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Grey is the new green

Green housing

We need to start taking our environmental responsibilities seriously if we're to build a sustanable economy for the future, argues John Phillipps

John Phillipps of Carter JonasHas anyone noticed that (apart from the Green Party) none of the major parties at the election talked about environmental issues? As this is a fundamental issue for the UK’s continued existence, and particularly for the developing world, this may help to explain why so many young people in England are apathetic about politics.

Not so in Scotland, where people believe they can change the ‘same old’ political culture. So have green issues become subservient to the concerns of the economy? Has grey become the new green?

Just to say “It’s the economy, stupid” is to miss a fairly important point – we need to build our economy as well as looking after our carbon footprint. The two are not mutually exclusive; they ought to be intertwined. And if we can’t sort out the basic principles of low-carbon living in our own country, how the Hell can we lecture the rest of the world?

"We need to start taking the future of the Earth - at the local and understandable level - a lot more seriously"

And if we can’t sort this out fast the long-term future of our own economy may well become increasingly irrelevant. We need to start taking the future of the Earth – at the local and understandable level – a lot more seriously. You only have to look at how a combination of war-related, climate and economic factors is driving the current migration across the Mediterranean to see how a combination of social, economic and environmental issues can unbalance an already fragile European Union.

So why did no major party see this is a vote-winner? And why is nobody considering the environmental movement as a job creator and boost to the economy, when countries such as Germany and Japan have shown there is another way?
Compared with many 
European nations our 
environmental standards were already low, even before the economic downturn. But they are now getting even worse.

So is there another way to consider how we should integrate people into a more naturally based world? This is what the garden city movement was about, but it needs to be reinvented. Five thoughts:

Decent housing must be joined up by smart infrastructure;
Housing has to be innovative and affordable for the young;
Greater public sector involvement is inevitable, with the value uplift to the state reinvested for the public good;
We need a new town programme, plus all other forms of urban development; and
Development needs to be truly green, not superficial.

John Phillipps is a consultant masterplanner with Carter Jonas


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