Friday 30 December 2011

Bees and Trees

From the many, many conversations I have with people, I have come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to get people to stop doing something. Not impossible, by any means, but difficult. We have become socialised over the last twenty or so years into an individual mindset that tells us we can do whatever we like; I want it all, so I will have it all. That's one tanker that will take some time to turn, to use a particularly apt metaphor in this instance.

So, my experience tells me that, rather than just trying to get people to stop something, could we get people to start, or do more of, something else? Can we incentivise people to do the things that are less harmful, to the environment, for example, or more beneficial, to our communities, say, on the other? What enterprises are there out there that make it easy for people to choose a different lifestyle?

Earlier in the year, at the Spring Scheming, we sat around tables and discussed things we could do in Norwich, that would really make a difference. We talked about going into schools, into workplaces, communicating with people. We also talked about creating schools, creating workplaces, creating the kinds of communities we wanted to be part of. Can we challenge the current paradigm - the consumer-led, in-it-for-myself world-view - by creating a new way of living? What structures would work? What businesses would we need?

Out of that session was born Norwich Community Bees - a community-led, not-for-profit cooperative beekeeping venture. It's taken a lot of hard work and time from many people, but we're up and running, with one hive of bees established, and ready for an exciting 2012. It might not change the world overnight, but then again, it just might - that's the beauty of possibility.

Another idea out of that Spring Scheming that really caught my imagination was that of a community-managed woodland. It came around the time when the government was thinking of selling our public forests to private companies. I was all fired up. Then I discovered just how much even a modest piece of woodland would cost... That idea went on the backburner, if you'll excuse the pun.

But recently I had a conversation with someone about how much more UK-grown building timber costs compared to imported tropical hardwoods. And I mean, significantly more! I was shocked, but it made me think - maybe there's an opportunity there. Yes, it would be a business, yes, it would need to make money to be viable, yes, it was about chopping trees down. But could it be done locally, in a truly sustainable manner, in a way that provides employment, protects and promotes habitats, and provides pleasure and opportunities for our community? Some parts of the country are already exploring ways to make this happen. Maybe it's an idea whose time has come again.

So there are just two of my hopes for 2012 - that Norwich Community Bees will grow from its small start into something really great, and that we can explore the possibilities for setting up a community woodland somewhere near Norwich. If you'd like to be part of either of these visions, do get in touch - or if you've got anothere great idea, suggest it on the comments page!

Look forward to hearing from you!

Pic: from


  1. Amelie says "amazing idea, I'd love a forest too!"

  2. It makes a great deal of sense, in the process of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, to invest in managed woodland for firewood. So I think this is a very important initiative and I'm surprised not to have heard more such ideas arising from the Transition movement. If you can get something off the ground in Norwich, especially by treating it as a sustainable social enterprise as suggested, it would IMO form a very useful model for other initiatives to build from. Good luck!

  3. Count me in for shared local forest acquiring! I have been dreaming about 'owning' a piece of woodland for coppicing, woodwork crafts and potential living space etc. for a while now. Perhaps sharing it is the way to go...
    Useful resource:

  4. also, you may have seen: