It’s history, not

In the late 80’s and early 90’s

I was proud to be part of a bold experiment.

The Level Best campaign invited disabled people, carers, professionals to get involved. To explain what they wanted to see from council services in Kirklees in West Yorkshire, taking in the conurbations of Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and the surrounding rural areas.

It was small scale, focused on a specific community of interest and primarily about local welfare services.

It involved a reference group, not unlike an assembly, public meetings, focus groups, research questionnaires a range of techniques drawn from different professional and community approaches.

It resulted in significant local changes and showed how engaging people effectively brings real and lasting results.

There are many examples of how measures to promote people’s active participation can make a real difference in governance and the quality of our lives. We need to take these lessons to change the way our societies and their institutions work.

One such idea is presented here.

The constructive pressure from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the opportunities afforded by adopting ideas such as citizens’ assembly and localised practical responses to our challenges will help us develop a more sustainable approach to life that can arise from the people themselves and provide opportunities that are different from traditional work models.

We need to think and act differently.

Chamundeshwari fought the demon

It’s early in the morning, a little after 7 am. I cycle up to the brow of the hill and can hear a drumming in the background. Maybe it’s a significant day, a Mela or something else to do with the local goddess.

This is the home, of the goddess Chamundeshwari, her temple and effectively, her woodland garden, the hill is one of the most sacred in the whole of South India.

As I get closer, I realise it’s not what I first thought.

The ‘drums’ are the sound of the diggers breaking up the stones as part of the redevelopment of the hill top.

The hill takes its name from Chamundeshwari the local goddess (aka Durga) who lives on the hill which is just behind Mysore Bed and Breakfast. You can just about see the temple Gopura in the main picture in the far distance.

DSC01379Chamundeshwari is famous for dispensing with the demon: Mahishasura after which Mysuru or Mysore is named.

It looks to me that there is a new demon that she’ll have to deal with and the demon is development.

A few days later I join a walk up the hill to find out a little more…..

 

Hundreds of people walked up the hill as part of a demonstration against the planned development. For those of you who’ve visited you’ll realise its a bit of a mess up there. God knows what it would be like it if wasn’t a plastic free zone….. so there is no doubt  the need to do something

But does it need a new guest house? (there are already two that are not used), a shopping complex? a mulit-storey car park? and a four lane highway? In our view all these plans will devastate the hillside, damage its bio-diversity and make matters so much worse but do the local powers that be give a damn?

Hence I think there is a new demon in town that the Goddess needs to sort out!

Its that magic word development that they keep throwing around. Politicians use it as a catch-all phrase to defend all sorts of unsuitable decisions. Are we against development? by which they must mean progress… well erm yes, if it means destroying the lungs of the city and decemating the woodland, yes if it means worshipping and promoting growth regardless of the consequences.

It has the potential to be an amazing place, not least for the views of the city.

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But for that to be realised, we must have: some participation of the people in this thing called democracy, an end to mindless development and some sustainable and practical proposals to deal with the problems. These are currently  unfettered illegal growth, litter and too much traffic. These are practically and relatively easily resolvable with the right approach and many local organisations have come up with suggestions. In my view, it isn’t about grand schemes as they will not work and are, in any case, designed for the short term gain, with money going into a whole range of pockets and the needs of the people and the environment completely neglected..

This will be an interesting story to follow to see how local politicians and the civil servants manage to properly manage the conflicting priorities and show how well they are suited to representing the interests of people and the environment whilst  maintaining long-term sustainable development when and where its appropriate..

 

Sustainably Cycling

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I moved to Mysore over four years ago and was pleased to discover that there was already some interest in leisure cycling. One of my early cycle trips organised by Sham Sunder, an inspirational guy, who is Director of National Institute of Engineering’s CREST also highlighted that Mysore had a significant movement in the use of sustainable technologies and organic farming. This was proving to be a very interesting place.

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