While some actions taken by the Green-controlled council are to be applauded, they run the risk of alienating people by focusing on high-profile accreditation schemes while cutting essential services. Some, particularly those who are less mobile or on the outskirts of the city, seeing cycle lanes appearing while bus services come under threat, are coming to the conclusion that a “green future” – with a capital G or no – is not for them. This is a pity as we are risking alienating people from the climate change cause itself, difficult enough anyway to excite people about because of its abstract nature.
A local Brighton and Hove Sera meeting this week met with the theme of “Sustainable for All”. Where concerns over jobs, the cost of living and threats to vital services can overwhelm, we need to promote environmental policies which address everyday concerns, as well as moving us towards a more sustainable future.
We began by identifying the key issues faced in our city: poverty exacerbated by food and fuel prices, health inequality, the cost of transport, lack of jobs and opportunities to develop and apply vocational skills, the quality, availability and affordability of housing, and numerous doorstep issues around the state of the streets, crime and parking. Many of these issues would be found in urban areas up and down the country. We then started to discuss sound environmental policy ideas that would address some of those key issues.
As an example, audits, advice and the fitting of energy-efficient measures in homes and businesses could serve as a training opportunity. As well as providing householders and businesses with the means of reducing their bills, making homes more comfortable and businesses more profitable, this would provide employment and skills opportunities. Tying school meals in with local community growing projects could provide access to good food and education about growing as well as reducing food miles. Food waste collection and composting not only reduces landfill but makes the streets cleaner, particularly in an area where foxes and seagulls love to sniff out food waste and distribute it. Managing landlords and letting agents more proactively through licensing could improve the quality of private rented sector property as well as its energy efficiency.
There is plenty more to do for this to become a practical agenda for change, but it’s an approach which will result in active, visible policies which people can see will help them, as well as helping us all reduce our carbon footprint.