Friday, 24 May 2019

Transition Café: How to Change the Climate of our Climate Conversations

This post is from Annuscha, reflecting on our first Transition Cafe evening at OtherSyde, back in February.

Why is it sometimes difficult to raise the topic of climate change with family, friends or colleagues? How can we make conversations easier and more fruitful? The first Transition Café workshop in 2019 provided an opportunity to share thoughts and observations on these topics. We surveyed the kinds of opportunities for conversations which may arise - and which of them are most worth pursuing. We also considered the feelings and attitudes, in ourselves and others, which make things stressful. And we explored the kinds of moves which may put things on a better footing. The workshop was facilitated by Jane Heal. Jane has worked with Cambridge Carbon Footprint for ten years and been a Trustee since 2013. She has lived in Cambridge since 1986 and retired from teaching philosophy at the university in 2012. Fruitful discussions led to the following takeaway points:
  • Honestly share personal experience, positive changes as well as struggles (e.g. what kind of exciting new food items you have discovered since you went vegan, or how difficult it is to find replacements for certain food since you went vegan)
  • Use positive comments as opportunity to share personal, positive experiences (e.g. if someone compliments your dress, say that you found it during a fun charity shop tour with friends)
  • Live the example and inspire people indirectly (e.g. if you went to Spain by train on holiday, tell stories of your adventures on the way)
  • Be “manipulative” and plan (e.g. so that you are prepared if someone, with the intent to corner you, changes the topic to an area where you are less committed.
  • Reflect on conversations and learn from them (e.g. to improve your conversation strategies)
  • Find jokes to give the conversation a light touch (e.g. Two planets meet. The first one asks: "How are you?" - “Not so well", the second answered, "I've got the Homo Sapiens." - “Don't worry," the other replies, "I had the same. That won't last long.”)
  • Sometimes it’s better not to do it all in one go (e.g. plant a seed/new thought and come back to the topic in a later conversation)
  • Acknowledge difficult emotions and step back (e.g. to prevent the conversation from getting tense and heated)
  • Ask questions and be a good listener (e.g. rather than talking uninterruptedly and sounding patronising)
  • “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”, which means that the demand for perfection might decrease the chances of a good or favourable result (e.g. if you try to persuade someone to go vegan, you might decrease the chance of that person reducing their meat consumption or going vegetarian)

Monday, 15 April 2019

Swapping Toys in Cambridge


Mountains of toys and clothes that won't go to waste.
On Saturday at Storey’s Field Centre in Eddington I saw a mountain of discarded toys that will not go to waste. Since most of them were at least partly plastic, and not a sort that is easy to recycle, that is especially delightful. We’ve seen clothes swaps – this was a toy swap. The credit goes to Antoinette who runs the scheme (A Toy's Life and Beyond) – and also to the parents who use the service. On Saturday Antoinette told me she counted more than 150 heads (including children as well as parents). This is the third swap she has organised (the first was in December and then February) Out of half a dozen or so parents I spoke to, several had been to two of them, one came to all three. The fact that people are coming back shows that it’s a great service.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Plastics packaging – a view from retailers

It isn’t just consumers that worry about plastic contamination and the damage it does to wildlife and the environment. Retailers are people too and some of them are even members of Transition Cambridge. But cutting down on plastic is not easy – some of the seemingly easy solutions are not really solutions at all. Here are some thoughts from three of our members: from Jacky, co-owner of the Cambridge Cheese Company and from Paul and Emma who have just started a new business called Full Circle offering zero-waste products (cleaning products in reusable containers, reusable food wraps, coffee cups and so on). You can see Paul at his stall in the market on Mondays.


The Cambridge Cheese Company actively encourages you to bring your own clean jars to use for deli-products like olives.

Monday, 7 January 2019

2019: Have we reached Peak Climate Concern?



Happy 2019!

Let's hope so. Like many others I wasn't sorry to see the back of 2018 - a year of record drought, wildfires raging across the planet, shocking stories of refugees displaced directly or indirectly because of climate breakdown. All of which was topped off by October's 2018 IPPC report that said if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C we have to implement “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities within the next 12 years.

I could barely bring myself to follow news of the crowning thorn in a brutal year for environment, the COP24 summit. It was held in Katowice Poland, - a city that was literally built on coal mining and steel and featuring fringe events attempting to build the case for fossil fuels in energy adaptation.

Was this ironic or an attempt at inclusivity? I'm not sure. But out of all this I did find bright signs, actions that were both inspirational and, it seems far reaching.

These signs are important because they help to show us that we're not alone, the care and concern we feel is shared by many, many others, and that out of this concern there are new ways to invigorate our collective struggle for climate justice, ways that build bridges across generations, countries and political persuasion.

It makes me wonder (hope?) that we're witnessing a collective shift in attention to the need for transition and more importantly, the need for our political establishments to step up to the plate and show true leadership.

Here are my top 5 YAY moments from the past year...

April 2018: 3 COAL FREE days for the UK

December 2018: 15 year old Greta Thunberg speaks truth to power at COP 24

Extinction Rebellion: a people's movement that has gone from a few dozen people in October 2018 to a global movement covering over 30 countries in 2019

The rewilding of Knepp Castle - an inspirational reminder of how resilient the planet is..

Fracking is failing - signs that the industry is on the back foot...


OK call me an optimist, and there's certainly no room for complacency, but can you honestly read and watch these links without feeling just a teeny bit hopeful?

Let's use the hope to feed our focus over the coming year!

Friday, 14 December 2018

What do we want more of at Christmas?

During the festive season there is a lot of stuff – lots of food, glitter and lights, bustle, presents to buy and temptation to buy things we don’t need. There is plenty of advice to be had on how to be sustainable and avoid waste (see here from the Permaculture Association) but maybe that is the wrong way of looking at it. Maybe we should be thinking instead of what we want more of, rather than less. Here are some thoughts, incorporating ideas from revellers at the Transition Cambridge Winter Social yesterday as well as my own.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

With Cambridge2Environment - what would a Sustainable Economy look like?

The latest energy group meeting was a bit special – we had a joint discussion with students from Cambridge University taking part in Cambridge 2 Environment. The subject (our choice) was ‘What would a Sustainable Economy look like?’ It is a challenging and potentially controversial topic and I can't say we solved it in a single evening. However as Verner from C2E said: 'I think the main thing that we got out of this was the sense that we are all in agreement, amongst a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds, that something urgent needs to be done about our economy so that our planet can cope'.

Normally we have our meetings at the home of one of our members, but I had a feeling that this one was not going to fit comfortably into even Margaret's capacious living room. So I was grateful to C2E for booking a room for us at Pembroke which was very comfortable and provided a seemingly inexhaustible supply of chairs.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The Allotment

The energy group recently discussed co-benefits. These are sustainability measures that benefit both ourselves and environment. It turns out that growing food has many co-benefits. Nathan offered to tell us more about why he loves working on his allotment. Over to Nathan:

Crunch, squelch, crunch, squelch, a meditative repetitive sound from the spade blade cutting away.
A land abandoned, knee high weeds, runaway flora.
This allotment has indulged in its freedom engulfing all tools abandoned by the previous land hand.
The allotment, a transient establishment, attracts a broad crowd.
Some nosey, some private, working side by side.
The September sun was bright, low in the sky, but still warm.
The respite of summer rolls on to the bite of winter.
Quiet this evening and season, harvest toil ended, some leases renewed, however many released.
Ground stands abound ready for fresh hands.

The Cambridge Transition Energy group recently discussed eco actions that come with co-benefits. It was resoundingly agreed that gardening, or keeping an allotment, has many co-benefits. Although science is rarely used in a sales pitch, the science is nonetheless there. A meta-analysis elucidated a wide range of benefits [1] that arise from horticulture including reduced anger, anxiety, depression, obesity, fatigue, stress, and tension. The study also highlights improved mood, self esteem, life satisfaction, and sense of community. The causal mechanisms are unclear however I personally testify for these remarkable outcomes after taking on an allotment. A patch of land is just a tabula rasa. You make it great. Some use them to get some peace and quiet, others reach out and meet others in the community. I also find that through self sustenance a calm and open mind blooms.