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

 

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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.

Doctor prescribes localisation

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Dr Mansfield, after surveying Macmillan Support’s analysis, continues:

peter mansfieldMacmillan’s spokesperson acknowledges that cancer survivors are usually weakened in some way by the treatment.

This is likely to make them more vulnerable to the other kinds of disease which will eventually carry them off. But not before yet more medical services and long-term support. And most of the half of us who don’t acquire cancer, nevertheless require medical services of some sort fairly regularly.

If we were cattle, our breeders would probably send us all to the abattoir and start again with new stock!

We cannot afford to be so fatalistic about trends like this. Something much more radical is called for. We know what, and have done for most of the past century.

We need to clean up our world, and therefore our food. It’s that simple. Yes, simple. It can be done, given lashings of wartime spirit.

His prescription 

Drastic reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels. Urgent development of hydrogen fuel cells, environmental electricity generation. Banning motor vehicles in built-up centres. Children and their parents walking or cycling to and from school. Zero carbon homes, zero carbon transport.

Urgent development of organic agriculture and horticulture. Many more people working the land by small-scale technologies – in return for benefits if need be. Mainly local distribution of crops in season. Outright bans on junk food manufacture and – probably – tobacco products. Run down large scale and chemical-based agriculture and all associated subsidies.

And what would result?

  • Youngsters would grow up strong, capable, disease-free and motivated. Some already do – it would be nice to know just how many. Then we could plot the rate of rise of that statistic in the next decade.
  • Air and water would be cleaner and electronegative, and food would be hugely more sustaining.
  • Activity would be human-scale, physical and down-to-earth. Even the chattering classes would save their breath to harvest their next meal.
  • The NHS and social services would scale down over the next 20 years, to a fraction of its present size.
  • They would be replaced by genuine communities based on residence, workplace and land, providing extended families to include everyone.
  • Free benefits would be history – and so would profitable illness.

We would have a health service – with huge vitality to match! And we would still have industry, leisure and full employment.

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And a future.

 

 

Does supporting local business build resilient local economies – and a more peaceful world?

judy wicks2Judy Wicks, a board member of the NEI – featured recently on this site – thinks that it does.

Looking around for more information, evidence of a very adventurous and constructive life – including living with the Eskimos and working with the Zapatistas  – was easily found online.

Her unusual slant on localisation was extracted from the 24th Schumacher Lecture which she gave in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

She argues that supporting local business is more than a strategy for building resilient local economies:

“Perhaps the greatest benefit of the local-living-economy movement is that by creating self-reliance we are creating the foundations for world peace. If all communities had food security, water security, and energy security, if they appreciated diversity of culture rather than a monoculture, that would be the foundation for world peace. Schumacher said, ‘People who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.’

Judy started buying from local farmers in 1986 for her restaurant White Dog Café, which she started on the first floor of her house in 1983. Realizing that helping other restaurants connect with local farmers would strengthen the regional food system, she founded the Fair Food Project in 2000.

The following year she co-founded the nationwide Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), now a network of over 20,000 local independent businesses in the U.S. and Canada, and founded the local affiliate Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, currently with 500 members.

 

 

The Resilience imperative – Cooperative Transitions to a Steady State Economy

resilience imperative conatyLocalise West Midland’s co-founder, Patrick Conaty, has just published a book co-authored with Mike Lewis: The Resilience imperative – Cooperative Transitions to a Steady State Economy. It examines many elements of a resilient local economy, collating and critiquing many examples of how this has been achieved all over the world over the last 150 years.

The term ‘resilience ‘ is coming to the fore; the American organisation of that name focusses on building community resilience in a world of multiple emerging challenges: “the decline of cheap energy, the depletion of critical resources like water, complex environmental crises like climate change and biodiversity loss, and the social and economic issues which are linked to these”.

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Extracted from Pat’s interview with Naresh Giangrande from the Transition Network:

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NG: Why should someone involved in a Transition Initiative read this book?

PC: Mike and I were aware that although there have been many social and environmental change solutions developed, there has been a lack of strategic thinking. How can we join these partial solutions up? Through co-researching and co-writing the book over three years, we felt that we could clarify a Great Transition strategy for going forward by bringing together different fragments of positive change strategically and practically. We saw a need to bring ecological and cooperative economics together. Kenneth Boulding, a founder of ecological economics was the first to call for a Great Transition in the mid 60s, and saw the need to link cooperative and ecological economics together. . .

NG: You were involved in the 1990’s in The Real World Coalition seeking to bring together the third world development, green movement, social justice movement, small business, and micro credit movement.   Is this book in some way an expression of that impulse?

PC: The Real World Coalition united over 30 NGOs in the UK from these sectors and was led by Jonathan Porritt, Sara Parkin and Mike Jacobs. It was unique in that it spent three years developing a common manifesto among the NGOS. We need something like this again. How do we unite the fragments of change, to tackle the big issues? We have to come together .Yes this book is looking at the intervening years and what are the practical, tried and tested ways that people have been cooperating and  been successful in creating the pieces of local resilience . . .

NG: If you were to synthesize ecological and cooperative economics what would you come up with?

To root the integrated theory with practice, we looked at basic needs – food, shelter, finance, and energy services – and how could we meet human needs  co-operatively and what are the practical ways that have been pioneered to satisfy these needs and build a sustainable society  . . .

NG: I loved your tables at the end of chapter showing the costs to an average family.

PC: Yes we took a family of four and looked at what if we were addressing their needs in the new economics way and what would be the impact on their household budget.

NG: And the result?

PC:  We substituted usury based on high rates of compound interest with mutual fee based money and private energy and food monopolies with energy and food coops. We also show savings by converting housing to Community Land Trusts to take the land cost out of the market. The result we found is that there are significant savings to be made in each instance and the cumulative results show the practical potential for a steady state economy.

For an average family of four, you make a savings on energy and financing of over $360,000 over 25 years. Local organic food would be more expensive, but the net savings including food are still $280,000 over 25 years. We converted this to life hours which translated into saving 10 hours a week per household. This is significant . . .

NG: You have a keen sense of how there is nothing new. The REconomy project, need for land access, and social justice. Others have been over this ground many times before.

PC: We have lost sight of the historic and international struggles over that past 170 years for achieving land reform, economic democracy and for a co-operative economy.

As a result each generation typically starts with a blank page which is tragic because we lose sight of what these struggles can tell us so we can move forward faster and more effectively.

I am convinced that cooperative solutions lie at the heart of the new economy. We explore in diverse chapters the growing social solidarity economy internationally – which is generally below the radar – but none the less a powerful force. It is often unaware of its power, despite the fact that co-ops globally employ more people than multinationals . . . Some exciting work we show is going on with La Via Campesina uniting small farmers globally, in Quebec with co-op federations in Montreal and in the social co-ops in Northern Italy.

 

The Resilience Imperative Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty New Society Publishers 2012. Paperback: ISBN: 978-0-86571-707-7; ebook ISBN: 978-1-55092-505-0

Read this interview in full on the Resilience website and an interview with Mike Lewis here.

 

 

Achieving food security by relocalisation and building up the resilience of our agricultural resources – three voices

At a meeting of Hadlow College’s Rural Focus Group, their Sustainability Champion, Dr Howard Lee, noted that DEFRA is committed to food security in principle but not to food self-sufficiency.

The strategic contradiction is that succeeding governments have preferred to promote the export of agricultural and horticultural commodities.

Coventry University’s Dr Julia Wright recommends building up the resilience of our natural agricultural resource base

In the Fresh Produce Journal she says that the droughts and the floods we have experienced this year have been “exacerbated by the way we manage the hydrological cycle on farms and across landscapes”. Drawing on extensive drylands experience in Australia she advocates setting up appropriate-scale water-storage mechanisms, building more fertile soils with a greater soil-water retention capacity and introducing soil cultivation techniques that enable retention of groundwater. Read more in another article.

The ‘grow local, eat local’ message – Russ Grayson

Some years ago, Russ Grayson, in the Energy Bulletin, reported that the most visible manifestation of ongoing food relocalisation is the growing number of farmers’ markets that now dot our towns and suburbs:

“Farmers’ market organisers have promoted the “eat local” message ever since the markets started in this country, over a decade ago. The food in question is known as either “local” or “regional”. The terms are interchangeable but refer to food produced within relatively close proximity to the towns or cities where it is eaten.

“Eating local has always had the economic incentive of supporting local growers and food processors consequently boosting regional economies. This is one reason that people in rural towns like the idea and encourage farmers’ markets.

“Not all of our food can be produced locally, of course – climate prevents this – and staples such as grains are usually imported from further afield.

“The argument of the food relocalisers is that food that can be produced in a region should be substituted for imports from overseas”

The fact ‘food miles’ don’t always guarantee the lowest energy use has led thoughtful proponents, like local food pioneer Helena Norberg-Hodge, to say that the issue is the transportation of “like foods” that could be grown in the regions into which they are imported – as did another who thinks ‘ahead of her time’ – Caroline Lucas, with LWM’s co-founder Colin Hines, in STOPPING THE GREAT FOOD SWAP – RELOCALISING EUROPE’S FOOD SUPPLY.

Years ago the Telegraph reported research at the University of Essex and City University revealing that buying locally produced food would save the UK £2.1 billion in environmental and congestion costs. The report’s authors, Professor Jules Pretty and Professor Tim Lang, called for supermarkets to put food miles on product labels, so customers can make informed choices. To read more about the impact of internationally traded food moved by sea go to Grayson’s article.

Attempting to move the local food issue away from those relating to climate change, nutrition and good farming

Grayson remembers Australia’s Federal Agriculture Minister,Tony Burke, making “a poor attempt to reframe the local food issue to move it away from the global warming, human nutrition and Australian farming elements that lie at its core”. Local food advocates were also accused of “protectionism”, influencing consumers, so creating “a consumer-driven barrier to trade”.

Developing new markets and increasing farm viability

Russ Grayson concludes: “For farmers within reasonably close proximity to towns and cities, the growing preference for local food represents new markets and farm viability, especially for the smaller farmer and especially for the organic farmer whose sector is the fastest growing. This is true for the Sydney region market gardeners who supply the city with 90% of its fresh vegetables and almost 100% of its Asian vegetables and who, with the associated marketing and distribution sectors of the local food industry, generate an estimated $4.5 billion annually (Sydney Basin Industry Details, Gillespie, P, Mason, David NSW Agriculture, Orange 2003) . . .”#

Update: Co-operative Energy, founded by Midcounties Co-operative

In June last year Localise West Midlands’ board member Phil Beardmore, an environmental consultant, circulated news of the launch of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, which is forming a partnership with Co-op Energy.

LWM was set up in 2002 by a group of individuals who ‘recognise the need to propose positive models for economic activity’, such as this energy co-operative and its partnerships.

In the latest issue of the Co-operative News, Paul Gosling opens by listing the profits made by big energy companies, who nevertheless are raising domestic energy prices. The increases range from 6-10.8%.

He compares this with Co-operative Energy – already more than competitive in its pricing – bringing its charges down by 2% from 21st December.

The executive director of Which? Richard Lloyd, comments that customers being hit hard by big suppliers’ price rises should now ask why it is that Co-operative Energy can buck the trend.

Gosling continues: “As a result of offering the best fixed price tariff, 22,000 consumers switched to Co-operative Energy. In fact, more wanted to move over – 280,000 consumers had registered for the exercise – but were told that only a limited number could do so. The restricting factor, Nigel Mason of Co-operative Energy told the News, was that it had necessarily entered into supply contracts to deliver against the fixed price that it had bid at. It turned out that the number of consumers seeking to switch far exceeded the size of contract that had been pre-arranged.”

Since then, Co-op Energy – only 18 months old – has grown significantly larger and now has 65,000 accounts, with new customers signing up every day. Its low carbon pledge was fulfilled in the year ending March 2012, during which, we read,100% of the electricity provided to its customers was sourced from renewable generators such as wind, hydro and biomass.

Water, energy and then rail?

For some years the not-for-profit Welsh Glas Cymru water company, which distributes its financial surplus to its customers, has flourished. Co-operative Energy is making good progress and now there is a Rail Cymru proposal . . .

 

It makes sense to grow more locally, not least for the 20,000 low-income city families

Admitting the limited capacity to grow food in cities, LWM’s co-ordinator recognises the potential for growing more locally and the food security benefits of doing so:

“The West Midland has a significant food-producing “regional hinterland” and there is a whole gamut of reasons why we should maximise production, ensuring we have some local food if imports fail – which they could if other countries prioritise feeding their own populations, as they should, or if fuel prices rise.

“If we are not making the effort to grow for ourselves or to share with other countries if THEIR crops fail, will other countries in the food-scarce future clamour to supply us?

“In calculating the footprint of intensive versus low-intensivity or organic food, she adds that the ‘offsite’ or externalised footprint must be taken into account.”

(This research has been done by Professors Lang and Pretty in “Farm costs and food miles: an assessment of the full cost of the UK weekly food basket”, Elsevier’s journal Food Policy, volume 30, number 1, and presented by the authors at a Science Media Centre briefing at the Royal Institution.)

Over 20,000 families in Birmingham have received internet–connected computers – the headline indicates the number of families considered on low income – and the final remarks of LWM’s co-ordinator offer another prospect, more beneficial to health:

“At a numbers level, growing food locally might look pointless, but if 20,000 families who could not afford fresh fruit & veg otherwise, could do so because it’s being grown in the city by themselves, that’s massively worthwhile in socio-economic terms”.

 

Unhooking from transport & energy-intensive economy

Some readers will have visited the late Robert Hart in his Forest Garden in Shropshire.

Zac Goldsmith, when reviewing Robert’s book about his life and work, focussed on his perception that growing and seemingly unconnected problems emerge as connected symptoms of something deeper:

“The shortening of links between farmers and ‘consumers’, for example, leads not only to the strengthening of communities and local economies, but also to an increase in local diversity, a consequent decrease in the need for chemical inputs, whose function is primarily to support artificial monocultures, and perhaps, most importantly, it results in the unhooking of whole communities from dependence on the transport and energy intensive economy . . .

“Rather than relying on vast high-tech energy plants, water storage tanks and centralised sewage treatment, communities around the world are re-inventing simple technologies which can be assembled and managed using local skills and resources.”

This simple but essentially comprehensive localising message will also be shared on an Indian website.