It’s been revealing to watch the differences in the global response to each of the existential threats of our age – COVID19 and climate change. Listening to our leaders tell us how our daily lives must change, and not just in the short term, the gravity of this crisis becomes clearer each time the Government ramps up its efforts to contain the spread. All things being equal, we should really be witnessing similarly radical and far-reaching measures to tackle the climate emergency. That we haven’t is largely down to the fact that we in the global north have yet to feel the full force of climate change – despite mounting and irrefutable evidence that we soon will. Ironically, this pandemic is already highlighting crucial lessons that will have to be taken on board, as and when we set about confronting the climate emergency – at present (and remember, we’re only a couple of weeks into COVID-19), the insecurity of food systems and the precarious state of our health and welfare systems. While both crises call for unprecedented levels of national and international cooperation, the resilience of our communities and their capacity to self-organise and respond to local need will, as ever, be just as important.
In the most recent briefing…
We all have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment. It’s what the law says and there are binding (for a while yet) EU conventions (Aarhus Convention) that require Governments to comply. But ask those communities who live in shadow of Mossmorran how difficult it is to assert their legal rights in the face of Big Oil corporate interests. For communities and many NGOs that are committed to the cause of environmental justice there are significant barriers of cost, legal uncertainties and technical expertise. Finally, an important piece of the jigsaw has fallen into place.
We’ve all encountered the empty shelves and despite all we are told that there is plenty of food in the supply chain, it’s difficult not to feel that little surge of anxiety that there might not be. Which is presumably exactly what drives the panic buying behaviour. This of course has nothing to do with the food insecurity that, in normal times, 8% of the population have to live with but in these abnormal times will increase dramatically. Excellent blog from Nourish Scotland highlighting how the community response can be strengthened.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead’s evocation of the power of community action seems such a neat fit for the work of local people on Arran to promote marine conservation. For over ten years, the community group, COAST, has campaigned for stronger protections of their marine environment and by harnessing good science and political will, they’ve had a transforming impact on the health of their coastal waters with dramatic increases in marine life. A new report tells the story.
The issue of size is something of an obsession for me. I sit firmly in the Schumacher camp which extols the virtue of staying small. When things go wrong for an organisation it’s usually because it has gone for growth and lost touch with its purpose. It’s why I believe in the inherent value of the community based housing movement and am deeply suspicious of mega housing associations building ‘strategic partnerships’ with the wee guys. Housing consultant, Mark McLintock, went digging into the numbers in an attempt to bring some hard analysis to the ongoing debate.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and in recent days we have witnessed both UK and Scottish Governments stepping up and delivering (to coin a phrase) whatever it takes. Specifically, Scottish Government’s £350m package of support for Scotland’s voluntary and community sector and those in our communities who will be hit hardest, is beginning to work its way through the system. A remarkably quick turnaround from announcement to implementation which deserves a big shout out to the civil servants and others from the sector for making it happen. This is what we know so far.
For some time, Andy Wightman MSP has been living with the threat of court action in a defamation case in which he was accused of damaging the reputation of a business with comments that he made in his blog Land Matters. Being sued for £750,000 in damages would have left him bankrupt and forced to resign as MSP. It’s great news that he won the case but Scotland’s defamation legislation is nonetheless in serious need of revision. It favours those with deep pockets to such an extent that the basic right to freedom of expression is being seriously compromised.
It’s hard to process just how quickly the notion of meeting face to face, and in reasonable numbers, has become a thing of the past. But less than a fortnight ago, Scottish Government and COSLA had invited a significant number to attend the launch of the next phase of the Democracy Matters conversation. The last minute postponement due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ (nothing to do with Covid-19) was a significant disappointment. Although understandably taking a back seat in the current climate, we will be looking for an early rebooting of this important initiative once the coronavirus crisis has passed.
Town and city centres throughout the land have one thing in common. They are all struggling to find a new economic model that doesn’t depend on an addiction to shopping. To date the unimaginative response has been generally to throw in a mix of leisure and social activities in the hope that the old shopping habits might eventually re-emerge. Perhaps the answer is simply to accept that these changes in habit are irrevocable and completely reimagine city centres as citizen hubs for the post-consumer age. It’s what they’re doing in Gronigen.