1i Earth

Glastonbury’s response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency

Glastonbury Oracle, January 2020

​Climate change is upon us. We may have differing opinions and understandings as to how urgent the situation is, what the likely effects may be, and what is most important to do about it; but it will affect us all and most of us are agreed that we need to do something. This is the first of a series of articles intended to give an overall local view, of how different groups are responding in different ways. My belief is that they are all part of one picture and that everyone’s contribution is important.

First of all, a few general points to be made. I have called this a Climate and Ecological Emergency, not just a Climate Emergency. We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction of species on this planet, in other words a massive loss of biodiversity. At the same time we are beginning to run out of topsoil. A recent UN report said that we have perhaps 50 more harvests left before our depleted soil can no longer support us. Global warming may be reaching a critical point, but it is not the only problem.

The planet has been mistreated since the industrial revolution and before, and the consequences are now about to bite us on the bum. Ecological collapse is a very scary prospect but it is becoming a real possibility. Reducing our carbon emissions will help, but it is not the answer in itself. This is why the Town Council’s initiative of inviting the community to discuss the issues at a series of ‘People’s Assemblies’ has led to a discussion about community resilience – how to reduce our carbon footprint, and to prepare for the possibility that in the longer term we may have to provide basic services from our own community resources.

Glastonbury Town Council declared a Climate Emergency last February, and has since been joined by both Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council. How effective local government can be is questionable, given the restrictions imposed by the local government system and the lack of a firm lead from central government. This question I shall address in a future article. In the mean time, the Somerset Climate Action Network is organising a series of drop-in meetings to discuss the county’s Climate Emergency Strategy. One will take place on February 15th (10am to 4pm) at Mendip’s council offices in Shepton Mallet. At least discussions are taking place.

In Glastonbury, the next People’s Assembly will be at the Town Hall on January 25th. Other local groups will be taking part, including Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion and Stop Ecocide, the ‘Earth Protectors’. In addition the Town Council has agreed to employ a part time Climate Emergency and Resilience Officer from next April, to help promote green and low carbon infrastructure.

Friends of the Earth are also planning a one-day workshop on localising the economy. This is not focused specifically on climate change, but it is certainly a key element of creating community resilience. The workshop will be arranged to follow soon after the People’s Assembly.

This is by no means a complete list of what is going on. If you have information about other initiatives, or questions that need answering (or at least exploring), please email me.