Category Archives: News

Relevant events and developments
This section not now being used – new material appears in posts

Living Well in Manchester.

A new short pamphlet from the Irwell Group looks at the zero-growth option for Manchester’s economy in the light of economic recession and the spectre of runaway climate change.  The old approach of trying to get 3.5% growth for ever is not going to work, and if it did the results would be increased inequality and climate suicide.

Go to the Irwell Group site:


Rescued – a landmark in bioregional thinking

Creating the Second Great Wood of Caledon:  A Rural Manifesto for the Highlands – Scottish Green Party, 1989

“Rather than being a poor follower of the south in its development, the Highlands has the opportunity to adopt an ecological strategy and be at the forefront of modern political endeavors: to live off the resources of the planet without destroying them and to share them justly amongst a population”.

In the scale of its imagination this document is still worth reading 22 years on.  Although in a different place and in somewhat different times (but not very different really) the Green deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion was also trying to imaging a similar scale of sustainable economic and social development.  This kind of thinking and policy is still needed as it becomes plainer and plainer to see the bankruptcy of the dominant economic model with its emphasis on economic (Capital) growth with its inevitable breaking of the planetary support system’s limits.

Worst ever carbon emissions mean 2C target almost out of reach

Today’s Guardian has this exclusive story based on unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.
This is profoundly depressing – not only is there systemic failure to ‘scale up’ sustainable practice, but the policies of government are woefully inadequate to the scale of the problem.  Indeed this is not altogether surprising – the governments at Cancun committed the world to a suicidal 4C rise in temperature.
I have recently made some rough comparisons of proposals from various sources at .  Few of them have any emphasis on reduction of energy use and with the exception of Zero Carbon Britain’s excellent work, there is no recognition of the need to exceed international targets here because of our historical and outsourced emissions.
But what is sadly missing from all this is any coherent praxis: how do we get this stuff more squarely on government and party agendas? How do we rapidly build a social movement underpinned by a vision of a better way of living with the strength and capacity to secure real change?  How do we do this in solidarity with people in the global south who are already experiencing the worst of the climate emergency (see the Bolivian government’s work on this)?

Know your (environmental) limits

SDC logo

The coalition vandals have ended (from 1 April) the Sustainable Development Commission.  Here is one of their last contributions – a useful piece of work that helps us operationalise the notion of ecological limits at a local (and therefore also bioregional) level.

“‘Living within environmental limits’ is one of the five principles of sustainable development. It is easy to talk about environmental limits, and many of us accept that such limits must exist. But how do we recognise them? How do we know when we’re bumping up against them? What can we do to prevent those limits being breached? And with the re-energised focus on local decision making we ask, what do they mean for local areas?

“We have proposed a definition of environmental limits and examined seven ‘key’ environmental areas under OECD’s ‘Pressure-State-Response’ framework, highlighting existing legislative limits and where these do not exist. We have considered ‘land use’ and ‘soils’ as particular areas for government action as there is currently little or no action taken to recognise environmental limits in these areas. The report also makes suggestions for action by local governance bodies and community groups.”

Link to the full report. (so long as they pay the website subscription ….).

Stop Peat Extraction Here in Manchester

Campaigners from Save Our North West Green Belt have called for people to object to new  planning application for peat extraction on land owned by Peel Holdings …… William Sinclair Horticulture Limited have submitted a revised application to Salford City Council to continue extracting peat for another 15 years,  after having its Environment Statement rejected last August 2010.  
read more (Mule)

read more (Wildlife Trust)

This is vital – peatlands are a very important carbon store and we just can’t have them continually destroyed for the sake of profit – especially when better alternatives exist.

Bioregional perspectives – handout

Readers might find this handout helpful in that it sets out on a couple of pages the bioregional perspective.  Prepared for the Climate and Capitalism conference held in Manchester, 23 October 2010.

Download the handout

Keeping going on the economy

The paper:  Getting Started on the Economy has just been updated.

Theses on debt, economy and ecology

I’ve been reading a lot lately on the interconnected themes of

  • Economic growth – and its unsustainability
  • Steady state economics
  • The financial melt down and its relationship to the crisis of capitalism
  • The relationship between economic growth and household debt
  • The relationship between debt and growth
  • The cuts in public expenditure
  • The relationship between economic growth and capital accumulation

But I’ve yet to find anyone who is putting them all together, because they certainly do interconnect.
So here is my first attempt – done in the form of a set of theses or propositions.
As ever, comments, suggestions, counter-arguments and additions would be really helpful.

Theses on debt, economy and ecology

1.  Economic growth is unsustainable since it requires absolutely increasing material throughput.  This throughput creates devastating pollution of the ecosystem, most notably through greenhouse gas emissions.  It will also be constrained by resource limits.

2.  Economic growth is a result of capitalism, a system that requires the incessant expansion of capital.

3.  Capitalism is beset with recurrent internal crises.  It resolves these through fixes of various kinds including technological and spatial.

4.  Periodically capitalism moves into a mode of expansion characterised by the creation of speculative bubbles.  Most recently this has been seen in the hyper-development of finance capital relative to industrial capital.

5.  Since the 1970s there has been a downward pressure on wages.  The impact of this on consumption has been offset by the increase in household debt via easy credit.  It is the bundling of various forms of debt in ultimately unsustainable pyramids that has precipitated the collapse of the current financialisation phase of capitalism.

6.  States (which serve the interests of capital) have attempted three strategies to keep the motor of capital accumulation, and hence economic growth, running.  The first was the bail out of failing financial institutions – the transfer of public wealth to private finance capitalist firms.  The second was fiscal stimulus via cuts in interest rates and the printing of money.  Both these were funded by borrowing money via the issuing of government securities (gilts in the UK).  The third strategy has been to cut the government debt by cutting public spending and raising receipts, including taxes (themselves reduced through the reduction of economic activity in the recession).

7. This third strategy, by reducing incomes will further increase household debt (already three times government debt in the UK).

8.  By borrowing, and paying interest, households subsidise capital accumulation by increasing the level of purchases above the level of earnings paid by the capitalist economy.  This represents a third source of capital accumulation (the first is the theft of surplus labour, the second the theft of common assets).

9.  Therefore the economic crisis involves a restructure of the relations between public assets (public services, government spending, government debt), household debt, and private profit (for capital accumulation).  The crisis allows the state to re-stimulate capital accumulation and hence economic growth using a combination of rescue of banking services (and the availability of credit), fiscal stimulus of consumption and private borrowing.  Reduction of incomes through public sector cuts and economic recession is a necessary component of that strategy whereby short run reductions in demand are traded off against the longer term reinforcement of the accumulation engine.

10.  The economic crisis creates an opportunity to renovate the motor of capitalist accumulation and thereby restore economic growth.

11.  State strategies, whether in the form of bank rescue, fiscal stimulus or reduction of government debt, all damage the environment by restoring economic growth.

Mark Burton

Version 1.1

June 27, 2010

Zero Carbon Britain 2030

This major new report from CAT presents an alternative energy strategy for the UK.
It is very well researched and proposes a practical plan for total decarbonisation of the UK energy supply by 2030. It notes that in the UK we need to move faster and sooner than most current plans – it takes account of the embodied energy in our imports and also recognises that nations like ours need to cut more than those still trying to catch up in terms of basic prosperity.
It is also an excellent resource. £40 to buy but here is a (large) download.

The Replacement Economy – new pamphlet published

We are living in an ecological emergency and an economic crisis. This pamphlet brings together three contributions to what will have to become an ambitious but alternative strategy for real change in the way we all live. The three essays printed here start from the recognition that endless economic growth is not possible. Getting Started on the Economy also points to the incoherence of competition in the global economy as a national or regional economic strategy, sets out some alternative principles for building the replacement economy and suggests priorities for activists to help bring them about.  Sustainability, Utopian and Scientific offers a constructive critique of what has become mainstream green economic thinking. Concepts for Bioregional Development is an attempt to synthesise a new integrated vocabulary for the new economics of social and ecological justice.  It should be read in conjunction with our first pamphlet:  A Green Deal for Manchester-Mersey Bioregion.

Buy a printed version of The Replacement Economy
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Buy a printed version of A Green Deal for Manchester-Mersey Bioregion
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.