Throughout the last few weeks, I have tried to discuss few important topics of our time and how solutions are just waiting at our door step. I would like to close this blog with few more feel good stories, stories of our changing world. Stories where it took only a bunch of passionate people to make a change…
Several cities in the world have decided to incorporate veggie gardens right in the middle of their cities, in their streets, cultivated by volunteers, by anyone who feels like giving some time to the community.
There is one particular inspiring story, the one from Todmorden, a small town in the UK. It started in 2008, when two ladies, Pamela Warhurst and Mary Clear decided to take actions to change behaviour towards the environment and local food.
One day they held a meeting group to talk about what could be made for the community, how they could engage people to work together to build a better world. This small group became the « Incredible Edible project» which has inspired 120 other groups in the UK and 700 worldwide. Mary Clear calls it “the medicine of kindness ».
The concept is simple, growing herbs, fruit trees and vegetable plants anywhere in town, and the best part is that it is for everyone to share. They have been reusing public spaces or the sides of roads and turned them into edible plants gardens, from the railway station platforms, bus stops, car parks, to the front yard of the police station. All the local schools are involved in some way, having their own polytunnels, beehives and their own gardens teaching children about horticulture. Education has been a major motivation in this project, and the shared vision of making a difference has united people across generations. The goal of this project was for the kids to learn how to feed themselves in the future.
Todmorden. Photo from Phil Gaton, Oliver Dixon & Mattias Pfauenauge
To put things into perspectives, the wold population is estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and 70% will live in cities by 2030. The global agriculture is under pressure with rising urbanisation, decreasing arable land and weather extremes due to climate change. Agriculture accounts for 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions which means we need to rethink our system. Urban agriculture could be a great solution to increase global food production by the use of new locations for cultivation, reducing at the same time emissions.
They have also created an « edible green route » of walkways around the town, where tourists can visit Todmorden and learn about growing plants, it tells the story of bees and pollination. With the « Egg Matters campaign » they had this eggceptional idea of making an egg map to identify any local producers selling or giving away their eggs.
This is the link to their website if you are interested.
This story not only demonstrates that local food gardens could feed a large part of the population but shows a real community spirit and cohesiveness in this town. The greensters of Todmorden have mastered a way to build environmental entrepreneurs to put together a network of supporters. The project had received donations from local businesses, including money, land and essential equipment. By growing and sharing food, those communities create a degree of resilience by being less dependent on global markets, cushion the impact of prices fluctuations.
Urban gardening is not the only solution to build this kind of resilience…
Have ever dreamed that you could use you monopoly notes to buy lollies when you were a kid? Do you know who makes money? Do you think anyone could make their own money?
The answer is yes you can make you own money, anyone can… Let’s have a look.
In a nut shell, money is created by private banks to make money for their share holders when banks make loans. In this system, money is just virtually created when someone makes a loan, the bank creates the numbers on their system as debt. By the time the loan is paid back, the money is no longer in the system. Banks make profits from charging interests on loans, therefore banks always need to make more loans. In Europe 85% of the money is created from private banks while the rest is made by central banks in the form of notes and coins.
This system can then be subject to financial crisis, when too many loans have been given and banks stop giving loans. Several cities in the world have come up with the same solution to be resilient from crisis and to develop local businesses, where a complementary currency is designed to work alongside the main currency, not to replace it.
Lets stay in the UK and let’s got to Bristol
In 2012 the Bristol pound (BP) has been created to support the local economy and independent traders to encourage them to source goods and services locally and avoid money to flee to multinational corporations and financial institutions. It started again from a small group of people eager to make a difference.
The key of this concept is to create an exchange between the community with as much interactions as possible where everyone becomes the client and the provider of others.
Basically, If Bob has a coffee shop, he will buy in BP its furniture from Marta, the local retailer. Marta has got her furniture made by the local carpenter Brian who she pays in BP. Brian goes to Bob’s coffee shop every morning to buy his coffee in BP. Bob, Marta and Brain buy their fruit and veggies from the farmer who uses BP… The money circulates in the local economy and creates a local multiplier effect, it doesn’t depend on loans and interests avoiding risks to financial crisis, it creates a strong bond within the community by increasing social capital.
They use an electronic from of exchange with the use of mobile phones where accounts can be credited online but also printed money. And the best part is that they can choose who to put on the bank notes… they have David Bowie on their £10 notes.
Businesses can open a Bristol Pound account at Bristol Credit Union, they can deposit paper Bristol Pounds into their account and they can even pay some local taxes.
If you want to learn more here the link to their web page.
There are alternatives out there to build a better world, a greener future, alternatives supporting local food networks and generating more equitable ways of doing business. Alternatives to protect our environment and limit our impact.
We don’t need to wait for others or our governments to start the change, but with a bit of community spirit, respect, faith and imagination we can rethink our world together. We can plant now the seeds for a better future, and perhaps if we plant enough we ll make a difference.
Top photo and illustration from the author of this blog.
Eigenbrod, C., & Gruda, N. (2014). Urban vegetable for food security in cities. A review. Agronomy For Sustainable Development, 35(2), 483-498. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13593-014-0273-y
Kubičková, V., Bažó, L., & Staňo, R. (2012). The Complementary Currency as an Element of the Social Innovation in the Entrepreneurship. Studia Commercialia Bratislavensia, 5(20). http://dx.doi.org/10.2478/v10151-012-0013-8
Thompson, J. (2012). “Incredible Edible – social and environmental entrepreneurship in the era of the “Big Society””, Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 8 Issue: 3,pp. 237-250, doi: 10.1108/17508611211280773