Regional futures in crisis: lived experience and the generative role of intermediaries
As society responds to climate extremity and the COVID-19 pandemic, and as decarbonisation transforms the economy, regions will bear much of the adjustment burden. Powerful forces are re-imagining and reassembling regions, with investment in infrastructure, rare earth minerals mining and processing, green energy and battery hubs, and sovereign manufacturing capacity. While large-scale projects promise employment opportunities, transitions are unlikely to proceed smoothly–for workers, regions, or the environment. Moreover, they risk concentrating corporate power and sectoral dependencies, with limited community participation in decision-making, and amplified socio-spatial and environmental injustices. Unconvinced of the resilience contributions of such projects amidst profound climatic, geopolitical and health disruptions, this paper shifts the focus to qualitative conditions on the ground. Foregrounded are the lived experience of crises, vernacular initiatives to address crises in a more participatory, less corporatized, ‘minor’ key, and the critical roles played by intermediary actors and care networks. Amidst upheaval and trauma, regions are witnessing a host of quieter transformations: First Nations fire and land management partnerships; social enterprise formation; care practices among skilled agricultural and industrial workers; prosaic disaster response initiatives; and expanded research capacity in regional universities. Regional relationships, and the intermediary networks that sustain them, will prove vital in crisis. Beyond viewing future opportunities for regional Australia principally through large-scale infrastructural projects, planning has a distinctive role to play in mediating quotidian conditions of disruption, nurturing active, durable, and meaningful bonds between diverse regional communities, industries, and institutions.
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