Uplands allotments/leisure gardens Handsworth: 29th June

Malcolm Currie will speak about Uplands – described as idyllic, on the edge of the city and bordering “the lungs of Birmingham” (Sandwell Valley Country Park.)

The Meetup website explains that the aim is to facilitate food production, support education about growing in an urban setting as well as foster small, local businesses.

In addition to regular weekly, occasional and annual activities, current projects include rainwater harvesting, a community bread/pizza oven (help urgently sought!), renewable energy, a bore hole for water, as well as micro businesses.

Future developments could include a warden’s residence, therapeutic community gardens, children’s fantasy gardens, herb, spice and fruit trails, viewpoints with specifically designed seating (possibly as a part of a recovery journey) and a pond dipping site.

For a more formal account of Uplands click here

WMNEG mailing list will receive details soon & OB will host its entry in the Brummie aggregator.

 

 

 

 

mm

Addressing a question posed at the recent Planet Centred Forum seminar

Could you give us some guidelines about how you would change the present economic system to a new and greener economy, so that the current (political) parties have something to work on?  They will need this if they are going to move from a market economy. 

Good guidelines/practical strategies for moving towards a green, balanced economy were given on this website recently and last week the concept of a circular economy was summarised on Localise West Midlands’ website.

A regenerative ‘Circular Economy’ includes more localisation of economic activity and would replace and address the social and environmental damage done by the current ‘Linear Economy’ with its ‘take, make, dispose’ model, depleting finite reserves to create products that end up in landfill or in incinerators. It achieves its objectives through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling – reducing waste to zero. Some examples of such practice are presented on the website of the World Economic Forum.

20th century 

The idea of circular material flows as a model for the economy was presented in 1966 by an economist, Professor Kenneth Boulding, in his paper The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth. In the 70s, Walter R. Stahel, architect, economist and a founding father of industrial sustainability, worked on developing a “closed loop” approach to production processes. He co-founded the Product-Life Institute in Geneva; its main goals are product-life extension, long-life goods, reconditioning activities, waste prevention, advocating “more localisation of economic activity”.

21st century 

‘Resource’, the first large scale event for the circular economy was held In March 2014 and Walter Stahel joined the programme of 100 business leaders and experts. Many major stakeholders and visitors from across the globe attended. An annual large scale event is now increasing the uptake of circular economy principles.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) a charity, which receives funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Northern Ireland Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, the Welsh Government and the European Union was set up in 2000.  From its headquarters in Banbury it works with businesses, individuals and communities to achieve a circular economy through helping them to reduce waste, develop sustainable products and use resources in an efficient way. (Above: the header for its March report)

On 17 December 2012, the European Commission published a document entitled Manifesto for a Resource Efficient Europe. This manifesto clearly stated that “In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy” and outlined potential pathways to a circular economy, in innovation and investment, regulation, tackling harmful subsidies, increasing opportunities for new business models, and setting clear targets”.

Peter Day explored the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and its associates on radio (In Business) on 23rd April 2015 – listen again here.

Ellen (right) established this independent charity in 2010 and eloquently outlines the economic opportunity of a circular economy, giving the concept wide exposure and appeal.

Any comment?

Moving towards a new, balanced, green economy

Strangely enough there were seven times as many German readers visiting this website last week as there were British. We introduce other random visitors to  Dr Christine Parkinson’s recently published book,  in which she sets out the following series of measures which could move us towards a new, balanced, green economy:

  • introducing greater incentive schemes to encourage businesses to develop, use and market greener technologies and to penalise those who don’t. Examples of this could include: using and developing renewable forms of energy; phasing out motor vehicles which use petrol or diesel and introducing those that run on easily-accessible clean energy;
  • investing in research institutions which have the ability to develop innovative solutions to today’s climate-change problems;
  • introducing legislation to reduce the use of the motor car, such as restricting the number of cars owned by each household, unless they run on clean energy;
  • phasing out coal-fired power generation, ending fossil fuel subsidies;
  • introducing a carbon tax on those companies who continue to use fossil fuels;
  • rebalancing the economy, so that the rich are not rewarded for irresponsible behaviour that adds to the carbon load;
  • setting targets for meaningful reductions in carbon emissions by an early date, as suggested by Desmond Tutu in his petition (chapter 1) and ensuring that the calculations for this are correct;
  • phasing out nuclear power and nuclear weapons worldwide and re-channelling the money saved into the incentive-schemes and investments mentioned above;
  • proper funding of those institutions regulating the tax system, so that tax evasion and avoidance is properly penalised;
  • shifting the tax system to penalise those activities which need to be discouraged, such as greenhouse gas emissions and the accumulation of wealth;
  • banning certain household appliances and gadgets, which are not necessary and only add to the carbon load;
  • establishing a new institution, which will monitor the use of fossil fuels by companies and promote, and provide support for, the use of greener forms of energy;
  • encouraging less air travel, by raising awareness about the damage this is doing to the planet and encouraging airlines to invest instead in technologies that do not damage the planet;
  • working globally with other partners to reduce deforestation;
  • re-balancing international trading systems, so that goods and animals are not transported unnecessarily across continents and seas, adding to the carbon load;
  • encouraging countries worldwide to be self-sufficient in terms of goods and resources, so that goods are not imported which can be produced internally;
  • re-thinking and re-balancing entirely transnational trading systems;
  • working globally to find a better means of international co-operation in working jointly to reduce and reverse that damage that is currently being done to the planet;
  • encouraging partnerships between local government and local cooperatives and social enterprises;
  • encouraging the setting up of local groups (3G groups), where individuals can meet together to share what they are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and to encourage each other to keep going with it, even if the majority of others are still in denial (3G stands for three generations – the amount of time we have left).

She continues: “Some of the ideas above are already being worked on, and others are not about changing the economic system but about reducing carbon emissions, but I hope these are a starting point for others to add to, if we are really serious about taking meaningful anti-climate-change measures before it is too late”.

 

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“Three generations Left” can be ordered direct from the publishers, using this link. Whilst much of the book is viewable on this website, she would prefer you to buy a copy as any profits from the sale of this book will be used to fund her son’s work amongst slum children in Uganda.  Last year was a difficult one for this project (Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network), as due to the devaluation of the pound post-Brexit, monies sent from the UK to Uganda had lost a fifth of their value. Contact:  ChristineEP21@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Marc Stears, New Economics Foundation – an extract

Marc Stears: webmaster@neweconomics.org writes:

We are six weeks away from a general election. Politicians always say elections are important. But this time, their usual talk of “the most important vote for a generation” is absolutely right.

This election is about power, and about Brexit. It’s about the right to shape Britain’s relationship with the EU and the rest of the world.

But it is also about the right to try to shape our country’s future at home. Because the way Britain works right now is simply not accepted by millions of people.

People yearn to gain some purchase on the places where they live, and the forces which shape their lives. People want control over what matters to them – their work, their homes and families. 

At the New Economics Foundation, we are fighting for real control. That means:

* Building power in our workplaces, where new technology is combining with the old power of capital.

* Real choice over where we get to live, in the face of a vicious housing market which continues to deny so many of us a decent, affordable home.

* Revitalised local communities, which are so often overlooked by top-down efforts at regeneration.

* Fair access to essential services like energy, rather than allowing six giant companies to dictate terms to everyone.

* A reformed financial system, so that banks can start to serve the public interest and not just their own.

 

 

 

 

3. The Next Step: the Bioregional Economy (later developed into the book opposite left) – Molly Scott Cato

In a world of climate change and declining oil supplies, what is the plan for the provisioning of resources? Green economists suggest a need to replace the globalised economy, and its extended supply chains, with a more ‘local’ economy. But what does this mean in more concrete terms? How large is a local economy, how self-reliant can it be, and what resources will still need to be imported? 

The concept now developing amongst green economists is that of a bioregional economy—an economy which is embedded within its environment. Bioregionalism represents a culture of living that acknowledges ecological limits From an economic perspective, bioregions are natural social units determined by ecology rather than economics, and that can be largely self-sufficient in terms of basic resources such as water, food, products and services. The concept of ‘bioregionalism’ itself assists in interpreting economics in a broadly geographical way, in contrast to the post-globalisation economics which revolves around price (usually the price of labour) and downplays the role of geography altogether.

Climate change re-emphasises the importance of transport-related CO­2 emissions and therefore an economic response to climate change requires the re-embedding of space within our understanding of the economy. This new economic paradigm requires us to live consciously and carefully within our ecological niche: ‘Bioregionalism recognizes, nurtures, sustains and celebrates our local connections with: land; plants and animals; rivers, lakes and oceans; air; families, friends and neighbours; community; native traditions; and traditional systems of production and trade’.

Bioregional economics is therefore about reconnecting with our local environment and having deeper relationships with the suppliers of our resources, as a substitute for the thin nature of such economic relations within the globalised capitalist economy:

Your bioregion is effectively your backyard. It is the part of the planet you are responsible for. Bioregionalism means living a rooted life, being aware of where your resources come from and where your wastes go. Within the bioregional approach beginning with the local is a principle that trumps principles such as price or choice.

This chapter has presented proposals from green economists to replace the globalised capitalist system with a network of self-reliant local economies. As made clear in the previous chapter, this will not mean the end of trade, but it will mean that preference is given to local production for goods that can be produced locally. This will mean a shift in the focus of our economic life: we will need many more people skilled in practical crafts and especially in agriculture.

There is no question that within such an economy we will need to become different kinds of people: that we will achieve our satisfactions in life in new ways and that we will be called upon to be more creative and ingenious than we presently are. Some aspects of the transition will cause hardship, but others will be more deeply fulfilling than our lives within a capitalist work-and-consumption system can ever be.

 

 

 

 

2. Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice 2009, by Molly Scott Cato

Matters to which local authorities ‘must have regard’ when drawing up their sustainable community strategy:

(a) the provision of local services

(b) the extent to which the volume and value of goods and services that are sold or procured by public bodies are produced within 30 miles of the boundary of the public body

(c) the rate of increase in the growth and marketing of organic forms of food production and the local food economy

(d) measures to promote reasonable access by all local people to a supply of food that is adequate in terms of both amount and nutritional value,

(e) the number of local jobs

(f) measures to conserve energy and increase the quantity of energy supplies which are produced from sustainable sources within a 30 mile radius of the region in which they are consumed

(g) measures taken to reduce the level of road traffic including, but not restricted to, local public transport provision, measures to promote walking and cycling and measures to decrease the amount of product miles

(h) the increase in social inclusion, including an increase in involvement in local democracy

(i) measures to increase mutual aid and other community projects

(j) measures designed to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases

(k) measures designed to increase community health and well being

(l) planning policies which would assist with the purposes of this Act including new arrangements for the provision of affordable housing

(m) measures to increase the use of local waste materials for the benefit of the community.

According to Richard Douthwaite, the four basic steps towards greater local self-reliance are:

  • Setting up an independent currency system so that the economy can still function no matter what happens in the global financial system;
  • The establishment of an independent banking system, such as a credit union, again to protect the local economy from international financial pressures;
  • The production of enough energy to meet the needs of the local economy;
  • Meeting people’s need for food and clothing from within the local economy.

The campaign for localisation has made most headway in the area of food—unsurprising given that this is our most basic need. The objective is not for self-sufficiency but for self-reliance. A system of farming that was truly designed to feed people and to go on doing so for the indefinite future, would be founded primarily on mixed farms and local production. In general, each country . . . would contrive to be self-reliant in food. Self-reliant does not mean self-sufficient. . . Self-reliance does mean, however, that each country would produce its own basic foods, and be able to get by in a crisis.

Essential Features of a Sustainable Territory

  • It has a stable population
  • It provides the basic necessities of life for its population from renewable resources under its control and expects to be able to continue to do so without over-using or degrading those resources for at least a thousand year
  • It is therefore able to trade with the outside world of choice rather than necessity
  • It is able to protect is renewable resources and its population both militarily and economically
  • Its collection of economic protection weapons includes an independent currency and banking system
  • It has no debts to lenders outside and there are no net flows of capital across its borders
  • It does not depend on continual economic growth to stave off collapse. Its economy grows very slowly if at all.

Source: Adapted from Douthwaite, 2004

 

 

 

Green Economics: 1. Relocalising economic relationships

Chapter 9: Relocalising economic relationships – extracts from Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice 2009, by Molly Scott Cato

Such a vision offers greater community and personal satisfaction: a world where conviviality replaces consumption, where local identity replaces global trade, and where community spirit replaces brand loyalty. Lord Beaumont of Whitley, speaking in the House of Lords

For a couple of decades the proponents of globalisation have been winning the ideological battle, in spite of strong and growing opposition and proposal for more humane ways of organising international economic relationships, as outlined in the previous chapter.

During this time the few green economists calling for local food and energy security, or protection of local economies and communities, have seemed like voices in the wilderness. Yet, partly as a result of the immanence of climate change and increasing oil prices, putting all our eggs in the globalisation basket has begun to seem rather a risky strategy. Put this together with the recognition that globalisation means vastly more carbon-intensive transport of people and goods, and localisation begins to be an increasingly popular strategy. 

In his ‘global manifesto’ for localisation Colin Hines defines globalisation as follows:

Globalization n. 1. the process by which governments sign away the rights of their citizens in favour of speculative investors and transnational corporations. 2. The erosion of wages, social welfare standards and environmental regulations for the sake of international trade. 3. the imposition world-wide of a consumer monoculture. Widely but falsely believed to be irreversible—See also financial meltdown, casino economy, Third World debt and race to the bottom (16th century: from colonialism, via development.

This is, as Hines himself concedes, a blunt and indeed a savage critique. He sees globalisation not as a positive move but rather as an economic de-localisation or dismantling of local economies on a global basis.

There is plenty of evidence to show that the beneficiaries of this massive expansion in international trade are the transnational corporations (TNCs) that control it. For example, 51 of the top 100 economies in the world are TNCs. Just 500 TNCs control 70 per cent of international trade and a mere 1 per cent of TNCs control half of the world’s foreign direct investment. And whilst the global economy typically grows at 2 to 3 per cent every year, large corporations have an 8-10 per cent growth rate.

As well as political concerns about the shifting of economic power from governments to corporations, there is the obvious concern that the increasing amount of transport of goods and—increasingly—people too, has severe environmental consequences. In addition there are anxieties about the failure of security of supply of our most basic necessities such as food and energy.

The UK’s dependence on food imports makes us particularly vulnerable to rising energy prices. We currently rely on imports to provide almost one third of the food consumed in the UK, and have one of the lowest self-sufficiency ratios in the EU.8 Although the UK has been a net importer of food for a long time, imports are currently growing at a significant rate. DEFRA figures show that imports in tonnes increased by 38% from 1988 to 2002. For some types of food, the increase has been even more dramatic. Imports of fruit have doubled, for example, while imports of vegetables have tripled. Half of all vegetables and 95% of all fruit consumed in the UK now come from overseas.

The problem for the proponents of localisation is that the rules of the economic game are stacked against them. Although globalisation has resulted in a single economy for sales, there is no global rate of wages, or internationally agreed standards of employment or of environmental protection.

Green critics of globalisation are very keen to make clear that their objection is not based on narrow xenophobia. Hines draws a distinction between globalisation and internationalism, which can be thought of as ‘the flow of ideas, technologies, information, culture, money and goods with the end goal of protecting and rebuilding local economics worldwide

Its emphasis is not on competition for the cheapest but on cooperation for the best’. The following opinion from J. M. Keynes is frequently and favourably quoted by greens:

Amongst green economists there is a consensus that, in James Robertson’s words, ‘A revival of more self-reliant local economies must be a key feature of the 21st-century world economy’. However, there is less agreement on the sorts of policies needed to revive those economies. This section looks at some policies that have been suggested. Other greens despair of political solutions and look for homegrown solutions that lie within the power of communities: their activities are documented in the next section.

Hines’s 2000 ‘manifesto’ includes policies designed to localize production and dismantle TNCs, specifically a ‘site-here-to-sell-here’ policy. This is a classic example of the protection of a locality’s industry for strategic reasons—to ensure security of supply of the essentials of life—as well as in order to protect the environment. According to Hines, ‘Market access would be dependent on compliance with this policy, ensuring that whatever a country or a geographical grouping of countries could produce themselves they did’.

Woodin and Lucas go further in their support for local economies by suggesting an end to all subsidies to agricultural exports and the introduction of a food security clause into the World Trade Organisation treaty to protect self-sufficiency in poorer countries.

The Green Group in the European parliament has called for strong measures to support local food economies including the ending of dumping of subsidized EU production and greater local self-reliance in food production and ‘Rewriting the EU Treaty and the rules of the World Trade Organisation. This is necessary to ensure that food security and maximum self sufficiency, with its inherent reduction in fossil fuel use, replaces the present emphasis on more open markets and international competitiveness. At the same time, poorer countries which currently depend on their exports to EU markets, must be supported in order to enable them to develop stronger national and regional markets closer to home.

At the heart of green policy for the local economy is a focus on the small locally-based businesses which create most jobs. The Party also supports the establishment of democratically accountable community banks, which could provide capital for local businesses, as well as local and community currencies.

 

 

 

 

 

Land taxation could fund basic income

Last month readers from 20 countries (listed below) were attracted to the site, many reading Richard Murphy’s review of Colin Hines’ book about Progressive Protectionism but even more focussed on basic income, as John McDonnell announced that Labour has set up a ‘working group’ to investigate universal basic income, with Guy Standing (SOAS) as one of its economic advisers, a co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN).

For some years, America’s Nicholas D Rosen, a Patent Examiner at the Patent and Trademark Office, has advocated land taxation. In a 2012 forum entry he cites a book by economist Joseph Stiglitz, ” The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future”.

Though Joseph Stiglitz expresses concern about America becoming less egalitarian and mentions reducing rent-seeking as a solution, Rosen points out that he does not mention the ultimate form of rent-seeking: collecting the ground rents of land.

He continues: “If an increasing share of gross national product is going to the top 1%, it is at least in part because they are the people who own most of the valuable land, and the rents of land are absorbing a larger share of production”.

The revered laws of the market do not apply: Rosen (2008) points out that no one is making more land to keep the price down by competition. 

Rosen’s solution: tax the value of land, and cut taxes on earned income, sales and so on, making the tax system more progressive. He comments: “Unlike most schemes for doing so, it would not cause the productive to quit work, turn their efforts to finding loopholes in the tax code, or take their skills and capital elsewhere”.

Nine years later he has written a letter to the Financial Times’ editor:

Your editorial “Robot tax, odd as it sounds, has some logic” (February 21).

Regarding the possibility of taxing robots to preserve jobs, calls to mind Henry George’s Progress and Poverty. Writing in 1879, George noted that if labour-saving technology reached perfection, labourers would get nothing and capitalists would get nothing; all production would go to the owners of land, as land would still be needed despite automation.

Rather than proposing to tax robots, the great economist advocated a single tax on the value of land.

If we should ever achieve complete automation, this would enable people to be supported out of citizens’ dividends.

Short of complete automation, land value taxation still has important advantages, such as letting people keep what they earn by their own efforts, and putting the burden of taxes on those who enjoy the privilege of holding land that they did nothing to create.

He ends: “It would also help to make housing affordable and prevent the speculative bubbles in land prices that currently contribute to the boom and bust cycle”.

 

 

 

 

A new deal for self-employed workers and small businesses – the ‘precariat’ ?

 

There was an outcry when the Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a National Insurance hike for self-employed workers in the Budget – now postponed. Some 4.6 million people, around 15% of the workforce, are now self-employed and data from the Office for National Statistics show that two thirds of new jobs in the UK created in recent years are down to self-employment.  

Self employment, often insecure, low-paid, with no access to holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave

Now sometimes known as ‘the precariat’, the self-employed, often work in service industries such as fast food, for security firms on temporary, even zero-hours contracts, or in the so-called ‘gig economy’. The precariat includes many workers who used to have skilled or semi-skilled but relatively well-paid and secure jobs, under-employed graduates, often working in insecure jobs requiring a much lower education level, migrant workers, and people from ethnic minority communities. As long as they have a contribution record established, they get the standard state retirement pension and older self-employed workers attaining pension age today have, in many cases, some pension accrued as employees for a number of years of their life which the present generation will not have. Benefits the self-employed cannot access relate to holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave.

                                             Via: https://twitter.com/trishgreenhalgh/media 

Earlier this month it was reported that Labour is to convene a summit to develop a new deal for self-employed workers and small businesses to develop Labour’s policy on self-employment. – recognising “that the world of work itself is changing”. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said. “The labour movement has risen to challenges like this in the past. It was born out of the struggle for decent pay and conditions when new technologies were ripping up existing ways of working . . . We need that same spirit and vision again. So I’ll be convening a summit next month of unions, the self-employed, and small businesses to develop Labour’s policy on self-employment”.

Some have been in the forefront, pressing for such action, including Pat Conaty, David Hookes and – for many years – Guy Standing, a leading proponent of Basic Income. Pat writes: “The work of Professor Guy Standing at UCL SOAS and formerly at the ILO for 36 years on the Precariat Charter is superb”. See the links at the foot which include Standing’s 2011 Policy Network article. 

Pat Conaty, Alex Bird and Philip Ross produced the Not Alone report that Co-operatives UK and the Wales Co-operative Centre have published with Unity Trust Bank – the trade union bank. It focusses on the needs of people in self-employment who face low income and social and economic insecurity – the ‘self-employed precariat’.

The executive summary records that there are now more self-employed workers than at any time since modern records began. Some 4.6 million people, around 15% of the workforce, are now self-employed and data from the Office for National Statistics show that two thirds of new jobs in the UK created in recent years are down to self-employment.

Many of the self-employed are among the lowest-paid workers in the country; their potential income is eroded by other costs such as agency fees and additional challenges relate to difficulties in not being paid on time and not having the right to a contract.

The report calls for the ‘cousins of the labour movement’ – co-operatives, trade unions and mutual organisations – to come together and help form cohesive institutions to unite the self-employed precariat, as illustrated in the model of a ‘solidarity economy’ partnership. 

As Conaty says in correspondence: “God knows something has to be done for zero hour workers, growing ranks of exploited self-employed and those working all hours of the week in the gig economy to make ends meet”.  

Read more?

Guy Standing: http://www.policy-network.net/pno_detail.aspx?ID=4004&title=+The+Precariat+%E2%80%93+The+new+dangerous+class

David Hookes: http://www.uk.coop/sites/default/files/uploads/attachments/not_alone_-_trade_union_and_co-operative_solutions_for_self-employed_workers_3.pdf

http://pcwww.liv.ac.uk/~dhookes/IWFA.pdf

Pat Conaty: https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/pat-conaty/not-alone-what-uk-can-learn-from-union-co-ops

 

 

 

 

Event: launch of post Brexit & Trump report commissioned by Green MEP

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.

A new report by Green House authors Victor Anderson and Rupert Read, commissioned by MEP Molly Scott Cato (no stranger to WMNEG) will be launched on Tuesday 28 March from 14.00 – 16.30 at Europe House in central London.

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 Helena Norberg-Hodge (Local Futures and International Alliance for Localisation of which Localise West Midlands is a member). Helena’s contribution will be by pre-recorded video due to prior commitments.

 

Register and get full details here. 

2003: MSC contributed to WMNEG project: Sustainable Housing in Small Heath

2007: She also spoke at ‘Adapting to Climate Change’, with Marc Reeves, Editor of the Birmingham Post, at the BMI