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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.
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.
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”.
‘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”.
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.
(Links & bracketed content added)
Natalie Bennett, writing in the FT, expresses disappointment that unnamed Labour “colleagues” of shadow business secretary Clive Lewis have joined the FT’s arch anti-Corbynite Jim Pickard (despite his ‘neutral not hostile’ Twitter profile) in criticising his statement about the privatisation of public services and assets. (FT January 11).
That reflects the views of many millions of Britons who have seen public services handed over to be managed for private profit, an approach built on cutting the quality of services, eating away at the pay and conditions of workers, and shovelling public money into private hands.
As she says: “Across the country, the privatisation of our NHS, with the importation of the failed US healthcare system with for-profit providers, is causing disquiet”.
At risk also, Ms Bennett continues, is “The vital purpose of the Green Investment Bank, to fund the infrastructure we need for an affordable, secure energy future, replaced with asset-stripping”. (Note the parliamentary debate here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-01-11/debates/C92ACCCC-380F-4277-87FC-D42B2B7B0443/GreenInvestmentBank)
Natalie ends: “We have a mixed economy in which the private sector plays many critical roles, but for-profit businesses have no rightful place in running public services”.
Natalie Bennett is the Prospective Green Party candidate for Sheffield Central, Sheffield, S Yorks
Professor Hatcher’s presentation to the West Midlands New Economics Group (27 October at Friends of the Earth) was a critique of the new West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – its structure, its analysis and its programme for economic growth.
The absence of democratic accountability was an easy target. No-one had a good word to say about that. It will not even be up to the minimum level of the 25-member directly-elected Greater London Assembly that holds the London Mayor to account. Besides which there is and has always been no evidence of a ground swell of support for an extra layer of regional government.
The report produced by the WMCA failed to show in the Professor’s opinion, that there was a serious skills deficit holding the region back. Evidence from employers indicated that most of their employees are under-employed and are over-qualified for the job. [This should not be surprising given the huge expansion in higher education]. However Prof Hatcher did not define ‘skills’ or expand on the difference between ‘skills’ and ‘qualifications’. To my mind employers have always complained that young people emerging from school, and now from university, were not ready for the world of work. How could they be? Every workplace has its own culture and working practices. Practical skills are invariably learnt on the job.
So what are the businessmen who dominate the WMCA, complaining about? They have put aside a minute budget for ‘improving schools’ (or skills) that looks purely tokenistic. It’s as if they are saying what they are expected to say. Prof Hatcher let us to draw our own conclusions.
I see business people taking over schools and other learning facilities with the support of a government that believes business people know how to run them better than teachers, academics or librarians. Schools have always been infiltrated by ideologues, fundamentalists and propagandists of one sort or another [perhaps the British public was horrified by the Trojan Horse affair because the majority of them are not muslims].
Business people seem to believe that if they can control the education system they can promulgate the gospel of enterprise and private profit. I think this is no more worthy than promulgating a fundamentalist minority religion. Business people take it for granted that they have the support of the majority of the British people for doing this but we have never had a referendum on the question and it is certain that the nation would be equally divided on the issue.
What was clear to me at the end of the meeting is that we cannot rely on the WMCA to take account of the views of people who are not wholeheartedly pro-business. Going by their pronouncements so far there is not much chance of that.
Alan Clawley 1 November 2016
New page: Why more socially inclusive grammar schools are not the answer in Birmingham (or elsewhere): Richard Hatcher
Northfield’s Dick Rodgers (right) occasionally attends WMNEG meetings and his concept of the Common Good focusses on seven key issues, listed on his website.
Today’s inbox brought news of another initiative: Economy for the Common Good (link does not work on all browsers). The e-correspondent wrote: “The group has established an interesting economic concept which moves away from a purely financial focus in business. Instead, through a technique called the Common Good Balance Sheet, measures are put in place to look at organisational focus on human dignity, cooperation, ecological sustainability, social justice, and transparency and democracy”.
A search found that Wikipedia describes Economy for the Common Good as a social movement advocating an alternative economic model which reevaluates economic relations by, for example, putting limits on financial speculation and encouraging companies to produce socially-responsible products: “It calls for working towards the common good and cooperation instead of profit-orientation and competition which lead to greed and uncontrolled growth”.
Christian Felber coined the term in his book Die Gemeinwohl-Ökonomie – Das Wirtschaftsmodell der Zukunft, published in 2010. According to Felber, it makes much more sense for companies to create a so-called “common good balance sheet” than a financial balance sheet. The common good balance sheet shows the extent to which a company abides by values like human dignity, solidarity and economic sustainability”.
Over 1200 companies actively support the concept of Economy for the Common Good and a few hundred of them have committed to creating the common good balance sheet.
These include Sparda-Bank Munich, the Rhomberg Group and Vaude Outdoor. According to proponents of the movement, the success of a company should not be determined by how much profit it makes, but rather by the degree to which it contributes to the common good.
In the words of noted economist Martin Wolf, “[I]f the legitimacy of our democratic political systems is to be maintained, economic policy must be orientated towards promoting the interests of the many not the few; in the first place would be the citizenry, to whom the politicians are accountable”.
Conference: Universal Basic Income Network in Hamburg
Pathways of thought: common and uncommon ground, aims and direction when it comes to the environment: Jeremy Heighway
Looking at the aims of the conference page, it says very clearly: “A basic income is therefore a route to a degrowth society, however, a basic income does not necessarily start the ecological transformation that is so urgently needed,” and continues, “… addressing this … needs to be thoroughly incorporated into any implementation of a basic income and its accompanying measures.”
The tracks appear to go cold right there, however, as a shift is made towards four other areas of discussion, none of which intrinsically address ecological transformation. It is perfectly possible for a supporter of a basic income to ignore ecological transformation; to some extent it is even possible to be in favour of increased consumption.
The degrowth movement is a mindset; the basic income is a mechanism. This provides a possible clash from the outset, based on the question of what you hope to achieve and how.
On the societal side I think there is quite a good overlap and it is a great idea to get the movements working together. But opportunities can be missed if two groups do not also look hard at what is not automatically going to be addressed if you work together.
One huge area is, as stated above, ecological transformation. My proposal looks at eco-taxation and suggests that all increased revenue be returned to everyone evenly in the form of a basic income. However, I do not believe it would be able to help finance the true basic living-cost foundation much. It is certainly much more of an easy attachment to a basic income than a direct source of finance. Strangely, it is almost something which degrowth supporters need to be vigorous about from an environmental benefit perspective and argue for with basic income supporters.
The semi-sideline nature is maybe one reason why basic income supporters have not been very supportive of this idea so far: if it doesn’t do much to actually finance the true basic income, why complicate matters and potentially alienate people along the way with an unpopular taxation device?
Now it’s your time dear degrowth supporters: why do environmental concerns need to be considered again? And, dear basic income supporters, you can actually gain some firm supporters and new friends if you take up this idea – “… addressing this … needs to be thoroughly incorporated into any implementation of a basic income and its accompanying measures”, remember these stated aims of the conference?
Jeremy Heighway currently lives in Leipzig, was an active participant at the degrowth conference in 2014, and took part in the basic income GAP sessions. He also wrote a stirring paper on infrastructures for a parallel GAP. In his day job, Jeremy mostly does translations from German to English in the field of renewable energy.