Category Archives: News

Relevant events and developments
This section not now being used – new material appears in posts https://greendealmanchester.wordpress.com/2010/

Not just climate and peak energy – but biodiversity as a limiting factor – for us

Yes what they are saying is basically that biodiversity is decreasing catastrophically – guess which species is in for a population crash.

“Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral to our contemporary world: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of six billion heading to over nine billion people by 2050.”

“The Outlook warns that massive further loss of biodiversity is becoming increasingly likely, and with it, a severe reduction of many essential services to human societies as several “tipping points” are approached, in which ecosystems shift to alternative, less productive states from which it may be difficult or impossible to recover.”

“Potential tipping points analyzed for GBO-3 include:

The dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest, due to the interactions of climate change, deforestation and fires, with consequences for the global climate, regional rainfall and widespread species extinctions.”

Read all about it – if you dare, at

http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=624&ArticleID=6558&l=en&t=long

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A Forestry Manifesto for England’s Northwest

This is a really good initiative that would double tree cover in the NW.

The presentation makes some good points about carbon sequestration, self sufficiency in timber, climate amelioration, wellbeing and the local economy.   Other issues such as soil health and fruit production would be worth looking at too.   A paper some years ago on re-establishing the great Caledonian forest in Scotland cited the example of forest-led economic development in Norway, and while our bioregion is very different, some of this analysis is, nevertheless relevant, and in  a post-hydrocarbon world (time-scale for the manifesto is one generation, but changes will happen faster), there will be a need to rebuild the natural economy that is the basis for lasting human wellbeing – forest restoration is one part of this.

see the manifesto here and the slide show here.

RS 2010 – an alternative vision

As previously noted here, the North West Development Agency has put out its 20 year draft Regional Strategy.

I’m in the process of commenting on it (at http://www.nwregionalstrategy.com/Part1?dm_i=1G3,303C,HXIM8,9FLW,1)

One question concerns the overall vision – Here I’ve put my version, based on the concept of the “bioregionally sustainable production of wellbeing” – and below I reproduce their original version. It is really important that those of us who believe in true sustainability are prepared to spell out how this concept is different from the make-believe sustainability of the conventional wisdom, exemplified in NWRDA’s draft document.

The quality of life for the people of the Northwest will be excellent and the region will become more prosperous, more equitable and produce far less carbon: by 2030 it will be a better place to live, learn, work, visit and invest, and where:

  • we are well on the way to a low-carbon economy and lifestyle, using our tidal, geothermal, wind, and biomass assets (but running down our nuclear industry) and achieving a quantum change in energy efficiency in all sectors, to contribute to energy security and with low carbon and resource efficient solutions embedded throughout our activities;
  • there are jobs for all in a closed loop economy with increased agricultural production, high levels of skill and knowledge, and the restoration of industrial production for necessary local use, with a mix of community, cooperative, private, governmental and corporate business models.
  • deprivation, especially child poverty, has been eradicated and with high levels of health and social well being, supported by strong and accountable, adequately funded public services;
  • people have a good choice of high-quality, affordable and low-carbon homes, well connected to sustainable transport and with high quality digital access for businesses and individuals; and
  • we are living within environmental limits and have enhanced our natural and built environments.

Following consultation on the strategic options outlined in Section D, the final version of the Vision will also have spatially specific elements, amending or adding to the four bullet points below.

  • The region has built on the combined strengths and resources of all its areas.
  • We have regenerated those areas and communities facing significant economic, environmental and social challenges and throughout the region we have mitigated the risk of economic and social collapse due to the accelerating global ecological crisis.
  • Our region has high human capital, measured through the cultural and social development of its people.
  • Diverse communities work and live together with high levels of social solidarity within and between them.
  • We have thriving towns and socially and economically sustainable rural communities.

and here is their original:-

“The quality of life for the people of the Northwest will be excellent and the region will become more prosperous, more equitable and produce less carbon: by 2030 it will be a better place to live, learn, work, visit and invest, and where:

  • we are well on the way to a low-carbon economy and lifestyle, using our nuclear and other assets to contribute to energy security and with low carbon and resource efficient solutions embedded throughout our activities;
  • there are jobs for all in a highly productive, well-skilled, knowledge-based economy, attractive to private investment and internationally competitive;
  • deprivation, especially child poverty, has been eradicated and with high levels of health and social well being;
  • people have a good choice of high-quality, affordable and low-carbon homes, well connected to sustainable transport and with high quality digital access for businesses and individuals; and
  • we are living within environmental limits and have enhanced our natural and built environments.
  • The region has built on the combined strengths of Liverpool and Manchester as world class cities and Preston as a driver of economic growth.
  • We have regenerated those areas and communities facing significant economic, environmental and social challenges
  • Growth opportunities around Crewe, Chester, Warrington, Lancaster and Carlisle have been fully exploited.

We have thriving towns and socially and economically sustainable rural communities.”

A reminder

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human
victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us”
– Friedrich Engels, in Dialectics of Nature.

Thanks to John Tummon on the Convention of the Left mailing list for remembering this quote from Mr Manchester himself.

Consumer culture and the crisis

Report from the Worldwatch Institute reported by the Guardian:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/12/climate-change-greed-environment-threat

The average American (sic they mean UnitedStatesian) consumes more than his or her weight in products each day, fuelling a global culture of excess that is emerging as the biggest threat to the planet, according to a report published today. In its annual report, Worldwatch Institute says the cult of consumption and greed could wipe out any gains from government action on climate change or a shift to a clean energy economy.

No surprises here but useful to have this one to cite.   As we have argued (and see also John Bellamy Foster) this is the central problem – but it isn’t a matter of greed or even a cult of consumption – it is a matter of a capitalist system that requires endless production-consumption in the intersts of the treadmill of capital accumulation.  This is what has to stop – anything else is merely cosmetic because it does’t put out the fire beneath the planet.

How to square the circle ?

The NWRDA has produced the first part of the draft Regional Strtegy RS2010.

They have set out an interesting challenge:

“Therefore we are clear that over the next twenty
years this region must:

  • capitalise on the opportunities of moving to a lowcarbon

economy and address climate change

  • build on our sources of international competitive

advantage and regional distinctiveness

  • release the potential of our people and

tackle poverty

  • ensure the right housing and infrastructure for

sustainable growth.

We must tackle all these, however, in a period
when less public expenditure will be available.”

A tricky pancake indeed!  Some of us think that the second of these – this idea of international competitiveness is incompatible with the others.  Indeed that is one of the key ideas of this bioregional green deal project – strategic localism rather than strategic globalism (see our glossary.  We also aren’t at all sure that ‘sustainable growth’ is anything more than a contradiction.

Unfortunately the paper gets worse the more you go into it.  It uses the sustainability language, but with no depth of understanding as to what this might mean – it is playing at sustainability – fiddling in effect while the planet burns.

But let’s give it a thorough read and join in the consultation.   We know they mean well, we need to help them come up with a workable strategy not a fantasy.

The Copenhagen verdict

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia,  on November 28, 2008: “As long as we do not change the capitalist system for a system based in complementarity, solidarity and harmony between the people and nature, the measures that we adopt [to save the planet] will be palliatives that will be limited and precarious in character.”

A follow up to the NEF Green Deal pamphlet: The Cuts Won’t Work

NEF has published a follow-up to the summer 2008 New Green Deal paper:  The Cuts Won’t Work

I like this report – it very effectively debunks the current hegemony of the supposed need to make savage cuts in public spending, and it makes the connection again between the crisis caused by the bursting of the credit bubbles and the need to decarbonise energy and the economy.
But like the New Green Deal it remains essentially a Fabian document – telling truth to power as if this will create the needed change. There is no theory of action, no praxis. It is essentially Utopian sustainability.
Secondly, it fails to address the argument (of Tim Jackson and others) that sustainable growth is a chimera because it is no possible to de-link resource throughput from growth. The document is arguing for (a green) Keynesian stimulus to get growth going again. maybe that speaks to those in power, but it leaves a big question – can there actually be a green ‘business as usual’?
The root of this second problem is the accumulative core of capitalism. Capitalism works on the accumulation (growth) of capital) extracted as surplus value together with the energy and other subsidies extracted from the natural world. It is this motor that has faltered in the present conjuncture – because the previous fix – financialisation of the economy had burst. What we see now is a combination of the internal and external contradictions of capitalism.
This is difficult to say and be heard since the whole world system (pretty much) is addicted to capitalist growth as an engine of wellbeing. NEF does a good job in problematising this, but it does not reach deeply enough into the root causes of the problem. Consequently it has neither an adequate diagnosis of the problem that needs to be fixed nor a convincing praxis or theory of action. Not that I’m saying this is an easy thing!
For an essay length exploration of these connected issues see my article:
https://greendealmanchester.wordpress.com/sustainability-utopian-and-scientific/
But  thanks anyway NEF for doing what you do. Just because it can be criticised doesn’t mean it should be rejected out of hand – I’m just trying to suggest (very roughly) where you need to amend the model and carry out new lines of work to take it further.

It is no longer a question of “Patria o Muerte” – but Life or Death for Humankind, Fidel Castro.

Fidel on the challenge of climate change

Fidel Castro has long been interested in the environment, repeatedly pointing out the unsustainability of he current globalised system of capitalism.   Here are some of his recent observations (October 2009) in the context of  Kobenhavn.

…..The issue is no longer “Patria o Muerte (Homeland or Death)”; it is truly and without exaggeration a matter of “Life or Death” for the human race.

The capitalist system is not only oppressing and plundering our countries; the wealthiest industrial nations wish to impose to the rest of the world the bulk of the burden in the struggle on climate change. Who are they trying to fool with that? In Copenhagen, the ALBA and the Third World countries will be struggling for the survival of the species.

Fidel Castro Ruz,        October 19, 2009

Read on …

Manchester’s emissions from food

Emissions from the production, distribution, consumption and waste of the food eaten in Manchester are estimated at 3.35 m tonnes.

But wait a minute, isn’t this figure more than the total claimed for all Manchester’s emissions (3.2m)?   The answer is that most of these emissions occur outside the city, just as our much of our other consumption emissions do (it’s hard to even buy a bike that hasn’t been made in Taiwan).  So a total footprint approach would correct the discrepacy (just as it would force consideration of the aviation emissions).   The point is that a focus on food, with local food production as a key element, would offer much of the 1.1m tones that the city council intends to save.

Overall agriculture around the world is responsible for nearly as much total greenhouse gas emissions as all forms of transportation.  And if distribution, preparation, consumption, flatulence and waste were also included, the figure would be even greater.

How did we arrive at the figure for Manchester?   Greenhouse gas emissions from London’s food system are  19m tones p.a.
London’s economy is approx 20% of national economy
Manchester’s is approx 3.5% of national economy

Therefore food based emissions from Manchester = 3.35 m tonnes

If you can fault this logic, then let us know.