By Tim Lawrence
The context of Going Local Going Green in many ways is Bristol as European Green Capital in 2015. However, if we are considering what it means to go local and green in terms of food, health, nature, economy and land rights, this raises some questions for me:
What scale(s) are we talking about as Local?
What scales of ecology, economy, society, politics and wellbeing make most sense to work with?
Do we primarily consider Bristol as a city according to its council boundary?
Should we focus much more on just the locales (neighbourhoods) where we live, work, and socialize within Bristol?
Or should we look at both of these scales and beyond?
Does exploring going local and going green inherently transgress Bristol’s boundaries?
If so how far does local extend?
There are a number of reasons that come to mind that incline me to think beyond Bristol and yet don’t take me too far! In no particular order:
I learnt in geography at school that every city depends on its hinterland (surrounding area) and whilst this is increasingly globalised the local environs are still important in lots of ways.
The Bristol Pound (local currency), and Real Economy (buying groups for local produce) operate with a 50mile radius.
My kids, friends and I love camping, kayaking, swimming, foraging, riding bikes and visiting other friends in the woods and along the waterways within a similar 45mins drive as well as within Bristol itself.
CUBA, the counties that used to be known as Avon, makes a lot more sense as an economic, ecological, social and political scale than Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire….not to mention being less of a mouthful to say! This is exemplified by the fact that the West of England Partnership (the same area as CUBA) still makes a lot of the big strategic issues concerning Bristol. This is clearly demonstrated by the Metrobus scheme and it’s destruction of food growing land and wildlife habitats.
Before the Romans occupied the Isle of Albion and formed a nation state, the indigenous tribes’ were much more land-based in their culture and their boundaries were by and large closely linked with what we might call bio-regions or distinct habitats. The local tribe, the Dobunni, inhabited an area that corresponds to North Somerset, Bristol, and Gloucestershire and related to the Avon watershed and the Severn valleys flood plain.
As far as I am aware, all of Bristol’s vegetable growing schemes beyond allotment size actually fall outside the city’s boundaries, even Sims Hill and Leigh Court Farm which are both very close to the centre of the city. If you consider where our sources of grain, protein and fat come from, whether omnivore or vegan, you almost entirely have to look outside of the city!
I relate to a number of land-based projects within 45mins drive including in the Avon valley, the Wye valley, The Severn valley, Cotswold edge, the Forest of Dean, amongst others.
We live in an amazingly diverse part of Britain.
Is there a need for us to think local in terms of Bioregion rather than Bristol?
"A bioregion is a local area defined by natural rather than political boundaries. It is literally a life space rather than a political area."
Molly Scott Cato - The Bioregional Economy
An ecosystem including human systems.