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Around two hundred people came to the Fitzroy Town Hall on the evening of Thursday 5 March to witness the launch of Livewell Yarra. Following the official launch by Yarra Mayor, Cr Philip Vlahogiannis, there were speeches by Professor Ross Garnaut, author of the Garnaut Climate Change Reviews, and Fiona Armstrong, Founder of the Climate and Health Alliance.

Many of those present signed up to decarb groups that will soon be appearing in neighbourhoods across Yarra. The members of these groups will support each other to reduce their carbon footprints while getting the information and support they need from the broader Livewell organisation.

All three speakers stressed the importance of communities organising to reduce carbon and commended the Livewell initiative.

Cr Vlahogiannis spoke of the Council’s commitment to achieve zero carbon emissions from stationary energy (electricity and gas) in the whole of Yarra – not just Council operations – by 2020.

Ross Garnaut discussed how, if we don’t limit climate change to two degrees, it could spell the end of our civilisation. But on the bright side he described how the price of renewable technologies have come down significantly, making them affordable for many more people, and there has also been an increase in energy efficiency, meaning that energy consumption in Australia sightly declines each year instead of slightly increasing. But he felt strongly that Australia needed a much more ambitious carbon reduction target by 2020 than a 5% reduction on 2000 levels.

Fiona Armstrong highlighted the health and wellbeing benefits of low carbon living. For example, ‘active transport’ (walking, cycling and public transport) improves health through the exercise it provides, and it also promotes incidental social contact and thus strengthens community. On the other hand Fiona pointed out that air pollution (much of it from cars) causes more deaths per year in Australia than car accidents do.

Livewell project leader Rob Salter spoke about how people’s beliefs about the need to reduce carbon didn’t necessarily translate into action. This, he said, was why it was useful to join a group so that members could support and encourage each other to take action.

Livewell doctoral researcher Darren Sharp discussed how the project will be drawing on the ‘assets’ of participants – their skills, knowledge, contacts and passion, or what he refers to as the gifts of the head, heart and hands.

One gift of the heart on the night came in the form of talented young singer-songwriter Jade Alice’s performance of her own composition, Beautiful Earth.

Eyal Halamish was our fabulous MC for the evening and added good humour and energy to the proceedings.

A core team of volunteers who have been planning the Livewell project for the past eight months were on hand to welcome and assist those attending the launch. Some were dressed as ‘Carbon Miranda’, a Livewell variant of Carmen Miranda, the Latin American singer and dancer who was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s.

And the President of Livewell Clusters Inc and event manager for the launch, Gillian Le, was acknowledged and presented with a gift for her efforts in organising the event so well.

Image: Guest speaker Ross Garnaut addresses the crowd of attendees at the Livewell Yarra Launch, in Fitzroy Town Hall

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Livewell started as an action research project funded by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living, delivered through Curtin University and supported by the City of Yarra and Yarra Energy Foundation. Further funding was then provided by the CRC to produce the online Guide to running a ‘Livewell Group’

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