This afternoon I was out in the low winter sunshine looking at spiders’ webs in the pastures around our home at North Beachmore, west Kintyre. Thousands of threads are visible in the low sunlight, connected to the upright stems of the soft rush (the farmer has topped them, but they have grown up a few inches – enough to provide the necessary height for the industrious insects to set their traps).
I was on my way to the next settlement to the south of us: Crubasdale. The farmhouse here is being renovated, but the renovations do not extend to the adjacent dairy, which is now roofless. I counted 24 stalls for cows.
I am currently reading Molly Scott Cato’s The Bioregional Economy: Land, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She is an academic but also an activist, working with Transition Stroud and Stroud Common Wealth, located in the Cotswolds Bioregion of south-west England. So my mind was on the hegemony of the Growth paradigm which has dominated my world ever since I was born in 1956; a paradigm which Cato deconstructs with forensic skill.
It is this paradigm that rendered the small dairy at Crubasdale redundant, along with many other small units in Kintyre. The Campbeltown creamery still buys the milk from the remaining (far larger) dairy farms in Kintyre; it is then made into the well known brand Mull of Kintyre cheddar, which is sold in a number of supermarkets across the UK. The creamery is no.12 on the Local Produce food map, and I go there every few weeks to stock up on 1.25kg blocks of their “mature” (occasionally they stock extra mature and even vintage). It is a pleasure to shop locally, and I have got to know the staff there personally. They talk about their favourite cheese (the man prefers the basic orange-coloured one which doesn’t crumble when you cut it); about how the vintage matures for 18 months. How different from the supermarket.
I like to think that I am seeing the first green shoots – not of “economic growth as normal” – but of a new form of economy. A bioregional economy in which money, goods and services are cycled locally. People talk about “plugging the leaks”, likening our attempts to build local economies as attempts to stop at least some of the many leaks in the bucket. Surely it cannot be healthy that everything we buy and consume should originate well outside our local area – sometimes (perhaps mostly) from thousands of miles away. Where is the conviviality in talking about how your French beans have been airfreighted into your trolley from Kenya?
Cato believes that instead of a Global Growth economy we should have numerous regional provisioning economies.
Surely the Economy should be about provisioning ourselves with healthy, nutrious, locally sourced food freshly cooked in our own homes, schools and hospitals. It should be about buying at least some of our goods from local craftspeople and manufacturers who care about what they do, feel a loyalty to their local region and are happy to talk to you about what they have to offer.