Neighbourhood assemblies and declarations

May 29, 2020

Family assemblies and and climate/ecological emergency declarations were suggested as an attempt to fill the space between a disinterested government and ineffective individual actions in the huge and urgent challenge to reduce carbon emissions to net zero and to regenerate the natural environment. That space has become even larger with the largely disinterested government being seriously distracted not just by Brexit but now by Covid. Meanwhile both Brexit and Covid are likely to make it much harder for people to make ends meet without having time and energy to worry about environmental footprints. In theory, these extra difficulties could be seen as additional reasons for families to work together to maintain momentum in meeting environmental goals and targets. However, there is a Plan B.

Workplaces and friendship groups could also have made declarations and started to negotiate the path to net zero. The sectors where emissions are highest and progress is slowest are housing and transport. Clearly families and households are key to making some important changes and have been doing so under the Covid lockdown. However, a model that could be explored is the potential for neighbourhood assemblies and emergency declarations. The principle is the same as applies to families and working together as a geographically locates neighbourhood would be additional and not alternative to the family based action.

So, as well as intergenerational and international families sharing experiences and offering mutual support, we could have people creating lifetime neighbourhoods where action is taken by neighbours. This could involve taking down and repositioning of fences, maintaining basic levels of privacy but aiming to improve the potential for sociability, growing of trees and fruit and veg and insect friendly plants, locating ponds, exploiting the best sites and buildings for solar thermal and PV, keeping of livestock, agreeing not to use poisons or bonfires (composting together), sharing of tools, food processing and greenhouses etc.

Neighbourhoods could also address the difficulties in achieving net zero carbon from transport by 2035. Electic vehicle charging and car clubs and sharing of electric bikes and scooters.

Reduction of under-occupation would be possible by sharing spare space for occasional guests of even building a guest house.

The sharing economy is key to carbon emission reductions and many of the savings can be most effective and deriving the most benefits if done within residential neighbourhoods. So get your local councillors (who would have supported council emergency declarations) on board and hold a neighbourhood assembly with suitable experts in energy, transport and communications (inc IT). Engaging with enthusiasm (EWE) would be added to Fear of missing out (FOMO).