The Big Idea – community ownership

      The rapid melting of The Arctic is a strong reminder about what’s happening to our climate.

We’re in a period of three exceptional big crises: 1) the crisis of Climate Change and environmental degradation, 2) the global food crisis, 3) the financial and inequality crisis. Some people have been clever enough to figure out that those three crises are all connected to each other and if you dealt with them in the correct way, and in the order of urgency I have listed, you could resolve all of them. Other people, the not so clever ones, have suggested that you can’t protect the environment and save the economy at the same time. Instead, they suggest investing in energy forms called fossil fuels, which have caused our environment to deteriorate over the years; creating growth for the biggest and most powerful corporations, and making the world’s millionaires and billionaires even richer, creating a larger inequality gap.

Community wind as a solution?

When the clever people were drawing up ideas for a solution they thought: hey why don’t we gather people who are most worried about this in communities and by working together we try to find a solution to these problems. We could call the end result something like Community Ownership. Back in the 70’s Denmark, in the wake of the movement against nuclear power that swept across most of Europe, the people did not only successfully protest and win (no nuclear power has ever been built in Denmark), they also decided to create an alternative. ‘Tvind Møllen’ were to be the worlds first community-built and owned wind turbines when finally having been completed in 1978. This was also the stepping stone for Denmark being the world leader in Wind Power, a title it held until early 2000 when the Venstre / Conservative-led government decided to step in and remove large part of subsidies for the renewable energy industry, but despite this the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer still remains Danish Vestas, and Denmark are still seen as one of the leading countries when it comes to establishing green growth and innovating clean tech developments. Today, a large part of renewables in Germany and Scandinavia are community owned. While in the UK for instance, the number of community owned renewable projects are still very small due to difficulty of getting projects of the ground. One could speculate that if there were more applications for such projects, you might not meet so much onshore wind opposition as currently is the case, and history tells us people are less likely to oppose something if they get to taste a piece of the cake. As I mentioned in the intro, the three crises highlighted are all connected, and by dealing with solutions to the environmental crisis you would also deal with part of the financial crisis by creating green sustainable growth; the green economy is one of the industries that is growing fastest. By encouraging the community part, you also would deal with inequality too.


Why are food prices rising?

We have in 2012 seen a rapid spike in food prices, why? Yes you guessed right ,here comes the link again: because of long extensive drought in the US resulting in up to 40% of crops being lost, coupled with the opposite kind of extreme weather in Europe in the shape of flooding, resulting in a large portion of crops being lost. Because we have a global food market we’re sensitive to the price market in other countries. In the UK, a large part of our food is imported so that makes us extra vulnerable. Of course because of the extent of the flooding we have had this year we could not entirely avoid disaster (a lot of crops have been lost in the UK too) but we could have limited the loss. Several community projects ranging from organic food box schemes such as Abel and Cole, community  gardens,  allotments, projects that encourage people to use their garden for food growing, the rapid growth of urban gardening, and while I’m at it I can’t resist to give the exciting Copenhagen project ‘Tag Tomat’ a mention too, which is an inner Copenhagen urban gardening project. Food sharing schemes most evident in The Transition Town movement and the revived trend of foraging edible food that grows in the wild, is another example of how we can better use our resources; it also gives us free education about food. With exciting projects like these there has never been a better time, in wake of the rising food costs, to rethink how we obtain our food. It also adds the extra benefits of looking after the environment and loosens our reliance on supermarkets. I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing this argument and I’m getting tired of repeating it, but there is enough food to go around for everyones need, it’s just how you distribute it that’s the problem and at the moment it’s being distributed very poorly. If we got round to the idea of sourcing more food locally, we would limit food waste and reduce the need for imported food. Instead of being frightened into becoming vegetarians we should be encouraged to have maybe one or two meat-free days a week or simply reduce the meat we put in our meals. This of course comes with the extra benefits of a healthy and more balanced lifestyle.

Our challenge

I’m under no illusion that those ideas I have put forward might not save the world alone, but I do think they present a good guideline for what mentality we should be gearing towards. I’m convinced that those three crises I have mentioned will be our toughest and in that order. By focusing on those challenges as a community, who knows we might just turn it to something positive and make it fun along the way too.

Categories: Denmark, food, renewableenergy, UK

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