Tackling the Terrace

Great news that Bristol Green Doors has secured funding to trial delivery of solid wall insulation in a terrace in Bristol from the DECC’s LEAF fund, one of 82 projects funded around the UK.

The project will be open as part of Bristol Green Doors’ next city-wide open homes event on 17th – 18th March 2012 – you’ll be able to see the installation in progress and see detailed cutaways of the insulation as it goes up. See you there!

Feed Bristol goes live

The Feed Bristol project is launching recruitment for two new posts, as it prepares to transform 7 acres of prime agricultural land into a community food growing project with space for large communal growing areas and smaller bespoke plots for specific groups, funded by the Local Food fund. Great to see the results of huge effort coming to fruition!

Details can be found on the AWT careers page.

DIY Solar at the Harbour Festival

Bristol Energy at the Harbour Festival 2011

DIY Solar Workshop at the Harbour Festival

Bristol Energy came to the Harbour Festival teaching people to make their own solar panels – thanks to everyone who came and got stuck in and especially to Dan from the DIY Solar project for working tirelessly to make it happen!

Experiments at the rural-urban fringe #1

Salad leaves outside my house

Don’t you love it when you stumble across someone sharing their surplus produce somewhere down a country lane? Or somewhere down a terraced street in Easton?

I often think about how small-scale local growing needs to be supported by small-scale local preserving of crop surpluses. It’s a noticeable hole in our ‘growing’ knowledge and the infrastructure of local food too, but not to worry, any spare salad leaves from my greenhouse seem to be in demand from my neighbours.

Latest results – 5 bags of fresh greenhouse leaves offered for 50p a pop. 4 gone in the first 5 minutes. Total cash from the day £4.00 (do the math)

Spirit Level

Just been to see Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the Spirit Level, speak at St George’s in Bristol. They introduced it by saying that they were there to tell us what we all knew already – and they did exactly that, but it’s nice to be affirmed in your deeply held assumptions and blind prejudices, isn’t it?

Its such a simple thesis – that inequality in a society negatively affects the health of that society, whether you look at mortality, percentage of the population in jail, trust or even innovation. And equality has a positive affect on all the same data sets.

They were careful to stay away from the politics and policy of it all – the humility of restricting themselves to a summary of their statistical findings, when this is a book that has been passed from person to person with a ‘must read’ caveat, was touching. And the irony of hearing about this incredible study, at the very moment that New “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” Labour leaves office and David Cameron, the face of a new ‘social’ conserfvatism, becomes PM.

Its amazing what years of being told that inequality is good for us has done to us all. The poor need low wages to make ’em work; The rich need a pay rise, or they’ll all disappear back to the Canary Islands. The idea that humans are fundamentally selfish, and that’s what makes everything work, has been taught to every economist, banker, financier, lawyer and politician for hundreds of years, and nothing else gets a look in. Self-fulfilling prophesy is hard to argue with – but what does business look like when you start assuming that people are essentially fair, trust worthy and caring?

Moomin says it all

I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream!

Why, and why not?

OK, I never thought I’d be one for the social networking thing, but here goes anyway. I’m intending this as part business card; part record of my projects, like trying to live out of the garden and allotment, or retrofitting the house we live in; and part brain dump.

Indigenous – (ĭn-dĭj’ə-nəs)
Originating and living or occurring naturally in an area or environment.

The concept of being ‘indigenous’  is in part a deeply archaic one, a hang up from early naturalism and anthropology when western science was only just getting to grips with the idea that the world was actually different in different places, let alone understanding the processes of movement and change that are always present.  Today we have a much more detailed picture of the history of how plants, animals and humans have moved across the landscape and how the planet itself has shifted (Jared Diamond’s books Collapse and Guns Germs and Steel are awesome summaries of this stuff), and the idea that any particular person, plant or animal is ‘originally’ from any particular part of the world seems pretty simplistic; but all the same the question of what does it mean to be ‘indigenous’ to a place still offers a pretty interesting window on the world for me.

I’m a lot less interested in reproducing the lifestyles of indigenous peoples – I know we’ve got plenty to learn from different cultures across the world, but there’s a lot of cherry picking the cool stuff from these cultures and ignoring the harder stuff . But there are a few common features to indigenous communities of people that might offer a few clues in answering my central question – what would it mean to be indigenous to the UK?

I’m going to leave aside the stuff about how long someone has lived in a particular place, because its clear that humans move, they always have and they always will, and the anthropology and sociology that didn’t recognise that just had faulty baseline data. But the other features that crop up time and again are: that people live in active communities defined by custom and tradition over generations; that there is spiritual or religious dimension to their knowledge of the world, often extending into the landscape and the relationships that define their society and economy; that that there is a close, integrated relationship with the ecosystem that they live in.

It seems to me that this offers some pretty interesting guidance in our latest mission to work out how to survive in the face of climate change and peak oil. For other takes on indigenous living in the UK, check out Alastair McIntosh’s book Soil and Soul, or anything by Roger Deakin. There’s plenty of other good questions too but here goes an experiment in living and occurring naturally in my area and environment.