XR Godalming Update 23rd June

Over the past few months we have debated connections between Covid-19 and the climate emergency. Climate activists might be heartened to know that there is some lobbying in parliament to link Covid-19 financial bailouts to meeting green standards. However, as with most things with this government, it’s probably not much to get too excited about. The aim of the committee is ‘to make a number of key proposals to try to get Britain back on track and moving towards its commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to net zero by 2050’. With the bar set so low, this is another case of a lack of ambition and urgency. The words aim, proposals, try, and moving towards show a lack of intent and determination. Politicians still fail to see that the climate emergency needs to be tackled with the same immediate resolve as the Covid-19 health emergency. This is a point not lost on Greta Thunberg, who once again showed an insight in to the situation that politicians can’t grasp. Most pertinent is her view that ‘the corona tragedy of course has no long-term positive effect on the climate apart from one thing only, namely the insights into how you should perceive and treat an emergency…because during the corona crisis we suddenly act with necessary force.’

LAST WEEK’S MEETING

Last week we had an excellent talk from Edwin Brooks and Page Dijkstra on land use, entitled This land is our land: community-scale farming and food security. Edwin has a small farm near Liphook, called Devil’s Lane Market Garden, and runs a business called Ed’s Veg. Page coordinates the national network of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Page and Ed started by defining agroecology, which they see as sustainable farming on small to medium scale farms that have a community focus. Farms should have a social focus and most are organic. Agroecology could be seen as an umbrella term for organic, nature-friendly farming, and may encompass different approaches based on regenerative land use. Localism is inherent to agroecology, with consideration for local biodiversity, use of local biomass and distribution to local markets/sellers. This is actually how most agriculture around the world operates, but it is not how the industrial agriculture that dominates UK farming works.

Ed explained the way that Covid-19 has exposed food supply fragility and that the UK leaving the EU has necessitated a policy rethink on farming legislation. The techniques are there for agriculture that is in sympathy with nature, but the challenge is implementing them across the farming sector. Ed also advised caution in seeing farmers as the problem, as they operate within a policy framework set by government. Farming policy and food supply chains need to be overhauled to enable farmers to work more sustainably. Ed sees part of this as a need to shift the focus away from measuring yield, to looking at resource efficiency.

Page gave an overview of CSAs. This is about creating shorter supply chains from grower to customer. The short supply chain ensures that the farmer does not lose income to people who handle their produce in various stages of distribution. Many CSAs operate a system similar to a veg box, but a higher commitment is often expected than just a financial transaction. Some CSAs are owned by the community, for example. Others have volunteering schemes. Quite simply, not all CSAs are the same.

Through their presentation, and during the follow-up question and answer session, pertinent issues were discussed. These included supply chain fragility, the disproportionate impact of food insecurity on the most vulnerable in society, and the link between environmental and social issues. On an economic and political level, we are still operating under a neo-colonial food system with regard to food trade and financial arrangements, for example between European and southern nations.

Thanks to Louisa, Alain and Duncan for organising and facilitating the talk.

MATT’S COLUMN

In his latest article for the Farnham Herald, Matt picked up the themes from last week’s talk on land use.

Queues outside supermarkets, panic buying, empty shelves – scenes we’ve become all too familiar with in recent weeks. The coronavirus crisis has revealed our country’s vulnerability to food shortages. An aging farming community fuelled by rising land prices and a lack of start-up funding, modern intensive farming techniques killing off biodiversity and eroding precious topsoil, and an increasingly unpredictable climate all bring even more uncertainty.

In the UK almost half of all our food and up to three quarters of our fruit and veg is imported. Right now, in mid-summer we have just come through ‘the hungry gap’ where we are especially reliant on food shipped in from abroad, as fields lie in limbo between the winter crops and the summer harvests. Traditionally, this gap was filled by a frugal mix of cabbages, potatoes and various preserved fruit and veg, but now we’ve grown used to being able to buy asparagus, tomatoes and strawberries all year round.

Last week, XR Godalming hosted an online discussion with two local farm representatives who talked about their experiences of small-scale agroecology; a sustainable farming system that works with nature rather than against it. Groups such as Community Supported Agriculture UK and the Landworkers Alliance are doing great work in publicising and supporting such projects which they believe will make communities more resilient in future.

With the collapse of insect populations and global breadbaskets due to become inhospitable in the coming decades, it’s a case of acting and adapting now on our terms or climate breakdown will do it for us later on, and the scenes we’ve witnessed in the supermarkets recently will have been just a taster for what’s to come.

With our agricultural policies being rewritten ahead of Brexit, it is now more pressing than ever that we ensure our children face a future of food security, otherwise the hungry gap may end up growing longer every year.

IN THE NEWS (and in case you missed it on Telegram)

As we emerge slowly from lockdown, and as the government tries to ‘fire up the engines of the economy’ (a dreadful expression on too many levels to go into), the media is trying to decide what economy might be best. In the Guardian, Larry Elliott argues that the Green New Deal, which failed to have any significant impact in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008 might now gain support among governments. However, this view is not shared by all, as any capitalist economy is built on continuous growth, which is inherently incompatible with creating environmental sustainability. Although written before the Covid-19 pandemic, Rufus Jordana’s article for Open Democracy sets out the how economic green deals fail to confront the political and economic realities that lead to climate breakdown.

While the country is in a health crisis, the government thought it a good time to move the deckchairs on the Titanic, and merge the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development. The impact of this decision on both climate finance and the most vulnerable communities is considered by Climate Home News.

Kirsty posted welcome news about fracking, but unfortunately this does not apply to Dunsfold or Horse Hill.

We have discussed the importance of the anti-racism protests and our stance in relation to them. We have considered this also in relation to white privilege and the lack of participation in XR by people of colour. Charles posted an article on Telegram that shows the fossil fuel industry seeking to create and then exploit divisions.

ACTION ON 25th JUNE

Hopefully you will have received information, shared by Chris via email, about the action on 25th June. In case you missed it, it is as follows:

As many people will know, XR groups around the country will be taking aligned actions outside MPs’ offices on Thursday 25th June, delivering letters aimed at pressuring the government, via MPs and Parliament, to take proper action now on the climate crisis. We are planning a safe, distanced action at Jeremy Hunt’s office in Hindhead, probably to start at 9am (but time to be confirmed). There will be members from XR Godalming and XR Farnham. It will be short, non-disruptive and aimed to get attention via recording for media and social media. If you can come, please join the Telegram group, or email Chris.

CYCLING IN GODALMING

Carol posted the information below on Telegram about cycling in Godalming, and it is not too late for people to be involved:

As most or all of you will be aware, motorised traffic has been banned from a large section of the High Street, with limited exceptions, under an Order implemented at speed under the Government`s coronavirus emergency powers: the start was Monday June 15th – timed to correspond with the general re-opening of shops – and is for 21 days, which can then be renewed for a further 21 days, and is effective Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm.

In the lead up to the granting of the temporary Order, the question of whether cyclists be included or excluded under it became very much a “live” subject, but thankfully the County Council decided in favour of cyclists at least being able to continue with what they can do now. However, all this has re-raised the whole subject of the future of cycling in the High Street which is why Godalming Cycle Campaign has embarked on a survey for the duration of the temporary Order in an attempt, in a non-judgmental way, to assess what is happening “on the ground”.

And so this is an urgent appeal for your assistance with this survey which we are also widening to include Sundays – it will be interesting to compare results! The intention at this stage is simply to observe and report back. Will you help? If so, please use this link to access two forms, one to state exactly when you can manage and the other to record what you discover. If you prefer to do this as one of two “distanced” people, feel welcome to let me know and I can try and link you up, or do say if you have any queries.

Thanking you in advance for any assistance you are able to give.

REBEL RINGING

At our meeting on Wednesday Duncan will explain rebel ringing, and he has also provided this summary:

To make an impact as a movement, we need many people on board. How do we spread the message of Extinction Rebellion? One way is Rebel Ringing! You don’t have to be super confident on the phone, just willing to give it a go. You’ll be calling Rebels, asking how they are and making a connection, and asking if they can attend an event or an action.

We’ll be holding a training session soon where you can learn more and get ready to call. Please contact Duncan via Telegram, or email xrgodalming@gmail.com if you’re interested.

THIS WEEK’S MEETING

Wednesday 24 June – we have a meeting which will have three main agenda items.

The first is planning for action on 25 June (see below). The second is an introduction to rebel ringing, which is a way to help grow and strengthen our movement. The third is to discuss the proposed XR 4th demand.

For the discussion on the proposed 4th demand, you may find it helpful to do some preparatory reading. If you are unable to attend, please feel free to contribute your thoughts via email to xrgodalming@gmail.com.

EVENTS THIS WEEK

THURSDAY 25TH JUNE – LOCAL ACTION, SEE ABOVE

THURSDAY 25TH JUNE – TALK: Industrial Hemp: A Solution To Climate Change?

Alain has organised this event to continue our series of online talks. We are delighted welcome special guest Guy Coxall, founder of HempTank. You can see some of his previous talks online. There will be plenty of time for questions and we’ll also talk about an upcoming hemp action!

The event is on Thursday 6 to 7:30pm.

Please sign up in advance up via this link

FUTURE EVENTS

Wednesday 1 July – Heading for Extinction talk. Carol and Sean have updated this to take account of recent developments, in particular Covid-19.

Wednesday 8 July – regular meeting.

Wednesday 15 July – we are going to screen the film 2040 via Zoom. The film envisages what the planet might be like in 2040 if currently available solutions to improve it are implemented.

Wednesday 22 July – regular meeting,

Some of the agenda items for us to discuss at regular meetings include UKOG at Dunsfold, responses to Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council, improving cycling locally and the hemp project.

Look forward to seeing you on Wednesday or soon.

With hope and determination.

XR Godalming