Saturday, 20 December 2008

Greenwash Works

You have to hand it to those orchestrating the Greenwashing of Bristol, it's certainly good for tourism. Bristol has just been named as one of the world's Top Ten cities to visit by leading travel guide publisher DK Eyewitness Travel. DK is part of the Penguin Group which is in turn part of the Pearson publishing empire. The DK press release says of Bristol -

Dita Von Teese recently opened a new Harvey Nichols store alongside a Cinema de Lux and a wealth of luxury apartments at Cabot Circus - a long awaited boost to the Broadmead shopping district. Not long after, Bristol’s robust eco-appeal got stronger as it was named the ‘most sustainable city in Britain’. Luxury consumerism and environmental sustainability look set to coexist in 2009.

Needless to say and destination bristol are cockahoop at the news, rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of all those tourists flying in from around the world and spending their now so much more valuable Euros, Dollars and Renminbi in our earnestly green themed restaurants and hotels. And with our traditional economic base fast going down the pan, the rest of us had better get on board too, if we want a share in the spoils.

But is there not a contradiction in Bristol's image as an international luxury shopping destination and its Green Capital aspirations? Is the inevitable growth in international flights necessary to feed the tourist economy difficult to reconcile with the need to cut our carbon footprint? Is it green to travel thousands of miles to indulge in a supposedly sustainable week-end of pottering around Bristol on a bicycle consuming locally sourced produce?

I'm sure you can guess my answer to those disingenuous questions so I won't bore you with it. But I'm genuinely curious to know the response of the likes of Alastair Sawday, Chair of the secretive Green Capital Momentum Group (a sub-group of the Bristol Partnership), who has long combined promoting international tourism with green pretensions. How do these people expect us to buy into this nonsense? Or perhaps they have some other strategy for dealing with those who insist on pointing out that the emperor has no clothes?


Ecoughnut said...

As the Dodo said; "all must have prizes"

These awards are getting so banal now that I can't even be bothered to Google to look see who slapped whose back to get this one.

Glenn Vowles said...

Great post Chris.

'Beware of Maya' (illusion) as the George Harrison song goes...

Opal said...

It seems "eco-appeal" isn't nearly enough if they drafted in Dita von Teese. Is this the sort of role model that Kerry and Dawnie want to see the young girls of Bristol living up to?

Smelly Old Tramp said...

Dita von Teese makes a better role model for the young women of Bristol than either of those Zanu-Liebour trouts. Bristol City Council should have gone the whole hog and brought in ex-hubby Marilyn Manson to help open the spend-fest.

“The beautiful people, the beautiful people,
It's all relative to the size of your steeple,
You can't see the forest for the trees,
You can't smell your own shit on your knees.”


“There's lots of pretty, pretty ones,
Who want to get you high.
But all the pretty, pretty ones,
Will leave you low,
And blow your mind.
We're all stars now in the dope show.
We're all stars now in the dope show.
They love you when you're on all the covers,
When you're not then they love another.”


“I know it's the last day on earth,
We'll be together while the planet dies.
I know it's the last day on earth,
We'll never say goodbye.”

A little honesty could go a long way doncha know.

Anonymous said...

I walked into Quakers Friars on Thursday morning at 10.45am - a week before Christmas remember - and there were four people in the square.

A couple of women huddled under the Carluccio's umbrella and an old couple doddering their way through. No one outside Blancs. No one at all really.

I was so intrigued I popped into Harvey Nicks. There was, maybe, 30 people in the whole store.

Even more intrigued I popped back at lunch time (1.00pm) and it was considerably busier outside but there was no more than 3 or 4 people in each store and no queues for tills - great for hassle-free Christmas shopping!

If this is roaring success what does failure look like?

Chris Hutt said...

It looks like there's going to be a big shake out of the retail sector. Lots of businesses are holding in there to pick up what they can of the Christmas shopping but come the January sales we'll see how desperate things really are.

Carboot Circus will take some hits but so will Broadmead, traditional shopping streets like the Gloucester Road, Cribbs Causeway and other out-of-town locations. How is all that going to pan out?

Anonymous said...

Even more angry people?

Anonymous said...

"A big shake out of the retail sector' is an understatement.

With 23% of the economy reliant on retail and services, it could be carnage out there.

Chris Hutt said...

'Even more angry people' indeed. The relatively poor go along with the capitalist system if it delivers them something tangible, but when it fails they start wondering what they have to lose by bringing the whole edifice down.

That indicates a pretty grim future with the police being increasingly used to keep the poor in their place. No wonder the government are so keen on 'anti-terror' legislation and identity cards.

Butcher Bill said...

Carnage out there? I like "carnage". And "cuts"!

Dean Danvers said...

Come on....let's be a bit more honest about Greenwash in Bristol.

The winner for the most greenwashy campaign in Bristol goes to....(drum roll)...the Campaign to Save Castle Park! Bravo, Cheers, Hurrah!

Special mention must be made to all those office workers who signed the petition against any development, it must have gave them a nice warm feeling as they drove home that evening in their single-occupancy cars, expelling noxious fumes and carbon gases. And special mention to the campaign leaders whose careful guardianship of the existing park was such that, just 8 years after plans were published highlighting the western end as a possible development site, they immediately sprang into action with the full breadth of disinformation. We don't deserve them! No, really, we don't. Or maybe we do.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what you are trying to say here, Dean.

Yes, we all know that car commuters, and just about everybody else with a motor vehicle, is hypocrical to a greater or lesser extent - each motorist wants everybody else to stop driving so that they personally can have an open road free from other cars.

But what has that got to do with Castle Park?

Surely the issue here is that nobody (usual corporate interest suspects excepted, obviously) wants to see a vital, well-used and much-loved green area in the middle of Bristol get concreted over.

Or do you?

Dean Danvers said...

The point I am trying to make is that what started out as a "green" campaign with support across the spectrum has become more about "political" point scoring which may in the end undermine efforts to make Bristol more sustainable.

As far I can see the background to the Castle Green affair is as follows;

In the Bristol City Centre Strategy and Action Plan 1998-2003, the Norwich Union/Bank of England buildings are marked as a key site. In the Neighbourhood Statements section the potential area for redevelopment is outlined in red; this boundary runs from where the cycle path meets the High Street, along the High Street and Wine Steet to a point close to the Union Street junction, it then cuts across the park west of St Peter's before following the line of the diagonal path down to the cycle path and then back to High Street. The development area so marked includes several areas of green park. The incorporation of parts of Castle Park into the new development was reiterated in the 2003 Proposed Alterations to the Local Plan and again, in 2005 in the new City Centre Strategy and Action Plan 2005-2010.

Soon after, the developer (Deeply Flawed?) came out with a plan which extended the redevelopment site right up to St Peter's (on an alignment that roughly continues that of Union Street). This exceed the boundaries marked in the CC Strategy and opposition was mounted, both on-line, via the media, and at the developer's own consultation process. As a result of the pressure from those protests/complaints, the developer's eventually admitted defeat and came back with the proposal that would take up space considerably less than that proposed in the City Centre Strategy since 98 but would still involve building upon half and acre of green space.

This brings us to today and it is at this point that the protestor's appear to be trying to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. Here was an opportunity to demonstrate to all Bristolians that "greens" are not just interested in plants and animals and short-term aesthetic environmentalism but really do care about the long-term effects of non-sustainable development on real people. They could have put the council and the developers on the back foot by saying; OK you still say you need half-acre from the 13 acre Castle Park, we will work with you on the following conditions;

1) The boundaries of the development are drawn in a legally binding document before any development begins.
2) All the land in the Castle Park area outside of that boundary is put in Trust to be administered by a democratically elected User Group as a Park.
3) The half-acre taken from Castle Park is used to provide flats at above 200 dwellings per hectare which will be made available to key workers etc, at assisted rates.

200dph on half-acre of land would provide 40 homes within walking distance of workplaces, retail and leisure facilities. At typical occupancy levels and travel patterns, this would remove some 275,000 car kms and their resulting emissions from the road network.

So why didn't the protestors do that? Why did they pursue the Town Green Application? Effectively an all-or-nothing proposal which if they lose could seriously undermine any further efforts to helf shape the development to something more sustainable.

The reason, I believe, is because this campaign is "greenwash", a light covering of environmental concerns in order to fight political battles which are really about old Labour vs New Labour and not really anything to do with Castle Park which happens to be a convenient issue. The fact is that reading some of the things that have been written or said by the campaign leaders leads me with little trust in their honesty.

To answer your last question, No, I don't want to see Castle Park concreted over - luckily, there are no plans to do so. The nearest plan to do so, since the destruction of the Castle Park area in WWII, was the proposal for a "Civic Park" in the 60's which would have result in most of the current Castle Park dissappearing under concrete.

Chris Hutt said...

A very comprehensive and interesting response DD. Would you mind if I copy it to make a new blog post so that it gets something of the attention it deserves? I would then add some relevant pics, although you're welcome to make suggestions for pics and a title perhaps.

Dan Danvers said...


No problem, feel free.