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Supporting Systemic and Incredible Change

By Sara Venn

Once again as a network of communities across the country, we are horrified and heartbroken to see communities across the UK, including the inspirational Todmorden where the Incredible Edible project was first conceived and brought to life, being decimated by flooding that is effecting businesses, families and individuals who will now struggle for weeks and months to dry out their homes and businesses.

And again we see Todmorden and the wider Calder Valley come together, support each other and reach out to ensure people are supported through the crisis. Town Halls are open, accepting cleaning equipment and food for those who need a hot meal, and there is no doubt that in the worst of circumstances, kindness will be central to the communities response. Social media groups and threads are filled with offers of help and support, people are focused on practicality and being present and without a doubt if you need a hug, there will be one available. Working collectively is not just good for the community but it supports the mental health and well being of everyone in the community. It is, quite literally, kindness in action.

But we know that this is recurrent and an issue the Calder Valley along with others face every year as winter storms arrive. In the last 10 years flooding has been threatened and seen in places most winters and at least 3 times in 8 years it has been seen across the entire Valley as well as in other areas across the country. Whilst flood eleviation programmes are activated and seem to be doing very little to help, there are two issues that seem to be being avoided. The climate emergency definitely is playing it’s part. The floods of the last 10 years are proof in themselves as they increase in regularity along with the increase in global temperatures and in catastrophic weather events.

However what is also often not mentioned is the way that we could manage moorland in order to slow the flow of stormwater from the hillsides down into the towns. Photos have been spread widely online of the hills above the Calder Valley being burnt in order to manage them for grouse shooting. Whilst we understand that this is a very complex issue, with shooting being a part of the local economy, since the floods in 2012 this issue has become one that has been much debated, but these moorlands and correct management of them, ensuring they support not only the local population but also mitigate for both the climate and biodiversity crises, is more vital now than it ever was.

Moorlands are important for a multitude of reasons. Not only are they rich in rare, native flora and fauna, carbon sinks and are considered to be our rainforest equivalent, when they are healthy and moist they hold water, slowing the flow of rainwater down into valleys and allowing the storm drains to better manage flood water. In light of these weather events if we filled our towns and cities with rain gardens that also support slowing the flow, and managed the moorlands and peatlands properly, restoring them to ensure they can hold onto rainwater, we would hope to see less of the horrific flooding that ruins lives and livelihoods.

If land management by farmers and landowners is really going to be subsidised with public funds for public good, we must support not only landowners to grow more trees and support more nature friendly practices, but to also understand the effect of their practices on communities further away from their land that are also affected by their techniques. And we can do that by being food citizens and writing to our local and national politicians to ask for their support in lobbying for change. As food growers we can commit to going peat free and supporting Peat Free April, a campaign focused on stopping peat extraction for compost, but also good peatland management in the light of the climate emergency. You’ll find more about the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And in the meantime we send our love and solidarity to those being affected by flooding and applaud them for showing how connected communities supporting each other shows what system change could really look like, if grassroots organisations were resourced to create the change they want to see.