Face-to-face caring and infrastructural renewal will provide the backbone for a labour-intensive future

colin hines 6A Guardian article by LWM’s co-founder and convenor of the Green New Deal Group, Colin Hines, is summarised here.

The neoliberal export-led growth model, the increasingly discredited single currency and the utterly unchallenged single market are wrecking Europe which is facing a real nightmare: a shrinking full-time job market and hence lack of demand to keep the economy soldiering on.

The EU single market countries must reject the impossible dream of export-led growth and concentrate on their domestic economies. The much lauded “single market” is 20 years old and its emphasis on the free movement of goods, money and people is rarely recognised as being at the heart of the present European crisis.

It allowed German banks to lend to Greeks to import German cars they couldn’t afford, and the national debts that resulted are being dealt with by taking money from pensioners and the less well-off.

Meanwhile, the flow of migration and the inability of countries to control their borders under the single market are increasing tensions across the continent.

It is time for the rest of us to ask the fundamental question: what will all these European countries, newly invigorated with lower social conditions and declining domestic demand, be able to export, and to whom?

An alternative?

Transform the EU into a co-operative grouping of countries that provides a secure future for its people. Cross-border issues like climate change, pollution and crime require intra-European co-operation, but the flow of goods, money and people must be slowed dramatically to enable nations to take back control of their future and protect their citizens.

It’s time for Europe to reject the single market and prioritise the domestic market, ditching austerity in favour of encouraging activity within the member states to rekindle demand, generate jobs and allow an eventual level of taxation to reduce national debt.

Europe must reject the impossible dream of export-led growth and concentrate on domestic-led growth. Face-to-face caring and infrastructural renewal will provide the backbone for a labour-intensive future for most countries. The former can be paid for by the state, particularly once domestic and international tax dodging are tackled.

With some modest state pump priming, most of the funding for infrastructure programmes, such as more housing, making every building energy tight, diverse and locally orientated transport systems etc, can be provided by pension and insurance funds and from personal savings via bonds and ISAs.

The secure returns that can be earned from such investments are just what such funding sources need. The local jobs and business opportunities provided will help to rebuild the tax base and allow, at last, for a sustainable revitalisation of Europe’s economy.

 

Read the whole article 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) . . .”#

Some countries are weaning themselves off their export dependence – should we?

LWM’s co-founder Colin Hines writes, “The old idea was that we can compete in export markets to strengthen our economy. That increasingly looks like clutching at straws”.

Barriers to destructive flows of capital

In developing countries barriers to destructive flows of capital are being erected. Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica have used various measures, including Brazil’s insistence that short-term investors deposit funds with the central bank for a year which the mainstream media – including the FT – has not reported -perhaps fearing ‘copy-cat’ action. See Deloitte’s website.

These countries seek long-term, job-generating capital, rather than the casino bets of the feckless financial herd. Long-term investment in the real economy encourages and enables countries to rebuild and re-diversify their economies by limiting what goods they let in and what funds they choose to enter or leave the country.

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

Europe could do this

Of course such a radical change in economic direction could not be introduced in one country alone, since the money markets would ferociously destabilise such a challenge to their present dominance of the world economy.

Europe – though facing huge threats from the forces of international finance – would be powerful enough to implement such a programme.

Should the politically active start to campaign for such radical change?

To read a detailed treatment of this subject, click on www.compassonline.org.uk

Green New Deal, piloted in Birmingham, now advocated Europe-wide

The Green New Deal Group inspired Jon Morris of Localise West Midlands, a thinktank promoting local supply chains for sustainability, and Matthew Rhodes [far right] of low-carbon solutions engineering firm Encraft to present the award-winning business plan, developed and championed by Keith Budden [left] of the Birmingham Environment Partnership. This was the foundation for the City Council’s Birmingham Energy Savers scheme.

As EU leaders gather around the German Chancellor’s dinner table to discuss austerity versus growth, Colin Hines, LWM’s co-founder and convenor of the Green New Deal Group, sent a press release about a discussion paper Help Save Europe With A Green New Deal makes the case for crucial new topics and solutions to be put at the top of their menu.

Read more on http://ourbirmingham.org/?p=1679