Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Online farming - but this time it's for real!

The National Trust has started a new scheme called My Farm. It's a big online experiment in farming and food production, giving 10,000 members of the public a say in the running of a real working farm on the Trust's Wimpole Estate, near Royston in Cambridgeshire.

People who sign up as Farmers will join forces on the website to discuss and make decisions on every aspect of the farm: the crops grown, the breeds of animal stocked, any new facilities invested in and the machinery used. The aim of the farm (which is organically run) is to be profitable, and to maintain the highest standards of sustainability and welfare.

The core of the project will be the monthly votes. At the beginning of each month, there will be a new question to the MyFarm community. For the following three weeks, there will be discussion and debate on the website - the Farmers will be able to give opinions and ask questions of Richard, the farm manager. and his team. There will be information and input from the farm team and industry experts and the vote will then go live, with Richard setting out the options, and Farmers will have a week to make their choice.

Alongside this, there will be a constant stream of blogs, videos and podcasts, so Farmers will be able to keep up to date with everyday events on the farm.

As the Trust's MyFarm website says:
This is a real farm. It might be a little different from most of the farms around the UK because part of it is a visitor attraction, but it still has to earn its keep like any other. While some things are easier at Wimpole, many are harder. We won’t hide anything from you – with the help of Scott, Richard and the team, you’ll see the challenges a real farmer faces every day, and face them with us. . . This is an online project, but it’s not Farmville. There’s a real farm here.
(Farmville is an online social gaming site where people tend virtual farms and earn credits, as in any other game. It's one of a number of online simulation games. For a discussion of the experience of playing Farmville, see this article.)

It costs £30 per year to be part of this project - this will cover the Trust's running costs for the online project and may (I imagine) act as some kind of financial buffer if the online community makes some daft decisions! The whole scheme is an educational project, aimed at increasing people's knowledge and understanding of where their food comes from. It's clear from the sign-up page that they hope some school teachers will sign up on behalf of their classes, thus involving children in thinking about the realities of food production.

There's plenty of basic information on the website, about crops, livestock and wider impacts. There's a map of the farm and encouragement to visit the real thing.

I've signed up and will bring reports to this blog - if anyone reading this also signs up, please do use the comment facility here!

The first vote is happening now - what crop to grow in Pond Field? The choice is wheat, oats or barley. There's a lot of information about soil type, growing requirements, likely yield, market conditions and prices, risks and opportunities. I voted for oats, and at the time I cast my vote, about 50% had also chosen this, with wheat and barley at about 25% each. Since then more people have voted and the choice is changing - the site is now registering 49% for wheat, 21% for barley and 29% for oats. The vote closes tomorrow.

For people who like lots of online interaction, there are blogs and discussions on the site. You don't have to be a member of the National Trust to sign up.
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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Towards sustainability in rural Zimbabwe - news from Hlekweni

This week’s post comes Craig Barnett in Zimbabwe. Craig is a Quaker who previously worked in Sheffield for the City of Sanctuary organisation. He was also co-tutor with me on one of the Good Lives courses last year – Good Lives: because we can’t eat money – which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

Craig and his family left for Zimbabwe towards the end of last year for Craig to take up the post of Director of Hlekweni, a rural training centre outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, which specialises in bio-intensive agriculture, and also offers practical training courses, both long and short, on subjects from building and carpentry to garment-making and early childhood education.

You can follow Hlekweni on Facebook or you can sign up for Hlekweni news by emailing: info@friendsofhlekweni.org.uk. You can also give support via Friends of Hlekweni in Britain and donate to help Hlekweni's work.

When Craig arrived in Zimbabwe to take over as Director, his work permit hadn’t come through, so he had to be technically a volunteer for some time. Below is his most recent newsletter.

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Craig writes:

After all these months of waiting, I finally have my Zimbabwean work permit and officially started as Director of Hlekweni last week. It was quite a shock to hear that the permit had been approved - I had almost given up on it and we were starting to think of making plans to come back to the UK for good this summer. Instead, we have shifted into a new gear of preparing to be here for the next two years (the permit is until Feb 2013), and being totally responsible for Hlekweni with all its rather pressing challenges.

Things are very tough here at the moment. We have been hit by a combination of poor harvests due to drought (with almost no rain since January) and government-imposed wage increases which have brought Hlekweni to imminent financial disaster. The absolute poverty here is a constant source of frustration, and I am still struggling to adapt to a situation of absolute scarcity of all resources. As just one example; Moya and Jonathan's [Craig's children] school has been waiting for months to have a dangerously hanging classroom roof fixed - on investigation I discovered it was because there weren't any nails. I finally bought a bag of nails, but the work seems to be stalled again, pending the availability of something - perhaps we are out of hammers too...

We have had lots of volunteers and visitors staying at Hlekweni over the last few weeks, which is a welcome source of support. We are also starting to get to know some people outside of Hlekweni, and I have been networking assiduously, to the extent that I was inducted into the Bulawayo Rotary Club yesterday - not something I would ever have seen myself doing before. Kate [Craig's partner] came with me and said it's "like Brownies for grown-ups".

Despite the general air of desperation about the place, there are also encouraging 'signs of hope' to help keep us going. The micro-credit scheme we have set up for the local community is working well, and focusing local people's energies on a renewed sense of possibility and self-reliance. The first loan we made was $160 to a group of women who are making Ndebele bead jewellery, and as well as selling to overseas visitors they are starting to become a fashion item around Hlekweni too. I have designed a business plan template which lots of other groups are using to develop their small business proposals, and our farm manager Lungisani has led a workshop on business planning for the community. One local man told me how important it was to him that Hlekweni is now doing something to help the community who live here, as well as the people from rural areas who we provide training to.

Moya and Jonathan are still having a great time, now just starting their month-long Easter holiday. With the support of the Headteacher, we have put a stop to Jonathan's teacher's Dickensian habit of caning children's hands and slapping their faces at every opportunity, and J. now seems quite happy at school. Through Kate's part-time home education he has also raced ahead with maths and reading - he now sits in bed reading books to himself in the mornings. He has also introduced the local boys to the joy of home-made bows and arrows - there was a little band of them playing Robin Hood the other day. Moya has been helping sometimes at the Hlekweni library, reading stories to younger children as well as joining in with the new games club for local children.

Things in Zimbabwe generally are quite worrying. On the positive side, the economy is continuing to recover, with more foodstuffs available in the shops and businesses re-opening. Politically, the situation is deteriorating, as the security services and youth militias are being used intimidate the population in advance of elections. Hlekweni is still an oasis of peacefulness, and we haven't encountered any trouble ourselves - in fact this is probably the safest place to be in the whole country. It is dispiriting to see the hopes of Zimbabwean people being crushed out of them though, as they feel totally powerless to change their situation. Despite their envy of the revolutions in North Africa, no-one I have spoken to sees any prospect of something similar here, where the army is so solidly and ruthlessly behind the current regime.
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Craig and his family will be in the UK on holiday in June and Craig also has speaking/fundraising events lined up while he’s here. You can catch him at Sheffield Friends Meeting House on Sunday 19 June, following Meeting for Worship; and at Friends House, London on 29 June, 6-8pm.
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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

In praise of . . . neighbours (next door, that is, not on TV!)

Yesterday my next-door neighbours of over 30 years moved house, to be nearer their children and grandchildren. I'm going to miss them.

Over the period they've lived next door to me I've seen their children grow up and leave home, their parents age, their house get extended. Over holiday periods, we've watered each other's plants, moved each other's post, fed each other's animals. We've taken in parcels for each other, each had a set of the other's keys (which has more than once rescued an accidental lock-out situation) . . . and all those little day-to-day practical things that help life to run more easily. In addition we've listened to each other's woes and joys (they had a new grandson last week) and helped out in other ways. When I fractured my ankle, my neighbour took me to Casualty. When a tree in their garden fell down in a storm while they were away, I contacted someone who could deal with it.

I hope the people who move in will become good neighbours, but it will take time.

The reason I'm writing about this here, on this particular blog, is to reflect specifically on the relationship of 'neighbours'. We weren't 'friends'. I don't mean that we weren't 'friendly', but we didn't - for instance - socialise together. We talked over the fence, or at our respective front doors, but only occasionally sat down together in one or other of our houses. In bad weather we would even discuss things on the phone, rather than walk outside and get wet! We led very different lives and didn't really have much in common that might have led to 'friendship' as it's normally understood. . . but we were good neighbours to each other.

Suzette Haden Elgin is an interesting guide to helping us think about the difference between 'friends' and 'neighbours'. She's a linguist and author, both of academic papers and science fiction novels. She uses her knowledge of linguistics to inform her novel plots, and she uses her novels to make available to a wide audience interesting facets of the relationship between language and culture. Her most well-known book undertaking this task is Native Tongue.

Briefly, she has created a scenario in which interplanetary and inter-species diplomacy require some very specialised and skilled language interpreters. A clan of several families have a monopoly on this service, so everyone in the clan is a superb linguist, speaking a large number of non-human languages (on their world, all humans now speak 'Panglish'). The women, whilst just as expert as the men, are an oppressed group within the very patriarchal clan. Having created this world of expert linguists, Elgin then has the women create their own secret language, one that encodes women's experience of the world, rather than men's. The language, called Láadan, has now been developed beyond the concept in the book, to become closer to a functioning language (rather in the way that fans of Klingon have done).

A few examples of Láadan vocabulary will give a flavour of what Elgin means by 'encoding women's experience':

doroledim(sublimation with food accompanied by guilt about that sublimation) This word has no English equivalent whatsoever. Say you have an average woman. She has no control over her life. She has little or nothing in the way of a resource for being good to herself, even when it is necessary. She has family and animals and friends and associates that depend on her for sustenance of all kinds. She rarely has adequate sleep or rest; she has no time for herself, no space of her own, little or no money to buy things for herself, no opportunity to consider her own emotional needs. She is at the beck and call of others, because she has these responsibilities and obligations and does not choose to (or cannot) abandon them. For such a woman, the one and only thing she is likely to have a little control over for indulging her own self is FOOD. When such a woman overeats, the verb for that is "doroledim". (And then she feels guilty, because there are women whose children are starving and who do not have even THAT option for self-indulgence... )

radiídinnon-holiday, holiday more work that it’s worth, a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion; especially when there are too many guests and none of them help

rarilhto deliberately refrain from recording; for example, the failure throughout history to record the accomplishments of women [ra=non- + ri=to record, keep records + lh=negative connotation]

And these examples are so as to lead in to this one:

rahobethnon-neighbor, one who lives nearby but does not fulfill a neighbor's role (not necessarily pejorative) [obeth=neighbor]

This clearly suggests that there is such a thing as a neighbour's role. My recently moved neighbours and I fulfilled this role for each other, to a high degree. With my next-door neighbour on the other side, this hasn't been the case nearly so much. We're perfectly civil to each other, we tell each other if our house is going to be unoccupied overnight, and we occasionally take in parcels for each other if a postman or courier rings at the door to ask one of us to do so . . . but that's as far as it goes. I'm now reflecting on why this difference . . . and I'm not really sure. This neighbour has now been widowed for some time and is becoming increasingly frail and forgetful. My neighbourliness now consists primarily in keeping an eye out, being aware of how he is, and letting his daughter (who lives a few streets away) know if there is any cause for concern beyond what she sees in her daily visits.

But there's not much - beyond a friendly 'hallo, how are you?' - in relation to the rest of the street. We're a small cul-de-sac so we might be thought to be an example of how a whole street could be 'neighbourly' to each other . . . but we aren't. We aren't unfriendly or stand-offish, but we're 'rahobeth' as Elgin defines. And as she points out, this isn't necessarily pejorative.

Because I live near the corner, and my kitchen window overlooks the street, I find myself being 'neighbourly' to assorted people who aren't geographical neighbours at all . . . the child who came round the corner too fast on his bike and fell off, breaking his collar bone (I fetched him in, gave him a drink, phoned his mum) . . . the teenager who limped up the road pushing his bike and then just lay down on the pavement outside (he'd fallen off and was concussed, I phoned his mum) . . . the elderly blind pedestrian whose dog got totally confused avoiding the parked cars while crossing the road ( I went out and asked where she was trying to get to, and put her back on the right pavement) . . . and so on.

I find myself saddened by what seems to me to be the excessive gratitude shown, especially by the mothers. I feel as though I've only done what any sensible adult would do. They say that you can't trust people 'these days' to take any responsibility. I wonder what it must be like to let your child out of the house every morning, feeling that other adults might not act appropriately if a problem arises.

David Cameron has talked about 'the big society', and I wonder if it's in large part about relearning what neighbourliness is; although there's clearly also an attempt to make it something bigger and more organised.

We're not the first people in history to be exercised by these questions:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37 (New International Version)

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Climate change farm

This week I'm urging you to leave this page and listen to a 25-minute programme available on the BBC website.

This week's programme in the series The Food Programme has the title 'Climate Change Farm'.

The introductory programme information says:
How do we produce food to deal with climate change? To find out, Sheila Dillon visits Mark Diacono's "climate change" farm in Devon to look at a new way of producing food, mixing exotic plants with agro-forestry.

Mark's guiding principle is plant only what you passionately want to eat. His own list began with mulberries and expanded to include many things that were historically impossible - pecans, Japanese wineberries, Carolina allspice, peaches. They all have their place. But climate change might not just mean warmer summers - it could mean more unpredictable weather; droughts, downpours, and floods which can wipe out annual crops. So Otter Farm is a test bed for perennial horticulture and forest gardening, inter-planting trees, shrubs, climbers and groundcover, plants that grow back every spring and are more resilient to extreme weather.

Also joining Sheila at Otter Farm is Martin Crawford of the Agro-forestry Research Trust in Devon which has been practicing agro-forestry for nearly two decades. It is low maintenance but very productive, and has a considerably lower carbon footprint than conventional farming which relies on chemical inputs and tillage of the soil - both significant emitters of CO2.
Sheila, Mark and Martin share a "climate change lunch" with Gerry Hayman of the British Tomato Growers Association, growers who've received negative press for their sustainability credentials e.g. heated greenhouses vs. tomatoes grown in the Spanish sun. It's also the kind of monocrop that the Otter Farm model cites as being unsustainable in the future. Over lunch they discuss the pros and cons of British tomato growing, the horticulture industry in the UK, and new ways of producing food for an increasing world population.
The programme discusses a future for food that is more subtle than worrying only about 'food miles'. The presenter and guests discuss forest gardens, perennial allotments, and other ways of growing perennial foods for seasonal eating, without huge inputs of water and fertiliser.

The farmer contributing to the programme is Mark Diacono at Otter Farm.

The programme was broadcast on Sunday 8 and Monday 9 May, and is now available to listen on BBC iPlayer. The Food Programme recordings are archived on the website, so you're not limited to seven days listening.

Go listen!
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Monday, 2 May 2011

Environmental ethics in business

The Quakers and Business group held its Spring Gathering in Edinburgh (at Edinburgh Central Friends Meeting House) on 2 April, with the title Mainstreaming Ethical Futures - Inspiring Economies and Businesses for a Sustainable World. I am grateful to Eoin McCarthy for sending me this detail, which is reproduced here with permission.
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Elizabeth Redfern wrote this account of the day:

The title of the gathering was ‘Mainstreaming Ethical Futures - Inspiring Economies and Businesses for a Sustainable World’, and in his introduction Tim Phillips reflected that running businesses ethically was no longer seen as a radical thing to do, but was indeed mainstream and accepted, even if not universally practised. Tim highlighted how attitudes to business ethics have changed in the 12 year life of the Quakers and Business Group, and he hoped that perhaps our group’s messages had had an effect, at least within BYM and to an initial extent in the business world.

We were inspired by our three morning speakers who gave their experience of involvement in an ethical approach to business life, and how they see the real practical issues involved. A clear message was that it isn’t plain sailing, but needs hard work, compromises have to be made and not everything will be perfect. We were asked to consider both the local and global aspects of our decisions, and to ask ourselves how we can run and work in businesses or communities that work for all concerned and ultimately leave the world in a better condition. So, what did they say?

Small is Beautiful
Lucy Conway from the Isle of Eigg described what many would think of as an ideal opportunity for islanders to build an ethically based community. And by and large they have done that in the years the Eigg Heritage Trust have owned the island since 1997. Lucy described their work as a balance between many aspects, including between what they have and don’t have, and between focussing on themselves as islanders and on sustaining their environment. And then between themselves locally and globally in the world they live. A good example of this last balance is in making the island more appealing for tourists, with investment in attractions such as a new museum, and yet not allowing any holiday homes.

Lucy described another example which showed great pragmatism concerning the islands 83% renewable energy. Energy from hydro, wind and the sun are all locally sourced (with diesel generators as a back-up) and provide valuable jobs for the islanders. And yet these schemes need equipment from outside the island and imported skills and knowledge. The islanders are very aware of their energy usage and use a traffic light system to warn them when energy usage is high and they need to cut back. Lucy said that this shows how good the islanders were at adapting to their environment.

Lucy concluded by saying that their community wasn’t perfect but it worked as it had determination and stamina, and people have real responsibility to each other. They all see the balance between what is personal to them and to the island, and provide each other mutual support and respect: ‘Love where we live and respect it’.

Scale is Essential
A friend of the Quakers from the banking industry explained how we need to accept that the banking industry is global and that we gain from its reach and scale in a local context. And that after the serious and well publicised issues the industry has faced over the last few years, the industry is changing and no longer paying lip service to corporate social responsibility but accepting it as a fundamental and valuable consideration in its businesses. Our friend described how banks are now being questioned from inside as well as out, and at a senior level in language they understand, and that this is developing a better culture of debate and challenge.

The local aspect of banking provided by global banking players was illustrated in a number of examples, including where you can easily deposit money in say Edinburgh and take it out again in Malaga. Banks also help small business owners, such as people working in traditional industries such as agriculture and communities such as those on Eigg, to assess their risk in, for example, carrying out foreign cash exchanges when buying and selling goods.

Our friend described how banks regularly work together to provide funding for large international projects, and that this cooperation is seen as a very positive way to support these projects, and spread risk, and encourages open and transparent ways of working between the banks, which is also a positive way forward.

Small is Beautiful and Scale is Essential
Alastair McIntosh, a Quaker and the well know author of Hell and High Water, describes himself as an independent scholar, activist, writer, speaker and broadcaster: he’s certainly an interesting and captivating character. Alastair was our last speaker and did a fantastic job of linking much of the underlying messages from the previous speakers together and adding his own views on money. Alastair highlighted his own links to the Eigg community; he is a fellow islander from the Isle of Lewis. He was one of the four founding trustees of the Eigg Trust, a simple charitable trust which was the predecessor of the current Eigg Heritage Trust. This is the subject of Alastair’s book Soil and Soul. Alastair believes that the Eigg community shows us how we can think globally and act locally, and that they are a good example of cooperation, mutualisation and exchange.

Hubris was a word Alastair used to describe the banking industry; a dictionary definition for which is excessive pride, or perhaps we can now interpret as ‘pride before a fall’. We were reminded that money is a basic commodity and yet it also represents psychological power. We are born equal and we remain equal until someone accumulates money: The processes of borrowing and lending with interest removing the equality as money is used to make money. As Alastair pointed out money is not evil, but the love of it is, and that boredom and laziness often start the rot, when people see that they can make money without labour.

So what are the alternatives – where can we change attitudes? One suggestion made was that rates of interest, such as on savings, should equal the rate of inflation. Another was to buy goods that last. Alastair pointed to the buildings around us in Edinburgh City Centre, many of which were built centuries ago of local stone. The buildings have lasted, will last further, and the stone is re-usable. Modern buildings of glass and concrete are short termist and unsustainable. Alastair finished by saying that we needed to develop a sense of ‘proportionality and subsidiarity’, where we delegate to a lower level, or to a less centralised function.

Pasture-Fed Livestock Association
After lunch we heard some exiting news from QandB member John Meadley. John told us about the development of the farmer-based Pasture-fed Livestock Association, recently incorporated as a Community Interest Company and of which he is the honorary company secretary. With 60% of the UK under pasture, there are many benefits. Pasture is one of the cheapest sources of nutrients for ruminants; it has the capacity to absorb carbon equal to that of forests, with well-managed pasture-based livestock systems being potentially carbon neutral; pastures can replace soya bean as a source of protein, are largely decoupled from fossil fuels and experience less price volatility as pasture is not a commodity that can be traded. The association will make a public launch later in the year.

World Café – and then the Quakers and Business Lecture - 2011
Much of the afternoon was occupied by a very thought provoking World Café, where we considered a range of questions concerning ethical business and sustainable living. The afternoon was then finished with the inaugural Quakers and Business lecture given by Alastair McIntosh, with the title ‘Behind and Beyond the Pornography of Consumerism’. A video of the lecture is available online.

In Friendship, Elizabeth Redfern, Assistant Clerk - Quakers and Business Group
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Elizabeth writes: "Please watch it; Alastair is a very engaging and interesting speaker, and the lecture was absorbing."  I've watched the video, and I can wholeheartedly endorse this. Alastair is always an engaging speaker, and what he has to say is very worth hearing.
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In addition to this narrative account, there was a minute from the gathering:

37 Friends met at Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House on April 2nd for this event titled Mainstreaming Ethical Futures.

We seek to examine Friend's longstanding concern over our stewardship of the Earth. We are reminded to be patterns and examples, which does not require perfection, but needs us to work both globally and locally. The intent of the day was to examine the changes we can make in our own lives, and the contribution we, the collective group can make to the changes needed.

Lucy Conway from the Isle of Eigg community spoke about "Small is Beautiful". She showed us how a more sustainable way of living can be achieved by a dedicated and focused community who seek to reduce the problems of remoteness whilst treading lightly on the earth.

We have heard from our Friend in the banking sector that "scale can be useful and interconnectivity is essential". We are reminded of the input from many different sectors and countries in the technology and systems we all use, even on a small scale such as Eigg electric. There are economies of scale which can improve access to essentials for those in poverty, both rural and urban.

Alastair McIntosh spoke of the qualities of money. It is a love of money, not the money itself which is the root of evil. Money represents psychological power, lubricating the movement of goods and services. We were shown an analogy of a simple economy as demonstrated by a baby sitting circle where the currency is tokens. Through this we see that problems come with the subversion of the system, and abuses of power often come from boredom.

Value is usually considered over one generation, approximately 25 years. This encourages short term thought, and is reflected in life spans such as those of building materials. The impact on nature is overlooked, leading to its exploitation, human labour and the depreciation in quality of our childrens futures. We were warned that the business mentality driven by this hubris of growth leads to a loss of proportionality, its restoration being a cure alongside a sense of right ordering in matters of propriety.

Alastair upheld the Eigg community as an example of movement from the capitalist to the mutualist model and its relationship to our future in terms of scale and corporate responsibility.

In the afternoon session we met in groups to examine questions of scale, community and corporate responsibility, looking at our part in their futures.

On the matter of whether we should all live in cities, we were reminded of the low carbon footprints which can come with city life, the community forms both in rural and urban environments and the effect of technology on the opportunities available to residents of various locations.

When looking at small and large scale, and how they can support each other in reciprocal ways we acknowledge the interdependency of companies and communities of all scales, and how they both underpin and facilitate each other.

Examining if "interest" can be part of a sustainable future we questioned its place in a caring society where stewardship and humility are often lacking. There were concerns over the short term nature of the investment model and speculative interest, and a feeling that moderation was key.

Friends leaned towards a positive outcome when discussing if corporate responsibility was possible in a competitive economy. They presented a business case for acting ethically which relied on trust leading to increased profitability.

When asked how we start to mainstream ethical futures, it is firstly by being pattens and examples, and the need for everyone to have a sense of their own spirituality. The discussion focused on transnational corporations and their capacity for change as well as looking at how individuals can be released from the grips of capitalism coming to a freedom which allows them to do this.

In conclusion, Lucy Conway reminded us that we must adopt various approaches, try many things and live adventurously. Alastair McIntosh reminded us of our complicity in the current system, the place of the disempowered individual in the corporation and the powerlessness of the consumer. We were urged not to underestimate what it is possible to achieve within the system, and to remain aware of our interconnection. The foundation of community is love, and we must not loose sight of this, ensuring that the work of loving consciousness continues through the generations on this planet.

The day finished with the 2011 Quakers and Business Lecture "Behind and beyond the pornography of consumerism". Alastair McIntosh analysed the importance of spirituality and its place in preventing our destruction of this planet. To do this we must honour that of God in all things when making our choices.

Examining advertising messages we see how confidence and individuality can be undermined to increase profits whilst violating social and ecological environments. We must seek to restore the souls which have weakened due to these messages and the idolatrous consumerism to which they form the gateway. This consumerism is devoid of relations to the heart, rendering it pornographic and debilitating.

Working as a Lafarge sustainability stakeholder panel member Alastair is part of a credible process holding a dialogue between Lafarge and its stakeholders, aiding long term profitability, reducing emissions and improving relationships with workers and community.

We are all complicit and contradicted living in this imperfect world. It is up to us to decide on which side of the ethical watershed we want to stand. In order to do this we need spiritual courage. This cannot come from an ego level, but must come from that of God within.

Jo Poole
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Thanks to QandB for sharing this.

If you want to post a comment, and are having technical difficulties, you can email your comment to me at Good.Lives@woodbrooke.org.uk and I can post it for you.

If you are reader from outside the UK, please remember to post your comment in English - I won't post anything if I don't know what it says.