Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bristol the greenest city? Or Norwich? Neither?

This news, 'Bristol is Britain's greenest city', is indeed 'ludicrous', as one commenter on the Bristol Evening Post website put it. Poor public transport, plans to build houses and roads over many green spaces, poor air quality in several places, plans to mass incinerate waste, promotion of mass consumption of imported goods via the new Cabot Circus, a large and growing ecological footprint...hardly a green city is it!! Bristol is not a sustainable city by any fair measure, though may be less unsustainable than some others - that, at best, is what we are talking about!! What are the people who shortlist Bristol to be a European Green Capital and judge Bristol as Britain's greenest city on? Whatever it is it distorts their grip on reality big time!! (More on Forum for the Future's thinking on green cities here).

My view is that there are several other UK cities that are, relative to Bristol, less unsustainable (** Norwich for example...??) though I would not describe any of these as green. The problem with all these sort of exercises is that:

a) the headlines may give people the impression that enough is being done to sort problems out when in fact they are at best just tinkering at the edges, and

b) its very sensitive to the list of criteria used to make the judgements - change those a bit and you change the outcome and get a list of cities in a different order ** !! Conclusion: its not a very objective exercise, certainly when conducted in this manner.

I was very interested to see that a green blogger in Cardiff has independently reached exactly the same conclusions about this issue.

** 16 April 2008 - For the second year running Norwich has been voted the Greenest city in the UK.

According to an annual survey by locallife.co.uk [as opposed to Forum for the Future], Norwich has more green businesses, organisations and representatives per capita than anywhere else. The research has found that Norwich has one recycling centre, Green councillor, farm shop, environmental consultant, insulation installer, organic food shop, double glazing business, asbestos removal service and conservation group for every 1,736 local people. (reported here)


  1. Bristol certainly isn't sustainable in social terms. Just look at the vast disparities in economic power between, say, Hartcliffe or Southmead compared to Sneyd Park or Henleaze.

    That's why central government withdrew the renewal funding here, because they said, quite rightly, that Bristol is a very wealthy city and should undertake the necessary action within the city.

    Since which time we've seen diddlysquat. Zilch. Nada.

    Sweet FA as far as I can see.

  2. Obviously, I'm not saying that I reckon the Renewal process was wholly beneficial. It had some pros, imo, and plenty of cons.

    How the huge gap between the different parts of Bristol could be overcome is a big question. In some ways it's good to keep the diversity, but not to the great disadvantage of people in one area compared to another.

    Just to be controversial, from the ecological point of view, "levelling down" the grotesquely wealthy areas would be much preferable, with everyone discovering the benefits of a simple life.

    That way there might be something left over for the rest of the nearly 7,000,000,000 people on the Earth - not to mention all our fellow species.


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.