Friday, 28 August 2009

Sustainable Knowle, neighbourhood transition group: origins, plans, hopes, fears…

If not me, then who? If not now, then when? Its been like that with me all through my adult life, thus my involvement in forming and coordinating Sustainable Knowle, a neighbourhood Transition group working for sustainability and improved quality of life in Bristol.

As well as working for Green political change I want to be part of creating moves towards sustainability now. The Transition movement is about working with others to create such change in the local community and so last year I placed this pledge ‘I will start a group called the Campaign for the Achievement of a Sustainable Knowle (CASK) in my area of Bristol but only if 10 other local people will do the same.’ on the PledgeBank website http://www.pledgebank.com/. I gave the pledge a year to gain support but in less than half that time it was successful and Sustainable Knowle was formed.

Sustainable Knowle aims to assess the local area and establish exactly what changes are needed to make it environmentally and socially sustainable. It wants to find effective and practical ways to achieve those changes in the interest of the security, stability and quality of life. These are likely to include: much better cycling and pedestrian provision; protecting, enhancing and if possible increasing open, green, natural spaces; the retention and improvement of locally available facilities, services, and jobs; education for sustainable living; local energy saving and the micro-generation of energy; more local, ethical and organic food availability; home and allotment grown food; higher land, air, water and environmental quality; people taking personal responsibility to be more environmentally-friendly; broad based public participation in community life…

The group made somewhat gradual beginnings in terms of face to face meeting, with a few people meeting informally for coffee initially. Regular meetings are now ongoing though, the group has a website (http://sustainableknowle.blogspot.com/) and is building links. Areas of activity have been and are: input into the council’s green space plans; campaigning to stop a local pub from being turned into a Tesco Express; litter picking; input into council consultations on environmental noise; support for the 20’s Plenty campaign for a default 20mph speed limit….

We have grown from 10 to 16 in number and hope for more publicity and growth. Sustaining activity when we all have family and work commitments has be an ongoing concern for us though – what we do is sensitive to slight changes in the personal circumstances of a relatively small number. We hope that more specific projects will get off the ground and spark others. Resources, physical and financial, are a constraint though – we are short of time compared to the opportunities and to the amount of work to be done!! We each need and want balanced lives but also need and want to work for positive overall green outcomes, both measured and judged. Relative unresponsiveness and the lack of coherent plans on an adequate scale from councils and Government is not helping the transition to sustainability however – people are ahead of the politicians!!

[This article originally appeared, edited slightly, in The Spark magazine earlier this summer]

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