Over the past couple of months we’ve been planning our new localisation campaign. As a bit of a curtain raiser, Adam, Christina and Maria talk about the three main strands of our campaign of the economy, nature and waste. First up Adam explains localisation and why its important, before he, Christina and Maria look at each theme, explaining why they are such important local issues and what we’re going to do about them.
Much of the work around localisation has been done by the transition movement and organisations like the New Economics Foundation and the Schumacher Society. E.F. Schumacher, author of ‘Small is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered’ (1973) was a major influence on the environmental movement. It is fairly intuitive to most people
that, as Schumacher said, “production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life.”
Localized economies save the financial and environmental costs of transportation by shortening supply chains and generally producing less waste. They are more resilient and stable, since peaks and troughs in economic activity are less pronounced at a smaller scale.
A more local economy will give people more power over, and more connection to, the things they consume, which means people take more care of the environment and the natural world around them from which those resources are derived. Political power runs parallel to economic systems and the less centralized an economy is, the less centralized and more democratic the decision making process becomes.
In this sphere of our campaign, we are going to be focusing on money and trying to encourage its everyday circulation to be as local as possible. When money is spent in the ‘clone town’ corporation shops, which we unfortunately see on every high street in the country, a lot of that money is siphoned out to offshore tax havens – kicking its heels and making the super-rich even richer and increasing the inequality in society.
However, spending money with small independent businesses means that money continues to circulate in the local economy, creating more employment. Emphasising the huge gulf between the reality of the economy and how politicians portray it, a statistic I came across recently says that despite controlling two thirds of the global GDP, the top 500 corporations create less than 1% of global employment (see references section at end).
A local currency can greatly facilitate and drive local economic activity because it means all money spent is kept in the local area. It therefore also facilitates resources being circulated in the local economy, which is where the environmental benefits come in. Resources being used more locally means there is less waste, less transportation, and it’s easier to put the circular economy into practice.
Recently, I attended a meeting organised by Localise West Midlands, which was exploring the potential for a Birmingham or West Midlands based local currency, where we were given a presentation of the workings of the Bristol Pound, which is the UK’s largest local currency.
Anyone should be able to create a currency. The only reason why we don’t have them everywhere is because central bankers use the regulatory bodies they control to enforce their monopoly over the issuance of currency and credit, and shut down any successful alternatives to the central bank’s printed money. But the Bristol Pound and many others are showing that, with will power and creativity, it is possible to benefit people and the environment by creating alternative currencies which help drive local economic activity.
Whatever the currency used, our localisation campaign is about encouraging spending away from large corporations and towards small independents, whilst helping to push the launch of a ‘Birmingham Pound.’ Stay tuned for more news in the coming months.
As the second largest city in England, with extremely poor air quality, it is more important than ever for Birmingham to be reconnected with its green roots.
Birmingham is a highly developed, former industrial city so accessing nature is particularly important for the population. Birmingham is not short of green spaces with 571 parks of open space, the largest number of parks in any city in Europe.
However having a lot of green space doesn’t mean it’s quality space or that it will be utilised. Urban life can make it easy to forget about where we come from, why we need nature and why it is so important that we have access to quality green spaces. It’s not just because of the numerous benefits that it can bring providing for us, but also because it impacts on city life on a bigger scale.
Nature is important for our health and wellbeing, it can help to restore and revive us from the demands of everyday life and it is important for personal and social development, particularly in children, as natural environments promote creativity and a respect for the natural world.
We are at a point now where the high demand for resources from the ever growing population is putting a huge strain on the land. Connecting with nature can help to encourage us not to take our food, water and resources for granted.
Natural green space in urban environments also helps to improve air quality and helps boost biodiversity, which is extremely important and relevant at the moment considering key species such as our bees are threatened.
People are already taking practical action all over the city with food growing, gardening and wildlife projects. Birmingham Friends of the Earth wants to connect people to nature and make sure that everyone has access to a quality local green space. We want to build bridges and encourage people to have fun and get involved with the natural environment.
We plan to achieve this with a few upcoming projects and community garden events aimed at engaging people with nature. We are also looking into a couple of potential projects with a more political edge, aiming at improving our biodiversity and community access to green space.
One of the key areas of the new localisation campaign is all about Birmingham’s waste. A campaign that is particularly timely as the current Birmingham waste contract draws to a close in 2019. In preparation the Council is conducting a public consultation period over the summer, which BFoE plan to be at the heart of.
The current waste system is completely controlled by Veolia, with 70% of the waste stream being burnt in the Tyseley incinerator and relatively low recycling rates of about 30%. The incinerator has many environmental issues attached to it: it produces pollutants harmful to people’s health, such as nitrogen oxides and large CO2 emissions. Along with this, it burns many items which could be reused or recycled.
The new campaign is all about creating a new waste strategy which is forward-thinking, sustainable and environmentally sound. One of the main focuses of this campaign is to push the council to start a household food waste collection service. Currently, the majority of food waste is discarded and burnt in the Tyseley incinerator along with all other waste. A minority of people do compost their own waste at home; however, for a large number of Birmingham’s population who don’t have a garden, composting isn’t viable.
Not only is it inefficient to burn food waste, if food waste was collected separately it would prevent some recyclable waste from being contaminated, allowing recycling rates to be improved. If collected separately, food waste could actually be a resource. It could be taken to anaerobic digestion plants and converted into gas for the national grid and fertiliser for local farming, creating a greener waste stream.
Another important objective of the waste campaign is for smaller, local companies to deal with waste rather than one large company having sole ownership of the contract. This will not only give smaller local businesses a helping hand and boost the local economy, it will also decrease the emissions produced when transporting waste over longer distances.
If we can achieve these steps of creating a household food waste collection, increasing efficiency of food recycling and localising waste management, then we will render the Tyseley incinerator obsolete, and have a super sustainable circular and localised waste system!
If you’re inspired or intrigued by any of the issues raised in this article, then please do get involved by coming to a Monday meeting or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org