Magpie 34 – Local Agenda 21

Brown, I. (1995) Local Agenda 21. Magpie 34, p8-10

Local Agenda 21 – Ian Brown

To start where I Ieft off last time, with floods. The day following printing the winter Magpie I was in the local newsagents and my eye was caught by the leading article in the European. I brushed away the moths from my wallet and invested 75 pence (Italy L3.500) so that I might read further.

The headline ran – THE FLOOD….THE DROUGHT – by Isobel Conway.

“’As northern Europe’s worst floods this century subsided, southern Europe was suffering one of its worst droughts. Climate experts blame the greenhouse effect for the extremes of weather hitting the continent – and warn that the same could happen next winter. ‘It is just simple physics that under greenhouse conditions, rainfall increases,’ said Professor Pir Vellingen. director of the institute for environmental studies at the Free University of Amsterdam. The air is carrying more water due to evaporation over warmer seas. Northern Europe is getting far more rain in winter while southern Europe is getting less.’ he said.” 

Southern Spain. southern Portugal. Bulgaria and Cyprus are experiencing one of their driest winters in a century, after last week’s floods in the north. 

Meteorologists are blaming the adverse conditions on global warming linked to rising sea temperatures. a build-up of carbon dioxide and other gasses plus the way European countries manage their floodplains, farming and urban planning.’ 

There was more inside but I think that gives you the general idea. 

So what’s happening locally? On the 25th of March. a Local Agenda 21 Seminar. organised by North West Focus. attracted over 120 people who have a concern for the environment. There were speakers on several aspects of LA21; we were given a fresh definition of sustainable development – -Sustainability is making full use of our infinite human resources to make the most of our finite material resources.’ There were workshops in the afternoon; the main problem being that there was not enough time to deal properly with the many interesting subjects such as. sustainable transport, implementing environmental education and strategies for making Manchester Sustainable. We all went home with some good ideas and the event was an excellent chance to do some networking. 

A month earlier Unity and I attended another seminar, in Leeds, which was organised by the RSNC. This was to discuss LA21 as it applied to Wildlife Trusts and Urban Wildlife Groups. While the main concerns of such organisations are biodiversity and ensuring that areas of wildlife interest are properly protected. We must also remember that, in our conservation work, such as woodland management. we can do much to encourage sustainable activities like woodland crafts 

Well, there’s been plenty of talk but what about some action? This is the next step in Manchester, we’re slowly sorting things out; seven working groups have been formed and will be meeting soon.  Main tasks are to decide practical measures for sustainable development. and: 


There must be ways to calculate the effectiveness of any measures which are taken. Indicators appear to be the best way to do this. I gave a couple of examples in Magpie 33. Maybe you can think of some more which would be appropriate to measure how successful we are in our efforts to increase people’s ability to enjoy wildlife in the city. This is where you can help: you could count the number of frogs in your local ponds; it’s a little late for counting, this year, but you can find out which ponds attract frogs and go back next year to count them. On transport, which causes problems for wildlife; can you reduce the time it takes you to get to work (to the shops. etc.); measure how long it takes now, then do the same again a year later. There are several ways you can improve the situation: move nearer to work, work nearer to home, cycle or use public transport. thereby easing congestion. Buying a faster car doesn’t count. Let us have the results of your findings on both these indicators. 


We are still looking for examples of sustainable development which have taken place recently. in Manchester. Maybe there aren’t any but contact us if you know differently. We would also be interested to know what you think could be done to make Manchester more sustainable or environmentally friendly. How about wind turbines on tall, modern buildings, to supplement power during the day and run security lighting. etc. at night. You can help to reduce power consumption by tlic simple measure of fitting compact fluorescent lights at home or in the office, and also improve the situation with efficient reflectors. 

There are many steps which could be taken to achieve the goal of a better environment in Manchester but there is one thing which would make a tremendous difference. If the City Council were to fully fund the Parrs Wood Centre for Rural Education then we would be really getting somewhere. Wildlife areas in schools (as suggested in the Nature Conservation Strategy) and environmental education in the curriculum are very laudable aims but, though children must attend the classes they don’t have to pay attention. (As the old saying goes: ‘You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it scuba-dive.’) And while our children should be educated on such matters, for the future, it’s the adults we need to get at. This is where Parrs Wood CRE comes in: environmental education for people who are of an age, and in a position, to influence the future of our planet and as they do not attend under compulsion, are eager to learn. If the i Council will not fund such an establishment, what faith can we have in their claims to be concerned about the environment?


Unfortunately, not everyone can be on the Local Agenda 21 Forum, that would make the process a little difficult to manage. Surely the next step must be local forums which can link in with the main forum. Can Civic Societies and other local community groups take on this role? Would you like to take part in this way? It is at the local level that much of the action on sustainability must take place. If we can make improvements within small communities, it will enhance their quality of life and also benefit the whole city. It is often said that we must ask people what they want. What we need is more important: if we were all to get what we want then that would not be very sustainable. 

The most important thing is: you can make a difference, you can do something about it. The Manchester Sustainability Group is publishing a newsletter which will explain what Local Agenda 21 is about. This will be mailed to all Citizens in Manchester. Look out for it: if our articles, and other media coverage (the Reith Lectures by Sir Richard Rogers were most interesting) have not kept you fully informed, then this forthcoming publication should bring you up to date.

What are other Gr. Manchester districts doing on LA21? More next time. 

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