Sitting through a recent meeting of Greater Shepparton City Council without saying a word was exhausting.
Remaining mute as your heart breaks and you weep (metaphorically) is tough, damn tough when everything you know, have heard about from the world’s sharpest thinkers, and what you have read from philosophers, scientists and their ilk, some dead, but most still living, is not even considered when decisions are made about our city’s future.
The responsible men (and women) of our city may have world views and opinions about many things, but those thoughts and ideas are constrained by values, cultural and otherwise, that have solidified in modernity; the past two centuries or so when progressive thinking was about making things bigger and smaller, stronger (not necessarily longer lasting), faster, slicker, and grounded in the belief that growth is the epitome of good.
However, the growth equation has always been fundamentally flawed — endless growth in a finite world is not only impossible, but to pursue it with the enthusiasm that surreptitiously drives our council’s decisions flirts with irresponsibility.
There comes a time, and it is now, when someone, somewhere with influence must declare that the progress as it is commonly understood today is not what we want rather, we should be turning our attention, and our naturally innovative ways to creating and building a Greater Shepparton able to survive and thrive in a century quite unlike anything experienced.
Many good things are happening in Shepparton, and have council’s imprimatur, such as solar farms and pressure on our state government to improve our rail infrastructure, but all things, including our wonderful new Shepparton Art Museum are coloured by the intent that they will add to the city’s growth.
To be fair, many see the new SAM as something that will elevate the city’s cultural climate, but frequently its supporters are forced, sadly, to justify its nearly $40million cost as major plank in Shepparton’s financial future.
It is equally sad, and disappointing when most everything that happens here, and everywhere else for that matter, has its success measured in fiscal terms (growth), when the truly important gauge of something’s value is less tangible, emanating from the heart; the elusive success that is about human happiness.
Most equate happiness with financial growth and the modern understanding of success, but repeated international studies have shown that happiness plateaus at quite a low-level of income, particularly once the basics of life are covered.
Shepparton’s proposed ring-road was on the agenda at the recent meeting (many in the public gallery, armed with signs, came to hear that debate) and although controversial for some, fearing it will injure the amenity of their homes near the suggested route, it is something we need to avoid completely.
A ring-road is an integral part of the fossil-fuelled agenda and rather than entrenching it even more, we need to be imagining ways in which we can create a community, a society, a way of life that further distances us from something that is taking us even closer to the abyss.
Industrial civilisation, one that wants growth, profit and ‘‘more’’ is the antithesis of what we need and sitting silenced through a council meeting would be much more relaxing if discussions were free of the rigidity imposed by the status quo.
Rob McLean is a former News editor.