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For a new politics of ruralization – Resilience

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In this post, I aim to pick up where I left off last time with my review of George Monbiot’s Regenesis, mostly in reference to its theme of urbanism (there’s also a bit of housekeeping and an apology at the end).

But first, since it’s kind of a propos, some brief remarks on the trip I took last week, which involved me bicycling from Frome to Chepstow and back, among other things for an enjoyable in-conversation session with eco-philosopher and activist Rupert Read at the Green Gathering (a recording of most of it is here).

Much of the southern part of my route followed leafy cycle tracks repurposed from disused railways, flanked by large arable fields. Then a ride through central Bristol, swerving to miss a strung-out drug user sprawling on the track, took me onto another leafy cycleway through the Avon Gorge – once a place of heavy industry and shipping, but now far too small for the modern incarnations of those trades.

I crossed the Avon on a bridge I shared with the M5 – the first of several motorways entwining my route. These roads feel calm enough when you’re inside a car, but coming suddenly upon them on my bicycle I was shocked every time by the volume of traffic, its furious speed and sound, and the concrete-intensive brutalism of all this inter-city hurry. A sign by the Prince of Wales Bridge later in my trip reported that 25 million vehicles cross it annually. That’s a lot of kinetic energy to pack into three miles of road.

There were Samaritans telephones on all the major bridges I crossed, with their melancholy signage – “Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to face it alone”. Back by the Avon, the suburb on the other side of the M5 bridge seemed dilapidated. I swerved around Nos canisters, rode through underpasses scattered with fly-tipped garbage and emblazoned with sinister graffiti and then weaved my way through a giant industrial zone of landfill sites, warehousing, sewage works, construction sites and massive wind turbines.

So, a journey from bosky rural byways that don’t quite conceal their industrial cradling, through mostly salubrious city centres and then rougher suburbs housing their workaday servitors, to the new industrial zones that potentiate them, accompanied by the ever-present roar of vehicles and people moving at speed to sustain it all. And gangs, drugs, loneliness amidst multitudes and suicide. Of course, this is only one way of representing what George Monbiot calls the given distribution of the world’s population, but I dearly wish he and others would question its given-ness a little more sceptically, and weren’t so darned pleased about what they see. During my ride, even in the leafy rural parts, it sometimes felt as if the whole fabric of this corner of southwest England was a kind of dysfunctional, ecocidal, industrial machine, sustained by its rushing human functionaries, with only a thin green veneer here and there concealing it.

Anyway, back to George’s book. So far as I know, he hasn’t seriously engaged with critiques of it from the intellectually more thoughtful end of the spectrum, preferring to post online some of the more fetid threats he’s received, which elicit no small number of ‘Go get ‘em, George’ replies from supporters displaying considerable disdain for rural and agrarian life.

And so another skin-deep culture war, benefitting nobody, judders into life. The case for ruralism over urbanism as I see it is simply that the dynamics of climate, energy, water, soil and political economy are going to propel multitudes of people to the world’s farmable regions sooner or later. The question we should really be addressing globally, though regrettably we’re not, is how to manage that process in the most humane and least disruptive way.

One of the best criticisms of my argument for this agrarian localist future that came my way in the wake of my Regenesis review was that it would be energetically costly to establish it. This, I think, is true. But it’s also true of every other proposal to put humanity on a surer long-term footing. The great advantage of agrarian localism is that once its basic structures are established, its recurrent energy costs can be low. Whereas schemes to preserve the urban-industrial status quo invariably have high recurrent energy costs. This certainly applies to George Monbiot’s farm free future, as Steve showed in his calculations under my previous post.

It’s obvious, really, that a proposal to replace sprawling farmland spaces using free solar radiation to energize production with highly concentrated industrial spaces using electricity transformed from other energy inputs by other human industries probably isn’t going to stack up well energetically. George’s vision of manufactured food, like many other ecomodernist schemes, assumes there will be abundant and cheap clean energy at humanity’s command in the future.

It seems to me more likely that concentrated energy will be scarce and pricey compared to the fossil fuelled bonanza experienced by present generations, and it will make no sense to waste it producing food when free solar energy metabolized by plants can do the job. The diffuseness of this solar energy will be a driving force of human biogeography in the future. Today’s world is one of urban concentration built on a legacy of mining energetic stocks. Tomorrow’s will be mostly one of rural de-concentration oriented to skimming renewable energetic flows.

Presently, there is no broad-based politics geared to this emerging reality, certainly in the richer parts of the world with the longest histories of stock-mining and capital-concentration such as southern England. We’re still stuck with the exhausted legacies of modernist politics, with their emphasis on market signals, nationalist symbols or class struggle as the key to redemption. All of these fix their eyes too firmly on capital cities, government machineries, political centralization and hurried inter-city journeys to build the economy. All of them take as a given the centrifugal relationship between countryside and city that I discuss in Chapter 15 of my book, where the countryside works as a basically inferior servitor to the city, albeit dotted with pleasant islands of retreat for the wealthy who’ve made their money in the latter.

As I’ve already said, I think ‘simple energetics’ or simple biogeography are going to redistribute populations away from urban areas and towards rural ones in the future. In England, the countryside will no longer be largely the preserve of the rich. Like it or not, people of many kinds will go to it to seek prosperity. This creates the potential for people to forge local agrarian autonomies and genuinely agroecological culture. But that’s not a done deal just because of the maths of a more populated countryside. It’s possible that cities and their elites will retain their centrifugal pull.

To prevent that happening requires politics of a kind we don’t yet have – a politics where cities serve the countryside and its inhabitants at least as much as they’re served by them. I indicate this diagrammatically on page 210 of A Small Farm Future (Figure 15.1) and discuss it in the last part of Chapter 15 in terms of rural disruptors to the centrifugal pull of the city – disruptors that build local political and economic autonomy, that extricate themselves as far as possible, which means not totally, from long-distance trade and geopolitically-centred bureaucratic rule.

Since, as I’ve said, there isn’t a mass politics around this at present, I’m currently quite supportive of many kinds of initiative where people put themselves in the disruptor role. I’m supportive of rich people buying houses in the country with big gardens, growing their own vegetables and joining community organisations. I’m supportive of impoverished van dwellers parking up in laybys and trying to minimize their housing costs. I’m supportive of farm shops, independent town councils, guerilla gardening, allotment associations, people buying small plots of farmland or woodland and living in caravans on them while they start market gardens or charcoal businesses, people occupying (considerately) disused or misused land, people trespassing on aristocratic estates to (sustainably) pick edible mushrooms, wealthy smallholders, impoverished peasants, wily farmers and so on and so on.

Eventually, all of this will have to coalesce into a new politics of local autonomy and access to land, which I think will have to be a populist politics of alliance. We’ll get onto that in more detail when I move to discussing the final part of my book in this blog cycle. But just as George’s gloop factories require a substrate or a feedstock in order to ferment their new kinds of food, so we require a substrate or a feedstock in order to ferment new kinds of agrarian localist politics. It’s from the low base of our present politics and of people trying to get by in the countryside that we need to start creating it.

There are genuine grounds to worry that the outcomes of this local political brokerage won’t always be congenial. Perhaps they’re balanced by the equally genuine grounds to worry that centralized national politics no longer offers that certainty either. The liberal-democratic firmament of late 20th century politics has almost gone now. It seems likely that, locally, nationally or globally, nobody will be coming to save us – unless there’s some other iteration of the centralized state that I’ve not foreseen to safeguard against the potential tyranny of localism, without becoming a tyranny itself?

Even so, I think it’s worth taking seriously the downsides of a new politics geared around rural disruptors. At the session I did with Rupert Read, somebody raised the issue of the conformism of rural society and the greater possibilities for finding one’s tribe in urban settings, particularly for people with spiritualities, sexualities or other traits at variance with majority assumptions in conservative countrysides. That’s sometimes been true in the past, though it remains a story of the future that’s yet to be written. But instead of further belabouring my take on this point, I’d be interested to see what other people make of it in the comments below (note that to be sure of getting my attention, comments should be posted under the relevant post at Small Farm Future and not at other sites where this post may be syndicated). I’ll try to formulate some further thoughts in the light of anything that comes back to me.

Finally, and talking of posting comments, I recently noticed there were a few comments that had been sitting in the moderation queue undetected by me – some from long established commenters, and one from a new commenter. Please accept my apologies for the oversight. If you do post a comment that doesn’t appear, feel free to nudge me about it via the Contact Form. On the rare occasions when I actively choose not to publish a comment it will be for a reason, and I will contact you to explain what that reason is. So if you post a comment that doesn’t appear and you don’t hear from me, it’s best to assume simple incompetence on my part and act accordingly (it’s probably best to assume simple incompetence on my part in a wide variety of other circumstances, but let us not digress at this late stage in the post). Also, finally, if you include more than one hyperlink in a comment it will automatically be held for moderation as an anti-spam measure. So reference judiciously…

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New cohort of young leaders emerging in Canadian politics – Hindustan Times

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Published on Sep 25, 2022 02:14 PM IST

Among the newcomers is first-time candidate Ayushe Sharman, who turned 30 just this year, and is seeking a place in the council from the Greater Toronto Area city of Mississauga

City council candidate Ayushe Sharman (right) campaigning in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (Supplied photo)

TORONTO: While the Indo-Canadian community has already made its presence felt in Canadian politics, a new cohort of young leaders, aged below 35, is emerging for the future.

As municipal elections are scheduled in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) next month, this group could prove a pivotal role in the years ahead, as the region often dictates the balance of power at the national level.

Among the newcomers is first-time candidate Ayushe Sharman, who turned 30 just this year, and is seeking a place in the council from the GTA city of Mississauga.

Sharman, born in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, is contesting the elections for Ward 2, and has a background in corporate and political digital advertising with her own production house.

Part of the reason, she said, for her entering the field for the October 24 election is that there is a “void of age diversity” in the city council, which does not represent youth like her.

And being young is among the characteristics that will enable her to work better for constituents, she explained. “I want to enter municipal governance at a time when I have maximum amount of vigour to run around and put myself at work for people,” she said.

Campaigning from early morning into the evening, she is bringing a national style of door knocking and canvassing to a poll where voters often have little knowledge of the candidates.

Sharman is part of a trend that will see young lawyer and business-owner Nikki Kaur to vie for the post of mayor in the neighbouring town of Brampton.

Kaur’s campaign launched on Saturday with the theme, The Change Brampton Needs.

Indo-Canadians in their age bracket, including two more running for the Mississauga council – Kushagr Sharma and Rahul Mehta.

They are part of a phenomenon that has become increasingly evident in recent years. In the provincial elections in Ontario this year, young Hardeep Grewal caused a major upset defeating Gurratan Singh, brother of Federal New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh.

Of course, the youngest member of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet is from the Indo-Canadian community: New Delhi-born Kamal Khera, who is just 33, and ironically holds the portfolio of Minister of Seniors.



  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR




    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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I Don't Like Your Politics – Forbes

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Even if they love the product, 45% of Millennials will stop using a brand or company that does not align with their political beliefs. That’s according to an InSites Consulting consumer research study on how customers want brands to respond during turbulent times relating to politics, inflation, the pandemic and more.

More than ever, the U.S. is divided on politics, religion, human rights, environmental issues and many other topics that have people disagreeing and arguing, sometimes to a level of violence. In business, while some vocal customers may try to get a company’s or brand’s attention, most consumers will vote for approval or disapproval with their wallets.

Not all generations feel the same about politics and other issues that have become politicized. While 40% of Gen Z and 43% of Millennials take a strong stance on political matters, 46% of Gen X and 44% of Boomers feel it’s best to stay out of the debate.

But there is a difference between a political or social cause that is important to people and one that causes an angry response. As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. The contested issues that tie to politics, human rights and religion seem to be motivating consumers to choose to do business—or not—with certain brands that have chosen to be open about their stance on these issues.

Sometimes, believing in something important can be attractive instead of controversial. Environmental issues have become politicized. While companies like Patagonia are known for their stance on sustainability, you don’t read or hear about protestors outside of their headquarters disagreeing with the use of recycled materials in their products. To that point, a good cause can help create sales and even customer loyalty. According to the 2022 Achieving Customer Amazement Study (sponsored by Amazon Web Services), 45% of consumers believe it’s important that a company supports a social cause that’s important to them. And the findings in the InSites Consulting report, especially as it applies to the younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials), have similarities.

Here are some other significant findings that help define the differences between younger and older generations of consumers:

· Gen Z and Millennials believe companies that respond to current events (for example, brands that pulled out of Russia or companies providing new employee benefits amid the overturn of Roe vs. Wade) are doing so because they authentically care about their employees and customers. On the other hand, Gen X and Boomers slightly favor the belief that companies are only doing so to avoid criticism or to follow the pack.

· Gen Z and Millennials want open and frequent communication during turbulent times. They want to be kept informed and appreciate consistent messaging. Gen X and Boomers prefer incentives and discounts to get their business.

· Fifty percent of Gen Z and 54% of Millennials want their values to align with a company’s purpose, whereas many Gen X (36%) and Boomers (40%) feel neutral toward this statement.

· In times of turbulence, Gen Z and Millennials agree companies should “support their employees above all else.” Gen X and Boomers feel slightly stronger that companies should “support their customers above all else.”

So, what do we do with this information?

You could write an entire book with the answers to these questions, but first and foremost, you must understand who your customers are. If you sell to Boomers, many of whom are retired or close to retirement, how you market and sell to them will be different than how you market and sell to the younger generations of customers. Those differences are important to note, especially

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‘We saw what happened in Ontario’: Quebecers urged to vote in provincial election

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MONTREAL — An incumbent premier and his party sail through an election campaign as a fragmented opposition vies to capture the attention of voters in the absence of a central rallying issue or tide-turning missteps.

The scenario playing out in Quebec in the lead-up to next month’s provincial election may seem like déjà vu for residents of Ontario, where the Progressive Conservatives won a second majority in June.

Doug Ford’s victory came as voter turnout in that province reached an all-time low — about 43 per cent, according to preliminary results — and some observers have blamed the drop in participation to the lack of a competitive race or galvanizing issue.

In Quebec, where the incumbent Coalition Avenir Québec has maintained a commanding lead in the polls throughout the campaign, some political parties have raised concerns the province could be headed toward a low voter turnout on Oct. 3.

Earlier this week, Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade pointed to Ontario in calling for voters to mobilize against the CAQ and its leader, François Legault.

“Go out and vote,” Anglade told reporters. “We saw what happened in Ontario.”

Meanwhile, the organization that oversees Quebec’s election has broadened its get-out-the-vote message to the social media platform TikTok in an effort to reverse a downward trend in voter turnout, particularly among younger people. In the 2018 provincial election, 66.45 per cent of voters cast a ballot, a drop of nearly five percentage points from 2014. The turnout for those 35 and under was 53.41 per cent, 16 percentage points lower than for voters older than 35.

Like many other incumbents, Ford and Legault have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with solid public support, and there doesn’t seem to be a broad appetite for change, according to political experts. Both leaders also saw formerly strong rivals — the provincial Liberal parties — perform poorly, and opposition parties fail to set the agenda or a viable ballot issue, they said.

An election that “looks like a foregone conclusion” may discourage some from voting because they feel it won’t make a difference, said Peter Graefe, a political science professor at McMaster University.

That might be the case this time for Quebecers who usually support the Liberals since the party won’t likely form government, he said. Since the last election, the Quebec Liberals have struggled to connect with francophones and have alienated part of their anglophone base in Montreal by being seen as weak on language issues.

Other voters, however, may be more motivated, particularly those who back the Conservative Party of Quebec and its opposition to the CAQ’s pandemic measures, Graefe said.

Even if the province doesn’t seem poised for a change of leadership, the race for second place may be a draw for some voters, especially as polls suggest the Liberals could lose their status as official Opposition, said Geneviève Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa.

A Leger poll released earlier this week suggests support for the CAQ was at 38 per cent, more than double that of its closest runners-up. Three parties — the Liberals, Québec solidaire and the Conservatives — were at 16 per cent, while the Parti Québécois was at 13 per cent support.

“It’s still uncertain and so it’s a three-way race with the Conservatives, the Liberals and (Québec solidaire) in popular support,” which could lead to some interesting battles in certain ridings, Tellier said.

“There could be some surprises” in ridings such as Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships, where popular Québec solidaire incumbent Christine Labrie is facing a challenge from a high-profile CAQ candidate: former Longueuil, Que., mayor Caroline St-Hilaire.

The fact that five major parties are competing for the first time is also “a big novelty” that may stir public interest, Tellier said.

And without the traditional question of sovereignty and federalism on the ballot, there’s an opportunity for people to vote based on other issues they care about, she added. “And so people will have interest in different topics and that may dictate their choice in a new way.”

Graefe, however, said having sovereignty off the ballot could instead lessen the incentive to vote if people feel the stakes aren’t as high. “In this instance that kind of existential question has been taken off the table, and so it becomes more like an election in any other province,” he said.

Just over a week before the election, Montreal resident Patricia Machabee still wasn’t sure who to vote for — or even if she would vote at all.

Though she believes voting is a civic duty, there isn’t much motivation when the CAQ appears poised to win, she said in a recent interview. “My vote isn’t even really going to count.”

What’s more, none of the other options are appealing this time, she said, adding that her husband is also on the fence about casting a ballot, for similar reasons.

“I’ve been voting Liberal for most of my life, since I’ve been allowed to vote … but nobody’s got me excited,” she said. “I’m going to have to try to figure out what I’m going to do.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

 

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