Green Tease Reflections: Glocal?

4th January 2022

An image of a hand holding a globe and an image of the earth with half of each visible so that they jointly create a complete circle. Text reads: Glocal? Globalism and Localism in a Future of Sustainable Travel. Event reflections.

6th December 2021: This event provided an opportunity to discuss decarbonising travel and what these changes will mean for local and global connections as well as the role of the arts in this process. The event featured speakers from Architecture and Design Scotland, Flight Free UK, and Nevis Ensemble as well as an imagining exercise.


The speakers at this event were Karen Ridgewell, Principal Design Officer at Architecture & Design Scotland, Anna Hughes, Director of Flight Free UK, and Jamie Munn, chief executive of Nevis Ensemble. A video of their presentations is available here with a written summary underneath.

Karen Ridgewell discussed her work with Architecture & Design Scotland on reducing the environmental impact of the built environment and on applying the principle of the ’20-minute neighbourhood’. She highlighted that the current period up to 2030 is crucial for emissions reductions and that 66% of necessary emissions reductions need to come from societal change, making getting public buy-in at this stage essential. She advocates for an approach rooted in the ‘place principle’, looking at the combined impact of complex change on real people and communities and how creating better and more equitable places is interconnected with addressing climate change. She emphasised that successful design requires that everyone who will be impacted by it has a role in shaping it and that climate policy must bear this in mind: ‘Think Global. Act Local’.

The 20-minute neighbourhood seeks to improve quality of life while reducing transport emissions by making everyday requirements all reachable within a 20-minute walk. This encourages active travel and makes for more mixed neighbourhoods. She noted that this approach is primarily applicable in urban settings and that rural neighbourhoods require quite different approaches. She closed by advocating for a collective approach based on an agreed vision created through meaningful participation.
Karen also shared links to two useful further resources:

Anna Hughes works at Flight Free UK, an organisation that encourages people and organisations to take a pledge not to fly for a year or more. She began by telling us that the air route between Edinburgh and London is the fourth busiest air route in Europe, despite trains being available for the same route with 74% less carbon emissions. She highlighted a study that found that on this particular route, air travel was actually no cheaper or quicker than train once travel to and from airports was taken into account and suggested that as well as sharing facts and statistics, we also need to share stories that can inspire and empower people to explore alternatives to flying.

She discussed how covid-19 has forced us to spend more time locally and explore how we can have valuable experiences without travelling a great distance, but emphasised that if these decisions are made by choice rather than enforced by circumstance, they are more likely to lead to long term behavioural changes.

Anna, shared a number of examples of artists who had made the decision to avoid flying and how they went about achieving this, giving their personal stories as recorded on the Flight Free UK website. She discussed how musicians and performers taking a public stance on flying and travel can have a powerful influencing role on audiences as well as the organisations that they work with. We can also emphasise the benefits of reduced travel, such as supporting and developing our local arts scenes and talent and avoiding the disruption to our lives that frequent travel can entail.

Jamie Munn discussed Nevis Ensemble, a ‘street orchestra’ who perform in spaces beyond concert halls, and their work on environmental sustainability. He highlighted that this had not been an initial strategy for the group, but came from the interests of the musicians themselves. They co-founded the Scottish Classical Sustainability Group, which brings together classical music organisations, funders, unions and others to help address issues within the sector and have found addressing travel emissions to be particularly difficult. For example, international touring to prestigious venues is one of the main ways that orchestras seek to demonstrate their quality.

He emphasised that international touring has only been the norm for the last 30 years, a very short period within the context of classical music, and is not essential for the form. However, a number of institutions have become dependent on it and changing mindsets is difficult. He advocated for reconsidering why we travel and judging the necessity based on artistic and social value: for example, could a local ensemble perform the same repertoire equally well? Is there scope to visit a larger number of venues and engage with local residents in a more meaningful way?

When Nevis Ensemble tour within Scotland, they design routes to minimise travel time for them and for audiences while reaching as many people as possible. They also try to build up relationships with venues and audiences so that their work remains relevant to people beyond one-off performances. They also have a green guide that they share with venues to indicate some useful practices in an easy and non-judgemental form. You can read more about this touring practice in a case study they wrote for us.

Imagining Exercise

After this we split up into groups to discuss an exercise designed to get us thinking about what decarbonising travel will mean for neighbourhoods in Scotland. A set of slides gave a description of some representative types of neighbourhoods around Scotland, showing their characteristics and what issues they might be currently facing. In groups we discussed what these places should look like in 25 years’ time, considering local and international connections as well as what role the arts might play.

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