Green Nevis Week 1 | Houses, Homes and Streets

Well, its a wondering and a wandering start for these first seven policies, aims and musings for #100DaysOfGreenNevis.

Wandering: I’ve been going on longer walks than usual – through the meadows and fields that join the old villages of Wakefield (my home city), treading the footpaths between the plentiful new, luxury suburbs and the now-unaffordable old council housing.

Wondering: plenty of this housing is empty. Many of the nicest buildings I’ve seen here are falling apart, like the old school buildings that were declared unsafe, whilst Wakefield struggles with lack of facilities (like schools, parks, or small businesses) for the residents it contains. Much of the housing I’ve been strolling past reminded me of the student accomodation I lived in when in Birmingham – pretty damp, with small and confined spaces never too far from rats and lice, which without the predators you’d get from a balanced ecosytem thrived better than we did.

A view from Alverthorpe Meadows back in May 2020 – these used to be medieval farmland, and now support wildflowers, insects, their predators and our local communities by forming flood defences for local houses.

If we have to cut our carbon emissions by 8-10% per year, or even if we fail to do this, and suffer the climate’s consequences, then we need to prepare for the biggest changes: increases in population as people move from either nearby or afar to avoid, say, flooding; building our houses so our lives can be hygienic and healthy, despite new diseases and humid conditions; and living in supportive communities where we can help each other through the worst of things,

With these kind of things in mind, these seemed like 7 good ambitions to, to change the places we live so we can weather the storms that will come.

  1. All new housing we build has to last. As few repairs and as few adjustments for our varied and changing bodies as possible – wide staircases, ramps, ventilation (for our sake and the houses!), proper slanted roofs to deal with the rain – that kind of thing. Remember that any repair takes resources that could have been better used if we’d built the thing properly!
  2. All new housing has to be carbon zero! We can have no cutting down virgin forest for timbers, and the house has to be properly insulated and double-glazed, all with solar panels to assist with energy costs. The heating must also be electric only, as any burning of gas, however environmentally friendly, will only contribute to the mess we’re in.
  3. All old houses have to be as good as new – altered and repaired so they can be lived in safely and enjoyably throughout our futures. Houses aren’t just for our lifetimes, but for centuries to come.
  4. We need to be able to afford to live in these homes – its no good if we’re charged extra for a house that isn’t damp, due to its poor ventilation and poor heating!
  5. These costs can’t be placed on people who can’t pay, or they won’t get done. This cannot be left to citizens, nor to for-profit businesses.
  6. Our houses need to keep us safe from unstable weather. Whether its flooding, wind, the cold or the heat, we have to be able to weather it. Some of that is from flood defences, but also from having well-draining surfaces in our gardens, paving and public places (accessibility permitting, as smooth paving is a lot easier for people with mobility issues to manage). Good draining can keep flows of water away from our homes, by soil, grass, or gravel, and having well-placed, mature trees will help protect the soil by mooring the it against from landslips and excessive rainfall.
  7. We need access to ecosystems beyond our own human ones. Gardens, parks, allottments, green spaces that are maintained by humans and wildlife, to keep as many species alive, balanced and healthy, as possible across the country. This will help make sure that we all, regardless of wealth or location can get to wild spaces easily, for the sake of collapsing ecosystems and our own health.
Some of the housing protected by the meadows pictured above. The housing on the left is recent ‘Affordable Housing’, currently £75,000 more dear than the local houses, with windows that don’t open, and no garden. As recent (2015-7) builds, even these homes would need to be retrofitted to keep emissions as low as possible and protect its owners, which is, frankly, as frustrating as it is wasteful.

Lots of these are common sense and musings, and some are specific policy. The first three are parts of a retrofitting aim suggested in passing by the BBC programme Extinction: The Facts, for instance, and elements of these three have been co-opted by UK parties. These policies also require intervention without scope for profit, but instead trying for the most meaningful change – meaning local and national government will need to get involved, whether or not they are the ones taking the lead.

If this has interested you, then maybe you could watch Extinction, check out the challenges by other Nevis musicians (from fundraising to free improvisation!) by visiting our website, take an interest in the housing and accomodation of your local area, or look at the principles of Just Transition, something I’ve been really influenced by in my reading on the climate crisis and the solutions to improve our lives.

Ta,

Isaac@BitsOfPieces

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