Economic growth is supposed to make us happier and healthier. But as the damaging effects of climate change and the financial crisis are felt around the world, increasing numbers of people are asking whether this model is fit for purpose.
In the last part of earthrise’s economics special, Russell Beard travels to the inner-London neighbourhood of Brixton to meet a community trialling an alternative economic model – one that values people and planet, as well as profit. Brixton is part of the growing Transition Town movement – a worldwide network of people who are re-shaping their local economies to cut carbon emissions and build stronger communities.
Residents have started a local currency – the largest in the UK – to stimulate sustainable, local production and help make their economy more resilient to financial shocks. The Brixton Pound can only be spent with independent businesses in the area and is now accepted in around 200 outlets.
They have also begun to generate their own energy through the UK’s first inner-city renewable energy co-operative. So far Brixton Energy has installed 152 solar panels on the roof of a council estate, funded by over 100 local people. Profits from the electricity generation are shared between investors and a community energy efficiency fund for residents of the estate.
And it is not just empty roofs that are being transformed. In the borough of Lambeth where Brixton is located, there are over 80 community-owned food gardens including a chain of ‘edible bus stops’. As well as producing fresh fruit and vegetables, these plots can help bring communities together.
By valuing more than just profit, residents of Transition Towns such as Brixton could show the way to a more balanced and sustainable economy.
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