Imagine a Different Future
Bailey is 24. When he was a child, his home-town of Camborne was one of the poorest places in Europe. That was until the Kerrier Green Fund was established to provide investment in the growing local renewables sector and new skills training. Now Bailey is a newly-qualified engineer, part of a team responsible for the maintenance of local wind turbines.
Bailey’s older sister, Poppy, set up her own bakery. She sources all her ingredients from a local food-producers’ cooperative. It provides her with a wholesale discount, while guaranteeing farmers a local market, increasing the price they receive ‘at the farm gate’ and affording them greater protection against shocks.
Both Poppy, Bailey and many of their friends and family are part of a local consumers cooperative. Since profits are distributed among members they get to keep the cut that used to go to the supermarket owner. Their control over the co-op means that they choose what products to stock. After the UK government finally introduced the Carbon Tax, local food is much cheaper than food that’s had to travel long distances. The co-op also participates in the Cornwall-wide Sustainable Food Forum that helps match Cornwall’s farming output to what Cornish consumers want to buy.
Paul and Sue are farmers from near St Just. Nearly ten years ago, as new tenants on a Council-owned farm, they took part in a programme that helped them move to organic farming. Through a combination of training and financial support, they were able to radically change how they used their land. They planted more trees, improved the quality of the soil, and diversified their produce, selling fruit, nuts and timber, alongside much smaller quantities of meat and milk. Now they own their own farm, and their son, Jack, who back then had said he was leaving farming behind, has combined his skills as a craftsman with the timber business and joined them.
Sue’s mother, Peggy, is in her late 70s and lives in a very small village about 8 miles away. Previously, her home was damp, but energy costs were so high she couldn’t afford to heat it properly in winter. She took part in a Council-run scheme to retrofit her house with insulation and a more efficient heating system that used renewable-sourced electricity to power it. (Bailey’s dad did the job; he re-trained using an adult education grant after previously working as an oil delivery driver.) After that, the money Peggy spent on her energy bills was enough to properly heat her home in winter. Sue and Peggy regularly see each other using the extended rural electric bus service, which also means Peggy has reliable access to Penzance.
A portion of Peggy’s pension is invested in a similar scheme to the Kerrier Green Fund. This provides her with stable payments, while ensuring that her money stays in Cornwall and helps to provide new forms of employment for the next generation. In fact, Peggy’s granddaughter, Lilly, has just taken out a loan to start a clothing business with an all-Cornish supply chain.
Claire is a local banker from Bodmin, who specialises in finance for new-builds. She has been working with a variety of local construction firms and housing cooperatives to ensure that ‘affordable’ homes are actually affordable. Since the Land Value Tax was introduced, land speculation became less profitable, prices began to stablise, and large-scale developments reduced. Claire’s work is accountable to the local Community Planning Forum, a democratically elected body who determine the number and nature of new-builds, alongside local business rates and other local infrastructure needs.
George is a builder who started a small mutual construction business. The new Bodmin Bank also provides loans to local start-ups, with super-low repayment rates for businesses that can demonstrate positive social and environmental impact. Since George’s employees share a stake in the company profits and build energy-positive, affordable homes, his working partnership with Claire has meant that George can win business ahead of larger developers.
These stories are not particularly dramatic, and they barely mention climate change at all. So why tell them here? The reason is that these are stories about how Cornwall could benefit from a net-zero-carbon transition. The radical change that is needed could tackle some of Cornwall’s most persistent problems and restore dignity to people and communities. A Green Vision for Cornwall turns a climate emergency into a new lease of life.
Behind the scenes of these stories, however, are major changes. Read on for some of the detail...