Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse

This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“.

If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by…

It’s already funded so I guess that’s a positive step in seeing some output from the project, the how-to guide at the $25 funding level looks interesting.

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

With the National Planning Policy Framework still fresh and being ruminated over, one theme that is never far from thought is sustainable development. With the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

The NPPF document opens with this:

International and national bodies have set out broad principles of sustainable development. Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly defined sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs*. The UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future set out five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.

Resolution 42/187 is a reference to the report ‘Our Common Future’ produced by the Brundtland Commission in 1987. The Brundtland Commission was established in 1983 by the United Nations with the goal of uniting countries to work together in the pursuit of sustainable development. The Commission was dissolved at the end of 1987 following publication of the report.

In the Brundtland definition, there are two key concepts of sustainable development:

  • The concept of needs. The basic, essential requirements for human life, weighted toward the world’s poorest people, who should be given overriding priority,
  • The idea of limitations as imposed by current technology and social organisation on the environment’s ability to meet both present and future needs.

The report also identifies three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth (economy), environmental protection (environment) and social equity (society).

So that’s the background. The NPPF takes this a step further with those five guiding principles:

  1. Living within the planet’s environmental limits,
  2. Ensuring a “strong, healthy and just society”,
  3. Achieving a sustainable economy,
  4. Promoting good governance,
  5. Using sound science.

Those are basically, the three pillars with firm foundations of good governance and sound science. This is further spelt out in the Framework:

…to achieve sustainable development, economic, social and environmental gains should be sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system. The planning system should play an active role in guiding development to sustainable solutions.

So far, so clear. I hoped that the framework would further explore each of these areas to provide greater clarity and provide narrower definitions that could facilitate meaningful debate. In that I was disappointed, the five principles remain bones with very little flesh on them except what we can imply from the framework. The words governance and science don’t even appear in the report again after that opening quotation.

I know I’m being unreasonable, I know that this is a framework and there’s still plenty of work to do. But currently, the answer to the question “just what is sustainable development (currently in the UK) ?” seems to be “it depends” and that is more a lawyers charter than anything else.

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* I quite like the acronym ELF – Environment, Local people, Future

The National Planning Policy Framework – consultation period now closed

With the consultation period for the draft proposal now closed, I had the following email from The National Trust a day or two ago.

On Monday, the last day of the Government’s consultation on proposed reforms to our planning system, we went to Downing Street to give the Government our recommendations, backed by an astonishing 210,000 signatures on our petition.

Thanks to people like you, we’ve drawn attention to an important issue that threatens our countryside. When the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was launched in July, there was a big chance that it would go unnoticed. Between us, we’ve made sure it didn’t.

What needs to change?
The draft NPPF sets out to simplify our current planning system and to give local people a greater say in planning in their area. These are good aims. In the process, though, it puts economic goals first in any consideration of planning. It suggests using our planning system as an engine for growth. We want to see a much more balanced document that gives equal weight to social, environmental, and economic needs.

What have we achieved?
So as well as raising awareness of the issue, we’ve begun a national debate over the purpose of the planning system. The Prime Minister has confirmed to us that it should be balanced between those social, environmental and economic needs. This is just the start – we need the next draft of the NPPF to reflect that. It should be published in the New Year.

What’s next?
We’ll continue to keep the pressure on those now reviewing the NPPF, and you can help too. Please do write to your MP to share your concerns. The consultation may be closed, but Ministers are now considering the thousands of responses they have received, so you can let them know you care about the outcome.

I’ve highlighted what I see as the key statement in the third paragraph. I too was troubled by the coupling of the planning system with growth and further with sustainable development when I wrote my summary of the National Planning Policy Framework earlier in the month. With a revised draft document due out in the new year, I’d hope to see further clarity in reference to the relationship between planning, growth and sustainability as promoted by the authors of the Framework. The nature of this relationship as currently described (albeit not always explicitly) seems at odds with much current thought in regard to economic reality, how the public view the planning system and true sustainability.