“I’m passionate about inter-related systems, which is what Venice has, because it’s a city built in a lagoon: it was built on the ocean pretty much,” Tyson says.
“It had its boom and bust economically and socially, and is now like this floating Disney theme park with more tourists than locals visiting every day.”
Venice is also a dire warning about the effects of climate change, with flooding becoming more frequent and severe in recent years.
Although Venice is a different climate to Cairns or Townsville, there are parallels in the way these cities are experiencing climate change.
“Townsville, as a coastal city, emits CO2. We contribute to climate change and we’re going to be experiencing the effects of global warming. Events like heat waves will become more regular and more intense,” Tyson says.
A surprising lack of action
Despite the water literally lapping at the feet of Venetians, the city is doing little to fight climate change, according to Tyson.
“Flooding is happening more frequently, and to a more intense scale, not to mention that the sea level is also rising slowly. They’re experiencing a gradual inundation with intense flooding. It’s the repercussions of global warming,” he says.
“What stood out to me is that they actually aren’t taking any actions to address their contribution to this global issue.
“For example, it’s illegal to put solar panels on the roofs in Venice, because they’re obsessed with retaining their cultural heritage to keep tourism booming. But that cultural heritage won’t mean anything when the city is underwater.”
Compared to Venice, Townsville’s approach to adapting to — and preventing — climate change is advanced.
“I think Townsville is doing well in leading the way. I think places like Venice should look to smaller regional towns like us. If we can do it, they can too,” Tyson says.
“We’ve got massive movements of adapting to our climate, like painting our roofs white. We’ve got a relatively good uptake of solar.”
Townsville also makes better use of its environment, like maintaining sand dunes to preserve the coast line, as opposed to the brick walls employed in Venice.
While Tyson’s passion for sustainability shaped his experience, Meredith’s background in business, her previous occupation before starting her Masters in Planning and Urban Design, shaped hers.
“The things that you're exposed to and lessons learned were way more than what I was expecting to get out of the trip,” she said. “I thought it was just going be an awesome holiday with a little junket of study, but the study was one of the highlights of the trip.”