Transition Stroud

This is a shared history blog. Together we can write the history of our process of transition as it happens.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Coffee-house buzz

With Easter bonnets safely stored until next year, the coffee-house discussion this month focused on the wonderful world of bees. Although it was advertised as looking at the problem with bees in fact it was a couple of hours of delight in this humble insect we have all taken for granted. Many of us, as one new enthusiast put it, just fell in love with bees. (There was also some nostalgia for the wasps which used to ruin our childhood picnics.)

We've all learned that bees are important because we need them to pollinate our crops but most of us were surprised to hear that there are 255 other species of bee in the UK other than the honey-bee - and 25,000 species worldwide. The bee is suffering - colony collapse and rampant spread of mite-borne and fungal disease are threatening its survival.

The speakers included Tom, who keeps bees and is involved with the Stroud Beekeepers' Association, Sheila, who teaches about bees at Hartpury College, and Carlo of the World Bee Project which is - you've guessed - based in Stroud. I hope the pictures give an idea of the intense and passionate debate that our small, furry, stripey friends brought to Star Anise last night.

The cause of the bee crisis results from the same movement to intensive farming with heavy pesticide use and the pressure to exploit every scrap of land that has caused so many of our environmental problems. Part of the solution may be offered by the Red Mason bee (seen here) which is an excellent pollinator and could play the role of the honey bee in agriculture - but not produce any honey.

Life for bees in Gloucestershire seemed fairly rosy. The Beekeepers' organise training at their exemplary apiary and farming practices have improved in recent years, with more hedgerows and areas of uncultivated land where bees can breed. If you want to help the bees you can become a bee guardian and put a bee house in your garden. You could also join Gloucestershire Orchard Group in revitalising dwindling orchards, which provide useful early feeding grounds.

Next month's coffee-house is about why you should bother to vote - if you feel strongly about this either way make sure to be there. It will, as usual, be the fourth Friday in the month at Star Anise cafe.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Teasles or Old Spots?

I'm feeling rather annoyed with myself since I suggested both these names and then split my vote for an interesting and creative symbol of Stroud's economic heritage as the name of our new currency! I'm surprised by how well teasles did - it suggests that the knowledge of Stroud's textile heritage is both widespread and valued. (For those who don't know the role of the industrial teasle, it was used to raise the nap on felted woollen material to make it soft and lovely.)

On a harsher note we have received word from Co-operative Futures in Gloucester that the Financial Services Authority suspect us of setting up a bank. Now that would never do - especially as none of us has a pinstripe suit or bowler hat. Not to mention a licence to print money. The FSA has achieved notoriety in the past year by harrying credit unions and other people's banks while allowing the city institutions to make reckless investments and bankrupt the country.

We need a legal framework because we will be taking in large sums of money. We have chosen to become a co-operative but Co-operatives-UK legal department are concerned about whether we fit within the FSA's definiton of a bank or not. I'm fairly optimistic that we won't, since we don't want to create money against debt, which is how a bank is defined for their purposes.

We are also taking advice from local currency founders in Totnes and Lewes. Others with expertise that might be useful - financial or accounting especially - would be very welcome to join the working group and the co-op.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Local Currency

So we are one step nearer to a local currency.

After a vote organised by Stroud Life there was a tie between the names Teasels and Stroud Pounds. At the training evening we decided to call the currency Stroud Pounds and have a picture of a teasel on it. We'll see what the final decision is nearer the launch.

The training evening was very lively with members going into groups and role playing business people, charities, bankers and local members trying to get the businesses to join up. We had John Rhodes in our group and it was hard to resist his arguments.

It was good to have Graham from Transport 21 showing his support for the scheme and thinking about ways his organisation could get involved.
One interesting question was raised - what do we think about businesses we don't approve of joining? After some discussion we decided that we would let them join because the ones we thought of probably wouldn't want to anyway as they were not local businesses and we need all the support we can get.
Maggie Mills once again let us use her wonderful cafe and an excellent evening was had by all.

I hope you are all putting your money aside ready to join the scheme in summer.