Wednesday, 17 December 2008
"The apple you eat is the landscape you get", the saying goes - although this is only part of the truth. The apple you eat also affects your health, your happiness, other people's health and happiness (i.e. social conditions of workers in the food chain), your carbon footprint and your personal finances.
Great Britain was once a land full of diverse varieties of fruits, with most villages boasting at least one variety of apple, pear, plum, damson or cherry. Over the course of just 60 years or so, most of the traditional orchards have been eroded for a number of reasons, from the Common Agricultural Policy to supermarket culture (or, more accurately, lack of culture!).
But through organisations such as Common Ground, many of the traditional varieties, which make up our cultural heritage and offer an an incredible source of flavours, qualities and colours of fruit, have started to make a come back. The Common Ground book of Orchards is a wonderful book that explores this culture, past and present, in some depth and is quite simply a wonderful book. If you're looking for an inspiring present, or a way to spend Christmas money, then this is a book anyone interested in rural culture shouldn't be without.
So, back to the point about food. The agricultural landscape of Scilly has gone from one in which the population could hold a good degree of reliance upon, to one which is largely managed for flowers, aesthetics and tourists. This landscape can only be sustained by (a) the tourist pound, (b) cheap fossil fuels and (c) a huge amount of imports on the Gry Maritha. In short, our resilience in food security is very poor.
Transition Scilly has plans to do quite a lot of work to improve local food production and availability, for it's such an important part of a positive future for the Islands. We welcome the involvement of everyone who wants to share in this vision. If you want to learn more then please get in touch.
Monday, 8 December 2008
On Thursday 11th December we are holding an open day for members of the public to come and find out what we're doing, what we're planning to do and what Transition is all about.
There will be displays, slideshows, books, magazines, tea, cake, seats and a chance to chat, so please come down to meet us.
We will be open for you to drop in any time between 10.30 and 16.00 at the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. We will then be giving an evening talk at the same place, titled "Introduction to Transition Scilly". The talk starts at 19.30 and will finish around 21.00.
We look forward to seeing you there; if you can't make it but would like to know more please contact me.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Soil Association annual conference in Bristol. The venue was Brunel's Passenger Shed at Temple Meads, an impressive venue with its vaulted rood and couldn't be better placed for transport links. About 400 people came to listen, talk, eat and celebrate. These events always have an incredible energy and this year was no exception.
The food is always good, but some years have been less good than others; this was a vintage year! Phil and Barney Haughton are at the forefront of the organic and local food scene in Bristol and had a major part to play in the quality of this year's catering. Phil Haughton runs The Better Food Company, which is a superb shop, and sorted out all the lunch time and break food. Barney Haughton runs Bordeaux Quay, a great cafe/brasserie/restaurant/shop/cookery school on the waterfront. This played host to an amazing Slow Food dinner - everything was sourced from the South West and ranged from shellfish to soup, perry to pork and vegetables to venison. There were probably 25 different things to eat (over a period of 3 hours!) and the tastes were simply amazing.
Transition: farming in 21st century Britain was the theme of the conference, largely inspired by the Transition movement, focussing on the responses organic farming and growing can make in reply to the threats of climate change and peak oil. Nearly all the talks, and some transcripts, are available on the Soil Association website.
This is a summary of some of the main sessions:
- Caroline Lucas reminded us of the seriousness of the world food crisis, where it is estimated 75% of Africans are at risk of hunger, whilst the industrialised world is full of obese people. But Government policy will only change when a real crisis looms over us; at this point, she claims, "food crises could drive elections". She also outlined the ridiculousness of biofuels, where the grain required to produce bioethanol to fill an SUV tank is enough to feed a person for a whole year.
- Jeremy Leggett talked about the current "triple credit crunch" - money, carbon and oil. He thinks oil flow rates will hit even industrialised countries hard by 2013, citing "political/phantom" reserves, drops in discovery and lack of investment as sure signs that the peak of world production is very close. Even with oil at today's deflated prices oil projects are being cancelled left, right and centre; marginal projects such as tar sands have such poor net energy gains they are going to be increasingly uneconomic.
- Pete Smith explained how the areas of the world facing the biggest population growth (Africa and Asia) will be hot hardest by climate change, putting pressure on natural ecosystems and potentially catastrophic results for people. Agriculture and food is responsible for between 17 and 30% of total Greenhouse Gas emissions (depending on country). Soils are an enormous carbon sink and will have an enormously important role to play in sequestering carbon back in to the soil.
- The international lecture was given by the wonderful and inspiring Vandana Shiva. She argued that multinational corporations in the food sector, such as Monsanto, Dow, Cargill, etc. have jumped on the bandwagon by claiming they can help solve the climate and food crisis. Industrial agriculture creates more food as commodities, which in turn creates more international trade, divorces the population further from the land and results in one billion people hungry and one billion people obese. We are fixated with yields; however this is only the measure of a single commodity - output is the measure of a whole system. A diverse system is (a polyculture) is sustainable on every level; GMO's will only worsen the food crisis. We must invest in natural capital, it's the only capital that really matters.
- Catherine Sneed from San Francisco gave a highly inspiring and moving talk about her work with prisoners. She helps rehabilitate offenders, engaging them in horticulture on a massive scale, from the prison farm that provides a large proportion of the prison's annual food, to huge tree planting programmes and garden restoration across the city. The effects this has on prisoners is incredible and really proves that plants have the ability to heal. Surely a very cheap way to turn a problem in to an asset?
Monday, 17 November 2008
This is a tremendously exctitng development that may help to stimulate the installation of more solar panels on public and private buildings in the future. We will need as many as we can get, to combat climate change and provide us on Scilly with energy independence.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
The theme of the conference was "Less is more", a powerful sentiment for the predicament in which the human race finds itself. Headline speaker was Bill McKibben, author of The end of Nature and Deep Economy. His message to the conference however was about his new project, www.350.org.
James Hansen of NASA, the foremost climate change scientist on the planet, has stated that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere shouldn't exceed 350ppm if we want to avoid severe changes to our climate. The problem is that we are already at 387ppm and levels are rising fast.
His message is therefore clear - we need to cut carbon fast, engage in activities that reduce our carbon emissions very significantly. This means we have to consume closer to home, produce food closer to home, work closer to home, play closer to home and produce energy closer to home.
The scale of the challenge is huge, but is essential if we want a stable climate and planet for future human habitation. But this number, 350, is one that can be spread globally and gives rise to symbols and actions. Think, for example, about:
- Planting 350 trees
- 350 people in a community pledging to stop flying
- 350 people cycling
- 350 miles of new cycle routes
- Every person saving 350kg of CO2 per year, every year
- 350 acres of rainforest saved from logging
Sunday, 14 September 2008
As an extension of Slow Food, the Resurgence Trust is promoting Slow Sunday, when people are invited to take part in simple actions that symbolise a rejection of commercialism, a passion for the planet and a desire for change.
On Sunday 28th September the focus is on baking bread. What a wonderful process that is, taking time to use quality ingredients, proving and baking the bread, followed by a wonderful meal to enjoy eating the bread. This is the essence of Slow Food - not upper class or elitist, at heart it's very simply about good food.
Food should be grown sustainably, transported as little as possible, cooked with care and eaten with great enjoyment. The benefits of this approach to life is huge and embraces the best things of life. You really don't have to spend much money to enjoy life.
Go ahead and bake bread - but not just on one day, make it a part of your everyday life.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
On Monday August 18th we will be showing the film Message in the waves, in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's at 7.30pm. This film was shot by Rebecca Hosking's team in Hawaii and vividly describes the complete carnage that marine rubbish (most of it plastic) causes on the wildlife - yet a tiny amount of the rubbish itself actually comes from Hawaii.
This marks the launch of Plastic bag free Scilly. We want every retailer to stop selling or giving away plastic bags and every food retailer to stop selling food in oil-based plastic consumables such as cups, plates, cutlery and sandwich wedges. To do this we will be giving retailers sources of alternative packaging, whilst educating shoppers.
All this will make these Islands part of the solution, not the problem. More will appear here as the campaign develops. If you want to know more please contact us.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
This is then explored further through Nick tracking where these items have come from - in some cases thousands of miles. It's a simple concept with much deeper meanings, describing very visually how a combination of rubbish and ocean currents make marine pollution a very global problem.
The film will be shown in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's at 19.30, doors open from 19.00. Tea and cakes will be available; the film is free, but donations are appreciated. You also have an opportunity to become a member of Transition Scilly, for a very reasonable £1 per year! For this you will get a newsletter, receive updates on events and get a chance to become directly involved in projects.
Friday, 1 August 2008
This graph shows how far you can go, using different modes of transport, to create 1kg of CO2:
Flying is a hideous waste of energy, creating enormous emissions - especially given most flights cover vast distances. One return flight to Australia will use as much energy needed to heat and power your home for six years.
On the other hand, the bicycle, one of the most efficient machines ever invented, allows you to travel reasonable distances, carrying a reasonable weight, yet has the lowest emissions of any mode of transport.
Reducing how much you fly and drive, changing instead to public transport is the most important starting point to reducing your carbon footprint, and hence global climate change. Walking or getting on your bike is the best thing you can do - and there are few excuses for those local journeys!
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
It goes on for about an hour, but is split in to six parts on YouTube - linked on this page.
The first installment is below...it's really worth watching.
Sunday, 29 June 2008
- Reduce the amount of energy you use - especially for heating
- Increase insulation - on the building and you
- Use renewable energy
What gets more exciting, and is more appropriate for Transition, is to become energy independent. The Energy Saving Trust gives a good overview of all the different types of renewables and what grants are available to support home installations.
So what are the costs like? It varies massively and depends on what you want. Solar panels, for example, are less cost effective than solar water heaters - but you can only heat water with hot water tubes (like the ones pictured).
But what is more interesting is this concept of "payback" on renewable energy installments for homes. If you buy a new car, laptop, kettle, fridge, have a holiday, meal out - does payback come in to the equation? No. Of course, some renewable energy technologies are significant investments, but so are cars, home improvements and many electrical appliances. Rather than ask about payback periods (based on current prices for energy) there are bigger questions to ask:
- Will it improve the value of your property? Probably yes - to at least the value of the installation
- What will happen to the price of fossil fuels? Increase significantly as the effects of Peak Oil hit home
- Will it give you energy independence? Depends what you install, but to a certain degree, yes
- Will it give you greater resilience? Yes, which frees you from forces beyond your control - political, market, physical
Monday, 9 June 2008
It's a complex issue and is truly global, in both scale and ramifications. In industrialised countries like ours, who create vast amounts of greenhouses gases, we affect not just our climate, but climates of other countries and people - many of whom have produced tiny amounts of greenhouse gases.
The injustice is made worse by the fact that most greenhouse gas-emitting countries are in temperate regions, which Climate Change will, on the whole, affect less severely. On Scilly we should rightly be very concerned about rising sea levels, caused by melting glaciers - but this is a gradual process that may not affect us severely for another 30 years.
In recent days the plight of starving people in Ethiopia has come to light on international news sources. To some extent political issues are to blame here, but the underlying cause of the extreme food shortages experienced by some people are climate change. Severe lack of rain has caused crop failures and hence reserves of food have virtually run out for some people. These changes in weather patterns have been inextricably linked to a changing climate, caused by a warming of the world's atmosphere.
So what will drive you to reduce your carbon footprint and hence your contribution to climate change? Is it the possibility of children in 30 years time using Holgates Green as the new Quay, or images of children dying in Ethiopia today?
It's an interesting moral question and one that doesn't really have an either/or answer. The truth is that Climate Change now was caused by emissions 30 years ago and our emissions will create problems 30 years hence.
The need for action has never been more urgent.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
In Lesotho many farmers can't afford diesel for their tractors now and the curse of industrial agriculture has robbed the soil of its' fertility. It is also very vulnerable to climate change due to its elevation - and consequent short growing season. These factors spell bad news for people and, in particular, for the food production on which everyone depends.
So "keyhole gardening" has become an important Permaculture technique to improve families' food security. These are small and very intensive gardens that give a family a large proportion, or all, of its vegetable needs - and perhaps a surplus to generate a small income.
Whilst the harshness of the situation cannot be simply dismissed, this is a really good example of a community increasing its resilience in the face of adversity - and with very little money. Humans are resilient by nature and are survivors - this is heartening for the future.
Saturday, 24 May 2008
Worryingly, this enormous ice shelf is showing signs of breaking up - at a much faster rate than previously expected. A report called 'The Big Melt' was completed by an organisation called Carbon Equity last year and exposed disturbing facts about the speed of melt, with the prediction that global sea levels could rise by as much as 5 metres by 2100 - and that's without further rises in greenhouse gases.
A report by the BBC's David Shukman confirms many of those fears - Arctic ice is breaking up very quickly and at an accelerating rate.
On Scilly we are extremely vulnerable to such sea level rises and it should be a big concern for everyone who lives here. All the more reason to engage in Transition Scilly and reduce your carbon footprint, and therefore your contribution to sea level rises.
There are many things you can do to move towards a low carbon lifestyle and they do not have to reduce your quality of life at all - from signing up to a renewable energy electricity tariff to massively reducing the amount of flying you do. The Guide To Low Carbon Lifestyles is an excellent place to start and lays out the facts very clearly.
Friday, 9 May 2008
It is therefore particularly refreshing to hear Gordon Ramsey forcefully stating the importance of seasonal food. Not only has he rightfully slated Delia Smith's stance on food (not really caring about its freshness, provenance or method of production), but he goes as far as saying that restaurants should be fined for using out of season produce.
Food transport makes up a large proportion of the carbon footprint of food; air freighting of food, in particular, is incredibly damaging to our environment. To put this in to context, to move 1kg of strawberries from Kent to London creates 0.017kg of CO2. To move those strawberries all the way from Kent to Scotland creates 0.145kg of CO2. But if 1kg of strawberries are sourced (out of season) from Israel, the CO2 emissions rocket to a colossal 4.6kg.
Out of season produce is a luxury of rich countries and an oil-rich world - without excess money or oil this simply would not be possible. So next time you look at, for example, French beans from Kenya, asparagus from Columbia or apples from USA think how they got on to the shelf in front of you.
Eating seasonally is a much more rewarding way of cooking and eating food. Nature provides an incredible diversity of foods right through the year and there is no reason why you cannot have a diverse and interesting diet when eating purely seasonal foods. The taste of strawberries in June, new potatoes in May or even purple sprouting in January is simply unsurpassed.
Monday, 28 April 2008
The book is divided in to three sections, 'The Head', 'The Heart' and 'The Hands', which describes the three elements of the personal transition. Essentially this is about understanding the problems, caring for the problems and doing something about it.
It's an inspiring book and is a good read. It's available here, but below is Rob describing the book in this short video:
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Read more on Rob's Transition Culture blog.
Thursday, 17 April 2008
The first of many projects from Transition Scilly will be Plastic Bag Free Scilly. Modbury in South Devon was the first town in Britain to stop using plastic bags and the campaign has been a success. Many more towns have now taken it on and shunned the plastic bag in favour of better alternatives. Indeed the UK Government have been making noises about taxing plastic bags with a view to getting rid of them all together later on.
Plastic bags are the ultimate sign of a throw-away society and cause untold environmental issues. Just consider these facts:
- 8% of all world oil is used to manufacture plastics
- Plastic bags account for about 90% of all floating marine debris, amounting to 100 million tonnes globally. This causes massive harm to marine life
- Plastic takes 400 to 1,000 years to degrade, leaving a dreadful legacy for future generations
Look out for more information on this blog and on posters put up in the usual places on the Islands.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
He will be speaking on what Transition means, and how the twin threats of Peak Oil and Climate Change need to be addressed urgently, but can become positive solutions. Rob started Transition Town Totnes in autumn 2006. Since then it's become really high profile and many far-reaching projects have started to move the community of Totnes from oil dependency to local resilience.
Rob published Transition Handbook a couple of months ago and the book has nearly sold out its first print run. He is a speaker in high demand and we are privileged to have him coming to speak in Scilly.
The talk will be on Wednesday April 16th starting at 7.30pm in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. The talk is free, but donations will be appreciated. Tea and cakes will be served; doors open at 7.00pm.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
With the event of Peak Oil, and a resultant decline in the availability of oil (combined with rising oil prices), a resurgence in the value of community will probably be seen. The need to work together in a more localised economy will necessitate a greater reliance on each others skills, and a simple need for others' help.
An interesting example is Cuba. In the 1980's Cuba had a thriving sugar export trade with the former USSR, and benefited from Russian machinery, oil, and agricultural chemicals. Indeed it is said Cuban's use of oil exceeded that of the United States, per head of population, at that time.
But in 1990 the former Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly a huge market and supplier was gone. Help from America was, of course, out of the question. As a result Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate.
Food production was, of course, a priority - but Cubans had to completely change their systems from an industrial system of agriculture to local, organic production very quickly. Virtually every aspect of their lives changed overnight and they had to readjust to a new way of thinking and acting.
Now Cuba is upheld as an example, in many ways, of a country with sustainable food production, great healthcare and good education, amongst other examples. See how they achieved this amazing turnabout in the inspiring film Power of Community.
This is Transition Scilly's next film screening, being held on Friday April 11th at 7.30pm in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. Entry is free and there will be tea and cakes - doors open from 7.00pm.
Thursday, 3 April 2008
Up until now the world production of oil has continued growing at a steady pace, ever since the industrial revolution. But we are now very, very close to a very interesting point in time, known as peak oil. This is the point where oil production reaches the highest point it will ever reach. Yes, ever.
Beyond this point oil production will steadily decline. It won't run out in a hurry, but the energy needed to extract what's left under the ground will constantly increase, so the net energy gain decreases. Add to this the increased demand for oil from newly industrialised countries and...well, it doesn't take an expert to realise that the price of oil is only going to go one way.
Peak oil is a very important to understand as its going to affect our lives hugely over the next few years. Just think how less oil will affect your life and society at large. The implications are massive. And there is simply nothing else as cheap, easy to use or move as oil.
Come along to our next free film showing to learn more about peak oil. It's happening tomorrow, Friday 4th April, The End of Suburbia starting at 7.30pm in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. Tea and cakes will be available again!
Saturday, 29 March 2008
The most worrying part of Climate Change for Scilly are potential sea level rises. Ice melt in polar regions is happening much faster than previously predicted and this could result in huge sea level rises globally. Can you imagine how a 2 metre rise in sea levels would affect these islands in as little as 20 years time?
What matters is our personal and collective response to a changing climate. Al Gore talks about the mental shift that occurs often in people, from denial to despair. There is however a middle ground, a way forward that offers hope for the future and for humanity.
Everyone is responsible for varying amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore we can all do something about it. It may or it may not be too late to prevent the worst effects of Climate Change, but we have received a wake-up call and it is simply immoral not to react. Perhaps you don't want to do anything because some other people aren't doing anything either.
Moral issues should be upheld as a responsible way of living and a social standard. The vast majority of the population abide by the law, despite the fact that a very small minority break the law. Action on Climate Change should be taken in the same light.
So, here's how to start. Work out your carbon footprint here.
Then work out the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce your carbon footprint, as quickly as possible, here. After a few weeks of your lower-carbon lifestyle, re-measure your carbon footprint and see how well you've done.
Simple. Shouldn't be too painful - and certainly a lot less painful than seeing houses and public spaces go under feet of sea water in the not-too-distant future...
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
An Inconvenient Truth is a hard-hitting film presented by Al Gore, former vice-president of the US. It's very well produced, but pulls no punches with the facts. It's a good film, but can be hard to take in the enormity of the reality of Climate Change, if you're not up to speed on the facts. However, this should not stop anyone from seeing the film, because Climate Change is really the single defining issue of the era. Arguably, it is the biggest challenge ever to face humanity on such a scale - major climatic changes on a planetary scale.
You have the chance to watch this film for free AND we'll provide tea and cakes! The film is being shown in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's, doors open at 7.00pm and film starts at 7.30pm. It'll be a great way to learn about this really important subject, whilst being able to share thoughts with others.
So please come along and be part of something that's going to be a major project on Scilly - we won't be charging you to come in!
P.S. There are free boats available to off-islanders through Lifelong Learning. Please e-mail me if you're interested.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Transition Scilly is a new project created to promote community solutions to the twin threats of peak oil and climate change, the two most important issues currently facing humanity and extremely pertinent for Scilly. It has been set up by six people who live and work on Scilly, who are committed to helping provide solutions to the problems created by peak oil and climate change.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Transition Scilly launches a programme of events to raise awareness about climate change, peak oil and Transition initiatives. Three film evenings, free to attend, will be shown on Fridays March 28th, April 4th and April 11th in the Old Wesleyan Chapel, St Mary's.
The events culminate in a talk by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement, on April 16th. Rob is a highly sought-after speaker and it will be an exhilarating talk about positive solutions to a low-carbon future. The key part about Transition is its positive outlook - indeed it is often described as "more like a party than a protest march."
See the full events programme on the Events page - hope to see you there.