Lindsay Mackie is a consultant at nef. She is leading nef’s post office campaign and works on Clone Town and Ghost Town Britain.
We all loved the snow. Well, mostly. We loved the time off work, the snowball fights between boys and police officers, the artistic and obsessively moulded snowmen, the smiling between strangers.
All of it good. All of it heart warming and affirming. But there was something else which lightened up last week, something less obvious but even more subtantial than enjoying each others company.
People started relying on the local.
They couldn’t do anything else. It was most pronounced in the rural areas but it happened in the towns too. The snow brought with it the mantras of new economics – sharing of skills, time banking, local reliance, small scale acts of collaboration – to make the whole continue to function.
In a village I know the snow economics of localism were measurable. The village shop, put together when the post office closed, and run as a community enterprise, is the fairly new and successful centre of the community. It takes around £10,000 a week (there’s a popular café attached). But on the day the snow started to fall, and no one could get to the supermarkets four and six miles away, the takings shot up to £2,000 a day.
It was fantastic. That was the true value of people’s spending on food and essentials and all the money stayed in the village. People, in spending locally, re-discovered gossip, mutual reliance and environmental sanity.
Now there were no Kenyan green beans to be had, but plenty of local veg, delivered manfully by the woodman in his Jeep. Our week of snow was a trail run of the near future, when peak oil and carbon caps will have limited some of our more exotic choices.
What it showed too was that in time of emergency there had better be the bones of a community structure and the outline of what is recognisably a neighbourhood or locality. This is why nef is so keen on diversity in all things: it is nature’s (and our own) insurance policy.