Yesterday I was at the Sustainable Development Commission Breakthrough Ideas For the 21st Century event in London. Ed Miliband came and gave a nice speech, the gist of which was, “We know you don't think we're doing enough, but we're doing as much as is possibly achievable.” Afterwards we all agreed that we didn't think he was doing enough. Then it was our turn to present our breakthrough ideas in an event chaired by Rosie Boycott...
The morning rolled on and we heard about an idea to teach happiness in schools, a(nother) website for joining up activists of all hues, an idea to persuade to schools to take children to the countryside so they could get in touch with the natural world, etc.
And then, at the end of it all, Tim Smit of the Eden Project stood up and said that sitting through the last hour had been like listening to the band on the Titanic play. He announced, exasperatedly, “This is all just hippy shit.”
There was a brief intake of breath, and a craning of necks, but I'll wager that at least 50% of the sustainable development crowd knew in their heart of hearts he was right. There is a growing sense that things are not working - not just in Ed Miliband's department but in amongst those in the sustainability movement too. “I'm not hearing anything that I haven't heard before,” complained one delegate, in a break-out session.
It's more than just that more-virtuous-than-thou frustration at the slow pace of change. It's a growing sense of horror at the paucity of long-term planning in the face of something so large we cannot ignore it. A real radical breakthrough, both culturally and politically, needs to be made soon.
That said, I'm hoping that Tim Smit didn't mean the idea that I presented, Rethinking The Community Garden. Initially dreamed up by Steve Broome of the RSA's hands-on Connected Communities programme, we outlined proposals a dispersed urban farm – a “patchwork farm” - in New Cross, employing a “Community Farmer” over a two year period to build networks across excluded communities. (And heartfelt thanks to Maria Adebowale of capacity global for championing the idea at the event).
I went up to Tim Smit afterwards to ask him to explain the “hippy shit” remark further, but he said he had to dash to lunch... with one Matthew Taylor. Maybe we can get him to continue the rant as a post here.