In “Reality Bites”, my brand new series of blogs, I’ll be discussing topical big issues; land-use, suburban poverty, transport, ageing populations, health and obesity as well as the themes from the BMW Guggenheim Lab; sharing, communication, making, technology and making cycling normal. I want to provoke strategic discussions, coffee-time conversations and dinner table debates about these issues in the wake of mass redundancies in the private and public sectors in Queensland and across Australia.
For each theme I’ll be providing five easy, low cost and immediate “steps for success” that we can all discuss, consider or implement to make our lives, our communities and our cities more resilient. Then I’ll start introducing some slightly harder steps, things which might require the support of multiple agencies and finally I’ll be suggesting some really blue sky revolutionary innovations that might just change our cities forever. My friend Carlo Ratti would call this an “Urban Spring”.
“Why are you doing this?” I hear you ask.
Firstly, there are lots of people running around waving their arms with panic or whinging negatively in the comments sections of online newspapers. These ‘bury your head in the sand’ actions don’t help anyone, especially not the people who’ve been made redundant. We need to see this time of uncertainty as a time to seize new opportunities. I say “Forget keep calm and carry on”. I say “Get excited and change things”.
Secondly, every day at the BMW Guggenheim Lab people would ask me “What three steps can I do next week to make my city more….?” or “Where can I get a list of steps to make these changes where I live?” These questions made me realise that lots of people want to know how to get started. So I’m starting with tourism.
I’m no stranger to tourism. I grew up in one of the UK’s most tourism dependent regions and I’ve worked with tourism providers across the UK to develop and implement transport solutions. Tourism, in Australia whether we want to admit it or not, is struggling. The exchange rate and cheap overseas package holidays have led many of us to question the future of tourism. So what are the five easy and immediate steps that we can all be part of to get Queensland – and other hard hit places – back on track?
1. We can “discover what’s on our doorstep”.
I live a 15 minute riverside walk from Newstead House but most of my neighbours have never been there. We can all be part of helping tourism to recover by actually going to visit the tourism attractions right on our doorstep. This week I am going to get the free Brisbane heritage booklet and between now and Christmas we’ll visit as many of these great attractions as possible. What will you do?
2. We can hit the glory button on our computer keyboards
Facebook is free and we can all use it, and other social media, to share stories and photos of great places we’ve visited which will encourage others to go and visit them too. Earlier this year we went to St Helena Island in Redland Bay. Most of my friends, many of whom have lived in Brisbane for their entire lives, didn’t know it existed. As a result of my trip at least 10 friends have now visited too. If we all share stories of places we go, then more people can go to the places we’ve been.
3. We can be a trusted and reliable tourism ambassador
We can all share the knowledge we have because ‘word of mouth’ is the greatest and cheapest source of publicity. We can tell others about places accessible by public transport, activities that are wheelchair accessible or country walks that are stroller friendly. You don’t have to be an expert – you just need to be trusted and reliable. I am happy to share my fantastic ‘car free’ experiences catching the train to Cleveland, getting the bus to the barge and sailing to North Stradbroke Island. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it all links up and moreover it’s fun. Did you know that the island bus service has a bicycle trailer and that the bus driver will even drop you at the Scuba Diving Centre?
4. We can be a ‘Great Days Out’ hero
We can all be organisers of days out where we live or organise a trip to somewhere we’ve always wanted to visit. Websites like Meet-Up or Gumtree (which is free to use) provide the opportunity for anyone and everyone to organise activities.
Amy Saunders and I created Lazy Sunday Cycle a social cycling group aimed at anyone who wants to ride a bicycle for fun with no money and no resources, just a Facebook page. Now more than 400 people follow our groups’ adventures through Brisbane and if 40 people all buy a coffee at an independent café after one of our rides that is a great boost to a small business.
5. We can break the stereotype and be optimistic
We can get together in our communities to help support our local business communities. Imagine if say the business community and the residents of the riverfront suburb of Bulimba got together and created ‘Walking Neighbourhood’ tour itineraries for their suburb? The possibilities and opportunities are endless and some things would cost next to nothing to establish.
And with all that delicious food for thought I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea”.
The next theme is new economics and sharing. Stay tuned!
Reality Bites is a project conceived, created and written by Rachel Smith.