This one-day meeting in London will provide an opportunity to take part in the rising global-to-local movement and to discuss the strategies required to move away from a corporate-led growth economy towards diverse local economies in serviceof people and planet.
There will be news of inspiring initiatives worldwide aimed at resisting global trade treaties and reclaiming our communities, cultures and natural environment. Meet others who care about democracy, social justice, fulfilling and dignified livelihoods, nutritious fresh food, meaningful education and about passing on a healthy and diverse environment to our children.
Speakers include Helena Norberg-Hodge, James Skinner, Molly Scott Cato, and Rupert Read (read more about the speakers here). The short version of The Economics of Happiness will be screened, and the event will include world café brainstorming sessions.
This new cross-cultural network of groups and individuals focusses on resistance, renewal, and radically new visions of development and progress.
The response has exceeded IAL’s most optimistic expectations. In less than two months, individuals from 28 different countries have joined. These include farmers, teachers, builders, community organizers, environmental stewards, peace activists, homesteaders, students, health workers, business consultants, writers, engineers, artists, radio producers, researchers, and more.
Many organizations have also signed up: groups focused on social justice, ecological restoration, spiritual values, sustainable food and farming, holistic education, and policy research and advocacy. Among these are:
Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (India);
Digo Bikas Institute (Nepal);
Localize West Midlands (UK);
The Sustainability Institute and
Greyton Transition Town (South Africa);
Noakhali Rural Development Society (Bangladesh);
Centre for Global Justice (Mexico/USA);
Gaia Education (UK);
Holy Cross International Justice Office (USA);
Small Farm Training Center (USA), and many more.
This broad-based interest in the IAL shows that people worldwide are beginning to recognize that localization is a viable strategy for positive change on a global level.
Next: March 30th fourth webinar in the Global to Local Webinar Series: Debt and Speculation in the Global Economy, with Helena Norberg-Hodge and Charles Eisenstein
A notable omission from Localise West Midlands’ extensive range of articles about, or with references to localism, is a review of a book bySimon Jenkins:Big Bang Localism: a rescue plan for British democracy.
In this book he attributes the decline in British voter interest and participation to the over-centralisation of power in Whitehall, ‘one of the most centralised governments in the West’. As turnouts in elections are dwindling, he notes, many are turning to ad hoc pressure groups and direct action.
Centralisation has not worked well, Jenkins believes; levels of satisfaction with health care, education and policing are lower in Britain than almost anywhere in the developed world. He notes a change in public opinion which once, on the whole, believed that the British government works well and is now shifting to a belief that it needs improving, citing contemporary YouGov polls showing a rise in discontent with public services and health care
Twelve years later the need to heed Jenkins’ pre Corbyn message has never been greater as the established on the political left and right frantically attempt to discredit and unseat a democratically elected party leader.
He noted that Britain’s local councillors are outnumbered three-to-one by 60,000 unelected people serving on roughly 5,200 local quangos, managing various functions that may be local but are no longer under local democratic control. Examples include health service, housing, prisons, training and economic development.
Jenkins points out that, across Europe, countries have spent the past two decades refreshing their local democracy – even traditionally centralised countries like France have devolved. The USA operates the most decentralised system of government and in these countries, public services are delivered more locally than in Britain – and win greater public trust as a result.
He sets out a programme for a ‘democratic Big Bang’, to return power to the local level, including control over health, police and education services, to re-enfranchise the British people:
Counties and cities should run:
the prison and probation services
youth employment and training
Municipalities and parishes should run whatever gives a community its pride and visual character:
old people’s homes
nurseries and day-care centres
clinics and surgeries
parks and sports centres.
Local services should mostly be funded by local taxation, which should be raised from a combination of:
residential property tax
local income tax.
Jenkins proposes that central government funding of local services should take the form of a block grant, determined by the Local Democracy Commissioner and paid to local authorities with no strings attached.
The “enemies of localism” are vested interests and the national media, but devolution in Scotland and Wales shows that people prefer decisions about local services to be made locally.Simon Jenkins recommends that the Big Bang should start with a “bonfire of central controls” and an end to targets and official league tables, adding “Big Bang Localism is the answer to the failure of Britain’s public services and the loss of faith in British democracy”.
In 2012 Plymouth’s co-operative city council established a Low Carbon City Team, which helped to identify the city’s potential for community energy solutions and forge partnerships. The council funded pre-development, initial community engagement and business plan development.
Marie-Claire Kidd reportsthat Plymouth’s energy future is changing. PEC Renewables launched its first share offer in February 2014. It closed after seven weeks, oversubscribed at £602,000, with 144 investor members, around half of them local. This enabled it to install free solar photovoltaics on 18 schools and three community buildings between May and November 2014.
The installations, which collectively represent 0.78 megawatts, are now generating half-price electricity for their community building hosts. Surplus electricity is sold to the grid. The bencom also receives income in the form of a government subsidy, via the Feed-in Tariff.
PEC Renewables launched its second community share offer this February, this time with a £950,000 target. It will fund more free solar photovoltaics, and bring the bencom’s community fund to more than £1.2m. It is forecasting a return of up to 6% for members, which rises to 10.5% including tax relief. The offer, which closes on 5 May, has already raised £510,000.
Plymouth’s largest solar roof will be installed on Plymouth Life Centre, a diving centre and one of the busiest leisure centres in the country, and there will be solar panels on four more schools, bringing the total to 1.3MW. (Above: panels on Midland House, a Plymouth council office)
Plymouth has 11,500 households in fuel poverty – 10% of its population – and an energy-inefficient housing stock. The city council has produced a plan to reduce emissions from the council estate by 20% by 2015 and reduce citywide emissions by 30% by 2020.
One of its main aims is to help local people to understand their energy options, so it is promoting grant schemes for free cavity and loft insulation and subsidised external wall insulation, offering savings of around £260 per household per year. It has also provided energy tariff advice for over 600 households, offering average savings of £180 per year.
PEC Renewables’ community fund is being used to tackle the challenges of rising energy costs, fuel poverty and climate change. Projects include PEC’s fuel debt advice service, which has helped local residents clear £55,000 of energy bill arrears in the last 10 months, and its energy team, which trains volunteers to provide free home energy advice to at-risk households.
Speakers from around the world will be covering a range of interconnected topics – local food, technology, healthcare, local business, indigenous rights, environmental justice and much more. Workshops include:
envisioning local learning;
local community self-governance: the next step towards an economics of happiness;
taking the 10-day local food challenge: how local can we go?
open power: electoral reform & the open source toolkit;
the terroir economy;
how to run an offers and needs market;
animating the commons;
hard to swallow: race, class and gender in the food system;
the climate agent of change;
the eloquence of stones: excursions into the remarkable vibrancy of things, and
towards a caring economy: communities that nurture young and old.
The new International Alliance for Localization (IAL) aims to connect a growing network of individuals and organizations dedicated to exploring new approaches to today’s ecological, social, and economic expanding international dialogue and exchange. It will provide a forum for cross-cultural support and collaboration and have the potential to be a united and powerful force for positive international change.
Its alternative to our multiple crises? Localisation. Rebuilding local economies is a solution multiplier—tackling our most pressing environmental, social and economic crises, while creating the conditions for increased wellbeing.
The official public launch of the IAL will take place on November 8th in New York City in the Great Hall of the Cooper Union, which has been a bastion of free speech and a witness to the flow of history and ideas for more than a century – a platform for some of the earliest workers’ rights campaigns and for the birth of the NAACP, the women’s suffrage movement.
It will be a day of thought-provoking and constructive talks on our multiple crises and how we can solve them.
Check the website for more information about topics and the roster of international speakers, including Chris Hedges, Laura Flanders, Charles Eisenstein, Michael Shuman, Manish Jain, Bayo Akomolafe, Judy Wicks and Helena Norberg-Hodge. Registerbefore Sept. 20th for discounted early bird tickets. Ticket prices include membership to the IAL. Scholarships are also available. For more info please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are around 330,000 allotment plots in the UK, covering more than 8000 hectares and demand is growing, with more than 90,000 people currently on allotment waiting lists in the UK.
Findings of a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology
Soils under Britain’s allotments are significantly healthier than intensively farmed soils.
By growing on a small-scale in urban areas, it is possible to produce food sustainably without damaging the soil.
Science Daily reports that ecologist Dr Jill Edmondson from the University of Sheffield took soil samples from 27 plots on 15 allotment sites, local parks, gardens across the city of Leicester and surrounding agricultural land. She measured a range of soil properties, including soil organic carbon levels, total nitrogen, and the ratio between carbon and nitrogen (all directly related to the amount and quality of organic matter in the soil) as well as soil bulk density, an indicator of soil compaction.
Intensive farming often results in significant declines in soil organic carbon stocks, as well as reducing the ability of soils to store water and nutrients, and damaging soil structure, on which food production — and other services such as carbon storage, flood mitigation and locking up pollutants — depends.
Compared with local arable fields, the allotment soil was significantly healthier: allotment soil had 32% more organic carbon, 36% higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, 25% higher nitrogen, and was significantly less compacted. Dr Edmondson says:
“We found remarkable differences in soil quality between allotments and arable fields. Our study shows how effectively own-growers manage soils, and it demonstrates how much modern agricultural practices damage soils.
“Allotment holders are able to produce good food yields without sacrificing soil quality because they use sustainable management techniques. 95% of allotment holders compost their allotment waste, so they recycle nutrients and carbon back to their soil more effectively.
“An estimated 800 million city dwellers across the world participate in urban food production, which makes a vital contribution to food security. Our results suggest that in order to protect our soils, planning and policy making should promote urban own-growing rather than further intensification of conventional agriculture as a more sustainable way of meeting increasing food demand.
“Using urban land, including domestic gardens, allotments and community gardens for own-growing is an important and often overlooked way of increasing productivity whilst also reconnecting urban dwellers with food production.
“As well as improving food security, studies show that own-growing has direct physical and mental health benefits, and can provide access to sustainably produced fruit and vegetable crops without the associated food miles.”
As a result of the findings, the authors say that planners and policy makers should increase the number of allotments available.
Jill L. Edmondson, Zoe G. Davies, Kevin J. Gaston, Jonathan R. Leake. Urban cultivation in allotments maintains soil qualities adversely affected by conventional agriculture. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12254– gives link to pdf.
Anna Watson’s Localise West Midlands blog about The Green Economy and Local Job Creation, reported that – as the oil supply peaks – the innovation, manufacture, marketing and repairing of products will become more economic at a local level. Small scale, sustainable employment opportunities will be created, encouraging local resourcefulness and a thriving local economy.
A set of Grade II listed buildings, “The Old Print Works” on Moseley Rd, Balsall Heath, opposite the fine Edwardian Moseley Road Baths and Library, offers a historic, but versatile, low-carbon and fun space in the heart of Balsall Heath that gives a vibrant community endless reasons to meet, learn, collaborate and grow:
“For people who want to sustain themselves and their community by learning, using and sharing practical knowledge and making-skills, we provide a unique and beautiful space of local significance, with a creative and welcoming atmosphere that enables everyone to be more self-sufficient and resilient.”
Only two miles from the city centre on the A435, one of Birmingham’s best bus routes, the Old Print Works provides work-space, including studios and workshops, at a modest rent.
At the rear, tenants’ shared resources include gallery and exhibition space, a reception area, parking space and an attractive courtyard.
Pottery, textiles and furniture are produced there. Services include metal-welding, music tuition, photography courses, compressor repairs, wood and metal workshop for children, see http://www.oldprintworks.org/makers/.