TRANSITION www.transitionfreepress.org Issue No. 3 Autumn 2013
NEWS: Peak Wild
Fish Nearing the end of the line Page 4
Monbiot Rewilding Transition Page 12
Mondays The art of eating at one table Page 17
running Not for lone wolves Back page
China sparks carbon revolution by Alexis Rowell
How often have you heard people say: “There’s no point in me doing anything on carbon reduction – look at China”? Or “Don’t you know the Chinese are building two new coal-fired power stations a week?”
But what if China were to go it alone on cutting carbon? Would it give a boost to movements like Transition that are predicated on a move out of fossil fuels, or to grassroots carbon reduction initiatives like Carbon Conversations or Transition Streets? Would it give national governments a reason to take CO2 cuts more seriously? China is the world’s largest emitter of CO2, narrowly ahead of the USA. But that overstates China’s contribution to the carbon problem. Per person per year, Chinese citizens generate about a third of the CO2 of their US counterparts. Also, a third of China’s emissions are the result of exports – mainly Western consumer goods. And nearly a third of the emissions currently in the atmosphere were put
there by the USA, whilst China is responsible for only about nine percent. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency, was recently quoted as saying: “The Chinese government has made huge efforts in energy efficiency, and a major effort
“China is installing renewables at a faster rate than any other country“ on renewable energy such as hydroelectricity and wind.” He’s not kidding. China makes 80 percent of the world’s solar panels, most of them for export, but it’s also installing renewables at a faster rate than any other country, and last year produced more solar and wind power than anyone else. Seven Chinese cities are already experimenting with carbon trading programmes and the Chinese government has been working hard to reduce the carbon intensity of production
Chinese winds of change: farming for food on a wind farm in Liaoning province. Photo by Wang Wen/ImageChina via AP Images
– emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). But now there are rumours of an absolute limit over which emissions will not be allowed to rise – a so-called ‘hard cap’ – in Beijing’s next Five
Year Plan, which begins in 2016. Anatol Lieven, professor of international relations at Kings College London, believes such a policy might encourage others to follow suit: “A Chinese move
towards unilateral carbon reduction could make a significant difference on the international stage where UN negotiations to achieve an agreement on tackling CONT. PAGE 8
A Big Lemon bus takes protesters to the Balcombe anti-fracking demonstration.
grandma’s road,” he adds. “I grew up climbing that tree.” With his neat hair, trim beard, shorts, sensible socks and hiking boots, Druitt cuts a clean figure. “Hiking has given me an appreciation of nature and showed me the value of it,” he says. “Everywhere I see so much destruction, habitat loss, species extinction, climate change...” “It’s all very well re-using your shopping bag, but we need to change the way we power
ourselves and the way we get around. So I started looking around for something I could do that would be part of the solution.” The solution turned out to be The Big Lemon, which Druitt founded in 2007 – a Community Interest Company, which runs bus routes in Brighton and takes groups to events. Druitt is more than happy to admit that, before he started The Big Lemon, he knew nothing about CONT. PAGE 2
If life gives you lemons, make community buses You’re as likely to find eco entrepreneur, Tom Druitt, driving a bus to the antifracking camp in Balcombe, or up a tree protesting about road building, as you are at the helm of his public transport company, The Big Lemon.
He recently appeared in court to answer charges connected to protesting about the BexhillHastings Link Road. “I’ve got a lot of interests I feel strongly about,” he says with a smile. “It keeps life interesting.” “That road is going to bring down a tree at the end of my
NEWS pages 3-5 PEOPLE page 12 REVIEWS page 13 ARTS page 16 FOOD pages 18-19 WELLBEING page 21 PRACTICAL page 22 SPORT back page
Most newspapers tell us that economic progress is the only story we should live by. However it’s a story whose consequences have been edited out, and increasingly we find ourselves caught in the gap between the story on the page and the reality on which it is based. Transition Free Press is a paper that aims to ‘join the dots’ and bridge that gap. We do this because, in common with other grassroots documentary makers, writers and activists, we realise a different way of interacting with the planet is urgently required. A sea change within and without ourselves. Our main story is about cooperation. The story of progress claims life is naturally competitive, which justifies many of its cruelties and hostilities. In spite of many studies that say such ideas are neither correct, nor healthy (even Darwin observed that co-operation and diversity is one of the principles of ecological resilience), the ‘red in tooth and
2 WELCOME 3-5 NEWS 6 ENERGY - Community power 7 RECONOMY 8-9 CARBON REDUCTION 10 EDUCATION 11 TRANSITION in ACTION - Transition Heathrow 12 PEOPLE - George Monbiot 13 REVIEWS 14-15 TALKBACK 16 ARTS 17 COMMUNITY 18-19 FOOD 20 LIVING EARTH 21 WELLBEING 22 PRACTICAL - & marketplace 23 PHYSICAL 24 SPORT
Editor Charlotte Du Cann News & Sports Alexis Rowell News & Sports Subeditor Nick Tigg Food & Drink Tamzin Pinkerton Design Trucie Mitchell Proofreaders Marion McCartney, Nick Tigg Subscriptions Mike Grenville Distribution Mark Watson Business Manager Jay Tompt
Contributors Jane Brady, Michelle Bassett, Ben Brangwyn, Patrick Crawford, Robin de Carceret, Michael Daw, Alys Fowler, Philip French, Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, Martin Grimshaw, Dave Hampton, Caroline Jackson, Howard Johns, Dorothea Leber, Bridget McKenzie, Josiah Meldrum, Lucy Neal, Tristan Partridge, Ceri Rees, Joe Rake, Catriona Ross, Julia Roundtree, Eva Schonveld, Aphra Sklair, Fiona Ward, Jo Wheatley, Charles Whitehead, Chris Williams, James Wood, Sophie Yeo www.transitionfreepress.org
claw’ rule prevails. What we aim to show in our pages is that another culture is underfoot, a humbler and kinder narrative that honours all peoples and creatures, shapes and colours of this earth, and has more in common with a coral reef than it does a coal mine or a shopping precinct. This issue is framed around carbon reduction because it’s our access to power that enables the story of progress to continue, the myth of unlimited energy on a planet whose limits are the measure of all earthly forms. The ecological and social dilemmas of this century challenge us to measure up as real human beings. Will we learn to co-operate and work together, agree to lessen our use of resources and manage our commons wisely? Sometimes you have to let go to experience what a humbler world can feel like, to find what you had in your hands all the time but had forgotten. You have to walk out into the neighbourhood to
The Commons Atlas wordcloud. Image courtesy of CommonSpark collect cherries, rather than buy them wrapped in cellopane. You realise then you are not there just for yourself. You are going to give some of those foraged cherries to the ‘strangers’ next door and your local Abundance table. You’re going to ‘reskill’ your Initiative and teach folk to bottle some of those cherries for a winter’s day. There’s a whole new relationship happening that makes sense of you, the people you live among, the trees, the seasons, and mostly
the wild earth that is our shared meeting place – a planet that thrives on co-operation, collaboration and communication between all of its inhabitants. Every time you make a link, you mend a thread that was broken, the gap between a fairy tale we once believed in, and the truth of the matter. This is what the new real world feels like. It sounds like the ocean. It feels like coming home. Welcome back. Charlotte Du Cann, Editor-in-Chief
If life gives you lemons...
Continued from front page public transport. “We thought if we use bright yellow buses, give them a silly name, have simple and affordable pricing, put the route and price on the side of the bus, and provide great driver service, then we’ll get people out of their cars.” But finding the money to get the idea on the road was hard work. “There’s lots of talk out there about the need for better public transport and new thinking, but no bank would lend us any money. We were seen as too risky. So we raised £20,000 from the community by issuing shares.” The Big Lemon proved popular, especially among students. A small profit in year two was followed by a bigger one the next year and expansion. At this point, the only other bus provider – Brighton & Hove Buses – turned their guns on the young pretender, dropping prices and improving services on Big Lemon routes. The Big Lemon nearly went under in the ensuing competitive battle. One route had to be closed, but two others were saved with a grant from Brighton University, who recognised the valuable service The Big Lemon was providing to students, especially late at night. “In a roundabout way I think we’ve come to the optimal situation for everybody,” says Druitt. “Prices have stayed down on the routes we entered, service has gone up and more people
use buses.” The Big Lemon is more than just a public transport venture – it’s also a waste recycling company. Their buses run on used cooking oil, which they collect from restaurants and fast food outlets in Brighton & Hove. Social enterprise, community share issue, public transport, waste recycling – it’s not surprising that The Big Lemon is one of the Transition Top 20 businesses. [See Page 7 REconomy section for Transition’s Top 20]
“Prices have stayed down, service has gone up and more people use buses” Druitt says he became aware of Transition quite early on: “It was the simplicity of the concept and the urgency of the need which attracted me. It wasn’t tree huggy. It was matter-of-fact and inspiring.” This from a man who spends his free time hugging trees to prevent road builders from felling them! Alexis Rowell is News & Sports Editor of Transition Free Press. He’s also a member of Transition Town Lewes and the author of Communities, councils and carbon – what we can do if governments won’t.
Transition Thursdays’ ran this summer alongside the launch of Rob Hopkins’ new book The Power of Just Doing Stuff. Photo courtesy of Transition Worthing
Tide turns with new book ‘Transition Thursdays’ ran this summer alongside the launch of Rob Hopkins’ new book The Power of Just Doing Stuff. Six Transition initiatives across the UK hosted events to rally people, invite local groups and politicians, and celebrate their work. Rob Hopkins reports: “In Worthing we tried to launch the book into the sea in a specially-built boat (it came back). In Swaffham we launched it at the top of a wind turbine. In Sheffield we presented a copy to a city councillor. In Crystal Palace we launched it in a pub so hot (the heating was on!) that it was amazing that no fatalities were caused, not even to the people in full body carrot suits. “What I saw in every place I visited was wonderful. It’s true that none of the groups have yet managed to make the place completely resilient. None of them have slashed their community’s
carbon emissions to zero yet. None of them have a localised, resilient economy in place yet. But they’re trying. They’re trying with the resources and the people they have available. They have given a name and an identity to an inquiry, a process, underway in the local community. “They are asking the questions that most politicians are still unable to answer and they are coming up with answers that are seven or eight years ahead of policymakers. “I saw new food gardens, community gardens, new local food markets, new shops, projects supported by investment from local people, fledgling energy companies, new fruit trees planted, new biodiversity gardens, all manner of great work that had stepped across from thinking about doing stuff to actually doing it.”
Indigenous people fight against oil by Tristan Partridge (Ecuador)
“We’re lucky in Ecuador,” Don Jorge Llumiquinga tells me. “With such diversity – everything grows somewhere in this country. We’re unlikely to starve. The politicians might kill us, but at least we won’t starve!”
He recalls dodging police batons in the capital Quito during the indigenous levantamientos (uprisings) of the 1990s. Since then he’s faced imprisonment for protesting against violent landlords and for arguing in favour of land rights. More recently, Llumiquinga has focused on maintaining his community’s irrigation-water pipeline. From its source in the Andes, it travels 20km down to the 85 indigenous households of San Isidro village. The pipeline is one of a number of initiatives designed to support family-scale agriculture – counteracting some of the effects of widespread labour migration and a declining land-base. A lot of that labour migration involves travelling to the Amazon jungle for precarious shift-work in the oil industry. Community activist, Esmeralda Yasig, explains the trend as follows: “There are just no jobs here. And not enough land. All the best land is used by big, intensive farms to grow broccoli for the USA, or roses for Russia.” Though funded initially by the state, ongoing maintenance of San Isidro’s irrigation system now relies on voluntary communal labour. An elected community council coordinates these types of initiatives, and council member, Porfirio Allauca, recognises the need to
keep collective action thriving. “Without these projects, there’d be no community,” he says, “and without the community, these projects wouldn’t survive.” That may be true, but indigenous peoples arguably face a greater threat to their survival from the oil and mining industries, who are stealing, destroying or irrevocably polluting their lands. For a short time things looked more promising. In 2008 a new national constitution proposed radical change, even adopting the indigenous principle of Sumak Kawsay. Translated as ‘Buen Vivir’
“How are we going to build the kind of space we want to live and work in together?” or ‘Harmonious Living,’ this was to guide development policy. Similarly, the world’s ecosystems (borrowing from the indigenous idea of Pachamama, or Mother Nature) were to be granted ‘inalienable rights to an unhindered existence’. In addition, there was to be full consultation with all people affected by development plans, and the Yasuní initiative was introduced – leaving oil worth billions of dollars in the ground in exchange for international compensation. Since then however, policy has shifted back to oil and mineral extraction – with indigenous groups most often suffering as a result. At the end of 2012, another eight million hectares of Amazon jungle were auctioned to international oil companies, and the Yasuní initiative has now been abandoned. Fresh protests have objected to the lack of consultation, and there is widespread concern that ‘Buen
Vivir’ has been all but forgotten as a guiding principle. Nonetheless, despite the internal differences and conflicts, indigenous groups do more than raise a voice of protest against destructive economic activity. They channel together communities across differences (of terrains, languages, histories and struggles) and derive their strength in part from their diversity. Whilst marches in the capital continue, so does the creative work of strengthening social life in specific places. This might involve building a pipeline, or combating local land-grabs and polluting forms of agriculture – finding ways to re-assess the shared riches and resources that might already be within reach, and working toward social justice in access to life-sources such as land and water. This means addressing and acting within living conditions, however difficult or compromised they may seem. Discussing community plans for the coming year in San Isidro, Porfirio posed a fundamental question: “How are we going to build the kind of space we want to live and work in together?” Tackling this is a vital point of departure in creating a future, collectively – starting from where we are, with what we already have. Tristan Partridge is a social anthropologist working with community groups and farmers’ networks in Ecuador, India and Scotland. Amazon Watch currently has two campaigns focused on Ecuador: http://amazonwatch.org/takeaction. For more on Ecuador: http://upsidedownworld.org.
Indigenous people from Sarayaku march on Quito to protest against oil drilling on their land. Photo by Amazon Watch
A selection of posters for seed swap events run by local Transition groups in the UK
Seedy business by Mark Watson
The European Parliament is set to vote on changes in plant laws which could threaten future availability of heritage and rare seed varieties for individual and community growers.
The original draft required all vegetable, fruit and tree seeds to be officially registered, making saving and swapping unlisted seed illegal – bad news for seed diversity. However, due to Europe-wide lobbying, some eleventh hour concessions have exempted small-scale growers, seed banks and networks. The amended draft went before the European Commission in May and is expected to go to the European Parliament later this year. “Driving this law are the demands of the global, industrial, agricultural seed industry,” says Ben Gabel of the Real Seed Catalogue, which specialises in heritage vegetable seeds for small growers. “Once again, small-scale, sustainable, home and market gardening has been lumped together conceptually with industrial agriculture. The two have completely different needs. A Community Supported Agriculture scheme might buy a 10 gram packet of seeds. A big farmer buys a tonne.” Garden Organic, whose Heritage Seed Library saves and distributes heirloom seeds, warns that the concessions may only be short-term good news. They point out that other parts of the law are quite restrictive, including clauses that mean the key concessions could be removed in future without returning to the Parliament for a vote. According to permaculture teacher, Patrick Whitefield: “The likely outcome is that it will become increasingly difficult to get hold of any seeds other than a small number of recent varieties bred for large-scale production.”
Just three companies control over 50% of the global commercial seed market. “The laws are being set up to consolidate an industrial agriculture which is supposed to last indefinitely and which provides uniform varieties of seeds large farmers can rely on to produce consistent crops,” says Gabel. No provision exists for openpollinated, heritage varieties handed down over generations by millions of small farmers and growers worldwide. And nowhere is a decline in fossil fuels or an energy-leaner future accounted for: the kind of future which Transition addresses. Local, small scale food-growing is embedded in the Transition ethos and the movement has many active permaculturists. At Seedy Saturdays and Give and Grow days, seeds are freely swapped and grown in community gardens, on allotments or at home. Produce is shared or used in community meals such as Sustainable Bungay’s Happy Mondays. Transition Chesterfield’s annual January potato day boasts over 40 different potato varieties. Transition San Francisco created a seed library with the city’s Permaculture Guild. Residents borrow, plant and harvest vegetable seeds, returning each year’s healthiest ones to the library. They aim, says Ania Moniuszko, “to include a wide selection of seeds best suited to each micro-climate, having grown to full fruition responding to the local soil, climate, and plant and animal life.” Our lives depend on seeds. Maintaining healthy gene banks is an urgent imperative involving everyone, everywhere. We need to swap and save. And keep an eye on those laws. Mark Watson is Chair of Sustainable Bungay and TFP Distribution Manager and tweets as 3 markinflowers.
No more fish in the sea? by Alexis Rowell In the late 1980s, the world caught as much wild fish as it was ever going to catch. Call it Peak Wild Fish, if you like. Since then, the annual catch has hovered around 90 million tonnes. But that figure looks set to fall soon. If current trends continue, all commercial wild fishing stocks will have collapsed by 2050, according to the United Nations. Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line, says 90 percent of the world’s large fish have disappeared since 1950. Factory ships equipped with sophisticated sonar equipment leave little to chance. Even mackerel, so long a safe bet, is now on the ‘at risk’ list. Wild fish prices hit new highs in 2013 reflecting higher energy costs, tightening supply and increased demand. Aquaculture has boomed as a response, so, paradoxically, humans have never eaten as much fish. But industrial fish farming is no magic bullet. Shrimp farms in east Asia have replaced coastal mangrove swamps, which were once great carbon sinks. Many fisheries are a depressing cocktail of toxic chemicals, disease and cruelty to animals. Even organic farms use up to 3kg of wild fish to produce just 1kg of farmed salmon. Clover says: “The scariest thing is that nobody seems to be considering the impact on wild fish. Fish farming [in the open seas] changes fish within a few generations from an animal like a wild buffalo or a wildebeest to the equivalent of a domestic cow.” There’s also the carbon cost of fishing. In Alaska cod can only be caught at certain times of the year. But there’s little point
buying sustainable cod if it’s refrigerated and then flown or shipped halfway round the world. Rising carbon costs threaten the livelihoods of small fishermen. Susan Guy of Sustaining Dunbar, a Transition group in eastern Scotland, says: “Fuel for boats and electricity for refrigeration are becoming more expensive. And there’s competition for land and harbour facilities from, ironically, the offshore wind sector and an energy-from-waste business.” The industrial fishing industry plays by few rules. Factory ships trawl the seas smashing up coral reefs and destroying habitats. Unwanted species are thrown overboard. In many parts of the world fishermen kill seals and dolphins because they compete for fish. Clover says we consume “only 10 percent of the marine animals destroyed annually in the oceans”.
“The really good news is that fish aren’t like oil or uranium – there is a way back” With the support of viewers of his TV series Fish Fight, celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall persuaded the EU to allow fishermen to keep bycatch, fish they catch unintentionally. He says we can all do more “by asking our supermarkets to stock truly sustainable seafoods, checking with restaurants where their fish is from, and requesting that our local fishmonger supplies fish from low-impact and local boats.” “Fishermen are also taking the initiative themselves,” says Fearnley-Whittingstall. “They’re
A simple guide to fish production in the UK
1. Catch fish
2. Land fish in harbour
3. Freeze fish & take to airport
6. Ship fish back to UK
5. Individually post fish to Kenya, for filleting and re-re-freezing 4. Fly fish to China 7. Throw fish into supermarket bins to be graded and re-frozen
No.04 Transitional thoughts By Simon French www.simonfrench.com 4
An Atlantic grey seal hunting for fish – it needs to eat on average 5kg a day – beneath the surface at Lundy Island, the UK’s first Marine Conservation Zone, in July 2010. Photo by Alex Mustard/Nature Picture Library selling their fish in Farmers’ Markets. They’re using Twitter to sell their low-impact fish direct to customers. And near us fishermen are working with the Dorset Wildlife Trust to market ‘Great Dorset Seafood’ – caught using ethical methods.” Catchbox in Sussex have worked closely with Transition groups in Brighton and Chichester to set up community supported fisheries. Local people commit to buying fresh fish once a week, thereby guaranteeing local fishermen an income. Transition Belsize in North London showed the film version of The End of the Line to start a debate about fish in their community. That led to an agreement with the local
Budgens supermarket to colour code all fresh fish according to sustainability of stocks. The really good news about wild fish is that, unlike oil, there is a way to revive stocks. Experts agree that what’s needed is the creation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), where fishing isn’t allowed. Earlier this year the government consulted on whether there should be a comprehensive network of 127 MCZs covering 30 percent of UK territorial waters. More than 40,000 members of the public and many expert groups said “yes”. But the government only backed a handful of MCZs and decided some fishing should be allowed in them, which the
Marine Conservation Society has derided as “appalling” and “pitiful”. Only by standing together can we make a difference on fish. Here are five things we can all do: 1) Eat local fish – local fishermen tend to use more sustainable fishing methods. 2) Eat small fish – stocks of large fish tend to be under more pressure. 3) Eat fish from stocks certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. 4) Download this “fish to eat” list – www.goodfishguide.co.uk/ pocket-goodfishguide – and use it when you buy fish. 5) Ask your MP to support marine reserves: www.mcsuk. org/mpa/england/write-to-mp.
George Monbiot on fish: TFP’s Editor-in-Chief, Charlotte Du Cann, recently interviewed George Monbiot about his new book Feral (see page 12) and asked him about the problem of dwindling wild fish stocks: “I’m constantly astonished by how well-meaning, liberal-minded people, who claim to care for the environment, seem to abandon all their knowledge and thoughtfulness the moment they go into a fish restaurant. Often when I’ve been eating with people I’ve just been amazed how they blank out when it comes to the menu and choose things which are devastating. It’s almost as if they believe that if it’s on the menu, it must be OK. “But I think there is a means of reconciling these conflicting desires. If you designate large areas of sea as marine reserves in which no fishing takes place, then you get two effects: first of all you get a very rapid regeneration of the marine ecosystem.
Places which are currently like ploughed fields, where almost nothing lives, almost nothing grows and there are very few fish or shellfish, quickly come to harbour an abundance of life and a regenerated natural structure. “Second, because the fish and shellfish are able to breed, reach maturity and produce young in far greater numbers, there is a powerful spill-over effect. In the surrounding waters you get a lot more fish, which fishermen can then catch. “But it’s a sign of our extraordinary shorttermism that a measure which would guarantee an industry that depends on the life of the sea will not be taken by our government. It’s refused to designate any more “no fishing” zones than we have already and what we have already is just five square km – 0.01% of our territorial waters – instead of 30%, which expert groups have been recommending. “
Worker Co-ops shine through by Jonny Gordon-Farleigh With the UK economy still bumping along the road to nowhere, cooperatives are increasingly being talked up as part of the solution to the country’s woes. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has spoken of his desire to see a “John Lewis economy” of employee-owned companies. Since the financial crisis began in 2008, many campaigns have called on people to move their money from the big five banks into the “ethical” Co-operative Bank. However John Lewis and The Coop Bank are not actually worker cooperatives – businesses controlled entirely by their workforces. Yes, John Lewis employees are paid annual dividends if the chain makes a profit. But the company is staffed by a professional managerial class; decisions are not taken by employees. The Co-op Bank is not even a cooperative – it’s a PLC owned by a cooperative, which is itself run by paid managers, whose interests don’t
necessarily coincide with those of the co-operative movement. It’s revealing that The Co-op Bank were advised by JP Morgan and Citibank during their 2009 takeover of Britannia Building Society, which turned out to be a viper’s nest of bad debt. Co-operatives and mutual societies have been around since the early years of capitalism – a solid but small and much overlooked part of most industrialised economies. Now they’re suddenly on the rise and coming out of the shadows – thanks to the global crisis of capitalism. And they’re attracting broad political support. On the right they’re seen as a form of community self-help; on the left they’re viewed as social progress. Worker co-ops are taking over community services cut by governments. And they often meet needs that profit-orientated companies don’t deem worthy of capital investment. That’s why, in the US, electricity utility co-ops
serve 45 million people. And why many communities around the UK, such as Robin Hood’s Bay, have started broadband co-ops to connect rural parts of the country to the internet.
“Worker co-ops are about engaging people and giving them power to affect their own destinies” Worker co-ops like Unicorn Grocery in Manchester, Suma Wholefoods in Leeds and Infinity Foods in Brighton provide alternatives for food. Sheffield Renewables, Manchester’s Carbon Co-op and Brighton Energy do the same for energy. One of the most inspiring cooperative economies emerged after Argentina’s financial crisis in 2001 – the largest sovereign debt crisis in history – where workers restarted production themselves.
According to Marina Sitrin, author of Everyday Revolutions, by the beginning of this year there were 270 co-operative workplaces in Argentina employing tens of thousands of workers. In 2010, nearly 10,000 students took part in alternative high schools, where they learnt about co-ops. As for the economic arguments for worker co-ops, according to Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars Local Sense: “Worker participation in businesses increases labor productivity.” He gives the example of plywood companies in the Pacific Northwest, where co-ops are 13.5% more productive than their peers in traditional capitalist firms, equivalent to seven weeks more holiday for the same amount of output. Many within the Transition movement are launching social enterprises as part of the drive to relocalise and to create more sustainable food and energy systems. But it’s important to remember that the structure of the
Would you like electricity that’s local and natural?
business is as crucial as what it does. Worker co-ops, because of their size and democracy, almost always fit perfectly with the Transition Network’s strategy for local, sustainable economic resilience. The Chair of Transition Network, Peter Lipman, is clear: “Worker coops are core to Transition because they’re about engaging people and about giving people power to affect their own destinies.” The co-founder of Transition, Rob Hopkins, echoes that sentiment: “Worker co-ops can’t be bought out, floated on the stock market, coopted or sold. They’re answerable to their members, usually the local community. They have an inbuilt tendency to not get too big, but to find the size that is optimal for the local economy.” Jonny Gordon-Farleigh is a member of Transition Town Kingston and Editor of Stir Magazine – www.stirtoaction. com – an online magazine that promotes co-operatives.
At Good Energy, we source all our electricity from certified renewables like Cornish sunshine, Scottish wind and Welsh rain.* We always have done and always will. No other energy supplier in the country can promise that. Our electricity is produced locally too, by a growing community of independent generators across Britain. And we’ve been voted top of the Which? customer satisfaction survey two year’s running. Hard to believe we usually cost less than the Big Six’s standard tariffs, isn’t it? Switch your home to our green electricity quoting ‘Transition Network’ and we’ll give you £25 off your first bill and donate £25 to them goodenergy.co.uk/in-transition
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Image: Delabole Wind Farm Three 2.3MW turbines, Delabole, Cornwall
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The community energy revolution needs you by Howard Johns
by Jane Brady It’s increasingly likely that the UK will miss its European Union energy target which is to generate 15% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) ranks the UK a depressing 25th out of 27 states on progress towards the 2020 green energy target. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise to the 500 members of Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC). Nor did the rejection in February of our flagship project - two wind turbines in rural Devon. We expected our local Planning Committee would reject our proposal. We just didn’t know what reason they would give. In the end it was “substantial harm” to the view. Rejection is the fate of most onshore wind farms in planning, but many are passed on appeal because planning inspectors conclude that they meet government policy and that the local impact is not as great as councillors fear. We did take the bull by the horns with this proposal – 2.3 megawatt (MW) turbines are big. But it was the best site
for wind in our area, we had chosen the most cost-effective technology and in theory the government has a policy of encouraging renewables. It seemed like a huge opportunity. Unfortunately, in June, the political wind changed direction. In what felt like a huge blow to the government’s vision for renewables, and our attempts to power 2,500 households, the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, wrote to councils giving them extra reasons to reject wind proposals. Lib Dem Energy Secretary, Ed Davey,
“Rejection is the fate of most onshore wind farms in planning” stressed that there would be more financial benefits for communities who accepted wind farms, but the media seemed to revel in the news that additional obstacles were being created. The Pickles letter doesn’t constitute new legislation, but it will cause confusion. In particular, it cuts across
the National Planning Policy Framework, which is in favour of sensibly sited wind farms. So which should take precedence? Giving communities the right to have more of a say is a good thing, but it must come with the responsibility to contribute to society’s wider, collective needs. In the words of the Centre for Sustainable Energy’s Chief Executive, Simon Roberts: “Rights without responsibility is a recipe for short-term, selfinterested decisions that pass the buck to others; someone or somewhere else will make up for any poorly informed, parochial decisions. Yet this is what the Government seems to be doing with onshore wind power; giving local views the upper hand over national interests in planning decisions on onshore wind farm proposals.” Where does this leave TRESOC? Buffeted certainly, but we’re not giving up. Although we have only kilowatts of power production from our other schemes to show for the huge amount of energy we’ve used to debate the pros and cons of onshore wind, we’re now using knowledge gained and team resilience to move forward with the right solution for our wind project, and build our portfolio using a range of technologies, including solar and river/tidal turbines. It’s not all bad news - lobbying by community energy groups, including TRESOC, can work. In response to feedback on the type of financial incentive that works best for us, DECC is planning to increase the Feed-In Tariff threshold for community projects from 5MW to 10MW to enable larger installations to benefit. Mostly however, it’s a real struggle to make progress on community renewables in the current political climate. But if politicians are finding onshore wind complex, one wonders how they’ll do when fracking companies start asking to blow up the countryside in search of gas. Will fracking make wind seem more of a blast? Jane Brady is Communications Director of TRESOC www.tresoc. co.uk (see left for poster) and a member of Transition Town Totnes.
Huge ground-mounted solar project in Scotland. Photo by Southern Solar
When I first tried to set up a community energy company about 15 years ago, I was met with blank looks. The emergence of Transition Town Lewes in 2007 gave me another opportunity. I founded Ovesco (Ouse Valley Energy Services), pulling in members of the local Transition energy group to be the board of directors.
Winning a tender to distribute renewable energy grants on behalf of Lewes District Council meant we could suddenly afford to rent an office and pay for a staff member. It then took us about two years to get a project off the ground. We explored hydro, but despite commissioning various studies to design an Archimedes screw for our local river, the Environment Agency eventually said no. Unfortunately it cost us a lot of money before we reached that answer. Then along came the Feed-In Tariff and the opportunity to build a community-owned photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of our local brewery, Harveys. It was a much simpler and more achievable project than a hydro scheme, but even then there were many layers for us volunteer directors to get our heads around. We had to deal with everything from leases to planning, contract management to financial management, promotion and the public launch of our offer. The government’s changes to the Feed-In Tariff meant that we had a mad rush on our hands to get everything done. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but we raised the money in just three weeks and completed the project within the month. That sort of can-do attitude is what we need if we are to revolutionise the way we generate and use energy. The existing ‘Big Six’ energy companies cannot be expected to build a new system – it is totally counter to their business models, perhaps even a threat to their very survival. It’s up to us. That’s why I love the community energy movement slowly unfolding in the UK. There have actually been many great projects in the UK over the years, like Westmill Solar, the world’s largest community-owned PV power station, or Tors Hydro, the first community river-based renewables project. Setting up a community owned energy company is extremely challenging, as any who have been through it will testify, not least dealing with frequent changes to government policy. But there are now some great sources of advice and guidance from new groups like the climate change charity, Carbon Leapfrog. And the more of us who set up renewable energy schemes, the simpler the process will surely become. In 2011, Iceland generated 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, Norway 98%, Denmark 45%, Portugal 40%, Spain 30%, Germany 23% and the UK about 10%. The revolution is definitely happening – it just won’t be televised as no one seems to want to tell the story. And that’s why we have to tell it! Solar PV still makes financial sense despite the Feed-In Tariff changes and is a great place for communities to start, but you need to put together a team with a broad set of skills and some serious stamina to get through the inevitable pitfalls you will encounter along the way. I do think communities have the power to transform our energy system entirely in our lifetime, and there will be many local and global positives. We just need more people to join the movement to make it happen. Are you up for it? Howard Johns is Managing Director of Southern Solar and a Director of Ovesco.
Transition’s Top 20 pioneers by Fiona Ward
opportunities to local people as well as to larger investors. Individually these 20 businesses make a great story, but their true potential is seen when we put them together – Transition Town Anywhere, if you will. Local people put their savings in the community bank, which lends money for a community shop, which is built by the sustainable building company. The shop is supplied by the baker and the Community Supported Agriculture scheme, both of which deliver via the notfor-profit online marketplace that provides a distribution channel for all local produce, delivered direct to households. These households have solar panels, financed by the community bank, installed by cooperative installers...
What does the new relocalised economy we keep talking about actually look like? How can we explain it in a simple and compelling way? What kinds of businesses might there be?
To help to answer these questions, we have compiled a list of 20 of the best examples that have emerged from, or are connected to, Transition groups around the UK, plus a few which have nothing to do with Transition, but which are nevertheless excellent examples of Transition-style companies. This came out of the work done by the REconomy Project earlier this year on Local Economic Blueprints for Totnes, Brixton and Herefordshire. Our Top 20 are all social enterprises, which aim to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, and, most importantly, are financially viable. All of them demonstrate a new way of doing business. Collectively they are turning over about £3.5 million per year, whilst providing paid work to over 100 people and volunteering opportunities
“Collectively they are turning over about £3.5 million per year’” to many more. The Transition Top 20 covers food, energy, transport, construction, finance and employment/enterprise services. They are businesses that every town or community needs, in some form or other. Michelle Denton, who ran the
“They provide jobs, improve the health of the local economy and the resilience of residents” Road bikes, mountain bikes, kids bikes, commuter hybrids – all fixed up at the Bristol Bike Project. campaign, says: “Currently, most of these needs are met through large chains and corporates that offer little or no benefit to the local community, apart from some paid employment. We know that local independent businesses provide much greater benefits. This Top 20 list provides the business models that can be implemented anywhere to turn opportunities into reality.” Each of these business models are in cooperative or community ownership, and they support each other through business to business trade. They offer investment
It’s not so hard to imagine these same 20 businesses replicated across the country, providing the basic building blocks of a new economic system that meets the needs of the local community in which they operate. They provide jobs, improve the health of the local economy and the resilience of its residents at the same time. The REconomy Project is here to help Transition Initiatives to transform their local economy, growing more enterprises like this Top 20. Fiona Ward lives in Totnes and runs the REconomy Project for Transition Network. To download the full Top 20 report and the Local Economic Blueprints see www.reconomy.org.
Top 20 Transition Enterprises 1. Bath & West Community Energy 2. The Big Lemon (Brighton) 3. The Bristol Bike Project 4. Bristol Pound (with Bristol Credit Union) 5. DE4 Food (Matlock, Derby) 6. DotDotDot Property Guardians (London) 7. The Handmade Bakery (Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire) 8. Hestia Care at Home (Totnes) 9. iSmooth Community Cafe (Ammanford) 10. London Creative Labs 11. Norwich FarmShare 12. The Raven Inn (Llanarmon-yn-lal) 13. Renewable Energy Cooperative (R-ECO) (Truro) 14. Repowering Project (London) 15. The Restart Project (London) 16. Robert Owen Community Banking (Powys) 17. Spare Wheels (Dunbar) 18. Totnes Sustainable Construction 19. Transition Homes (Totnes) 20. Uig Community Co-operative (Isle of Lewis)
Ajudada - studying the gift economy by Aphra Sklair Wearing handmade name badges fashioned from local cork, a diverse group of international changemakers gathered in Portugal in June for a different kind of finance event – to explore the gift economy. Ajudada (which means ‘help’ and ‘community action’ in Portuguese) was held in Portalegre, an economically troubled town with a growing Transition group. The vision was to create a space for shared learning and connection, and to initiate action. The idea for Ajudada came when the Transition Network’s EU Liaison Officer, Filipa Pimentel, met Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, and invited him to Portugal. “Initially, we imagined a classic conference in Lisbon with the usual crowd of intellectuals,” she says. “But over time I saw it made no sense to inject energy into a rootless conference that might have no real impact. My uncomfortable feeling led to the essence of Ajudada – that it should be a gift in itself.” Pimentel decided to run the conference in her home town. “Around 450 participants from 16 nations attended and were housed and fed,” she recounts. “The organising group was open to anyone. There was full support from local public bodies. We made everything we could by hand. Organisations were challenged to share their resources. Almost everything was free.” The first two days were organised around ‘head’ and ‘heart’, with topics ranging from poetry to water management. The
third day moved on to ‘hands’, with participants contributing physically to the transformation of a building into a hub for community initiatives. The relationship between the money economy and alternatives such as gift exchange was discussed during the workshop offered by our team from Schumacher College in Devon. We used the metaphor of a trellis to show how a supportive framework for the growth and flourishing of new initiatives could be created. The horizontal ‘beams’ of the trellis represent initiatives that link together individual enterprises in key areas such as food, housing or Ajudada means ‘help’ and ‘community action’ in Portguese. energy. These enabling initiatives might be financial mechanisms “Portugal is a country living a deep systemic like community share issues, or democratic ownership structures crisis,” she says passionately. “People go out like worker co-ops, or common resources like land trusts. The vertical ‘posts’ represent connections, values and ways into the streets in huge demonstrations to of being that are needed for a just and sustainable economy: say “NO!”. But I always have this sensation connection to self (‘soul’), connection to the environment (‘soil’), that this is an unfinished cry for urgent and and connection to others (‘society’). Implicit in the model is the real change. Ajudada was designed as a strong idea we should not try to predict and plan exactly what will manifestation of “YES!”, where people come happen, but should work to create conditions allowing positive out to express their gift to the community, where their diversity of capacities is their change to emerge. This is what Ajudada was aiming to do: bring ideas, power to make the difference.” resources and inspiration to Portalegre to spark positive and unpredictable local action. Pimentel is hopeful Ajudada will Aphra Sklair was part of a Schumacher College group that went to the Ajudada conference. 7 become an annual event.
carbon reduction Lifestyle for some, or life for all? That’s the stark choice our civilisation has to face as the squeeze on our planet’s resources intensifies.
And as the exploitation becomes increasingly destructive, it’s clear something has to give. Some of us are rising up in defence of our global commons – against fracking in Sussex and mountain top removal in West Virginia.
We’re protesting up gas towers and city skyscrapers, supporting campaigns that challenge tax breaks for energy companies. Indigenous movements are growing stronger as oil companies plunder and pollute their
land. Students are pressuring universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. In June, Oxford became Europe’s first city to announce that it would not use highly polluting oil extracted from tar sands.
But no matter how many petitions we sign, to radically reduce carbon in the biosphere we have to let go of the abundant power we have had at our fingertips for decades. Transition has inspired many
China sparks carbon revolution Continued from front page climate change have so far failed.” He says the Chinese need to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels because “the high prices are starting to hurt their economy and pollution is choking their cities.” But he adds: “The Chinese are just as likely to make a Green Leap Forward because they understand it’s the economic future and they want to dominate it.” By contrast, Washington mostly seems to be stuck in the past, in thrall to fossil fuel companies. But maybe the Americans are starting to understand that the future is green. In July the Chinese and US governments signed an unprecedented bilateral agreement to collaborate on cutting carbon from heavy trucks and buildings, as well as to work together on ‘carbon capture and storage’, a way to store CO2 emissions underground. If China’s communist leadership do sanction a hard cap in their next Five Year Plan, they still need a coherent strategy for reducing emissions. The UK has a hard cap – the 2008 Climate Change Act – which requires emissions to be reduced by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. But in the words of environmentalist Jonathon Porritt: “There remains an undeniable gap between the current policy mix and what we
actually need to do urgently both to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to avoid the potentially devastating consequences of declining fossil fuels.” Porritt is a supporter of Tradable Energy Quotas, or TEQs, a way to use the market to remove fossil fuels from
“Large-scale problems do not require largescale solutions – they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework” a national economy efficiently and fairly [see box]. Another possible solution is ‘Cap and Share’. This involves setting a hard cap on emissions, taxing fossil fuel companies and distributing the money raised to the population, or maybe to councils to spend on local amenities. Cap and Share would be easier to administrate than TEQs, but it would be less visible to citizens; there’s no “we’re all in it together”, no sense of common purpose. James Hansen, who recently quit his role as a NASA scientist to campaign on the environment, has promoted the idea of a ‘Fee and Dividend’ system whereby
carbon taxes would be returned to citizens in the form of an equal annual cheque. But the problem with carbon taxes is that they don’t set a total for how much carbon is to be removed from the economy – only a hard cap can do that. It’s often argued in the Transition movement that there’s no point waiting for governments – local communities should just get on with building the future they want. Shaun Chamberlin of TEQs, an organisation promoting Tradable Energy Quotas, demurs. “There are numerous grassroots campaigns focused on reducing carbon,” he says. “They’re great for raising awareness at an individual, household, business, community, or organisation level, and for assessing psychological barriers to change, but they’re voluntary, not systemic. What’s needed is TEQs at the national level to complement voluntary carbon reduction schemes at the local level.” As the creator of TEQs, the late Dr David Fleming, once said: “Large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions – they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework.” TEQs is exactly that – it’s a national framework that allows individuals to take action however they like.
How Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) would work 1. Each week every adult would be given an equal, free entitlement of TEQs units, deposited in their personal TEQs account. Other energy users (government, businesses and organisations) would bid for the units they need at a weekly auction. 2. When you pay for fuel or energy, TEQs units corresponding to the amount of energy you have purchased would be deducted from your TEQs account.
3. If you used less than your weekly TEQs entitlement, you would be able to sell your surplus. If you needed more TEQs, you could buy them. All trading would take place at a
single national price, which would rise and fall in line with demand. Buying and selling would be as easy as topping up an Oyster card or mobile phone. 4. The total number of units available in the country would be set in the TEQs budget. The size of the budget would go down year by year, thereby reducing the amount of carbon used in the economy. 5. The TEQs budget would be set by the Committee on Climate Change, which is independent of the government. Any money raised by the state from selling TEQs would be spent on greening the economy.
A Carbon Conversations food miles workshop. Photo by Charles Whitehead
Carbon conversations For the past two years in Tooting we’ve worked with people in church halls, the local college, pub back rooms and homes in a six week programme known as Carbon Conversations.
Developed by Ro Randall and colleagues at Cambridge Carbon Footprint, the meetings follow a workbook and have in-depth facilitation guides.
“Why do we buy so much stuff?” The Conversations are ambitious and can-do, helping reduce individual CO2 footprints to four tonnes in the areas of home energy, transport and travel, food and consumption (the average UK footprint is around 12 tonnes). You don’t achieve that saving in a few weeks, but you do understand your own footprint and identify the quicker wins to include in a personal plan. Of course, measurement and understanding the numbers are key, but for the meetings to be successful we realised you need to balance ‘counting carbon’ with
feelings and experiences. So we aim to provide a safe space to dicuss optimism or worries about the future. We start the facilitation from participants’ own situations – not from a judgemental position that ‘you’re bad if your footprint is bigger than mine’. We want to keep meetings lively and engaging, so invite Transition colleagues to be on hand to discuss dilemmas: for example an architect for Home Energy, an environmental health manager for Food, a wellbeing consultant for Consumption (‘why do we buy so much stuff?’). The Conversations help people to be realistic about the challenges and also positive about the opportunites. Exploring as a group is very valuable – to share experiences and ideas, and, perhaps most of all, to build local relationships. Charles Whitehead is also involved in Transition Town Tooting’s Community Garden, Outdoor Learning and Green Jobs project. To learn more visit the project online at http://surefoot-effect.com/Carbon_ Conversations.html
carbon reduction to take part in neighbourhood carbon reduction schemes like Transition Streets. These groups make what might appear a dutiful and dry enterprise much easier – there is a huge empowerment and enjoyment in putting what you
discover into action with others. When Transition Circles – Norwich’s version of carbon reduction neighbourhood groups – started in 2009, a group of us pledged to cut our emissions to half the national average.
As we shared meals and pored over electricity bills, car logs and shopping lists, the reality and the beauty of our small heroic endeavours came sharply into view. Many of those realisations changed our lives completely. We
drastically cut our travel, use of central heating and water, and radicalised our eating habits. Today, those ‘behaviour changes’ are well embedded. I’m still finding ways to get local, get smart, use less, connect
more. “Transition is a marathon” as Rob Hopkins once said, “not a sprint.” For me, it’s the only race in town. Charlotte Du Cann
From Carbon Coach to Slow Coach It’s been quite a ride. In 2005, with 378 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, it felt like high time to quit my day job at a leading sustainable buildings consultancy and strike out alone. Armed with a remuneration package that turned some of my friends green, and some sugar-coated optimism about my envisioned ‘purpose’ in life, I launched myself off the cliff as the world’s first Carbon Coach. Eight years on – have I made a good living? Not really. Have carbon emissions slowed at all? No again - we’re now at 400 PPM and rising fast. Well, no-one said it was going to be easy. The bulk of my income in the early years came from public speaking, but that ‘market’ slowed up in 2009, for multiple reasons. I keep on speaking out. And I’m happy doing the best I can. If I were generous to myself, I’d celebrate the fact that I attempted something very ambitious. And it’s half worked. I’ve greened some ‘famous’ names, including Heston Blumenthal, Jonathon Porritt, Greg Searle and Easy Living Magazine’s ‘Accidental Ecologist’, Christina Robert. I’ve sized up numerous footprints, from The
Transition Streets is a way to cut your carbon footprint and household bills with your neighbours. It started in Totnes,
Fat Duck to a leading firm of architects. I’ve delivered carbon comedy after a law firm’s client dinner - at The Ivy restaurant. And been on hand to ‘pedicure’ VIPs at a L’Oreal Garnier ‘Take Care’ product launch in Covent
“What would I do different? I’d take it slower. I’m the Slow Coach now.” Garden. All the while I’ve kept my footprint low and my head high. And I helped launch Transition Marlow in my beautiful home town on the banks of the Thames. What would I do different now? I’d take it slower. I’m the Slow Coach now. Why? Because the dramatic urgent heroic change we each need to inspire in ourselves won’t come overnight. It takes slow, urgent daily practice, plenty of patience and a sense of humour. Hire me - I still do climate stand-up! Dave Hampton’s website is www. carboncoach.com. He was one of the speakers at the 2013 Schumacher Lectures.
home of all things Transition, but has now spread around the UK. The project brings together small groups of neighbours,
350.org’s recent Pacific Warrior Day of Action had a bold message from Tokelau’s warriors: “We are not drowning. We are fighting.” Their islands and many others are under imminent threat from rising sea levels. Photo by 350.org 6-10 households at a time. A facilitator from the local Transition Initiative goes along to the first meeting to get them started and gives each household a workbook. The participants then meet together seven times over the course of a few months, taking a chapter of the book at a time, and tackling energy, water, food, waste and transport. Each chapter is full of practical ideas for low-cost and no-cost actions. We started our first Streets group in January and, based on that experience, I would recommend Transition Streets to anyone. We were looking for a way to make an impact in our
town, but St Albans is just too big to try to change it all at once. Transition Streets works for us because it means we can go micro-local – one street at a time.
“The average household saved £570 on their annual bills” Some of the actions taken by the first St Albans group to complete Transition Streets include: installation of energy efficient light bulbs, lowflow cisterns and water butts; draught proofing of homes and
lowering of central heating thermostats; buying food with less packaging; more recycling and use of Freecycle; and driving more fuel-efficiently. They’re also monitoring electricity and water usage. Evaluation of Transition Streets in Totnes showed that the average household saved 1.2 tonnes of CO2 and £570 on their annual household bills. As one of our participants put it, “Now I CAN be bothered!” Catherine Ross is a member of Transition St Albans. For more information go to www. transitionstreets.org.uk
education Clocking New Mills by Michael Daw
Establishing new means for local energy production is the cornerstone of many Transition initiatives. New Mills, close to Derbyshire’s Peak District, is home to the UK’s first communityowned hydro-electric power system. Situated in a distinctive gorge below the town, it is affectionately known as ‘Archie’.
Now the local secondary school, New Mills Business & Enterprise College, is fundraising to put solar panels on the roof as part of 10:10’s national Solar Schools programme. Transition New Mills’ contribution to this project is a sponsorship-based campaign known as ‘Clock New Mills’ and involves walking to twelve points on the hills around the town loosely arranged in the shape of a clock from where you can ‘clock’ New Mills. In Skilled up with on- and offline resources and support from the carbon cutting charity 10:10, teams of staff, keeping with the temporal theme, the students and volunteers will soon be launching crowd-funding campaigns across England and Wales. deadline for completing the challenge is They’ll be hoping to emulate the success of previous participants, reaching out to their communities to raise when the clocks go back in October. Walkers are encouraged to post their the support (and cash!) they need to install solar at their school. exploits on Facebook and Twitter and Alongside channelling hundreds of thousands of pounds into clean energy at schools – cutting carbon there are prizes for the whackiest way of and protecting battered budgets - the Solar Schools project unlocks a host of other benefits. From linking doing the walks, the most challenging, businesses with local schools to introducing young people to sustainability in a totally new way, 10:10 and and the most money raised, contributed the volunteers they’re working with are using the process of fundraising to help communities realise their by the local football club, Doc Greens (a collective power to create a more sustainable future. local greengrocer) and Simply Indian, www.solarschools.org.uk Photo: Pendock Primary, Worcestershire celebrating their Solar School
Solar Schools are go this autumn!
the town’s Indian restaurant. Maggie Cole, the main organiser of New Mills Solar Schools and one of the school’s governors said, “We’re over halfway to our £12,000 target so it feels like we’re on the downhill run now. We’re really glad that Transition New Mills has got involved – it feels like a good fit for both
“This challenge is a way to get people to appreciate the countryside right on our doorstep and to burn some low-carbon calories” sides and we’re hopeful that Clock New Mills makes a significant contribution to our final push.” As the initiator of Clock New Mills I wanted a way of generating money for a really worthwhile cause for the town that’s spot on in terms of Transition principles. This challenge is a way to get people to appreciate the countryside right on our doorstep, burn some lowcarbon calories and see New Mills from a new perspective…in fact, twelve new perspectives! Michael Daw is a founder member of Transition New Mills and coordinates its Energy Group.
Greeniversity of life shares skills From Trade School to tent universities, skill share is the new class to give or take this term, as peer-to-peer learning proves one of the best ways to discover how to downshift. Sophie Yeo on a different kind of faculty. Teachers, students and campaigners are creating an informal university of sustainability across the country, thanks to a skill sharing programme called Greeniversity. The Greeniversity programme, set up in 2010 by the Peterborough Environment City Trust, invites members of the local community to share their skills with those who live in the same area. Teachers are ordinary people with a particular knowledge of a craft or everyday activity. The workshops – all free – can range from woodwork and mending clothes, to bike maintenance and foraging. Ian Tennant, Greeniversity’s Development Officer, says: “Greeniversity is all about learning new things in a fun, informal environment. It’s about people coming together to share and learn skills that will help everyone live in a healthier, more sustainable way. “ The Greeniversity framework has been set up in over 25 towns and cities across the country, and in many cases Transition groups have put the programme into place. Sam Holt, from Transition Cardiff, says the programme was responding to a local demand. “Basically, the community told us they would like 10 us to make sure skill sharing was a part of our
strategy. When Greeniversity approached Cardiff as a potential pilot, I had to say yes because it seemed like it fitted perfectly with what we wanted to do and the platform was really good.” So far, the Cardiff Transition group has run workshops on propagating using soil blocks, upcycling Tetrapak into planters, and how to make seed bombs. With the collaboration of another Cardiff-based organisation, Green City Events, there will be at least one class held every month. Ian suggests that the popularity of the scheme is a result of economic downturn, which he describes as a “double-edged sword for the sustainability agenda.” “On the one hand, a reduced disposable income has meant that fewer people are prepared to pay for more eco-friendly products and services,” he explains. “On the other hand there has been a surge of interest in green practices that save money, such as reuse, DIY and cycling.” So far over 1,000 free Greeniversity classes have been run by volunteer teachers who want to pass on their skills. www.greeniversity.org.uk Sophie Yeo is a freelance environmental journalist based in Cardiff.
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Tr a n s i t i o n i n a c t i o n Market garden home
facing eviction by Joe Rake
Transition Heathrow’s three year legal battle to hold on to our much loved market garden site, renamed ‘Grow Heathrow’, has ended with defeat in the Court of Appeal.
The judges failed to reach a unanimous decision on the case but by majority, an appeal was dismissed and permission was granted for the owners to seek a warrant for an eviction. On the plus side, one of the judges, Sir Alan Ward, found that squatters as well as tenants are entitled to respect for their home under article 8 of The European Convention on Human Rights and that the court should consider the individual circumstances of those affected when deciding how soon to make an eviction. He commented that the traditional understanding of landowners’ rights should be rethought and that the metaphor of an ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’
is “quaint but outmoded” leading to headline stories in The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Following the judgement Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones & Allen, the law firm representing Grow Heathrow, said:
“When Grow Heathrow moved to the land, it was being used as a dumping ground for hazardous items” “When Grow Heathrow moved to the land, it was being used as a dumping ground for hazardous items. The Grow Heathrow occupiers have since transformed the land into a flourishing community garden. They will now look to appeal directly to the Supreme Court and will do everything they can to protect their community from being trashed again.” In the meantime, there is a risk
of imminent eviction and the many people who remain are asking for support on the site over the next few weeks or months. The Transition Heathrow project began back in 2009 when six activists from anti-airport expansion group Plane Stupid became full time residents of the Heathrow villages. The proposed expansion plans at Heathrow included a third runway which would have made Heathrow Airport the biggest source of emissions in the country, and would have necessitated the demolition of an entire village, a cemetery and a local primary school. So Transition Heathrow was started to support the residents who had been fighting the expansion for many years. It wasn’t until March 2010 that the occupation of Grow Heathrow began. The community market garden and social space was established on a piece of derelict land right in the heart of Sipson. The land had previously been problematic for the local
Collecting damsons on Foraging Friday workshop at Grow Heathrow. Photo by Grow Heathrow community and was often a site of anti-social behaviour before it was virtually abandoned. Traditional Transition initiatives often have a strong emphasis on growing your own food, so we decided to incorporate that with a squatted community space where people could come together, and spend time as a community. Today Grow Heathrow is completely off-grid, meeting its electricity needs via two wind turbines and four solar panels. The site continues to play host to numerous community activities and workshops such as a weekly bicycle maintenance workshop, art, gardening and foraging workshops.
Sipson resident Tracey Howard commented: “At a time when harsh austerity cuts are affecting people across the country, Grow Heathrow is a great example of what can be done when a community takes back control of its land to meet its own needs.” Visit Grow Heathrow or support by following their Twitter and website for updates on the potential eviction, signing their petition, sending in a photo of support or by donating via www.transitionheathrow.com Joe Rake is a Transition Heathrow cofounder and former resident of Grow Heathrow for two years.
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Rewilding Transition George Monbiot talks with Charlotte Du Cann
p e o p l e A reconnection with nature invisibly frames everything we do in Transition – our endeavours to reconfigure our lives within planetary limits. Though the industrialised world’s obsession with money and power takes up most of our attention, it is becoming increasingly clear that without the wild places we not only start to lose our life support systems, we start to lose what it means to be human. This year the writer, activist and Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, published a book which brings that meaning and that reconnection brilliantly into view. Feral looks at our relationship with the land and the sea in terms of ‘rewilding’. Told through his own intense encounters with the natural world, as well as looking at schemes that have transformed eco-systems – either by the introduction of locally extinct animals such as wolves and lynx, or letting forests regenerate – the book opens up new territories in the imagination by envisioning a different future and a very different earth. But how does rewilding fit within Transition, which is experienced as an essentially civic movement? How can people become engaged in rewilding initiatives on a grassroots community level? “The vision of rewilding I have is one that involves local people as much as possible. Where communities find themselves surrounded
by land which is appropriate for rewilding, such as the less fertile land of the uplands and in lowland river corridors, Transition could have a very active role to play. The model I would point to is the Trees for Life scheme in Scotland, who have persuaded a number of public landowners, such as the Forestry Commission and the National Trust, and some private landowners to start rewilding some of their land, and through public subscriptions have bought a 10,000 acre estate of their own. With the help of volunteers they have planted over a million trees. It’s attractive because it is engaging and there is a strong sense that the scheme belongs to a lot of people, rather than just one.”
“Letting go and ceasing to be so controlling allows us a freedom and a breadth of vision that we don’t possess” Even though our wellbeing is linked to the natural territory we are surrounded by, this connection is often hard to talk about. How can we encourage that dialogue and gain a sense of agency? “This reflects our long history of enclosure and alienation from the land. If a small percentage own the land it is hard for people to feel they have a legitimate role in determining how that land should be used. There is a problem that goes way beyond the issue of rewilding and that is that severing of the link between people and land, which was done earlier and more comprehensively in Britain
than anywhere else. As a result we have a population which has very little sense that it belongs to the land, or the land belongs to us. “One of my aims with rewilding is that it once more gives people a stake in the land. In some cases that will mean communities buying land and this would be easier if the farm subsidy scheme changes, so land is less expensive. I would like to see far more community involvement in land use decision making and it’s amazing to me that the land around you can be completely transformed by a farmer with heavy machinery in almost no time at all and that the community has no say in that transformation. Farmers have no incentive to involve the public. As tax payers, we pay £6bn in farm subsidies every year and yet we have no say. That is a profound injustice.” There is a strong debate within the book about present conservation and agricultural policies. What do you feel emboldens communities to have that conversation with farmers? “This raises a still bigger question: what emboldens communities? It’s very easy to see yourself as having no agency and no power and no engagement. And it’s that disempowered attitude which allows powerful interests to ride roughshod over us. What might encourage a community to take a far more active role in land use decision making has to be the same motive force that encourages people to demand a far more responsive democracy, or a far better distribution of wealth. “We have allowed ourselves to be shut out of these questions, by
allowing our voice and our role to be seen as illegitimate. And I think the key task is to regain the confidence to say yes I do have a right to speak about this, for my view be taken into account. People can be very deeply affected about what is happening in their immediate surroundings but if they don’t have a say in it, then they
“Through rewilding we can reintroduce into the living world in Britain not only wolves, lynx, bison, moose, boar and beavers, but also human beings” are frustrated and depressed and disempowered. We need to regain the confidence to say we are free citizens of this country. We don’t have to put up with impositions over which we have no say yet which have an major impact on our lives. I see the Transition movement as a potential forum for re-empowering people and reminding people they are only excluded from these discussions because they have been excluded deliberately. And that by accepting that exclusion we collaborate in it.” The book introduces a depth and breadth in the ways we can look at the land around us in terms of layers of time. As a result the book looks dynamically forward, rather than nostalgically backwards. What is the role of the writer in this process of reimagining the future? “One of the reasons I began writing this book was that I couldn’t bear it anymore. I couldn’t bear engaging in these knotty, data-driven policy
debates where it was all about parts per million, millisieverts or this technology versus that technology. The reason I am involved in these questions is that I love nature. It’s as simple as that, and yet it has become so fantastically complicated to pursue that love of nature and I have been led into places which seem very far away from my initial impulse. I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in those debates. However there is a limit to how much of yourself you can give to them. Especially if, like me, you are motivated by passion and delight and joy and there is precious little of those to be found in a COP meeting or a G8 declaration. On the whole we have given too much of our lives to those intricate and ultimately unyielding politics. And not enough of our lives to the joy and the wonder that motivate us to engage in those politics. “I think as a writer my role should be to open up people’s imaginations, to inspire people to throw themselves in body and soul, and not just mind, into the question of how to re-engage with and defend the natural world. Over the years I have discovered that an ounce of hope is worth a ton of despair in motivating people and that there is a lot of hope out there if we are prepared to grasp it. Not just for a less bad world than there would otherwise have been, which is generally the promise of environmentalism, but the hope of a much better world than we have today, which is the promise of rewilding. “I do think that paleoecology opens the doors of perception; to me it feels like a portal to an enchanted kingdom. By understanding our past eco-
The story of the foraged book The Foraged Book Project is a collaboration between wild food forager Fergus Drennan, and sustainable artist James Wood. Here James Wood outlines their wild plan: The project is about creating a unique handcrafted book made entirely from foraged and wild material. We are also hosting public events, based on the book, that will offer participants deeply engaging interactions with the natural world, including plant identification, wild food collection and material processing. Imagine a book where the paper is made entirely from mushrooms, leaf vegetation and grasses, where all of the writing is done with handmade quills, using inks made from oak galls, ink cap mushrooms and other botanical systems we can begin to understand what our own ecosystems mean, and what they represent - which is generally an incredibly impoverished and degraded version of what was before. A system lacking in its large animals and indeed in its trees is a qualitively different system to one that retains them. But also through understanding the past we can begin to grope towards a vision of a richer and more enchanting future. “We had an astonishing rich marine and terrestrial ecology, and we can get it back. And that possibility can add so much wonder and enchantment to the lives of people who are finding hyper-civilised Britain to be boring and stale and predictable and grey. One of my aims in Feral was to open up our vision to what nature can be and to encourage people to ask, not only just what is here, but what could be here.” Charlotte Du Cann is Editor-in-Chief of Transition Free Press and the author of 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth (Two Ravens Press).
extracts! Where an entire book is illustrated using plant based pigments from a whole range of plants, fungi and seaweeds. Some techniques we use are very traditional, whereas others are untested and represent a new and incredibly exciting venture for us and hopefully you. The content of the book will include original information, recipes, illustrations, tips and hints on foraging and processing plants, fungi and seaweeds for food, art and book making equipment. We’ll be working with external artists so the book will include a number of oneoff illustrations. Through our teachings with external youth groups and other ideas from people keen to be involved, the book may also include fun and inspirational poems, diary extracts, quotes and mini flick animations. “Why are you doing this?” you may ask. As the mass production and easy availability of materials increases we’re becoming increasingly removed from the processes involved in meeting our everyday needs. False needs
abound. And equipment has become over-complex, leaving us baffled when it breaks, or remains usable only in the hands of so-called experts. Our book will be produced from very simple equipment that a child could make. Everyone will be able to do all this, become empowered and as creative and playful as children. Every element of this project will have – for us and anyone involved – an emotion, a story attached: the story of what may or may not have happened, as we were collecting materials, the trials and tribulations of processing it and the content and hope after producing it. These stories and the information contained in them will be shared through our website as video, blog posts and tutorials. Once complete, this book, along with a number of other unique pieces of work – such as a one-off meal and art created in collaboration with other artists – will be auctioned off and all the proceeds will go to a number of selected charities. James Wood: “Over the past two years I’ve been questioning the sustainability of my own
Examples of pigments made from different types of plant. Artwork by James Wood painting and art practice, as well as researching and developing techniques for paint, paper, quill, ink, thread, leather and parchment making. I graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Nottingham Trent in 2012 and currently work from my studio in The Fermain Youth Centre, Macclesfield.” Fergus Drennan: “Based in Wales and Kent for the past 25 years I’ve been questioning the sustainability, ethics, and future consequences of modern industrial and post-industrial society. My conclusion is that a fundamental sense of separation,
of alienation, from us, our brothers and sisters, all plant and animal species, and the very land and nature itself is at the root of our turmoil. “Foraging breaks down separation, is about sense of place, and about inter-being and connection in which that place is simultaneously right here and everywhere else. Foraging worked for our ancestors. But how and to what extent can it work in the modern world? That is my lifelong ongoing exploration.” www.theforagedbookproject.co.uk
The wild is waiting Wild Guide Devon, Cornwall and the South West - hidden places, great adventures & the good life by Daniel Start, Tania Pascoe and Jo Keeling (Wild Things Publishing 2013) The locals always know the best places – the spots with the real magic that you won’t find in the tourist office leaflets, hidden away down easy-to-miss unsignposted lanes, just over the next hill. This book is like having your own friendly local at hand, someone who really values the wild. “In our modern world, we remain tethered to our technology and busier than ever. Our remedy is a big dose of simple adventures of the most natural kind – exploring the wilder places that lie on the edge of everyday life,” says co-author Daniel Start. Divided by county – Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset – Wild Guide leads you from secret beaches and prehistoric stones, through ancient woodlands and mysterious caves, to lost ruins and flower-filled meadows. With concise and practical advice on wild camping, canoeing, wildlife-watching, foraging and night-walks, the guide takes a responsible position on revealing how to reach this hidden world, encouraging the use of bikes and public transport, whilst still providing exact coordinates for map reading and sat navs. The authors also strongly support local producers, recommending some of the region’s best local food. “And all without flying, or paying very much at all” is their claim, which resonates well with Transition’s ethos. Bigger than the traditional pocket guide book, Wild Guide is small enough to carry, but large enough to do justice to its 400 beautiful photographs and 30 maps. The 500 secluded or magical places are covered briefly (it’s designed to encourage you to discover their secrets yourself, rather than being an armchair guide), but their entries contain just the right level of information to make you determined to visit. I have only one minor gripe: the minuscule icons at the end of each entry and no key to their meaning. Most are self-evident, but a few obscure little squiggles had me puzzling for hours. I’d prefer it, too, if the pictures of each place were always on the same page as their entry. The flipping back and forth between some pages was mildly irritating, but overall the layout is clear, varied and includes some absolutely stunning images I wouldn’t have guessed were of the UK. An inspiring, useful book which will make exploring Britain’s mysterious and beautiful South West a real pleasure. Wild Guide Devon, Cornwall and the South West (£14.99) is available from wildthingspublishing.com. It is also available digitally for iPhone, Android, ebook and for sat nav. Trucie Mitchell is the Designer of Transition Free Press. A canoeist, walker and historian, she lives with her husband and growing baby bump in the South West.
talkback ta After the
Chris Williams reviews The Resilience Imperative Resilience is a word frequently used in the context of an ecosystem’s ability to ‘recover from damage’, but the ‘Resilience Imperative’, as described by new economics foundation’s Pat Conaty, also applies to communities and human systems. The book brings together the ecological principles of resilience and seven co-operative principles, which link up and provide a compass for a new theory and practice of ‘SEE (social, ecological and economic) Change’.
SEE Change offers four steps as a process: sharing problems; seeing the world differently through a radical integrated theory; seeking solutions that work and securing integrated solutions for a paradigm shift. The ecological-economicsocial crises the world is facing means that a transition to a low carbon, sustainable economy (one which does not require economic growth to function), based on co-operative, rather than competitive interactions between people, is urgent, necessary and possible. The current agenda of economic growth won’t provide what’s needed, so we need to look at realistic and tangible alternatives, such as a ‘steady state’ economy that delivers social justice and wellbeing, within planetary limits. A profound change is also needed in the way we view property and ownership models. Key issues such as affordable housing, energy sufficiency, sustainable food and local 14 control of production,
need creative and effective solutions. Co-operative economic methods, including interestfree banks; community land trusts/banks and mutuals; credit unions and social finance are amongst those democratic tools and decentralising institutions needed to shape this steadystate economy. We need to build resilience locally and regionally to counter the volatility which is becoming a clear characteristic of our current economic system. Key areas of volatility relate to our changing climate, the dependence on nonrenewable energy, and finally how money is created and what purpose it serves. Essentially the way we do economics means that the things which are worst for us (and others) are often the cheapest. Addressing this issue is a key concern and the authors delve into numerous issues, from costing ‘externalities’ into the market prices, through to taxation and regulation. A key point raised is that there were considerably fewer business crises (and not one international banking crisis) in the thirty years before the 1970s. Since then there have been a staggering amount of financial crises throughout the globe in the wake of financial deregulation. One consequence of this is shown starkly if we look at the year 1980, when the global financial assets equalled global GDP. These had however tripled by 2008, which demonstrates the impact of ‘financialisation’ in Western economies and the resulting shift of power from labour (and trade unions) to financial capital as the powerhouse.
who is going to deliver the milk? The associated dominance of global corporations since the 1980s, on the back of the wave of neo-liberalism as an ideology and approach to society, has caused dramatic changes which we need to be conscious of. ‘Growth equals prosperity’ is the big myth of recent times and one which we can see evidence of all around us; from environmental damage, to social unrest and
benefit to society for the lowest ecological / environmental cost. We need to reinvent democracy to ensure that it is truly participatory rather than only representative – and the co-operative / mutual model is one which demonstrates how this could be done. We also need local control, local sufficiency, and devolved power in order to shape this great transition, as well as extending the scope of participation, and to build trust. collaboration and leadership. All of this needs to be rooted in local communities. It is down to us. We need to build resilience where we live. In this way a new, decentralized, devolved and associative democracy will be born: one which gives people the power to influence and shape their destiny, rather than one shaped by corporate lobbyists in which people are passive recipients. If we don’t make these changes now, we’re stuck with the limited political choices of left and right, state or markets, thereby missing the opportunity for a new organisation of economic and participative democracy. Increasing social capital is a critical step along the way. The solution will include a multitude of organisational forms including co-operatives, community land trusts, trade unions, non-profits, charities, credit unions and fair trade among many others. Diversity amongst institutions should be embraced and grown. The private and public sectors will always have roles to fulfil, but what the civil society and active citizen sectors have to offer can
“The way we do economics means that the things which are worst for us (and others) are often the cheapest” the current economic crisis. Interestingly the privatisation of profit has also made the debtsettlement (resulting from the bank bailout) a public issue. This shift has no historical precedent and is possibly the greatest injustice of all, as those who have profited are not sentenced (apart from action that Iceland has taken), but are rewarded, bailed out and allowed to continue business as usual with minor tweaks.
So what can we do?
We must strengthen our resilience so that we can adapt to changes. We need to use far less and accept the reality of considerably more expensive energy and food. We need to manage the environment by considering the consequences of climate change and thereby strengthen the resilience of our supporting ecosystems. We must reclaim the commons (both shared natural resources and public spaces) to ensure that they are used to produce the highest
comprise a significant part of the economy - and one that we can shape ourselves. Because we can shape such a new form of active economic democracy it is here that the positive, tangible and immediate revolution can begin and continue. If this seems like an idealistic or utopian vision, the Chantier system for publicsocial partnerships in Canada demonstrates that the change is happening. This first local social economy network evolved in one district of Montreal and has spread to other areas of Quebec and is really finding ways forward for forms of vertical and horizontal co-operative systems. Solidarity is a renewable resource, one that is good for the environment and future generations and takes consideration of their needs more so than short term profit-driven market approaches. It’s a crucial part of a sustainable future. Any radical alternative to our current economic and social problems must do more than rally people to action. It must set out a plan for how people will continue to have employment, food and livelihoods. It must work out the answers to key daily needs: “after the revolution, who is going to deliver the milk?” Chris is nef’s Marine Socioeconomics Coordinator, managing a project to enhance UK Marine NGOs’ capacity on key socio-economic debates relating to fisheries and the use of the marine environment. www.mseproject.net. The Resilience Imperative: cooperative transitions to a steady state economy by Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty (New Society Publishers 2012)
Time is short. Aim high. Have fun
Martin Grimshaw Doing stuff together can be a rocky road. The trouble is, the model we were taught in school is most akin to the way that the military gets things done. As children we are taught that someone else is in charge and knows best; you have to do what they say or get into trouble. That sort of top-down hierarchy is replicated in most workplaces. Control, believing we’re right, bullying, blaming, selfishness. Otherwise nice people transform at 9am. All of us could do with developing our humility, empathy, kindness, and ability to shut up and listen. Bosses telling us what to do is pervasive, because to some extent it is effective. But it’s also problematic. BlessingWhite, a consultancy specialising in organisational behaviour, produced a report in 2011 which suggested 69% of people weren’t very engaged at work and
17% were completely disengaged. A 2012 report by the Towers Watson consultancy found 98% of UK employees were impacted by stress. That’s an enormous failure to harness more than a fragment of our capability and a colossal waste of potential. The crisis at Stafford Hospital, where many hundreds died as a result of a chronically dysfunctional organisation, happened despite staff knowing how to make improvements. Bottom-up suggestions were ignored – as happens in workplaces everywhere. No wonder we’re all so disengaged and managers are often exhausted from the pressure of trying to make decisions on behalf of everyone else. To put it mildly, there are better ways of working. The good news is that they’re not difficult – they’re (un)common sense. The difficult part is shifting habits. The starting point, however, is a desire to enjoy work and a curiosity about learning. Transitioners are human and many have experienced the
challenges that humans usually experience when they try to get together to get anything done. But at its best Transition takes group health seriously, because it takes the job in hand seriously, albeit lightheartedly. And that means
“All of us could do with developing our humility, empathy, kindness and ability to shut up and listen” being serious about enjoying the journey, because enjoying what we do is productive. An aeroplane is on the wrong course 90% of the time. Planes, like bicycles, permaculturists and smart people in smart organisations, use dynamic steering – they actively respond to a changing environment in order to reach their target. I find it reassuring that planes get to their destination most of the time, although personally I don’t use
them because of the damage they do to the climate. So here are some simple tips to transform your work without too much effort: 1) Know your destination and celebrate arriving. Often! 2) Evaluate briefly at the end of every meeting, and periodically in your team. Appreciate what’s working, ask what could be improved. Change course. 3) Take it in turns to speak briefly on a subject, everyone having a chance to say something and be listened to without discussion. 4) Replace blame and complaint with finding ways of enjoying more. Time is short. Aim high, have fun. Martin Grimshaw was on the Steering Group of Transition Brighton & Hove, which collapsed in acrimony in 2010. That led Martin to set up a facilitation and training company called “There’s Better Ways Of Working” – www.2bwow.org.uk. Martin is also the co-organiser of Transition Camp.
The buggeration factor on the Isle of Eigg Eva Schonveld
My family and I spent the last year living on Eigg, a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland. It won renown in the ‘90s as one of the first of a wave of community buy-outs here in Scotland. As a consequence the newly created Scottish Parliament brought in land reform: laws were created, and funds stumped up, so that if rural land went on sale and the local community wanted to purchase it, they would be given priority – and financial help – to do so. Eigg found itself in the spotlight again a few years ago, when it created a renewable energy grid for the island which is too far from the mainland to tap into the national grid, and so relied on diesel generators for
electricity. They won a series of grants and awards to help this happen, and the result was an innovative combination of hydro, wind and solar generation which can provide power for the hundred or so residents for much of the time in the changing weather of the north west. Soon the solar array will be doubled (it has been more productive than first thought) and people are looking at whether the island could invest in tidal energy as well. Decisions on the island are made by two main bodies: the residents’ association and the Trust. Attendance at meetings waxes and wanes depending on the time of year and the current issues, but the system broadly works and means that islanders feel a real sense of engagement with many of the issues that affect them, and take responsibility for planning the future of the island. Living in a caravan and yurt with my family, we were brought up again and again against the limits imposed by island life. If our pump broke, we had to go to the stream and carry our water back. If storms meant that the boat didn’t come, the shop would quickly run out of fruit and veg and we had to get creative with tinned, dried and foraged food. If the car ran out of petrol, we had to walk or cycle whatever
the weather. We were much closer to the nuts and bolts (or nuts and berries?) of life, forced, especially in the first few months, to ask ourselves some pretty basic questions: where are we going to get our water, food, fuel from? Questions most of us on the mainland rarely need to think about for more than a second or two. Interestingly, although it could be very frustrating at times (my neighbour called it the ‘buggeration factor’ of living on a small island), it was all do-able. So I carry my water? So I get wet cycling across the island? So I eat different food? Life being less convenient than I was used to wasn’t, it turned out, the end of the world. It’s convenience that makes us drive a few minutes down the road, rather than take a healthy stroll; eat microwave dinners, rather than prepare fresh food; watch telly of an evening, rather than get active on issues that are important to us... After a certain point, one which most of us in the Global North waved farewell to a long way back, convenience saps our strength, our confidence and our ingenuity. There’s something about learning how to live more hand-to-mouth which is empowering and encouraging. The other most obvious difference was the value people place on one another.
Not that I was forever tripping over people holding hands and gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes: people on Eigg can be as grumpy and cussed as anyone else you might bump into on your high street. But islanders know that they need one another in a way the rest of us rarely get to notice. Even people who are barely on speaking terms will help one another out in a fix. They know that next time it might be the other way round. And when there’s a concert or a ceilidh, everyone goes. Because there are fewer events and fewer people around, there’s less social selectivity: if there’s something happening everyone piles in. So you get to know people you never would if they lived next door in the city and you learn how to get along with them. Staying longer on Eigg was vetoed by our city kids, but the grown-ups of the family (and the cat) are plotting our return! Eva Schonveld was a founder member of Portobello Transition Town and helped set up community food growing spaces and a local market there. From 2009-11 she also supported communities around Scotland who wanted to use the Transition approach, and still loves to do so. An Edinburgh lass by birth, she is now in the process of moving back there after a year on Eigg.
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Placers stacking saggars in a kiln. Image courtesy of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.
Clay skills travel through time by Julia Roundtree Josiah Wedgwood, ceramic industrialist, was one of the first visionary investors in the canal system, seeing water as a safer way to distribute delicate wares from his works in Stoke-on-Trent. Clay Cargo is renewing connections between clay and the waterways today by travelling with a consignment of clay containers, or ‘saggars’, on a series of boats from London to Stoke via Birmingham, to create an installation in the Spode Factory as part of the British Ceramics Biennial. Once used to protect fine china during firing, the saggars will carry delicate works made by many hands along the way in London, Birmingham and Stoke. Local clays will be added to the cargo. Clay Cargo is one of arts organisation Clayground Collective’s initiatives to pass ‘making skills’ to a younger generation through celebration of clay, the material itself, its role in cultural traditions the world over and at technology’s leading edge. By researching and digging clay in each locality, participants discover local resources, learn new skills and find creative possibilities literally beneath their feet. Clayground specialises in the creation of participatory works.
Co-Director, Duncan Hooson, says: “Facilitating participatory projects is a highly rewarding way to share practical and personal skills; often problem-solving on the spot and feeling enormous enthusiasm from those who go on the creative journey with us. In isolation, individual practitioners can become too selfobsessed without feeling the need to engage, explain or share. “At the ‘coal face’ of participation in clay, in what might appear a nondramatic discipline, the creative buzz and sense of achievement can be thrilling and highly rewarding. The participation with others brings a host of creative ideas and responses to any project that would otherwise remain hidden and undiscovered. Relaying tacit knowledge, seeing others enthused, and knowing that together you have helped each other discover and create something is truly exciting.” For Clay Cargo, Duncan Hooson will throw 100 saggars made in three consignments between August and October. Each one weighs 12.5kg with clay donated by Potclays, Stoke. Clayground is working to realise the project with a host of partners including the Canal & River Trust, Central St Martin’s, Arts Council UK, Ikon Gallery’s Slow Boat and
community organisations in each city. Support from individuals and groups has been integrated into the design and collective ethos of Clay Cargo. Those wishing to help get young people stuck into clay and making skills are being invited to donate between £10 and £100 to have their initials or full names inscribed on a saggar. Like old tea chests marked with cargo provenance, destination and ownership, the saggars with inscriptions and contents from three cities will form the exhibition in Stoke. Clay Cargo aims to encourage clay and hand-making skills, to renew creative connections to local resources underfoot, and to delve into new uses for channels of supply and distribution from an industrial age. Make your way to Stoke to see the exhibition in the Spode Factory and join a range of activities in Burslem during the weekend of 13th and 14th October.
Mending our broken by Lucy Neal
I’m at the Toynbee Studios at the Two Degrees festival in the East End of London – a week of art and action that asks: ‘What is broken about our world and what can we do to mend it?’
Artist Kate McIntosh has given literal force to the question by putting mallets in our hands. She invites us to choose from an array of objects, and then take them apart. The sound of hammering and sawing is heard over speakers, as umbrellas and vases meet their end... although not quite, as we shall see. Two Degrees is a creative response to Climate Change, Consumerism and Community, providing a series of events where audiences can ‘think about how we can change our future’. In two days I squeezed in theatre, news briefings, a water museum, lectures, a game show, films, debt counselling, a family-led revolution (with flags) and the chance to change the world ‘one vodka shot at a time’. It began with a ‘power breakfast’ in London’s Square Mile at 8am in the Gherkin building. Lewis Bisset’s Worldstrike! A Daily Briefing, offered an exploratory news digest of the Financial Times. Brett Scott (A Heretic’s Guide to Finance) explained ‘index providers’ and ‘bail-ins’ on the day a “£1 billion hole” was revealed in the Coop Bank. Hunting for the ‘presence of our ecology’ in the business pages, we saw zero acknowledgement of the natural resources on which profits were predicated – though there were strawberries on the table. Lunchtime was in Liverpool Street with Platform’s Oil City, a ‘Spy Thriller for a Post Occupy Era’. In an immersive piece of theatre, three actors led six of us into the underbelly of London’s oil economy. We became complicit in tangled encounters between a whistleblower, a lawyer and a journalist, racing to expose the illegalities behind the Canadian government’s exploitation of the Athabasca tar sands and First Nation communities. Hiding behind newspapers, we listened to an undercover briefing in a station cafe. I cut eyeholes in mine, enjoying the fun, whilst honouring the real bravery and risks of environmental activism. Saturday’s The Great Transition was kicked off at speed by Andrew Simms from the new economics foundation. His description of ‘Goodland’ mapped a just alternative world, whilst artist Michael Plinksy argued for a public realm less dominated by literal, functional ways of thinking and being. We need space, he said, for the surprise, emotion and provocation that art offers. In WorkTable I surprised myself, dismantling a high heeled red platform shoe with gusto. Asked to reassemble, not our own, but someone else’s object, I ‘repaired’ an alarm clock with copydex, rubber bands and string. WorkTable spoke volumes about our poignant attempts to put things back together again. It’ll need more than string to mend our broken world, but it’s a conscious imaginative start. Lucy Neal is a core member of Transition Town Tooting in South London. She is currrently writing Playing for Time – Making Art as if The World Matters, a collaborative book on the arts and acts of creative community.
www.claygroundcollective.org Julia Rowntree and ceramic artist Duncan Hooson co-founded Clayground Collective in 2007. Julia is author of Changing the Performance: a companion guide to arts, business and civic engagement (Routledge 2006).
Oil City by Platform, part of Artsadmin’s Two Degrees festival. Photo by Amy Scaife
c o m m u n i t y
Putting happy food on the table by Josiah Meldrum
Margaret Sheppard, one of the core Community Kitchen crew, serves up a proper happy meal in Suffolk. Photo by Sylvaine Poitau Happy Mondays, the popular community food event organised by Sustainable Bungay, is inspired by the shared meals we struggle to find time for these days. Based on seasonal food and simple recipes, the monthly
meal involves all ages in cooking and eating, sharing their skills and the effort. They’re the kinds of meals we’ve seen and experienced in southern Europe or in the English rural tradition of harvest and celebration – sadly both are now
Honouring our elders’ memories by Michelle Bastian Creating new stories about the places where we live is central to the Transition movement. Over the past year members of Transition Liverpool have been involved in an ‘Honouring the Elders’ project looking at our history of local food. Liverpool is better known for being a port city, as a hub of globalised trade even before anyone had heard of the word ‘globalisation’. It’s also a city that is deeply curious about its past. Our project aimed to build on this interest in order to develop a ‘sideways’ method of engaging people with local food. We noticed that while 100s of people showed up for a local history event, only nine came to an orchard planting. Could a combination of the two create a successful recipe for talking about food beyond the ‘usual suspects’? The hook for the project was Mr Seel’s Garden, a piece of
land that was a garden in the late 1700s, now occupied by a chain supermarket. A plaque on the side of the building shows an old map of the garden, and explains that Mr Seel was not a kindly gardener but a prominent
“Others painted a picture of Liverpool full of urban farms, patchwork orchards and backyard chickens”
slave trader. The plaque acts as a kind of portal connecting the past and the present. It shows how much has changed, but also our continued connection to global systems of power and domination. Liverpool already had many stories about the part it played in empire building, and so this plaque provided the perfect prompt to explore the more local changes in food production and
less common than they once were. Our aim is to use local and seasonal produce from gardens, farms and allotments in and around Bungay. We hope to demonstrate that cooking with great ingredients needn’t be expensive or complicated – and that the results are delicious. We decorate the room with garden and wildflowers and seat all our guests, 50 or 60 every month, round a single table to encourage conversation and a sense of community. We aim to make the meals as accessible as possible, charging £5 for two courses to cover our costs. The money we take, around £6000 so far, is mostly spent locally on ingredients, kitchen hire and equipment. The meals offer a chance to find out what’s happening locally, either in general conversation or between courses when someone explains how we arrived at the menu – which usually has a seasonal theme. Past evenings include Mexico, Wild Food, Garden Herbs and Honey. Initially we’d feared these talks consumption. With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Transition Liverpool and two other community groups worked with academics and learned how to do oral history interviews and research with old maps. We uncovered over 600 locations where people grew, kept or made food, recorded 27 interviews and created a database of hundreds of selections from our archive research. The interviews were a moving experience for the project researchers. We heard heart breaking tales from a former market gardener in Wallasey who was forced to shut down as chain supermarkets became more popular. He spoke of middens full of fresh vegetables that could no longer be sold at the wholesale vegetable markets. Others painted a picture of Liverpool full of urban farms, patchwork orchards and backyard chickens well before our current greening of cities. Some had such vivid memories of their vibrant high streets that they were able to name all the shops along their local street, creating a ghostly presence for our interviewers when they now
would seem intrusive, but we’ve discovered that people enjoy hearing about the food they’re eating – whether it’s back-garden hens, gardening in a changing climate or an update from our community beekeepers.
“Cooking and eating together uses less energy and creates less waste” As well as the social and economic benefits there’s an environmental rationale behind our meals; cooking and eating together uses less energy and creates less waste. And our meals are quietly vegetarian; this simplifies the kitchen work and helps us demonstrate how easy it is to eat less meat. Two years on from our first plans, hatched in the pub after a Sustainable Bungay core group meeting, and Happy Mondays has served almost 1000 plates of local food, has a team of 5 or 6 who plan the menus and source the produce
and a pool of 20 or 30 who cook, wash-up, dress the room, greet and lay the table. We’re no longer fazed by the Community Centre’s idiosyncratic cooker and confidently turn out two courses for 50 people every month. And where once we had to advertise to fill every chair, now we’re always oversubscribed, with regulars pre-booking months in advance to guarantee a place. As a collective we’ve started calling ourselves Bungay Community Kitchen and see opportunities beyond Happy Mondays – opportunities that could see us creating employment and offering training as well as spending money with local farmers, growers and independent retailers. Josiah Meldrum is a co-founder of Sustainable Bungay and a director of East Anglia Food Link and Hodmedod. He’s currently working to revive interest in traditional Britishgrown field crops such as fava beans and black badger peas as well as experimenting with crops like quinoa and camelina.
Aerial view of Sefton Park, Liverpool, in 1941 showing land given over to allotments for food growing. Photo courtesy of Liverpool City Council visit them. where every item, no matter We then developed ways where it is from, can be of sharing our stories more reduced to a series of numbers widely. Working with Chris and entered into a universal Speed at the Edinburgh College database. So we created an of Art we devised a series of iPhone app that hacks into these ‘creative tactics’ to hack into codes and haunts them with local imaginings of the city. This the memories of Liverpool’s included an interactive online past. When you scan a product map and a postcard series. We with the Mr Seel App instead of also worked with theatre maker getting pricing information you Liz Postlethwaite and with local receive a local story instead. poet Eleanor Rees. As a way of highlighting the For Honouring the Elders handbook local-global links, we created a www.mrseelsgarden.org way of hacking into the global Michelle Bastian is a member of food system using the barcodes Transition Liverpool, a co-founder on food packaging. Barcodes of the Transition Research Network have come to represent the and a Chancellor’s Fellow at the 17 facelessness of globalisation, University of Edinburgh.
Bringing in the harvest Dorothea Leber, our regular columnist, prepares for this busy time of year. September is probably the month when the garden is at its fullest and most abundant. Every bed has something growing and we are waiting for space to become available to plant out corn-salad, spinach and spring greens. We will also do regular sowings of all the winter salads like rocket, mizuna and corn salad. Winter purslane will be sown as well, and though it is one of the most hardy and wonderful winter salads, it still needs cover as it doesn’t fare well if over watered. Chervil is a hardy herb that can be sown at this time as can coriander that is surprisingly able to endure the winter in a greenhouse.
As the garden is full, so are our days, with much harvesting to be done, as well as making apple rings and juice to sell in our garden shop. We work hard to keep on top of the weeds at this time of year, as they have started growing again having taken a small break during the summer. The scenery in the greenhouses is changing slowly once more, with the tall growing tomatoes, cucumbers and beans, giving way to the low growing winter salads. We spend much time carting compost to put on the beds, (as we do every time we grow a new crop) as it helps to reactivate and rebalance soil life, and to feed it with more nutrients. It is more effective to apply compost more often and little, than to apply one big load just once a year. As the compost heaps are still warm, this is also a good time of year to start turning them so they become more active and heat up even more. Autumn is also the time when the chicories come into their full glory. Lettuces suffer when the nights get cold and damp, and they look weak and poorly in comparison to the vigorous looking sugarloaves, endives and radicchios. With the colder nights they all become sweeter, and the last remnants of bitterness (for those who don’t enjoy it) can easily be taken away with a strong dressing and a little sour cream. It is of course a good time of year for us to be enjoying the chicories, as they are helpful for strengthening our livers in preparation for the long winter months. Dorothea Leber is the head gardener at the Michael Hall Steiner School in Forest Row, East Sussex. She and her team tend the 2 1/2 acre biodynamic walled garden, selling produce to staff and families at the school as well as to local green grocers. Biodynamic horticulture is an organic method of food production developed in the early 1900s. It works by creating a holistic, self-sustaining system by nurturing the interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals that comprise it.
The Michael Hall garden in early Autumn.
Scrumping apples as part of a Transition project harvesting fruit which would otherwise have gone to waste. Photo by Jonathan Goldberg
Cider pressure Mark Simmonds of the Calderdale Cider Co-op, explains to Tamzin Pinkerton how the project is busy engaging local people in every stage of the process, from growing and gleaning the apples, to enjoying a pint of locally brewed cider. Tell us the story of the Calderdale Cider Co-op. Calderdale Cider Co-op is an informal community cooperative, running as an activity of the Calderdale Local Orchard Group (CLOG). There is currently no formal membership of the Cider Co-op, although CLOG is constituted with a membership. One of our first activities was to plant a small cider orchard behind the pub where we held our inaugural meeting. We have since assisted in the planting of six more local community orchards and are involved in the management of two more. The aim of the project is to make and distribute cider using locally sourced apples which would otherwise go to waste. The project is part of CLOG’s wider aims which are to promote fruit growing in Calderdale through education and the creation of new community orchards. We collect apples from local gardens, parks and public spaces, make cider and then distribute the cider amongst the volunteers and those who donated apples.
How has the project so far been funded and resourced? The project has been entirely dependent on volunteers, with the support of local pubs and some small community grant schemes. We don’t sell any cider as yet, but we do deliver courses on cider-making which also funds our activities. Much of our kit is borrowed, donated and homemade and we have no premises. The apples are pressed at community events and the juice is fermented at various members’ houses using home brew equipment.
“Much of our kit is borrowed, donated and home-made” Were you inspired or supported by any other projects or organisations? We were particularly inspired by the community supported orchard project, Dragon Orchard near Ledbury. We took a van down to see them in 2011 and bought a tonne of proper cider apples from them, to mix in with our local cookers and eaters to give a much more rounded cider. We found the publications by Common Ground, such as the Community Orchard Handbook, very useful. We also like the Naked Guide to Cider, by James Russell and Real Cider Making on a Small Scale by Mike
Pooley and John Lomax. We have also been assisted by the Real Cider Company who have provided excellent cider tasting workshops at our events. The Northern Fruit Group have also been useful in the choice of hardy varieties for our community orchards. What advice would you pass on to others hoping to set up a similar initiative? Invest in decent kit, particularly an apple mill. Ideally have some premises to store kit and fermenting juice although these premises may need to be registered as food premises. What is your vision for the project over the next 5 years? After a disastrous year in 2012, when we harvested hardly anything, we hope to top our 2011 season when we produced over 130 gallons. We are also looking to find premises and to make the Co-op more official, with a view to selling some of the cider we produce. We also hope to start producing cider from the original cider orchard we planted 5 years ago. Longer term, we would like to purchase land and plant a commercial orchard to supply the local market. Tamzin Pinkerton (Brighton) is TFP’s Food Editor and author of Local Food: How to Make it Happen in Your Community (Green Books).
The Resilient Food Systems Training Course is geared towards creating abundant food systems in a low carbon economy. It’s designed to appeal not only to those already in the field (such as food producers, farmer-growers, or food processors), but also to those who are embarking on setting up new food initiatives. The course, run by Transition Training, will be held between two and four times per year, depending upon demand. Each one will be held in a different setting, from urban market gardens to rural farms, and will include a visit to a food related social enterprise, such as a farmers’ market, box scheme or CSA. Participants will explore a range of ways to relocalise food systems whilst ensuring their enterprises can continue to thrive into the future. The next course will be held on 14th and 15th September at Organic Lea in Chingford, London E4. See www.transitionnetwork. org/training for more details. Marina O’Connell (Transition Stour Valley)
Using our (real) loaf Cherry Real Bread Campaign co-ordinator Chris Young explains why baking Real Bread should be high on every Transition group’s priority list. For centuries, the bakery was a cornerstone of virtually every local community in many countries. Sadly, long gone are the days when real bread (that is, bread made without artificial additives) came fresh from the oven, as a staple of the British diet and a crucial element of local food economies. According to big baking industry figures, around 80% of the loaves we now buy in the UK are made at remote plant bakeries. These bakeries use a process that cuts out the time dough needs to ‘ripen’ naturally, involving high-speed mixing, a cocktail of artificial additives and, in some cases, socalled ‘processing aids’ that don’t appear on the label. This is all followed by an energyintensive chilling stage to cool the loaves for wrapping. The loaves then make diesel-guzzling journeys around our highways
and byways to be sold and eaten – though, as food waste figures from WRAP show, around 30% are simply thrown away. A further 15-17% of the market is held by supermarket in-store ‘bakeries.’ It might be more appropriate to call them ‘loaf-tanning salons’ as loaves that are made elsewhere are merely ‘baked off’ in these supermarkets. This is a process that consumes around twice as much energy as baking loaves once and doesn’t offer skilled baking jobs to people that are local to the point of sale. Thankfully, a real bread resurgence is underway. Around the land (including in Bristol, Dunbar, Lewes, and Marsden and Slaithwaite) people are seizing control of their daily bread. Over the past five years, they have come together, often initiated or supported by their local Transition groups, to establish workerowned co-operatives and other forms of Community Supported Bakeries. A popular approach has
been to secure the start-up capital they need with community share offers, that will then pay dividends in real bread. Others have started running weekend microbakeries from their own kitchens and have soon uncovered local demand for real bread, as well as willing partners and apprentices. There are a number of ways in which small, real bread enterprises help to build local resilience. Firstly, they create more jobs per loaf for people in their communities than do the mass produced loaves. At the same time, money spent with a locally-owned enterprise is likely to be re-invested locally, rather than to disappear into distant shareholders’ pockets. These enterprises can also work to bring local people together at all stages of the baking process, with children and adults learning how to bake their own loaves from skilled, professional bakers. And, in terms of building a community’s resistance to disruptions in the food chain, it is
important to remember that flour is less perishable than a baked loaf; a community that stores its own flour, (or better still, grows and stores its own grain) will therefore have access to real bread long after deliveries of supermarkets’ industrial loaves have been suspended. You can find a guide to all of this in our book, Knead to Know. Transitioners baking real bread for sale are invited to add their loaves to the Campaign’s Real Bread Finder map. Whether or not you’re a baker, you are welcome to join the Campaign. We look forward to welcoming you into the mutuallysupportive national community of people who care about the state of bread in Britain. www.realbreadcampaign.org The Campaign is coordinating the month-long Sourdough September celebration. Knead to Know, published by Grub Street, is available now.
Brockwell Bake member and professional baker, Vincent Talleu, helps harvest Blue Cone Rivet from heritage wheat trials at Perry Court biodynamic Farm near Canterbury, UK. Photo by Brockwell Bake
by Alys Fowler
As autumn begins, Transition gleaners and foragers collect and distribute an abundance of unwanted fruit in communities everywhere, from damsons to elderberries. Alys Fowler starts the harvest season with a tang.
In a good year, the myrobalan or cherry plum (so called because the plum is distinctly round in shape) is so prolific that at any given rail track or motorway edge, you can spot pools of fallen fruit in hues of yellow, orange and red. I’ve walked through woods where the under storey is littered with thousands and always I think the same thing, why is no one picking this fruit? Now clearly motorways and railway banks are a little off bounds for the forager, but you are just as likely to find them in parks, car parks, street corners and hedgerows. The tree is native to the Balkans and is widely planted, being popular for its early spring flowers (it is the first plum to flower in the UK). Its fruit is often considered to be ornamental and nothing more, perhaps because if you sink your teeth into a less than ripe fruit, you’ll shudder with the sourness. Those blushed red tend to be the sweetest, but all the same, this plum is destined for the cooking pot before it reaches the bowl. In a plum pie, jammed, smoothed into a compote, or roasted with a crust of brown sugar, the tartness becomes its strong point. You can also make wine from it. The fruit is often hard to spot on the tree so look to the ground for what has fallen, as well as getting a sheet and gently shaking the tree for more, and you’ll have plenty for supper and beyond. Alys Fowler is a gardener and author of The Thrifty Forager (Kyle Books). She writes for The Guardian, Gardens Illustrated, Grow Your Own and is also a regular TV presenter on the BBC.
Garlick man rediscovered in South London by Bridget McKenzie
For three years, as a family and with friends, we’ve organised solstice parades: the Night of the Beasts in Winter and the Garlick Man in Summer. We’ve just celebrated the summer parade, alongside some Transition initiatives in New Cross, South London.
As a culture we’ve forgotten the solstices, the astronomical events which mark turning points in our seasons. Apart from strawberries at Wimbledon, we’ve forgotten how fruit arrives with those seasonal turns. A lot has changed but the symmetry of the Earth’s annual turning endures. The summer solstice is a time for celebrations of fertility and growth. Fire is its element: fire for the midsummer sun, and for renewal and creativity. These days, summer is also about forests burning. Fiercer fires are only one impact evident at our current global temperature rise of one degree, and more impacts will unfold. It’s clear that we need to take steps to make our communities resilient. When Osborne talks about ‘growth through infrastructure’ we can show that a tree, or better still, a food forest, is just the growth
we need. I also believe that creativity and heritage are vital infrastructure. So, putting all this together I run a range of creative ecology projects, some in our own community, including these solstice parades. The parades are a symbolic
Bold Vision to structure the fundraising and ‘sweat equity’ for this project and then it opened up to back other ventures. When New Cross Library was cut, Bold Vision backed it to be community run. The library is now more inclusive and
A sunflowery Garlick Man on parade, with helpers. Photo by Bridget McKenzie ‘coming together’ for several local groups. One of these is Bold Vision, an umbrella charity set up by local people to develop skills and spaces for self-reliant and cooperative thriving. It began with converting a community centre garage into the Hill Station, a café and cultural space. We formed
radical, hosting groups such as Transition New Cross and New Cross Commoners. The latter was formed by Goldsmith’s College students to share mapping, tapping and learning about the commons. Another backed project is New-XING delivering creative interventions for wellbeing, such
as planting 1000 sunflowers in neglected patches. The key Bold Vision project in this story is Grow Wild. It’s a funded team of workers who teach permaculture, foraging and cooking, and support several shared gardens. They helped the parade be fun, nourishing and educational. This began with a seed-bomb workshop, the bombs distributed by a strange-looking beekeeper on the parade. They organised a community cookup for a free solstice picnic. Everyone raved about the foraged elderflower fritters and cordial. The parade took place happily, on 21st June, lit by gorgeous sun after a week of rain. The Garlick Man of the Hill was festooned in sunflowers, referring to the sunflower planting project. Transition New Cross created the Green Woman (or ‘the Old Nag’). Over 100 people dressed up and took to the streets with carnival band, Les Zoings. We danced to the top of the hill, where you can see the sun set between the Shard and Big Ben, to witness the ‘marriage’ of the two figures from the hill and the valley. These events are about remembering the heritage of our place, with re-membering as a kind of ‘belonging again’. There are long traditions in the area of
Jack in the Green parades, so we decided to ‘rediscover’ the Garlick Man. He is so long-forgotten that no evidence exists, at all, as it were! Telegraph Hill used to be called Plow Garlick Hill and was covered in orchards and market gardens, growing food for the inner city. Left over from the area’s orchard-filled days, there
“Apart from strawberries at Wimbledon, we’ve forgotten how fruit arrives with those seasonal turns” are still lots of plum, cherry, apple and pear trees. Grow Wild now has funding for a fruit harvester, so we’ll be seeing these trees more cherished and used. These projects, mixing food and creativity, show how wildness can sustain us, keep us peaceful and connect us with our past. Heritage is the perfect infrastructure for growth. Bridget McKenzie is a cultural learning consultant and director of Flow UK. She runs Beuysterous, a campaign of creative actions for trees, and is forming a thinktank called the Learning Planet. For more visit the website at aboutbridgetmckenzie. wordpress.com
The living systems are not a machine by Robin de Carteret
Why is a civilisation made up of intelligent, caring human beings on the brink of destroying itself through climate change, breakdown of community and financial collapse?
Is it because our dominant worldview sees the world as a mechanism to be controlled, rather than a living system we participate in? At school I loved trying to understand the world. I liked the way maths and physics seemed to give clear answers. There were definite answers to some questions, such as “What is 2 + 2?” or “How fast will this piano be falling when it hits the ground if I drop it from a 3 storey balcony?’ However, our society has been seduced by the simplicity and 20 clarity we find in analytical,
linear thinking. And for good reason: this kind of thinking has given us incredibly powerful and useful technologies. But many of the systems we deal with, such as living things, communities, cultures and economies are not mechanisms, they are dynamic, interconnected, Complex Systems. If you treat Complex Systems as if they are machines you’ll find yourself in trouble, with unintended consequences like pollution, wars, or financial crashes arising from the relationships and feedback loops that we have ignored. This is one way to understand why humanity is now facing ecological, social and economic crises: we are trying to control nature, people and economies, acting as if they are predictable mechanisms, rather than inherently unpredictable but
creative living systems. Twelve years ago I spent a year at Schumacher College on their MSc in Holistic Science. There, my worldview shifted dramatically. Through the teachings of Stephan Harding on Gaia theory and Brian Goodwin on complexity and the dynamics of life I came to see the world as a living, interdependent system. And what should our response to that view be? In Goodwin’s words we need “to move from control to participation”. The transition movement is already based in participatory ways of working, such as community networks, as well as non-hierarchical organisation and permaculture principles, but the more explicitly we understand the nature of Complex Systems the more intelligently we will be able to act.
Right now there are billions of caring, intelligent people working hard in systems that unintentionally cause harm to themselves, others and the natural world. Often, even if individuals realise they are doing damage they feel powerless to change anything, saying, “I’ve got children to feed” or “I’m legally obliged to maximise profits for the shareholders”. Systems are hard to change but, just as there are worrying tipping points that could cause runaway climate change, there are tipping points that you can affect in society and culture that could cause a reinforcing shift for the good. So how do we know what these tipping points are? We don’t! That’s the thing with Complex Systems. On a detailed level they are unpredictable. But on a broader
level we can get to know how they behave – and human beings are brilliant at recognising patterns if we let ourselves work in a more holistic way. Here are my top six ways to act from a living systems perspective. Be responsive to what is happening where you are. Be willing to fail with enthusiasm. Build on what is already there. Act as part of a community. Work within ecological boundaries. Develop your intuition and use it. And, even better, get to know some natural, living systems yourself and see what nature’s 3.8 billion years of experience in creating thriving, resilient communities can teach you! Robin de Carteret runs experiential workshops in Complexity and Sustainability and was a co-founder of Transition Leicester. See systemsgames.org.uk
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Enjoying the ‘Shit Hot Shed’ sauna and cool river water at Scotland’s Permaculture Convergence. Photo by Colin Harper
by Catriona Ross
Heading uphill through woods alive with birdsong, I was struck by the glowing energy and cheery faces of those heading down.
A whiff of woodsmoke drew me onwards to a small lochan, ripples sparkling in the evening sun. Beside the water was a small garden shed on wheels and a group of very relaxed looking people. Dogs and children played in the shallows, and smoke curled gently
from a chimney pipe on the roof. All of a sudden half a dozen bodies burst out of the shed and ran into the icy water with whoops of gleeful laughter. The ‘Shit Hot Shed‘ – a wood fired sauna, built from a caravan chassis, recycled garden shed and an oil drum burner, was a highlight of the summer’s Permaculture Scotland Convergence at Comrie Croft in Perthshire. Friendships were forged and hangovers cured in the ingenious
low tech sauna, built and run by Bruce Tinker and Ursula Lightning Baker of the Talamh community. During summer months the sauna tours small festivals and events. “It’s great fun and makes people relaxed, happy and warm – that’s why we do it,” Ursula told me. A morning foray proved the point. Sweating inside was conducive to the level of conversation I can cope with after being woken by a 4.30am June sunrise. Lots of quiet, interspersed
with occasional friendly, gentle chat. Running into the dark water dispelled gritty-eyed fuzziness and my wary Scottish attitude to weird foreign rituals that involve getting your kit off totally dissolved. I walked down to breakfast with a grin that couldn’t be suppressed. The ceilidh, which opened the Permaculture celebrations, was more familiar territory. Ceilidhs are central to community life in the Highlands; the way the dances weave means you are continually meeting people on the dance floor. It’s a joyful and exuberant setting in which to mix with others and at gatherings a perfect way to break the ice. In a more static community, a ceilidh can be a great way of helping to heal rifts – it’s hard to maintain a huff when being whirled by your ‘enemy’ amidst a sea of happy faces. ‘People Care’ played a large part in both the social activities and workshop content of the convergence. Zone 00 – permaculture jargon for the self – is increasingly recognised as fundamental to all that lies without. Among the workshops looking inwards and exploring human relationships was a stirring session by Maeve Gavin of Way of the Village. Maeve talked us through the life phases many people grow through in the West, including things like conforming, rebelling and escaping, often
suppressing our true selves. She offered an alternative ‘soulcentric’ vision, with nature connection during childhood as a central tenet. Maeve proposed that going through a ‘gateway of grief’ as an adult was essential in finding our life purpose and a creative response to the times of great crisis and opportunity we live in. Meanwhile therapist and teacher, Vanessa Stuart from Morayshire explained how massage “brings folk back to their whole being. We’re prone to neglecting our own wellbeing and that causes starvation at an inner level – it’s like having an overdraft.” “It’s all very well talking about sustainability but if we don’t take responsibility for sustaining ourselves, we’re in no position to give. So connecting with ourselves is crucial.” After a superb massage, I felt happier and more relaxed than I’d have ever have imagined possible at the end of a full-on day. People Care, zone 00, call it what you like, and bring it on. www.talammh.org.uk www.wayofthevillage.co.uk www.permaculture.org.uk/scotland Catriona Ross is a freelance journalist and PR consultant from the Scottish Highlands and an active member of Transition Black Isle.
Having faith in Transition by Caroline Jackson
In June’s Guardian article about The Power of Just Doing Stuff Rob Hopkins observed: “Many answers are to be found in people who we might, in a more judgmental moment, see as being part of the ‘system’, including business people, lawyers, church groups, local history groups …”
The challenge is, of course, to find successful ways of engaging with those groups. Church groups can be suspicious of those who hold similarly passionate beliefs. It can seem like a threat - another religion. When the first Transition meeting I went to started with the ting of temple bells and a minute’s silence, I thought, “How unusual,” but I was aware that my evangelical church friends would have felt acutely uncomfortable. In this little book, Transition Movement for Churches, Transitioners Tim Gorringe and Rosie Beckham present the antidote to suspicion, a powerful case to all those who would count themselves as committed church members. If you are a lone Transitioner in a Christian faith
group I recommend you pair it up with The Power of Just Doing Stuff and share with the informed and thoughtful opinionformers amongst you. Members of my church often find it difficult to understand why Transition is essential to my spiritual life – to them it’s irrelevant. And I’m at a loss to explain, being more of a practical Christian than a learned one. This book is for Christians of all persuasions who want to know the deep notions of God that underlie the ‘how and why’ of engaging with Transition. It’s short and clear and I found even the complex theology accessible. The first chapter gives a concise background to Transition with an emphasis on its role as a “profoundly democratic” community building movement, with examples from all over the world. The following seven chapters then take some essential stories and teachings and draw out their congruence with Transition. From the Old Testament there’s Aaron in the desert with the tribes of Israel, using their gold to create an idol: “The embodiment of economics (gold) is set up
as God of the whole world.” There is also its antidote in Deuteronomy, the exhortation to “Choose life!” From the New Testament comes an exploration of relationships in community, where St Paul’s description of the church as a “body” of equals is compared to Initiatives where “everyone has something to offer and everyone has something to learn.” Overall, Tim Gorringe and Rosie Beckham present a clear outline of what Christian belief can bring to the movement, in particular a passion for social inclusion and an understanding of forgiveness and its essential role in the resilience of any community. I would say the ability to struggle with and lay aside inevitable hurt feelings and fallings out, learned as a church member, has been a blessing in working in a Transition initiative. Agape love, of course is the glue for the church community, but in Transition we don’t have such a clear narrative to express it and draw us back together when fractures occur. The authors also recommend Transition training to enhance churches’ organisational and spiritual wellbeing. With a touch more
realism than Transition acknowledges: “challenging the powers is always going to be costly” and ”conflict will ensue.” Nevertheless they urge us to live out the future, the shalom, the peace and healing so desired by Christians, and “get involved – urgently – in the task of Transition.” Transition Movement for Churches by Tim Gorringe and Rosie Beckham is published on October 30 by Canterbury Press www.canterburypress.co.uk Caroline Jackson is a member of Transition City Lancaster and a Transition Social Reporter. She worships at St Thomas’s CE Church in Lancaster.
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Borrowable bike bits By Jo Wheatley A few years ago we bought a huge second hand customised bike trailer for Transition Town Wivenhoe and used it for carting gear to and from various events. Then a couple of us keen ‘utility’ cyclists thought that if we had some more useful sized ones we could lend them out so more people could choose to transport stuff around without having to use a car. We secured a Grassroots grant from Essex County Council to support several projects the initiative was setting up and this helped buy our first few trailers. Since then we’ve added to our little fleet and now have three cargo and three kiddie trailers, all with universal fittings so they attach easily to pretty much any bike, and one integrated bike/ trailer, an ‘Xtracycle’. Trailers are hosted at six homes around Wivenhoe – a town of around 11,000 people. It’s free to join and, once they have registered, members are given host contact
details so they can book a trailer out for a few hours or longer. Hosts help familiarise people with the equipment as needed and borrowers put a donation through the host door on their return. We have been promoting Borrowable Bike Bits (BBB) via our e-newsletter and other local opportunities, including showing off the equipment at the monthly Farmers’ Market and outside the local library. Hosts use the trailers themselves which helps advertise the scheme as others see them out and about. We would like to take trailers along to local pre-school groups so parents can try them out and see how much children enjoy them. One of the hosts, Jody Holmes, says, “Jack loves being in the kiddie trailer and it makes it really easy to get out and about with him and do errands without needing the car there’s room for some shopping in there too. He is really comfortable in there and often falls asleep. It’s a
A happy and comfortable passenger enjoying the ride in Transition Town Wivenhoe’s kiddie trailer. Photo by Jo Wheatley great scheme and I’m really pleased to be a part of it.” Cargo trailers have been used to carry items such as daily shopping, as well as compost, paint and wood (from stores down the river in Colchester), small items of furniture, plants and even a mini greenhouse to one of the community gardens. Dr Bike also ferries tools and equipment to the Market.
The scheme is evolving so that some trailer hosts are becoming locations for residents to access a bike stand, tools and stirrup pump (to pump your tyres up to the proper pressure) and even get some support to do basic tune-ups. We are lucky that one of our volunteers is an excellent bike mechanic and we have a new grant to run lots of Bike Kitchens where people can learn bike maintenance skills and
eat cake too! Jo Wheatley founded Transition Town Wivenhoe in 2009. Around 50 activists are engaged in activities including community chickens, a pop-up cafe which boosts the Farmers’ Market, and a community allotment. The latest is a local economy group exploring wood recycling schemes. Email email@example.com. www.transitionwivenhoe.org.uk
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p h y s i c a l Dr Jekyll & by Ben Brangwyn
Crunch, screech, scrape. The sound of a chainring gouging out a gash in the door panel of a shiny Mercedes felt immensely satisfying.
I wasn’t in any personal danger (one of the benefits of riding a recumbent bike) and I knew immediately that the driver would never again pull out in front of a cyclist in the wet. It was a service to my fellow cyclists. The tinted window hissed down, revealing a leather interior, a designer suit and a face contorted by a rictus of complete disbelief. Did his beloved Merc just come off worst in an encounter with a bike? “You, you... you did that on purpose!” It wasn’t a question. “You pulled out in front of me. What did you expect?” It wasn’t an answer. I gave him a dose of the motorist’s standard fake apology - ‘SMIDSY’ (Sorry mate, I didn’t see you!) – and powered off to my
anger management class. That’s all true (apart from the anger management bit), and it’s not the first time either. Wing mirrors flying though the air, forever parted from the driver’s door; dented side panels; and a lot of blue air. Perhaps one incident a year. Is it road rage? I think not. Is it self-preservation? Perhaps not. I think it’s something else. Every time I encounter a driver who might seriously endanger someone who’s not as capable on a bike as me, I feel that it’s absolutely my job to provide a disincentive. A highly memorable and visceral warning of the trouble that could rain down on their heads if they ever again endanger the life of someone on the street who isn’t wrapped in half a ton of steel. But there’s something more. I think it’s fear that drives my behaviour. Every time I get on a bike, I’m putting myself in harm’s way. I could get mangled under the wheels of a teenage texter, or
an octogenarian whose instincts are not what they were, or a truck driver who can’t see the road far below his cab. That scares me, and instead of having to deal with that fear, I channel it into anger, storing it up for the next ‘incident’. It doesn’t have to be this way. Two months ago, a double-decker carved me up on a roundabout. I screamed blue murder at the driver and chased him to the next bus stop. I skidded to a halt alongside him, breathed out some of my anger and then said: “I want to apologise for shouting like that and alarming your passengers. And I really want you to know just how terrified I was when you forced me to brake so hard on that roundabout.” His expression of anger melted to one of compassion, he reached out and laid his hand on my arm, and, with real concern in his voice, he said: “I’m so sorry. I only saw you at the last moment – I knew I’d misjudged it. I feel terrible. Are you OK?” He owned up to his error and
Dr Jekyll, aka Ben Brangwyn, calms his road rage by repairing his beloved bike. Photo by Jo Cois h
acknowledged my vulnerability, which washed away my anger. We made a genuine connection in that exchange. As I cycled away, I wondered, “Was that more effective than taking out his wing mirror?” I’d like to think so, but I’m really not sure. Still, going forward, my default position will be to go to compassion first, expressing how I feel as a result of the incident and trying to connect empathically
to the person behind the wheel. And if that doesn’t work, I worry that my fear will propel me down familiar panel gouging, wing mirror trashing paths. That’s not the cyclist I want to be, but old habits, born of fear, can be very hard to break. Ben Brangwyn is International Coordinator at Transition Network, which he co-founded, and is involved in Transition Town Totnes’ local currency and DoctorBike projects.
Climate change for football fans The trouble with climate change is that we do not have the passion and drive to change our ways to save humanity from extinction despite there being many things we can do. Here there is no certainty of miracles.
by Patrick Crawford
Burnley fans celebrate a rare win. Photo by Mike Egerton/Empics
The trouble with being a fan of Burnley, the heroes of new book Climate Change for Football Fans, is that, however much passion and
dedication you have, there is little you can do to save your club from relegation – except offer your support and pray for the certainty of miracles.
The great success of this book by James Atkins is that it makes climate change and its causes accessible. Using Smarties we are shown how we use an average of 42kg of carbon dioxide a day – 24 kg for everyday living, 12kg for holidays and stuff and 6kg where we have no influence. The surprise of where our emissions come from gives the first shock. Our target for survival is to each use 3kg per day. We are then taken on a downward roller coaster of a ride, considering the issues, possible solutions and the complex barriers to change, alongside the hopes and fears of Burnley FC. How do we break our current habits, our
addiction to stuff? Can climate change solutions be separated from solving the world’s inequalities? And how do we address the fact that our actions do not affect us today but will affect us in the future? And that the main impacts will be felt by others in far off countries? Can governments, their bureaucracy and vested interests really help?
“How do we break our current habits, our addiction to stuff?” As the issues and solutions are considered and dismissed as impractical, or too difficult, we are left with three: A deal with nature – we only have one planet. A deal with the rich – as role models.
A deal with us – to get things done. But even these are considered and dismissed, leaving us with a set of complex problems and a crying need for solutions. This is a feel-good book in an unconventional way. Rather than a book of solutions lulling us into a false sense of security, it is a wakeup call. A call to action like facing Paris St Germain in the knockout stages of the Europa League – invigorating but scary. Will Burnley survive the drop? Miracles do happen. And climate change – a matter of life and death? As Bill Shankly might have said, “I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Patrick Crawford works for a climate change charity. He is also an avid supporter of Newcastle United and a director of the Lewes Pound.
s p o r t
Running wild and free miles of Dartmoor National Park, you can really appreciate the rich mosaic of landscapes that often elevate the spirit. Running up and down the combes and wooded slopes of South Devon, the labyrinth of green lanes is like nowhere else in Britain. No two runs are the same. Even when I’m out by myself I never feel alone. Whether it’s a startled badger scuttling along a dirt road, or a buzzard balanced on a gatepost sizing you up, or the ponies which run in groups and seem to sense your mood, there’s a lot more than thoughts alone to accompany you.
Amber Ponton of Transition Town Totnes (centre right in photo) says: “What I really appreciate is the mutual support and guidance of my running group to help me navigate the changing landscape. In much the same way, people engaged in Transition are working together to find new ways of navigating the changing landscape of their communities.” Ceri Rees is on the right of the photo. by Ceri Rees
Running is an elemental thing, primal even. Why else is the circuitry of our larger running muscles so closely wired to our endorphin and serotonin taps? Wild Running satisfies our curiosity for landscapes and reminds us of the impermanence of physical and mental discomfort.
I once went out running over farmers’ fields at night without a head torch. At first it was exhilarating to skirt the boundaries of the L-shaped fields, but soon the possibility of being lost brought in its own cloud. To be lost without a map or a compass, but miles from harm’s way, was simultaneously discomforting and reassuring. It forced me to come to my senses, quite literally, as I traced the
skyline and the canopy for clues as to where I was – a tree blown by the predominant south-west wind, traces of a sunken sun to the west, or contours bending down towards a river. Running all year round forces you to notice your natural surroundings. A barren field feels hard and dry and overgrown with weeds, while a field that’s strewn with clover will soon be fertile. Living on the edge of 365 square
Wild running mixes trail running, which follows well marked footpaths and bridleways, with fell running, which prefers to go off the beaten track. In his book on fell running, Feet In The Clouds, Richard Askwith talks about being “totally absorbed, as our ancestors were in wild environments; the joy of throwing off the straitjackets of caution and civilisation: the joy of finding and pushing back limits; the joy of doing things that one had thought impossible.” Amen to that, I say. Each experience of every run may be yours and yours alone. But without the group, we are just lone wolves, bound for extinction. The group is there to
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offer support, should we need it. And we all need it. We are social animals and it can be reassuring and illuminating to share experiences with others.
“Without the group, we are just lone wolves, bound for extinction” Anyone who has ever run a major marathon or half marathon, has keenly felt the palpable reminder of the quickened pulse, combined with that nervous anticipation, as they approach the start of their physical exertion. Ready to embark on a shared journey with the throbbing masses, it’s the body’s sympathetic response perhaps, to months of preparation, as well as to the uncertainty of the outcome. The excitement, however, comes from the occasion. It is the celebration of this human ritual, a celebration of the spirit. A spirit that is also wild and very much alive. Ceri Rees is the founder of Wild Running (wildrunning.co.uk) and a member of the Business & Livelihoods Group of Transition Town Totnes.
“Transition is a network of positive local community responses to climate change and the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, as well as an alternative to failing global economic systems” Transition Free Press is printed on 100% recycled non-chlorine bleached paper using non-toxic inks. Please recycle or compost. All content © 2013 Transition Free Press unless otherwise stated. Every effort has been made to contact the copyright holders for permission to use their work.
Transition Free Press Issue 3 Autumn 2013