Archive for the 'Environment and Sustainability' Category

Why food crime can’t be ignored

OAT_A handbook of food crime [FC]We’re pleased to announce that A handbook of food crime, by Allison Gray and Ronald Hinch, has been chosen as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Find out more about the award here.

In this blog piece, author Allison Gray explains what food crime is and why it can’t be ignored.

“When people learn that my research involves food crime, they often gasp, lean toward me and ask ‘so, you study people stealing a lot of food’? Even for the hundredth time, I offer a small laugh in return, followed by a deep breath, and proceed to watch their eyes widen and eyebrows furrow as I turn their forks into weapons.

Food crime involves the range of systemic harms, injustices, and crimes involving the production, processing, marketing, distribution, consumption, and disposal of food. It includes the use of slave labour in the cocoa industry, deadly salmonella outbreaks, genetic dehorning and the unethical care provided to ‘food animals’, food waste and the impact of food production on climate change. The consequences impact human, animal, and environmental victims, often simultaneously.

“Food crime involves the range of systemic harms, injustices, and crimes involving the production, processing, marketing, distribution, consumption, and disposal of food.”

These issues are happening around the world, yet people are not aware of them. This should not be a surprise given the physical and psychological distance between individuals and food today. Food systems today are run by corporations (agribusinesses) using highly industrial processes, within a political-economic context of ‘cheap capitalism’. Local farming populations are dwindling and food manufacturing occurs in poor rural areas, hidden from the bulk of urbanite populations. Home gardens and backyard animals are being replaced by microwavable meals and manoeuvring through a drive thru at a fast-food restaurant.

One of our goals in A handbook of food crime was to draw attention to these social conditions that facilitate food harms and crimes and their consequences. To think criminologically about food means recognising that these systemic issues are not mere coincidences or weaknesses of our risk-based society. Nutritiously-poor, unsafe, and fraudulent food, produced through unfair, unjust, and dangerous labour, marketed for profit, distributed unevenly, harming ecological systems, is not normal. It is unacceptable.

“Environmental harm, particularly anthropocentric climate change, is arguably the most pressing issue today.”

Environmental harm, particularly anthropocentric climate change, is arguably the most pressing issue today. The United Nations (UN) Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced this year that the world has only 12 years to drastically transform its practices and avoid catastrophic consequences associated with climate change. Unprecedented changes are urgently needed to avoid the danger in moving above 1.5o C and the deadly floods, fires, droughts, and poverty that accompany it.

Food systems, particularly animal agriculture, are leading contributors to climate change. The production of livestock and animal products dominates environmental impacts involving carbon footprints, air and water pollution, and land use. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51% of anthropocentric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meat-free human diets can reduce GHG emissions by up to 50% of current levels. Unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle where agricultural land, increasingly subject to devastating droughts, floods, and carbon dioxide levels, becomes less efficient and produces less nutritious food.

“Big problems require big solutions, and there is a role for everyone.”

Big problems require big solutions, and there is a role for everyone. Producers need to act ethically, manufacturers need to accept corporate social responsibility, and governments need to create and enforce regulations that mitigate food harms and crimes. Consumers need to make informed purchasing decisions – however, they are largely unsure of or underestimate the connection between animal agriculture and climate change.

It is our hope that this food crime perspective can be part of the sustainable and just food movement that is so urgently required today. Food literally invades and builds our bodies and fuels our social livelihoods. We need to recognise that our intimate consumption practices have global political, social, and criminal connections, so we can give ourselves and our environment a ‘helping fork’.

 

OAT_A handbook of food crime [FC]A handbook of food crime by Allison Gray and Ronald Hinch is available on the Policy Press website. Use discount code POHFC19 (valid until 31/1/19) here to get it for £42.50 (RRP £85.00), or get the EPUB for £21.59.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

How to build houses AND save the countryside

How to build houses and save the countryside [FC]On 5th March the UK Government announced a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework, stating that it will “deliver the homes the country needs”. Shaun Spiers, author of How to build houses and save the countryside, out today, argues that although well intentioned, the measures don’t go far enough.

There was much to admire in the prime minister’s recent speech on housing. Theresa May called homelessness in our rich country “a source of national shame” and she is right. She pledged to increase house building, but to do so without “destroying the country we love”. And she attacked big developers for gaming the system and putting dividends and executive pay before building more homes. As I read the speech, I mentally ticked off many of the arguments in my new book, How to build houses and save the countryside.

As a country, we have managed to pull off the difficult trick of building too few homes while losing too much countryside. Unfortunately, however, the policy changes announced by the PM are unlikely to change this. They are well-intentioned, but they do not go far enough. How can we do better?

For years, debates on housing and planning have been largely shaped by free market think-tanks arguing for planning liberalisation: ‘Free up the Green Belt, let builders build, and the houses will come.’ Much of my time as chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) from 2004 to 2017 was spent reacting to some half-baked report from Policy Exchange or the Adam Smith Institute (Alan Bennett’s ‘Adam Smith Institute for the Criminally Insane’). As Keynes almost said, ‘madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some think-tank scribbler of a few years back’.

“the principal cause of our failure to build enough new homes is not planning restrictions, but the fact that the state more or less stopped building houses 40 years ago.”

The anti-planning think-tanks have succeeded in weakening the planning system, but successive reforms over the last 15 years have had little impact on housing supply. This is because the principal cause of our failure to build enough new homes is not planning restrictions, but the fact that the state more or less stopped building houses 40 years ago. It is extraordinary that so many clever people could look at our failure to build enough homes and conclude that planning, rather than the collapse in council house building, must be to blame.

The advocates of planning liberalisation ignor the fact that for 30 years after the Second World War, when more than 200,000 homes were built every year in the UK, local authorities built at least 100,000 of them. Between 1951 and 1979, 48% of new homes were built for social rent. After 1979, local authorities virtually ceased to build and neither the private nor housing association sectors increased their output enough to make up the shortfall. Thus the housing crisis.

“Where the planning system can be blamed for our failure to build enough houses is in its failure to control rising land prices. This is down to its weakness: what is needed is more planning, not less.”

Where the planning system can be blamed for our failure to build enough houses is in its failure to control rising land prices. This is down to its weakness: what is needed is more planning, not less. The 1947 planning settlement had two sides. Its role in constraining development is well known and explains why it is under attack in some quarters. But it also ensured a plentiful supply of development land at reasonable prices.

Between 1946 and 1970, work started on 32 new towns; these are now home to 2.76 million people, 4.3% of UK households. It was possible to create new towns because development corporations were given the power to buy land at agricultural prices, using the uplift in value that came with planning permission to fund the development. When work started on developing Milton Keynes, land contributed only around 1% of the cost of a new home. It now accounts for over half the cost of most new homes. The same principle can, of course, be used for sustainable urban extensions.

We must also do much more to use the plentiful supply of previously developed land within towns and cities. There is enough suitable brownfield land in England to build at least a million new homes, and the supply is constantly replenished. Developers prefer to build on virgin green field sites as they are easier to develop and more lucrative, and the current system allows them to do so. Sajid Javid, the housing minister, has promised a more ‘muscular’ state, but he appears to be more eager to take on ‘nimby’ protestors than to foster some serious competition to the few volume house builders who currently dominate the market.

What is needed is new housing providers, and the state – what Green Alliance trustee Mariana Mazzucato calls the entrepreneurial state – should be fostering them. However much the government pokes and cajoles them, the big builders have neither the means nor desire to build on the scale needed. We need new private sector providers – SMEs, custom builders, factory built homes – and fostering them requires concerted government action. The government should also support a serious programme of council house building – many Conservative councils are calling for the right to build – and fund housing associations to build social housing, so that they can recover their social mission. There is nothing un-Tory about this programme: Conservative governments built plenty of houses before 1979.

As for the so-called NIMBYs, those fighting to protect the countryside from more executive homes and anodyne, anywhere-housing estates have nothing to be ashamed of. My book makes the case for some new housing on greenfield sites, but if we are to lose countryside, let’s make sure we lose it to beautiful, well-thought out developments that do something to help those in housing need. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

How to build houses and save the countryside, by Shaun Spiers is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £7.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Where you live can kill you

Clare Bambra’s book Health Divides: where you live can kill you, published by Policy Press today reveals shocking facts about the social, environmental, economic and political causes of these health inequalities. In today’s guest blog Bambra shares her insights on how location really is a matter of life and death…

Clare Bambra

Clare Bambra

In 1842, the English social reformer Edwin Chadwick documented a 30-year discrepancy between the life expectancy of men in the poorest social classes and the gentry.

He also found a North-South health divide with people from all social classes faring better in the rural South than in the industrial North.

Today, these inequalities persist.People in the most affluent areas of the United Kingdom, such as Kensington and Chelsea, can expect to live 14 years longer than that those in the poorest areas, such as Glasgow or Blackpool.

Men and women in the North of England will, on average die 2 years earlier than those in the South. Scottish people also suffer a health penalty with the highest mortality rates in Western Europe. Continue reading ‘Where you live can kill you’

Why Cameron’s housing policy will make the UK more spatially unequal

Today’s guest post by Peter Matthews, co-author of After urban regeneration: Communities, policy and place, was written in response to David Cameron’s announced plan to demolish England’s poorest council estates.

This article, originally titled ‘ABI n* – return of the ABI’ was first published on the blog Urban policy and practice on Monday 11th January 2016.

Peter MatthewsI did my doctoral research on area-based initiatives, or ABIs. Even when I was doing the research the writing was on the wall for them.

The focus of my research had been the former Scottish Executive Community Regeneration Fund administered through Single Outcome Agreements. This ceased to be just as I was going into the field following the first SNP victory in 2007, so it ended up being about the “ending” of meaningful regenerationfor residents.

Following the 2010 election and the coalition government it looked like any form of regeneration was off the cards under the excuse of “austerity”. I’ve co-edited a book – After Urban Regeneration – that argues this very point. My research had turned to broader questions of inequality in our cities, particularly what the increasing focus on community engagement and involvement in service delivery might mean for inequalities in service delivery. Continue reading ‘Why Cameron’s housing policy will make the UK more spatially unequal’

Free extract: After urban regeneration by Dave O’Brien and Peter Matthews

After urban regeneration by Dave O’Brien and Peter Matthews publishes today and to celebrate we’re making the book’s Introduction free to access. So if you’re waiting for your pre-ordered copy to arrive or simply interested to find out more, read on…

Peter Matthews

Peter Matthews

Dr Dave O'Brien

Dave O’Brien

This edited collection has emerged from studies funded through the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC’s) ‘Connected Communities’ programme.

The first book to publish in the Connected Communities book series, it uses the evidence and knowledge created by a range of projects to explore two theses: first, that the UK, and England in particular, has now entered a ‘post-regeneration era’; and, second, that new relationships are being developed between academics, universities and ‘communities’, producing new kinds of knowledge.

Download the pdf of the full Introduction here.

Dr. Dave O’Brien is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Policy, at ICCE, Goldsmiths College, University of London. He hosts the New Books In Critical Theory podcast.

Dr. Peter Matthews is Lecturer in Social Policy at SASS, University of Stirling. He publishes widely in urban studies, planning, social policy and housing.

After urban regeneration [FC]After urban regeneration is available to purchase here  from the Policy Press website. Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.


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