Incredible Edible Hale

Incredible Edible is a food growing movement that started in Todmorden in west Yorkshire in 2007. It shows what difference a small number of people with creativity and generosity can make. Two women in the town, Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear, were really worried about their community and also about the terrible state of the environment. They both had grown up children and they could see that something urgently needed to change if their grandchildren were going to have any kind of future. However, they knew that the authorities were slow moving and that lots of people felt powerless about the environment.

So Pam and Mary decided they needed to do something that would catch people’s imaginations, get them asking questions and then get them taking action together to create a greener, stronger, more resilient town.

They decided that what they should do was grow food. So Mary, whose garden is in quite a prominent place in the town, dug up all her roses and replaced them with vegetables and a sign that said ‘Food to Share. Help Yourself’.

Meanwhile Pam had gathered some more supporters and within a few months, vegetables began to pop up in some rather unusual places. Runner beans in the cemetery, for example. Sweetcorn outside the police station. Cabbages beside the main road. And every plot had a sign saying ‘Food to share. Help yourself.’

Recently, a group of enthusiasts gathered at St Mark’s Church, and decided that we will give it a go in Hale. We will start small and see if it grows! Farnham Town Council will let us have three large planters – one at St Mark’s, one outside the school and one at the war memorial. There is compost at the Town Council’s greenhouses and a local charity that serves disabled children can provide seedlings for us to plant. The food that will be grown will be free for all. Everywhere where food is grown we will write “Incredible Edible Hale: Food to Share, take some, it’s free”

You can find out more about Incredible Edible here: http://incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk/

Climate Change Meeting to meet with our MP

Jeremy Hunt, South West Surrey MP and Secretary of State for Health, was unable to come to St George’s Church on March 12 to discuss climate change with his constituents as we had originally hoped, but this turned out not to be the problem that many of us had thought it might be.

In fact, it gave the 30 or so constituents who gathered at the church that morning the chance to have a focused meeting to discuss what questions should be put to him at a meeting to be held later, something that he has promised. Indeed, Mr Hunt has said that he wants “an ongoing conversation” about climate change with his constituents.

Helping us to understand the issues were representatives of Hope for the Future, a group born out of the Church of England and which helps churches across the UK to lobby MPs and parliamentary candidates on climate change.

The meeting acknowledged what many of us feel – that it can seem overwhelming, that we can do little to help in the face of melting ice-caps and sea levels rising so high that they will flood and destroy places like the Pacific nation of Kiribati or cause the soil in parts of inland Bangladesh to become so salty that nothing can grow there, and in the face of a leaked report saying that the UK is set to miss by around 25 per cent its obligations to get 15 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

The meeting also emphasised that there are things that can be done. In particular, as one participant, Clive Kiley, said: “When we all come together, we have a more powerful voice.”

Having a voice and expressing our opinions was central to the day, a fact borne out in the introductory session when Hope for the Future recounted the way the group had helped constituents in Cheltenham to persuade their MP, the Conservative Alex Chalk, to challenge his party on the climate change bill.

MPs, as elected representatives of the people, are duty-bound to consider what constituents are asking them to do, if enough agree, so the more that constituents lobby about climate change the better. However, it makes sense to narrow the focus so that real action is possible.

The discussions on what would be most useful to concentrate on when talking to Mr Hunt were wide-ranging and included many issues that were important to constituents such as transport, planning, building on flood plains, pedestrian safety, solar energy, recycling, local food production, care of the woodlands and much more. However, an effective way of moving forward in discussions is to identify issues that all parties care about and two areas that particularly concern Mr Hunt were identified – the pedestrianisation of Farnham and, of course, health, and he has expressed particular interest in supporting those with dementia and their carers.

The plan was to structure a conversation with Mr Hunt, looking at measures that would both slow down the rate of global warming and have a positive effect on health. For instance, a Health Protection Agency report states that the cost to the British economy of pollution is £16 billion. Emissions from burning fossil fuels cause pollution which causes global warming. Pollution also causes health problems. The pollution in Farnham would be reduced if there were fewer vehicles being driven through and more people were able to walk or take public transport. Walking, too, is good for the health.

Hope for the Future took away with them all the suggestions that we had given them and will now help us formulate questions that we can ask at a meeting that Mr Hunt has assured us will take place soon. With the right questions the church could have a real impact.

Stella Wiseman

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