Empowered Communities and
Fairer Land Ownership

Great meeting with Energy Co-operatives Ireland yesterday and looking forward to developing rewable energy grids for communities in #DBN .

Posted by Paul Clarke - Independent on Thursday, 22 October 2015

The phrase 'think global, act local' may on occasion seem a bit trite, but there is much to be said for this philosophy. If we are to collectively move towards a sustainable future for ourselves and our planet then we must think in terms of small-scale communities who can work towards a future fair for all. In these times when all news can sometimes seem bleak, there are plenty of stories of communities which are not just surviving but thriving. When communities are empowered by governments to utilise the land and work towards carbon neutrality and energy self-sufficiency, we can see what individuals are truly capable of achieving and can have hope for the global community as well.

The Transition movement is beginning to show what is possible for communities who work independently towards a shared environmentally sustainable goal. This movement began in the UK almost ten years ago and now there are grass roots initiatives popping up all around the world. There are now more than 400 communities around the world making great strides forward. Transition towns are not run by local government but work in conjunction with it. Ecological resilience is achievable but only if communities feel that they have a stake in their community and feel that their collective efforts can achieve change. This means communities must have control over their land and be able to use it for the betterment of all.

Many different areas are best considered first at a local level. Food production, for example, can be one of the most important areas when it comes to reducing carbon footprint. Communities can encourage local small-scale food production. Permaculture principles can ensure that the soil is not depleted, that yield is up and reliance on fossil fuels is down. Community gardens can enable people to be closer to their food and understand where it comes from. Food transportation miles can be reduced. Waste too, can be a local issue. Rather than whisking waste away and having an 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality, local efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle can educate and empower. Communities can work together to solve transportation issues relevant to where they live. First and foremost, a community can be truly resilience if it can use renewables to become fully energy independent.

Moving beyond Transition to accomplishment: the Scottish community owned island of Eigg, purchased by the community in 1997, is entirely energy self-sufficient. The island's power comes from a mixture of renewable sources – solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric schemes. The community trust on the Scottish Island of Rum has also shown how local communities can thrive when given control of their own land and natural assets. This community is only a few years old but already they are well on their way towards being self-sufficient in terms of energy and food production. These are just two of many examples which show how important it is for local communities to have access to and control of their land and the great things that can be achieved when communities are empowered in this way.

Economically, socially and environmentally speaking, communities are stronger when they control the land and can fairly make use of it together. This is why this model is being repeated again and again around the world. Forging links between these empowered communities, we can 'think global' and not just survive, but thrive.

In Ireland, Energy Co-operatives Ireland are helping communities to grow, developing renewable energy projects and helping with transition plans, acting as a bridge between all the different agencies involved. The Aran Islands will act as an example of the possible for such projects and a site for ongoing research. In partnership with Energy Co-operatives Ireland they will be Ireland's first living energy technology development centre. The Aran Islands have announced their intention to be totally energy independent by 2022. Without the co-operation between communities and green companies, such exciting developments would not be possible. With community engagement, we could and should see such schemes being rolled out all over the country.

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Paul Clarke, Independent