Could Cornwall lead the way towards a steady, sustainable economy?


We live in a world of finite resources.  Cornwall’s resources are becoming even more finite as we see greenfield sites such as Heamoor and Carbis Bay given up for development.  Cornwall, known for its natural, rugged beauty, is being urbanised.

At the rate at which Cornwall’s land is being developed, people are asking the question, ‘when will it all end’?  But end it will, and for the simple reason there will be no land left to develop. It’s time to say enough must mean enough, not more.

Instead of being what many describe as the end of the UK, the land’s end, Cornwall could be at the forefront of exploring specific strategies to conserve our natural resources, stabilise Cornwall’s population, create jobs with the aims of maximising our long-term well-being instead of short-term profits.

It won’t be easy. People demand choice; a sense of entitlement that demands them having more rather than enough; one house isn’t enough, one car isn’t enough, then one job isn’t enough.  But does having more make people feel happier when having more can bring its own set of worries and concerns?

Those who belive that exponential growth can continue in a rural Cornwall, of finite resources, are either  madmen or developers.


Cornwall is rural,  an agricultural land that is vital to sustain its population.  Yet for many people more is a good idea.  An employee can have more money; business managers, more revenue; politicians, more national income that may effectively attract votes.  But it’s beyond reason for people to work even harder to have more than enough.

Planned housing developments in Cornwall have become almost daily news in the local press.  Developers are given permission to build, not for the actual growing population of Cornwall, but rather on what the population will likely to become and based upon more inward migration.

How can it be ecologically sustainable to build in an area, dependent upon the farming that feeds our people, when we are constantly told ‘we need to build more’.  If the answer is to build on more land, for more housing, for more people, then the question must be asked: what to do when the land is full?

‘But it’s our right to live where we want’ is often the claim and in an earlier age that would have been entirely possible and likely required.  But in today’s Cornwall, were land is vital resource, it is becoming less possible and indeed, undesireable. Surely, these so-called ‘rights’ should rest with the people and children to where they are born?  For them have job security that ensures they have enough, rather than exacerbate the situation by building for more inward migration.  How do we reconcile Cornish people being left with no alternative but to move out, and becoming the problem ‘incommer’ to another area?

A Period of De-growth

For the good of Cornwall’s economy, its footprint must fit within the capacity of the ecosytems that contain it.  But it’s hardly possible with developers building more housing that encourages more inward migration.

To ensure Cornwall can make the transition towards an ecologically sustainable land, a period of de-growth is essential.  To continually build for more when Cornwall retains its reputation as having one of the highest number of rough sleepers is illogical to say the least; surely the exitising population has the right of a house to call  home.  The phrase ‘affordable housing’ has for decades been strapped to new development, but remains largely affordable only to more incommers.

At the first international conference on de-growth held in Paris 2008, a definition of degrowth was provided:

‘We define degrowth as a voluntary transition towards a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society. . . . The objectives of degrowth are to meet basic human needs and ensure a high quality of life, while reducing the ecological impact of the global economy to a sustainable level, equitably distributed between nations. . . . Once right-sizing has been achieved through a process of degrowth, the aim should be to maintain a “steady state economy” with a relatively stable, mildly fluctuating level of consumption.’

Cornwall Council has made much of its case for ‘devolved’ powers and should be at the forefront of devising policies that will enable Cornwall’s economic and ecological sustainability, rather than the continued, unsustainable development area that Cornwall has become – before it’s too late.

One thought on “Could Cornwall lead the way towards a steady, sustainable economy?

  1. The answer to the question is yes, but first we would have to break free from London’s chains. Throughout millenia of history, when Cornwall ran itself and looked to the west for its living, it prospered. Every time that we have been administered and dictated to from the east, we have languished at the bottom of the economic depths. History has a very clear message there. Today, we can look a lot further than the Atlantic Arc, from SW Spain to Ireland and the Hebrides, of the past. The world can, quite literally, be our oyster again.

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