Energy migrants, low-impact heroes, and a call to action. What does an alternative energy future look like? How will we respond to an influx of people fleeing crippling energy bills or seeking work in a booming renewables sector? What sorts of headlines will dominate our current affairs coverage? Who will be rewarded for their low-carbon lifestyle?
Wicked Thinking is a newsletter about alternative social futures. It is a digest of ideas, stories and provocations about some of the world's big challenges and how we might think about them differently to create a better tomorrow.
In this issue
Welcome to our prototype speculative news newsletter.
- News / Queensland shuts borders to energy migrants
- Covers / Power, romance and identy in an era of energy scarcity
- News / Power mandate slashes energy use
- Life / Sustainability hero awarded
- What is Wicked Thinking / Join the movement
Queensland shuts borders to energy migrants
MACKAY, July 2029 – Queensland has shut its borders in an effort to stem a growing housing crisis.
Energy migrants are being blamed for an acute shortage of accommodation in north Queensland and warnings of an explosion in homelessness.
The residential vacancy rate in the region fell to 0.1 per cent in June, the lowest level since 2009. Meanwhile, caravan parks in Mackay, Rockhampton and Townsville are fully booked and the government has closed the social housing waitlists.
A sustained increase in interstate migration has been blamed for the crisis as people flee crippling energy bills in southern states and seek work in Queensland’s booming renewable energy sector.
A government spokesperson said the closure was temporary and non-Queensland residents would soon be able to enter the state on 30-day tourist visas.
“We are limiting migration while we revise housing policy across the state. Very soon we will revolutionise housing just as we have energy.”
Sharon Jackson, an engineer from Melbourne who has living in a caravan on the outskirts of Mackay for three months, said she was excited by the promise of a renewable energy future and that she was confident new housing would be available soon.
Last month bulldozers cleared 100 hectares of bushland south of the city to make way for a new, high-density, energy-passive, luxury housing estate.
Find out more
- Power pain: an investigation of energy stress in Australia, Brotherhood of St Laurence
- Queensland’s renewable energy plan confirms the politics of coal have changed for good, The Guardian
In any given era, the issues that dominate newsstands have a persistent impact on our social fabric. In this series, Caroline Graham imagines a future in which energy becomes a central force in how we relate to each other. How might energy cost, scarcity and inequity might influence notions of power, romance and identity?
Power mandate slashes energy use
SYDNEY 2025 – Australian households have slashed energy use by almost 10 per cent in the past 12 months.
Last year, the federal government strengthened intervention in the energy market by mandating energy caps and hefty fines if domestic and commercial use did not fall significantly.
The policy aimed to achieve parity between national energy consumption and renewable production capacity by 2030.
The controversial policy was heavily criticised by the resources sector, which declared the move an act of war that would effectively destroy businesses, which were already under pressure from price caps introduced in 2022.
Exports of coal and LNG have increased by 20 per cent in the past three years.
A spokesperson for the Energy Minister said today’s data were encouraging and the government was confident of meeting the 2030 target.
“All those subsidies we used to give the oil and gas companies are now going into renewable energy projects and developing low-power appliances. I love my new low-watt kettle. The extra time it takes to boil makes me appreciate my tea more.
Find out more
- Australian fossil fuel subsidies surge to $11.6 billion in 2021-22, The Australia Institute
- How Europe can protect the poor from surging energy prices, IMF Blog
Sustainability hero awarded
BRISBANE, January 2025 – Sustainability Champions Queensland (SCQ) last month named Richard Gormenston winner of the 2024 Lowest Carbon Footprint award.
After a state-wide search, Richard’s carbon footprint was deemed to be the lowest among in Queensland's 3.5 million adults. The retired golf club cashier lives alone in Claremont in Central Queensland. He drives a 1979 V6 diesel Toyota Landcruiser, which averages 27 litres per 100km fuel economy but he has only left the town once in the past 10 years. That trip was to Emerald, where he replaced his 40-year-old analogue television with a digital model.
Richard's lifestyle has an exceptionally low carbon footprint. He walks to work and only drives his Landcruiser, short distances less than once per week. He does not heat or cool his house, hangs his washing on a line, doesn't iron and stores very little food. He hunts rabbits, grows vegetables and keeps chickens for eggs.
Richard has owned his Landcruiser for 43 years, has not renovated his house and has never caught a plane.
But Richard is no climate champion. He derides the "woke left" agenda that he sees in infiltrating regional Queensland and is insulted by the award.
"The climate has been changing since the dinosaurs. Scientists can’t even get the weather forecast right.
"My father was a proud coal miner. One of the people who built the foundations of this great country. He would be turning in his grave if he knew we’re now trying to keep coal in the ground and instead importing solar panels from China.
"You can all piss off back to Brisbane in your electric vehicle”.
What is Wicked Thinking?
Wicked Thinking is a newsletter about alternative social futures.
It is a digest of ideas, stories and provocations about some of the world's big challenges and how we might think about them differently.
As trust in institutions erodes and the scale and complexity of problems increase, we need creative, radical ideas about how to respond.
We need wicked thinking.
Each issue of Wicked Thinking contains stories, ideas and provocations designed to help collectively imagine alternative futures.
Some of our speculative futures are utopian, some are dystopian, and some are mundane. Our aim is to think about what might be and what we can do today to create a better tomorrow.
Read our manifesto.
- Skye Doherty
- Steven Snow
- Caroline Graham
- Katie Cassidy