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Friday, 29 January 2016

When volunteer burn out culls many prospective strong sustainability initiatives!

This is not a blame game, although if irrational minds could turn to such activities when people set on each other. With support that Davius has put behind recent voluntary groups it was saddening to find a lot of initial links from only 12-18 months ago have all dissolved.

Why? People being ignorant? Far from it – the reason a lot of links amongst groups have dissolved is due to many voluntary entities have sadly dissolved after real efforts in the early days. For many – the local entities were set up by just one person, and over several years were maintained by people flying solo. They may have been cheered on by their community – yet trying to get support off the community with volunteer contribution being next to zero.

This is not an attack; rather a reflection with hundreds of thousands of families stretched to their limits the last ten years, very few can contribute towards local positive initiatives due to lack of time etc. So regrettably a lot of sustainability/community initiatives are set up by just one person. Invariably after a few years many good people across UK give up on their projects. This is a real tragedy as some of their projects could have really taken us in a new direction. No names – you can find out who they were in your own locale.

For group collaborations such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, AECB local groups, Transition Town groups, Community Food/growing Markets, Community Renewable, Housing Community Projects just to name a few – it is very hard to maintain core group structures as responsibilities have to be maintained upon collapsing numbers.

So how to improve this situation? How will make the sacrifice when so many in this era are so stretched already? What is the magical solution to improve so many voluntary or community entities?

Is there a magic administration software package that can stream line the process? With legal frameworks, constitutions, reminder prompts of meetings – or will this not work in the real world where we all have responsibilities, setbacks and unpredictable events that sway us.

The only thing we can all do is persist …. If you have a good idea for human innovation, community process and/or environmental regeneration – keep at it. You may have the saving grace that helps the whole country start moving.

However – a warning from the experienced ones from multiple voluntary initiatives …. A little power for just one entity within the voluntary group can break the natural progress and overall group dynamic.

You have been warned ….

All that said and done – on a positive …. What can you do?

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A new economy?

As UK goes through a continuous periods of austerity throughout the remainder of this decade, and the remainder of the plant has their own practices to deal with their ongoing recession. Even when economies were ‘good’ many Governments still ran up huge national debts …. How can these ever be minimised? If ever? Can you really affect your government? Or is it more feasible and realistic to focus upon your locale?

What can we really do to improve the economy in your local area? Realistically you cannot change something – like a disaster on the other side of the planet. Yet you can affect your own locale for the better – and contribute ideas to how things should be undertaken.

Communities want to be stronger. Too many times in our isolated world where you only know the immediate neighbours on your street and not those ten doors down. This does create some element of disillution where people think they live in challenging areas, ghetto’s or disconnected communities – yet if you reach out and start finding out who your neighbours are? What they think of locale? What would they like to see improved in the area? You can all begin working on a community plan.

Yet how to empower that community? What realistically can you do in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? Could your community be a lifeline that begins creating your pension? A savings plan for the children and grandchildren? With so many people working into their 70’s and 80’s in this day – many people are keen to be better involved in their community. Employment and community initiatives enhance local links for many who feel somewhat disconnected.

What do we need?

Water, food, shelter, sex – the basics. If our local economy provided housing, food, energy and other basic needs (local social good links so that people can actually meet each other) then perhaps our communities would be genuinely stronger.

On the energy front the UK is finally beginning to embrace ‘community owned energy’ (even though some trail blazers started this in UK decades ago and suffered the wrath of backward and archaic systems in life which were long overdue for an overhaul.) and this is something that could really develop local benefits as funds from PV, wind, micro-hydro, CHP, anaerobic generation could really help your locale.

Same goes for housing co-operatives to infuse a much needed demand for real skills in UK (which the skills deficit is heavily cited by many industries – yet we seem to act too little too late to address the skills deficit challenge.) with building, carpentry, electricians, engineers, plumbers, manufacturing, processing etc.

Possibly more importantly than above two is food production. In the face of the recent years flooding problems many have suffered in UK, farms under water etc. we should focus on micro-growing as well as large scale agricultural production (with lesser impacts) and look to creating a new industry of soil integrity support mechanisms.

What do we want?

NO we are not chanting – what do we want? When do we want it? Too much (materialistic demand it would seem) – hence we are in such real trouble with backlash of economic yo-yoing, flooding/droughts, wars etc. etc.

Generally we only react when disaster strikes (a totally normal human trait!) yet what we need is consistency of good practice (and not wait until it’s too late) to address food production, community production, manufacturing, flood/drought reduction, energy black outs, peak oil.


You’ll all have your opinion on the outcome of COP21 in Paris …. Where do we go from here? Less reliance on technological innovation – more reliance on human innovation.

What can you do?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Divestment – great on the large scale – yet what of all the little co-operatives?

Divestment is a word that has been banded about as a trend in the mid 2010’s and with some successful campaigns encouraging industry and Government to support a switch in support towards more ‘sustainable’ resources.

Can we really pull all funding away from these ‘bad sources’ of coal burning/oil exploration? Will divestment really make a fundamental shift in such a short term? It would be na├»ve to believe that hundreds of millions of sterlings, Euro’s, Dollars, Yen will switch over in a short amount of time that the carpet will be pulled under from all these dirty technologies?
Unlikely …..
It may be premature to mention that nuclear and fossil fuels have ‘lost the race’ as transition is not as easy as many believe. With pension schemes from big UK firms looking to potentially switch investments towards massive projects such as Swansea Tidal Lagoon (and Cardiff and Newport Lagoons) yet what about all the smaller co-operatives that have been screaming out for funding for the last twenty years? Will they continue to be overlooked?
There are many heroes that it would not be right to forget about who pioneered community renewables and investing in local areas yet were unsuccessful in their initial renewable energy applications at the turn of the century (Awel Aman Tawe  in Swansea and Arts Factory  in Ferndale) yet hopefully their reinvented practises will flourish this time around as the 2010’s recognises greater need for co-operatives in renewables, housing, food, skills etc.

Divestment is important, yet what was holding it back a decade ago in boom periods? After all the media pomp has quietened ….. will we remember the investment in small co-operatives? Or will we look towards the larger impressive projects?

What choice would you make?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Food Waste and resolving our complacency with the wasted food mountain.

The food waste issue is mentioned in the UK mass media again – it is something we all face on a regular basis. This time the emphasis is upon the calls for supermarkets to end their BOGOF deals in the interest of reducing the millions of tonnes of food waste.

The BOGOF deals (Buy One – Get One Free) psychologically primes us that we are making great savings when we are out shopping and doubling our purchases for prospectively half the price of costs ….. yet the reality is the food will not be eaten quickly enough and will go off and inevitably end up in the compost bin/black bin.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves: Do I really need to buy this? Or is it an issue of people believing that food is useless once it hits the expiry date? Can we risk keeping food an extra day or two for consumption after the expiry date?

The different sources of information may not always be consistent with each other – yet it is plausible that ten’s of thousands of tonnes of food is wasted each year (by many countries).

What can we do to reduce this waste stream contributor?

Grow your own:
Is it possible that growing your own food will give us a new found respect for food? Understanding the cycle, the process, the responsibility or growing it, harvesting and eating it?

Home Composting:
Is it not a cop-out to just assume “It’s okay – we can throw it in the composting bin?” It’s a more benign manner to dispose of excessive/expired food stuffs.

Composting is important – in fact: it is critical to return the nutrients to our soils. Yet it should not be abused! The more localised the composting can be done with zero to few miles travelled - If composting was fully comprehensive (where primarily some composting is done on-site of the domestic home, the restaurant, the office place, the college campus etc. then excessive amounts were picked up by council services) then it can be an even more sustainable process for us to support (than sending it long distance to be composted elsewhere.)

Yet to reiterate: please do not abuse composting as a fall-back just as we become more complacent with our fridges food stock.
Food Banks:
Again – an important part of society; these social enterprises have risen up in a post-economic downturn era to support record numbers of families and individuals who have been forced into economically compromising conditions. Yet we should not just abuse Food Banks strained resources by piling on food which we should ourselves not be wasting – as if it goes off whilst Food Banks are trying to distribute them; it is hardly fair on that social enterprise nor the desperate end recipients.
A constant burning food torch:
What we need is a constant reminder; posters may be an idea? Yet will become an irritation until ignored …. perhaps community mass composters? Or will we get more complacent with these? Any ideas? Local food growing programmes where everyone gets involved to remind us of how precious food is and how many of us may take it for granted as being on tap? For now all we can hope for is the media keep reminding us periodically … yet we need something else in play.
What can you do?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

More flooding - what positive small steps with responsible basin use, toilet use and garden expansion can save us?

The UK media have put a lot of coverage behind the terrible floods that we have faced around the UK with particular emphasis upon South West with many towns, villages and general districts being hit the worst. Many will blame poor infrastructure; the sewers and river way management or other associated issues.
The Authorities such as the Environment Agency will give information/warnings on where floods may occur, yet we should be more empowered to contribute to minimising the flooding impacts - this is achievable in small steps too.
Sometimes token measures adopted by each home will have a massive knock on national positive impact to reducing the overburden on our sewer systems and thus helping reducing our burst banks and flooding of homes, industry and agricultural space.
Whatever the final error - it is all based on causal events which we should all partake in to reduce impacts. What we place down the sink and toilet will go to the sewers, when the sewers are full (build up in non-liquid waste) a backlog will occur and people's domestic guttering may find itself oozing out with unwanted filth, sludge and pungent smells.
If the sewers are full (or blocked) the rain water will not be appropriately directed away from cities, towns, villages and fields.
It starts with the toilet:
  • Don’t flush wet wipes.
  • Don’t flush away sanitary towels.
  • Don’t flush anything artificial other than toilet paper.
  • The only thing that should go down the loo is urine, blood, vomit, faeces and toilet paper – too many people assume a toilet is a 2nd domestic bin. This is not appropriate.
  • Consult the internet for basic ‘Keep the toilet from getting blocked’ methods before needlessly wasting professionals time (and your wallet).
… Everything but the Kitchen sink:
  • Add a Strainer / Stopper Waste Plug to collect the waste in the bottom.
  • Don’t flush it away - Food waste can be picked out the strainer/stopper and put it in a composting bin which most houses have adopted now.
  • Everything saved going down the sink will cause less stress on our sewer systems.
The Garden:
  • Will a water butt help reduce the amount of water fallen in long rainy periods? When is the 'safe period' to empty it then?
  • Expand the garden. This may be too late for many - as with road expansions over the last fifty years in urban areas - many streets sacrificed their gardens to the road programme to widen roads .... with less garden space - we have less rain absorption abiity - which is fatal in built up areas which are reliant upon sewer systems.
  • Planning should support expanding green space - or maximising efficient use of green spaces in areas that are built up - more green roofs perhaps? With more grass space will come more rain absorption and lesser burden of flooding.
What we don’t put down the drain will have a positive impact elsewhere. If entire streets of people were responsible with minimising how little they put down the drain (toilets, basins etc.) then the sewer network will be able to function more nominally. The Channel 4Dispatches programme does highlight many of the things people needlessly throw down the toilets.
With an efficiently run sewer system – it will be able to deal with some of the potential flooding problems we have witnessed in early 2014. This blog does not put responsibility squarely at the feet of domestic home users (the vast majority of us) and Water Companies who are responsible for the running of the Sewers. This blog simply emphasises that we all have a responsibility for minimising what we put down the drain.

Other approaches such as efficient toilets, innovative sewer applications, improved and widespread agricultural good land practice or any other variables that will emerge in the early 21st century. This is not claimed as the sole answer to flood reduction - another favoured approach is more tree planting and woodland expansion in order to absorb the torrents of rain. The Woodland Trust have published such a report.

What any country cannot consistently tolerate is mass flooding which destroys lives, puts a burden on the economy and a burden on communities. We must all take a responsible stance in the starting points of what we put down the toilets and sinks into the sewer networks.

What can you do?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Global Carbon Emissions To Hit Record 36 Billion Tonnes In 2013

This entry came from AECB's Newsletter December 2013:
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels are set to rise by more than 2% to reach a record high of 36 billion tonnes, according to new figures from the Global Carbon Project. The 2.1% rise projected for 2013 means global emissions from burning fossil fuel are 61% above 1990 levels. Co-led by researchers from the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the 2.1% rise projected for 2013 means global emissions from burning fossil fuel are 61% above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol.
In addition to the release of today's figures, the Global Carbon Project has launched a new online platform, which provides more detail on the world's biggest carbon emitters. The platform reveals that the biggest contributors to fossil fuel emissions in 2012 were China (27%), the US (14%), the European Union (10%), and India (6%). The projected rise for 2013 comes after a similar rise of 2.2%in 2012. However, the rise in fossil fuel emissions in 2012 and 2013 was slower compared to the average 2.7% of the past 10 years. Growth rates in CO2 for major emitting countries in 2012 were China (5.9%) and India (7.7%). Meanwhile, US emissions declined by 3.7% and Europe declined by 1.8%.
While emissions per person in China matched figures in the EU at seven tonnes in 2012, the US is still among the highest emitter per person at 16 tonnes. By comparison people in India produce a carbon footprint of just 1.8 tonnes. Turning to the source of emissions, the research found that most emissions are from coal (43%), then oil (33%), gas (18%), cement (5.3%) and gas flaring (0.6%). The growth in coal in 2012 accounted for 54% of the growth in fossil fuel emissions.
The figures also showed that CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use change added 8% to the emissions from burning fossil fuels. Cumulative emissions of CO2 since 1870 are set to reach 2015 billion tonnes in 2013 - with 70% caused by burning fossil fuels and 30% from deforestation and other land-use changes.
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter said: "We have exhausted about 70% of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees. In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September."
Davius footnote: It does appear bleak at times - yet everyone of us have a key part to play in lowering emissions. You may feel helpless in your activities to reduce your burden - yet the smallest things done on a personal/individual/local/community basis will have some positive knock on effect to improve our prospects of reducing our carbon burden.
What can you do?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Local economy initiatives and developing trust can help bond our communities again.

With so many pockets within cities and rural areas more effected by the global economic downturn (with few signs of recovery) than others – many families, people and communities are despairing. By adhering to some conventions we have allowed many of our natural skills to diminish.

As opposed to travelling far to find work, it is likely there are local requirements for your skills – yet a lack of social connectivity for people to exchange what they can buy or sell. What forums exist? Who will co-ordinate all of it? These are the questions we should ask ourselves if your community is to set up local economic co-operatives (Social enterprises? Local business?) in order to co-ordinate your neighbours.

One such group who have successfully and practically thought out these processes and created a living breathing local entity is the Cardiff Taffs Community Currency. Please look at the video below:

Creating a local currency may be one strong format forward to encourage local skills to come to the forefront of economies. Bringing people together and creating bonds of trust over several years will encourage a greater spirit within communities. This is not about abandoning conventional economy – yet having complimentary measures to begin a social/economic social symbiosis - it's about creating real links in your community. Forming such bonds and having several 'go to guys' will improve your overall quality of life.
What is going in your area? What can you do? Possibly more than you can credit yourself with … reach out. With social networking, group forums, video, blogs, a fragile global economy; no time is better than now!