Realism and Achievability

The OED offers inter alia the following definitions of the word “vision”: a supernatural or prophetic apparition; a thing or idea perceived vividly in the imagination; imaginative insight; or a statesman like foresight, sagacity in planning.  B&NES’s five One Shared Vision’s stories and 15 Minute Neighbourhoods in particular are a wonderful mix of these, but what many of the stories and ideas lack is realism and achievability in the timeframe. How do we realistically get from where are now to where we believe we want to be in just nine years, where exactly is ‘there’ and what must we do to get there? Apart from realism and achievability, do we really want to live this vision?

Now, 2030 is not short or medium but is pretty long term and B&NES’s goal is to “ensure that our recovery and rebuilding [from the Covid pandemic] helps us achieve a stronger, more resilient, fairer, greener and net zero” place by then. OK, if that’s what we want, so be it, but how do we go about achieving a stronger, low carbon and more inclusive economy? The story describes “a future about workforce re-skilling through digital technology and innovation, how living and working could become more localised, reducing the need to travel and allowing nature to thrive”.  All good stuff, but does the “workforce” really need that much re-skilling, and why must living and working become more localised and travel be restricted? Is this not a bit 1984-ish?

Some but not all of the “workforce” will invariably want or have to re-skill with advances in technology or a change in jobs; this is called evolution, but why should all this be localised? This is restrictive. Men and women may wish to work, say, in the financial sector in London, or in a plant making electric or hydrogen-propelled cars in Swindon, or in a legal practice in Bristol, or for the NHS in Frome and commute to all these workplaces. Why shouldn’t they travel from and to B&NES by public transport or by e/h-car? Webinars don’t build cars or heal patients, and clients and financiers need face-to-face contact.

Why the contribution is important

Nothing wrong with dreaming of a sort of 15 Minute Neighbourhood but let’s stick to the most realistic and sensible options to achieve this; foresight and sagacity in planning are imperative. Let’s not rush this; it’s too important. In the first place, we must lay the foundations of any vision we hope to achieve by focusing on the short term and should concentrate our efforts through B&NES's Economic Recovery and Renewal Board to help urgently the different elements that make up our community and economy in B&NES deal with and recover from the pandemic.

by NJT on January 08, 2021 at 03:53PM

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  • Posted by NicoletteBoater January 08, 2021 at 19:20

    I agree with NJT that the story writer has been overly prescriptive in their envisioning of low environmental impact neighbourhoods and especially around reducing the need to travel.
    However unlike NJT but like the OED, I don’t think ‘realism and achievability’ are or should be a core part of the envisioning process, and especially when innovation, system change and a ‘backcasting’ (rather than incremental business-as-usual) approach will be critical to achieving B&NES net zero and biodiversity ambitions. And in this context, I see 2030 as being an existential race against time (rather than being ‘pretty long term’) and one which it would be ‘foresightful’ and ‘sagacious’ to co-address with recovering from the current pandemic (rather than as NJT suggests deferring until afterwards).
    In this regard it is deeply frustrating that the B&NES Climate Emergency, Environment & Place Partnership Board (promised in the Council’s 10.10.19 Climate Emergency Progress report) seems to have defaulted into the more narrowly focussed B&NES's Economic Recovery and Renewal Board.
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