Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Trees Trees Trees! Lets plant them!

I met a lady at the recent Community Climate Change events who wants us to plant more trees. She is setting up an organisation called:
Freetree`s purpose is to get trees planted. She would like to put growers like herself in touch with people who want to plant them. This would range from someone planting a tree in their garden (which they get free from Freetree) to persuading government to plant anything from a solitary tree to community orchards and woodlands. Ideally each community would grow their own trees to plant locally.
Freetre Website is being developed meanwhile:-

Contact Jules Newman for more information

Friday, 22 May 2009

After The Descent

I am reading "A Prosperous Way Down" by Howard and Elisabeth Odum.

Howard Odum's work on ecological systems and how environmental limits interact with human economic systems should be better known.

Odum describes the way natural systems (and human socio-economic systems) pulse in a frequency determined by the availability of resources - just think about the four seasons on the Northern hemisphere if you are wondering what this means. This pulsing appears as a rise in productivity proportional to the consumption of a resource. Once this resource has been used up, productivity falls. This fall could be gradual or sudden and catastrophic. In most systems there is no choice but for we humans, currently coming to the end of a number of resources which have fuelled our recent growth, there is some choice - we have knowledge and we have technology but do we have the will? Take a look at a presentation by Dr. Steven Harris of Science Shops Wales for more on this.

So with Odum's work fresh in my mind I yesterday visited the Creation Trust in the Garw Valley South Wales.

The Garw was one of those iconic coal valleys in the last century. Hills rise vertically from the narrow flood plain, roads and houses cling to the sides in narrow terraces. At one time the narrow valley echoed to the sounds of steam and clanking machines. Engines and aerial ropeways disturbed the ancient peace, slicing the sky and the flesh of the place in a frenzy of industrial greed. Human beings were dwarfed by the industry. Coal (and the elites who controlled it) was king.

Before coal there were only five farms. Now, though the houses remain, there is no industry, no machinery - it is once more a rural, beautiful place.

Blaengarw is a living example of the pulsing phenomenon that Odum describes. Coal was the resource that fuelled the rapid, rabid growth - a brief pulse in time. Before coal, a peaceful low energy state where the only pulsing was that brought by the seasons. After coal....? What?

Well the descent, when it came was sudden and catastrophic. Socially, economically, environmentally, the valley landed with a bump. Now, thanks to the Creation Trust and the residents who support it, the community and the ecosystem in which it is embedded are recovering. It is reaching a new kind of steady state - not that of five farms but of a community in harmony with nature and itself, pulsing with the seasons once again. There is a lot more work to do but the achievements and aspirations of Creation Trust and the people of Blaengarw offer hope that with commitment, patience and vision, regional, national and even global society can negotiate the descent and reach a new, low energy existence that pulses not with the insane fever of stock markets dependent on oil, gas and coal but with the natural pulses that have always existed and will remain as long as the sun shines and the earth rotates. These can be devastating in their own way - who can predict the eruption of the next super volcano - but if human society is obliterated at least it will be by some natural perturbation and not as a consequence of our own folly and greed.


The Welsh Assembly Government in partnership with Science Shops Wales and with the support of Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales and other organisations have recently hosted a series of one day information and networking events.

These took place in Llangollen, Aberystwyth and Cardiff. Each event featured rousing and inspiring presentations from leading activists and academics, advice shops on specific topics and group action planning.

The purpose of the events was to support people who are working closely with communities to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and to enable them to become more effective.

Delegates were given the opportunity to learn about a number of topics at advice shops. These included; measuring your outcomes, calculating eco-footprints, applying for funding, working with policy makers and changing behaviour.

A group activity in the afternoon, led by the Do Foundation, sought to plan actions along a timeline from 2009 to 2050. This exercise, as well as being repeated at all three events will also be replicated at the Hay On Earth festival. The output from the planning sessions will be collated and summarised before being presented to policy makers.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

No Polar Bears please

Nasa Scientist Gavin Schmidt in The Guardian says simplistic stories and cliché pictures of polar bears have failed to engage people in the true debate

We follow a blog which Schmidt helped to set up called

This aims to flesh out, with scientific data and rational debate, some of the stories that hit the headlines.

I, like many environmental scientists and campaigners, have had to endure the bombastic assurances of friends relatives and complete strangers that "its all down to sunspots - this global warming thing is a scam to keep people like you in work."

Being a scientist one can only sigh in exasperation - climate science is complicated, where do I begin?

So Gavin Schmidt makes an important point. We all need to become more scientifically literate. I was very pleased to hear Robert Jolliffe, Chair of the trustees of the National Botanic Garden of Wales say recently that his organisation wanted to make the population of Wales one of the most "environmentally literate" in the world.

We are entering new territory whether we like it or not. This is a period of massive change and the future, if it is to be sustainable, must be born from a new Renaissance where science, technology, art, philosophy and faith do not operate in isolation but are integrated as components of the whole human/earth ecosystem. But within this system, the scientific method rather than some vague notion of science, should be respected and understood by all as a process of illumination by rational enquiry. Scientists are practitioners of this method and not an insidious cabal to be feared and railed against. The Real Climate blog can only help bring this future closer.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Real Men Take Climate Change Seriously

Just in case anyone was thinking that climate change was something that only freaky greens in beards and sandals are worried about (and you'd be surprised at how many still think that way!), the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have recently initiated a programme of energy efficiency measures and awareness raising for rugby clubs across Wales.

The action is sponsored by SWALEC, part of the Scottish and Southern Energy Group. The WRU group is leading by example by switching to SWALEC’s business green tariff for the Millennium Stadium, which means that Scottish and Southern Energy has committed to match the energy used by the Millennium Stadium by generating the same amount of energy from renewable energy sources. That's a lot of energy.

But perhpas most significantly, the WRU press statement says "The WRU Group accepts climate change as one of the biggest challenges facing the world today and hopes the measures and the impact of today's announcement will have a positive effect on WRU club members, Welsh rugby supporters, and visitors to the Millennium Stadium."

Despite the rise and success of the women's international team and the many female fans who work tirelessly to support the game at club level, it is still a fairly masculine culture. The other day I was speaking with two colleagues who work for environmental organisations. They both recalled the many times that they had been labeled "hippy" by others with the suggestion that climate change and environmental awareness was something a bit fey and not relevant to the real world. Rugby on the other hand is a reassuring constant, as much a part of the real world of Wales as it has been for generations. A recent sponsorship deal had a picture of key players looking butch with the tag "Defend This House". Great mun! Solid, dependable, manly stuff!

So for the WRU to be so clear in its recognition of climate change as a threat to business, community and ultimately rugby, it must be real and it must be important, surely? Defend this house? Yes we must - all of us - not just the hippys.

Tax Them Til The Pips Produce Shoots Of Green Growth

The Chartered Institute of Taxation have produced the Green Taxes Report. It can be viewed on line with an option to add comment.

The CIOT president Nick Goulding has pressed for this report in recognition of the important role green taxes must play. With contributions from Prof. Paul Ekins and an overview of The Stern report, this work confronts the grim possibilities of climate change and proposes progressive green taxation as a key instrument in promoting behaviour change and stimulating investment in green-tech low carbon futures.

Read it here

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Eco Worriers - Laugh and Learn

As development officer for Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales, I have met a number of community based organisations trying to develop a more sustainable way of living in some of the most economically deprived areas of Wales. Whenever I meet new people I always ask them what they think is the best way of engaging people on sustainable development issues. The answer I get is always the same; “show people like us doing it… and make it funny!”

With help from friends in the TV business, Dafydd Palfrey and Boyd Clack, and with the support of Cynnal Cymru, I decided to make a film that would both celebrate the actions of real people and also provide the viewer with a few laughs. The result is the ten minute pilot episode of Eco Worriers which you can watch here:-

Eco-Worriers: Episode 1 from Daf Palfrey on Vimeo.

We’d like to make more episodes and visit more community projects and see the characters struggle with getting out of the car and using more sustainable modes of transport to get about. We are conscious of the considerable impacts filming has on the environment so we would also like to explore the options for ‘green film making’ and try to work with minimal environmental impacts.