Recently, I attended a plenary meeting of the Liverpool Green Partnership at Blackburn House. Its purpose is to raise awareness, promote fresh, creative thinking and energy leading to Liverpool becoming a sustainable city, perhaps, obtaining UN Green City status or even becoming a Green European capital. It’s doing better than I thought, according to its base line survey. It s not doing very well on its ‘bins and recycling’, which is what I know most about, living here. At least, it’s honest. That’s a good start. I wonder how many people know that the elected Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has created this Commission. And even if everyone did know, what difference would it make? Liverpool has one of the lowest participation rates in the democratic process, yet is viewed not least by those who live here and, more widely from outside, as a radical city. Could this be an area where the city’s radical roots and its civic responsibility come together?
I watched a number of good presentations. The one which caught my eye most – for good and bad reasons – concerned Forest Schools. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re worth finding out about. Basically, they take children and their parents/carers/grandparents out into open spaces in and around the city and teach them woodcraft and play. They do wonderful stuff and I couldn’t help thinking of a group of young dads I’d met recently who probably didn’t know about Forest Schools, who would love this for themselves and their kids.
Sad in that we’re having to teach our kids how to play out in the woods and parks in organised groups. Memories from my own childhood popped up – playing out all day, climbing trees, falling out of trees, building dens and making friends and falling out again, amid the bombed out debris still around in Bootle in the 1960s.
Someone asked a question from the floor. ‘Liverpool City Council is currently building thousands of houses to the lowest building regulations,’ he said. ‘Could the Commission not influence the Council to adopt low carbon building regulations? This would save money in the long run with less maintenance. It would help tackle fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions, they would be so well insulated. And it would create a green workforce, creating new jobs, increasing capacity.’ Was that visionary? It seemed common sense to me. So, why not do it? I remember pictures of the sparkly new towns of Skelmersdale and Kirkby and Runcorn in the 1970s, which gleamed and won awards but turned so quickly into rust buckets and dark alleys.
The Commission doesn’t have any funds of its own. It may put targets to its recommendations to the Mayor or it may not. Its five members, one of whom is a woman, are representative of the local community, said its Chair. It was unclear to me if any of the other panel members came from local communities in the city.
On our table, one man spoke about there being no ‘buy-in’ from the majority of people in Liverpool to this. ‘It’s the same faces here as there were two years ago at the Low Carbon event,’ he said. ‘There is no civic movement for the green economy.’
It does seem a real opportunity for Liverpool to make the most of its creative capital in people, ideas and resources in building homes and creating jobs for a sustainable today. Will it take advantage of it? I hope so.
Submit your own piece to the Commission and further details can be found here http://liverpool.gov.uk/mayor/mayoral-commissions/commission-on-environmental-sustainability
On Forest Schools… http://www.merseyforest.org.uk/our-work/forest-school