On Thursday, 6th February, I attended the Lancaster Sustainable Summit at the University of Cumbria held between the University, IFLAS, Lancaster and Morecambe College and Lancaster ESTA (Ethical Small Traders Association).
The intention of the day was to try to bring a range of groups together, from academia, local government, business and community to network and discuss sustainable models. This is a grand plan and I think it was mostly achieved, the one area I found instantly lacking was the business response. I know we are all busy business people but these events add a lot of value.*
I managed to tweet a lot during the first part of the morning which was based around some introductions to the aims of the day, a little bit about ESTA and the principles Michael wishes to pursue regarding local trade and local economies, and then a series of short presentations by some local groups.
Michael Hallam in front of the audience
A couple of particular highlights were Sue Keenan, of Lancaster and Morecambe College, who spoke about the need for continuing education in the workplace and in life. She then described some of the ways in which they are providing a valuable apprenticeship service and to see that as a route to higher education not an alternative.
Debbie Stubbs talked about the Catalyst! project from Lancaster University which is in its final year and has introduced many initiatives and projects including AccessASD (Clasp) and the Barter project which is done in conjunction with Lancaster ESTA.
Debbie Stubbs talks about the Catalyst! Project
The last talk concerned the Less is More Game being held next week which seems like a great way to show how we can all make a difference even if it is a small difference, combined that is a huge effect.
After a short coffee break we split into groups and discussed a key theme and our responses to it with the intention of reporting back to the rest of the assembly. The group I chose to join was 'Stuff' where we spoke about digital rights, creative freedoms and alternative economies. At one point we discussed the downsides of unchecked capitalism and I may have compared Wonga to a tapeworm.**
The challenge was interesting and brought about a number of conversations that were far too short as we were hampered by time. But it was good to hear of people's differing ethical and emotional stances and how that related to their practical existence.
Our Stuff sheet
The morning concluded on time and with some sense of people needing to explore alternative avenues, the clear feeling is that the system we currently use is based on several large fallacies and that encouraging a more balanced local response is sensible in an ecological manner.
I personally have a lot of thoughts around how we are defining and using finite in regard to resources and expansion, and why this is a problematical analogy when ever you consider a system that has infinite as an absolute in it. But that was more a quasi-philosophical/linguistic issue. I also would like to think more on local economies and shared resource financials in regard to commodities.
I would like to thank Michael, Jem and Phil for putting the event on, and to the University of Cumbria for hosting. I would also like to thank the presenters for starting the day and to the people I met and spoke to for provoking many interesting thoughts. A special regard to Growing with Grace for the samples of extremely fresh and tasty watercress and coriander.
* This will likely be the subject of a much longer rant.
** Personally I now feel embarrassed and ashamed. I had no intention of causing any disrespect or harm to the humble tapeworm.