Human Scale

Here in Bristol (UK) a couple of years ago a new shopping area was built. It’s called Cabot Circus. It’s not my kind of place. I think it (like the Mall at Cribbs Causeway) is supposed to replicate an American shopping mall. Never having been to America, I have no way of judging that. What I can judge is that it is not human scale. It is an attempt at creating a cathedral to spending money, and wasting time in it’s worship.

Also recently I have had to visit Southmead Hospital, a recent building that again is not human scale.

It is another cathedral, but to which god I cannot fathom, and whoever thought that sick and scared people want to enter a large impersonal foyer has probably never been ill.

As I move around Bristol I am struck again and again, that the new buildings put up in the last 10-15 years owe little to practicality and intended use, and much to being “impressive”.

These buildings are not intended to give us comfortable, reassuring, safe space. They are to impress and intimidate us.

Even new housing owes little to what makes people feel at home and secure. It is much more about fashion. This has been the case with housing since it became big business rather than personal endeavour.

Most inhabitants of modern western cultures do not believe they have the skills they need to build their own homes. They do not know history where the home you could build in one day on common land is yours.

I would imagine a great deal of time was spent before hand stockpiling materials, and gathering friends and family to help out on the day. And we can see how homes grew room by room as need arose (and materials became available), leading to some fantastically quirky houses.

Modern houses are not built to meet human needs, they are built to fit a stereotype. They are built with a “one size fits all” mentality. But none of us is a stereotype and most of us struggle to make our homes work in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves.

And when you step outside? Do you feel uplifted? I can pretty much guarantee that, if you live in an urban area like me, you don’t. With grey and beige as the predominant colours, even with the unusually high proportion of green space in Bristol, much is depressing and demoralising.

The temporary escape to the local park is a lifeline, but all around is grey and noisy and the wrong scale. Cities are not human scale, people need open space to catch their thoughts and breath.

Further reading:

Small Is Beautiful – E F Schumacher

Human Scale – Kirkpatrick Sale

Permaculture Magazine (http://www.permaculture.co.uk/)

Transition Network (https://www.transitionnetwork.org/)

Transition @ Trinity 14 March 2015

On Saturday my lovely Tim & I went to Transition @ Trinity in Bristol (UK). It was an informal and relaxed atmosphere, with cake (donated by participants) and drink available from the off.

We all sat in a circle as we were introduced to the itinerary for the day, the organisers, and presenters. I didn’t see any egos in evidence. Lead by Angela Raffle we took part in some exercises designed to break the ice, which they did. The first person who introduced himself to me was Rob Hopkins. I managed not to be too hopelessly tongue tied.

We met a number of people, chatted for a few minutes and then were encouraged to talk to someone else. Everyone seemed very pleasant and supportive. Some had a really good idea of what Transition is about, others were new to the ideas and processes like us.

We split into two groups, one group who were already involved in Transition got together to undertake a “health check” with Sophy Banks. The rest of us had an introductory session with Sarah McAdam and Ciaran Mundy. It was both informative and enjoyable. It was well designed, with the idea of encouraging people to participate as much as possible.

When that ended, we were about to be briefed about networking during lunch (which sounded fabulous). Unfortunately both Tim and I were feeling a little under the weather by then. Tim’s back was complaining about him sitting still for such a long time, and we were both very tired, so we called it quits.

I have to say that the experience reinforced the value of Transition for me and everyone else. I’m looking forward to getting involved once Tim and I have slightly fewer pressures in our lives. We found it uplifting and encouraging. If you have the chance to go to anything like this event I suggest that you grab the opportunity. I doubt that you will regret it.

The Future…

How do you see the future? Is it more of the same dreadful, uncaring nonsense? Further and greater austerity, because we have to? Why do we have to? What are these cut backs supposed to achieve? What beliefs are they based on? None that I adhere to.

Before we assume that there is a real reason for the impoverishment of the already poor, we need to ask if the actions being undertaken by various governments will actually achieve what the politicians claim they will. And the answer is… NO, they don’t. The evidence already tells us that the espoused goals of our government are not being attained through their policies.

As that is the case, we then have to ask ourselves, why is that? Is it because the policies are ill thought out, that incompetence and stupidity stop them from being effective? Or, could it be that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat alliance actually have a different agenda from the one they publicly assert? Are they aiming for something other than that which the media tell us?

These are frightening questions, ones that very few of us want to engage with. Either answer is horrifying to contemplate. We’re either being governed by an bunch of complete incompetents or, duplicitous bastards… It’s hard to know which is worse. I suspect the truth is that the answer is far more chaotic: there are some who are stupid; some who are liars; some who are well meaning; some who are principled; and, between them they continue to make bad decision after bad decision on our behalf.

You see, to me, the vast majority of politicians (and a large proportion of the general population) are missing the point. No longer should the government be there to govern us, it should be there to serve us. I believe that the wrong things are seen as important by people in government.

Can I ask, what is important to you? When you wake up in the morning what would you be devastated to be without? What makes you smile during the day? What gives your life meaning? I know for some people their answer will be their job, but I’m pretty sure they are in a small minority. For the majority, I think, the answer will be “other people” (I include the four legged friends in the category people).

When you, or a member of your close circle are ill, do you want to spend time weighing up which hospital is best? Or do you want to just go to the nearest one and be confident that the people working there will do the very best they can to heal you?

When your child is ready to start school do you want to spend time going around different schools, checking out prospectuses, even moving house, so that they get a good education? Or do you want them to go to the school down the road and be confident that the teachers will do the best they can to provide your child with knowledge and skills that will help them through life?

My future, the one I hope comes to fruition is one where your local school, your local hospital, your local everything, is the very best it can be. Where people come first and money gets back into it’s role of being a means of exchange. Where the jobs we do have a direct connection with feelings of self worth. Where creativity is as valuable as any other skill. Where being a caring, generous human being, makes you a role model.

Do you see where I’m coming from? I can’t pretend it will be an easy life, but I can hope it will be a future full of love and laughter, work and care, community and negotiation. Are we strong enough to make this future? I think so, if we join together and refuse to be distracted by the slight of hand merchants, who are still trying to sell us snake oil, our current government.