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In line with David Fleming’s maxim: “Large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within large-scale frameworks”.
Shaun Chamberlin writes:
The plan with the Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) from the outset was to create a framework that could support local initiatives across the country.
ELC develops affordable, low impact, smallholdings for ecological agriculture. The high costs of land and rural housing make it nearly impossible for new entrants to farming to establish a farm business. By providing affordable and secure smallholdings, we are helping to address this crisis.
As well as land, we provide smallholders with permission to build their own sustainable home, and with off-grid utilities and road access. Our model allows us to keep costs low, both through buying larger sites at a lower price per acre, and through distributing the cost of infrastructure, planning applications and subsequent site monitoring across a number of smallholdings. The model allows the smallholders to work and learn together and to provide mutual support. Our cooperative retains the freehold on each smallholding in order to protect it for affordable agricultural and ecological use in perpetuity.
- protects the environment
- reduces greenhouse gas emissions by reducing fossil fuel use
- helps to build a vibrant, living countryside in which people flourish alongside our cherished landscapes and natural biodiversity, and have an important role to play in ensuring food and energy security,
- provides employments,
- gives access to local food and crafts,
- offers educational opportunities for urban visitors,
- helps to maintain rural skills and improve ecological literacy.
Shaun (right) continues:
The first site – Greenham Reach – achieved permanent planning permission. This was a huge boost for the whole network! It shows many people that this is a fully viable idea, and that the co-op now has a track record.
Having successfully developed our first cluster of farms in Mid Devon, we have begun work on our second site in East Sussex and purchased our third site on the Gower. Determined to turn good ideas into reality, to have a positive influence and to give hope to those choosing to live sustainably, we have designed a model for creating affordable, ecological smallholdings.
With the purchase of ‘Orchard Park’ in Cornwall earlier this year the co-op now owns five sites and almost 100 acres of land in total, with the community share offer earlier in the year having raised over £500,000 to take on six more sites (and support 18 more farms on them) by 2023.
By supporting new entrants into ecological agriculture we help to revitalise rural communities. We want to see a living, working countryside where land is valued as a way to enhance the good of communities and the natural world.
We show that small-scale ecological farming CAN work in today’s economy. Sustainably managed smallholdings provide low-impact livelihoods, regenerate land and produce good, healthy food for local communities, increasing sustainability and resilience, and improving ecology and biodiversity for future generations.#
Farming is inaccessible to new entrants. Even though the numbers of young people studying agriculture is growing, the average age of a British farmer is 59 and rising. Some of the factors causing this are:
- High land costs: the price of agricultural land is currently at record levels with an average of £9,000 per acre. Instability in the financial system, plus the subsidy regime, has led to an increase in land bought as an investment. In the period 2000-2010 new farm entrants accounted for just 4% of agricultural land purchasers.
- High costs of rural housing: the average house price in rural areas has more than doubled over the past decade to over £250,000, while the average salary is £21,000.
- Land ownership: farms have been getting fewer and larger. Meanwhile, the number of County Farms has declined as Councils sell them off. Farms are no longer affordable: most farmers cannot generate the income required to service a mortgage for the average farm from farming alone. The ratio of farm purchase price to average agricultural income is in excess of twenty to one on average. The result is a substantial body of people who wish to farm an ecological smallholding but cannot afford to do so. We want to change this.
The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (FEASTA) co-founded by the late Richard Douthwaite & now represented by Caroline Whyte, announced the launch of its new podcast series earlier this year. Bridging the Gaps has been co-produced by Feasta and the European Health Futures Forum.
It follows on its 2019 series Beyond the Obvious. The hosts are Seán O’Conláin and Caroline Whyte. Feasta plans to upload ten podcasts in the course of 2020. Topics will include:
- how best to measure well-being
- the politics of land
- wealth distribution
- diversity, both biological and cultural
- blame, shame and compassion
- the role of digital technology in society
- developing an adaptive financial system
…..all in the context of a biosphere which is critically ill and in need of urgent care.
The podcasts may be accessed here: https://www.feasta.org/2020/01/31/bridging-the-gaps-podcasts-on-ecology-health-energy-well-being
Podcast 1: Living well in the face of climate and ecological crises features recordings from a seminar organised by Feasta.
Podcast 2: Economic and political aspects of enough opens with a short talk by Anne Ryan on the concept of ‘enough’. Then guest host David Somekh of the EHFF interviews two ethicists, Richard Turnbull of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics and Henk Den Uijl, policy advisor at NVTZ (Dutch society for board trustees in health and social care), with all three giving their reactions to Anne’s talk.
Podcast 3: Basic income and the global pandemic struggle. We speak with Dr Evelyn Forget at the University of Manitoba about her research into the health and social effects of a basic income trial that was held in rural Canada in the 1970s. Then we talk to Paul Harnett and Laura Bannister, who are both directors of the World Basic Income, and who describe why they believe a global per-capita basic income is not only desirable as a way to help address the global pandemic crisis, but entirely possible to achieve.
Podcast 4: The future of tourism and business travel. FEASTA and EHFF · The future of tourism and business travel. We interview Manuel Grebenjak of the Stay Grounded network, and Professor James Faulconbridge, head of the Organisation Work and Technology Department at Lancaster University, about the future of tourism and business travel in the wake of Coronavirus – bearing in mind the need to urgently reduce travel’s environmental impact – and the effects of the Coronavirus on the cultural norms associated with business travel.
Podcast 5: Partnership-based organisation. Governments around the world are currently rethinking their approach to the economy and reflecting on their overall goals, and this is triggering many questions about how best to structure organisations, large and small, so as to improve our chances of achieving those goals. This podcast includes interviews with people at an international gathering organised by the NGO Metaphorum.
Podcast 6: Towards Well-being David Somekh of the European Health Futures Forum interviews Stewart Wallis, Chair of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. Topics covered in the podcast include the reasons why a large majority of people consider the current economic system to be dysfunctional and the potential for Ireland to join the WeGO group of governments that are orienting their policy towards well-being (at present, this group comprises Scotland, New Zealand, Wales and Iceland).
Podcast 7: Multiculturalism and resilience. This podcast features Feasta’s summer intern, Nadia Hansen, interviewing Dundalk-based social worker Dr Washington Marovatsanga on cultural competence, enforced absence, the relationship between power and knowledge production, the problematic history and orientation of social work.
Comments and suggestions will be welcomed. They may be added to Feasta’s podcasts page or emailed to email@example.com.
There have been a number of criticisms of the Red Tractor certification over the years and a clear account was recently published by Farms not Factories.
Tracy Worcester opens by recalling that campaigners have frequently exposed Red Tractor farms, see reports in the BBC, the Ecologist, the Times, the Daily Mail and Viva! She comments, “Occasionally when a farm is investigated and exposed, Red Tractor will withdraw accreditation, but for the most part they turn a blind eye, allowing farms to operate below minimum legal welfare standards. Red Tractor inspects farms once a year, but only one in a thousand inspections are unannounced”.
Tracy, who has championed the humane rearing of pigs in particular explains that, when it comes to buying pork, the Red Tractor label does not offer any assurance that the pigs were raised in high welfare conditions. It is not a high welfare label and means that people are likely to be buying pork from pigs that have suffered acutely from close confinement, lack of bedding, overcrowding and stress. However, she adds, it is important to remember that more than 80% of all UK pig farms use the Red Tractor label. If the Red Tractor label is used in conjunction with another higher welfare label (which is often the case), then the pig welfare standards will be raised to that label.
She refers to the pork labelling guide (above) which explains what the labels really mean for pigs and recommends only buying products with high welfare labels, such as *RSPCA Assured, Free Range or – best of all – Organic. These pigs will have been raised on high welfare farms, almost certainly in the UK. Pork with high welfare labels can be found in most supermarkets and customers can also ask for high welfare at the local butcher, or better still shop at the local farmers’ market, find high welfare online, or join a box scheme. When eating out, always ask if the meat is from a high welfare farm.
Tracy will be keenly scrutinising any future trade deal which incorporates agricultural products and will publish her commendations or misgivings on her website: https://farmsnotfactories.org.
Tony Blair: there is a risk of a huge rise in both coronavirus and non-coronavirus deaths, compounding existing economic and food security crises . . . the UK’s challenge pales into insignificance beside the dilemma facing developing countries. And if the developing world fails, the consequence will reverberate around the world.
My feeling is that if you look at the statistics, there is enormous variation and I feel to just propose a blanket three priorities for the entire developing world is a bit simplistic.
Healthcare workers and services must be protected.
I have no problem with the first priority – it’s a long-term investment in health, which has to be good and why not focus on this?
Build up surge capacity in hospitals to reduce the risk of being overwhelmed
I feel however that the channels for this health treatment should not be a panic reaction, where we have seen operations delayed for six months to handle the 1300 COVID-19 cases and 40,000 beds made available for them lying empty, while people die waiting for other types of illness, so many wrongly denied transport during to hospital during the lockdown now dead.
The second priority of community engagement does not recognise the real problem and that is a lack of interesting things for people to do. Without alternative safe activities, people will ignore rules and do what they have always done. In Uganda children are so grateful for (CYEN) being here, as we provide things for people to do in a risk-reduced environment.
In some places people ignore the rules on attending bars, while in other areas people are dying because their family providers aren’t allowed to work in the bars.
Understanding the need for people to be busy and apply themselves and developing these activities, rather than insisting constantly that they can do nothing for fear of spreading the virus, should be the major priority, not draconian fines or insistence on zero activity.
In Uganda, hardly anyone is taking the lockdown measures seriously. Buses meant to be no more than half full are 90% at double the normal price, while there are indications that Police profit from turning a blind eye. Border districts in Uganda with extra restrictions (initially 42 of them, though some have now opened) have worked out strategies to pounce on any who might stray there and demand compensation money or be quarantined for 2 weeks or more, unable to continue their work.
However, the early lockdown measures, when people did take them more seriously, clearly had an impact to limit the influx of cases from abroad – hence the numbers of cases here grow very slowly. However, for me it seems that the slum areas are enormously vulnerable, yet that vulnerability seems barely recognised and we are treated exactly the same as everyone else – with very little interest.
Lastly, corruption has expanded during COVID-19 caused by the opportunity for people to deny scrutiny of actions. Teenage marriage and pregnancy has increased vastly due to the circumstances, which lead to parents allowing their daughters to be married at 13+. I note that boys are also being abused through overwork in farms and looking after cattle, while parents can think of nothing for their children to do.
So, it is a very complicated societal crisis and I don’t feel that Tony’s one-size-fits-all strategies, while good in themselves, will solve many of the key problems of today.
More detail about CYEN at this time in the June update.
Surely the need for the Simpol approach in both national and international politics has never been more pressing.
Akin to the Simpol commitment, the new Stepping Stones initiative, set up by Paul Ingram, has been ‘adopted’ by the Swedish government. It is focussing on nuclear disarmament diplomacy but the approach, like that of Simpol, could be applied to a range of negotiations
In the latest newsletter Simpol’s founder, John Bunzl, has informed supporters that there are now NINETY FIVE MPs sitting in the British Parliament who have signed the Simpol Pledge because they want global solutions to our global problems.
The 2019 election was the first where global issues started to become a big factor in discussion – with Channel 4 holding a Climate Debate. John writes: “There is something changing in the air – and Simpol supporters are a part of it”.
After rallying support for the US and NZ elections John (right) adds, “Our campaign websites for Denmark, Luxembourg and Zimbabwe are now live. If you have friends in any of those locations, please let them know we’re here for them”.
He sees the pledge-signing by 95 MPs as being ‘a clarion call’ to those outside the UK showing that now is the time for Simpol – and they can see it working and ends by:
Calling all rebels
“At a time when the human propensity for ostrich-like behaviour is becoming perilous, we owe a massive debt to the Extinction Rebellion movement (XR) for putting climate change onto the headlines. This raising of consciousness has been essential, allowing the notion of ‘climate emergency’ to enter the vocabulary.
“XR have changed the game when it comes to bringing attention to Climate Change, but A political strategy is vital because, by definition, civil disobedience campaigns oppose the existing political order, which in turn ends up cracking down on the disobedience. And psychologically, this tit-for-tat cycle tends to maintain in the protesters a rather rigid rebellious identity at the expense of going for achievable solutions”.
Do they need an Election Rebellion alongside to be really effective? Read John Bunzl and Nick Duffell on what Simpol has to offer the new world of climate protest.
Feasta, co-founded by our late colleague, Richard Douthwaite, is issuing a podcast series: Bridging the Gaps: Podcasts on ecology, health, energy, well-being . . .
Feasta plans to upload 10 podcasts in the course of 2020. Topics will include:
• how best to measure well-being
• the politics of land
• wealth distribution
• diversity, both biological and cultural
• blame, shame and compassion
• the role of digital technology in society
…..all in the context of a biosphere which is critically ill and in need of urgent care.
The hosts, Seán O’Conláin and Caroline Whyte (right), explore a range of topics with guests from a wide variety of backgrounds. To hear Podcast 1: Living well in the face of climate and ecological crises (January 31 2020) click on this link.
Feasta thanks Laoise Kelly who gave them permission to use her harp music. The piece is ‘Princess Beatrice’ from her Album ‘Just Harp’.
Project Q is setting up a new cohousing community in Southwest England, based on Quaker principles (truth, peace, equality and simplicity). Other aspects of the community are up for discussion and debate.
The community will have shared communal spaces and private living spaces, where we will be dedicated to helping people and the environment. It will be:
- An example of simple, sustainable living, showing people how we can survive and thrive during and after the existential crisis that is threatening us
- A deeply spiritual space to nurture members; a place where people can come to find spiritual care in connection with the climate and ecological crisis
- An educational centre teaching practical skills like food-growing and crafts
- A centre of inspiration and positive thinking
- A loving community based on Quaker principles (truth, peace, equality and simplicity) with strong links to other Climate Crisis groups.
We are seeking people who will sell their houses and invest their money, or commit to working diligently if they don’t have much money. We shall buy a country estate or farm which already has suitable buildings, move in within a few months (depending on house sale speed!) and devote ourselves to supporting others, helping people to learn to live simply with hope and happiness. In particular we shall aim to help teenagers and young adults find their path in this confusing and mixed-up world.
One corner of Trelay farm
Friendship Cohousing – the first Project Q cohousing community – is progressing well. We are close to purchasing a property near Marazion. Our next meeting will be on 11th and 12th January. Contact Jackie@trelay.org for more information.
Jackie Carpenter is a chartered mechanical engineer – and in the 80s she managed large projects for Brown and Root. She was President of the Women’s Engineering Society from 2002-03 (see her 2001 paper). In 1995 she changed direction, helping to found the charity Energy21, and was managing director for ten years, promoting community renewable energy – networking with many, notably Hermann Scheer, a member of the Bundestag and President of Eurosolar. Jackie’s Stroud cottage ran on 100% renewable energy. She was President of the Women’s Engineering Society from 2002-03 (see her 2001 paper). In 2007 she moved to Cornwall to help to create a new sustainable community, Trelay, ensuring the long term continuity of the Energy21 Network of community organisations by linking it with the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Simpol has been thinking about love. I know, bear with us. We really do mean love.
In the last month global climate strikes saw some of our planet’s youngest and brightest hopefuls take to the streets demanding action before a cataclysmic future becomes unavoidable. A 16 year old woman now recognisable the world over put herself in a position to speak blistering truth to power, and she did so with courage. The strikes, and her words, made for provocative headlines, entertaining memes, and powerful news segments. And motivated by a righteous anger over a future being squandered, we were united in our damnation of those leaders and countries who fail to heed her words.
But were we right to be? Or was there was something missing? Something desperately lacking to temper the damnation with understanding, to find connection across the divide, to focus the fury into action. What was missing, was love.
While our most vulnerable changemakers take to the streets to fight for the future they will most certainly have to live through, is it enough for the rest of us to just ride the trajectory of their fire? To take their raw emotion and point it at our leaders? Or should we be the ones to find the way forward, a way beyond blame, to resolution?
At Simpol we have already defined our way forward. It’s simultaneous action on global problems. We’ve defined it as cooperation. We’ve defined it as politics. Now, we define it as love.
Inserted extract: In this Medium piece: “People can come together in larger groups to “love” each other in the sense that they come together to help each other to organise for an agreed purpose. “Politics” is the name we give to this kind of love. It involves a process in which groups of people together decide their goals and agree how to achieve them and how to organise themselves in the best interests of all members of the group. When someone is prepared to die for their country, who can say that this is not love?”
Some say love is unrealistic. Impossible. Utopian, even. We say: Love is all we have.