Monday, March 2, 2009

Brown vs Green

Leichhardt Council is easily the greenest council in the inner west - if not Sydney. By that, I mean it has the greatest number of councillors from the Greens political party.

Many parts of the Leichhardt Council area though are an absolute eyesore - almost as if Greens have a blind spot when it comes to "brown" issues.

We normally think of "brownfield" sites as former industrial sites that are no longer occupied and which have become severely dilapidated.

When I think of "brown", I think of the "unnatural" or urban environment - large concrete storm water drains, concrete or tarmac roads, concrete or steel bridges, concrete footpaths, brick or concrete walls, metal substations, metal pipelines, wooden fences, metal street light poles, metal control boxes for traffic lights, the glass of shop fronts, footpath furniture like metal rubbish bins, sign posts and metal seats. All these make up the "brown" environment - an environment that few people will ever hug. Even fewer will noisily march down George St waving placards and chanting to save this environment (unless it has some heritage value).
If we are to have things like concrete storm water drains cutting through our suburbs, let us at least make them as attractive as possible, rather than ugly, eyeball-searing canvases displaying the uncivilised nature of our least polished residents.

I find it funny that so many Greenies choose to live in the Leichhardt Council area, which has one of the smallest amounts of open green space of any council area in NSW. They choose to live in cramped, brick rabbit hutches with tiny or non-existent yards in the middle of a concrete jungle. By my reckoning, Leichhardt is one of the "brownest" environments around. How odd is that?

The brown environment is the neglected environment. It is the stuff of unloved authorities like Telstra, Australia Post, the RTA, RailCorp and the energy and water companies; and of local government, which many residents profess to hate, or treat as useless.

Many government authorities care little for presentation when it comes to taking care of their assets. So long as a bridge is standing, or a pipe is not leaking, or electricity is flowing along a wire, then all is good. Way down the list of corporate priorities is the idea of having "good looking" infrastructure. Keeping it working is hard enough, and engineers are a notoriously anti-social bunch, not much given to the concept of aesthetics. Beautification is for chicks, and most of these authorities are the last redoubt of the Pauline Hanson-voting blue collar male.

I choose to care about the brown environment because it is the area of the unmentionables. All the trendoids have long joined the green camp, and I don't blame them. Swimming with dolphins is far more pleasurable than swimming with turds.

But someone has to take an interest in it, and it might as well be me.

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