Working Group Response to Lambethâ€™s Sustainable Community Strategy 2008-2020
This submission represents the views of a working group of 9 members of Transition Town Brixton (TTB) â€“ one of several groups at a workshop held by TTB at Lambeth Town Hall on Monday 25 February 2008. Transition Town Brixton is a community-led initiative which aims to raise awareness of Climate Change and Peak Oil, and to engage all sectors of the community in designing our local transition to a low energy, low carbon future. It is part of a UK-wide network of Transition Towns, with 40 currently active and another 400 in formation.
We are disappointed and concerned by the avoidance of a meaningful definition of the word â€œsustainableâ€ â€“ beyond simply â€œbetterâ€ â€“ in the Sustainable Community Strategy. Sustainability is commonly understood as bringing environmental, social and economic factors into mutually supportive relationship â€“ yet in the SCS the environmental context is ignored. We feel strongly that this blind spot will undermine its chances of achieving the economic and social goals it claims to address.
As Peak Oil drives up energy prices and destabilises the global economy, we can no longer depend on cheap fuel to continue driving economic growth. At the same time, the effects of Climate Change will intensify and demand urgent action: the Government is already committed to cutting carbon emissions by 60% by 2050, while the Transition Town movement estimates a cut of 90% by 2030 is necessary to avoid reaching a â€œtipping pointâ€ where natural feedbacks would push temperatures rapidly upwards with devastating consequences.
Despite these elephants in the room, the Sustainable Community Strategy makes no attempt to relate its local-level economic and social interventions to the bigger environmental and macro-economic picture. This is a missed opportunity to identify synergistic ways to address the issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change in combination with those of poverty and social exclusion.
In Lambethâ€™s Sustainable Community Strategy, the key focus (Goals 1, 2 and 4) is clearly on getting more people into work, both by increasing employment opportunities and providing appropriate training and support. We agree that jobs are important, but employment alone does not make a community sustainable. It is essential that new jobs and training are â€œfuture-appropriateâ€ â€“ i.e. compatible with a low or zero carbon economy. Problems of unemployment could be exacerbated to a catastrophic degree by economic downturn following Peak Oil and the destabilising effects of Climate Change â€“ unless Lambethâ€™s local economy builds up sufficient resilience to withstand the storms of the national and global economic systems.
This is a great opportunity to focus on creating a new green economy for Lambeth. Local resilience depends on a combination of private, public and third sector activity, including innovative aspects of the informal economy such as community currencies. We are pleased that Lambeth is committed to working in partnership with all sectors of the community to develop and deliver services, and feel this joint way of working is rich in opportunities for different groups and sectors to support each other in working towards a low energy, low carbon, resilient local economy.
Specific interventions we would recommend includeâ€¦
- Awareness-raising and upskilling (with expertise of third-sector organisations such as Brixton Green) to help existing businesses green their operations â€“ especially Lambethâ€™s many SMEs.
- Carbon auditing and post-oil viability auditing (as seen in Transition Town Totnes), to assess problems and opportunities for individual businesses. In some cases this will lead to incremental improvements, in others a radical rethink, diversification or transfer of skills as old, oil-dependent jobs and industries become redundant.
- Flagship green enterprises â€“ it would be great to green local landmark businesses like Morleys in Brixton, to inspire others to follow suit.
- New zero carbon industries
- New social enterprises in energy conservation industries such as insulation and plumbing.
- Local economic innovations such as community currencies (e.g. LETS), tradable carbon quotas, green loyalty points, micro-credit for new green social enterprises.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
- Demonstration projects in schools and colleges to inspire and engage young people in low carbon living.
- Permaculture / agroforestry approach to school food growing and conservation projects (building on current projects such as Rosendale Primary Schoolâ€™s allotment and Groundworkâ€™s woodland Work-Related Learning projects).
- Other Work-Related Learning schemes that train young people in skills for a low carbon economy.
- Apprenticeships and training for low carbon industries.
- Link low carbon living into various aspects of the curriculum e.g. sustainability, Citizenship, PSHE, Design and Technology.
- Practical skills for work and life e.g. repair and re-use, sewing / knitting, pickling / preserving…
COMMUNITY AND HOMES
- Include and learn from diverse communities and cultures, encourage sharing of existing practical and creative skills (e.g. above).
- Unite generations, younger people learning from older people who lived through less energy-abundant times and have skills for low-energy living.
- Local repair and re-use centre(s) with training programmes â€“ using salvaged materials, including on a large architectural scale e.g. when flats are demolished / refurbished.
- Home carbon auditing and improvements â€“ existing schemes such as that on Hyde Farm Estate could be learned from and replicated.