Magpie 33 – Local Agenda 21

Brown, I. (1995) Local Agenda 21. Magpie 33, p14-15.

Brown, I. (1991) Local Agenda 21. Magpie 33, p14-15

Local Agenda 21 by Ian Brown

On the back page of Magpie, summer ’94, a mention that John Major was a silly fellow, for thinking that the GATT Treaty would be good for the environment, brought forth one or two queries. I said there would be more next newsletter but had forgotten that the more had already been said, in an article headlined S.D. Off? (Magpie, Winter 93/94). Gatt (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) encourages movement of goods around the world, therefore adding to pollution and depletion of finite resources. This brings us neatly to the matter in hand – Local Agenda 21. 

As I said in the autumn Magpie, by 1996 every local authority in Britain should have consulted its citizens and developed a “Local Agenda 21 (LA21)” Strategy. A Forum has already been formed and when it is complete it will be made up of four representatives from 12 sectors – academic, private sector, community groups, conservation, health, local authority, youth, etc. A smaller number will make up a working group to form policy on sustainable development and take other decisions which will be ratified by the larger Forum. Other working groups will be formed to deal with different matters such as – transport, waste & pollution, economy, energy, health & safe city, and greening, land use & open space. On each of these groups will sit people from suitable sectors; MW will be on the greening group with say; City environment officer, FoE, civic society, business interest, education officer. As well as deciding what should be done to make Manchester more sustainable, ways of measuring progress will have to be developed. To measure pollution levels, the number of cases of asthma per 1000 school children would be a good guide; if we reduce pollution the number should go down. How many people within 1/2 kilometre of informal open space; as a measure of whether the natural environment is improving (or not). Each working group would concentrate on a number of appropriate measures which are called “indicators”, so they will know if their policies are working (or not!). 

All this sounds very complicated but it should be all right in practise. The difficult part will be to get the various sectors to agree on what is the right way to go. I can see  some conflicts coming between us and commercial interests – so no change there then! 

There has not been a great response to our request for examples of sustainable development in Manchester. The best so far is, allotments. Yes, a good example, we need to produce food locally, whether or not it’s on a commercial basis. We would like to know your views, several heads are better than a few. We have a new example of the opposite. The MU Union catering has been privatised; now, instead of re-useable cutlery and crockery being provided they have gone disposable. That’s private enterprise for you! Let’s have some more examples of both good and bad practice and if you would like to become more involved in the LA21 process, please let us know – it’s your future. I’m getting a bit too old for it to make much difference to me, but we’ve got to think of the generations to come. 

FLOODS – This subject may not seem appropriate here but the recent flooding in France, Germany and Holland does tend to make one think. We were told that the magnitude of flooding which occurred was of a type that should only happen once in every 250 years; yet it has happened twice in the last two years. I would like to put forward a proposition that global warming is the culprit. Even a slight temperature rise could have a catastrophic effect. If the tropics get a little hotter, this power-house, from where much of our weather comes, could make changes to our weather patterns and one of the effects may be more rain. Also if it’s a little warmer in the Alps, snow could thaw sooner and quicker. All this, and a slight rise in sea-level, result; disaster. 

Some experts may say I am talking out of my elbow (” but scientists agree that we’ve already pumped so much gas [CO2] into the air that a significant rise in temperature, and a subsequent shift in weather, is inevitable.” Bill McKibben – The End of Nature) but I have a good reason for bringing this up. Increasingly I hear said, by those who are concerned for the environment, “We need a really ‘good’ disaster to bring home, to those in authority, the damage we are doing to our environment.” For the sake of our lives, our economy (floods cost billions) we have got to stop polluting our planet. This brings us back to LA21. “Think globally, act locally”. // 

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