Good Habitat is the name of our working unit created around more connected ways of seeing our surroundings: where we live is a place filled with ideas and answers for better ways; where slowing down and seeing with a fresh eye and listening with a more finely tuned ear allows a heightened sense of the absolute gift of good habitats.
While we acknowledge that unless serious and urgent actions are taken, the beauty, harmony and health of habitats will be degraded even more — and lost forever — we recognise that beyond the anxiety we share with everyone who values these things, there is much enjoyment to be had by living in more direct relationships between home and work and the natural environment. Understanding and exploring the value of these connections and working with them is at the heart of our way of making changes for the better.
Regarding habitat, over the last 200 years in Australia, the predominant view of the world has been that of a place we do things to and take things from. The world has often been understood as a separate entity and the language used to describe it and think about it has been the distancing language of commodities and transactions; a form of distant, disconnected thinking that fails to recognise there are environmental limits to growth.
Another view of the world (perhaps more poetic, definitely more real) is that of a place where the viewer and the world are one-in-the-same. This is a place where we need and desire to think about what we do to it/ourselves and what we take from it/ourselves, and we have a more habitat-aligned sense of lived reality — and the satisfaction we receive and our sense of self worth is less relentlessly, wearingly geared to what we can afford to consume or the number of links we can attract with our online profile.
We have chosen to adopt the more informal and open view of the word habitat. Biodiversity and looking after the natural world are, of course, at the centre of our interests, but our thoughts and concerns extend into the places, as highly urban creatures, we spend so much time in —kitchens and parks, streets and shops, factories and cities, gardens and rooftops — any place that usually surrounds us.
Other ways of seeing cities
One of the attractions of the world’s great cities—even the biggest, fastest, most chaotic—is an ability to slow us down and allow us to see the things we often overlook or underappreciate. Tokyo has its quiet, narrow back streets for riding bicycles and discovering gem-like cafes and little shops. Berlin has its overwhelming sense of history and the ghostly present absences that make it indefinably Berlin.
Cities can be read in many ways. Some of the most interesting and rewarding ways, we think, are through indexes by which cities are not normally assessed: their connections between food and migration, connections between landscape and literature, the intricately woven and highly liveable patterns of residential and commercial structures built up over years of small interactions, the vast worlds hidden within small gestures and modest objects (Tokyo, Mumbai, anywhere), the beauty found within a rich seam of melancholy (Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul), accidental discoveries and accidents of happy chance (all cities) — all things from which new understandings and richer definitions of city emerge.
With nearly 90% of all Australians living in urban areas (towns or cities of more than 1,000 people) and 3 out of every 5 living in one of our capitals, having informed discussions, deeper research and more habitat-aligned projects feels like a good path to take. People are talking about new ways to enhance city living and revisiting some of the old — and support is growing for more critical reflection on what is good and what is not.
Picture: This bridge (the Sachsenbrücke) at the edge of the city centre is a much-liked place to meet friends in Leipzig, Germany. Photo, Good Habitat.