Is a mortgage and a big HECS debt a smart way to go for young people?
David Holmgren, who gained eco-celebrity status for being the co-originator of permaculture, says a lot of youngsters are questioning this nowadays.
"They're savvy about the ridiculousness of getting a mortgage," he said.
They're asking themselves, "what will I do that's sensible for my future".
This will be one of the topics of a booked-out talk that David will give at City Hall in Newcastle on Saturday.
He'll give a presentation called "Aussie Street", which is linked to his new book, Retrosuburbia - The Downshifter's Guide to a Resilient Future.
David said his presentation features "the story of my imaginary Australian street".
"It's dealing with emerging challenges and all the big issues that underpin urban development and suburbia from the 1950s."
His story depicts a second great depression in the near future, following a property-bubble collapse.
Aussie Street focuses on four households that have embraced a "permaculture-inspired, retro-suburban" lifestyle.
"It's about a rebuilding of household and community - a non-monetary economy that allows people to survive and thrive, despite the bad conditions. It's a positive story but set in the context of tough times," he said.
Aussie Street includes things like rainwater tanks, solar panels and passive solar design.
"Food production is a big part of it. Micro-enterprises and exchange between people start up in the street. The big one is people sharing houses," he said.
His Aussie Street story features Moles and Bullies [otherwise known as Coles and Woolies] involved in a government ration program because of food shortages.
"The people in Aussie Street live from farmers' markets and grow-your-own, community-supported agriculture. There's a whole parallel food economy, which is what many of us are striving to develop," he said.
Aussie Street bucks the trend over decades of fewer people per household.
"You've got more people living in the same spaces. Some is extended family, some blended family, some is shared house."
His story encompasses and attracts the "usual environmental suspects", but also "people who are looking to live a better life".
"There's a broad spectrum of motivations, including people seriously worried about debt, housing values and unsustainability at multiple levels of the Australian property market and how that will affect them or their kids," he said.
He said climate change, peak oil and resource depletion would "actually express themselves for ordinary people through economic and financial mechanisms".
"They won't necessarily show up as just climate change disasters and a shortage of fuel at the petrol station. They'd show up first through financial systems.
"Things like the property bubble, which is part of a larger bubble of asset prices around the world that's happened since the GFC [global financial crisis]. It's actually the mechanism by which the world economy didn't just collapse into the second great depression, but it's completely unsustainable.
"It's kicking the can down the road."
He said discussion was needed in the media to "stimulate positive functional responses to what are existential threats to society".
He added that the "steady-as-she-goes solutions" were not "facing up to the urgency of change".
"There's been a lot of difficulty in the climate movement, whether down at the grassroots level or at the top policy level, of actually dealing with that.
"At what point do you say, we're in a climate emergency so we should be behaving like the country did in the second world war, when everything was rationed. You had a command economy like the old Soviet Union. At other levels people are talking about this need for dramatic action, whereas my work is more about empowering people to take things into their own hands in simple, positive ways. But more radical ways than changing the light bulbs and those sort of normal environmental responses."
People were seeking alternatives to being slaves to the consumerist treadmill, which was feeding climate change.
"People are downshifting in this way to live a better life now, rather than being on that treadmill. They're increasing their resilience to future shock. They're also massively reducing their ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions."
A Novocastrian Tibetan
We've just learned that a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile lives in Newcastle. How interesting.
Bet Chinese spies have been keeping an eye on him. [Now they'll be keeping an eye on us! U.S.A all the way, U.S.A all the way. We're kidding. Sort of. Can't Switzerland be in charge? Or Sweden?]
Anyhow, Paul Ashton tells us that he too found it interesting that Logtsang Gyari Thar [known as Gyarik] was living in Newcastle. So he helped organise for him to speak at Between the Lines cafe and gallery at Tighes Hill at 4pm on Sunday.
"I thought the talk and plight of the Tibetans would be particularly relevant given that Hong Kong is going for greater autonomy, and China's effect on areas that wish to retain their cultures and traditions," Paul said.
Gyarik will talk about his life, leaving Tibet to seek exile in India, his life in India and his migration to Australia, along with a book he's written on the history of Tibet. He'll also discuss being a member of the exiled parliament, the role of the Dalai Lama and the so-called "middle way" plan.
As independence is unlikely, the Dalai Lama is seeking to establish an autonomous Tibetan region under the umbrella of the Chinese Communist Party.