3i Anne Maw quote

How are we doing with Community Resilience?

Glastonbury Oracle, March 2020

Resilience means being able to survive challenging circumstances, both physically and psychologically. Our culture leaves us more interested in Doing rather than Feeling, so our approach to resilience is somewhat lop-sided; nevertheless there is quite a lot going on in Glastonbury, in the face of the crisis that looms ever closer.

The People’s Assemblies organised by the Town Council’s Climate Emergency Group have narrowed its discussions down to five real potential projects in the areas of Transport, Food and the Environment, which will be taken forward at a Town Hall meeting on March 21st – more on this next month. The Deep Adaptation group ‘Changing Times’ has already compiled a lengthy list of resources available locally or on the internet, which should soon be going up on the Information Centre’s website.

Food is perhaps the first thing that people think about – “What are we going to eat if there’s nothing in the supermarkets?” Already there are a number of small-scale growers supplying the local market, and recently they have got together as the ‘Glastonbury Growers Group’: local growers and others concerned about food resilience, trying to address questions of how can more food be grown in Avalon?  And how can existing growers work better together, expanding and co-ordinating their activities?  They are also highlighting issues of food security, ecological land management, and the importance sourcing local food.

Then, with Somerset’s long coast and large areas of low-lying land, we are on the UK’s climate change frontline, facing increased risks from both river flooding and sea level rise – “Will my home be above the waterline?” Though increased building on the floodplain is very unwise, for most people the answer is still yes. The main problem is what will happen to agricultural land? And will the pattern of agriculture have to change? (Yes, it inevitably will).

‘Adapting the Levels’ is a project that involves Somerset County Council, the Somerset Rivers Authority, Somerset Wildlife Trust and the South West Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. At present it has funding that covers pilot projects in Wedmore and Langport, though the longer-term intention is to work with communities right across Somerset. Encouragingly, they are developing plans for flood mitigation using natural means including tree planting and creating other nature-based structures, which significantly slow the flow of water through the catchment. With these aims in mind, they are successfully engaging with the farming community.

The other area where there is already plenty to write about is renewable energy, notably the Mendip ‘Solar Streets’ project which is providing solar panels to householders at a very helpful discount (www.iddea.co.uk). There is also our local Avalon Community Energy, which has a community pot that will be available for smaller-scale installations than those they have undertaken so far; and this will receive contributions from the Solar Streets initiative. Perhaps, like Wedmore, Glastonbury could eventually create a community-owned solar farm.

And of course there is Mike Rogers of Sunlit Solar, a local electrician who is dedicated to sustainable electricity generation. He had a stall at the Climate Emergency Group’s first Town Hall meeting, and I asked him there whether – if the situation arose – he could work out how to create a local electricity grid. “Give me a call when you need me” he said, sounding like he would really relish the challenge.