Archive for September, 2008

Caroline Flint : Let them eat Bricks & Mortar

I guess when you’re housing minister, then every problem is solved by building more houses, but the timing of her statements in this story in the Telegraph, have got me more than a little annoyed.

Let me get this straight . .

  • Food prices are rising
  • Energy prices (used to import food from overseas) are rising dramatically
  • We all need to reduce our food miles to have any chance of reducing global warming
  • House prices have lost 12% so far and may halve within the next two years

And her solution to the shortage of affordable rural housing is to build more houses on farmland around small villages?!? Surely this will result in:

  • Less land available to grow food in the UK
  • More imported food
  • More expensive food
  • More CO2 emissions
  • A real risk that Britain will find itself unable to feed itself in a post-peak-oil world

And if that wasn’t stupid enough:

  • Even lower house prices
  • Local people buying these new houses will be in Negative Equity almost immediately
  • These houses will just end up as more “second homes” in under a decade

Within the next decade we’ll be facing real oil-supply issues that could have a critical impact on Britain’s ability to feed itself. The solution is not to have people delighted to be living in local houses, but who find themselves unable to afford food.

Now, I’m not housing minister, so maybe I’ve missed something there, but how about we look at some other solutions:

  • Removal of second homes, by tax or legislation.
  • Maybe identify the areas most at threat from local depopulation and declare them “protected areas” where housing must be inhabited for at least 50% of the time. Housing not meeting this criteria to be bought by local councils to be rented affordably to local families working in the area.

Those are just my initial (slightly grumpy) thoughts, but surely somebody out there must have more than half a brain, and be able to come up with something better than the “duh . . . let’s just build more houses” argument.

Monty Don aims to change the way we garden – and eat

Monty Don, gardener, journalist, author, ex-presenter of Gardener’s World and now President of the Soil Association is a convert to the Peak Oil cause and the Transition Movement.

Last November he wrote a great article for Gardener’s World magazine – you can find a copy over on Transition Culture – in it he talks about the invisible footprint we leave as gardeners, and stresses that we need to move to a much more local society.

This August, just as he starts his new post at the Soil Association, he gave a wonderful interview to The Guardian. In it he discusses creating an underground movement to spread the message that we need to be growing much more of our own food. He also wants to move the Soil Association into a more central role in ensuring the sustainability of Britain’s food supply.

I would much rather someone bought food that was local and sustainable but not organic than bought organic food that had to be shipped across the world. We’ve got to move away from making people feel lesser because they’re not [eating] organic. There is no doubt about it, ‘sustainable’ is a better expression for the same sorts of ideas than ‘organic’.

You can see this emphasis through the work the Soil Association is doing now – their latest taste of the good life courses talk about helping to “create a vibrant relocalised food culture” and leading “a planet friendly lifestyle”.

Monty will be one to watch – let’s hope he manages to get his guerilla gardening movement going – we’ll all be better prepared if he does.


I’m looking at John Jeavons’ GROW BIOINTENSIVE methods as a way to enable us to grow enough food in an urban garden. I’ll be writing more about this soon, but here is a good basic video introduction: