Friday, 17 December 2010

The Crash Course

Chris Martenson lives in New England and is an analyst who studies trends in world issues concerning resources, climate, monetary factors and so on. His insight in to how these factors will come together and impact on our future (particularly to those of us in industrialised countries) is fascinating if quite worrying.

He has put all these together in to comprehensive but concise videos on You Tube and called it the Crash Course. Chris has recently reworked this presentation for a UK audience. In six parts, it has been made available free and is essential viewing. Part 1 is below:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Fossil fuel addiction

A great video by Richard Heinberg of the respected Post Carbon Institute called "300 years of fossil-fuel addiction in 5 minutes". Entertaining but very informative:

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sense of place

I've just been watching a brilliant piece of video from Diverse routes to belonging conference, by Alastair McIntosh. He is the author of Soil and Soul, and has done some great work on strengthening the resilience of local communities in the Scottish islands.

His talk is titled "Reconnecting with indigenous identity" and he makes some really deep comments about the Transition movement. He says a Transition initiative can be
" a drop of water - it moves rapidly has lots of colours...but it doesn't have roots. It needs to become more like salt in the gravy, it needs to penetrate and permeate. It needs to go wide and deep. It should be about reconnection with what is already there."

Wow, powerful stuff and very true; he is a wise man indeed. Watch his video here:

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Local food is on the agenda

Transition Scilly and the AONB have joined forces to do some work on local food supply and demand on Scilly. It's been a while since a concerted effort has gone in to strengthening the local food sector, yet it is a critical factor of resilience in a future resource-constrained world.

Firstly we will canvas opinion about the state of local food here on Scilly, then hold a workshop with key producers and buyers of local food. Following this a report will be written by a local food consultant, surmising the current state of play and making recommendations for the future. This will be published before Christmas.

Then the hard work starts! Having assessed where we are and some possible ways forward, we have to come together to make those actions happen. Gardens and allotments are important here in providing food, but it is the farmers, growers and fishermen of these islands that the fate of food security really lies with.

Getting a concerted effort in creating a resilient food supply is critical, but not easy. But first steps are important and we hope to have some positive developments to bring you in the near future.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Prosperity without growth

In these times of economic recession and a seeming desire to have financial growth at any cost, perhaps it's worth taking a step back to examine the question "do we have to have growth in order to maintain our standard of living?"

Professor Tim Jackson makes a very persuasive argument that we can be prosperous without relentless growth. This excellent video from the TED talks in Oxford recently is well worth watching. Tim Jackson's book, Prosperity without Growth is available here.

Friday, 1 October 2010

10:10 events

The 10:10 campaign kicked off earlier this year to encourage people, organisations, businesses and governments to cut their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010.

On Sunday 10th October the date will be 10:10:10 and this is being celebrated by people organising international days of action to highlight skills and actions that help us cut our carbon footprint.

Here on Scilly we've gone one step with the Council a two day climate change and energy fair with fantastic workshops as well as drop in sessions on the Friday and Saturday. On the Sunday will be some fun freeskilling events.

All the events are free and happen between 8th and 10th October in the Town Hall on St Mary's. Details on the posters here:

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Five Mile Meal

Not so long ago, the idea of people from any community in the country, but especially an island community, sitting down to a meal prepared from local produce, would have not only been unexceptional but often a necessity.

By contrast, most of the food eaten on the Isles of Scilly today has travelled many fuel miles, before arriving on the plate.

On Sunday September 26th, at St Mary’s Hall Hotel, some 33 people, both islanders and visitors, sat down to a ‘Five Mile Meal’. The chefs, Phil (St Mary’s Hall Hotel) and Mark (High Tide, St Agnes), faced the challenge of sourcing their ingredients from local island producers (see below for details).

The diners were treated to a starter, main course and dessert by each chef, making a total of six courses. At the end of each pair of courses, they were asked to rate each dish by marking a score on a card. It certainly was a hard task to decide which dish was better as all were delicious.

After the meal, the overall results were announced and Mark was crowned winner of the day. The champagne flowed to toast both chefs’ success. They had prepared a truly outstanding meal that highlighted the quality of produce available on the isles of Scilly. (See below for details)

Transition Scilly would like to thank Joan Shiles, the manager of St Mary’s Hall Hotel, and the chefs, Phil and Mark, for making this event possible. It is hoped that another Five Mile Meal will take place in March 2011. My taste buds are certainly looking forward to Round Two.

Patrick Brown.


Vegetable broth, lemon thyme & nettle dumplings (v)

(Ingredients from Parting Carn Farm & Star Castle Garden, St Marys)

Crab salad with organic micro greens with nasturtium


(Ingredients from Ian Mitchell & Scilly Organics, St Martins.

Tamarisk Farm & Covean Cottage garden, St Agnes)

Main Courses

Pan fried mackerel fillet, crab & lobster ravioli,

aubergine caviar & shellfish foam

(Ingredients from Lee Sandford, St Marys and Tamarisk Farm, St Agnes)

Pollock fillet on buttered courgette ribbons with

lemon & dill hollandaise

(Ingredients from Ian Mitchell & Scilly Organics, St Martins)


Vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh raspberries &

a raspberry sauce

(Ingredients from Troytown Farm, St Agnes)

Baba Ani`s blackberry jam & apple crumble, clotted cream

(Ingredients from Parting Carn Farm, St Mary’s. and Troytown Farm, St Agnes)

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Update on harvest week

This week has seen the first Scilly Food Festival taking place. It never intended to be a huge event as it was organised with very little time or money, but it certainly seems to have engaged people and brought the concept of local food to the fore again. The intention is to make Scilly Food Festival a significant event in 2011.

The harvest festival on St Martin's was well attended and had a lovely display of great local produce.

Many businesses have done local food menus for the week. If they don't normally use much local produce then it's good to see them doing so, and if they do already then it's even better to see them shout about it. Some businesses have really taken it to heart by producing entire menus such as this.

Positive reports have been received about a number of venues offering excellent local produce on their menus.

Today we pressed apples by St Mary's Church, using windfalls that would probably just have rotted away otherwise. Pressing is a great social event and is a positive process where you get some great drink at the end. In fact the juice will be going straight to the Five Mile Meal at St Mary's Hall Hotel the next day.

There will be another apple pressing on Sunday 10th Oct at the Town Hall - more on that nearer the time.

So far the Food Festival has been positive and there should be a lot of positive follow up work leading on from this event.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Food Festival programme

The Scilly Food Festival happens in the week 20th-26th September and is shaping up to be a good celebration of food from Scilly.

There will be an apple pressing on the grassy area in front of the St Mary's Church Pavilion on Saturday 25th September at 2.00pm. We are encouraging anyone with excess apples to bring them along, plus some empty containers, to turn them in to juice! Even if you don't have fruit come along anyway and have fun.

On Sunday 26th Sept at 12.00pm there will be an extraordinary Five Mile Meal at St Mary's Hall Hotel. Local chefs will compete to produce the best meal from local produce in a unique event. More details on this poster.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Food festival

Transition Scilly and Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are jointly organising a food festival here on Scilly, which will happen in the week 20th to 26th September 2010.

Events will include harvest festivals, local food menus, five meal meal competition and apple juicing. Full details will be released in due course but here's a poster of the food festival.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Events for the autumn

Transition Scilly has been planning and coordinating two major events for this autumn.

In late September there will be a food festival here on the Islands, including harvest festivals, local food menus, apple pressing and more.

Then in mid October will be events to mark the 10:10:10, "a global day of doing", which will range from freeskilling to renewable energy workshops to apple pressing and a whole host of other activities.

Watch this space for more details, but it promises to be good...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The risks of peak oil and climate change spelt out to businesses

Sometimes a report comes out that is so significant it is really worth shouting about. Lloyds of London are one of the oldest and largest insurance companies in the UK and operate all over the world. As insurance is all about managing risks, Lloyds have a team dedicated to predicting trends and risks on global issues, called 360 Risk Insight.

Their latest report is called Suatainable Energy Security, co-authored with think tank Chatham House, and is available to download for free here.

What is so astonishing is that it could have been written by a team from Transition Network. The language used does not beat about the bush, laying down in very stark terms that energy security is an issue that every business needs to be taking very seriously.

In future the effects of depleting fossil fuel reserves will be compounded by rising demand and falling availability.

Businesses can now be under no doubt about the risks posed by both climate change and depleting resources, in particular peak oil.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Community orchard photos

I had a walk around the Community Orchard at Trenoweth yesterday, the first time since planting in March. Here are some photos.

Every tree is in leaf and growing well, despite a cold spring then warm and dry spell. The soil is very dry at the moment but fortunately the trees are not showing signs of drought yet. Back in March there were pools of water on the surface...

As the sward thickens it should reduce the evaporation of water from the soil, and build organic matter which will hold on to any moisture in the soil.

On the ground the grass and clover mix has all come up and is starting to make a good sward. But this corn marigold came in from somewhere and making a lovely show!

Up the Pittsoporum hedge a stand of Honeysuckle smells and looks amazing, providing loads of nectar for insects.

This Thrush is finding food in the orchard to take back to its nest.

More unusual species I saw include the stunning Common Blue blutterfly and the lovely Yellow Bartsia, which is uncommon on Scilly.

There will be a program of work for the autumn and winter, and we plan to do a communal apple juicing session in September or October - though sadly not fruit from these trees...yet! More on that nearer the time.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Some thoughts on the Gulf oil spill

As BP's incompetence over their handling of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico becomes apparent, thoughts have turned to the implications of oil drilling in difficult places.

In the UK we used to be self-sufficient in oil and gas thanks to North Sea reserves, but since 1999 we have become net importers of both fossil fuels that underpin our entire society. This is the point known as "Peak Oil " (and "Peak Gas") , when more than half of reserves are gone; the remainder becomes harder to extract, less pure and so more expensive.

Across the world the picture is getting more critical as more and more countries past their Peak - see on this interesting interactive map on The Last Oil Shock. The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook states "energy prices [will] follow a rising trend through to 2030" and "oil prices are assumed to rebound with rising demand and supply costs".

As oil exploration delves in to more difficult situations such as deepwater, polar and tar sands, the potential for massive environmental and social disasters increases. How much are people and Governments willing to tolerate such costs?

Interestingly, the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre gathered news that "President Obama appears to be taking advantage of the moment [the Gulf oil spill] to push for a transition away from fossil fuels. In a speech in Pittsburgh on Wednesday he pointed out that the inherent risks will increase the harder oil extraction becomes."

The piece finishes with a very good summation of the urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels - in particular oil:
"The broader meaning of the crisis is clear. The easy oil is gone, and impending peak oil pushes the industry to ever more extreme limits. The moratorium of deepwater drilling in the Gulf will probably hasten and worsen the oil supply crunch widely forecast for the middle of this decade."

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Local Food Map

The last Scilly Local Food Directory was produced in 2006 and was very successful in mapping local food outlets on the Islands. Since this went out of date there has been nothing to plug the gap, so Transition Scilly decided to create an online local food map to act as a stop gap until the next published Directory.

This map has been created in Google Maps and is very easy to use. Each green balloon represents a farmer or grower selling food on Scilly - click on the balloon for more information. Click here for a bigger map that's easier to use, where you can view the map in three settings - Earth is particularly good.

View Local Food on Scilly in a larger map

This map will be updated periodically. If you spot or mistake, have questions or suggestions, please e-mail

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Energy Descent

Today's Western industrialised society can be definitely categorised as "energy intensive". We use vast quantities of liquid fuels to get us and our goods from A to B, we consume a lot of electricity and everyone relies (directly or indirectly) on other gas and solid fuels.

But how would society operate without access to vast quantities of cheap fossil fuel energy? This is an interesting question, but one that should be treated more than just a hypothetical question. The signs are that we have passed the point of peak oil, which is the point at which the easiest, purest and cheapest liquid oil is used up. From here on oil gets more expensive and more difficult to extract - all in the context of a rising global demand.

This in essence is what Transition is all about - the transition from today's society to a future society in the context of climate change and peak oil as the main drivers of change. But getting from current situation to future vision needs careful planning. The goal of every Transition initiative is to produce an Energy Descent Action Plan, which is the route map to that vision.

Transition Town Totnes have just produced their Plan, which is a great bit of work and a fascinating read. It's all available online here and is highly recommended.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The spaces in between

Professor Tim Jackson is one of the unusual academics who can put over his views very eloquently and precisely without drivelling on in scientific language.

He recently released a book called Prosperity without growth, which challenges the assumptions behind the relentless economic growth model required by capitalism. It's a book with provokes, enlightens and is down right sensible.

This is a short video of a talk Tim Jackson recently gave at a Prince's Foundation conference, Building: a new green economy. His phrase "it's all about the spaces in between" is a very strong point to think over.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Renewable energy potential

Here on Scilly we have one of the best potentials for generating power from solar, wind and wave in the entire UK. Given the relatively low population of around 2,000, a combination of good sunshine levels, high winds and powerful waves and tides indicates that we should have no trouble generating all our energy needs from renewable sources, with more to spare.

There are several issues to contend with however. Firstly, planning. This is a minor issue for solar PV or thermal, a moderate issue for wave and a huge issue for wind.

Secondly, capital cost. The only systems affordable for individuals and families are solar thermal and PV (the latter being more expensive) and even then they require several thousand pounds. That's not to say however these systems are not a good investment - they are, and will be even more so with the recent introduction of the Feed In Tariffs.

For wind turbines, efficiency and pay back periods really require moderate to large installations (tens of thousands upwards), meaning either collective community ownership or company owned ventures. Wave generation is another level of cost entirely (over £1 million), but fortunately a couple of companies are seriously interested in Scilly as a site for wave generation.

Lastly, a big obstacle remains around perception of energy security. At the moment there aren't any serious obstacles surrounding energy supply - liquid, gas or solid fuels and electricity, and all are relatively cheap. However as peak oil starts to take its grip energy costs could become very volatile, with the trend being upward price rises and reduced availability.

Only when energy security is compromised will we realise that we need every energy saving measure and renewable energy installation we can get our hands on. But at this point it will be too late to avoid some uncomfortable situations arising.

However, if it is widely recognised throughout the community that we need to plan for our future energy resources now, we could avoid compromising situations and have a very resilient, sustainable and bright future.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Earth Hour

On Saturday 27th March at 8.30pm local time people across the planet are being encouraged to turn off their lights for an hour.

Earth Hour is a very visual support for action on climate change and reducing energy usage. Individuals, organisations, companies and Governments are getting involved and it's estimated 1 billion people will turn off their lights.

Have a look at the Earth Hour website for some great videos and ideas for Earth Hour:

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

In Transition - film screening

On Thursday 25th March at 7.30pm Transition Scilly is showing the film In Transition. This is a film from about the theory and practice of Transition initiatives in the UK and around the world.

We'll also be showing an excellent talk that Rob Hopkins gave at the TED talks last July about the concept of Transition. He speaks very well and the production is superb.

Both are being screened at the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. Entry is free and everyone is welcome - tea and cakes as per usual! Donations appreciated to cover costs.

If you can't make it you can watch In Transition here:

and the TED talk here:

Monday, 15 March 2010

Community orchard

On Sunday 7th March Transition Scilly organised a work session to plant the new Community Orchard at Trenoweth on St Mary's.

Over a dozen members, plus a dozen of the Five Island School's Green Team helped plant 58 trees, including apples, sweet chestnuts, plum, medlar, hazels and greengage. Every tree has has a mulch mat around it to stop weeds and a tree guard to stop rabbits gnawing at the bark.

It was a very productive day with lots of enthusiasm and a good basis for continued development of the orchard. At two thirds of an acre we think this is now the single largest orchard on Scilly and in five years time should be producing a significant amount of fruit. In 25 years time it should be producing tons! Those who help maintain the orchard get a share of the harvest.

Furthermore we hope this will stimulate the resurgence of a strong orchard culture on the Islands, with more people planting, maintaining trees and using the fruit from them. More on that to come later in the year.

For those who are interested, here's a list of what's been planted. All have been selected for taste and disease resistance, and many have wonderfully evocative names displaying a rich heritage.

Apples on MM106 (semi-vigorous rootstock) - mixture of eaters, cookers and cider
  • Adams Pearmain x 2
  • Ashmeads Kernel x 2
  • Egremont Russet x 3
  • Fiesta x 3
  • King of the Pippins x 3
  • Lemon Pippin x 3
  • Lucombes Pine x 2
  • Newton Wonder x 2
  • Plum Vite x 2
  • Rosemary Russet x 3
  • Scrumptious x 3
  • Tom Putt x 2
  • Winter King x 2
Apples on M26 (semi-dwarfing rootstock) - mixture of eaters, cookers and cider
  • Ashmeads Kernel x 1
  • Beauty of Bath x 1
  • Blenheim Orange x 1
  • Cheddar Cross x 1
  • Court Pendu Plat x 1
  • Egremont Russet x 2
  • Grenadier x 1
  • John Standish x 1
  • Katy x 1
  • Newton Wonder x 1
  • Pinova x 1
  • Stirling Castle x 1
  • Sunset x 1
  • Taylors x 1
Sweet Chestnuts
  • Belle Epine x 2
  • Bournette x 2
  • Marlhac x 2
  • Butler x 1
  • Corabel x 1
  • Opal
  • Nottingham
  • Oullins Golden Gage

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Vanishing Bees

The honey bee has been the subject of much concerned and detailed scientific scrutiny over the past few years due to massive losses in bee populations. Bees not only provide us with honey, but are hugely important in pollinating crops - anything from apples and apricots to beans and strawberries.

The Vanishing of the Bees is a new film that uncovers some of the facts behind "colony collapse disorder" and unexplained bee losses.

Transition Scilly are showing the film on Thursday 11th March at 7.30pm in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. Entry is free and all are welcome.

If you can't make the film evening the DVD will be available in St Mary's library after the event.

Here's the trailer:

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Tar Sands

In Alberta, Canada lie vast reserves of bitumen, known as "Tar Sands". Essentially this is shale and sand with a high oil content that can, with a high input of energy, be refined in to liquid oil that can be refined in to petrol, diesel, aviation fuel, gas, etc.

Theoretically, this is an answer to the shortage of oil that North America faces, but it comes at a very high cost. Besides the threat of oil spills, conventional oil production is relatively unobtrusive as it's pumped from vast underground reservoirs. Tar sands however are the complete opposite.

It's like open cast mining on a vast scale. Vast tracts of pristine wilderness disappear, water courses are heavily polluted, there's severe localised air pollution and devastating effects on both wildlife and humans. The energy required to refine tar sands in to oil is immense.

A new film called "Toxic Fuels" is being released on March 15th, supported by The Co-Operative Bank. Have a look at the website here:

This is a trailer for the film:

Sunday, 21 February 2010

First film screening

This Thursday sees the launch of a series of film screenings from Transition Scilly. First up is a big budget film The 11th Hour, written and presented by Lenardo di Caprio.

Film starts at 7.30pm on Thursday 25th February in the Old Wesleyan Chapel on St Mary's. There will be tea and cakes, entry is free and anyone is welcome. Doors open from 7.00pm.

Rather than a description from me, judge for yourself from the trailer:

Monday, 15 February 2010

Two good programmes

Two interesting series on TV at the moment that have strong connections with the principles of Transition (and a common link in Monty Don!) include:

Mastercrafts: Green Woodworking, where "Monty Don, a huge fan of traditional crafts, presents a series which celebrates six of the craft skills that built Britain and its heritage, ranging from thatching to stonemasonry."

My Dream Farm on Channel 4, where "Monty Don helps six families realise their dream of returning to the land". Watch here:

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Nearly ready to plant the orchard

We had another good work session at Trenoweth Community orchard again today. About 12 people helped at some point during the day, where we continued getting the hedges in shape, moved all the hedge cuttings and stripped the old black plastic away from the arum lillies.

It was a lovely sunny day after 12 and it felt very sheltered from the cool Northerly breeze. The photos show some good work having been done and another...well, reflection?! Does Nick realise he's been caught on camera supervising the biscuits?

We're still on course for planting on 28th Feb, but will confirm nearer the time.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Community orchard taking shape

On Sunday 31st January several Transition Scilly members got together on a lovely sunny day at Trenoweth to help prepare the field for the new Community Orchard.

The land had previously been part of Trenoweth Horticultural Research Station and had been used for Narcissi flower trials. But as it was ancillary to the main parcel of land it hadn't been fully managed for a number of years so is in need of some improvement.

Hedges to the west and north of the plot needed some serious cutting, so we got in and started hacking back the Oleria and gorse in a dramatic way. Looks a bit serious to start with, but it'll improve the field no end in the long run.

Another work party is planned for Sunday 14th Feb from 10-4 where we should finish hedge cutting and have the field ready for planting a couple of weeks after that. Then it really will be an orchard!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Nursery food

"You are what you eat" is a simple statement that gets right to the heart of the relationship between our landscape, society, human health and economy. Eat good, wholesome food from your local area - and of course a balanced diet, and the short and long term health benefits are immense.

It seemed to take our society about 25 years to work out that in fact we may not be giving our children the best food at school, and that this has a huge impact on learning, behaviour and grades. Fortunately this has been addressed on a national scale, led by people like Jamie Oliver and carried on by great projects such as Food for Life.

We've also realised that perhaps hospitals are not providing the best food to help patients recover, though sadly this has not been addressed on a national scale.

It's particularly shocking then that children in Nurseries appear to be fed on absolute rubbish right up and down the country. The Soil Association report Georgie, Porgie, Pudding and Pie found that many nurseries were spending as little as 25p per child on food. Much of this food had additives and ingredients banned under school nutritional standards.

The effect that such poor food has on young developing minds and bodies can't be underestimated. Trends towards weight gain and obesity start in the under 5's, so we're saving up massive health problems for society in the future if such trends continue.

A "Better Nursery Food" campaign has begun here:

Saturday, 16 January 2010


When the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow was announced individuals, NGO's, politicians and local people all rallied against the proposals to stop further airport expansion.

Air travel is an enormous and rapidly growing source of global carbon emissions that has massive implications for climate change. Further and unchecked growth will lead to ever faster rates of global temperature rise and disasterous consequences.

One highly inspred action was the acquisition of a plot of land at Sipson in Middlesex, right in the heart of the proposed runway development. This plot of land now has over 60,000 co-owners, meaning to acquire the site the developers must evict every owner!!

The action has been co-ordinated by Greenpeace and is called Airplot. It's a Gandhian-inspired piece of non-violent action and has huge symbolic significance.

Have a look at the video and if you would like to get involved simply go to the website and sign up as a plot owner - it's free and very quick.


I recently went to a Cornish organic farmers and growers' low carbon farming event at Cusgarne Organics near Truro. The farm is beautiful, set in a secluded valley away from main roads, producing veg boxes, beef, eggs and chickens. They've also planted up more orchards and some nut trees including sweet chestnuts and almonds.

One really interesting project was Biodiesel production from waste cooking oil from the surrounding area. "Biodiesel Dave" from Cleaner Combustion produces this stuff in a workshop on the farm to a high standard - i.e. that can be run in modern cars, not just dirty old Land Rovers and tractors.

It certainly gave me a further jolt of inspiration for use of waste oils to power machinery. The photo (above) on the side of his car, whilst going against the ethos of healthy organic food, gave everyone a laugh!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

In Transition video

Transition Network have recently released a film about Transition initiatives - the principles and practices, featuring ideas and people from different parts of the world.

The first part is available free below

In Transition 1.0 from Transition Towns on Vimeo.