1977-84 THE NEW MILLWRIGHTS Possibly the first sustainability group to form in Canberra

Around the mid 1970s there had been a scare about oil supplies from the Middle East and everybody was suddenly aware of significant rises in cost of oil and its derivatives. Many houses were heated by oil at that time and owners became interested in how to build or retrofit their houses more effectively to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels. This led me to start a new ‘green’ movement around 1978 which was logically called “The New Millwrights” as we had our meetings in my office and put on an exhibition in the first floor space of the Mill based on how to achieve a lower energy lifestyle.

Others in the group were Tone Wheeler (architect), Alan Langworthy (engineer), Arthur Davies (elect.engr.), Moses Reid and Pam Cahill, Russel Wombey (architect) and me. We gave a series of lectures at the Griffin Centre around 1978 and about 100 people regularly turned up for 10 weeks to listen to us talk about photovoltaics, insulation, mass etc. I think we made a good impression in many minds but we were a bit in advance of our time. We lasted about 7 years but gradually drifted apart to resume our careers – I was also busy around 1979 designing furniture and sculpting a coat of arms for the High Court of Australia, finishing my experimental solar house at Little Burra and starting my new social design movement Technical Aid to the Disabled (ACT) in 1979, so I was rather busy.

Nevertheless, our prognostications made around 1978 have now (as I write some 38 years later in 2016) are coming true. We have just hit the 400ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere which is predicted to continue rising unless all countries take urgent action to restrict the use of fossil fuels and encourage the use of renewable energies.