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.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

What did you do this summer? Getting your home ready for Climate Change Workshop

Climate change brings us more intense weather of all kinds – more heatwaves and droughts, more rainstorms and floods. This summer we’ve had a record temperatures and another drought. Demand for water hit a new Cambridge record on 1st July and overall demand was 20-25% higher than normal. How did the weather affect you? How did you adapt? Come and compare your experiences with others, and get expert advice, at the Getting Your Home Ready for Climate Change workshop on 15th October.
This summer was very dry but climate change will make heavy rain more common too. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Cool ways for a hot Summer

This hot weather was great for a while, but now my veg patch is crispy,  everyone wilts in soaring temperatures and daytime productivity is at an all-time low.  It's time to find some new strategies to cope with extreme heat! Here are my top  eco-friendly, low cost solutions that you can do right now.

1. Cold towel technology
Take a cotton neckerchief or clean tea towel and wet it with cold water. Wring it out and shake it vigorously a few times,  it will feel cool and soothing. Wrap it around your neck or wrist for some instant relief from the heat. When the cooling effect wears off, just shake it out again.

2. Grey water winners
Save your washing up water for shrubs and trees in the garden. You can make it a cleaner shade of grey if you wipe  excess food residues off the plates using kitchen paper which can then go into the green bin. 

3. Cool sleeps
It's no fun trying to sleep in hot and humid weather!  If your home is super insulated, you may find a downstairs room is cooler than the bedroom because hot air rises. These environmentally and energy conscious ideas might help.
*Choose cotton sheets and  nightwear over synthetics which are better at keeping bodies cool.  
*Fill your trusty hot water bottle 2/3s with cold water and freeze it for a bed friendly ice pack. 
*A well known strategy called the 'Egyptian method' is to soak a  bed sheet in cold water, spin it out  to remove the excess water and use it as a cool blanket. 
*Leaving your feet uncovered  by the bedclothes may also work!   

4. Rain, rain, come again
Be prepared for eventual heavy thunderstorms by checking the drains at the base of guttering downpipes for debris. A buildup  of old leaves, dust and detritus here might cause localised flooding and overflowing when the weather changes. 

You can find more tips and information about staying cool over Summer here

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

What the Energy Group think about waste

Waste (and especially plastic waste) is much in the news at the moment and so the energy group decided to focus on that for their last meeting. I think many of you will be interested who didn't come to the meeting: this post is based on the minutes I have recorded. Blanca, Margaret, Bill and I (Nicola) had all prepared some material to discuss.

Blanca – how to reduce your household waste to very little

The waste hierarchy is conventionally Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover but Blanca has expanded this with some R’s on the front: Reflect (think) – Reject – Reduce – Reuse – Repair.

Blanca and her partner tracked their waste for a month and managed to get it down to an impressively small volume as shown in this picture.

This is the tiny amount of waste that Blanca and her partner generated in one month. Impressive!