Category Archives: Localisation

More localised commerce, industry, food, transport and energy provision during the next Labour Government: Paul Halas

It is now understood that the greatest threat to humanity – and the planet – is climate change. Labour introduced the parliamentary debate that led to the UK being the first nation to declare a Climate Emergency.

The planet can’t take any more. People will have to adapt to the changes that will inevitably take place. We’re never going to revert to a pre-industrial society, but we must be prepared to embrace less wasteful technologies, a less destructive food industry and less materialistic lifestyles.

The Labour Party is committed to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, but with far greater use of renewable energy, along with greener transport and farming methods, the aim is to reach this target considerably earlier. Stroud District Council is one of those who have long term plans to become a Community Wealth Building council. That means using local services and companies whenever possible, reducing the council’s carbon footprint and keeping money within the area.

The idea is that communities and councils always give priority to local suppliers and services. For instance when building a new school, or hospital, or sports complex, etc, local firms will always be preferred to the big players to carry out the work. The same goes for services.

The next Labour Government will introduce a Green New Deal (GND), collaborating with scientists, industry and trade unions to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030. The UK’s infrastructure – transport, communications, energy and transport systems – have suffered from decades of underinvestment. Over the next ten years Labour will make £250 billion available to invest in a fit for purpose, green economy.

  • Four million homes will be insulated, helping to cut carbon emissions, reduce bills and improve health.
  • Grants will be available to make homes more energy efficient,
  • Labour will make it easier to obtain solar panels.
  • Energy will be taken back into public ownership in order to deliver renewable energy at an affordable price – bringing an end to fuel poverty.

Money earned in the locality will stay in the locality and benefit local people

Local energy cooperatives will be formed up and down the country, each using the most practical renewable energy sources in their locality. Under the Labour Green New Deal such local energy suppliers will be encouraged, especially if they are publicly-owned, or run by people’s co-operatives. The GND will replace old industries and technologies with new, sustainable ones; far from putting people out of work, thousands of new fairly-paid, unionised jobs will be created in every area – with training offered so people can adapt to them. Priority will be given to sourcing materials, components and services locally wherever possible.

The vast inequalities we see now will have to be addressed; a fully sustainable economy will by its nature focus far more on well-being than wealth. Commerce will have to be more localised: local credit unions will be created, house-building schemes, housing associations, food co-operatives – cooperatives and small businesses will become the norm rather than big business empires. 

This commitment will entail the most radical change our society has seen, but will lead to a far more sustainable and equitable future. The next Labour Government’s introduction of a Green New Deal will cut down our carbon output by reducing transport of both people and goods and encourage green technologies. It will also create worthwhile employment opportunities in every region and reduce our dependence on the big corporations.

What’s not to like?

 

 

 

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Build local food systems and local business alliances: eliminate unnecessary trade

In 2001 Caroline Lucas pointed out that over the past 30 years, the rise in the trade in meat, live animals and other agricultural products in and out of Europe which has been dramatic, often involves, simultaneously, a reverse trade in precisely the same products. Examples of this absurd “food swap” include the facts that Britain:

  • imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands in the same year that it exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands and
  • imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb, while at the same time exporting 195,000 tonnes and 102,000 tonnes of pork and lamb respectively.

This truly absurd position mostly rewards a few already very wealthy farmers, the supermarkets and multinational food companies, at the expense of small and medium scale farmers in developed countries, and – via the dumping of CAP surpluses – those in developing countries as well. 

Local Futures is focussing on the absurd way trade works in the global economy

“Countries ship identical amounts of identical products back and forth every year – from potatoes and beef to waffles and bottled water. More than half of the seafood caught in Alaska is sent to China for processing, then shipped right back to be sold in American supermarkets (Alaska Journal of Commerce, 2018). And all this unnecessary shipping generates enormous amounts of carbon emissions”.

They believe that it’s time to raise our voices, spread the word about ‘insane trade’, and change the rules of global trade to support local livelihoods instead of corporate profits

It wastes resources, worsens climate change, and undermines the livelihoods of millions of small-scale producers worldwide. Yet it is an almost unavoidable consequence of de-regulatory ‘free trade’ agreements and the billions of dollars in supports and subsidies – many of them hidden – that prop up the global economy.

  • Mexican calves fed American corn are exported to the United States, where they are butchered for meat, which is then sold in Mexico – The New York Times, 2017.
  • African-grown coffee is often packed in India,
  • Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland
  • and Bolivian nuts are packed in Italy – UK Times, 2007.

The way forward: 

– Prevent Climate Chaos: eliminating unnecessary trade would immediately reduce pollution – including CO2 emissions – and slow resource depletion.

– Say YES to Local Economies: localizing helps small farms and local businesses to thrive,
strengthens community, and supports personal well-being. 

– Buy local food and other local products.

– Help to build local food systems and local business alliances. For links to other organizations working on these issues, see the Local Economies and Rethinking Economies and Food & Agriculture categories on the Links page.

To raise awareness about this issue, we’ve produced a short film and a fully-referenced factsheet (cover above, right) that helps to explain how and why ‘insane trade’ happens.

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Anyone interested in volunteering time to translate the film or factsheet into another language, please contact info@localfutures.org. Readers could also help by getting the film and factsheet seen by as many people as possible, following the Facebook and Twitter pages and sharing posts about insane trade which will be going up throughout the week.

 

 

 

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Short-circuit damaging economic growth: from Douthwaite to McDonnell

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Richard Douthwaite stayed at the Centre for Holistic Studies in Mumbai as a young ‘unconverted’ economist. After reading ‘Short Circuit’ and – later – ‘The Growth Illusion’, CHS founder Winin Pereira was amazed and very pleased to see how Richard’s thinking had changed during that Indian tour. In his book, The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many, and Endangered the Planet (1993), Richard asks:

Is economic growth improving our lives?”

In 1992, when the first edition of The Growth Illusion appeared, most people thought the answer was ‘Yes’. Today, however, there is widespread acceptance that, while growth might be necessary to generate jobs, the development path we are following isn’t making life better for the health of human beings and the environment.

The theme of this book is that, even if growth was beneficial at one stage in human history, it is now damaging.

The author, economist Richard Douthwaite, presents evidence of social and environmental damage caused by economic growth which has ‘enriched the few, impoverished the many, and endangered the planet’ (see chapter 11: “Growth in the Greenhouse”). The book looks at the effects of a policy of growth before and after the 1950s:

  • – it has affected national health
  • – damaged family, community life and the environment
  • – and forced companies to adopt new technologies before their impact on the environment can be assessed.

There is now a growing awareness of the mainstream economy’s vulnerability – reinforced by the government’s Brexit contingency measures; even in a wealthy country, the vagaries of free trade and the unimpeded movement of capital pose a threat not just to job security but to food and energy supplies as well.

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In a later book, which may be downloaded, Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies for Security in an Unstable World (1998) Richard advocates short circuiting the global structures and developing a local functional sustainable economy.

The concept of conventional economics focusing on the firm vs. the community and family is the primary reason we see so many communities go for trying to lure a major corporate saviour (at fantastic expense in foregone tax revenues and numerous social, environmental and economic costs) instead of trying to develop a sustainable standalone economy. Such firms threaten to move their operations to countries where the fiscal environment is easier, almost every government’s ability to raise an adequate amount in tax has been reduced.

Richard Douthwaite advises communities to ‘cut the monetary tie’ – or at least reduce the outward flow of money – by rebuilding an independent local economy capable of supplying the goods and services its people would need – establishing:

  • local currency schemes
  • community banks that enable local interest rates and credit terms
  • locally-based energy generating and saving schemes
  • low-external-input agriculture.
  • more cooperative commercial attitudes.

In the Foreword, colleagues Helena NH * and Ed Mayo (when NEF) points out that economic globalization developed because governments have been subsidizing international and long-distance trade through:

  • tax breaks,
  • cheap fuel,
  • and massive investments in the underlying transport and information infrastructure.

Even a child might ask, ‘Why must food be transported thousands of miles, when it can be produced right here?

This is not efficiency but economics gone mad. Wilderness areas and biodiversity are under increasing pressure as the demand for industrial resources grows. huge multinational corporations have replaced the hundreds of thousands of small businesses, shopkeepers and farmers that traditionally generated most economic activity and employment.

Unemployment in the industrialized world has soared while, in the cities of the South, populations are exploding because millions of rural families are being drawn away from local self-reliance by the promises of the consumer society – only to be plunged into urban squalor and hunger”.

Reverse the process of globalization: the system that has emerged suits nobody in the long run. The threat of mergers leaves even senior managers in permanent fear of losing their jobs and even billionaires cannot hide from the collapsing biosphere.

if the hidden subsidies for fossil fuel use were removed, local and national economies would become much stronger. Not everything could be produced locally, nor would there be an end to trade – there should be a better balance between local, regional, national and international markets. Large corporations should have less control, and communities more, over what is produced, where, when and how, and trading should be fair to both parties.

Governments should get together to curb the powers of the multinationals by negotiating new trade and investment treaties removing the subsidies powering globalization and giving local production a chance.

The world has now woken up to the environmental implications of ‘plundering the planet for profit’ as John McDonnell put it in Another World Is Possible (sold out on Ebay etc). At the end of his chapter, ‘Plundering the planet for profit’, he proposes:

  • developing an energy system based on local energy production, clean coal technology and wherever possible powered by renewable energy sources,
  • producing food in this country where possible instead of importing it from distant countries,
  • homeworking and video-conferencing instead of commuting long distances and flying abroad,
  • using public transport instead of driving,
  • reclaiming social ownership and control of our public transport, prioritising social and environmental goals,
  • encouraging manufacturers to produce durable and repairable goods.
  • ensuring that every home is energy-efficient and that houses are built to the highest environmental standards with the ability to generate their own power or served by local combined heat and power systems,
  • regulating industry, housing and planning with environmental concerns central to decision-making and
  • devolving power so that communities have the power to protect their local environment, setting enforceable carbon emissions and environmental targets.

See Local Futures’ constantly-growing library of examples of localization happening all over the world for news about people who have started to build alternative systems ‘without waiting for politicians to give us their blessing or for the world to burn’.

 

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A localised world is possible – four talented exponents with complementary messages –4: Karen Leach

Since 2001, Karen has been the prime mover and co-ordinator of Localise West Midlands, a not-for-profit organisation which promotes the environmental, social and economic benefits of:

  • Local trading, using local businesses, materials and supply chains
  • Linking local needs to local resources
  • Development of community and local capacity
  • Decentralisation of appropriate democratic and economic power
  • Provision of services tailored to meet local needs.

The localisation approach makes economic development and government systems more sensitive to local autonomy, culture, wellbeing and the responsible use of finite resources. It is growing in popularity with people and organisations all over the world.

Karen has played a leading role in Extending Localisation, an ongoing project identifying ways of extending economic localisation good practice in the energy, food, retailing, finance and manufacturing sectors around and beyond the West Midlands region.  She writes:

Since the general election Localise West Midlands has been reiterating the question “how can we have meaningful localism without decentralising economic power?” The UK economy is one of the most centralised in Europe, increasingly recognised as remote from people and society, exclusive and beyond control.

In a diverse, localised economy, more people have a stake, which redistributes economic power, reducing disconnection, inequality and vulnerability. LWM is a thinktank, campaign group and consultancy that promotes this localised approach for justice and sustainability.

Contrary to the stereotype of planning reform opponents, we love economic development – community economic development, which fosters competition and enterprise, strengthens local distinctiveness, and works with an area’s resources, heritage, culture and social capital. We think the economy should be part of civic fabric not something done to the community.

The importance of small business in our economy is often underestimated. For one thing, you could say they contribute more to the public purse because they don’t have the resources to work out how to avoid it! More seriously, firms with less than five employees accounted for over 50% of the new jobs between 2000-2008; without startups, private sector employment would have declined. There is increasing evidence that large established businesses destroy jobs.

So decentralising economic power should be central to localism agenda – but it’s not. Much of the localism agenda simply builds community aspirations to be knocked down by powerful economic interests.

We need to recognise and plan for the collective strategic importance of the small scale. Our problems with the planning parts of the localism agenda are probably familiar to many of you:

  • a presumption in favour of development,
  • the lack of a workable definition of sustainable development;
  • the reduced ability to impose planning conditions that the developer might feel make a development unviable;
  • weakened retail policies;
  • the need to allocate more and rolling land supplies
  • and the abolition of spatial policy for ‘reducing the need to travel’.

The combined consequence of these is the reduced ability to differentiate between quality & poor quality development. This includes a lack of ability to protect economic diversity and accessible local services from bigger competitors: not just the odd independent shop but all types of businesses and the supply chain infrastructure and spatial environment that supports them – a weakening of urban renaissance.

Easier and more lucrative sites cherry picked for economic development or housing will not be integrated with existing economy or infrastructure.

In Darlaston in the Black Country, a colleague tells me that Asda closed their central store and applied for planning permission for an out of town site nearby. They pointed out they had a 99 year lease on the central site, and hinted that any use of the site would be blighted unless they got planning permission for the out of centre site. The council stood firm on policy grounds and the store did eventually reopen in the centre of Darlaston. Strong policy works to favour quality over poor quality development – under the localism bill it might not be possible.

Adverse consequences of catering to the private sector – two examples

We also have issues with providing for every need of private sector organisations that don’t necessarily have the public interest objectives or the accountability to take responsibility for them.

Developers in Ireland now blame the government for giving them planning permission for what are now ghost estates. In Digbeth, Birmingham, there was a compulsory purchase four years ago for site assembly – closing down local independent businesses including the last Italian-owned family business of the city’s Italian Quarter. That land has been completely empty for 4 years.

This raises issues over accountability & evidence of need and also of the danger of exclusive, blank slate large-scale development that ignores community economics. Why not work round and with existing uses? The local authority’s ability to challenge this is greatly reduced in the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF].

Neighbourhood planning goes some way to address this and has some positive potential for people to think about what local economy needs and how they can meet this, but it requires communities being able to protect, to say no and to set boundaries as well as saying yes. The failure to incorporate neighbourhood planning seems like a missed opportunity to strengthen local economies.

There is also the danger of vested interests swaying the NP agenda – it’s widely reported that Tesco was designing its off-the-peg neighbourhood plan for communities to adapt locally before the NPPF was written. How can that not be a conflict of interest? Of course pressures are worse in areas of deprivation to accept any development, however damaging.

One final example: good economic development on greenfield site: the former farmland land occupied by Lammas Eco-village in Wales used to bring the farmer £2,500 – £5,000 a year through sale of lamb. That same land now provides nine families with £60,000 worth of food, fuel and other goods and is predicted to be bringing in a surplus income of £40,000 by Year 5.

We need planning that can assess whether developments deliver quality of life, revitalised places, job creation, economic diversity, local multiplier. A blanket state of permissiveness doesn’t do it.

 

 

 

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A localised world is possible – four talented exponents with complementary messages – 3. Colin Hines

Colin Hines worked in the environmental movement for over 40 years on the issues of population, food, new technology and unemployment, nuclear proliferation, before spending ten years as co-ordinator of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit. He was a member of the International Forum on Globalization, formed in response to widespread concerns over economic globalization promotes equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economies and helped to set up Localise West Midlands, which aims to put localisation into practice on the ground, ensuring that goods, finance and services be provided locally wherever possible.

Routledge – and Earthscan (from Routledge) – celebrated the third millennium by publishing the first edition of his landmark work, Localization: a Global Manifesto. It has been aptly described as a passionate and persuasive polemic, challenging the claims that we have to be ‘internationally competitive’ to survive and describing the destructive consequences of globalization . . . unique in going beyond simply criticizing free trade and globalization trends . . . detailing self-reinforcing policies to create local self-sufficiency and showing clearly that there is an alternative to globalization – to protect the local, globally. In 2017 he published as an e-book Progressive Protectionism – taking back control’. 

Ten years after the 2008 economic crisis, this time it must be different: jobs in every constituency

As convenor of the Green New Deal Group, he works with other members who have a wide range of expertise, to power a renewables energy-efficient revolution, create thousands of green-collar jobs and rein in the distorting power of the finance sector, making more low-cost capital available for pressing priorities – an infrastructure programme which would mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, substantially reducing its domestic carbon emissions and addressing automation’s threat to employment.

Two major labour-intensive sources of local jobs were advocated in a recent report: face-to-face caring in the public and private sector – frequently discussed – and infrastructural provision and improvements. Both are difficult to automate and can’t be relocated abroad.
Hines points out that apart from the advantages of improving social conditions and protecting the environment, the majority of this work will take place in every constituency, will require a wide range of skills and help to improve conditions and job opportunities for “left behind” communities.

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”. They called for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of such vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education”.

They advocate like Chancellor Merkela redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place. 

 

 

 

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