Bristol Friends of the Earth and Avon Friends of the Earth began campaigning in 1971, seeding new ideas and new projects and setting fertile ground for further projects to form. Urban regeneration was born from struggle and propagated by ideas for a radical transformation.
Similarities can be seen across the world today – from the recent situation in Sri Lanka, where home gardens have become a popular response to wide-spread famine, to farmers taking back ownership of their land in Palestine.
St Werburgh’s City Farm is one of the communities working to protect their green spaces. The story of the struggle to keep St Werburgh’s alive is told in The Bristol Cable.
The spirit of activism is strong today in Bristol, and its alternative culture attracts new residents every year, squeezing its already desperate housing situation. Its art and music scenes provide a haven for exploring new ways of living and connecting in an urban sprawl.
Bristol is at the forefront of grassroots mobilisation in the UK. Movements such as Shift Bristol, Growing Futures, Bristol Good Food Alliance, Grow Wilder, and Bristol and Avon Wildlife Trust are very much alive and kicking.
Organisations such as St Werburgh’s City Farm and Lawrence Weston Community Farm are growing food that nourishes local supply chains in what is perhaps one of the greatest revolutionary acts of our times.
Although Bristol has been classified as a ‘green capital’, it’s far from sustainable. Its badly designed streets are clogged with traffic, and in some parts the air is heavy with pollution, from which its depleted green spaces offer little refuge.
And whilst Bristol is at the forefront of environmental and humanitarian activism, its wealth is very much built upon the slave trade, of which it was once one of the biggest centres not only in Europe, but also in the wider world. Something important to recognise when celebrating a city that is not without its dark history.
Although there are so many parallels with the past, today we face even greater complexities. At the time when Small is Beautiful was published, global heating was not part of the mainstream conversation.
Since then, it’s gone on to become a scientifically recognised reality that dominates world headlines. And as temperatures creep higher each year, and we dance on the edge of ecological collapse, politicians carry on with business as usual.
Downscaling our economies, taking back public ownership and challenging dominant narratives is not a romantic ideology, but a transformation that will ensure our future survival.
Our SMALL IS THE FUTURE event in Bristol on Saturday, 17 June 2023 will discuss some of the biggest questions of our time through the lenses of regenerative economics, policy and systems theory.
Speakers include Dr Ann Pettifor, author of The Case for a Green New Deal; Charlie Hertzog Young, a contributor to The Ecologist; Professor Herbert Girardet, a trustee of Resurgence Trust, which publishes The Ecologist; Helen Browning of the Soil Association, Dr Gareth Dale, editor of Green Growth and Dr James Meadway, director of the Progressive Economic Forum.
We would love those who are at the forefront of Bristol’s grassroots movement to join the conversation. You can buy your tickets to the SMALL IS THE FUTURE event in Bristol on Saturday, 17 June 2023 here.
Yasmin Dahnoun is the assistant editor of The Ecologist. She tweets as @dahnoun_