A green economy is not a sub-set of the economy at large – our whole economy needs to be green. A green economy will maximise value and growth across the whole economy, while managing natural assets sustainably.
While policymakers flip-flop it’s up to local areas themselves to take the bull by the horns, recognise their own needs as well as the need for change, and react to challenges in the most appropriate way for them.
If the commitment to the welfare state, as we currently understand it, is destroyed then the more challenged northern English boroughs will see huge social and economic impacts.
Like the workers in Robert Tressel’s book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, who threw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages in order to generate profit for their masters, these optimists are throwing themselves into seeing the good in policy which offers only meagre solutions.
Economic crisis seems to be never-ending and, in the meantime, things are changing. Sometimes silently, other times violently. We are still in the beginning and, after decades of too much rhetoric on sustainability, local and decentralised solutions will be part of the answer.
There is fairly widespread confirmation of the fear that the new austerity measures will make realising the best of the Big Society agenda practically unworkable.
There is still a chance to salvage much of the legacy of the Portas Review, by linking the distribution of the £10million High Street Innovations Fund; to exactly what it suggests: genuine and transferable High Street innovation.
Perhaps spending £400m on building the market for social investment is a good idea. But we don’t need to blithely accept that this is the only way this money could be used. It could have been used to support the thousands (hundreds of thousdands?) of charities and community groups that have seen their funding cut as a result of spending cuts.
Where the book succeeds it does so brilliantly. As a thought experiment, as a way of understanding the debates around regionalism and globalisation, as a way of seeing how easily regionalism can slip into other current zeitgeists (nationalism in the 19th century and environmentalism today), as a framework for questioning the very nature of what is a region, in all of these ways the book works extremely well.
Much of the old architecture for helping disadvantaged neighbourhoods has disappeared and there has been a big debate in the sector about the government’s strategy for regeneration.