A tribute to the Environmental Law Foundation

In addition to an amazing array of other commitments, Diana Schumacher is co-founder and vice president of the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF)

It was therefore particularly pleasing to receive this letter forwarded (but not written) by  Peter Walker, the Chairman of the lively award-winning Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum in Birmingham:

You may have read the news on Twitter already but, for those of you who haven’t, here is an update on Birmingham City Council’s planning decision to approve demolition of Fitness First/PSL Bowling in favour of a Lidl supermarket on the site.

Thanks to ongoing free legal support from the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), a national UK charity that helps people use the law to protect and improve their local environment and quality of life, we have some good news to report. With ELF’s tremendous help in checking over the planning case, and a Stirchley resident and a SuperStirchley supporter willing to be named as the person challenging the public body, we sent a Pre-Action Letter for Judicial Review to Birmingham City Council.

Last night (20 March) SuperStirchley attended a public meeting at Stirchley Community Church called by Cllr Rob Sealey on the topic of Tesco’s withdrawal from its planned Stirchley site. Simon Turner (Planning Officer responsible for city south planning applications) and Ian MacLeod (Assistant Director of Regeneration and Planning) were in attendance. However, before the Tesco discussion began, Cllr Sealey made an announcement on the Lidl application:

“Following the pre-action letter setting out grounds for a judicial review that was sent to the Council by ELF on behalf of local residents, BCC has accepted that the decision had been incorrectly decided. The council will  therefore agree to quash the planning permission previously granted to Lidl. This will not prevent Lidl from making a further application but such an application will be treated as a new application”.

Lidl could still submit another planning application – which would be their third – but it’s possible that would be more difficult to approve following this consent to judgment. We don’t want to raise false hopes if there are implications yet to come out – we are merely stating what was said at the meeting by council officials.

We want to thank Environmental Law Foundation for their incredible help. Please consider becoming a member to support their work – without them we wouldn’t have been able to do this.

Peter adds: “We hope this shows other locals that standing up for things that matter really can make a difference. And as we have always maintained: we are not against Lidl, we were opposing the loss of our facilities”.

*

Background information

Reading around the subject it emerged that Birmingham University has joined the growing national network of pro-bono ELF student law clinics. The University of Birmingham Law Clinic Contact Birmingham FLAG has No 5 Chambers in Birmingham as their supervising partner. Two very interesting cases were initially sent for their students to work on – the first was a matter concerning a Parish Council’s statutory duties to local people to provide allotments (where private allotment space had been promised and not delivered. 

 

 

 

Ben Parkinson

We have been reporting on the work of Ben Parkinson for some years on our former website now as part of Christine Parkinson’s news archived here (scroll down) and – since 2012 – with extra news in four articles on a Birmingham website. He has achieved such a remarkable body of work in Uganda – on a financial shoestring – that it seems right to add him to our list of networkers in his own right.

Ben started his career in marketing and is an accomplished jazz pianist who has played with the Midland and National Youth Jazz Orchestra and at Ronnie Scotts and the Hundred Club.

In 1998 he set up a music social enterprise known as Choice Music, which was developed to improve access to live music in the UK, which won an award for its innovation in 2000.  In 2002, he became Chief Executive at Jericho Community Business, an intermediate labour market (ILM) organisation in Birmingham that still provides work placements to long-term unemployed.  Ben brought in and operated New Deal, LSC, MATRIX, Co-Financing, and ESF while at Jericho, which also became one of recommended places to visit for the government Social Enterprise Visit Programme.

Ben has now been working in Africa since 2007, initially in Nigeria with Ashoka Fellow, Emmanuel Nehemiah and since 2009 in Uganda, where he has been responsible for developing the Butterfly Project, a project to train social entrepreneurs from the most disadvantaged children living in remote rural and slum areas.

He used the money from the sale of his house to found the project in 2009, intending it to be just a pilot for one year, but the results were remarkable, as the children being trained embraced the idea of being changemakers much more than expected.  Since then he has recruited three other groups, from both rural and slum districts and has recorded similar positive results.

He is now most at home living in Uganda and spends most of the year working on the gradual evolution of the Butterfly Project.

In 2017, Ben hopes to set up a school to train teenage social entrepreneurs in Northern Uganda, implementing the core Ugandan curriculum with Saturday sessions concentrating on developing vision, implementing projects and otherwise utilising the existing Butterfly Project curriculum in conjunction with school programmes.

The original Pioneer members are now established young activists and lead Ashoka’s Youth Venture Programme in Uganda; many have won awards for their work or received publicity.  Most have social projects that they are delivering, on which they can focus their passion for change.

 

 

 

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News from Molly Scott Cato: launch of post Brexit & Trump report

 

A new report by Green House authors Victor Anderson and Rupert Read, commissioned by MEP Molly Scott Cato will be launched on Tuesday 28 March from 14.00 – 16.30 at Europe House in central London.

The Brexit vote and the election of Trump have been hailed as marking the reversal of the long trend towards increased globalisation. These changes possibly also mark the end of neoliberalism as the dominant ideology of our times. For opponents of what globalisation and neoliberalism have meant in practice these developments might be seen as welcome. Yet at the same time Brexit and Trump seem highly problematic for anyone concerned with social justice and ecological sustainability.

The report considers the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on trading practices and the opportunity to move to a less globalised and more localised economy. It emphasises that there are many different versions of Brexit, and aims to put a green version firmly on the political agenda.

Note: Panel discussion with Nick Dearden (Global Justice Now) and our New Era colleague Helena Norberg-Hodge (Local Futures and International Alliance for Localisation). Helena’s contribution will be by pre-recorded video due to prior commitments.

 

Register and get full details here.

 

 

 

News from John Bunzl: The Simpol Solution – solving global problems could be easier than we think.

John writes:

simpol2-solutionClimate change, mass migration, unfettered corporate power, religious fanaticism, inequality, the rise of the far right . . . Individually these problems are tough enough; combined, they’re surely insurmountable. Or are they? 

The Simpol Solution explains why our efforts to deal with these issues are failing and proposes new ways of thinking that can help us tackle them. Drawing on a multinational movement already gaining momentum among politicians and academics, this game-changing book proposes a solution which shows that solving global problems could be closer than we think. 

The Simpol Solution takes a welcome fresh look at political/economic reality and clearly explains the psychology behind why we need new eyes to see how we might force politicians to change the world on our behalf.’ Joris Luyendijk, author, journalist and talk-show host

‘I nodded until I got a crick in my neck. I haven’t read a book for years that I agreed with so deeply and so consistently – nor felt so keenly that these are messages the world needs to hear.’ Simon Anholt, founder, the Good Country Index

simpol-text

The Simpol Solution shows the real possibilities of a worldcentric paradigm shift, transcending from a competitive to a cooperative evolution and mode of consciousness. A real pleasure to read and a potential political pathbreaker.’ Professor Ugo Mattei, University of California

‘A courageous and urgently needed book.’ Ervin Laszlo, author, philosopher and evolutionary systems theorist

Published by: Peter Owen Publishers, London & Chicago www.peterowen.com. Keep up with all the latest on the book at http://www.simpol.org/index.php?id=545

John Bunzl – Founder & Trustee

International Simultaneous Policy Organisation (ISPO)

http://www.simpol.org

Blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/john-bunzl/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/johnbunzl

YouTube: http://www.simpol.org/index.php?id=19

 

 

 

A question from Julian Rose: Will a brighter future belong to the ‘micro’ farmer (2-5 acres)?

After reading Ian Potter’s downbeat dairy news posted on the Political Concern website, Julian Rose writes by email:

“Ian is an enduring stalwart of the dairy industry. I bought and sold quota through him back in the 1990’s. His prognosis is all too true, it is indeed the supermarket and the global marketing casino that continue to ensure that the price of milk is subject to the roller-coaster ride it has become tragically accustomed to. A roller-coaster which continually forces dairy farming onto its knees.

But at the other end of the spectrum, as Tom Levitt also points out, a revival is taking place of the small herd supplying fresh, local and mostly unpasteurised milk direct to the public – micro-dairying:

“Unlike the product we pick off the shelf in the supermarket, the milk from micro-dairies is invariably unhomogenised. It is often still pasteurised to kill harmful bacteria, but even the semi-skimmed varieties are sold with the almost forgotten creamy top.

“The difference in the quality of milk, when the focus is on producing quality over quantity, is remarkable and it feels strange to call what we produce and what you pull off the supermarket shelves, by the same word – milk,’ says Josh Healy, who runs North Aston Dairy, a 19-cow herd in Oxfordshire, providing organic milk twice a week for 250 local customers”.

Julian ends: “There could hardly be a more contrasting scenario within the world of dairy farming. I believe that the brighter future might belong to the ‘micro-dairy’ practitioners. Not least because their product is about as close as one can get to ‘real food’, whereas the process of ‘denaturing’, performed on milk from wholesale suppliers destined for supermarkets, is wholly destructive of all the most valuable elements of this once excellent food.

“Ultimately the buyer will come to recognize this difference”.

 

 

 

News from Rashneh and Katy in Mumbai

Rashneh Pardiwala (below left), Katy Rustom and the CERE team  write:

rashneh5jpgkaty-5This is wonderful news that Andrew would like to develop a biodiversity park. Also we read about the amazing work the Stroud Community is doing in agriculture”.

(Andrew is beginning to make a forest/biodiverse garden in a Bordesley park. Molly Scott Cato helped to set up a very successful community supported agriculture scheme).

Rashneh and Katy continue: “Please do let us know if there is anything we can do to help. All the material on our Biodiversity Garden is on this portal: www.spbiodiversitygardens.com 

The Native Biodiversity Garden is spread over one acre of land at the edge of Teenvira Dam, in the coastal town of Alibaug, Maharashtra. The website tells us:

“This garden is an earnest attempt to conserve nature, attract native species of flora and fauna back into our ecosystems and most importantly, serve as a Learning Resource Centre for students, teachers, parents and all visitors . . .

“This garden showcases the beauty and wonder of native plant species. These plants form a vital component of our ecosystems by providing habitats for insects, birds, amphibians and mammals, being an important source of food and medicines and providing ecosystem services such as air purification and preventing soil erosion.

“This is an eco-friendly and sustainable garden, and visitors are requested to enjoy it with care. It is powered by solar energy with the aim to promote the use of renewable energy and uses drip irrigation to ensure water conservation. Pathways have been designed to facilitate wheelchair access.

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“The garden has 17 different thematic sections namely sensory, medicinal, butterfly, wetland or pond ecosystem, grasses, ficus, orchids, ferns, bamboo, palms, spices, kitchen, vertical, adaptation, celebration and a sacred grove. Most importantly, there is a special section on the Western Ghat species since Raigad District falls within this Biodiversity Hotspot where many species are on the verge of extinction. The garden plays host to over 500 native species of plants, some of which are extremely rare and unique with saplings having been procured from across India . . .

“The project commenced in April 2015 and in a brief span of 9 months, a barren plot of land was converted into a lush green garden with the plantation of over 45,000 saplings across 500+ native species.

This twelve minute film documents the transformation”.

News of Jonathan Bartley

jbartleyJonathan Bartley, now co-leader of the Green Party, says: “It is unacceptable that in the fifth richest country in the world people like Mark Wood are starving to death because their benefits have been cut. The social security system should be an ally, not an enemy of those who need help. Britain is a caring nation. We should be proud to look after each other and take every measure possible to ensure people receive the support they need – starting with an independent inquiry into the deaths of benefit claimants.”

A sister site raised this issue in January and we are indebted to a Bournville reader for the latest news.

The Green Party has joined the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and compiled a dossier of 50 benefit claimants who have died whilst claiming benefits, including the tragic death of Mark Woods who was left with just £40 a week after his benefits were cut. His mother Jill Gant has co-signed the letter to Damian Green MP.

Mr Woods starved to death in 2013 after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP, despite suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and mental health problems. The 44 year old was left with just £40 a week after his benefits were slashed and was found dead just four months later, weighing only 35kg. Jill Gant, mother of Mark Wood, said: “I believe an enquiry is absolutely essential because the Work Capability Assessment is not fit for purpose for the most vulnerable, particularly those with mental health problems, like my son Mark who died of starvation aged 44 because his benefits were stopped.”

 govt-legislation-logo

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (DWP), Damian Green MP, the campaigners call on the DWP to launch an inquiry into controversial benefit assessments and “whether these procedures are fair and proper or if they are, in fact, contributing to the deaths of claimants”.

The letter reads:

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to ask you to launch an independent inquiry into the deaths of people receiving benefits. Such an inquiry should be tasked with examining the methods used to assess claimants and their entitlements. It should determine whether these procedures are fair and proper or if they are, in fact, contributing to the deaths of some of claimants – who have the highest support needs which should be met by society.

As the evidence continues to mount that this is the case, The Green Party has compiled a dossier highlighting the stories of fifty individuals who died since 2008, and where there is good reason to believe their treatment at the hands of your department has been a factor in their deaths.

Treatment such as the suspension of benefits to David Clapson who went on to die just three weeks later from diabetic ketoacidosis, after the fridge used to store his insulin stopped working when he couldn’t afford to top up his electricity card. Many of these fifty examples cases coroners, in their verdicts, have expressed grave concern about the methods employed by your department.

We want to ensure that all pertinent questions have been asked, and that any relevant lessons have been learned. At present it is impossible to feel confident this is the case.

The more time passes without an inquiry, the longer concerns will remain and questions will hang over the procedures used by your department to handle benefits. We urge you to use your power to end that uncertainty.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party

Mags Lewis, disability spokesperson for the Green Party

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts

Jill Gant, mother of Mark Wood, who starved to death four months after his benefits were cut off in 2013

I have added JB to my list of sites to watch: https://twitter.com/jon_bartley though I haven’t joined Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

News from the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability: residential courses

feasta-header-2

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár

What will we do in the future without wood? The end of the forests has come.

Feasta‘s aim is “to identify the characteristics (economic, cultural and environmental) of a truly sustainable society, articulate how the necessary transition can be effected and promote the implementation of the measures required for this purpose”. (http://www.feasta.org).

Today the challenges seem greater than ever. How can the human species learn to live in harmony with the Earth, the rest of the natural world and with each other? For the last 15 years the Retreat Lodges at Rossbeigh, Co Kerry have proved to be a good place to think and talk about these issues: built with stone walls and a slate roof, the windows look out over tidal marshes and sand-dunes to the forty-mile long Dingle Peninsula and across Dingle Bay to the Blasket Islands and the Atlantic.

John Jopling is now re-launching the week-long Feasta residential courses held here for the last 16 years. The following programme is proposed:

  •  Series title: “Learning for the Future”.
  •  The courses will be held once a year – possibly increasing to twice a year
  •  They will ideally be announced 6 months ahead, naming subjects and key people.
  •  The first week in the new format will be the last week of June 2017.
  •  Each week will feature three or four main subjects.
  •  Each subject will be led by a key person.
  •  There will be 8 or 10 other participants.
  •  In addition there will be time for single session topics using “Open Space”.
  •  These might include talks about eg local wildlife.
  •  and/or ideas people are working on.
  •  Reading matter may be circulated to intended participants in advance.

Relevant topics could include:

  •  Gaia, Dark Mountain, systems-change and emergence, the Viable Systems Model.
  •  Climate change, biodiversity, the interdependence of species, other global boundaries.
  •  governance systems and economic systems such as De-growth
  •  the role of compassion and non-violence.
  •  commons, localisation, global citizenship, community ownership, co-ops, co-housing, community currencies, permaculture.
  •  topics such as wealth, inequality, ownership, corporate structures, money, taxes, citizens income, energy, cities, nano-technology.

Please feel free to suggest other topics – but be prepared to present them and/or suggest people who will, as the guarantee of well prepared discussions by people with expertise is important to making the courses a success.

feasta-iconNote also: The world’s first conference on world basic income was held in Manchester on 4th February 2017.

The event explored a new practical solution to global inequality and poverty. Feasta’s Caroline Whyte, who is involved in the CapGlobalCarbon campaign, was on a panel discussing practicalities.

 

 

 

 

News from Zerbanoo Gifford -1

By the time Zerbanoo’s newsletter arrived, there had been a decision which dashed the dreams of Chagossians.  

zerbanoo-bookShe recalls that the Feasibility Study of 2002 was finally discredited in 2012 but immediately Wm.Hague announced a new one which reported in 2014 that there was no obstacle to resettlement. Then in June 2016 the Supreme Court decided that any failure to follow the new study could be attacked in Court as “irrational” and gave leave to challenge the Marine Protected Area which Wikileaks had disclosed was intended to prevent resettlement. This followed a decision of a UN Maritime Tribunal which held the MPA unlawful because it did not respect the rights of Mauritius as a neighbouring state and one with residual sovereignty rights to Chagos. The UN required Britain to start negotiations over the return of sovereignty of the islands to Mauritius. 

Her husband Richard had been giving legal services pro bono for 20 years since meeting exiled islanders in Mauritius and the first court victory in 2000 led to premature hopes of a humane solution. Zerbanoo commented ruefully: “But foreign policy is not changed so easily, and FCO had many tricks up their sleeve, requiring two decades of court cases and parliamentary oversight to turn the tide and bring the islanders back home. The effects of the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all deployed to defeat resettlement”.

Shamefully, Chagos islanders who were expelled in the 1960s to make way for military bases will not be allowed to return to their Indian Ocean homes, the British Foreign Office announced in November 2016, citing the UK’s interest in its “defence relationship” with the US.

Reacting to the decision, David Snoxell, who was deputy commissioner for British Indian Ocean Territory in the 1990s, said: “A small-scale resettlement could have been tried and 15 years of deception, litigation, wasted public funds and damage to the UK’s human rights reputation avoided. Judges at all levels have deplored the treatment of the Chagossian population since 2000. I cannot recall any other issue, at least in the 35 years that I was in the diplomatic service, which has so let down the FCO, undermined our ethical standards, been so carelessly and unsympathetically handled and caused so much unnecessary anguish than this one. I still feel ashamed at the way the FCO has treated and tricked a people whom we had a sacred duty to protect.”

 chagos-deep-space-surveillance-facility

 

The US is to be granted a further 20-year lease to use the military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia, when it comes up for renewal at the end of this year. 

 

Later, in Part 2, Zerbanoo’s news of cheering work at the Asha Centre.

 

 

GenerationNext: introducing Andrew Walton

andrew-waltonAndrew is the founder of the Bioregion Birmingham think tank and project manages Bordesley Green Forest Garden, having successfully applied for a Heritage Lottery grant, utilising his experience as a permaculture student, writer, communications professional, and project manager.

Bordesley Green Forest Garden is a grant funded community project, which aims to promote regenerative urban food production and community collaboration.

Forest gardening is a form of agro-ecology. It mimics the structure of a natural forest – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem in our climate – using edible and productive trees and perennial plants to increase natural biodiversity.

Andrew is passionate about ecology and social justice and Bioregion Birmingham was founded in response to the ecological and economic challenges facing Birmingham and the surrounding regions.

Its aims are to promote bioregionalism – the principle of meeting human needs within the constraints of resource areas – participatory democracy and community resilience as solutions to global economic and environmental challenges.

The think tank provides a platform to key thinkers, activists and community groups with a view to sharing practical information that could inform policy while empowering citizens to be the change they want to see.

Andrew has a certificate in Permaculture Design and a Diploma in Public Relations. He is an Advisory Board Member to the Ecological Citizen journal and previously sat on the committee of the Birmingham Green Party.