Open Space Forum

SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR
PORTOBELLO?

Public Forum

Community ‘Open Space’ Forum

Sunday the 27th of November from 1.30-5.30pm

St James’ Church Hall, Rosefield
Place, Portobello

1. THE QUESTIONS

  1. Should Portobello reclaim the ex-Scottish Power site
    for the community?
  2. Can we meet the challenge of climate change and the
    end of cheap oil through building a community based on
    sustainable energy & livelihoods?

2. THE VISION

Portobello Energy Descent and Land Reform Group (PEDAL),
Edinburgh, are organising a Community ‘Open Space’
forum for Sunday the 27th of November from
1.30-5.30pm. This will aim to build on the success of the
Portobello Campaign Against the Superstore. The purpose of
the day’s forum is to develop a range of
imaginative initiatives — including pushing
for a community buy out of the
superstore site — as part of creating a sustainable future for Portobello,
and creating a radical urban role model that other
communities and cities could follow.

At the heart of the forum will be plans for community
use of a piece of land which was recently at the centre of
a fierce battle between the local community and
developers who wanted to build a superstore on it.
The superstore was very unpopular with local people, and
the community scored a victory when planning permission was
refused at a public inquiry earlier this year.
Unfortunately, though current legislation in Scotland gives
rural communities the right to buy land they need to
sustain their way of life (e.g. the community buy-out of
the Isle of Eigg in 2002); urban communities do not have
this right.  PEDAL are hoping that the community in
Portobello can put pressure on the Scottish Parliament to
change the law so that the community can make constructive
use of this land.  One possible future use for the
land would be to establish socially affordable and
ecologically imaginative housing as part of a broader
Sustainability Centre which might include a Centre for
Alternative Futures similar to the Centre for Alternative
Technology in Wales, or the Eden Project in Cornwall. This
might include exhibition space focusing on sustainable city
designs and hands-on exhibits bringing together pressing
issues and community solutions to problems such as climate
change and the challenge of transforming society from an
economy based on oil to one based on ecologically and
socially satisfying and sustainable practices. Such a
Centre could create a range of new local jobs and attract a
whole new form of urban ecological tourism to the area. The
Centre could also provide a focus for the further
development of the community sustainability blueprint,
possibly centred on a 15-year step by step Energy Descent
plan for Portobello.

3. THE FORUM

We are proposing a community “Open
Space” forum, to be held on Sunday
27th November 2005, 1.30 – 5.30 pm,
at St James’ Church Hall, Rosefield
Avenue, Portobello. The Open
Space meeting format which we will be
using for the public workshop is designed to make meetings
fun. It is based on the model of an extended tea breakon
the assumption that the most useful and interesting part of
any workshop or conference is the tea break rather than the
important speeches by the so-called experts! After a brief
orientation to the themes, purpose and structure of the
Forum, we will break into small discussion groups – each
focusing on different themes people will have identified as
important at the start of the workshop. The idea is that
these discussions will be facilitated but that people will
move between these groups. The main points of each groups
discussions will be recorded on a flip chart and both the
discussion and suggested plans for action will be reported
back to the whole group at the end of the workshop. In this
way we hope that an inclusive Energy Descent Plan might be
created by and for the Portobello community.

The first of these Energy Descent Plans was created last
year in the town of Kinsale in the west of Ireland, and the
idea has spread internationally since then. At Kinsale
participants focused on the need to address the problem of
Peak Oil. Peak Oil refers to a time, possibly in the near
future, possibly already upon us, when all the easily
available oil has been used up. From that point in time oil
prices will increase to the point where our current way of
life becomes impossible. This is not science fiction: it is
being discussed as a real problem by governments across the
world, because we not only use oil to drive ourselves
around — the way we live today relies almost entirely on
oil.  Our food is transported using oil; the
fertilisers and pesticides used on it are oil-based, and
the farm equipment which harvests it could not be made
without oil. From medicines to the raw materials for
building houses, we rely on oil for much of what we need to
sustain our current lifestyles.

Because we rely for our food on supermarkets that get
their supplies from all over the world, rather than from
local farmers or market gardens, we could be very
vulnerable even in short term crisis
situations.  As the tragic recent events in New
Orleans showed, communities who are not adequately prepared
and cannot pull together, can end up helpless and self
destructive instead of mutually supportive.

Kinsale participants worked to develop a 15-year Energy
Decent Plan to help the community take a step-by-step
approach to reducing its reliance on oil.  In
this approach, participants look at a range of areas of
importance to their community (such as food production,
energy production, transport, housing, livelihoods…) and
generate ideas about how to use progressively less energy
in meeting their needs.  This offers a new model for
communities to make changes which address mounting threats
such as climate change and peak oil in a way which will not
only give them the best chance to successfully manage
potential future crisis situations, but also increases
community cohesion and empowerment in the meantime.
In a time when central government seems
unwilling to take serious action on these issues, and
individual action can feel woefully inadequate, community
action of this kind is inspiring and empowering.

Community ‘Open Space’ Forum

Sunday the 27th of November from 1.30-5.30pm

St James’ Church Hall, Rosefield
Place, Portobello

&

Showing of The End of
Suburbia

Saturday 26th November: 5.30 –
7pm

Evergreen, Portobello High Street

There will also be a showing of The
End of Suburbia
the day before the
workshop, which you are welcome to see. It is a film about
the possible consequences of Peak Oil on the lives of
ordinary people in America, which has clear implications
for all of us. This will be shown at Evergreen, Portobello
High Street on Saturday 26th November: 5.30 –
7pm.