Summary written by Annika Hjelmskog, Research Associate for Glasgow's City Portrait
City Portrait researchers were joined by a diverse group of sectors and organisations at the final Glasgow City Portrait workshop held at Kinning Park Complex on 20th February 2023.
This workshop brought together public, private, and third sector organisations from across Glasgow. Participants working in a range of socially or ecologically focussed fields (and some who are working across both) came to the lovely community-owned venue in Glasgow’s South Side to workshop ideas about applying the Doughnut Economics framework to the city. The attendees shared multidimensional perspectives to discuss what a ‘Thriving’ Glasgow might look like from their point of expertise.
We began by introducing the Doughnut Economics framework and showing how its principles are well suited to Glasgow’s post-COP26 legacy, and its participation in the Thriving Cities Initiative, led by C40 Cities. The Doughnut’s focus on social wellbeing and ecological wellbeing in parallel supports the extensive work already happening in numerous communities and organisations around Glasgow. Our shared goals include improving ecological security and sustainability, boosting social wellbeing, and reducing health, economic, and social inequalities.
We welcomed attendees from sectors including architecture and design, social enterprise, social housing, environmental protection, construction, public health, food sustainability, and residents’ associations. The richness of our discussions really reflected the value of bringing different experts together, particularly when our everyday working routines have tendencies to stay narrow, or become siloed.
We worked in groups to discuss the four lenses of the City Portrait, and to suggest examples of what we should aim for to ‘Thrive’ in each of these domains. Each lens is made up of several dimensions, and an example dimension from each lens is summarised below.
How can all the people of Glasgow thrive? (Local-Social)
Food: Glasgow should be a city where nobody experiences food poverty, and everybody has access to a nutritious and sustainable diet. We should be eating more locally produced, healthy food (such as Scottish blueberries) and using our existing successful food-sharing initiatives to get food to where it is needed, extend community-based food distribution, and minimise food waste.
How can Glasgow be as generous as the wildland next door? (Local-Ecological)
Cleanse the air: Glasgow should be a place where active travel or green public transport facilitate the majority of journeys, removing the toxic emissions that are currently caused by high car use. There should be more low emission zones, and no M8 motorway passing through the city. Space currently given over to roads could be turned into green space, filled with plants that can absorb carbon dioxide.
How can Glasgow respect the health of the whole planet? (Global-Ecological)
Land Conversion: Glasgow needs to support and develop alternative, less intensive models of agriculture, such as vertical farming, or rooftop growing, that allow more undeveloped land to be left intact, and some existing farmland to be rewilded. We also need to shift our diets to become more plant-based, and less dependent on products (local or imported) that require the most land e.g. beef, lamb, and dairy.
How can Glasgow respect the wellbeing of people worldwide? (Global-Social)
Social Equity: Glasgow needs to develop sustainable procurement practices (applicable in all sectors) that account for the wellbeing of all the global workers in our supply chains. We need to provide more information and transparency about the conditions experienced by those who produce our goods and services, and support the ethical business models worldwide that aim for fairer wealth distribution.
The participants mapped some of the interconnections between the lenses, and how the whole system works together. Some of the most effective future interventions may be those that are able to make progress on multiple wellbeing dimensions at the same time. We heard suggestions that incorporated multiple components of the Doughnut, that could improve both social and ecological metrics.
Local-Social: action to improve housing.
Building more affordable housing could have benefits for other local-social dimensions, such as improved incomes if the housing is genuinely affordable, and stronger community networks if the housing is built in places it is most needed. However, there are concerns about the negative consequences of house building in both global and local ecological lenses, such as unsustainable land conversion and biodiversity loss if housing is built on land that is currently untouched and biodiverse. There is also a risk that construction emissions could lead to increased air pollution and climate change. New housing sites could lead to a loss of greenspace overall (with its wellbeing benefits) and also loss of good soil health that might be full of nutrients, ability to cycle water, and provide natural flood protection.
Local Ecological: action to harvest energy.
We could make progress on this through ambitious and equitable energy- efficient retrofit (solar panels, heat pumps, insulation), which links to multiple local-social lens dimensions e.g. energy, housing, health, income and social equity. More community ownership of this energy infrastructure could improve solidarity and social equity worldwide (global-social) by reducing the reach, power and impacts of global oil and gas extraction companies, as well as regimes that threaten peace and justice. Decarbonising heat and transport sectors could also reduce climate change and ocean acidification in the global-ecological lens.
Global Ecological: action to reduce air pollution.
Our goal is to reduce our contribution to the air pollution planetary boundary, which is also a dimension in the local-ecological lens. We could do this by investing in and promoting local-social mobility and better-connected networks via green public transport, reducing toxic emissions from private cars (which emit harmful NO2, CO, and particulate matter, and also fossil fuel combustion). These emissions are dangerous for health and wellbeing (local-social and local-ecological) and removing them in favour of public or active transport could also lead to reductions in climate change and ocean acidification that are caused by burning CO2.
Global-Social: action to end hunger (SDG2, Doughnut Dimension ‘food’).
More urban farming could contribute to this goal – if we produce more food locally (linking to local-social and local-ecological lenses, for example through improving soil health and nutrient richness by more composting in the city), it might reduce the amount of food imported from elsewhere. This would reduce our reliance on those supply chains that we can’t be confident are using ethical or sustainable practices, and which threaten health and social equity worldwide. Urban farming and allotments could also contribute to local-social wellbeing by increasing connectedness and solidarity amongst community members.
In combination with our previous workshops, the whole-system insights that were generated from this event will inform the full Glasgow City Portrait report, due for publication later this year.
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