Words like “engagement”, and “involvement” and “stakeholders” get tossed around pretty lightly in Manchester. The reality is somewhat more tawdry. The latest example of the gap between what is said and what is done comes to us from the world of climate adaptation. That’s a small concern for many people now, but it won’t be in a generation from now…
Ecocities is a project that was set up in 2009 to create a climate adaptation blueprint for Greater Manchester by the end of 2011. A joint venture between Manchester City Council, Bruntwood and the University of Manchester, it never exactly set the world on fire. MCFly covered its opening event, its halfway [sic] event and the fact that its final conference was postponed at very short notice. Just yesterday we visited the site to find out when their much-promised big event would be. Here’s what we found.
And today we get a press release. You can read the whole thing here. We’ve cut and pasted the second half of it below and put in bold the bits that made us laugh out loud. Our comments are in italics -
from the press release
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, added: “I’m proud that Greater Manchester is leading the way on such an important issue, and one that has the potential to impact hugely on people’s everyday lives, our public services, our businesses’ productivity and our city’s infrastructure. I hope that the EcoCities project – in showing the way forward for an integrated approach to climate adaptation – will offer other cities, both within the UK and further afield, some best practice solutions to this seemingly most intractable of issues. We must widen this debate to ensure that everyone who has an interest in this area now takes part in both the debate and in arriving at practical solutions. No one has a monopoly of ideas in this field.”
Yes. That’s why there has been precisely no invitations to anyone outside the charmed circle.
The EcoCities project has enhanced capacity for individuals and organisations to take action to adapt Greater Manchester to the changing climate, and hopes to become a source of information and best practice guidance to other cities both across the UK and further afield.
Really? How? When? Evidence? Metrics?
The summit marks the start of the process to find practical and economically viable solutions of how climate adaptation can, and should, happen at a number of levels: individual building, local community, and strategic city-level region.
“Marks the start of the process” ; So what on EARTH has been going on for the last three years? And wasn’t a blueprint for adaptation supposed to be in place at the end of 2011?
In order to do this the EcoCities project team has widened the discussion to incorporate other stakeholders. [And who are these stakeholders? Churches? Trades Unions? Sports clubs? Tenants and Residents Associations? Small businessmen? Don't be silly...] Representatives from Arup, Drivers Jonas Deloitte and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) will all be speaking at today’s summit and will be involved in finding the solutions and implementing them.
So that, presumably, is who Richard Leese means everyone who has an interest in the debate? This is how Manchester does engagement and involvement of its citizenry? And presumably, therefore, the much-vaunted “carbon literacy” is going to be about mitigation rather than adaptation? Good luck with that.
Disclaimer: As you will tell by the tone of this article, we are indeed pretty peeved that we haven’t been invited. Was it something we said? Is that how Ecocities acts – only voices that say what they want to hear will be heard? Is that how it expects to create resilience? Seriously?
Far more important, of course, is the truly grotesque failure of the Council and the Ecocities project to reach out and work with – and teach and learn from – civil society on what will, after all, be the defining issue of the 21st (and 22nd, if we have one) century. In a generation’s time, people will look back on these wasted years with bewilderment and anger.
Oh, and in a beautiful example of just how informative the press release was, it didn’t even mention that that Ecocities have set up a new website www.adaptingmanchester.co.uk.
London-based PR companies eh? Were there no Manchester-based ones in a position to do the job?
Oh, and the twitter tag #adaptingcities? The only people who tweeted were the London-based PR company employees. #fail.