I am asking what could unify those silos, governance, party politics, third sector, private sector, the general public to embrace ‘A New Local Economy in Wales’ for people and the planet's mutual benefit?
I attended the conference ‘Building A New Local Economy Wales’ wearing a ‘Transition’ badge seeking to creatively communicate the vison that is the Wales Future Generations Act.
As an event photographer and in attending many sustainability conferences, workshops and facilitated discussions, one of the most recurrent words at all of these events has to have been ‘local’. One of the recurrent themes also has been: utalise creatives to communicate narratives and stories to engage a wider audience. NB Bonn (COP23)
In Wales we have a set of agreed goals, the 'seven wellbeing goals' of ‘The Wales Future Generations Act' (WFGA). Though as yet, do not scratch the surface as controversy surrounds it. There are grey waters in interpretation or in understanding within its future collective implementation.
The WFGA was born of many years of struggle, visionary campaigning. It is now written into Welsh law. ’Building A New Local Economy’ ties intrinsically into the WFGA. All Public Service Bodies in Wales are expected to deliver its principles, its approach in all that they do with the public purse.
I am an experienced advocate of ‘the foundational economy’ the new local economy, Transition economy. Strong foundation economies, resilient communities, living within environmental limits.
Wales "Overall biological diversity is declining, and no ecosystems in Wales can be said to have all the features needed for resilience."
I was born to a typical Welsh market town in 1968, I experienced a high street that met the communities needs, a community that virtually ran its own affairs. In 1975 when a supermarket came within a hours drive, it slowly died. Running in parallel, so did its ecology.
Few as yet understand the WFGA its worth, values or reasoning. Or have not even heard of this internationally heralded Act. Some are interpreting its text alongside a more antiquated thinking, tethered to the principles of the ‘old economy’.
The old economy, irrefutably broken next to defunct, especially when aligned to the new construct or the vision of the WFGA. The old economy has not worked for people in creating social wellbeing equality for all. It has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. It has not worked within environmental constraints; not as yet begun to ‘urgently’ mitigate the disastrous effects of its own making, climate change.
The current social climate is not united to a common cause. The mitigating of climate change, the creation of social equality, building a resilient foundation economy.
- aggrieved by political self-serving agenda
- feel they can be more self governing
- wish for a more representative, transparent and honest governance
- still calling for equal status for women
- the absence of tax justice
- calling for our Welsh Assembly to stand up to Tory Austerity, which was never of our making
- have paid the cost, the disabled and the marginalised
- feel disenfranchised
- child poverty in Wales set to soar
‘What difference will it make if I vote?’- a sound bite of a generation.
Though the perception of who is to ‘blame’ for globally pressured resources, austerity, wars, immigration, has been deeply skewed. Remembering who controls ‘your’ piece of the news. We live in a fragmenting world, worryingly resembling a pre II World War epoch, with polarised politics, nuclear stand offs, countries lurching to a more an extreme Right.
Bottom line: Unless we deal with climate change and global social inequality, this is about to get worse. This is not distant shores. We will not forever be protected by a temperate climate. In 2017 we have had the furthest ‘East’ category three hurricane ever recorded, breaching Irelands shores. This is not ‘A Future Generations’ event, this is ours. Yet still communities everywhere, including Wales are still fighting the corporate explotation of environment & communities in seeking more fossil fuels.
If all in Wales are to buy into the WFGA, I believe it now needs visioning, road mapping. Where are the community, environmental regenerative, ecologically restorative exemplar models in Wales? Or is this all purely aspirational, a utopian, socalists, environmentalists fantasy? Many environmentalists are gesticulating at the WFGA seeking political leverage, and ‘The Future Generations Office’ are pointing many others towards it, in the lessons of implementation. Although who understands the original ‘vision’ of the WFGA, the reason for its creation? There are individuals and organisations who have a greater comprehension of its authentic goals, its original goals. Such as the ‘Sustainable Development Alliance’. Or Dr Jane Davidson the former Welsh Government Environment and Sustainability Minister (2007-2011). Yes the Act in this form is only two years old, but sustainable development has been a Welsh organisational, political conversation of least a decade. Looking externally we can see all of the founding principles of Sustainable Development, 'social and environmental' in the 'Brundtland Report' from 1987. The WFGA is not just about the environment, it is intrinsically linked into ‘A New Local Economy’ the reconstruct of community, 'Thinking Global, Acting Local'. "Think globally, act locally"- reportedly coined by David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth. "We're not borrowing from our children, we're stealing from them" D.B.
Common language, common values can unite us behind the construct of the new local economy. Bringing us out of our 'silos' to collaborate, echo each other, sell, advocate a new common ‘vision’. Giving over our social media feeds to the new narrative, with shared ownership. Our shared values can create required urgency.
- What does this common vision, with shared values look like?
- Where is the road map to follow?
- How will it work, where is it already working?
- Can it work for all communities right across Wales?
- Can the Act strengthen your local economy, improve the quality of your immediate environment, increase your communities wellbeing and happiness?
Wales with true ‘system thinking’ change can be that global exemplar model of sustainable development. Create resilient empowered communities. Collectively meet our global responsibilities by doing our part in mitigating climate change, whilst creating social equality. Wales can be that leading ‘seed change’. Collectively under the WFGA, creating inclusion, happiness, purpose, wellbeing for all; by thinking local. By considering the impact of all actions upon all localities, community and their environment.
Change comes from unity en masse, gathered around a 'just' cause, that has a fair, reasoned request, that benefits all. In Wales that mass should not be hard to achieve, when the majority has a romance with Wales' environment, its culture, or its strength in community - the ‘common language’. If not enough have had that romance with, or value the worth of Wales' environment, culture and community, then it is up to us to ignite it!
- co-produce the narrative
- demonstrate the principles of the WFGAct
- use the common language
- find the emotives
- localise the stories
- use local authentic relatable voice.
Tell the stories: of achievement, success, value, struggle, failure, solutions, reason, vision that weave in the 'big picture'.
Disseminate it cross sector: beyond the usual silos with partnerships, coalitions and networks forged and agreed. Politics will not change ’business as usual’ unless it hears a mass call, with reasoned, evidenced based solutions with continuity in visible public forums.
I believe a collective urgency, a collective ‘vision’, delivered by a coalition of voices is needed now. With a realisation of what the ‘resonating narratives’ are. What are the new coalitions, collaborations, alliances? Wales has the means to engage and connect, to unite a critical mass. To create the 'system change'. To build a more ‘equal’ society, an inclusive society, living within environmental constraints.
“Each of us, exactly as we are, with the values we already have, have every reason we need to care about climate change” - and to care about the worth of reconstructing community.
We know that the ‘old economy’ has deconstructed community and created extreme consistent record breaking weather patterns worldwide. We have lost so much in allowing global market forces to commoditise our communities for private gain, whilst degrading our environment, health, wealth, and wellbeing. We can reclaim our communities economy, our worth, with collective urgency.
Yes this is a step back in time to a place were Wales’ nature was still teaming its ecology thriving, and every Welsh market town's High St was purposed to that communities needs.
Here are some that many are pointing to:
Shortened procurement, farm to fork, implement a diversity of farming and growing, organic, permaculture, sustainable agricultural practice, soil restoration, carbon storage. Re-connecting communities to food. Managed woodlands, site appropriate replanting of broadleaf, flood mitigation, water storage, water retention, habitat creation, more carbon storage. Niche product, high quality crafts, construction materials and trade. Mixed combined renewables delivering to meet the immediate communities needs - first & surplus to trade. A reconnect to energy, and its mindful usage, reducing collective consumption. Eco tourism. Co-working spaces, co-operative business, co-housing, community gardens, community orchards, green shared space, green urban infrastructure, green gyms. Local currency, local banking, local business, locally owned. Basic income. Education that rewards and enhances aptitude, teaches ecoliteracy and sustainable living. Active travel, reduced commuter miles, reinstated lines of affordable renewable public transport. A 'library of things’, not just books, or broadband access. A sharing community, a repair economy. Localised health care, community care that prescribes prevention, counsel and inclusion first.
Some have created a community charter
Some of these steps are backwards, but they are not backward! In a new renewable energy era, of climate security and social equality.
Some things simply needed to be restored, that were the correct community construct. Wales joining the dots creatively together, to create ‘The New Local Economy’ in a post fossil fuel era.
These narratives, stories, films, books, exemplar models are out there, but are these messages reaching us in Wales, en masse? Where is Wales' story of resilience, transition, the emotive, the construction of the 'New Local Economy'? Are we collectively generating, evidencing and promoting to tip the balance to positive change, for us and our children. For 'Future Generations', urgently!
Lets begin to consign the Anthroprocence to history, and make bold innovative steps towards something truly evolutionary worthy of our human intelligence and this life giving, unique, very small, beautiful ’Blue Planet'.