Join Local Futures at Earth, Culture, Economy

25th-29th June | Schumacher College, Totnes, UK

 

What would the world look like if humans lived harmoniously with nature rather than creating environmental mayhem?

What strategies can be employed to overcome the entrenched power of big business, big banks, and big government?

We’ll dig into these questions in Earth, Culture, Economy, an open course at Schumacher College led by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Stephan Harding, and Satish Kumar. Our approach will be broad and holistic and we will consider a range of themes from the perspective of both the global North and South, including:

• How to measure real progress • Putting food and farming at the center of the local economy • Tackling climate change through localising trade • The balance between urban and rural • The spiritual and psychological benefits of connecting to nature and community • Healthcare in a life-based economy • Resolving the roots of racial, ethnic and religious conflict • Restoring democracy through localisation

~RESERVE A PLACE~

We also have two other events coming up in the UK this summer:

Localisation, Degrowth, and Wellbeing

An evening of discussion and Q&A with Helena Norberg-Hodge and Jason Hickel

19th June | London, UK

Co-creating Wellbeing Economies

A how-to course on big picture activism

13th-17th July | 42 Acres, Frome, UK

 

These events will present a global perspective on localisation and equip you with practical strategies for supporting genuine social, ecological, and economic renewal wherever you may be. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

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Irish groups seeking to build community resilience

Feasta, which has sent news of a May event, was co-founded 20 years ago by radical economist Richard Douthwaite, known for his creative, inclusive thinking and his belief in the power of discussion to achieve substantive progress. Ed Mayo described one of his books, Short Circuit, as ‘a classic of localisation’:

“Recent extreme weather events in Ireland, international instability and the refugee crisis have focussed many minds on the fragility of the global economy and the vulnerability of ecosystems worldwide. There is an urgent need to build community and resilience on a local level whilst also reinforcing global solidarity and justice.

“Against the backdrop of Afri’s Famine Walk on Saturday 19th, these two innovative events intend to explore some of today’s sustainability challenges in Ireland and globally. This will be done in conversation and through culture, using the Great Famine as a backdrop, reflecting on the policies and politics of famines, and in solidarity with the global justice movement, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, climate action and food sovereignty.

“Partner organisers include Feasta, the justice and human rights NGO Afri, the community resilience NGO Cultivate, a recently formed Irish language group, Teacht Aniar, and Food Sovereignty Ireland.

“A strand in Irish aims to explore ecological parallels in culture, language and resilience – again with a backdrop of the Famine, which is often called an Drochshaol (the bad life). This will be facilitated by Teacht Aniar (which literally means resilience). Beidh fáilte ar leith roimh chainteoiri na teanga, go háirithe muintir na Gaeltachta”.

An evening celebration of Cultural Resilience with further conversation, ceol & craic will take place in Westport from 8 to 11 pm .

Daytime event: Conversations on Cultural Resilience – Famine, Food, Energy & Culture

Date: Friday 18th May 10.30-17.00
Venue: GMIT Castlebar, Co Mayo

 

 

 

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Localise – in New Zealand

Localise  is about sharing ideas, networking creative visionaries, resourcing, providing tools and bringing people together in a collaborative way for the betterment of our community – specifically here in Northland, Aotearoa New Zealand. 

We are trying to achieve community well-being – a combination of economic, social and spiritual factors. A strong social fabric based around shared values and joint responsibility lies at the heart of this. The term ‘economy’ has been co-opted to the pursuit of individualism and materialism – sharing and caring has been forgotten.

Often specialisation and the desire for efficiency has enabled us to forget the reason for an economy – that all in the “household” will be provided for. All we do economically should be filtered in terms of well-being and the sustainability of our community and land for future generations.

Working with others including from Transition Whangarei a discussion document has been developed that proposes a major re-development of the food system for Northland – from producer, to distribution, to processing, to consumer, including collaboration with a wide cross-section of stakeholders. Visit the site to see the Local Food Northland video. Projects include:

Networking Software

Our plan is to develop an interactive database of businesses and organisations in Northland that are rated by their “Local” status – how they rank in terms of local inputs – materials, ownership, financing, energy usage, and other services. This will then be a place to look for people to deal with who wish to promote the idea of keeping resources and ownership local, to build up our community well-being and provide meaningful work for future generations.

Going Local – Ideas for Northland Project

This is about developing a whole paradigm shift away from reliance on the global economy to rebuilding local resilience that then provides a base from which exports and tourism may begin to flourish without jeopardising our natural environment, our communities and the vulnerable. There is a brief summary of the concept on a blog post,  parts in much greater detail are here, and parts are in process via online collaboration.

 We are starting to realise that:

  • The story of infinite GDP growth at any cost equalling a better life for all isn’t working.
  • Cheap abundant energy was a temporary state and our binging is soon to be replaced with a very serious hangover.
  • Adversarial economics harms and collaboration and open-source economics works.
  • As Martin Luther King Jr said, the ultimate measure of a society is how it treats it’s most powerless members.
  • What we pay in terms of currency doesn’t necessarily represent the true cost – “externalised” costs such as exploitive labour and environmental practices sour the sweetness of our imported trinkets.
  • There is a connection between “cheap” imports and the social disasters that occur when our own people have no work, low-wage unskilled work, or having to accrue student debt – still with no guarantee of actual work at the end.
  • We are starting to realise that ta good life cannot be bought – we have gained the world but lost our souls on so many levels.

So let’s learn to focus on what we can change.

What could a more localised future look like?

Go to our blog page to start browsing articles around local Food, Fabrics, Energy, Community, Events, Housing, Engineering and more.

This is an expanding collaborative project so please sign up to receive emails and join us on this journey. We also have a Facebook page.

Join in the conversation on our Slack chat!

We want to join with others interested in our goals to foster diverse and creative ways to facilitate this. Please pass this on to others who may be interested in exploring this. 

 

 

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A fair and sustainable local way of feeding urban communities

Julie Brown, director of Growing Communities’, a trading and wholesaling operation, says her mission is to feed urban communities locally in a way that is fair and sustainable in the face of corporate dominance and climate change.

Two of her suppliers, Martin and Sarah Mackey, grow potatoes and kale, in Kent as tenants on their holding, Ripple Farm. They sell some of their potatoes at local markets for a pound a kilo, about the same as you would pay for the equivalent grade in a high street supermarket. They also Growing Communities which mixes their potatoes with other produce in vegetable box schemes, starting at £7.75 for a week’s supply for one.

In conventional production, the average price for potatoes at the farm gate has been just 11p per kilo recently (less than a fifth of what Brown pays). A large-scale supplier to supermarkets or manufacturing will typically get only this small fraction of the retail price of around £1 per kilo in the shops, with markups along the way for complex transport and logistics systems, processors’ costs, retail margins and executive pay.

Fair price

Julie starts from the position that the price she gives the Mackeys for potatoes must cover their cost of production and enable both of them and their staff to earn a reasonable living. So she pays them 60p per kilo for delivered goods. Her packers are paid the London living wage, the amount the Resolution Foundation calculates is required to cover the real cost of living and in good years, a share of the profits in bonuses.

Pay ratio

One of her organisation’s governing principles is that the pay ratio between top and bottom should be no more than 2:1, so Brown takes a salary of £30,000 a year. Unlike many agency workers supplied to industrial farms to harvest and pack, the workers on Ripple Farm receive holiday pay, sick pay and good protective clothing to keep them warm and dry.

Short supply chain

Her supply chain is short and direct, keeping other costs to a minimum. She also believes her customers should know where the money goes and explains that most of her markup goes into wages. Suppliers like Martin Mackey can plan for and control routes to market, remaining outside the system of supermarket and big manufacturing just-in-time delivery that now accounts for the vast majority of UK production.

Local workers

Large-scale producers say they have to bring in migrants because local people do not want these jobs, especially where they are seasonal, and small wonder. The Mackeys’ business, on the other hand, is arranged so that there is year-round employment five days a week, and a hard stint outdoors in the morning might be balanced by a less arduous indoor job in packing and admin in the afternoon. The work is tough and physically demanding, as agricultural work has always been, but it is not allowed to be crippling. Finding good staff is not always easy but with good pay and conditions, the jobs have been filled by local recruits.

To summarise:

  •  Food is sourced sustainably.
  • Distribution is low carbon
  • Trade is fair, meaning that: farmers are paid a fair price, food is affordable (but not ‘cheap’) and workers are paid living wages

And farms are directly connected to the urban communities they feed: trading and distribution are organised around community-led retail systems which prioritise local and direct sourcing, enabling supply chains to be shortened and communities to source increasing amounts from closer to where they live.

 

 

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Anchoring community wealth

Preston’s skyline: Carl Ji, a Chinese student, at the University of Central Lancashire

Austerity has been devolved to local councils and, perversely, areas with higher levels of poverty have been hit hardest, councils have on average faced 40% cuts in their budgets.

In the face of adversity councils such as Preston have responded by bringing together anchor institutions and working with them to drive through a local programme of economic transformation. The government’s Commission for Employment and Skills defines an ‘anchor institution’ as “one that, alongside its main function, plays a significant and recognised role in a locality by making a strategic contribution to the local economy” and ‘tending’ to be non-profit.

By changing their procurement policies, these anchor institutions were able to drive up spending locally protecting businesses and jobs. They are looking at the council pension fund to see if its investment can support local businesses keeping the money circulating in their town.

A study by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies found that six of the anchor institutions in the area are now spending 18% of their budget in Preston, up from 5% in 2013. So an extra £75 million a year is being spent within the city, with the top 300 local suppliers creating an extra 800 jobs last year alone. And others are watching: Manchester city council has now increased its local spend from 44% of its budget to 70%; Lowestoft and Salford are also interested.

Last year this blog reported that Birmingham City Council was to work with Centre for Local Economic Strategies, with funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust and support from Localise West Midlands, to see how anchor institutions in the non-profit and private sectors, including Birmingham University, Pioneer Housing and the QE hospital, could use their spending power to increase economic opportunities for Birmingham’s communities, businesses and citizens. Read more on the council website here.

In a separate project, Localise West Midlands has been working with the Midland Metropolitan Hospital (under construction, artist’s impression) which will be the closest adult hospital to the centre of Birmingham. The Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust and LWM are partners in Urban Innovative Actions supporting the development of the local economy. The Trust hopes to spend 2% of the new hospital’s annual budget with local suppliers, adding £5-8m to the local economy. It will provide locally sourced meals and the builder has a target of 70% local employment, aiming to source 80% of construction materials locally.

Alice Thomson in The Times pointed out that making a legal requirement that councils buy and hire goods and services locally is banned by EU law at the moment, so it should be noted that the Preston project operates on a voluntary basis.

She commented: “The government should take the idea and encourage it, particularly in hollowed-out market towns where out of town shopping centres have crushed their sense of identity” adding “But (procurement policies) could also be used for more high-profile programmes such as the rebuilding of Big Ben, where the steel has had to come from Brazil, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, or the V&A which showcases Britain’s greatest designs but where the tiles for the new forecourt came from Holland”.

 

 

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A strategic alternative: localised and labour-intensive food production

LWM’s co-founder Colin Hines, in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism, asks: “In a sustainable system, would not each country aim to produce its own staple food? Surpluses and exotics could be exported, speculation in food by unproductive middlemen would be outlawed and vitally important food producers encouraged at every turn”.

He notes that at present, the UK feeds only around 60% of its population of 65 million. The EU was the next largest supplier at 27%. The distribution of UK imports from Europe has changed relatively little over the last 15 years. Other food travels much further: click on the link for a larger picture: http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/A-level/AQA/Year%2012/Food%20supply/Changes%20in%20food%20supply/Food%20Miles%20Britain.png

There is no guarantee that these supplies would continue under the same terms following the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and there are other potential threats, such as drought, floods and/or increased global demand.

A 2007 study ‘Can Britain feed itself?’ by Simon Fairlie estimated that it could, but that the dietary changes would be significant including:

  • far less meat consumption,
  • feeding livestock upon food wastes and residues;
  • returning human sewage to productive land;
  • dispersal of animals on mixed farms and smallholdings,
  • local slaughter and food distribution;
  • managing animals to ensure optimum recuperation of manure;
  • and selecting and managing livestock, especially dairy cows, to be nitrogen providers.

Hines notes that these measures would demand more human labour and a more even dispersal of livestock and humans around the country.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) promotes a global economy which requires agricultural commodities to be transported for long distances, processed and packaged to survive the journey. As global food production and trade probably consume more fossil fuel than any other industrial sector, substantially increasing greenhouse gas emissions and making climate objectives much harder to achieve, i ts Agreement on Agriculture should be superseded by a World Localisation Organisation (WLO), under which all countries would be encouraged to reach maximum self-sufficiency in food.

Trade in food which cannot be grown domestically should be obtained, where feasible, from neighbouring countries. Long-distance trade should be limited to food not available in the region and countries exporting food should use the revenue to increase their own level of food security.

Hines ends by endorsing – as the answer – Tim Lang’s injunctions in the Foreword to the report of the Sustainable Development Commission (above left): calling for significantly less food wastage, more produced from less land and dietary change – eating more plant-based foods, less meat and dairy.

 

 

 

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Cargonomia: shrinking the distance between producers and consumers 

Planet Local, which highlights examples of localization in action all over the planet, is a project of Economics of Happiness/Local Futures/The International Alliance for Localization. In March thumbnail sketches of three ethical local banks were published here.

The local food movement is about growing food and also shrinking the distance between producers and consumers — and a new initiative in Hungary is doing just that.

In Budapest, an organic vegetable farm, a do-it-yourself bicycle cooperative and a self-managed bike delivery company teamed up to create Cargonomia, an urban food distribution hub which uses locally-manufactured cargo bikes to deliver locally-grown food across the entire city. And the project continues to grow: Two local bakeries have joined Cargonomia which now delivers bread across the city as well as vegetables.

Read more about this one-of-a-kind collaboration here. Within the team of partners, there is expertise in designing and constructing different types of cargo bikes and trailers.

It’s a business model which utilises each partner’s strengths: vegetable deliveries from Zsamboki Biokert are coordinated by Kantaa’s distribution experts and made using Cyclonomia’s bikes. In this way, Cargonomia goes beyond ‘local food’ to encompass the entire local economy. It aims to help local food producers: organic food producers, vineries, apiaries.

It hosts a community centre where local residents can borrow, rent, or buy their own cargo bikes, organise or attend activities focusing on the transition to a local-scale economy and events to connect with other social and environmental initiatives in the city.

Localise West Midlands is a member of IAL, a cross-cultural network of thinkers, activists and NGOs from 58 different countries.

 

 

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Localising new-build housing

Architect and writer Clive Aslet (left) writes about a development of 4,000 houses on 500 acres – houses, small apartment blocks, schools, surgeries, mixed income housing, shops, business premises and leisure facilities and green spaces – on the edge of Newquay. There is an emphasis on local labour, materials and procurement.

“How society chooses to house people is every bit as important as how it chooses to feed people,” says Tim Gray, estate surveyor and chief of operations “If you can get those two things right, you will be happier, healthier and better able to engage socially. the ambition is to build community and engender civic pride, to live so that you can meet your daily needs conveniently on foot, not to differentiate between homes of different tenures, and to be connected socially with the adjacent settlements — this should provide good foundations for deciding how the nation should build homes in the future. There really is an alternative.”

Aslet describes a number of features:

  • a core commitment to spend the money in Cornwall, using local labour and materials and a pattern book with typical Cornish vernacular details, e.g. roofs are made from Cornish slate from a nearby quarry
  • The plans include setting up a town farm in some listed buildings to provide food for residents of the development.
  • There will be mixed-use neighbourhoods, in which the car is subservient to the pedestrian.
  • There will be a community orchard, allotments and ‘edible gardens’.
  • Low-cost rented homes are scattered among the more expensive owner-occupied ones 30% of the housing is affordable.

The area has been given a new lease of life. The quarry provides jobs, and so do the builders responsible for the work — all firms are from the southwest, whose work not only requires local labour, but also helps to establish local supply chains. They form what Gray calls a “consortium” a method that ensures the architecture is practical and appropriate for the local market.

Newquay is poor and homes are particularly needed by young people. Judging from conversations with a number of people in their twenties and thirties and young families met in the area, they like the designs, the edible gardens (herbs and fruit bushes are planted next to houses), espaliered pear trees and bee bricks (bricks with holes laid into the eaves of houses to welcome threatened bee populations), they’re all part of the philosophy — as well as local style, local materials and local employment . . . local food.

This is symbolised by the community orchard. seven acres of land that has been turned into allotments. “Trespassers will be composted”, reads one of the signs. Orchard and allotments are visible signs of the local food web that is being encouraged. They’re also somewhere that people from the new housing can meet long-time Newquay residents.

As Tim Gray said, this should provide a good foundation for deciding how the nation should build homes in the future. There really is an alternative: Aslet sees it as the beginning of a movement that made Britain better to live in.

 

 

 

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International Alliance for Localization: Local Futures

In the Times, Ed Conway, economics editor of Sky News, describes problems arising from the complexity of globalisation, ‘the hallmark of 21st-century life’ and the International Alliance for Localization records examples of new modes of development and progress. He concludes: “Globalisation, once a means of boosting everyone’s income, has instead evolved into an excellent vehicle to help the rich get richer”.

The International Alliance for Localization sees that the building of more resilient economies will require a rethinking of the financial system, and its Planet Local series has been turning the spotlight on some inspiring examples of ethical banking:

* In Maine, USA, a local resident with money to invest  is providing nearby small farmers with loans whose interest is paid exclusively in the form of farm products.

* Brazil’s Banco Palmas, governed and managed by residents of the impoverished Palmeiras neighborhood in the city of Fortaleza, has issued a local currency, dramatically shifted spending patterns to keep money circulating locally, and extended basic financial services to people shut out of the mainstream banking system.

* In Croatia, the democratically-owned Ebanka functions as a non-profit bank, in stark contrast to most financial institutions worldwide. Their loans are given without interest, and every member has an equal voice when it comes to voting on big decisions, regardless of the value of their deposit.?

Visit IAL’s growing library of localization initiatives

 LWM is a member of IAL, a cross-cultural network of thinkers, activists and NGOs from 58 different countries.

 

 

 

 

Localising moves in four Eastern European countries

The Romanian parliament has passed a law requiring large retailers with a turnover of 2m euros to allocate a minimum of 51% of existing space for fresh produce to products sourced locally, from a short supply chain.

The law, which came into effect last month, initially stated that products should come only from Romania but had to be amended after Brussels warned that this would be a breach of EU regulation. Under the amended text, Bulgarian and Hungarian products would also qualify as part of a short supply chain.

roamiancoop

French retailer Carrefour has founded an agricultural co-operative in a Romanian village to bring local fresh produce to its shelves. It includes 80 families of producers who own 60 hectares of agricultural land. Carrefour will source 5,000 tonnes of fruit and veg from the local co-op in the village of Varasti.

Through the co-op, which officially launches this month, farmers will be able to scale up production and have a single collection centre. The partnership with Carrefour guarantees them a production plan and price, and means they will receive fast payments for their products.

RetailEU described the legislation as protectionist but added that Romania is not the only country concerned about its local manufacturers; Slovakia  wanted to force supermarkets to inform customers at the entrance of the number of Slovakian products in the store and recently the Polish government introduced a “supermarket tax” on all major (and therefore foreign) retailers, as Hungary has already done.