There are, as Andrew Simms points out in his most recent blog, two narratives about our economic choices moving forward from here, growth or austerity. Some argue we need austerity in order to get growth, others that we can just cut straight to the growth by printing or borrowing more money. The government recently announced a “massive push for growth“, with £950m being recently allocated for the ‘Regional Growth Fund’ (out of what is expected to be £1.4bn in total), in spite of the fact that money spent so far through the RGF was recently criticised for spending as much as £200,000 to create a single job. One of the key channels for distributing and allocating RGF funds is the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). According to my big-green-book-of-localism the government kindly sent me last year, LEPs are “locally-owned partnerships between local authorities and businesses which will play a central role in determining economic priorities, undertaking activities to drive economic growth and the creation of local jobs”. Yet on closer inspection, LEPs would appear to embody everything that is bereft of vision, imagination and indeed of any of the kind of creativity and thinking that these times demand.
What might we learn from the construction, between1438 and 1448 of the Hospital of St. John in Sherborne (see above) that might shape the way we think about construction in the 21st century? While the bulk of the building was built using local oolitic limestone, it was dressed with Lias stone from Ham Hill, some 12 miles from the building site. However, in those days, without the internal combustion engine, 12 miles was a long way to carry stone (you try it). The meticulous accounts kept of the project at the time show that the cost of transporting the stone by cart cost more than the stone itself. As Alec Clifton-Taylor says in his seminal ‘The Pattern of English Building’, “it was the great difficulty of transporting heavy materials which led all but the most affluent until the end of the eighteenth century to build with the materials that were most readily available near the site, even when not very durable”.
In a recent interview with Transition trainer Sophy Banks she talks about how doing Transition can feel like having two feet on different conveyor belts moving in different directions. She says “it’s like we have these two systems that are going in opposite directions, the system that’s still trying to get more growth, more material consumption, sell us more stuff … and another system that’s saying we need to put the brakes on, we need to slow down, and living in Transition means you’ve got a foot on both conveyor belts, and there’s a psychological stress in inhabiting those two world views at the same time”. The other day I spotted a great example of this in an unlikely medium, Lego.
Our thanks to Gerd Wessling, co-ordinator of the German hub, for the following story from Germany:
“Sunday May 13th 2012 will be declared “In Transition 2.0 film and information day” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland! We kindly ask all German, Swiss & Austrian Transition initiatives to self-organize screenings of the movie at that date in their regions/towns/cities. More info for the organizers (in German) & about the coordination here.
A screening in Bielefeld is already fixed; see details here. We would love to generate a lot of broad, positive reviews and excitement about the movie and Transition in general at that date in the German-speaking region(s) of the world”.
Last week I did a course with the Media Trust on how to make podcasts (highly recommended). So, here, with some fanfare, is the first ‘Transition podcast’, I hope you like it. If so, do embed it in other places. It means I spent the time I would spend writing editing pieces of audio. Let me know what you think. So, the podcast is about a fascinating morning I spent visiting the sailing ship Tres Hombres which visited Brixham earlier this week. It explores the potential of sail-powered shipping as the price of oil rises and the economy tightens. It’s an exciting story.