Todmorden: a case study in sustainability

Hay, Chris (2010) Todmorden: a case study in sustainability. In: SAUD 2010 (The Seventh International Conference of The Center for the Study of Architecture in the Arab Region), 12-14 July 2010, Amman, University of Jordan.

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This paper examines a community sustainability project located in the town of Todmorden, in the north west of England. Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) is a coming together of diverse communities of interest within the town with local food production as their focus. IET is an example of a community taking direct action and implementing change, not only in their immediate environment but also, through a campaign which shares this knowledge and experience elsewhere within the United Kingdom and beyond.
Community sustainability is a term that is now so ubiquitous that it is in danger of losing all meaning. All development undertaken within the United Kingdom now comes with this label attached, and it usually describes the environmental credentials of the particular building(s) in question. The best of these schemes make energy saving and the reduction of green house gasses a priority, yet none address the damaging environmental impact of the globalised food industry. Petty (2002) and Steel (2009) powerfully argue that unless action is taken at a local level to address both the environmental consequences of a global market in food production and the corresponding loss of local cultures that comes with it then a truly sustainable community cannot be said to exist. If we are to address climate change and the homogenisation of much of the world seriously then the developed countries relationship with food has to fundamentally alter.
The importance of IET is that it offers a model of what form such a response to this situation might be. It provides evidence that it is possible through processes of participation and engagement for local initiatives, developed around shared ideas, to begin to transform how people think and act.
Keywords: Sustainability, community, participation, food production, learning and collective action
1 Introduction
In her recent book Hungry City, Carolyn Steel (2009) explores the symbiotic relationship between the production and consumption of food and the development of urban culture from prehistory to the present day. She argues that today when the presence and availability of food, at least in the industrialised world, has become something which is taken for granted (Steel, 2009,p5), we have lost contact with the processes that sustain our increasingly urban existence. The ready availability and abundance of cheap food on the supermarket shelf, coupled with the relative invisibility of its production and distribution, has enabled the typical consumer in the developed world both to ignore the damaging environmental consequences of our globalised food industry (Steel, 2009,p43), and to lose contact, except for recreational purposes, with the natural world that ultimately sustains us and of which we are a part. (Pretty, 2002,p10) The vast areas of the world, which are used to grow soya or beef, are simply invisible. They are out of sight and mind and this disconnection has enabled the multi-national corporations, which control much of the world’s food supply (Tudge, 2003,p302)), to exploit the earth’s resources in ways which are clearly not sustainable nor ethical (Pretty, 2002,p53)
Steel powerfully demonstrates that food “is one of the strongest forces in shaping the world “ (Steel, 2009,p308) and poses the key question “ How might it (food) be used to shape it (the world) better?” (Steel,2009,p308). This global picture is of course replicated within the UK. For example currently ”50% of all vegetables consumed in the UK are grown overseas” (the Grocer Magazine) Like other developed counties the UK is losing a sense of the local as farming is encouraged to become more and more efficient on the one hand (Trudge, 2003, p92) and the food industry aims to provide consistency and limitless choice on the other. IET are challenging this status quo by demonstrating that such a creative shaping of the world as suggested by Steel is indeed possible and that it can be done in a way which not only takes account of environmental issues but in so doing can reconnect people with the places in where they live and work.

Keywords:Sustainability, community, participation, food production, learning, collective action
Subjects:L Social studies > L723 Political Geography
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K100 Architecture
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
ID Code:4102
Deposited On:04 Mar 2011 10:43

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