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

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Swadeshi movement, which ‘prefers the neighbourhood over the remote’, affects Indian government policy

 

swadeshi jagran manch header
New Delhi Television online reports that the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and a farmers’ organisation met India’s Environment Minister today to protest against the go-ahead given by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee on July 18 to field trials of 15 GM crops, including rice, mustard, cotton, chickpea and brinjal. The Environment Minister, in a statement issued later by the SJM said “the decision about field trials of GM crops had been put on hold.” More on this issue here.

The writer met several SJM members in India and was prompted by this report to summarise their approach.

Swadeshi believes that the unbalanced individualism of the West is destructive of community living. The individual requires the mutually complementary and interactive relationship of the community.

The market has to be an instrument and not the master of the people. The smaller the size of the market, the better. The Swadeshi approach is to limit the size of the market not to eliminate it as communism does. The Swadeshi global view is ” let a thousand markets bloom – not merge into one global market “.

Swadeshi prefers the neighbourhood over the remote and accepts only need-based transnationalism.

It prioritises the satisfaction of practical human needs – food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, drinking water, energy and transport – values frugality, savings, thrift etc. and seeks to remove the distortion of defining economics as multiplication of wants and efforts to satisfy them, powered by greed.

Swadeshi advocates that income-inequalities remain within reasonable limits. Like the early co-operatives, it believes that the ratio of income of the top 20% and bottom 20% should not exceed 10:1.

The Swadeshi philosophy is not against creation of wealth – merely an injunction against unlimited consumption; a mandate for conservation and preservation of national assets and resources; an emphasis on personal and family savings and an injunction against wasteful and needless expenditure.

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Has Secretary of State (Elizabeth Truss) visited the LWM site?

A Lancashire farmer sends news of a ministerial statement made by the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss.  On 21st July she launched “A Plan for Public Procurement of Food and Catering Services”, which includes an emphasis on Government procurement opening up the public sector market to small and local businesses:

truss plan local procurement“It will allow more locally-sourced food to be served in our public sector organisations, which means more money into the local economy. It is also good for the environment, as the approach supports UK farm production standards and measures to reduce food waste. It will encourage healthier eating, foster a great connection with food, and celebrate local food”.

LWM’s MCED report (links via Mainstreaming Community Economic Development) includes a section on public procurement – ‘Realising the potential of local economic power’, which refers to the consortium approach used in Italy which permits local SMEs and social enterprises to overcome minimum turnover requirements etc in order to bid for major contracts while retaining local identities and maximising local benefits.

It also mentions a Buy for Good non-profit scheme being set up in the city, which awards contracts that “have a positive impact on the local economy’. Does this relate to Birmingham’s Business Charter for Social Responsibility, awarded by the city council?

Follow the link to read about the Charter’s emphasis on creating employment and training opportunities, buying locally when commissioning and contracting, protecting the environment, minimising waste and energy and employing the highest ethical standards in their own operations and those within their supply chain.

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The ministerial statement may be read in full here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wms/?id=2014-07-21a.107.0

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Calls for a living wage

Andrew Lydon writes that, over the last year, probably the most radical proposal made by Labour leader Ed Miliband is about the Living Wage and Living Wage Zones:

minimum not living wage logo“Living wage zones would work for everyone – the people who get decent pay, the employers who get a more committed workforce and the government that saves money on credits.” He said the proposal was a labour market reform that tackled in-work poverty and lifted productivity without boosting the welfare bill.

Refocussing on raising the minimum wage, on the 19th May Miliband launched a report by a previous vice chair of KPMG, Alan Buckle, who looked at the issue through ‘business eyes’. He says action on low pay should be seen as part of a wider strategy to move towards a high skill, high productivity economy and that we should recognise that higher pay will be good for government finances, in terms of the need for fewer tax credits and a lower social security bill.

jrf logoThe Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard project aims to define an ‘adequate’ income. Read more here.

Of the 400 councils In England and Wales 82 are now paying or committed to pay their staff the living wage. All 32 councils in Scotland are living wage employers paying their staff at least the living wage.

As Citizens Advice Scotland’s Chief Executive wrote to the chancellor earlier this year, economists suggest the economic multiplier for income transfers to low income families is higher; they estimate that for every pound GDP increases by £1.60. Families with low income spend the additional money, stimulating the economy by boosting demand and supporting businesses.

living wage logoBut what of private business? Archbishop John Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, points out that hundreds of employers – those who are able to do so – have begun to pay a living wage?

In a Huffington Post article, Jehangir S. Pocha, the Delhi-based editor-in-chief of NewsX, said:the one thing that would combat poverty without bankrupting the exchequer – is getting businesses to pay workers a living wage . . .”

Andrew Lydon looks for evidence that the ground is being prepared and we wonder if will ever become the norm. Pocha sees a profound psychological obstacle to achieving a living wage (and, we would add, other reforms):

“This social assumption that “they” are inherently different from ‘us’ and do not have to have access to things like decent housing, clothes, food, leisure, education and health care is etched into the Indian psyche”.

This social assumption is also etched into the psyche of British decision makers and their corporate allies.

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True devolution? Has localism merely meant passing power to unelected micro-quangos?

prof richard batleyProfessor Richard Batley, University of Birmingham (School of Government and Society) writes in the FT: “Constitutional devolution, convincingly argued, could be attractive in England, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland . . . Westminster seems not to appreciate that irritation at the centralisation of power and wealth in London is not confined to the Scots”.

A historical perspective is given by the LSE’s Professor Tony Travers: “At the turn of the 20th century, local government ran nearly all public services in Britain . . . Parliament, with an empire to run, busied itself dealing with the colonies, dominions and war . . .” He continues:

prof tony travers“By common consent, the UK is (now) a highly centralised country. Most taxes are set by the chancellor, while decisions that in most democracies would be made in town halls are handed down from desks in Whitehall . . . In countries as diverse as the US, Sweden, Germany and France, municipalities play a far greater part in democracy. . .

“The northeast wisely rejected a toothless regional assembly in 2004. The current government, like its predecessor, has struggled to deliver “localism”, which has generally meant passing power from councils to unelected micro-quangos such as schools, clinical commissioning groups and local enterprise partnerships”.

philip hoskingFollowing an earlier contribution on devolution the writer asked, “Will it happen?” Philip Hosking answered: “It already has: in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London. If we want it enough we will get it”.

He continued: “There is much movement in English regionalist circles at the moment with Yorkshire First, Yorkshire Devolution Movement, Northumbria People, Hannah Mitchell Foundation and more besides.

“Perhaps now is the time to relaunch Mercian / Middle England’s aspirations for devolution. What with the referendum in Scotland I think England’s regions (plus Cornwall) together need to make a clear, coherent case for a decentralised England that’s not just city regions, LEPs or government zone regions”.

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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.

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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

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Relocalisation: an under reported issue in the French elections

 

In the French election, left wing socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon has stressed the need to relocalise Europe’s economy and to do so by limiting imports.

This has brought Melenchon increased votes in a country where 70% of the population favour some form of protection for domestic production from cheaper, lower waged competitors.

Colin guardian picThis French election trend prompts a call for a debate about the need for ‘progressive protectionism’ in the UK and Europe-wide

LWM’s co-founder Colin Hines explains that progressive protectionism rejects the call for open markets and the need to be internationally competitive.

Acceptance of these edicts as inevitable by the three main political parties has consequences:

  • it drives down tax rates,
  • worsens social and environmental conditions
  • kills local jobs
  • and reduces small business opportunities.

Whistling in the dark to keep up the nation’s economic spirits: promising hi tech export-led growth in an era of rising Asian dominance is the last colonial delusion

The alternative is to propose a set of practical measures for protecting and re-diversifying local economies by limiting what goods they let in and what funds they choose to enter or leave the country.

In the process they will wean themselves off of their export dependence. This will allow space for domestic funding and business to meet most of the needs of the majority in society.

Proposing policies that would result in the grounding of manufacturing, money and services here in the UK would enable politicians and activists to call the bluff of relocation-threatening big business and finance, who at present have the whip hand over all politicians who support open markets.

This is the only way to tackle the economic and environmental crises, return local control of the economy to citizens and provide a sense of security and hope for their future. If implemented it could play a crucial role in seeing off the rise of the extreme right, as this invariably flourishes when the sense of insecurity within the majority worsens.

 

Forthcoming book

Forthcoming book

Progressive protectionism can tackle this insecurity far more effectively than any of the policies offered – at present – by parties of any political hue

The money markets would ferociously destabilise the challenge posed to their present dominance of the world economy by introducing progressive protectionism in one country alone. Europe is facing huge threats from the forces of international finance, yet the continent would be a powerful enough bloc to implement a programme of progressive protectionism, particularly if the politically active started to campaign for it.

The time to start the debate is now.

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Abridged from the Progressive protectionism website, written by Colin Hines. See another article on the subject here.

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Devolution is in the air

Following the contribution on devolution from LWM board members, Cllr Phil Davis and former Director of the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities, George Morran, we see that a Survation poll, commissioned by Devolve Deliver, was published on April 21st. Devolve Deliver‘s Neil Foster said: “The UK is one of the most over-centralised countries in the developed world and voters recognise that London receives preferential treatment to the cost of everywhere else. This poll shows there is a thirst across the country for more powers to be in the hands of local people and away from Whitehall”.

MK header

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall – has a manifesto commitment to the creation of a National Assembly of Cornwall. It launched a consultation document on St Piran’s Day, 5th March, setting out what greater self-government could mean for Cornwall. The consultation document can be downloaded here and the consultation period is open until 30th June 2014.

A National Assembly of Cornwall would not be independent of the UK – it would be an integral and empowered part of the governance of the United Kingdom. And MK believes that it would control the majority of the public sector in Cornwall including the National Health Service, all aspects of education, a wide range of public bodies and local government.

MK Cllr Rob Simmons opened the proceedings with a speech that summarised previous and ongoing efforts to win greater power for Cornwall. In particular, he focused on the 50,000 individually signed declarations for a Cornish Assembly, which were collected in 2000-2001. He said: “I was proud to be part of a dedicated band of energetic volunteers who achieved the amazing feat of collecting over 50,000 signatures supporting a Cornish Assembly. I don’t believe there has been a more unifying political issue in modern times . . . “

MK Cllr Stephen Richardson emphasised that “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” was a consultation document. He said: “We want to hear from anyone who believes, like us, that Cornwall should have enhanced powers to take democratic decisions on the matters that affect us all. We recognise that there are groups and individuals that may believe in Cornish self-government, but who think differently to us about exactly what we should be aiming for and how we should achieve it.

MK cornish assembly header

Cllr Andrew Long described 2014 as the year of self-determination. He told the assembled media: “The time is now here for us to press again to allow the people of Cornwall to decide their future.  The campaign for a Cornish Assembly is on the road throughout this year, to towns and villages across Cornwall”.

During 2014, the campaign team will be taking the roadshow to fairs and festivals across Cornwall from Penzance to Polperro, and Camborne to Callington, to meet the public face to face, and to gain support for the campaign.#

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Co-operative stores could sell good quality food produced on its farms by workers on decent terms and conditions

Molly Scott Cato* writes:

molly scott cato 4Comments from the Co-operative Group that the Co-operative Farms are a ‘non-core’ part of the business, suggests that the current generation of co-operative managers have a short-sighted view about their role in providing customers access to a reliable source of ‘good food’.

In my 2010 paper, The co-operative path to food security, I pointed to the increasing volatility of global food prices as speculators moved their gambling activities from financial products to commodities markets.

Charities working with the poor of the global South are increasingly focusing on the link between poverty and control over food supplies, which includes ownership of land. Without that control, our daily bread might become subject to the forces of extortion that have destroyed our banks and left us with the politics of austerity.

As a green economist I want the food I bought in my local Co-op to be produced as locally as possible. The Co-operative shops have not been successful in this regard because of their centralised distribution system, but my Midcounties Co-op has been building up its Local Harvest offer in recent years; I’m surely not the only customer who looks to see whether the vegetables on the shelves have been grown on the Co-operative Farms.

Local harvest pic text

The threat to sell the Co-operative Group’s farmlands and destroy the livelihoods they support pushes the possibility of sustainable local supply chains further away than ever. For me, co-operation is about two things: achieving justice in the supply chain by removing the possibility of the extraction of profit by those who do not earn it; and insulating ourselves against the worst excesses of the global capitalist economy.

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*Molly Scott Cato is a member of the Welsh Government’s Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission. In March, the Commission published its report, which makes recommendations on growing and developing the co-operative and mutual economy in Wales, in order to create jobs and wealth.

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The Green Deal: why it has not taken off and what we can expect in the future

A “must read” from Phil Beardmore for all interested in Green Deal & Green New Deal:
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In this article – first posted on Birmingham Eastside – Phil Beardmore describes why the Green Deal scheme has not taken off and what we can expect in the future.

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