, simplicity and respect for nature. We Australians assume the right to life, liberty, health and property. But these rights are dependent on the capacity of the planet’s supporting eco-systems, and there are no ecological conditions that guarantee human rights. A peaceful and sustainable Australia can only be achieved when we develop a respect for the Earth as well as love of one’s neighbour.
Our vision starts with individuals, families, households and communities. In this future, every Australian has the opportunity for safe and fulfilling relationships in childhood and adolescence, opportunities to explore the world around them, and a sound education. In adult life, they have satisfying work that pays adequately. There is access to support services (including financial support) when things go wrong with health or well-being.
Political, manufacturing, transport and economic structures and processes are directed towards making households and local communities as vibrant, resilient and self-sustaining as possible. In this future society the majority of food is grown locally, and the provision of goods and services through government, commercial, non-profit or cooperative groups tends to be organisationally small and local. Buildings and non-polluting factories are immersed in our communities, so that there is less travel to and from work, and much less transport of manufactured output. We are able to travel but only within the carrying capacity of the planet’s ability to support us. Energy systems are all based on renewable energy but at a reduced level of supply.
Industry now takes responsibility for the whole life cycle of the goods and services that are produced, so that there is far less that is sold; rather, many products are hired, and returned to the producer so they are recycled.
Our economy is based on principles that care for and protect the ecological systems that sustain our world and distribute the benefits fairly. Market mechanisms operate within bounds based on these principles. The financial sector is made up of smaller and usually cooperative banks whose main activity is to receive deposits and fund enterprises providing goods and services according to charters and codes of practice that include respect for nature.
We now use for our economic calculations methods based on the Daly Rules or the Natural Step. The Daly Rules describe the relationship of an economy to its environment. The Output Rule states that wastes should be kept within the assimilative capacity of the local environment. The Input Rule states that harvest rates of renewable resource inputs shall not exceed the regenerative capacity of the natural system that generates them. For non-renewables depletion rates shall equal the rate at which renewable substitutes are developed by human invention and investment. The Natural Step published similar criteria.
A peaceful and sustainable Australia has a new decision-making process at national, regional, state and local levels. Our federal constitution includes a new responsibility to sustain as far as possible the health of all natural systems. We have a Respect for Nature Ombudsperson who hears complaints when the health of any natural system might be compromised by a government or private agency.
The scope of parliamentary debate is limited to the determination and description of the main issues, goals, outcomes and time frames required if we are to achieve peace and sustainability. Parliament can appoint an issues committee. Made up of appropriate or expert citizens, it develops its strategy on a matter and its recommendations are made available to all citizens.
At last, women have gained full representation in the decision-making levels of all our organisations: government, commercial and civil society. There are now limits on the highest salaries paid in organisations based on the relationship to the lowest paid. Differences between the highest and lowest paid in organisations could not exceed ten times, and that median differences across the government, business and civil society sector organisations could not exceed five times.
A group of scientists and other experts now advise on population levels in Australia based on calculations about what could be supported by our ecological systems. Immigration rates are determined from these carrying-capacity calculations and the fertility rate.
Our very limited military forces are now seen as a police force acting in defence of Earth and its people, and occasionally act as part of an international police force under the control of the United Nations and the International Courts. The notion of war and punitive action to resolve conflicts has been replaced by an emphasis on removing the causes of violent conflict, and the use of negotiation and mediation is widespread at all levels of society.
This Vision is not about how to get there. There are no quick fixes. Before we decide how to achieve a better society, we need to be clear on what that is. So we only briefly consider some of the issues and processes that will have to be considered in the period of transition to a better world. We fully realise that the transition to a peaceful and sustainable Australia will not be easy. One of the purposes of a Vision is to describe the kind of society that we desire, so we can then discuss how best to work towards its achievement. Go to to www.quakers.org.au for the full document.