Towards a localised future: the rising global-to-local movement

A New Economy Convergence

helena

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 service of 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.

 

Saturday, September 17th, 2016 9.00 am to 5.00 pm

Friends House 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ (use Garden entrance)

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Tickets: £20 for a standard ticket; £15 for concessions. Full scholarships also available upon application; please email info@localfutures.org.

Book Tickets

 

 

 

Update 2: International Alliance for Localisation

ial footer

In December this blog reported that Local Futures has gathered a cross-cultural, North-South network of thinkers, activists and NGOs – the International Alliance for Localization (IAL). It already has members from over 30 countries and Localise West Midlands is one of the member organisations.

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.

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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

Localism: a rescue plan for British democracy

A notable omission from Localise West Midlands’ extensive range of articles about, or with references to localism, is a review of a book by Simon Jenkins: Big Bang Localism: a rescue plan for British democracy.

big bang localismIn 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:

  • health services
  • secondary schools
  • policing
  • the prison and probation services
  • youth employment and training
  • planning.

Municipalities and parishes should run whatever gives a community its pride and visual character:

  • primary schools
  • 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
  • business rates
  • 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”.

Community energy solutions: Plymouth

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.

plymouth bencom header

In 2013 it joined forces with local residents to form Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) which then set up a second Industrial & Provident community benefit society (Bencom), PEC Renewables, to fund and manage renewable energy installations. PEC has 850 members, 95% of whom are local residents, and the number is rising, with more joining as the current share offer progresses.

Marie-Claire Kidd reports that 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.

pec investors

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.

midland house council offices plymouth

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.

 

To learn about Plymouth’s plans for the future, read Ms Kidd’s article.

International localisers meet in person or via Facebook

eoh conf portland

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.

Regular price tickets are on sale until February 9th.

Low income and student tickets and scholarships are available.

Or invite your friends on Facebookand watch for the videos, which will be posted online after the conference.

The launch of the International Alliance for Localization

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.

great hall cooper union

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.

voices of hope graphicIt 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. Register before Sept. 20th for discounted early bird tickets. Ticket prices include membership to the IAL. Scholarships are also available. For more info please email: nyc@theeconomicsofhappiness.org

 

 

Research findings: allotments have good food yields without sacrificing soil quality

Fruit growing on Hall Green allotment
Fruit growing on Hall Green allotment

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:

University of Reading study
University of Reading study

“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.

Vegetables growing on Hall Green allotment
Vegetables growing on Hall Green allotment

“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.

 

The University of Reading studies of soil erosion on farmland: see picture above left and http://www.ecifm.rdg.ac.uk/erosion.htm

Should R. Vijayaraghavan’s proposals be implemented here?

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In the Financial Times he writes:

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“India needs a government that views its youthful population (more than 50% under 25) as a strength and not just as more mouths to feed!

“It needs to craft an original economic policy suitable for its labour-rich economy and not merely adapt the western model more suitable for capital-rich countries.

“It needs to educate and empower more of its population to adopt a self-employment strategy in trade and services, rather than hoping for “jobs” to follow foreign investment.

“It needs to defang the petty bureaucracy that hobbles its people. It needs a different set of tools to do all that. Just a new broom won’t do”.

 

Ed: A new set of tools may be acquired from several quarters, including Localise West Midlands, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics.

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Enterprise in Balsall Heath: creating opportunities at local level

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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.  

Ort-Cafe-300x249A 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.”

oldprintworks[2]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/.

ORT Arts & Community Café

ORT cafe

A reader writes: “I was there on Saturday night for a Celebrating Sanctuary gig. Such a good addition to Balsall Heath!”

Ort logoEarlier events have included a meeting with Positive Money and a debate/discussion on the subject of elected mayors.

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Wednesday 13th March: Stubbs  Exhibition, http://ortcafe.co.uk/?p=2386

Ort stubbs gallery

Learn more about Birmingham’s Green Commission at the Locanta on Tuesday

locanta restaurant2

 

Phil Beardmore, independent consultant and member of Localise West Midlands, will introduce the discussion on the new Green Commission.

  • Is this the means to achieve Birmingham’s ambitious energy and environmental targets?
  • Or is it going to be another bureaucratic fudge, failing to face up to the need for decisive leadership?

FOR DETAILS GO TO  http://ourbirmingham.org/?p=2687