www.transitionfreepress.org | Issue No. 6 | Autumn 2014
reporting on the Transition to a low carbon, relocalised, fairer society news Future of farming? Power of community Page 4
people Danielle Paffard Activism uncut
food Hackney Kitchen Just cooking Page 18
physical The bike train All aboard!
In its 2013 Unburnable Carbon fossil fuel companies, making it the report the Carbon Tracker Initiative first health organisation in the world calculated that between 60% and 80% to do so. “If the health community of coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly took their money out of the fossil fuel listed companies are unburnable if the industry it would send a really imporworld is to have a chance of keeping tant message to both politicians and global warming below 2°C. This could the public,” says Christopher Venables result in ‘stranded assets’ as regula- of health professionals’ organisation tion forces companies to leave fossil MedAct. Brighthelm Church and Community fuels underground. The UK still gets Centre in Brighton was the first Church 86% of its energy from fossil fuels. in the UK to divest, removing their investments from Shell. “We want to “Take your money support and invest in a better world; out of the dinosaurs that’s what we’re here for,” explains Brighthelm’ s minister Alex Mabbs. “It and into the future” wasn’t a difficult decision.” Following on from the World Universities have seen some of the Council of Churches’ divestment decimost sustained activism against fossil sion, a Church of England internal fuels. In May 2014, the UK’s National committee, set up to look at climate Union of Students passed a motion change and investment, is expected committing to divest. to report next year. Stanford University has joined Local authorities are also coming 11 other US colleges and announced under pressure. Al Chisholm of Fossil that its $18.7 bn endowment would no Free Oxfordshire says the county longer make investments in publicly council has £42m invested directly in traded companies whose primary Okrika, Nigeria: from Curse of the Black Gold, a book documenting the cost of oil exploration in the region fossil fuel companies through its penbusiness is coal mining. sion fund. “For many years I felt hopeFor many socially-minded institutions, investing in tobacco or arms companies would be taboo. “When I was first learning about less and scared about climate change,” As the impacts of climate change become ever clearer, the funding of fossil fuels also looks global warming I thought that by the ethically indefensible – and less and less financially viable, as Amy Hall reports time I was graduating from college says Chisholm, “but then I came the problem would have been taken across the idea of divestment. I think When the World Council of Churches, start to politically bankrupt them,” The anti-fossil fuels movement care of already,” says Stanford student it could really be a game changer.” From 19th until 21st September, representing over half a billion says high profile environmentalist has become the fastest grow- Yari Greaney. She remains optimistic divestment campaigners in the UK Christians, announced in July that it was Bill McKibben. In 2012, the campaign ing divestment campaign ever, however. “This is the movement that will up the pressure in a weekend removing its investments from fossil group he leads, 350.org, kickstarted according to a recent University will be remembered as the one that of action, part of the global People’s fuel companies, it sent a shockwave Fossil Free, inspired by movements of Oxford study, one which poses helped put an end to the fossil fuel Climate mobilisation to coincide with around the world of business as usual. like the campaign against apartheid a “far-reaching threat to fossil fuel industry,” she says. the New York climate summit. The British Medical Association “We can’t bankrupt these compa- in South Africa, which also used the companies and the vast energy voted in June to end its investment in nies – they’re too rich – but we can divestment tactic. value chain”. continued on 5 Photo: © Ed Kashi / VII
Tide turns on fossil fuels
The result of the referendum will go to the wire, but the Yes campaign has already changed the nature of Scottish democracy, says Justin Kenrick A year before the referendum on move away from a Westminster whether Scotland should be an inde- system that seems only to benefit pendent country, the average lead the rich. Shafi writes: “If Britain was for No was 22%. By mid-July 2014 the not carrying out the austerity that’s No lead had halved. Why was there leading to a long-term socio-ecosuch a swing away from support for nomic crisis, there simply wouldn’t the status quo, and what might it be the same thirst for independence mean for politics? as there is now.” People like Jonathan Shafi of the Some argue that Scotland has Radical Independence Campaign always been distinct from England. think Scots are seeing a chance to The respected commentator Iain
Macwhirter says “Our political cultures are worlds apart”. Others, like Adam Ramsay, Co-Editor of openDemocracy’s OurKingdom website, point out that in the context of other social democracies in Europe, “Scotland isn’t different, it’s Britain that’s bizarre.” The conclusion that Scottish voters appear to be reaching is that if you can’t effect change within the
Bella Caledonia ran a competition asking entrants to design a poster that “inspires a nation”
NEWS 2–4 RECONOMY 7 ENERGY 8 PEOPLE 12 ARTS 16 FOOD 18–19 HEALTH 20 PRACTICAL 22 SPORT 24
Designed by Ciaran Murphy
The dawn of a new Scotland
system, then you have got to change the system. The two year referendum process has seen an extraordinary resurgence of democracy as people engage in intense and energetic debate on how to make a fairer, healthier, more caring society in town hall discussions the length and breadth of the country, which are amplified in online forums. There are also many ‘working groups’ that people join to follow their passion, including the Common Weal project, which is designing a social democratic system for a society that “puts all of continued on 2
Welcome 2 News 3–4 Divestment 5 Housing 6 REconomy 7 Energy 8 Open Source 9 Education 10 Transition On the Road 11 People 12 Books 13 Talkback 14–15 Arts 16 Community 17 Food 18–19 Health 20 Workshop 21 Practical 22 Physical 23 Sport 24
There is a story that has sustained us through these changing times: it’s known as The Butterfly Shift and is based on the biological transformation that happens when a caterpillar turns into an imago. At first the immune system of the caterpillar defeats the ‘imaginal cells’ of the new form. Then the cells re-emerge, but this time hold fast by joining forces. The caterpillar is the dominant narrative of Industrial Progress, chomping its way through the planet’s ecosystems, and the governments and corporations who follow the ideology of ‘free market fundamentalism’. “Our economic model is at war with life on Earth,” as Naomi Klein says in her new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. It’s also at war with every emerging butterfly that stands in its way. One of the inspirations for Transition Free Press was The Occupied Times and the conversations that many Transition groups were having with local Occupy camps in 2011. The media we wanted to create would cohere the ideas and actions of many different grassroots enterprises under one colourful wing. So true to its original blueprint, our autumn edition focuses on the people and communities everywhere
who are resisting the assaults of the global caterpillar and at the same time making steps to transform our culture into something completely new. Because, as Klein clearly states: “Climate change isn’t just a disaster – it’s also our best chance to demand and build a better world”. In 2012 Occupy tents were torn down, Transition Initiatives ‘burned out’. We realised that raising awareness and planting radishes in our windowboxes was not enough. We had to start up collective projects in the real world. We had to change the story and use words as they were originally meant to be used: as a medium for connection between us; a reminder of what being human really means. That, as storytellers and change-makers, we need to keep the door open in a time of cultural lockdown.
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This C hanges Everything by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane) will be published on 16th September; gathering beetroot at Leigh Court Farm, Bristol, from the documentary Voices of Transition (see p 19)
activism. We are also showing how the humble acts of fermenting cabbage and saving seeds are also radical acts of liberation, why in the face of increased corporate control we are out digging fields, brewing beer, helping our neighbour, telling our own story, doing art in whatever “We need to keep the place we find ourselves: Because Transition is not just in door open in a time what we do but how we do it. The of cultural lockdown” caterpillar mindset is cold, unkind, and solitary. The future of the butIn this sixth issue you can find our terfly is warm, open, spontaneous. signature mix of the practical, politi- It works together with its fellows cal and the philosophical. In line with and is at home on the Earth. When a renewed push towards climate activist Danielle Paffard describes action this autumn, we’re focusing taking part in the Viking protest at on fossil fuel divestment and climate the British Museum, you can’t help
noticing these ensemble acts embody a certain intrinsic spirit: they're witty and colourful and alive, and when they take place everything else feels gloomy and somehow out of date. “One of the most amazing things was this song which everyone was invited to sing. It was a way for people to engage, but it was also really beautiful. It wasn't what people expected of a protest. That song changed the dynamic of everything.” Because it’s not just about listening, it’s also about singing. When you do, you’ll find you are not on your own. We are all out there. Charlotte Du Cannon behalf of the Transition Free Press collective
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Editor Charlotte Du Cann Managing Editor Alexis Rowell News & Sport Amy Hall News & Sport Subeditors Nick Tigg, Alexis Rowell Energy Gareth Simkins Education Michaela Woollatt Food and Drink Tess Riley, Eva Schonveld Design Chris Wells Proofreaders Marion McCartney, Sheila Rowell, Nick Tigg, Dee Hall Distribution Mark Watson Subscriptions Mike Grenville Contributors Sophie Antonelli, Joseph Blake, Duncan Blinkhorn, Tara Clarke, Tristan Copley-Smith, Richard Couldrey, Tom Crompton, Warren Draper, James Frost, Thea GordonRawlings, Robert Holtom, Rob Hopkins, Nick Hunt, Caroline Jackson, Vivienne Johnstone, Justin Kenrick, Patricia Knox, James Murray-White, Lucy Neal, Marina O’Connell, Alison Parfitt, Lucy Purdy, Kate Rawles, Luigi Russi, Rachel Savage, Heather Thomson, Mark Williams, Nicole Vosper, Fiona Ward
Photo: Milpa Films
The dawn of a new Scotland
Grow Heathrow lives on... for now
Photo: Jonathan Goldberg, under a CC BY 2.0 License
Preparing for an art exhibition at Grow Heathrow in 2012
Grow Heathrow, the squatted community space which has opposed Heathrow Airport's proposed third runway for four years, resisted the threat of eviction on Friday 15th August. However, at the time of going to press, the threat of bailiffs remained. Resident Ian West, says there was a strong show of solidarity, including from the local community of Sipson adding, “If we didn't have any support in the village then there would be no reason for us to continue.” Transition Heathrow, which in 2010 cleared 30 tonnes of rubbish from the previously abandoned site, want to buy the site through a Community Land Trust but say the owner has refused to discuss it with them. Find out more about Grow Heathrow, and how to visit, at www.transitionheathrow.com
us first”, welcomes immigrants and persists with free education and health care. The Radical Independence Campaign has been going door to door in the poorest parts of the country, encouraging those who have lost hope to register to vote. Opinion polls show that the rich are voting No, while those suffering under austerity are more likely to place their hopes in an alternative future.
“There has been an extraordinary resurgence of democracy” Robin McAlpine of the radical political thinktank the Jimmy Reid Foundation points out that though the No side is fond of claiming that pursuing a social democratic path like Norway’s means paying far higher tax, they do not point out that Norway’s higher taxes are used to create a high wage economy which means that even after higher tax and higher prices, the average Norwegian is still roughly 43% better off than the average UK resident, while enjoying far higher social provision, and living in a much more equal society.
All but one of the 37 newspapers read in Scotland are against independence, many vociferously so. This is where the No campaign’s ‘air war’ takes hold, making far more media noise than the Yes campaigners’ engagement on the ground. Radio and television, especially the BBC, take their cue from the newspapers, amplifying their anti-independence stories. With media projects like Newsnet Scotland’s citizen reporting and Wings over Scotland’s sharp exposures of media deception, with National Collective and Bella Caledonia’s online space to contribute to imagining a better society, and writers like Wee Ginger Dug bringing intense and poignant humour, whichever way the referendum goes something has changed in Scotland. The real challenge now is how the transformation can spread to England and Wales. Even if we become autonomous countries, we can be better together by declaring ourselves independent of a paralysing status quo. Justin Kenrickis a founder member of PEDAL, Edinburgh Portobello’s Transition Town Initiative, and works supporting forest peoples in Africa to retain or regain self-determination.
First Nations regain control of their land in historic legal victory
Thefourth annual Athabasca Healing Walk in 2013. Over 500 people walked and prayed for the land, the people, and a more just future. The fifth and final Healing Walk was in 2104
Photo: Ben Powless, www.f lickr.com/photos/powless
A Canadian court ruling has given new hope to indigenous groups battling to stop fossil fuel exploitation, writes Heather Thomson
Approximately one-third of Fossil fuels are big business have experienced contaminated Canada’s First Nations people live in Canada. Although most of the water supplies and high levels of in British Columbia, but the prov- industry is based around the large disease. ince has fewer treaties agreeing oil and gas deposits in Alberta and The recent Northern Gateway Other First Nation groups in land rights than any other part the Northwest Territories, British court victory has given communities First Nation groups in Canada have won a landmark court ruling that British Columbia are now seeking of the country. As a result, First Columbia on the west coast is now new hope for the future. “It means will stop a proposed gas pipeline their own declaration of aboriginal Nations communities are having starting to enter the trade, eyeing projects for that land will have to from running through their ances- title over areas travelled by the pipe- to fight for land they claim as tra- the huge Asian market on its be put aside and get First Nations tral land. On 26th June, after a long line, and challenging the federal gov- ditional territory. doorstep. approval,” explains Sterritt. “In the legal battle, the Supreme Court of ernment’s approval of the project. But not everyone in Canada is past, it has been seen as not necesArt Sterritt is the executive direc- “Enbridge seems to think enthusiastic about a fossil fuel future, sary to deal with First Nations – eight Canada unanimously granted the tor of Coastal First Nations, a coaliTsilhqot’in First Nation declaraFirst Nations communities have people just said that is no longer the they have the right to and tion of nine communities in British tion of aboriginal title – an inherent been at the forefront of protests, case.” right to the land – for more than Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. He First Nations’ land” with the Idle No More movement But he added that whether 1,700 square kilometres of British believes Enbridge is taking a gamble keeping threats to natural resources or not projects like the Northern on land which is relied on for food During the joint review panel into the and treaty rights in international Gateway went ahead could still Columbia. and livelihoods. The judgment has effectively pipeline proposal in February 2012, headlines. depend on the federal govern“Enbridge seems to think they Lee Brain, co-founder of Transition halted energy company Enbridge’s In June around 700 people ment’s response to the ruling. Northern Gateway project, which have the right to First Nations’ land,” Prince Rupert, voiced his fears that joined the annual Healing Walk, would see the construction of two Sterritt says. “They are dealing with the Northern Gateway project could through tar sands developments, pipelines from Bruderheim, Alberta, a toxic substance that could wipe out irreversibly harm his community: from Fort McMurray in Alberta. Heather Thomsonis a freelance to Kitimat, British Columbia: one all that we stand for and haven’t lis- “We need to use all of the resources we They offered healing prayers to the journalist and editor on Vancouver transporting oil from the tar sands, tened to our concerns about how they have left wisely, to create a whole new landscape and strengthened alli- Island, British Columbia. She blogs and the other natural gas condensate. could make [the pipeline] safer.” system of operation,” he said. ances between communities who at headyshunches.blogspot.ca
Questions over ‘secret’ trade talks
Photo: SumOfUs, under a CC BY 2.0 License
it will mean that any Clinical says. “The choices we are making Joseph Blake i s a freelance Commissioning Group anywhere in Balcombe are the same choices journalist, co-founder of Transition in England could be challenged – Britain faces as a nation – and Heathrow and campaigner with sued – by a US private healthcare if we could choose for ourselves Plane Stupid, People’s Parliament, company,” warns Andy Burnham, instead of our government forc- SQUASH (Squatters Action For Labour’s shadow Health Secretary. ing decisions on us, we would Secure Homes) & Edge Fund. Joseph Blake explains the controversy behind a EU-US deal Food standards could also choose renewables.” called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be lowered. For example, in the Four-year-old Una and other campaigners handing in a 500,000 name petition to the (TTIP) which is currently being negotiated in Brussels US, 90% of chicken carcasses are Canadian government against another trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership washed with chlorine to get rid “TTIP is part of a massive trade of the bacteria and 68% of food The T TIP aims to create the offensive that’s going to hand over on the shelves contains GM. Such largest free trade zone in the massive amounts of power to cor- processes are banned across most world. But there are fears that porations to rule over our society,” of Europe but under the TTIP this an investor-state dispute settlesays Nick Dearden, director of the might no longer be the case and a ment (ISDS) mechanism within World Development Movement. whole range of regulation on food, the agreement would give corpo“It’s the worst corporate offensive the environment, cosmetics and rations the power to sue governwe’ve seen for 20 years.” labour rights could disappear. ments through secret courts, if It could become harder for legislation is implemented which countries to refuse developments, negatively impacts profits. “A whole range of such as fracking, on environ“Through this provision, [corporegulation on food, the mental grounds. There are also rations’] legal status is effectively fears that the EU’s Fuel Quality made equivalent to that of the environment and labour Directive could be undermined to nation state itself – making states rights could disappear” make it easier to export oil from accountable to corporations,” says Adam Parsons of the Share the Over 120 European NGOs and the Canadian tar sands to Europe. Joe Nixon is from REPOWERWorld’s Resources group. charitable organisations oppose Balcombe, a project attempting ISDS rules are already being TTIP (also called the Transatlantic to generate all power needs of the used elsewhere: under provi- Free Trade Agreement in the US). community of Balcombe in Sussex sions in the the Central American A European Commission public from clean, renewable sources folFree Trade Agreement (CAFTA), consultation on the ISDS proCa n a d i a n m i n i n g comp a ny visions received over 100,000 lowing fracking protests in the Pacif ic Rim has f iled a $300m submissions. area last summer. “This is just lawsuit against El Salvador over The National Health Service another example of governments a moratorium on metal mining is a big focus of the anti-TTIP trying to force us to use forms of because of water contamination. campaign. “If this goes through energy that people don’t want,” he
Hard at work on the Cambridge CropShare CSA, run by Transition Cambridge and Waterland Organics
Is this the future of farming? Eva Schonveld on the latest leap forward for communitysupported agriculture in the UK Joanne Mudhar works The Oak Tree low carbon farm near Ipswich. Five years ago, she spent her life savings of £103,000 on the 12 acre site. Then, armed only with some hand tools, a small two-wheeled rotavator and a lot of determination, she set out to see whether it was possible to grow food without producing carbon. Six months later she had lost a stone in weight, was completely exhausted, and was not making any money. But at a meeting of her local Transition food group, a friend suggested setting up a community supported agriculture (CSA) scheme and before long, 24 people had signed up to make regular payments towards a weekly veg box. This was the turning point: “You get to know people and get the help you desperately need – and a guaranteed income,” explains Mudhar. The farm now feeds 54 local households, all of whom are involved in its day to day running.
“The price of oil could quadruple and our food wouldn’t cost more”
Sheffield; and FoodSmiles, a project started by Transition St Albans. The CSA Network UK, which is owned and run by the schemes, works to connect, support and expand the grassroots movement. It grew out of the Soil Association in 2013 and is now planning to expand – a crowd-funding campaign this summer raised over £7,000. The Network wants to launch a website which will map CSAs so people can connect with a local one, and is also planning an online community of support, including a range of materials to help new schemes set up. Rachel Harries co-ordinates the network which also wants to run regional and national events to connect growers face to face. She says that while CSAs differ in the models they use, they are all about sharing the risks and rewards of farming. “Members get a share of the harvest: if it’s a bad year they get less and if it’s better than usual, they get more,” she says. “Groups who join with an existing farmer have been particularly successful. The community can learn from the farmer, and the farmer can have support and a secure income.” Farms like The Oak Tree are showing how food production can be really resilient. “The price of oil could quadruple and our food wouldn’t cost more.” says Mudhar. Connected by the Network, farm by farm, community by community, CSAs are proving there’s a win-win way to grow truly local, resilient, sustainable food.
In the UK, conventional agriculture is responsible for up to 30% of our total greenhouse gas emissions; it uses 30,000 tonnes of pesticides and herbicides annually, over 95% of which reach destinations other than their intended target, and since 1970 agricultural employment has more than halved. These could be some of the reasons why the popularity of CSAs – partnerships between farmers and the local community – has been Find out more at increasing over the last five years. www.soilassociation.org/ There are now over 100 schemes communitysupportedagriculture across the country, many set up by Transition Initiatives. These include Eva Schonveldis a member Norwich FarmShare, a partnership of PEDAL Transition group in between Transition Norwich and Edinburgh, co-ordinator of The East Anglia Food Link; Hazelhurst Fife Diet and Co-Food Editor CSA which came out of Transition of Transition Free Press.
Activists tackle power issues within the climate movement If climate change campaigners are to gain greater traction, there needs to be a broader, more representative support base, writes Michaela Woollatt On 23rd September, government leaders’ to meet and forge the leaders from all over the world beginnings of an international will meet in New York for a UN community. As a result, there are summit on climate change. Two now National Power Shift groups days before they arrive in the city or similar summits around the – and to help focus their minds on world. In the UK, the group has the task in hand – a giant rally will focused on providing a plattake place, the People’s Climate form to strengthen connections March, expected to attract thou- between those in the climate sands, with parallel events across change movement from all sociothe globe, including London. This economic and ethnic backgrounds. will be followed in 2015 by the 21st John Bell of Power Shift UK, UN Climate Change Conference in also a member of Transition Town Paris, which needs to agree tough Berkhamsted, explains: “It’s all difuniversal regulations on vital envi- ferent facets of the same problem – ronmental issues. climate change. We can all do more With critical events like these as part of a bigger movement.” ahead, as well as a surge of activism Power Shift’s national conferaround issues like fracking, climate ence in London in May was titled campaigners have been working ‘Breaking Down the Barriers and to get a wider range of the public Diversifying the Climate Movement’, on board as active supporters and and addressed some of the ways to make sure the movement better people relate to the environmental ref lects society in terms of class, movement. ability and ethnicity. Suzanne Dhaliwal, co-founder of Global Power Shift, started by the UK Tar Sands Network, co-led a campaign group 350.org, is one of workshop that used a circle placed the networks trying to make this on a piece of black cloth to reprehappen by bringing together envi- sent society’s centre of power and ronmental activists from all over explored how people placed themthe world. In 2013, Global Power selves in relation to that centre, and Shift’s conference in Turkey gath- also how that could change in difered 600 specially chosen ‘climate ferent contexts.
“Often there’s a moment [in the workshop] when some people realise they don’t actually hang out with people farther from the centre of power than themselves,” explained Dhaliwal. The workshops also looked at the relationship between power and change. “If you think change comes from the centre and not from the community, then you’re not invested in the people who are meant to be empowered,” says Dhaliwal. “Where is their role in this?” Orion Kriegman is from Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition (JP NET), a Transition Initiative with over 2,000 members in Boston. Kriegman explains that JP NET’s annual ‘State of Our Neighbourhood’ event tries to bring together disparate elements of the climate movement: “People do not all see eye to eye, but those who find affinity for action can choose to keep meeting and often do.” Michaela Woollattis Education Editor for Transition Free Press. She is in the final year of a BSc in Environmental Science and is an active member of Transition Nayland.
Celebrations on the final day of the June 2013 Global Power Shift in Istanbul, Turkey
Photo: Shadia Fayne Wood/350.org, under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 License
Photo: Cambridge CropShare
Vikings invade the British Museum to protest their sponsorship agreement with BP
Activist groups like Platform London, Shell Out Sounds and Liberate Tate have banded together to form the Art Not Oil Coalition. Tara Clarke outlines their call for cultural organisations to reject funding from fossil fuel companies To mark the publication of Platform had long been hoping for, where London’s recent report, Picture This – Shell no longer gains respectability A Portrait of 25 Years of BP Sponsorship, by nestling its name next to con25 performers smeared oil on their certs with some of the world’s best faces and stood as exhibits around musicians,” says Chris Garrard the National Portrait Gallery to rep- from the group. “Music and art are resent 25 environmental catastro- incredibly powerful tools for chalphes associated with the company lenging greenwash and the fossil since the BP Portrait Award began fuel industry.” in 1989. These creative activist groups, “How bad does a company have along with others such as Liberate to be before an arts organisation Tate and the UK Tar Sands Network, refuses to be associated with it or are part of the Art Not Oil Coalition take its money?” Platform London’s who have been mobilising against June publication asked as it detailed oil company sponsorship of culBP’s relationship with the National tural institutions since 2004. One of Portrait Award. “The association the most recent members, Science with BP is deeply problematic and Unstained, has been highlighting unethical, and in effect endorses the fact that Shell have sponsored climate change,” says Jane Trowell the Science Museum’s permanent from the arts activist group. climate change exhibition since 2010. The Art Not Oil Coalition argues that public museums are acting “Shell no longer gains as a public relations vehicle for oil respectability by companies. According to research by Platform London, fossil fuel nestling its name sponsorship constitutes a minimal next to concerts” proportion of cultural institutions’ The discontent around the Portrait total budgets, compared to the Award is part of a wider movement social value companies such as BP to delegitimise the fossil fuel indus- and Shell extract from having their try. In June, 200 ‘Vikings’ from the logo associated with Britain’s top performance group BP or not BP? artists and performers. In the case invaded London’s British Museum of the National Portrait Gallery, BP’s to protest at BP’s sponsorship of an sponsorship money represents 2.9% exhibition about the Scandinavian of the Gallery’s total income – for the warriors. BP or not BP? are also tar- British Museum it is under 1%. geting the oil giant’s relationship The National Portrait Gallery, with the Tate galleries and the Royal British Museum, Tate Britain and Shakespeare Company. the Royal Opera House have a five Radical choir Shell Out Sounds, year sponsorship deal with BP, which who’ve conducted numerous choral is due for renewal in 2016. The stage ‘flashmobs’ during concert intervals seems set for more artistic activism. at the Southbank Centre, have been celebrating the venue’s announce- Tara Clarkeis a climate change ment that its sponsorship relation- activist and member of Science ship with Shell is to end. Unstained. She is Programme “It’s clear that our actions, as Delivery Officer at Science Oxford part of a long-running campaign, and is studying for an MA in Science had created the ethical shift we Communication at Imperial College.
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University students have been trailblazers in the divestment movement, reports, Thea Gordon-Rawlings
Tide turns on fossil fuels
UK universities have more than £5 In July, the London’s School of billion invested in the fossil fuel Oriental and African Studies agreed industry, according to People & a temporary freeze on new fossil Planet, the student environmental fuel investments and said it would group coordinating a divestment explore “full divestment” by the end campaign on campuses. of the year. “There are massive vested interFollowing pressure from stuests that need to be taken on,” says dents, a working group at the Andrew Taylor of People & Planet, University of Glasgow recomhighlighting the campaign’s aims mended a freeze on new investto challenge the power of the fossil ments in the fossil fuels industry, fuel industry, as well as the direct a withdrawal of all existing investlinks to higher education that ments and re-investment in green companies like BP and Shell have technologies and industries. through their funding for research. “That’s exactly what we wanted,” says Miriam Wilson, one of “Fossil Free could Glasgow’s Fossil Free campaigners. Divesting sends a powerful public help spur the energy message about the clear and pretransition we so sent danger posed by continued reliance on fossil fuels, while also greatly need” signalling to current fossil fuel investors that the longer-term odds I attended the final show of the are moving against them. 2013 Fossil Free Europe Tour, Brett Scott, author of The which feat ured some of t he Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance, world’s most prominent green believes that divestment moveactivists. I was struck by the ments are a vital means to overturn number of young people taking part, making it clear that they the mainstream belief that unsusdid not want to study at institu- tainable investment is rational and tions investing in, or receiving acceptable. research f unding from, high “It’s crucial that we challenge the risk and unethical corporations. technocratic discourse of the finan“Fossil Free represents a great cial sector, which insists that investway of taking direct action on ment is not political or cultural,” he climate change that has mean- says. ing,” argues Pekka Piirainen, a student at Universit y College Thea Gordon-Rawlings London. “With enough momen- is a postgraduate student at tum it could help spur the energy University College London’s transition we so greatly need,” he Development Planning Unit and adds. a member of Transition Ealing.
Divest-Invest is a coalition of 17 philanthropic foundations who have agreed to pull out of fossil fuels, but who also work with those who are willing to move their money. “We have this invest message which is take your money out of the old economy into the new economy – out of the dinosaurs and into the future,” explains Chuck Collins from the campaign. “We’re really promoting innovative investment in local communities. It’s about putting your money where your heart is.” Local renewable energy projects are starting to attract significant investment sums. Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE), which was started by Transition groups from Bath and Corsham, have raised more than £2.5m from community share launches, including from people moving their self-invested pensions into the social enterprise. Surplus funds from projects like this are often reinvested into the community, according to BWCE Chair, Pete Capener. “We are giving people an opportunity to put their money into projects that they can see, run by people they can contact,” he stresses. “That’s very different from the experience offered by traditional investments, particularly in the energy sector.” “The choices that we make actually create the kind of economy that we want to see happening around us,” says Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Network. “As communities we can divest every day.”
Thousands of students, staff and alumni of Oxford University have called for fossil fuel divestment
Photo: Paavan Buddhdev
Washing oil off creative hands
Photo: Anna Branthwaite/LNP
Fossil free studies
AEOB says that this street of houses and old shops was converted into offices internally but has been left empty
Community funds plan to convert offices into homes Housing is increasingly being turned into office space – Rachel Savage looks at a pioneering scheme that’s reversing the trend A Bristol housing co-operative has attracted almost £200,000-worth of community investment for a scheme to buy vacant commercial properties and land in the city centre and convert them into affordable homes. There are 14,000 people currently on the waiting list for housing in Bristol, and the story is similar right across the country: the average earner in England would need to more than double their annual salary just to keep up with house prices, according to housing charity Shelter. In 2013, there were 1.7m people on the waiting list for a house in the UK – an increase of 65% since 1997.
“Many people simply don’t earn enough to buy or rent a decent place to live. There’s clearly an urgent need,” says Tony Crofts, director of the Abolish Empty Office Buildings (AEOB) scheme. He and half-a-dozen like-minded people formed the group after they met at a city centre event that brought together rich investors and people who had little or nothing. The scheme also wants to redress the loss of council homes sold off in the 1980s and 1990s under the Right to Buy scheme and never replaced. “There are over two million square feet of unlet offices in Bristol,” explains
Crofts. “Not just office blocks with ‘To Let’ signs, but whole streets of former terraced homes that were converted into offices by people in search of high rents – and that now stand empty.” Empty commercial properties are an issue in many places across the UK as many businesses opt for modern buildings, on cheaper land away from city centres. The government has also recognised the problem and has amended planning rights to make it easier to convert buildings to residential use. In Paris, where around 6% to 7% of office space is unused, a penalty
Home sweet co-home Amy Hall takes a look at the highs and lows of cohousing: low impact communal living with your own front door Some of the more established The spiralling cost of buying a Architect Matthew Johnston, cohousing communities live in older a senior designer at Zaha Hadid home and the search for a more properties, such as Thundercliffe Architects, has a long-standing community-focused way of life Grange, an 18th century mansion persona l interest in cohou sis inspiring some people to club house in South Yorkshire, which has ing and intentional communitogether and form ‘cohousing’ combeen going for over 30 years. Recently, ties. He believes that living in munities, sharing the costs but also though, new-builds have become a close, mixed age group comthe joys and challenges of everyday more popular as they allow greater munity can be an advantage for life. many things, such as raising control over the design of housing. “There’s a lot of things children. “You’re encouraged to Springhill in Stroud was the first use the same space and interact community in the UK to try this that if you were with each other – it encourages approach, in 2003. a lot of trust in your neighbourrenting or buying hoods,” he explains. you wouldn’t get” The Lilac project in Leeds, which stands for ‘Low Impact These schemes create self-conLiving, Affordable, Community’, tained housing, providing a ceris the f irst mutual ownership tain amount of necessary privacy, cohousing community in the UK. but often there are also communal Residents become members of the food-growing areas and shared Mutual Home Ownership Society spaces for meals. Living areas are which owns the land and the usually laid out in a way which houses. Residents have a lease and encourages social interaction, and many projects have a specific envi- make monthly payments which are 35% of their income. The mortronmental focus. gage is divided into equity shares Most groups own their site, owned by members and financed often as a co-operative or company, by the regular payments. while some communities, such as Resident Jenny March says she the Threshold Centre in Dorset, enjoys the sharing element built into join with a local housing associathe community. “We’ve got commution to offer some homes for rent. nal gardens and a common house; There are around 40 cohousing prothere’ s a lot of things that if you were jects in different stages of developrenting or buying you wouldn’t get.” ment across the UK.
has been introduced for leaving office space unrented. This amounts to 20% of the property’s rental value in the first year rising to 40% in the third year. “We’re going to buy empty sites and unlet office buildings and reconvert them into community-owned, permanently affordable homes to be let on secure long-term agreements so people have somewhere decent to bring up their families,” explains Crofts.
in a terraced house with her daughter. “I’m very familiar with living at the bottom end of being able to pay rent and seeing the prices of places rocket and rocket just because landlords can charge what they want,” she says. For people like Kershaw the new homes cannot come soon enough. “My current house is adequate in terms of space but it’s uninsulated and impossible to keep warm in the winter. We have damp and mould problems. But “There are over two when I discuss it with the landlord he just says ‘put the heating on all the time, million square feet of that’ s just how it is’. unlet offices in Bristol” “But that’s not viable for people who are struggling to meet their rent in “We expect to pay a 3% dividend, so the first place. Affordability goes way it’s actually better interest than put- beyond the baseline rent.” ting your money into a bank.” AEOB’s pioneering approach is a AEOB is also looking to buy small model that could work throughout the pieces of land that Bristol City Council UK to help tackle our chronic housing is keen to release to the affordable shortage. housing market. Each plot will take three or four prefabricated, timber- To invest in AEOB or find out framed houses that are highly energy more, visit efficient and take around six months www.aeobhousepeople.org.uk to build. Letting the properties should not be Rachel Savageis a freelance a problem. AEOB has an active group of writer and Bristol expat who lives in prospective residents already 20 strong. Gloucestershire with her husband and One of these is Elinor Kershaw, also a their two sons. She is also the founder director of AEOB, who currently lives member of Transition Cam & Dursley. Meanwhile cohousing Cardiff believe they may have found an alternative which is easier to get off the ground: ‘retrofit cohousing’. The group first got together five years ago but had to abandon their plans for a new-build community when the costs, time and energy involved proved too much. Now, they’re taking their inspiration from N Street in California, which began life in 1986 when a group of neighbours decided to knock down the fences between their gardens and use the area as a communal space – since then, the community has grown to 19 households, with more houses on the street added as they become available.
The Cardiff group is based in the Fairwater area of the city. “ There is quite a bit of rented accommodation so it opens up the opportunity more to young people and families,” says Louise Gray, one of the initiating group. “ The resilience side of cohousing has grow n out of t he Tra nsit ion id ea of comm u n i t y n e t w o r k s . We w i l l be sharing resources and r e d u c i n g o u r c a r b o n f o o tprint through the fun of sharing. We ’re creating a team.” Amy Hallis the News & Sport Editor of Transition Free Press.
Downtime at the Lilac community in Leeds – the UK's “first affordable ecological cohousing project”
Photo: Andy Lord (www.andylord.co.uk)
Photo: Elinor Kershaw
Europe rises to challenge of sustainable local livelihoods
The Transition Network’s REconomy Project has the ambitious aim of helping Transition groups to transform their local economic destiny. Since October 2013 we have been working with national hubs in Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Latvia and the Netherlands. Their economies are all very different, but REconomy-style thinking is to support Transition Initiatives to create more sustainable local livelihoods. The Latvian national Transition hub has been working against one of the bleakest backgrounds in Europe. Latvia was hit by a severe financial crisis in 2008-2010, resulting in an unprecedented 25% fall in the size of the economy, the highest unemployment rate in Europe (22.5%) and the biggest gap between rich and poor in the EU. A €7.5bn international rescue loan was accompanied by drastic budget reductions – so drastic in fact that even the IMF said the Latvians had
gone too far! “The state claims this to be a success story which resulted in the introduction of the Euro in January 2014. However most people do not feel economic improvements in their lives,” says Arturs Polis of the Latvian Transition Hub. Over 100 people turned out in freezing conditions for the first event held by their REconomy-style project. Plans include setting up pilot community shops using direct purchasing groups already active in Latvia.
Simlesa of the Croatia hub warns that: “Inequality and division in our society is on the rise, which breeds feelings of isolation and distrust, especially of political and business elites.” The Croatia hub plans to develop a toolkit to support local Economic Evaluations that quantify the economic opportunity inherent in a more localised economy. They also want to develop a web-based sharing tool for use across the country. Youth unemployment hit a staggering 43% this year in Italy. The Local pottery is just one of the local crafts promoted by the Ikskile Transition Initiative in Latvia “Every local community response of Cristiano Bottone of the Italian national Transition hub can reorganise their is to argue that: “Every local com- in Copenhagen to work on build- insight into the challenges and munity can and should imagine ing relationships, gaining skills opportunities of community-led local economy” and create, on a case-by-case basis, and strengthening collaborative economic transformation around Elsewhere in eastern Europe, processes and actions leading to a learning. The REconomy team the world. Croatia is showing no signs of re-organisation of the local econ- are now looking for four more recovery from the 2008 economic omy based on new and practical national Transition hubs to join Fiona Wardinitiated the REconomy this group, ideally from outside Project which she runs for the crisis. More than a third of the pop- criteria.” In September, representatives Europe. The hope is that these Transition Network. She has been ulation are either living in severe of these national hubs will meet hubs can then help to give an involved with Transition since 2006. poverty or at risk of it. Drazen
Totnes brewery roars again The first inspiration was the bottle of Sunshine Ale I received in the post from Lewes. The label showed solar panels gleaming in the sun. Harveys, the oldest independent brewer in Sussex, had created the special beer to mark the covering of their roof with photovoltaics by Transition Town Lewes. They brewed another, called Quids In, to celebrate the launch of the Lewes Pound.
“The more I learnt about craft brewing, the more enthusiastic I became about doing something similar in Devon” I was intrigued by the idea that a brewery might document and inspire the local Transition process through the beers it created. The more I learnt about the modern craft brewing movement, with its
commitment to taste, innovation and small-scale sustainable business models, the more enthusiastic I became about the possibility of doing something similar in Devon. In the 19th century, the Lion Brewery was a big operation in Totnes. It owned many pubs in the area, and was, according to posters from the time, brewer of “the celebrated Totnes Stout”. Sadly it closed in 1921. A few years ago, a group of beer enthusiasts, including the person who owned the original Lion Brewery building, began to wonder out loud about the possibility of bringing the Lion back to Totnes. In 2013 the New Lion Brewery was born. We are a social enterprise craft brewery committed to profitability, sustainability, community and innovation. We explore what a brewery designed to support the Transition of a local economy might look like. Any money we make will be re-invested in local charities and new local enterprises that espouse Transition values.
New Lion Brewery pump clip
The Lion Brewery, which disappeared from Totnes in 1921, has been revived as a sustainable craft beer maker. One of the directors of the New Lion Brewery, Rob Hopkins, sees an opportunity to use beer to tell the story of a town in Transition
Not mooving: A brew in support of a local dairy farm threatened by a housing development
Our core beers, Mane Event and Pandit IPA, are available in some of Totnes’ pubs. We’ve also produced several communit y brews, such as Circular Stout, which was brewed for the town’s
Then there was our first bottled beer, The Totnes Pound, which was created as a limited edition of 500 bottles to celebrate the relaunch of our local currency. Most recently, we produced Totnes Cream, in support of a farm threatened by the development plans of the landowner, the Duke of Somerset. I like to imagine that, in 10 years time, an exhibition of our pump clips and bottle labels will tell the story of the town’s Transition to a low carbon, relocalised, social economy. A s our Head Brewer, Mat Henney, puts it: “The ability to create rare, even one-off beers like this is the hallmark of the global craft brewing movement – it’s this sense of creative freedom we’ll be bringing to Totnes.” A social enterprise brewery that helps to drive, support and quench the thirst of the community’s Transition? Sounds delicious to me. Find out about New Lion Brewery at www.lioncraftbrewery.com
Rob Hopkins is co-founder of Transition Network, author of The Local Entrepreneurs’ Forum to Power of Just Doing Stuff, a prolific illustrate the idea of a no waste, blogger and tweeter, gardener, circular economy. It’s f lavoured co-founder of New Lion Brewery with oyster mushrooms grown (www.newlionbrewery.co.uk) and by local business Fungi Futures is part of Atmos Totnes. He lives using our spent grains. in Totnes and just got hens.
Photo: Ilze Sauleskalne
Many European countries are struggling in the current economic climate. In some, says Fiona Ward, national Transition hubs are seeking to play a role in the relocalisation of their economies
Photo: Andrew Aitchison / Ashden
Lewes based renewable energy project Ovesco joined Abundance in the prizes at the 2014 Ashden Awards. Some of their community investors are pictured here
Abundant funding for renewables
Finding investment for local renewables – or a community energy project to put your own money into – could be easier than you think through internet ‘crowdfunding’, writes Gareth Simkins A recent report by the thinktank financing of the project, which in Gloucestershire. The £1.4 million ResPublica highlighted the fact in turn creates a positive lobby of target was reached before the end that conventional banks are reluc- people who have a direct financial, of the year, ‘crowdfunded’ from 412 tant to lend to community energy and often emotional, engagement people. schemes. Many people are turning with projects.” The turbine is now generatto crowdfunding to get their proing low-carbon electricity, projects off the ground. “Pocket money viding an income for its owners Abundance is a company set up and returns of around 7% for the investment means the investors. to crowdfund renewables. It seeks The project has also to link people who want to genermaximum number funded new computers for the ate renewable energy with people local primary school and a village of local people can who want to invest sums as little defibrillator. as £5 – so-called ‘pocket money get involved with the Since then, Abundance invesinvestment’. tors have funded four more profinancing of the project” jects, including Brighter Schools, According to Marketing Manager Karina Sidenuis, “This Abundance pitched its first project which raised £216,000 in July means the maximum number of to the public in July 2012: a 500 2013 to install photovoltaic panels local people get involved with the kilowatt community wind turbine on school roofs. More recent
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investment projects include a Cornish wind turbine and a solar farm in Kent. In total, Abundance has raised £6m for UK renewable energy projects and aims to raise £300m over the next five years. Crucially, they did it without using the banks. Community Energy Warwicksh ir e opte d to ra i s e f u nd s through Microgenius, a ‘community shares platform’ backed by the government. Company Secretary Barbara Cooper argues t hat u sing ser v ices such a s Microgenius offer both “publicity for the project” and “a measure of assurance to the investor”. Others prefer to go it alone and reach out to their own community. For example, Hertfordshire’s Grand Union Community Energy, an offshoot of the Kings Langley Transition group, launched a communit y offering of 8,500 shares for £1 in February to buy a small solar power array. And
Brighton Energy Co-op now owns over £700,000 worth of solar PV panels in their local area. At the other end of the scale is Halton Lune Hydro, which is building a £1m hydroelectric system near Lancaster. Its first 100 kilowatt water turbine should be operational this autumn. It is looking for investments of between £250 and £20,000. In return, investors will receive 30% tax relief on their stake and around 5% annual interest. The opportunities are increasing all the time – despite an almost total lack of interest by the conventional banking system. Whether you are looking for cash for your own renewables project, or you would like to invest in clean energy, crowdfunding could be an option for you. Gareth Simkinsedits the Energy page of Transition Free Press. He is also a member of Croydon Transition Town.
The tide is rising in Shetland The world’s first community-owned tidal power scheme, in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, began supplying electricity to the UK National Grid in May The 30-metre-deep tidal turbine built by Leith-based tidal energy lies a kilometre off the coast of the company Nova Innovation. The island of Yell in the Shetlands, one Scottish Government and the of the remotest places in Europe. Shetland Islands Council contribIt supplies 30 kilowatts of elec- uted to its funding. tricity, enough to power 30 homes, Robert Henderson, NYDC chair an industrial estate and a locally- and local councillor says: “This is owned ice factory. a tremendous moment for North Yell. For the first time anywhere in “The 30-metre-deep the world, electricity is being generated from a community owned tidal turbine is in tidal turbine.” one of the remotest “Having used as much local expertise as possible, we’re keen to places in Europe” see Shetland taking a leading role The project was developed by in marine renewables,” he adds. communit y group North Yell The group is also building its own Development Council (NYDC) and five-turbine wind farm.
Can citizen science help solve bee decline?
Photo: Warren Draper
However the real hunger for downloaded for free, installed In a world facing a growing number balance in our natural ecosystems onto a machine called a CNC of ecological problems, few are as exists not within the corrupted router (which you can f ind in directly consequential to humanity walls of Parliament or Congress, most cities) and automatically as the demise of the European honbut in the hearts and minds of our cut from a single sheet of plywood eybee. As a UN commissioned report citizenry. into honeybee decline has stated, of in about 40 minutes. Once fabrithe 100 staple crops that provide 90% cated, all the pieces slot together of the world’s food, 70 require bees to “Harness the shared without screws or glues in a few pollinate. minutes. It’s like a downloadable desires of those If you’ve had your ear to the f lat pack kit for bees. ground (like Transition Town around you to create We quickly realised that pretty Manchester, who recently held a beehives, however cool, are not something innovative, going to solve the problem on public screening of the documentary More Than Honey) you will no doubt inclusive and helpful” their own. So we’ve started workbe aware of the plight facing our poling to make our beehives ‘smart’. linators. Yet despite loud cries from With faith in this conviction, This means building a sensor the media, and more importantly, the some friends and I founded the system that can connect any beescientific community, politicians and Open Source Beehives project last hive to the internet, log data about large companies have shown a typical November. We set out to create bee- the colony inside, and distribute lack of will to enact any meaningful hive designs and share them freely that data to anyone around the change. The European Union, who with everyone, but the project has world. From a PhD researcher to demonstrated perhaps the boldest evolved into something more ambi- a curious gardener, we’d like to political action by proposing to ban tious: a global, citizen-led investiga- see everyone involved. Since sucthe controversial neonicotinoid pesti- tion into what is causing honeybees cessfully crowdfunding our procides, has been threatened with legal to disappear. ject, we are now in a place to start action by Bayer, who produce and sell So our team developed two developing and distributing the this chemical. open source designs that can be system. Do get in touch.
Gone to seed: Salad crops at The Brotherhood Church, a seven acre paradise which shows exactly what can be achieved ecologically in a single lifetime
73% of seed crops are now ‘owned’ by 10 corporations, but new online initiatives are helping to keep global diversity alive. Warren Draper on radical acts of seed exchange It is hard to comprehend how patent broccoli which they acquired examiners can grant patents on through a corporate takeover in 2005 seeds for plants which have been – was refused because it was too commonly used, exchanged and generic and could lead to Monsanto cross-bred worldwide for thousands claiming ‘ownership’ of all exserted of years: surely it’s like granting a head broccoli strains. This sounds large car manufacturer a patent for like a win for common sense, but the wheel? But large corporations Jim Myers, professor of genetics for get their own way regarding patents Oregon State University warns that in exactly the same way they control the decision is “not necessarily final.” everything else – through powerful Monsanto have appealed and Myers lobbying and relentless bullying. writes that after years of legal wranAs VQR Online reported recently gling patent examiners are tempted in their excellent article ‘Linux for to “cave and grant the broader claims Lettuce’ one patent application by as they get worn down by the attorMonsanto – for easy harvesting neys’ arguments.”
The hard truth is that seed patents benefit nobody in the end. Peasant farmers, smallholders and organic growers worldwide are suffering due to international laws which seek to prohibit access to heritage seeds. But in the face of climate change and economic uncertainty a large and diverse gene pool is crucial for every breeder – even those working for the corporations who are currently too blind or too greedy to see the long-term damage they are inflicting upon their own industry. Luckily there’s a newly emerging alternative to proprietary
Photo: Elinor McDowell
Tristan Copley Smith on smart beehives and what we can do to help the bees (and ourselves)
A hive with a view: schoolchildren investigating honeybees at Bungay Community Bees education apiary at Featherdown Farms, Suffolk
Tristan Copley Smithis a visual storyteller and organiser working in open source, government transparency, and sharing economy seed patents in the form of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI). The Open Source Seed Initiative seeks to guarantee the right to exchange seeds in much the same way that an open source software license like the GPL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/ gpl) guarantees the freedom to share and alter a software program, so long as it remains open source. The OSSI pledge is printed on seed packets and describes how the seeds can be freely used, sold, bred and shared, but not legally restricted. On April 17th (La Via Campesina’s ‘International Day of Farmer’s Struggles’) OSSI breeders released the seeds of 36 varieties of 14 different crops under the OSSI license. The relevance of this should not be underestimated; before OSSI, farmers in many countries routinely faced legal intimidation:
movements. He is currently Communications Director at the Open Tech Collaborative. His work can be found at openpixel.cc.
diversity of open source seeds available, the less likely it is that companies such as Monsanto are able to seize sweeping control of crop types. If you haven’t tried breeding crops yourself then maybe it’s time to start. Even if you have no intention of developing your own strain, letting plants go to seed does have other benefits. My good f r iend s at t he Brotherhood Church, a 90 year old Tolstoy-inspired anarchist commune in North Yorkshire, routinely open-pollinate salad crops in their greenhouse over winter. This not only provides seeds for the following season, it also gives them a source of fresh leaves during leaner times. These leaves are perfectly palatable and the 6ft plus plants are a joy to behold. As individuals and small-scale growers we can also do our bit to guarantee universal seed sover“In the face of climate by supporting seed-banks change and economic eignty and participating in seed exchanges. uncertainty a diverse We could also create a UK wide network for the exchange of heirloom gene pool is crucial” seeds and the development of open “As a small farmer, I’m constantly source varieties... Transition Seed worried that I might get ticketed, Express anyone? fined, or even arrested for keeping my own seeds or participating www.opensourceseedinitiative.org in local seed-banks and seed-sharing programs.” (Thomas Luce, Warren Draperis a contributor Washington State Farmer). to The Idler magazine and the Dark This is why it is vital for as many Mountain journals. He is involved breeders as possible to start licens- with a number of resilience and ing their own strains under the rewilding projects in Doncaster. OSSI pledge. The greater the genetic warrendraper.wordpress.com
Outdoor class makes a splash!
We were very keen to support the to encourage the children to have Transition Town Tooting is the school and within a few short weeks new experiences and emphasis was custodian of Tooting Community the children were planting out, placed on teamwork, tool handling, Garden in South London – a space watering, weeding, making bird building methods and importantly, for local people to learn and pracfeeders, leaf printing and taking using materials that are around us, tise sustainable food production. part in bug hunts. rather than buying new. A willow yurt, vegetable beds and During the long hot Tooting What most inspired us was the fruit trees are interspersed amongst summer last year, the garden group willingness and energy of the Year 6 pathways and play areas, and the discussed the impact of drought children and the many community gardens are used by the community in the garden, which has no mains volunteers who got involved. The all year round. water. An idea was seeded for a children were excited to learn and In February 2013, the Head of experience with us. “It was an expecollaborative project between the Gatton Primary School, Rifat Batool, rience that none of us will forget,” Initiative and Gatton Primary to came knocking. She was looking for enthused Sumera, and fellow Year 6 build a rainwater harvesting system. an outdoor learning space for her pupil Mobeen explained at the celThe plan was to build a simple pupils. Giving children the opportuebration: “We have not only benefittimber frame structure, with founnity to learn in an outdoor environment not only encourages healthier dations, fixed to a brick wall at the ted by learning to make a difference and more active lifestyles but allows side of the garden. The structure to the community that we live in children to truly experience nature would have four roof sections, 8’ x but also how to be worthy citizens – from learning about the seasons to 4’ in size, draining into four water who are aware of what being ecofriendly really means.” investigating the weather, watch- butts. It has become obvious that the ing wildlife or tending to plants. Together we developed a seven In addition, there is growing evi- week programme, to fit neatly into garden provides an environment dence to suggest that learning out- half a term. Activities would include where children thrive in different side of the classroom helps pupils clearing the site, setting timbers, ways compared with the classroom. to engage more by allowing them building the roof structure and The older children for instance have more freedom to use their creativ- managing rainfall with a celebra- helped with re-felting the shed roof, tion on completion. We wanted making wooden stakes to make ity and imaginations.
Photo: Isabel Carlisle
Richard Couldrey reveals how a neighbourhood rainwater project brought a Muslim primary school, a gardening group and community volunteers together to find a practical solution to an age-old problem – drought
Making connections for the future: primary school children at Ardleigh School in Essex learn about the Web of Life (see Talkback, page 15)
fence-posts and making origami seed envelopes. They have learned without being formally taught, experiencing elements of their curriculum during the build, such as maths, teamwork, communication and social skills. For the Community Garden the project had the practical outcome of storing 840 litres of rainwater. For the Initiative it has shown us what is possible in terms of project leadership, process and delivery. But, above all, everyone involved including the school and Mushkil Aasaan, the Muslim Charit y that owns the site, recognise the social value of creating cross-cultural collaborations in a diverse
neighbourhood. The garden is open to the public once a week and 15-20 members of the community now regularly turn up to help maintain it: planting, weeding, tidying and helping with the larger build projects. You could say it has been a truly collaborative community success. Richard Couldrey and Charles Whiteheadboth led this project for Transition Town Tooting. Richard is currently studying an MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology. For more info contact email@example.com
New diploma for community activists launched Gaia University’s ‘Leadership in Transition Diploma’ is designed to support the work and personal journeys of people in Transition. Nicole Vosper celebrates action learning My name is Nicole and I am in we live in we need to learn new recovery from compulsory edu- skills, personally and collectively. cation, elitist institutions and We need to learn to ‘just do stuff’ oppressive learning env iron- well and be able to ref lect on our ments. In the changing times actions.
In ‘Educating for Hope in Troubled Times’ Professor Hicks stresses the crucial role education plays in preparing for a post-carbon future, giving schools practical ideas on how to address issues like climate change and peak oil. Hicks suggests that schools ‘have much to contribute to local Transition initiatives’ and advocates Transition being introduced into the national curriculum as it was for A-Level Citizenship Studies. A must-read for schools serious about embedding sustainability into their syllabuses.
studying a distance learning course in permaculture and horticulture, then finding Gaia U on release. But the diploma, rooted in permaculture design, will support participants and enable them to learn from their practices, projects, challenges and feelings, to become more effective in their work and more congruent with who they really are. Formal education it is not.
those who don’t easily fit into existing ways of doing things to join us on this step into the unknown. Not one of Gaia University’s graduates is unemployed, and most are engaging in the world in ways they cannot have imagined before.” Tom is currently seeking a cohort of Transition folk to participate in the design phase of the Diploma, starting 18th September. Participants will follow the existing Gaia programme and contribute to reviewing content and checking processes to help shape the Diploma. Having the right support to enable us to do stuff well is vital, whether it comes from your friends, your community, or being part of a learning community of peer reviewers for the Transition diploma. Let’s fall in love with learning to better act from our hearts to rebuild the positive future we desire.
From my experience in organising, most movements are obsessed with action, and rightly so. However my call to arms is that we slow down sometimes, reflect on what we’re doing and learn from our mistakes. I do this through embracing action learning, which at its core means learning from experience grounded in everyday realities. It involves a “A learning ecology mix of exploring ideas and theories, where everyone is seeking concrete life experiences, making time for regular reflection encouraged to follow and embracing active experimentatheir own passions” tion to simply try things out. I discovered action learning “Gaia University creates a learning through Gaia University, a radical ecology where everyone is encour‘uninstitution’ dedicated to social aged to follow their own pasjustice and ecological restoration. sions,” explains Tom Henfrey of Gaia U believes that being supported the Transition Research Network. to follow your desires is the fastest, “Through the diploma, we’ll be supmost liberating way to learn. porting a dynamic community of In February 2015, Gaia U will launch action learners who are pushing Are you a transition dynamo for the ’Leadership in Transition Diploma’, the boundaries of Transition, and at whom this free course would be designed in partnership with the the same time developing their own useful? Contact tom@schumacher Transition Network. If the thought of post-carbon livelihoods and contrib- institute.org.uk for further details. formal education in Transition feels uting to the projects and Initiatives unnecessary, I resonate entirely. I in which they are involved.” Nicole Vosperis a Gaia University dropped out of college when I was 17 Naresh Giangrande f rom Associate and passionate community and didn’t step back into formal edu- Transition Network adds: “We are organiser. She blogs at cation until going to prison at 21 and looking forward to pioneers and www.wildheartpermaculture.co.uk
on the road “This is about your needs, your events, being relevant to where you are.” She f inishes the session with the classic warm up ‘mapping’, where people stand in the open space according to how far north, south, east or west of Lancaster they live. Strangers happily exchange details about living a few miles apart, about their pet projects, open up about difficulties. Later someone says: “It was such a relief, first off to find somebody Wheeling it in: Claver Hill growing project in Lancaster harvest the community-grown veg else whose Initiative was falling This year the UK Transition Network conference has gone on the road. From October four apart and be able to exchange notes. regional gatherings are taking place from the depths of Cornwall to the heights of Scotland. I thought we were on our own.” The workshops covered cenCaroline Jackson reports from the show’s pilot in Lancaster tral concerns on maintaining Friday evening: Kathy Barton has The format is simple: Saturday concession ticket, and I’ll be back Initiatives and people, mainstream matters of food, energy, REconomy, created an enormous circle of chairs 9.30am to 5.45pm. It’s topped and tailed home for the evening!” and local specialisms: Transition in the Old Dining Room at Cumbria by plenary sessions, plus two opportuApproaches to Death and Dying University – 108 exactly, one for nities for workshops, interspersed with “It’s an experiment in (TAD) and community currencies – every participant in the Transition coffee and lunch breaks. In addition making the Network a passion of Professor Jem Bendall Northwest Conference. Last the group set up an optional organised of the University of Cumbria who November Transition City Lancaster meal and entertainment on campus a physical space” generously supported the roadshow. discussed how they might create a that evening, overnight accommodaThere were energetic responses. local conference, and eight months tion and a range of local visits the next Saturday morning 9.15am the At 1pm Anne Chapman leaving later the first Roadshow has hit town. day that include Halton Co-housing foyer abuzz with knots of people the Community Energy workshop T h i s i s a ne w mo d e l for and community Hydro, the Claver Hill slipping from group to group, commented: “Lots of interest in set‘doing conference’ where local growing project and Fairfield Flora reclaiming familiar faces, already ting up a North West Community Transition Initiatives take the and Fauna – a community orchard and exchanging names and email nature reserve. Energy Network.” By 5pm the lead to create a one day event addresses. In the opening session, Energy Network is set up; first suppor ted by t he Transition One East Lancs delegate said: Network director Sarah McAdam event in September. Network team. “It was a bargain, ten pounds for a tells the northwest delegates:
Taking the roadshow North
Final session: Rob Hopkins set off on his tour of the amazing stuff happening all across the world in the name of Transition. Plenty of laughs but one serious challenge: “Are eight of you meeting every Wednesday really going to change the world?”
“Are eight of you meeting every Wednesday really going to change the world?” At the end Sarah asks again: “I am still holding the question, Is there a NW regional Network and do you want more of it?” In Lancaster, we’ll be getting the idea out of the cupboard and dusting it off. What a change in one day! Roll on the roadshow... The Transition Roadshow 201415 will be hosted by Transition University St. Andrews in Fife (11th October), Transition Penwith in Cornwall, Transition Bristol in Somerset and Transition Town Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. Caroline Jacksonis a member of Transition City Lancaster and a Transition Network social reporter.
Song of the Salish Sea
Photo: Trish Knox
The group is currently host- Great Salish Sea inspire us to live ing the All-County Picnic as a free harmoniously, and thus sustainably, community celebration designed with each other and the Earth. This summer Patricia Knox from Transition Woodinville in North West USA went visiting the to inspire and strengthen localized neighbourhoods through- Trish Knoxworked in the nonnetwork of Initiatives in her watery bioregion out Jefferson County, as well as profit sector for 18 years supporting I then drove north to Port heighten awareness of local emer- families at risk. She teaches Circle included discussion circles, film nights and re-skilling classes, I Townsend and Local 20/20, the gency resources. “The ability to deal of Life classes and is an author and “The salmon come decided to meet other Initiatives, Transition Initiative of Jefferson effectively with a crisis is largely poet. www.communitythreads.net home again and again distribute Transition Free Press County. “We started this citizen- dependent on the structures and www.transitionwoodinville.ning.com and identify Sustainable Heroes based organization in 2006 to explore relationships that have been develsince the beginning and Heroines to be featured on our opportunities for greater local sus- oped before an emergency,” said of time…” The Great tainability by promoting economic Bob Hamlin from the Department website. self-reliance, environmental steward- of Emergency Management, My Transition quest took me to Salish Sea, Dana Lyons. Uniting as Transition Initiatives the southern end of Salish Sea to ship and community wellbeing,” says Deborah Stinson, one of Local 20/20’ s in Salish Sea, sharing similar chala Transition Olympia Repair Café Salish Sea is one of the world’s founders recently elected to serve on lenges and successes, empowers us that taught bike, small tool and largest and biologically rich inland the local City Council. collectively, as the songs from The appliance repair and tool sharpenseas. The area is home to 4.4 million ing. I was elated to have my garden people, about 67% of Washington Local 20/20 in Port Townsend, Washington reading the summer issue State’s entire population, with hoe handle repaired at last and 118 incorporated cities and towns noticed how other equally elated and 15 Native American tribes. participants were asking about the Transition groups here are con- date of the next Café. Dean Smith from Transition cerned about the expansion of a Port Gardner then suggested I local coal port that would increase came to one of their meetings that the numbers of coal and oil trains are drawing crowds of politicians, running through their communimedia, tribal members, business ties and waterways. Some of the owners and neighbours together. region’s 12 Initiatives are actively The rallying cry? Train Watch! Last joining others to address the broad April local citizens counted the range of environmental, health and numbers of crude oil trains passeconomic impacts. In my experience the keys to ing through their town and county. a thriving Initiative are a core of Citizens are concerned about the enthusiastic people and at least one increasing number of trains and project that engenders a response the highly f lammable oil they from members of the commu- carry. Several train wrecks within nity. So when our Transition the past year have resulted in high Woodinville Initiative wilted in death tolls and required mass evac2012 after two years of activity that uations of people from the area.
Photo: Amy Scaife © 2010
What makes an activist? And what effect do actions take in shaping our cultural narrative? Charlotte Du Cann talks with Danielle Paffard about radicalisation, austerity and how to make fossil fuel industries feel way past their sell-by date
Danielle Paffardand fellow activist in a Liberate Tate intervention about BP sponsorship at the British Museum
“Then in 2010 there was a change Danielle Paffard helped start up the highly influential campaigns of government. When the Spending UK Uncut, Move Your Money and Review made it clear just exactly No Dash for Gas. How did she get what this new government was about from being ‘relatively unpolitical’ to another radicalisation moment hapbecoming the new UK divestment pened to me. “One of my friends said: if we just co-ordinator for 350.org? “I studied the environment at keep on marching from A to B listenuniversity and came out feeling ing to Tony Benn speak, we’re going there was a huge problem, but also to lose. We need something that’s feeling totally useless and unable to more feisty. “The next day he found a small contribute. “I came across Climate Camp and piece in Private Eye about how went from being quite anti direct Vodafone had avoided £6 billion action to meeting these amazing worth of tax and he made the link: activists. Two months later I was ‘Look, if we’re losing £6 billion from locked to a coal-fired power station, one company that could cover almost shutting it down from the inside. the entire issue of the cuts, how are That was a really transformatory the government getting away with experience and formed the found- this austerity narrative?’ “UK Uncut started at Vodafone’s ing principle for most of the activism I’ve done since: you find a group of flagship store in Oxford Street, using people you can work with and who the direct action skills we’d learnt through the climate movement to inspire each other. highlight the falsehoods behind austerity. 70 people shut down the shop. By that weekend there were 30 more actions around the country. “It was unexpected and exciting and had a key role in changing the awareness of tax justice in the UK. “This was when Occupy was starting up and there was a huge anger with the banks and the bailouts. But, though with UK Uncut we targeted high street banks with our actions, it was hard to break through into the more systemic problems around banking. “And so with another group of friends we set up the Move Your Money campaign, which was about very publicly moving your money
away from the big four banks into more socially responsible alternatives. “At that point I banked with HSBC, who fund the world’s biggest coal mines. It had been on my to-do list to change, but it wasn’t in my diary. So we came up with actions to motivate people to close their accounts.”
“The blockades to a just transition are due to the political power of the fossil fuel industry” Danielle’s next move however was far away from any high street: with 16 others she scaled a 300 foot chimney to protest about the building of new gas-fired power stations in the UK. “The platforms at West Burton were about five metres from the top. Once we got on there we blockaded the access points and dropped a hanging tent down into the chimney. So they had to turn the power off. And people took it in turns to sit in that tent. It was November and really cold. “We delayed work for a week and stopped 20,000 tonnes of C02 from being released. EDF tried to sue us for £5 million. The public reaction was extraordinary. 65,000 people emailed EDF to drop the charge.” As a result many climate activists were reinvigorated and the Reclaim the Power event was launched at the Balcombe anti-fracking camp in 2013. Paffard is now to be found behind the scenes as divestment co-ordinator for the climate action organisation, 350.org: “We’re working on ways to stigmatise the fossil fuel industry sufficiently to unblock the political process. It is so weighed down by the fossil fuel lobby we are struggling
to get the meaningful decisions we need to do something right on climate. “My role is to work with the existing campaigns – the university campaigns organised by People & Planet, Operation Noah who work with faith groups and the fossil free health campaign, started by Medact, who have just got the BMA to divest. I am also helping to encourage small independent local groups to get active in their communities, on their own councils, and get them to debate publicly whether public money should be going into fossil fuels. “If councils don’t have investments in fossil fuels then they’ll be very quick to tell you. And they will do, because everybody does. We’re working on tools to make it easier for campaigners to find that information out, looking at pension funds because that’s where a lot of the investment money is.” Do people say to you: It’s all very well to divest, but what’s the point if we’re still using oil, coal and gas? “We are very focused on divestment, rather than personal consumption. It’s very hard to make change until the political power of the fossil fuel industry has been significantly dented. Incentivising clean technologies and getting the investment we need to really transform our entire economy, are blocked by these incredibly powerful industries. And while individual action is important it isn’t going to take down the fossil fuel industry as quickly as it needs to be. “Until we get massive investment in public transport or incentives for renewable energy, it’s going to be difficult for people to make meaningful enough consumption decisions to change the economy. “Much of the discussion is now about the social value of
investments. The recent Law Commission’s review questioned whether it is right that ‘fiduciary duty’ should just mean short term profit for shareholders. Should it include long term stewardship of both your money and the planet? The fact these questions are being discussed is a really important part of the narrative. Do you see a relationship between Transition and the divestment movements? “If you don’t have a Yes, then it’s much harder to push the No. If we’re going to deal with the climate crisis we need to shine a light on all the community projects that are working, so they can be rapidly replicated and supported to make change happen. “Divestment could be a really interesting project for a local group – because it is about democracy and local participation in decisionmaking about where public money should be invested. Using the divestment campaign to build a community to do more of the Yes work on a bigger scale.” Activism typically deals with heavy-duty issues. How do you keep going without being burned out, or oppressed? “I go running!“ she laughs. “I think it’s about having a good group around you, who can talk and offer support. Also one of the reasons UK Uncut was so successful was because it challenged these big problems and organisations in a fun way. “So whether you are talking about Sure Start centre closures, by setting up a crèche in an HSBC bank, or running sports days in Top Shop, activists know it’s important to make sure that activism is fun and engaging, because in the end if it’s not, we can’t keep on doing it.”
Transition Free Press Managing Editor Alexis Rowell loves to cook, but he’s never tried fermenting. So we set him the challenge of reviewing Sandor Ellix Katz’s new book The Art of Fermentation “Between fresh and rotten,” says Sandor Ellix Katz, “there is a creative space in which some of the most compelling of flavours arise.” I’m right in that creative space, but my partner, Sarah, is starting to complain about the smells coming from my fermenting cabbage! I’m a novice fermenter. It’s something I’ve admired from afar but I’d always felt a bit daunted by the mystique surrounding fermented foods and all that bacteria. “My advice,” says Sandor – a selfdescribed ‘fermentation fetishist’ – “is to reject the cult of expertise. Do not be afraid. You can do it yourself.” I star ted w ith fruit mead . All you need is a bail-top jar, a pot of raw honey, water and fruit. I used redcurrants from a friend’s allotment, cherry plums f rom Hampstead Heat h and
Bubbling bliss of fermentation
rose petals from my neighbour’s garden. “It looks great – if you like murky First shred your veg: Sandor Ellix Katz teaching a fermentation class pond water,” said Sarah dubiously. But a few days later it was bubbling water), weigh it down with a small It’s perhaps a shame there aren’t furiously and had turned a beauti- glass jar filled with water to keep more photos in The Art of Fermentation ful rose-orange colour. “That looks the cabbage submerged, then leave and that the illustrations, although great,” said a friend, “can I have to ferment. lovely, are repeated a lot. But these the recipe?” “Recipe?” I laughed. After a week it was starting seem like minor gripes set against “Sure – combine honey, water, fruit to release some powerful odours, the delight of learning from a master and petals. Stir and release the Sarah was apologising to visi- fermenter. For this is the omnibus, the pressure twice a day. Drink and be tors and I was worrying I’d got it bible, the encyclopaedia – it is everymerry after ten days!” wrong. But it tasted great. A few thing you’ll ever need to know about days later it tasted even better and fermentation – from molecular biolit was time to move it to the fridge ogy to cultural history, from philoso“Reject the cult of to slow down the fermentation phy to health benefits. expertise. Do not process. Sandor himself is a larger than My fermented radishes looked life character with a massive allow yourself to fabulous as the brine turned red. handlebar moustache. He looks be intimidated” “Are you sure we’ll be able to eat a picture of health, although he Next up – sauerkraut. Pack a bail- all this stuff? asked Sarah nerv- doesn’t hide the fact that he’s been top jar with shredded cabbage, ously, as I made plans for a huge living with HIV for ten years. “Is juniper berries (or caraway seeds jar of kohlrabi, carrot and beetroot he healthy because of fermented foods?” I ask. He won’t go that or other spices) and brine (salty kraut.
What kind of story is climate change?
Storyteller and writer Nick Hunt reviews Culture and Climate Change: Narratives ed. Joe Smith, Renata Tyszczuk and Robert Butler (Shed, Cambridge)
Photo: Sarah Darling
If the six essays, eleven stories and one conversation in this book “Climate change is... agree upon one thing, it’s that telltoo everywhere, too ing people the facts about climate change – deluging them in statisweird, too much, too tics in the hope it will change their big, too everything” behaviour, or translate into political action – stopped working long “Stories about climate change don’t ago. Culture and Climate Change: need to be about climate change,” Narratives is a welcome attempt says Intelligent Life’s Robert Butler. to think beyond the ‘hurling facts’ In Voltaire’s Candide, he points out, approach to the problem, bringing the devastating Lisbon earthquake together writers, artists, academics is not the principal theme of the and theatre-makers to investigate book but the apocalyptic backdrop the role of stories in responding to to the characters’ ordinary lives: ‘... the crisis. the sailor goes looting, Candide But, as the book’s introduction goes begging, and Pangloss delivasks, what sort of story is climate ers a lecture on optimism. Voltaire’s change? “Climate change is too interest lies in the human reactions here, too there, too everywhere, too that follow on from the earthquake.’ weird, too much, too big, too everyA natural disaster, Butler says, is thing,” writes Renata Tyszczuk in not a story in itself. George Marshall Arctic terns on the wire: Cape Farewell’s Bird Yarns project with artist, Deirdre an essay entitled ‘Cautionary Tales: later notes that climate change is Nelson. An Tobar gallery and community knitters in Tobermory, Isle of Mull The Sky is Falling! The World is problematic as a dramatic subject: Ending!’. “Climate change is not a “It contains no heroes, no villains, How, then, do we tell engaging sto- The Book of Dave and Jeanette story that can be told in itself, but no enemies, no victims, no motive, ries about it? Winterson’s The Stone Gods) hints rather, it is now the condition for no clear beginning or end, no pivBradon Smith, in his excel- at an answer in viewing climate any story that might be told about... otal event, no climax, no catharsis, lent analysis of recent climate change in terms of “the many interour inhabitation of this fractious no denouement – other than the change fiction (including Cormac connected forms of loss that it will planet.” ones we choose to project onto it.” McCarthy’s The Road, Will Self’s bring about – of loved ones and
far, but it’s hard not to draw that conclusion. His book is also a remarkable political statement about the perils of industrialised food and the need for humans to reconnect with nature. In his words: “As microorganisms work their transformative magic and you witness the miracles of fermentation, envision yourself as an agent for change, creating agitation, releasing bubbles of transformation into the social order.” The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katzis published by Chelsea Green. Beginners might like to start with his earlier book, Wild Fermentation. family, of other species, of beauty, of humanity, of culture.” But the book really comes alive in the ‘In Conversation’ chapter, which brings together author Caspar Henderson, theatre-maker Zoë Svendsen, poet Nick Drake and the London College of Fashion’s Kate Fletcher in a panel discussion chaired by the OU’s Joe Smith. Each describes the personal stories that have sustained their work, the narratives bringing them to this point in their understanding of climate change; the conversation asks more questions than it answers, but the willingness to investigate new approaches where others have failed makes this the most honest and urgent part of the book. At the end of his essay, Bradon Smith returns to the closing words of The Road: a vision of trout whose backs are patterned with ‘maps of the world in its becoming.’ “In the maps and mazes on the brook trout are revealed two paths,” writes Smith, “one a way out of this mess, and one that takes us further in.” Culture and Climate Change: Narratives contains possible keys to those maps. Whether we head further in, or out, depends on what stories we tell next. Nick Huntis a writer, storyteller and co-editor of Dark Mountain. His first book, Walking the Woods and the Water, was published earlier this year. nickhuntscrutiny.com
No cause is an island:
situating Transition in a broader movement for change As we wring our hands at inaction on a national food security strategy, climate change or biodiversity protection, it’s easy to focus on the timidity of key decision makers in business and government. Tom Crompton argues for a switch of attention From the outset the Transition movement has recognised that decisionmakers are crucially constrained in what they can achieve, and that no amount of clever policy analysis or inside-track lobbying can change this. It is understood that fundamental constraints on meaningful action are imposed by lack of public acceptance – not to mention demand – for ambitious change. Public orientation toward change is viewed as the solution, not the problem – and to be far-thinking public support needs to be built for policies that would today spell electoral suicide. These are important responses to the problems that beset much mainstream environmental campaigning. Here I will suggest that a good starting point for going further is to understand cultural values and how these are shaped. Social psychologists affirm what many of us grasp intuitively – that our values lead us to express concern about other people, future generations, or other living things. Our values, it seems, are important determinants – perhaps the most important determinants – in motivating public expressions of concern about social and environmental challenges. We are almost all at times concerned about what psychologists call extrinsic values – money; social status; public image; authority. At other times, almost all of us prioritise what psychologists call intrinsic values. These are values associated with greater concern about social and environmental problems. They include values of connection to family, friends and community; appreciation of beauty; broadmindedness; social justice; environmental protection; equality; helpfulness. In motivating expressions of concern about social and environmental issues, the balance that we strike between these two sets of values (both individually and collectively) is of crucial importance. As can be easily seen, it’s difficult to prioritise extrinsic and intrinsic values at the same time. It’s difficult to be concerned about making money while also being concerned about community. Indeed, one important study has found that ‘community feeling’ is almost perfectly opposed to ‘financial success’.
This isn’t to say that it is impossible to more public pressure to bear on for ambitious polic y change, more free-ranging terms: “What the implications seem clear: we are the issues that matter most to hold ‘community feeling’ and ‘finan- business or government leaders. For example, an understanding should always prefer to commu- the people whom we most need to cial success’ to be of importance at the same time – but it’s going to be of values highlights the dangers nicate about issues in ways that engage?” and then, crucially, “How of appealing to extrinsic values connect with intrinsic values; we do we campaign and communicate difficult. So we can see that values aren’t in order to motivate environmen- should avoid communicating in on these more resonant issues in a prioritised independently of one tally-friendly behaviour. Marketers ways that connect with extrinsic way that connects with intrinsic another. Indeed, it seems that they (indifferent to the wider social and values; we should recognise the values?” Relying upon intrinsic values to are held in dynamic relationships. environmental impacts) use extrin- crucial importance of beginning Here are three important principles sic values like social status to help to achieve coherence in this across make the unconscious links is likely that have been found to govern these sell cars or to encourage us to shop ‘causes’. No cause is an island: it is to prove to be a far more effective conspicuously. But many social mar- the values we use to communicate way of engaging many people on the relationships: keters also advocate the use of such which are more important in shap- issues that are closest to your heart, “Exercising a value tends extrinsic appeals to drive environ- ing public appetite for action on a than by campaigning on those mentally-friendly behaviour. This wider range of different social issues directly. to strengthen it in a is despite studies repeatedly show- and environmental issues than more durable way” ing that these tactics are likely to the particular causes upon which Tom Cromptonworks for WWF-UK and with children’s and disability backfire: engaging extrinsic values we focus. Firstly, exercising one value within tends to erode wider environmental An understanding of values, charities. He is the author of a group (for example, broadmind- concern. therefore, points to the impor- Weathercocks and Signposts: edness) is found to increase the Another important implication tance of not getting hung up on the The Environment Movement importance that a person places of an understanding of values is issues (energy insecurity or climate at a Crossroads (WWF, 2008) on other values within that group this: values connect causes. It has change, for example). Rather, any and Common Cause: The Case (for instance, social justice). Asking been found that drawing people’s group working for social change for Working with Our Cultural people to think briefly about broad- attention to the financial value of would do well to free itself from Values (COIN, CPRE, Friends of mindedness leads to increased con- biodiversity (that is, presenting con- a narrow issues-focus and ask in the Earth, Oxfam & WWF, 2010). cern about climate change. Why? servation in connection with extrinWell, it seems that engaging this sic values) leads people to say that value leads people to place greater they would be less inclined to join importance on other intrinsic values, a public meeting or write to their such as social justice or environmen- MP in support of work on rights for tal protection, which are more obvi- disabled people. Conversely, drawing ously associated with concern about people’s attention to the beauty and climate change. inherent value of nature strengthens Secondly, exercising an extrin- their intention to take civic action in sic value tends to suppress the support of disability rights. importance that a person places on intrinsic values, and vice versa. This “Engaging extrinsic has been called the ‘see-saw’ effect. values tends to erode So, for example, drawing a person’s attention to the importance of wider environmental money (an extrinsic value) is found concern” to reduce the likelihood that they will help someone in need, or donate This is very important. In fact it preto a charity (behaviours associated sents a fundamental challenge to the with intrinsic values). way in which the charity sector is Thirdly, repeatedly exercising currently structured around ‘causes’. a value tends to strengthen it in Too often, charities themselves work a more durable way – much like a to isolate these causes – because it muscle. Repeatedly reminding a works in building a constituency person of the importance of image of public supporters. Fundraisers or social status is likely to lead that call this ‘positioning’. The problem person to draw upon this value more is that the narrow focus on specific often in making decisions in many issues that this encourages tends areas of life, and to place less impor- to blind-side charities to the wider tance on social and environmental effects of their communications and campaigns. These communications concerns. www.folklabs.com These principles have impor- will affect both public concern about folklabs tant implications for any approach other causes, and more general aimed at helping to build public con- public appetite to demand change. If we are serious about buildcern about social and environmental issues – with a view to bringing ing irresistible public demand
technology for transitioners
How to map the future, one class at a time Schools in Transition is an innovative programme designed to embed Transition themes into schools and their surrounding communities. Marina O’Connell describes how it all began in a village school in Essex Ardleigh primary school, set on the edge of beautiful Constable country in the Stour Valley, has just 100 children. Ardleigh village is still fully functioning with a church, pub, shops, a post office and a doctor’s surgery. It is surrounded by arable fields growing wheat and rapeseed and is just down the road from 80 smallholdings specialising in early glasshouse strawberry production. Not really a hot bed of all things Transition – but almost because of this, it’s a really good place to have a go at doing it. The deputy head Mr Tucker at Ardleigh Primary has a strong interest in sustainability - having been brought up near Totnes he was familiar with the Transition movement. Ms Parker the Head has developed the school so that children have a wide range of outdoor learning facilities, vegetable gardens, forest schools and a very active sports provision. School meals are cooked from scratch every day with good quality ingredients and the children are being taught with diverse learning styles using a system called ‘learning power’ developed by Guy Claxton, a
founding member of Schumacher food growing through mapping and College, well versed in the concept making a directory. of eco-literacy. Essentially the chilArdleigh Primary school chose dren are given the tools to be crea- initially to focus on exploring and tive and to learn how to think from mapping the local food web. I had a very early age. a huge basket of local food and The ingredients needed for a carefully chosen non-local food. It ‘Transition school’ were already was March so I had local rhubarb, embedded in its ethos, so it made bananas and blackberries from sense for Ardleigh school to be part Mexico, lamb from a nearby village of the pilot scheme for the Schools and lamb from New Zealand, and a in Transition programme. Devised tub of margarine made from rape by Isabel Carlisle at the Transition oil. I also had a shoe, bike helmet, Network in consultation with other toy car, toy boat and a paper plane educators, schools and Transition as transport props. groups, the scheme is about embedding learning in place and commu“It has been quite a nity and taking action outside the journey to translate classroom to do some real world problem-solving. for an 8 or 9 year old Last year Isabel adapted the what are, in reality, CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Food Web Mapping proincredibly complex gramme for Primary school use and ideas of local food” invited three different primaries to try it out. Ardleigh is sharing its On the floor we made a huge map experience with Marldon Primary of the local area, with large labels in Devon and Ashley in Walton-on- and props to show where farms and Thames. Come the autumn, there shops were. Around the walls were will be a simple programme that large cars with place names; New any Transition group can take to Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Dominica, a primary school to promote local India. The children ran around the
hall emptying the basket, choosing the appropriate prop to transport the food to the place it was from. We then put the food into a shoe pile, a bike pile, a car pile, boat pile and plane pile. This led to a discussion of why some food, like bananas and tea, came from hot countries, and why we were buying blackberries from Peru in March. Mr Tucker developed the concept of eco-literacy with the children. They studied the plants growing in the playing field and made cordial from elderflowers. Mr Cole the lollipop man came and told stories of how he used to work in the local cucumber nurseries. We made a clay oven with the children and developed methods of integrating ecology and eco-literacy with local food. In one session Mr Tucker played the game ‘Web of Life’ with the children, connecting them up as trees to owls to worms to fungi, with complex pieces of string! It has been quite a journey, to translate for an eight or nine year old what are, in reality, incredibly complex ideas of local food, where it comes from and why we should eat it. I recently attended a school open evening and it’s clear to see the impact the project has had. There was a whole room full of wonderful written and illustrated stories, of
reports of Mr Cole and his cucumber glasshouse, elderflower cordial recipes, soil samples, slide shows of the clay oven making. The children were proud, the parents interested and there was a big buzz in the room. In the autumn the children will design their own 30:30 (30 miles for 30 days) food challenge and take it home with games and recipes and information about local suppliers – even if only for one meal. For more information about the Transition Schools Primaries Food Web mapping contact Isabel Carlisle, Educator Coordinator isabelcarlisle@transitionnetwork. org 01803 847976 Marina O’Connellis Director of the Apricot Centre, an organic and biodynamic farmer, and permaculture designer. She is a founder member of Transition Stour Valley.
It’s not (just) what you do, it’s the way that you do it Luigi Russi on how the inner work of Transition makes sense of the outer The parallel is not meant to and by doing what we do we can imply that Inner Transition is ‘like’ come to assert alternative possibiliother things we think of as ‘relities for being ourselves. Dwelling gious’. I interpret it as a suggestion on the polarity of inner/religion in that the practices of relating that isolation traps us into thinking that one absorbs through Transition ‘being’ is a matter of the heart, not of are integral to any ‘doings’, and the head. And definitely not of the that those doings can lead to new hands, either. ways of articulating the meaning “Rather than be dissatisfied we of ‘being’ together. For instance, lisshould understand this beyond the tening, cultivating community by formal division of labour inside a common deeds, being non-judgeTransition Initiative. (Few would claim that food projects aren’t mental towards novelty, placing ‘REconomy’ activities, even when the capacity for change in our own they don’t formally fall within the hands, developing a mindful attenpurview of REconomy projects). tiveness and full- hearted presence If George Orwell claimed ‘Sanity In Transition Initiatives, Inner to the relationships we engage in. is not statistical’ over 60 years ago Transition exists in many forms, in 1984, perhaps it’s time that his often taking the shape of informal insight changed the way we do “Inner Transition support gatherings, where individuthings. Instead of bearing with exists in the ways we als can offer and receive empathetic the maladaptation that comes listening. Yet ‘sitting in a circle talkwith dull routine and ‘bullshit jobs’ attempt to hold our ing about our feelings’ is not all there (to quote anthropologist David “We could shift our meetings or come is to it. Graeber), we could shift our unease unease into a more Hillary Prentice, an initiator of into a more dynamic engagement together as a group” the first Heart and Soul Group in with the world. For me Transition dynamic engagement Totnes, mentions in her essay in the In this sense, Inner Transition is is a space that can facilitate this with the world” collection, Vital Signs, how Transition not just Inner Transition groups shift. By inviting new ‘doings’ of resonates with other traditions that simply meeting in a circle of peer things, different ways of being our- The inner/outer split in talking about unite an ethos of ‘gentle relating to support and inquiry. It exists in the selves can emerge. Transition mirrors this controversial the world’ through practices that ways we attempt to hold our meetOccasionally, the connection division of the world of experience bring that vision to life, such as ings or come together as groups in between the doing (outer) and across the religious and the secular. being (inner) has become lost Who we are as people is something Quakerism, progressive Earth-based Transition, how we try to mirror between a metaphorical ‘two roads that emerges through what we do, spiritualities and ecopsychology. our idea of sanity in a world we in the wood’ - a fork that a friend once jokingly referred to as the names of two tribes: mysteriosos and practicales - where indulging in inner activities, supposedly leading to some arcane spiritual dimension, is set in opposition to worldly, grounded engagement. Timothy Fitzgerald, professor of Religious Studies at Stirling, suggests this dualistic thinking first gained currency as ready-made justification for colonial occupation. Traditional institutions that had governed indigenous colonised peoples for centuries were described as ‘religious’, and hence branded inferior to the rational, ‘secular’ knowledge of the colonisers. Plunder could then be cloaked as a ‘civilising’ project.
build together - one potluck/communal garden/social enterprise at a time. Someone once told me they strongly resonated with what Inner Transition ‘held’, despite not being a formal participant in an Inner Transition group. This, I find, is one way to push our understanding of this phenomenon beyond the boundaries of that inner/outer dichotomy. The ‘inner’ is not some kind of extension or appendage, but rather the making explicit, the ‘holding out’ of what is implicit, already there. It foregrounds the awareness that the quality of our engagement in Transition is as much about what we do, as it is about how we go about doing it, without reproducing in our relationships the very deadening routines that can make us feel maladjusted in a claustrophobic world. Luigi Russiis a PhD student at City University London. His book Everything Gardens and Other Stories: Growing Transition Culture is scheduled for publication in April 2015 with the University of Plymouth Press. He tweets @lrningdotinfo.
Making art as if the world mattered
It was a dark and stormy night…
Weather Stations is a international project that puts storytelling at the heart of the conversations about climate change. Rose Fenton, director of Free Word, discusses its aims Re-imagining a life-sustaining world is often seen as a cultural process as much as an with Charlotte Du Cann environmental one, but what does that mean, and how do our creative arts practices actively contribute to that? Playing For Time – Making Art As If the World Mattered, to be published by Five writers, five cultural organisaWeather Stations forms part Oberon Books next March, has been finding out. Author Lucy Neal outlines its shape tions, five countries – and one hell of of the second strand, and aims to
Artists often use the word practice, but it’s one that all of us can use to describe a daily life that combines creativity and intentional change. Inspired by Transition culture and the context it creates for facing planetary challenges, the book describes ‘transitional arts practice’ for the first time. With roots in traditions of ‘socially engaged art’, it focuses on making collective space to create a new narrative of change. This new practice can be found everywhere: in allotments, hospitals, school playgrounds, high streets; on coastlines and canal sides, community halls, bandstands, under oceans and along rivers. This is art that emerges, chameleon-like, in the spaces between people and places, in Happy Museums, playing wolf on Rannoch Moor, re-imagining the Tamar Valley and honouring the honey bee. Here you find activists and land journeyers; ritual makers and clay diggers; writers; food growers: creators of art in the service of life. They pay attention to empathy and dreaming, to loss and uncertainty, and catalyse connection for us to imagine new ways of living on the planet within limits.
in Sheffield Ruth Nutter explores the head, heart and hands of John Ruskin to re-imagine future social, environmental and economic landscapes; Anne-Marie Culhane’s ‘Fruit Routes’ crosses the country from Loughborough to Exeter and Hilary Jennings becomes a trustee of the Transition Network, representing the ‘key role of arts and culture’ in Transition. “The arts open us to When facts and figures alone cannot catalyse all the shifts different ways of needed in our world, the arts open seeing and feeling. us to different ways of seeing and feeling. They explore the language They explore the of the heart; the pain of what we’re language of the heart” losing and the deep yearning in us all for the restoration and celebraWith ‘recipes for action’ to take up tion of life. and try, the book makes transiThis collaborative book aims tional arts practice visible not only to provide a new lexicon for artto artists and communities but to ists and Transition practioners partners, local authorities, funders everywhere. and policy makers wishing to engage with its energy and alchemy. Playing For Timewill be launched in Playing For Time’s 12 core con- Spring 2015 at Free Word Centre. tributors have also been transition- The project has been funded ing themselves: at the Arcola, the by Arts Council England and world’s first carbon neutral theatre, Transition Network. Feimatta Conteh’s sustainability post has shifted into Technology Lucy Nealis a core member Manager of Arcola Energy, develop- of Transition Town Tooting ing (and selling) alternative energy.; in South London. The book was designed as a collaborative creative process, coming not from a single, but a collective voice. 50 contributors have unpicked, reworked, revisited and analysed their creative practices. Ref lecting on what they do, they gained increased confidence to advocate their work and its power to effect change.
‘Testing Transition’: five young artists from Riga, Latvia, leave their money behind to see if they can earn food from their art and performance in the village of Dzelzava, 200 km away (commissioned by IMAGINE 2020: Art and Climate Change)
a blockbuster storyline. How can we tell the tale of the greatest challenge of all? The Weather Stations project brings together writers, scientists, philosophers and economists to debate and imagine how we might live our lives differently in the face of global social and environmental upheaval. The five Writers in Residence – Xiaolu Guo (London), Mirko Bonné (Berlin), Jaś Kapela (Warsaw), Oisín McGann (Dublin) and Tony Birch (Melbourne) – will visit each other’s Weather Stations and also work with a ‘substation’ at a local school over an 18 month period.
curate a body of work that will get people thinking in a different way and to acknowledge their shared responsibility. “A lot of organisations work in science and others in arts, but very few are bringing arts and science together. It’s clear to us that there is level of frustration from policy makers and scientists around climate change and that artists can help communicate and bring another perspective. This relationship however is something the writers are grappling with. “Xiaolu has said: ‘I can’t just sit down and write a short story that
Author Xiaolu Guo (I am China),one of the five writers on the Weather Stations project
The UK’s Weather Station, Free reproduces didactic information Word Centre, houses many organisa- about what happens when warming tions, from the Arvon Foundation to goes up by 2 or 4 degrees. But I can Article 19, under the umbrella of lit- take one step away and create a fairy erature, literacy and free expression. story.’ “We see ourselves as a creative labThe London-based novelist was oratory for culture, politics and ideas. chosen for many reasons. If you think of the issues of climate “Xiaolu takes as her starting point change and free expression the rami- human culture and its destructive fications are enormous. presence, but also the resilience of “For example Article 19 have pro- spirit in the face of harsh circumduced reports on journalists and stance. She sees things afresh and environmental activists who are brings together two key continents imprisoned or under threat for what and perspectives, Europe and China. they have revealed about malprac“What I am hoping with Weather tice, how corrupt governments get Stations is that all voices can be together with multinationals, and heard. It’s important the conversathe impact it has on people’s lives. tion is not dominated by experts, So as well as the literature side, the that people don’t feel despairing or freedom to speak out and to know unqualified. We need a new narrastrongly influences the work we do.” tive to construct a possible future. The centre runs a year-round pro- Because as Philip Pullman has said, gramme of debates and conferences, ‘After nourishment, shelter, and combook launches and exhibitions, and panionship, stories are the thing we works along three lines of enquiry: need most in the world.’” The Power of Translation, How Might We Live Now and Unheard Voices. www.freewordcentre.com
community Photo: Alun Williams
from sanded scaffolding planks, “Transformation is rarely if ever counter tops were once school managed by government. It is led worktops and even the glass had a by example, usually personal or former life in a bank! group example, and it takes years Since opening in May the shop for these examples to see the light has had a hugely positive response of day and establish a sense of from visitors and is seeing its cus- meaning in the community. The tomer base slowly expand. As the Backyard acts as an inspiration shop is entirely staffed by volun- well beyond the confines of its teers it has had to restrict its open- geography. ing times to Saturdays but is hoping to expand this to four days a week “An inspiration well once volunteer numbers increase, beyond the confines and with many people signing up (and therefore able to claim a 20% of its geography” MichelleCooperfrom Peterborough in Transition behind the counter. The shop grew out of the Initiative’s buying group discount on their shopping) this should soon become a reality. “I urge the councillors and officWhilst volunteers hope that ers charged with taking such an the shop will continue to go important decision to think long from strength to strength, fears and hard before they act, as in In the heart of Peterborough there is a tiny emporium housed in an old shipping container. for the site’s future are growing hindsight they may well regret Sophie Antonelli tells the story behind The Backyard Shop after Peterborough City Council damaging a f ledgling that might A long-running ambition to pro- the Dig for Victory campaign and bring in their own food contain- announced its intention to sell yet develop into the soaring vide local and sustainable food in then allotments, before falling into ers to be filled up on site, recycled off the land where the commu- bird that will represent the new Peterborough has been realised disrepair when the local authority baby food jars are available for the nity garden is based for develop- dawn for Peterborough as one of with the opening of a new, sustain- closed the site in the 1990s. Local purchase of herbs and spices and ment. Trustees for the charity are Europe’s greenest places.” able food shop. Based at The Green organic produce from a nearby they offer Ecover refills on things now in talks with the council to Backyard community garden the Woodlands Organics farm is also like washing up liquid and laundry try and preserve a future for the Sophie Antonelli is a co-founder much loved project, which works of Peterborough in Transition shop is the product of a partner- on sale, as are local honey and liquid. to promote sustainable living and and The Green Backyard, a The shop itself is housed in what ship between the growing project dried and tinned goods purchased healthy lifestyles through commu- community green space in the was once a disused steel shipping and Peterborough in Transition. in bulk from worker co-op Suma, nity engagement and participation. centre of Peterborough, which container that has been restored The shop, named Backyard Food, who specialise in ethical, organic They have received huge support hosts artistic and community and converted into a tiny but beauis now stocking fresh veg grown on and fairly-traded goods. both locally and nationally, includ- events, as well as raising tiful shop by volunteers. Reclaimed the 2.3 acre city centre site, helping In order to reduce the amount ing from Eden Project Founder, Sir awareness of sustainability. http:// fibreboard lines the newly insuto keep vegetable growing alive on of packaging used, Backyard Food Tim Smit, who said: are encouraging customers to lated walls, the shelves are made land that was originally part of landgirlgardens.wordpress.com
Saying yes in our backyard
City on wheels “We have an ambition to make Norwich a cycling city,” say Lucy Hall and Jason Smith, founders of the social enterprise, Bicycle Links. James Frost finds out how their ambition is slowly becoming a reality organisation than meets the eye. Lucy and Jason work regularly with unemployed people, teaching bicycle maintenance skills in small groups as a way of rebuilding confidence and reskilling. Their project Pedal Forward has drawn in small sums of local, national and European funding and facilitates six week courses for unemployed people referred by local social welfare agencies. Their collaborative project Bikes and Beans, run in conjunction w it h Nor w ich FarmShare, a Transition Norwich CSA scheme, provided opportunities for people in early recovery from substance misuse to learn practical skills in the workshop and on the farm. “Bicycle Links was set up primarily as a social enterprise,” Jason explains. “ Yes, we sell bikes to keep the business af loat but our main focus is running funded projects and making positive interventions in the lives of unemployed or disadvantaged people.
“Although it is just a bike, it can give people a new lease of life”
Photo: Bicycle Links
This autumn Bicycle Links, a Nor w ic h-b a s e d C om mu n it y Interest Company, are running weekly group cycle rides encouraging residents back onto bikes with the support of trained instructors. They also own a workshop premises in the centre of the city where they refurbish second hand bikes, donating them to members of the community in most need or selling them on to the public. This workshop is a great example of a community hub – a networking point in a local area. “The word is slowly catching on that we love bikes!” says Lucy. “People donate old bicycles to us all the time and we repair them to save them going to waste. Sometimes we are able to pass them on through Social Services to people who need a bike to get to work or visit members of their family. Although it is just a bike, it can give people a new lease of life.” A lthough many people see Bicycle Links as a shop or meeting point, there is much more to the
Getting back in the saddle with Bicycle Links and the Pedalways project, Bishops Bridge, Norwich
“We use the bicycle maintenance as a way of engaging with people. It gives people a chance to be part of an active project, work together as a team, learn practical workshop skills and make a difference. We have seen lots of good results and many who attend our Pedal Forward courses continue to volunteer with us, or find new work with our references.” It is a good time to get back in the saddle in Norwich, with
over £5m being invested in the cycleways in the city to improve connections between the east and west and create some safer routes on busy roads. The project Push Pedalways is funded by the Department for Transport and Norwich City Council, with other partners, and will complete in 2015. If you live in Norwich then do visit Bicycle Links or take part in the Get Cycling group cycle rides
on Saturday mornings, leaving at 11am. The rides are free, open to all and cycles are available to borrow. www.bicyclelinks.org.uk www.norwich.gov.uk/pedalways James Frostis a freelance fundraiser and project manager who helps transition groups, social enterprises and environmental organisations raise money and deliver projects for a better world.
Fungi play a crucial role in forests and soils yet all too often suffer from being categorised as either edible (often picked to destruction) or poisonous (kicked and trampled). The key to a safe and mindful enjoyment of wild fungi is to take an interest in the full range of species and only harvest a few of each of a wide range of edible varieties. The Scarletina bolete is a red-pored mushroom with flesh that turns from bright yellow to deep blue within a few seconds of being cut. It is not what most people expect of a tasty mushroom, but its very oddness makes it easy to identify. The blue discolouration fades on cooking. The texture and flavour of firm young specimens is excellent, though older spongier specimens are best dried. Either way, they are delicious in risottos, stews and fricassees, but shouldn’t be eaten raw. Look for Scarletina boletes from July to November beneath deciduous and occasionally coniferous trees. 90% of my finds come from beneath beech. They are 4–12cm in diameter; have a velvety tan to deep brown cap; a fat stem, thicker at the base, which is yellow with many tiny red dots making it look red. The underside of the cap consists of pores (not gills). These are red, but the tubes above (when cut) are yellow, as is the flesh throughout. Be aware of the Lurid bolete (boletus luridus) which has a paler cap colour and a net pattern (reticulum) on the stipe. Lurid bolete is also edible, but has more reports of adverse reactions in a small proportion of people. It should not be eaten within 24 hours of drinking alcohol. IMPORTANT: Never eat a wild mushroom or plant unless you are 100% sure of its identity and that it is an edible species. Mark Williams(@markwildfood) is a foraging tutor who teaches plant/fungi ID and mindful foraging. www.gallowaywildfoods.com
Photo: Jaroslav Maly
Happy foragers with basket of wood blewits; Scarletina Bolete showing widening yellow base with tiny red dots making it look red.
Photo: Tanya Harris
Photo: Mark Williams © GallowayWildFoods.com
Easily identified, delicious boletes are one of our wild autumn delicacies. On your bike to the nearest beech woods and get hunting! Mark Williams points the way
“We combine teaching people about the wellbeing benefits of eating certain foods alongside the environmental ones”
Bi-weekly, pay-by donation, two hour long Sunday afternoon workshops cover everything from making homemade cosmetics to baking sourdough bread to yogic cookery.
Local community kitchen puts people and planet first
Tess Riley heads to Made In Hackney’s urban kitchen where everyone can discover how to make delicious, healthy, affordable meals using local, seasonal produce Step off the bustling Stoke Newington High Street onto North-East London’s Cazenove Road and it won’t take you long to spot the welcoming bright green building. This is Food For All, a notfor-profit health food shop that’s been serving the local community since 1976. In its basement lies my destination for the day, Made In Hackney, a pioneering community kitchen that’s been teaching food growing, cooking and composting skills using local, seasonal, organic ingredients since October 2012. Averting my eyes from Food For All’s tempting shelves, I head down to Made In Hackney’s eco-kitchen. Upcycled plates, bowls, chopping boards and weighing scales line shelves made from reclaimed scaffolding planks; comfortable stool cushions made from old hessian sacks pile up in the corner; and standing proud in the centre of it all is a black hob island made from melted-down coffee cups. It’s in this kitchen that Made In Hackney hosts both its pay-bydonation Sunday afternoon workshops - which teach everything
from vegetarian BBQs to making preserves - and its masterclasses. Led by expert guest foragers, nutritionists, herbalists and chefs, these hands-on sessions have covered raw food dinner parties, wild food cookery, edible cosmetics and vegan afternoon tea. The masterclasses help fund both the Sunday workshops and the third type of Made In Hackney course – off-site food courses in partnership with communit y organisations, housing associations and support groups such as Action for Children, London Orchard Project and the Women’s Environment Network. By working this way, Made in Hackney ensures that their courses reach those most in need, such as low income families, teen carers, and people suffering from diet-related health problems. “We combine teaching people about the well-being benefits of eating certain foods alongside the environmental ones,” says project co-ordinator and founder, Sarah Bentley. “The limited budget aspect is a key part of what we do. We
adhere to a rigorous local, seasonal, plant based and organic food policy. If people who attend our courses eat more meat-free meals cooked from scratch, start composting their food waste, begin growing some of their own food (even a few herbs on a balcony), and pay more attention to where they source their food then we’ve done a great job!” Aware that my raw food detox class is about to start, I don one of the trademark brown aprons that I’ve seen so many others wearing in the smiling photographs adorning Made In Hackney’s walls. New to green juice and kale chips I may be, but I’m ready to learn and couldn’t be in a better place to do so. I may even stock up on a few ingredients upstairs on my way out… Tess Rileyis a freelance journalist writing about sustainable food and the environment, and is Food Co-Editor at Transition Free Press. For more information on upcoming courses and masterclasses at Made In Hackney, head to www.madeinhackney.org/whats-on
Food writing competition
In Voices of Transition, permaculture pioneer Mike Feingold explains the benefits of a slow, more considered way of life
Wondrous peas and dragons’ tongues
wiped out: it’s much better to have a ‘spread portfolio’, to use capitalist lingo.” The Heritage Seed Library, based in Warwickshire, has more than 800 vegetable varieties, no longer comCommunity groups across the world are working to preserve mercially available from gardenour environmental heritage through seed saving. Lucy Purdy ing catalogues or seed companies, finds out how seed power is being taken back into lovingly including a grey-green kale, edged with frilly, purple-tinged leaves, hand-labelled seed envelopes by local gardeners grown by Paul Pickering and his “A lady came to one of our seed swaps better suited to their local grow- family. Tasty and strong enough clutching a handful of envelopes con- ing environments, favour taste over to withstand winter frosts, the taining the pea, Glory of Devon. She financial profit, and – perhaps most family calls the kale Tunley Greens had grown them from seeds from importantly – shout loud about place, in honour of the grandfather from an earlier swap: a beautiful, very tall, culture and people. These are real Tunley in Wiltshire who first grew heritage variety which she described seeds, packed full of nutrients, taste them in 1910. Thanks to the library, the Pickering family’s kale is now as the ‘most wondrous’ pea she had and history. ever grown. She wanted to share it with others, completing the cycle of “Older varieties the seed swap.” favour taste over Alison Williams, founder of Seedy Sisters, an offshoot of Transition financial profit” Town Totnes, tells many such stories. She co-founded the all-women group Permaculture gardener and author in 2004 and has helped organise reg- Carl Legge founded the cheekilyular seed and seedling swaps, and named Seedy Penpals, a Europe-wide educational events each year since. network, whose members exchange “I’ve always saved my own seed and seeds twice a year. “I’ve received wanted to encourage others to get some fantastic blue tomatoes this involved in the very basics of food year called Dancing With Smurfs,” production,” says Williams. says Legge, “as well as herbs I wasn’t As well as being a great way aware existed. It’s a good way of to learn more about our growing spreading heritage varieties which heritage, seed saving and shar- aren’t available for commercial sale. ing encourages local production For example, I like to send out motand food security. New seed varie- tled green and purple beans called ties, while they may yield more, are Dragon’s Tongue. often dependent on fossil-fuel based “It’s crucial to maintain biodiverinputs like fertilisers or pesticides. sity for many reasons. Monocultures Older varieties, which are often are much more susceptible to being
“This precious film is about shaping the future here and now. With our tiny steps and collective solidarity, we will make sure the Tree of Life flourishes and grows.” So says world-renowned environmental activist Vandana Shiva about Voices of Transition, an inspiring documentary that takes us on a cinematic tour of France, England and Cuba to communities making the transition to local resilience. If you’d like to win a copy of this new DVD and feature in the next issue of Transition Free Press, all you need to do is send us 300 words on why sustainable food matters to you. enjoyed by thousands of growers the world over. Also cropping up around the world are seed lending libraries – like the ones organised by Transition San Fransciso and Transition Meaford in Canada based at their local public libraries. Participants can borrow seeds, grow them and then return harvested seeds. ‘Seedy Saturdays’ and Potato Days have become iconic Transition community exchanges, along with seed workshops and festivals, such as the London Freedom Seed Bank festival in October. Recent proposals to changes to EU seed laws spurred many people into action on seed diversity. The
Whether you’re a bee-keeper or a brewer, a forager or a fermenter, or none of the above and are just a good community-based lowcarbon food fan, we want to know what makes your taste-buds tick. Please email your entries to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header ‘Voices of Transition Competition’ by 15th October, along with your name and address. We’ll print the winning entry in the next issue of Transition Free Press and send the author a copy of Voices of Transition DVD. Three runners up will also win a copy of the DVD. proposed new law would drastically reduce the range of vegetables and flowers available. Though the legislation has not yet been passed, campaigners are being urged to keep up the pressure and to stand up for biodiversity and choice. The Great Seed Festival 11th12th October is at Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB http//:londonfreedomseedbank. wordpress.com Lucy Purdyis a freelance journalist specialising in environmental and ethical issues. Growing for diversity: White Belgium carrots
Photo: Heritage Seed Library
Credit: Milpa Films
Win Voices of Transition (DVD) and a chance to write for Transition Free Press!
Want a Local Food Co-op? Start with the software Eva Schonveld writes about an innovative new web-based food co-op in Fife Fife Diet is a well known local eating project based in Burntisland, north of Edinburgh, which has gathered over 6,000 members in the last five years, making it the largest of its kind in Europe. Their members told them what they
Together with several other UK food fast growing number of groups and commonwealth. Unlike other online projects, including StroudCo, they’re communities who are looking for food hub software systems, there piloting brand new software which ways to support local food. Their is no private developer who owns needed was easy access to afford- makes the job of connecting local grow- recent crowd-funding appeal for the the code and who controls future able food. ers with local eaters much easier. UK platform has been very success- improvements and developments. So, this summer they’ve set up a Developed by the Australian ful, ensuring that this work can move Anyone can make improvements new online co-op which will provide Open Food Foundation, the Open ahead swiftly. and everyone benefits from them. just that. People order their food Food Network’s web platform is an The Network’s open source Win win! online and collect it a few days later ‘open source’ non-profit resource, status also means that the software at a sociable community hub. which will be freely available to the is jointly owned by its users as a true http://openfoodfoundation.org
health Photo: Rasheeqa Ahmad
Radical roots of plant medicine
Speaking out: the main tent at the Radical Herbalism Gathering at Crabapple Community in Shropshire in June
This summer over 200 people came together to explore the roots of health injustice in the UK. Nicole Vosper reports from the second Radical Herbalism Gathering The gathering acted as a honeypot, might also include community attracting community organisers, organising against damp housing herbalists, healthcare practitioners, or working conditions to address campaigners and radical midwives the root causes. to its workshops and conversations calling for social change. “Reclaiming plant “There are political and social medicines as a form reasons why compromised and damaged health, as well as health of primary health inequalities, exist in the UK and care is an ecological globally,” says Becs Griffiths, herbalist and gathering organiser. imperative” Factors such as poverty, racism, sexism and ongoing inequalities The Radical Herbalism Gathering all create and perpetuate the health is about collectively exploring these (or poor health) of our communi- complexities. This year’s gathering ties. Classic herbalism, for example, was centred on four themes. The would prescribe respiratory herbs first strand was radical approaches to support individuals with com- to health. Together we explored plaints, whereas a radical approach holistic approaches to mental
health, to birth and death and to exploring the health implications of and learnt plant identification unconventional gas. There were also through the multiple herb walks the relationship with our bodies. Instead of the desire to categorise, spaces to talk about global corporate around the grounds of the Crabapple repress or hide health challenges, violence to indigenous land and med- Community, where the gathering whether that is mental ‘illness’ or icine, as well as mutual aid within the was held. expressions of grief, in each work- herbal world. With travel and ticket bursaries, “We believe that healthcare is a sliding scale donations and children’s shop we tried to look at these challenges in a holistic way, and within right, not a privilege and should be activities, the gathering aimed to be their social and political contexts. accessible to all people regardless as accessible as possible. The seeds The second strand explored eco- of their ethnicity, culture, national- were sown for a growing movement logical justice and the sustainability ity, economic class, sexual identity, of people passionate about health, of industrial medicine and herbal gender or age,” adds fellow herbal- determined to challenge capitalism medicine. There were conversations ist and organiser, Heather Ware. and the roots of social and ecological about the implications of antibiotic ”Radical herbalism commits to dis- injustice, sharing an inner knowing resistance, food politics, native herbs mantling barriers that stand in the that plants can play a role in collecand more. All were centred on how way of this access.” This is why organ- tive liberation. we are harming our ecosystems and isers from Bristol Refugee Rights why reclaiming plant medicines as a spoke so passionately about migrant For more information about the form of primary healthcare is an eco- solidarity and upcoming changes gathering visit: logical imperative. in the law that threaten access to www.radicalherbalism.org.uk The complexities of health and healthcare. social justice were a core strand, Practical herbal medicine was Nicole Vosperis a DIY radical giving a voice to Herbalists Against the remaining strand, where people herbalist based in Somerset. She blogs Fracking during a workshop shared skills about medicine making at www.wildheartpermaculture.co.uk.
Walking back home to Earth
Photo: Mike Hobson.
one of the drivers of our inglorious Industrial age: a time where former rural dwellers were forced to swell cities and towns, with the resulting pollution, overcrowding, disease, and social ills. Clare’s great strength as a writer lie in his groundedness in his ‘known place’. Therein lies the tragedy that he was uprooted from it – partly by literary fame and ambition, and partly by the mores of a society that failed to understand and empathise with his mental instability. I resonate with this close studying of the poet, his work and his life, and in particular with walking some of the physical route he took, as it was for him a route back, a search for reconnection, and a passing through of unfamiliar terWalking in Clare country: Etton Fields in Northamptonshire ritory made known by his great love James Murray White follows the footsteps of John Clare arrived home, he couldn’t settle than he knew himself, and became of the Earth and its creatures. In back, became increasingly alien- a steward of the land in the only way my own life-long search for a home I’ve just come back from an even- the road and walked up a section ated and distant from his family, he could: through the written word. place (I grew up in East Anglia and ing spent retracing part of a very of land that is part of this huge and a few months later was transHe is revered by birdwatchers as returned to Cambridge a year ago) particular route: the poet John reserve. It lies on the Greensand ferred to another asylum, this time the English poet who identified and and walking through the shiftClare’s three day walk home from Ridge, which stretches all the way in Northampton, where he lived tracked upwards of 300 bird spe- ing communities on the road, I’m an asylum in Epping Forest, to his down to the East Sussex coast. until his death in 1864. cies, and his book-length poem, The drinking deep of one whose life family in Northborough, in what As a writer and filmmaker, I’ve Shepherd’s Calendar (recently reis- story resounds with the passion, was then Northamptonshire. become fascinated with Clare’s “A metaphor for the sued by Oxford University Press) is a articulation and vision of connecClare’s walk took place over 170 ‘escape from Essex’ as a metaphor deep tracing of the seasons, as lived tivity and earth-rootedness, despite connection between years ago, and tonight the conser- for the connection between walkand breathed by human beings and humanity’s woes and infidelities. vationist and writer Conor Jameson ing, creativity, and mental health. walking, creativity, everything that lives within their and I are walking a short section, I’ve been absorbed in uncovering cycle. James Murray-Whiteis a writer and mental health” where Clare wandered off the Great where the walk – the longest single Clare is also known as the poet and filmmaker, whose work has taken North Road (now the A1). walk of Clare’s life (despite his days John Clare’s life and writings encap- who warned of the dangers of the him to many lands and peoples, from Conor’s day job is with the RSPB, spent in the fields as an agricul- sulate much of the roots of the private landlords, who used politi- Mongolian and Bedouin nomads based at their HQ in Sandy, and he tural labourer) – fits into Clare’s Transition movement. Clare knew cal power to enclose once public to the Inuit and the West Coast of has a hunch that Clare came off life and poetic output. When he the landscape around him better land, the ‘commons’, which was Ireland. www.sky-larking.co.uk
workshops How telling tales changes the plot Photo: Bridget McKenzie
Robert Holtom looks at the shifting role of storytellers
“All times are changing times, organisations to the art of storytellbut ours is one of massive rapid ing. The storytelling approach blurs moral and mental transforma- the boundaries between the pertion,” wrote Ursula Le Guin in Tales sonal and professional, as individufrom Earthsea. “Archetypes turn als are asked to connect their lives Changing the narrative: workshop at Uncivilisation Festival 2012, Sustainability Centre, Hampshire into millstones, large simplicities with their work and their work with get complicated, chaos becomes the wider challenges facing society. makes a story memorable and However, many stories are about of often overwhelming change elegant and what everybody knows engaging, including the central heroes, about one person who takes we need good stories to guide us. is true turns out to be what some “The best stories we characters, the texture of the sto- on adversity and triumphs. Running Furthermore, the old stories of epic people used to think.” ryscape and the emotional jour- storytelling workshops with groups heroes are no longer sufficient as can tell are about In 2014 it is not just the times ney. Participants are asked to tell I’ve realised how impoverished this we cannot just wait to be rescued. that are changing but the climate heroic communities their stories to one another and dominant narrative is. Society is Instead, the best stories we can too – cultural, meteorological and then apply the principles of story- not the product of lone individuals tell are about heroic communities and the everyday political. To understand changes telling to case studies concerning but the result of a collective achieve- and the everyday acts of teamment stretching back through time. work and support we provide for we tell stories about them, and two acts of teamwork” their own work. We co-author an inherently inter- one another. It is through this very powerful narratives we hear at the There is a time and a place for twined storyscape and our stories human art that we discover the moment tell either of continued At a recent series of workshops stories as they invite a deeper must reflect these everyday struggles skills to tell our stories with passion growth or apocalypse. But large for the charity Wateraid, I worked emotional and imaginative expeand successes. To tell tales of only a and authenticity. simplicities get complicated and with NLA’s founder and author, rience. Whilst facts and figures few individuals is to turn beautiful instead we need stories that are Geoff Mead. We gave each par- tell us what to believe, stories show complexities into undernourished Robert Holtomis a freelance subtle, strong and tensile enough ticipant a short traditional story us other worlds, either in others’ to be able to guide us through that had water as a key theme, experiences or fictional realms. simplicities. writer and a consultant storyteller. uncertainty and transformation. for example the great Dreamtime They encourage a more personal Stor y telling as a tool for In 2013/14 he was a participant in I work with Narrative Leadership story about Tiddalik the frog acquaintanceship between teller or g a n i s a t io n s a nd c o m mu- Transition Network’s One Year in Associates – a group of storytell- who drinks all the world’s water. and listener and are often far more nity engagement is on the rise Transition course. ing practitioners that introduces During the day we analyse what than just words. again, partly because in times http://robertgholtom.wordpress.com
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practical Credit: Sarah Nicholl
Make or break culture Maker Spaces (sometimes known as Hackerspaces) are community operated workshops where people can meet in order to socialise and collaborate on a wide range of projects. Doncaster Maker group share their story
Maker Culture is an offshoot of the broader DIY Culture which focuses largely on new and emerging techSealing up the cracks: Draught Busting with Transition Belsize in London nologies – 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC milling – as well as computer based projects including coding, Free Open Source Software, digital art and design and the use of Draught Busting teams have been keeping UK communities and windows. “Holes behind a sink ARM-based computers. warm in inexpensive ways from London to Lancaster. Vivienne where waste pipes go are a problem,” The Doncaster Maker Group Johnson learns some tips from Tony Cowling in Reading said Tony. “Because they are behind realised that both Maker Culture a cupboard people think they don’t and the emergence of Maker Spaces As winter approaches, so does the “The least we’ve spent on a prop- matter. Actually every hole matters. offer valuable lessons for the wider challenge of keeping warm and erty was £1.50,” said Tony. “The ten“We’ve had some serious issues DIY community, especially with saving energy at the same time. ants would save £40 p/a through with draughty f loors where gales regard to self-reliance, resilience and This is especially true in cold, reduced heat losses. If they were come in between floorboards, and sustainability. damp homes that can be damag- to take our advice about heating also loft traps that don’t fit propDoncaster is essentially a collecing to health. control a further £120 p/a would erly. It’s very simple to cure: even a tion of semi-rural ex-mining towns Tony Cowling, founder of be easy to achieve. draught excluder from the Pound which are surrounded by arable Reading Draught Busters, part Shop will get you there, unless the farmland and which collectively of Transition Town Reading, has “Draught busting a loft trap is missing. share a rich engineering and indusbeen helping some of the most “Check radiator pipes and the trial heritage. Despite this, Doncaster house is easy and the bath pipe that goes under the bath. is still officially one of the most disadvantaged people in the town to keep warm affordably materials are cheap” The easiest way to find a draught underprivileged regions in the UK. So the Doncaster Maker Group by using simple and cheap techis to just use the back of your hand. decided that they were going to build niques. “The scheme was limited “On average each client costs £25 Once it’s been detected, block it up, their Maker Space almost completely to those who were living in poor and annual savings are estimated no matter what the size, from a from scratch (and scrap) to show just conditions and in fuel poverty, at £100. The biggest savings keyhole to an open chimney. When especially families with young approached £600 p/a .” the draughts are gone you can start what is possible using only existing children or on beneﬁts, or the “If you sit in a draughty room to enjoy the benefits of using less skills and resources – a combination very elderly,” explained Tony. “It you can be cold when the room is energy and having smaller bills.” of Maker Culture and Permaculture also included those living in cold at 22 degrees. If the room has no that has the potential to offer real draughty conditions who were draughts you are comfortable at a Reading Draught Busters operchange at both an individual and a under debt management.” far lower temperature. Reducing ate one afternoon a week during community level. Draught Busters started with a the thermostat by two degrees winter. They also organise workgrant by Reading Borough Council. saves 10% of your heating bill.” shops and training. “Improvements in selfThe money paid for draught proofHomeowners often jump to the reliance, resilience ing materials with the work being conclusion that you have to have Tony Cowlingis a retired carried out by a team of volunteers expensive loft or cavity wall insula- builder from Reading and has a and sustainability who give their time and expertise tion to save heat. Tony, an ex-builder, small sustainability consultancy. can also improve for free. has been dispelling this urban myth www.DraughtBusters.net. People came from several and showing people how ‘draught the bank balance” sources: a local debt advice centre, busting’ a house is easy and the Vivienne Johnsonis a freelance via Reading Borough Council’s materials are cheap. Things to look journalist specialising in local We’re lucky that we have the wonderWinter Watch Scheme or adver- out for include letter boxes with community issues and is a ful Doncaster Central Trust on board missing flaps or gaps around doors member of Transition Reading. (the same people who let us paint tisements in the local media. a mural on their building and set fires alight as part of a performance event called The Telling, reviewed in Transition Free Press 2), and that
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they’ve offered us a disused space at Church View, a former art college, which we can use as long as we bring it up to scratch. So our first projects – part of our ‘Beyond DIY’ programme – involve workshops in bricklaying, glazing and laying cement floors! The general idea is to build as much as we can from as little as we can using a basic range of tools. It’s surprising how much can be achieved with a limited tool-kit. William Kamkwamba, the Malawian inventor who built his own wind turbine from scrap as a teenager, began his project armed only with a hand drill made from an old nail and a corn-cob (read William’s extraordinary story in his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind). Meanwhile we are working on plenty of other activities while we get the room at Church View ready. One of the most successful has been a pop-up Maker Space we built as part of the DNweekeND arts festival in May. In conjunction with the Doncaster Urban Growers (DUG) we turned a disused retail unit in a rundown shopping centre into a multifaceted maker exhibition. Over the course of the weekend we enticed Doncaster residents away from shopping to get involved with a whole range of maker activities, including building a hydroponics window display; demonstrations of woodworking and upcycling shabby chic furniture; being part of a human drum machine; and getting familiar with the Raspberry Pi computer in our ‘Pi Shop’. It was a fantastic experience which we’d be happy to repeat – just as soon as we get our energy back. To learn more about the Doncaster Maker Group find us on Facebook or visit www. donnymakers.org
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Disability and the social side of sustainability Alison Parfitt on Walking Interconnections, the Bristol research project exploring everyday experiences of disability
Photo: Rosalind Turner
However, the 900 photos also showed experiences of enjoyment and cheerful solidarity with others, and emphasised how being in the green outdoors can improve people’s quality of life. It is well known that both sociability and spending time closer to the natural world contribute to better health and healing. From the start of the project, we were interested in understanding Choice of paths: Liz Crow took part in the Walking Interconnections project more about interdependence, unavoidable for those disabled people As one participant neatly put it: who need to rely on others. Our The Walking Interconnections “Exclusion is especially about physical research team was funded by the walkers told stories that highlighted co-operation, taking and giving sup- barriers and inclusion is often about Arts and Humanities Research relationships.” port, negotiation and reciprocity. Council. Volunteers came from Disability does not mean ina- Bristol green groups and the These stories showed how endlessly varied and subtle forms of bility. Walking Interconnections West of England Centre for interdependence underpin so much shows the value of ref lecting on Inclusive Living. Find out more at social cohesion in everyday life and how people, including those with www.walkinginterconnections.com are a key ingredient for communi- disabilities, experience everyday ties moving to a more sustainable life. The voices of people with disway of life. We need to acknowledge abilities are rarely heard in the sus- Alison Parfitt, a long-time green that everybody’s capacities and needs tainability debate, and we hope that campaigner, supports Transition can vary with the time of day (“I am an ongoing dialogue is sustained Cheltenham and is interested in much better in the mornings”), never between disabled people and other the rewilding of people and place. mind their time of life. transitioners everywhere.
Photo: Duncan Blinkhorn
We partnered up to share and “Only two [disabled] people in over record each other’s habitual experi900 photos!” ences and knowledge of everyday This remark of surprise came places. We took walks together, from one of our research group as along Bristol’s Harbourside, in we looked back at pictures taken in Leigh Woods to the west of the city Bristol’s public places last summer. or to show off allotments. People A fifth of the world’s population are took their dogs and other aids. We disabled in some way, but we could made maps, took photographs and hardly see anyone with visible disabilities. “Where are they?” we asked. then reflected together. The photographs were part of the Walking Interconnections “The voices of people research project, which has been with disabilities are looking at new ways to support a transition to a more socially susrarely heard in the tainable society. Our group of 19 sustainability debate” co-researchers, led by Dr Sue Porter, a Research Fellow at the As expected, many stories focused on University of Bristol, included accessibility. The group talked about people with disabilities – some having to be determined and take risks, who use wheelchairs or mobil- about needing other people to scout ity scooters, some with visual ahead to find accessible routes. One or hearing impairments – and significant issue for Bristol – the UK’s others from around the city who first Cycling City and also European were aware of sustainability and Green Capital for 2015 – is just how environmental issues, includ- unwelcome and unsafe some walkers ing se vera l f rom Tra nsit ion can feel when sharing off-road routes Initiatives. with cyclists.
All smiles: The Bike Train assembles for one of its rides down a busy Brighton A road
All aboard the Bike Train
Duncan Blinkhorn tells the story of the Brighton cycle project which started as a community garden and ended up transforming a main road for the daily commute When you plant a seed, you never quite know how it will grow. In 2009, a group of us set out to improve a patch of derelict land on the site of an old petrol station in Brighton. We had little idea of how it might lead to other actions to help transform our city. The Lewes Road Community Garden provided a beautiful and sociable oasis in a grey corner of
our city, alongside a busy main campaign. We wanted to promote road. Yet, however green we made cycling as part of a positive soluit look, many of us returned home tion, but people told us the road from a day of digging with sore was just too busy and dangerous. throats after breathing in traf- So, in 2010, in the ‘just do it’ spirit fic fumes for hours – an invis- of the garden, we began to organible danger that is responsible for ise daily group commuter bike about 30,000 premature deaths in rides. the UK every year. Cycling two-abreast during the Seeking change, we set up rush hour, our ‘Bike Trains’ would the Lewes Road for Clean Air occupy the whole inside lane of the
dual carriageway as we pedalled the three miles from the city centre to Sussex University. With our big triangular ‘Bike Train!’ warning sign and upbeat tunes playing on a sound system, people could hear us, as well as see us, coming. Bike Train ‘passenger’ Alison Freeman remembers the early rides: “It was exciting and empowering to ride with so many other people. I felt a sense of community – as we cycled along, many pedestrians cheered us and waved. “The journey that could often feel like a stressful negotiation with traffic turned into a leisurely opportunity... I felt safer than I had ever done before.” But that summer, Jo Walters, a recently qualified teacher who had been a student in Brighton, was killed in a collision with a car while cycling near the university. We realised we needed to highlight how the road’s layout made such accidents more likely. Jo’s family offered to help, bringing in expertise to draw up a redesign of the whole route. The advent of the governm e n t ’s L o c a l S u s t a i n a b l e Transport Fund, promising a £4.2m grant, as well as the election of a ‘green’ City Council, meant that suddenly we were invited in to help transform the whole route into a “sustainable transport corridor”.
Two-thirds of residents supported the proposals for a wider cycle lane, with lower speed limits and most traffic restricted to a single lane in each direction. The project also introduced innovative ‘floating bus stops’, removing the conflict between bike users and buses. Completed in September 2013, the scheme has resulted in a 13% reduction in motor traffic and a 14% increase in cycling. These days we focus on running bike trains to various events. Our biggest is the Bonfire Bike Train from Brighton to Lewes for its spectacular 5th of November celebrations.
“The journey that could be a stressful negotiation with traffic turned into a leisurely opportunity” Some of us are also planning to open a community cycle workshop, the ‘Bike Hub’, next to the site of the old garden. We hope this will encourage yet more people to take up cycling, and help make Brighton a cleaner, greener place to live. Duncan Blinkhornis part of Lewes Road for Clean Air and their Bike Train project www.biketrain.org. He is also co-ordinator of the Brighton Bike Hub www.brightonbikehub.org
Sea kayaking Photo: Kate Rawles
a philosophy of the outdoors
Exploring the coastal wonders of Arisaig in the Scottish Highlands
Kate Rawles explains why sea kayaking gives her a sense of connection with the environment and inspires her to practise her philosophy outdoors rather than in an ivory tower
Outdoor Philosophy is an attempted remedy; it is a discussion about human-nature relaI am in the glorious Arisaig Islands gear and food enough for multiHumans mostly understand tions conducted in the middle of off the west coast of Scotland and week trips and their shallow draft nature as a set of resources. All other species and ecosystems. It have ‘parked’ my kayak in seaweed. and manoeuverability gives a com- other living beings, from blue tits aims to harness the power of this Secured from the wind-drift, I petent kayaker access to islands to blue whales, are valued only in kind of experience – an invigoratwatch the Arctic Terns travelling and beaches that few other craft relation to their usefulness to us. ing sense of reconnection – to nurhome from Antarctica. They are can reach. It is a low impact, quiet This anthropocentric outlook, the ture, ignite and support people in small, silver birds with grace- and wildlife-friendly sport. belief that humans are the most their environmental work. Sea kayaking tends to dissolve ful swallow-shaped tails and a significant species on the planet, anthropocentrism, effortlessly. screeching call at odds with their “In a small boat it’s is undoubtedly a root cause of our Despite their seaworthiness, it is delicate frame. Flying up to 70,000 interlocking environmental crises. impossible to retain nigh on impossible to sit in a small km in one year – by far the longFor many years, I was lucky to est migrations of any bird – they a bloated sense of have these debates as part of my boat on even the laziest Atlantic will clock up the equivalent of job as a philosophy lecturer. But swell and retain a bloated sense human power” three round trips to the moon in a discussing human-nature relations of human power and superiority. n a sma l l b oat ’Of course, lifetime! Once I went to the Lofoten above in ivory towers and overheated lecwhen my sea k ay a k ing t r ip Sights like this explain why the Arctic Circle in Norway but, ture theatres left my colleagues comes to an end, I load my boat sea kayaking has become a pas- like the Arctic terns, I always come and I disconnected from the natuon to my van f illed with fossil sion of mine. About 17 feet long, back to west Scotland. However, ral world we were trying to think fuel and drive home, thereby sea kayaks are both beautiful and despite the sheer beauty, diversity about and without a mandate to adding to the greenhouse gases immensely sea worthy. In their and intrigue to be found here, all is act for environmentally positive that are threatening the lives sealed holds you can pack camping not well in the sea. social or political change.
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and wellbeing of the species I‘ve just been revelling in. But, in the end, perhaps that is the point – not to dwell in guilt and blame, but to stay in touch with the deep discomfort of reconnection, as well as its invigorating power. To re-see and revalue the sparrows on my terraced house front. To energise work that aims to reshape our economic, social and intellectual systems so we can co-exist as half-decent citizens of our extraordinary ecological communities. Kate Rawleslectures and writes on ‘big picture’ environmental issues, sustainability and values. Her 2012 book The Carbon Cycle – Crossing the Great Divide used adventure cycling to communicate climate change. Find out more at www.outdoorphilosophy.com
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Published on Aug 31, 2014