Magpie 32 – Local Agenda 21

Brown, I. (1994) Local Agenda 21. Magpie 32, p.13-16

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992 the largest-ever meeting of World leaders made critical decisions about how we can run our economies and secure our future. What 179 countries agreed to is nothing less than a blueprint on how to make the future development of our world economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. – This brief statement, on the back cover of “Agenda for Change” *, sums up what was perhaps the most important international conference ever to take place. The conference made it plain that we can no longer think of environment, and economic and social development, as isolated fields. Agenda 21, a vast work programme for the 21st century, represents the consensus reached in Rio. It is a blueprint for a global partnership aimed at reconciling the twin requirements of a high quality environment and a healthy economy for all peoples of the world. 

Many of the problems and solutions listed in Agenda 21 have their roots in local activities, so local authorities have a major say in making sustainable development (SD) happen. As the level of government closest to the people, they play a vital role in educating and mobilising the public around SD. By 1996, every local authority should have consulted its citizens and developed “a Local Agenda 21 (LA21)” for the community. Local officials should consult citizens and community, business and industrial organisations to gather a consensus on SD strategies. This consensus would help them to reshape local programmes, policies, law and regulations to achieve LA21 objectives. The process of consultation would increase people’s awareness of SD issues. 

With this in mind, Manchester City Council has set up a LA21 Group and on October 18th a meeting was held to introduce local interests to the programme ahead. Councillor Arnold Spencer started the proceedings; he noted that the Council had a dual role, both in initiating and co-ordinating the process, and as a “stakeholder” – on an equal footing with other stakeholders. SD was not just up to the Council, its citizens must play their part. “Ask not what your City can do for you, but what you can do for your City” (Apologies again to JFK) seemed to be the gist of what he was saying. In my opinion this is quite right, for it is up to us to let those in authority know the correct way to go. 

Jane Morris of the Local Government Management Board outlined the background to and the purpose of the LA21 process and Ted Kitchen, the City Planning Officer, explained that his department was now responsible for things “green & sustainable” within the City Council but admitted that he didn’t have a “magic wand”. (shame – Ed.) Dr. Kitchen said the Council has much to put right in terms of being sustainable, but equally, other members of the community have their own responsibilit-ies. We must all make commitments to action and since there is no simple definition of what makes a sustainable city, we all need to decide what it means to us, and “us” included children. We must be able to measure progress towards sus-tainability, using “indicators” which are relevant to us in Manchester. 

There followed a general discussion: Cllr. Richard Leese said that all Council departments would be addressing the issue of sustainability; Prof. Ian Douglas (MU) said the University is already making its activities more sustainable. (?- Ed.); Callum Thomas (MCCI) felt that industry did now recognise sustainability as an important issue and accepted that it needed to work with other groups in this respect, he also said that we can’t keep going on for ever and ever – a little irony here as Dr. Thomas is environmental officer at the Airport; Martin Byrne (MCCI) felt that legislation also had a part to play (some commercial organisations would need some form of compulsion). It was decided that further meetings Should be held and the first of these is in the Ante Room to the Council Chamber at 5.30 pm on the 6th of December. MW is to send a representative. 

So what has all this to do with wildlife in general and urban wildlife in particular? I think the key is SD, the theme that applies to most of the Agenda 21 proposals; if we can run our lives in a sustainable way we shall be able to live without damaging the environment in a way which will put in jeopardy the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We must learn to live in a way by which we meet our local needs from local resources. 

In a way, SD and cities are a contradiction in terms; it is easier  to imagine villages or small towns being able to live from local resources but cities must begin to procure their supplies from as near to bane as possible. We’ve got to knock on the head the idea of importing goods from far away places, as is encouraged by the GATT Treaty and the European Single Market. Some might say that to do this would stop development in the poorer countries of the world. What do we need for a tolerable life? Food, warmth and shelter; poor countries will not be helped in achieving these basic aims by exporting food to richer countries. So let’s cut down this movement of goods around the world; less transport, fewer roads, less pollution and less environmental destruction. 

There is a lot to be said on the subject of SD but I think I will give it a rest, for now, before I do my head in; there will be more said in subsequent “Magpies”, especially as the work on LA21 progresses. 

Now, this is where you come in. We would like you to let us know of examples of SD which have taken place in Greater Manchester, let us say, within living memory. The best we can come up with is; in the late ’40s and early ’50s at the time of rationing and when one would walk a mile to the shops to save the penny bus fare. However, we can help by pointing out a few developments and activities which are not sustainable.

* Empty business parks *  * Prestigious offices *  * Second runway at the Airport *  * The Airport *  * Olympic/Commonwealth Games *  * Drama City * Heritage Museums *  * Euro Disney *  * Out of town Supermarkets on Greenfield sites *  * Out of town Supermarkets *       * Supermarkets *  * Parsnips from Australia (£1.49 per lb at Tesco’s) * 

We may enjoy some of the above but we could just manage to live without them. You can also play a further, vital, part in the debate by making suggestions of developments which you think would be sustainable, and appropriate to Manchester  They must help promote all or some of the following (without putting any of than in jeopardy):

Environmental Improvement * * Reduction of pollution* * Health* * Relief of Poverty * * Less Unemployment * *Local agriculture/Horticulture * * Sustainable Housing * * Conservation of Biological Diversity * * Management of Hazardous and other ‘Wastes * * Children. and Youth in Sustainable Development*

Send your ideas to us or contact: Manchester Local Agenda 21 Group, c/o Sustainability Group, Manchester City Planner„ Department, P.O. Box 488, Town Hall, Manchester. 1160 23T tel. (061) 234 4595/4590. 

* “Agenda for Change” is a plain language version of Agenda 21 and other Rio Agreements. If you can obtain a copy of this publication it will be of great help to you in understanding sustainable development and other matters discussed at the Earth Suitt. There should be some copies left over from Global Form 94; the Sustainability Group are trying to find these, so contact them (details above) and they may be able to send you a copy (it may cost money but will be worth it). 

R,S.N.C. and Local Agenda 21 

B.A. Environment City LA21 Seminars 

When, Why, Who, Where, and What’s it got to do with you? The RSNC, New Education Team will be hosting a series of regional seminars aimed at the Strategic Issues of 1A2I, as this needs a corporate approach. Wildlife (in Manchester) is almost totally ignored or of very low priority. English Nature, on Biodiversity: “You can’t have any real form of sustainability without bio-diversity.” Unity and Ian have booked to go on the Northern seminar which will be in February. They will report back for “Magpie”. // 

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