Friday 1 January 2010

Resolution 5: Think differently. Think inclusive; think diversity.

Looking back over the last year, I've made good progress. I've cut my energy use dramatically; I've bought a bike, which I use all the time; I've acquired an allotment strip; I've bought very little stuff.... mostly books. So, more of the same steady progress - or do I need, in consultant-speak, a paradigm shift?

My last resolution is the most difficult. I have to think in radically different ways about my everyday life. It’s easy to carry on thinking along much the same lines and doing things in much the same way as I always have, essentially tweaking and making small steady improvements. It’s not easy to challenge the way things work – really challenge them – but that’s what I need to do if I’m going to achieve big changes, along with everyone else.

The good news is that people are changing the way they think about the Transition issues of peak oil etc. I was with good friends last night, seeing in the new year and the new decade. All of us are making resolutions to do more to combat climate change. We all recognise that we can’t go on with the way things are. None of these friends happens to be in any environmentally aware movement, but we are all starting to do something about it. Even today’s Guardian devoted the whole of its G2 supplement to taking action on climate change.

The bad news is that in Transition we are still not reaching out to the enormously diverse population of the city. I was very struck by just how diverse it is, when taking part in the Lord Mayor’s procession this summer. You could see a complete cross-section of the city – young, old, affluent, not so well off, healthy, frail (some very frail indeed) and a huge range of different ethnic groups.

In our Transition groups most of us are white, middle class and well educated. Even those of us who have less in the bank than is comfortable still have plenty of other resources to fall back on – skills, experience, family and friends.

But according to a powerful article I read recently in the OneLife column in the EDP, (Ian Sinclair: Norwich: a segregated city) Norwich is a divided city. He was writing in December 2004, but things have got much worse since then. There are lots of people living in poverty, for whom it’s really difficult to make changes. They simply don’t have the money and many don’t have the skills to do things differently. How sympathetic are we to their plight? All of us in Transition, some of the time, could be accused of being a teeny bit self-righteous about the need to change and our personal progress.

And at the other end of the spectrum there are, of course, those wealthy types who make a huge dent in the efforts to reverse the damage we’ve done. I travelled with one of them the other day. He was calling his wife to make arrangements to be picked up from the station: ”Which car are you in, darling?” How do we get through to them? We don’t need to feel sympathetic to these guys, of course! But we do need to find ways to change their ruinous habits.

My prediction for the coming year is that we’ll see new beginnings: the shift to a more sensible way of life. Look back across the past decade: who would have forecast that recycling of household waste would become mainstream? Or that Eddie Stobart's freight business would switch from road to rail to please eco-conscious customers? A couple of headlines in the weekend’s papers are encouraging:

  • Britain turns its back on personal loans and borrowing (savings at 10 year high in shift away from borrowing)
  • After the pud, it’s the wacky races (on the resurgence of community-spirited fun).

Let’s hope for headlines like these (only fantasy now, but could be real):

  • Supermarket giant T**** goes bust
  • Massive investment in new rail infrastructure across East Anglia
  • Queen opens new community workshops in Norwich’s old Woolworth building

I'll end on another Churchill quote:

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Happy New Year to you all!

Pix: Lake, taken today at Blickling Hall

Plus that famous wartime poster...

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