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Social Issues in Sydney: Sustainability

Oct 4, 2016 9:00:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Fall2016_Matthew_Benczkowski_Square_Profile.jpgMatthew Benczkowski is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A molecular biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

In this week's post, Matthew talks about sustainability in Sydney and why the country is moving toward a greener future.

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“Sustainability is the key to survival on this planet” - Shari Arison

On Tuesday September 27, guest speaker Mark Diesendorf came to talk for the Global Cities and the Policy Issues class. Diesendorf has his PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics and is a leading researcher on the sustainable future of Australia. Currently he is a professor at the University of New South Wales, and he has published several books and countless articles on sustainability. I would personally like to thank Dr. Diesendorf for coming in to speak to the classes as his research was informative and very interesting.

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This house at 58 Myrtle Street in Chippendale is known citywide as the Sustainable House. It is one of the most environmentally friendly houses in Sydney.

Sustainability in Sydney is currently a very hot topic, especially with the fourth re-election of Sydney’s mayor, Clover Moore. Clover Moore has created a campaign surrounding sustainability: Green by 2030. Right now, Australia is heavily being affected by global climate change, yet this idea is refuted by many Australians who claim it as just "the national weather". However, one of the country’s landmarks, The Great Barrier Reef, is being bleached between the acidity of carbon dioxide diffused in the water and the warmer water surrounding the reef. In addition, Australia already lacks an ozone, meaning that the UV rays from the sun burn much more intensely. Many of the uninhabited lands including the outback and the bush are being underutilized; solar panels and wind farms generate a great deal of energy, yet they have not been implemented in these places.

Sydney itself, the largest city in Australia, is pursuing efforts to decrease the burning of fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency, and advancing renewable energy technologies. In Sydney, many forms of renewable energy are being enacted such as wind, solar, thermal, hydro, and bioenergy (wave power is still being developed). Currently, the main sources of energy in Australia are coal, oil, and gas. Through pushes for renewable energy, southern Australia is now using 33% wind power and 6% solar power, with a great (and realistic) goal of using 50% of renewable energy by 2025.

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Depicted in these pictures are solar panel street lights, and bicycles. These solar panels, as small as they are, generate enough power to light each single light, and bicycles are a common mode of transportation that don't produce any carbon emissions!

A major factor influencing renewable energy is Sydney's size. Large cities tend to have heavy pollution, whether it be the air, water, or land. Although the air is relatively clean, the water and land still tend to be polluted here. The implementation of alternative energy could help reduce air pollution, which would in turn reduce respiratory problems, water pollution, and land degradation. Public transportation such as buses and trains use many resources, so finding an alternative fuel for them is in high demand. Because Sydney is a coastal city it is ideal for wind farms. As of now, 33% of energy can be obtained from wind, but if more wind farms were built, more energy could be harvested. This is a more desirable option because it is cheaper. Currently, 1.5M out of 9M households have solar panels. Once again, they are being underutilized because they are more expensive. With a few years of research and development these should be getting much cheaper. This option is more desirable in terms of landspace because the panels do not have to go on the ground where they could take up valuable farm area, but instead would be ideal for Sydney because they can go on the roofs of buildings.

There is still much controversy about the efficacy of renewable energy in Sydney. Will it last, is it dependable, is the technology mature enough, and how will it affect the environment? Because of these questions, the public is hesitant and the government is unwilling. Overall, Sydney is developing into a green city, as about 40% of energy is attainable from renewable resources. With further progress and advancement of technology, Sydney may eventually get to 100%. However, politics are still playing a very impactful role in this subject, which may deter efforts. Sincerely, a huge thank you goes out to Mark Diesendorf for enlightening the class on such a current and hot topic in Australia. He has done a great deal of research in his time and very educated about the sustainable future.

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In Central Park, the view is mostly these big buildings, but in the top left corner, the whole platform is made of solar panels for the building. Otherwise, all of the immediate buildings have all window sides, to help reduce the use of electricity.

Recycle, turn your lights off, and turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth!  

Matt Benczkowski

Thanks Matthew!

Matthew's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned. 

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Official Bloggers and Vloggers