No doubt we have all now heard how Gippsland’s Hazelwood power station in the LaTrobe Valley, producer of up to 25% of Victoria’s base load electricity – burning dirty brown coal – will most certainly be closed under a carbon tax regime.
Have you also heard that the United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives in recognition of how co-operatives – often community-based – help socio-economic development, work to reduce poverty, generate employment and work on social integration?
The broader Gippsland community is in the process of developing the Earthworker Co-operative to address environmental concerns and community disruption if/when power stations in the Valley are closed. Individuals are also ‘acting differently’…
12 months ago at a Carbon Innovators Network event in Traralgon, in the LaTrobe Valley, Paul Gilding, activist and social entrepreneur for 35 years stated that climate change itself is not the issue. He said:
“It is a symptom of our addiction to quantitative economic growth…
We are at the limits of our resources, using the equivalent of 1.2 -1.3 earths to feed our current economy and with projected economic growth of 300% as well as a rapidly growing population, this could mean approximately 15-30 earths would be required…
We have 3 choices:
1. To not change – which is our current strategy of conference after conference of indecision and lack of real actions being taken – which will result in the system crashing.
2. Stopping economic growth including leaving those that are poor to continue suffering.
3. Change the nature of and the way we run our economy – and this isn’t just about efficiency – its doing things completely differently.
Option 3 is our only way… though it often takes a crisis in order for quick change to occur, e.g. World Wars 1 and 2…
It is individuals and communities that do and will need to lead the way though and you can only expect governments and business to follow. Therefore there is a need for communities to be more empowered. “
1. A Motel Business Measuring Resource Usage
Liam Henderson of VECCI’s (Grow Me The Money) and Kevin Campbell, Manager, Century Inn Motel, Traralgon began their relationship through the Grow Me The Money program, a business sustainability program for small to medium businesses – in particular, a ‘Resource Efficiency Workshop’ in Traralgon.
After learning the importance of measuring our resource use, Kevin began to look at the motel’s water bills and noticed there had been a spike in usage. There was a massive water leak accounting for approximately 40% of their water use or approximately $7000 per quarter. This was promptly fixed and the incident encouraged Kevin to implement further measures to reduce the motel’s footprint, such as sensor lighting, flow restrictors and the recycling of food waste.
Century Inn built a new wing which doubled the number of rooms they had and by using environmentally sensitive design, they have only increased their overall electricity bills by 10%. Importantly, apart from the financial and environmental benefits gained Century Inn has generated a
‘cultural shift amongst staff who now feel empowered to act for the environment and take this home as well.’
The Earthworker Cooperative aims to establish the Eureka’s Future Workers Cooperative – the first of many manufacturing Cooperatives making renewables in Australia. They launched their 100,000 Australians Campaign last week in Morwell – $2.00 from 100,000 supporters – raising $2 million to start their plant/project.
Over sixty community organisations and every shire council in Gippsland support the Eureka’s Future Workers Cooperative project, through the Gippsland Climate Change Network.
Eureka’s Future will manufacture Solar Hot Water (SHW) systems. The Gippsland Trades and Labour Council says:
“Using the Everlast factory in Dandenong as a model, the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association’s (ESEA) first factory, ‘Eureka’s Future’, will need 12 staff members to manufacture the tank alone. However in the early days of the Earthworker Project, most jobs will be created in the installation…
Establishing a small manufacturing facility and generating more local interest in installing solar hot water systems will therefore result in around 30 – 40 new jobs. Making this initiative a success will then provide the enterprise with the experience to expand into a diverse range of sustainability manufacturing and installation initiatives, resulting in more job creation..
The unit we will produce is the Everlast tank, solar collectors and associated components, a unit which is already successful in the marketplace.
The plan is to start with, but not be limited to:
* Manufacturing Jobs linked to environmental sustainability.
* Providing jobs which never leave our shores because they are owned by union-supported Social Enterprises, affiliated to the ESEA.
* Manufacture of Solar Hot Water Units – 26% of the household bill.
* Organising for deferred payment either through a person’s Energy Bill, their EBA or Superannuation.
* Ultimately diversifying into manufacture of the full range of green technologies (see below).
* While the majority of profit will advance the Social Enterprises, we will seek to always insure that some profits are used towards the elimination of youth homelessness and the waiting list for our elderly in hospital, dental, optical, and for other social justice responsibilities. We intend to take our communities with us.
The cooperative aims to address both the pending environmental overload and the economic issues arising from it, based on development and implementation of new technologies for energy production. It provides a regional context, at the heart of the power generation economy in the LaTrobe Valley, for staged redeployment of a workforce.”
You can view details of the development at http://www.earthworker.org/
Earthworker Cooperative has a finance arm, Earthworker Finance, which is an account managed by MECU. As the social sector and its factories grow in numbers, Superannuation Funds will be invited to partner with Earthworker Finance to provide the critical mass of social capital required for a successful and powerful social sector of the Australian economy, based on the manufacture of our renewable energy needs.
Although there is a well-thought through business plan, community support, plus support expressed by Ministers and elected representatives across the ‘parliamentary divide, there has been a dismal response from Government.
There is an impasse because the entity does not yet exist, Eureka’s Future does not meet ‘the desired criteria’, AND as the project has no money to fund applications, so bureaucracies are unwilling to fund it.
After the many years work in building a critical mass of community support in order to win support from governments, the co-op is now turning directly to the people.
They are aiming for a minimum of 100,000 people from around Australia, as a membership base of the Earthworker Cooperative. From there they will approach governments, superannuation funds and others with the view to the larger sums we will need in order to reinvigorate and develop the social sector of the Australian economy around the manufacture of renewables.
Good luck to a great initiative