Systemic shock chance to reboot reliance

The twin shocks of bushfire and COVID-19 bring regional self-reliance or lack thereof into sharp focus.

Any shock to a system exposes its weaknesses - from the personal to the planetary.

Part of effectively processing that shock is thinking about how to make a system more robust.

Repeating the same mistakes is not just practical folly - it's bad for our collective mental health. Fail to learn, fail to thrive.

In summer, when the highways were closed for so long, basic needs ran low.

We had a short-lived, but paralysing taste of the daily reality for developing and war-torn nations - fuel shortages, blackouts, communication breakdown, long queues for necessities, ever-present fear and the desperate need to know the whereabouts of loved ones.

Solar panels and electric vehicles never looked so good.

When the virus lockdown loomed, we saw hoarding and irrational panic - which soon gave way to genuine shortages and justified anxiety.

Our coastal tourism industries have suffered from both crises.

On the micro level, households with well-stocked pantries, resilient relationships and secure incomes have weathered the storms better than those living hand-to-mouth, in violent situations and penury.

On the macro level, we must consider that same "well-stocked pantry" analogy for our regional economies.

What can our coastal towns do to be less reliant on the tourism dollar?

The "hungry gap" between Easter and the October long weekend always tested the tourism industry and pushed employees onto the dole queue.

Five months into 2020, the "hungry gap" is a gaping hole.

This is not an argument for rabid self-sufficiency, an inward-gazing, parochial return to a world without trade, where everything we need is made in our backyard. Nor is it an argument for a medieval turning away of "strangers" from our towns.

We need them, they need us, but it is an argument for not leaning on each other quite so heavily.

It's a great case for spending locally - from surfboards to sandwiches.

It is an argument for a clear look at what we can do ourselves - such as a resilient, local fresh food supply - and customers who back growers in good seasons and bad.