Rob Hopkins's blog en Eamon O'Hara on the "important catalytic effect" of community-led action <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="228" title="bikes" alt="bikes" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>One of the most fascinating recent studies into the impact of Transition was <em><a href="">Local Communities Leading the Way to a Low Carbon Society</a>,&nbsp;</em>a report published by AEIDL (Association Européenne pour l’Information sur le Développement Local. &nbsp;It looks at Transition, permaculture and ecovillage networks, what it calls the "Silent Revolution", "a potentially powerful driver of pro-environmental behaviour change". &nbsp;We caught up with Eamon O'Hara, who created the report, to find out more about it, and about his conclusions.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p><strong>How did you create this report, and what research did you do for it?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Cover"><img src="/sites/" alt="Cover" title="Cover" width="250" height="353" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>I have been working at European level on programmes and initiatives dealing with local development for almost 20 years now and around 2008/2009. I started to become more aware of Transition and other similar movements that were developing around Europe. It struck me at the time that not much was known about these grassroots movements at European level, at least in Brussels, where I was based at the time.</p><p>There was some really great work being done, some great examples of local projects and communities that were transforming themselves, but it was off the radar for many people. Of course there was nothing abnormal about this. These were grassroots movements, developing organically at their own pace and normally this would be fine. But climate change and the drive for sustainability are issues that need urgent responses, so it seemed to me to be important to try to promote awareness and a wider replication of these initiatives in communities across Europe.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>From other programmes I worked on I knew there was considerable experience, and tools and methodologies, that could be drawn on to facilitate the exchange of good practice and ideas, but a necessary first step would be to build awareness around this movement and its potential. Over the next couple of years I began to make contacts within Transition, the Global Ecovillage Network and within other community-based initiatives focusing on climate change and sustainability. Then, in 2012, I received support from AEIDL, a Brussels-based association that I have worked closely with for many years, to carry out a preliminary study.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This study was a combination of desk research and interviews with key people in the countries targeted. I focused mainly on 13 countries where I knew there were community-led initiatives focusing on climate change and sustainability. The study was essentially a mapping exercise, focusing on, firstly, identifying initiatives where they existed, and then trying to better understand the scope and scale of their activities. I had a limited budget, so this study was by no means exhaustive but I think it was an important first step in terms of developing an understanding and awareness of this fledgling movement.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Movers and Shakers"><img src="/sites/" alt="movers and shakers" title="Movers and Shakers" width="650" height="336" style="font-size: 0.813em;" /></a></p><p><strong>How has it been received since you published it?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>It has been really well received. A lot of people have expressed surprise that they hadn’t heard about the initiatives featured before, especially given the scale of activities that now exist across Europe. It has certainly got the attention of policy makers in Brussels and I think this is something we need to build on.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Another important outcome of the study, however, is that it allowed me to build up a strong network of contacts across the countries studied. These contacts represent a wide range of initiatives and I sensed there was a strong interest and desire among them to work more closely together. In some cases there had already been informal interaction, but there was a clear interest in taking this to another level. So, in follow-up to the study I set about coordinating a discussion between these contacts and from this discussion the idea of establishing a formal network emerged. This has since progressed to the establishment of ECOLISE, the European network for community-led action on climate change and sustainability.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>I think this is a hugely important development. ECOLISE now brings together all the key stakeholders involved in community-led action on climate change and sustainability in Europe and I think it is well placed to build on the awareness the study has created and really set about the task of championing the cause of community-led action on climate change and sustainability in Europe.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>What is your sense of the impact that Transition has had since it began? &nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Transition has been pivotal. It has opened the door for ordinary people to get involved in reshaping their communities and in so doing reshaping society. That opportunity always existed for people, but Transition has provided the “how-to” guide, and by leading through example, has inspired people and given them the confidence to take action.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>However, I think Transition’s best days are still ahead of it. The challenge now, however, is to take Transition from being an initiative that is still largely limited to pioneering communities to a concept that is mainstreamed in the thinking and actions of every community. Of course Transition is not alone here. There are also other initiatives, such as the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), Low Carbon Communities and others, and there is also considerable knowledge and experience available in movements such as Permaculture, but the essential principles are largely the same and I think this knowledge and experience now needs to be disseminated on a much larger scale. &nbsp;&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Mainstream"><img src="/sites/" alt="mainstream" title="Mainstream" width="650" height="454" /></a></span></p><p><strong>You write that lobbying and advocacy "remains a relatively minor part of their activities and the focus is more on local rather than higher level decision making". &nbsp;Do you see this as a weakness or a strength of the Transition movement?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>For me this is a weakness, but not just of Transition, of community-based initiatives in general. It is completely understandable, as I mentioned above, as Transition is a grassroots movement and there are obviously limited resources and capacity, but I think this is an important activity. To achieve the kind of scaling up I mention above, I think the Transition approach must essentially become part of mainstream policy and thinking and for this lobbying and advocacy are essential.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>But I think this can best be achieved by initiatives like Transition and GEN and others working together, and this is why I think ECOLISE has such an important role to play in facilitating this scaling up.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>You mention what you see as the "important catalytic effect" Transition can have, and how it has the "potential to change social norms". &nbsp;Could you tell us more about what you meant by that? &nbsp;By what mechanisms do you observe that it does that?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Again, this applies to community-based action on climate change and sustainability in general, not just Transition. The catalytic effect is essentially about one community being an inspiration for others. Communities that have been successful in developing community energy projects or in reducing their carbon footprint are an important source of ideas and information for others. These communities demonstrate what can be achieved and in this way give confidence to other communities to follow suit.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Various studies have also shown that community-based initiatives tend to have a longer term impact, which goes beyond the immediate effects on carbon emissions or other indicators. These initiatives are generally more holistic in nature, covering a wide range of issues, such as food, transport, energy, etc.. so they can impact on more than one aspect of people’s lives. But the group dynamic aspect of community-led initiatives is also important. Norms are established by groups, not individuals, so this potential for growth and learning within a group environment is an essential precursor for wider behavioural change. &nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Having created this report, what do you see as the keys to Transition being able to go more mainstream? &nbsp;What, for you, might its next steps look like, and what support would most skilfully enable that?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Co-operation"><img src="/sites/" alt="cooperation" title="Co-operation" width="280" height="287" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>I think the most important thing now is for Transition to work with the other partners in ECOLISE to create the conditions that will allow for the mainstreaming of community-based action on climate change and sustainability. This is a formidable task and one which can best be achieved by working together. It requires a coherent dialogue with policy makers on why and how community-led action on climate change and sustainability should and could be mainstreamed and what supports are required. It also requires a concerted effort to promote awareness of the potential of community-led action and to make available to communities across Europe the information, tools, guidance, training and advice they need to make this happen.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>It is important to be aware however that not every community will necessarily want to become a Transition town or district, but I don’t think this should be an issue. The key thing is to mainstream the approach, to make available the learning and knowledge and to allow flexibility for communities to use this and adapt it to their own circumstances.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>How impressed were you by the evolving evidence base for Transition? &nbsp;Do you think researchers are asking the right questions, and is there a good body of evidence already would you say?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some really good work is being done in this area but I think more is required, not just for Transition but for community-led initiatives in general. To get policy makers on board and achieve the mainstreaming that is needed we need a more convincing argument as to the benefits. There is strong anecdotal evidence and some interesting studies have been carried out but we need to build on this and provide strong empirical evidence that supports the argument for mainstreaming.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>We also need to better understand the potential for replicating community-led approaches in different contexts across Europe. Local conditions on the ground vary considerably from one country, or one region, to another so we need to better understand how existing approaches can be adapted to different contexts.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>As an extension of this, we need to know what works and what doesn’t in different contexts. We need to be able to provide advice and guidance that is context specific. All of this requires a coordinated transnational approach to research and knowledge development, which is developing but still in the early stages.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>You concluded that: "Community-based approaches should not be seen in isolation. Their role must be seen in the context of wider action and an appropriate support framework must be established in order to assist the further develop and replication of these approaches, without losing their essential local, bottom-up ethos". &nbsp;What is the role that Transition groups play do you think that none of the other scales can do?&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Transition groups and other local community-led initiatives play a key role in engaging with and mobilizing local communities.&nbsp; By engaging local people they can unleash a resource that other levels can rarely unleash and facilitate the development of ideas and projects that are tailored to local needs and conditions.&nbsp; Policies and programmes developed and implemented at higher levels rarely if ever achieve this.</p><p>However, if higher levels of governance and decision making recognize this important contribution of community-led initiatives then policies and programmes can be designed&nbsp; in a way that makes space for and facilitates this local, bottom-up approach.</p><p>There is already a precedent in terms of EU rural development policy, part of which is implemented through a bottom-up, community-led approach. The European Commission has also proposed that this approach (community-led local development, or CLLD) be extended to other policy areas in the 2014-2020 programming period. This opens up a real opportunity to establish community-led approaches as an integral part of the EU’s response to climate change and sustainability.&nbsp;</p> impact interview Mon, 14 Apr 2014 07:27:36 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35324 at The Impact We're Having: Zsanett and Zoltán of Transition Hosszúhetény <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="204" title="Planting cherry trees." alt="Planting cherry trees" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Hosszúhetény is the most populous village in Baranya county, in the south of Hungary, with 3400 inhabitants. It's situated in beautiful natural surroundings at the foot of the Zengő peak of the Mecsek hills. People who live here are traditionally very proud of their natural environment, one famous example of which was in 2004, when fierce resistance from locals and green groups made the Hungarian government abandon a plan to build a&nbsp;NATO&nbsp;radar on the peak. While this event made Hosszúhetény somewhat famous, sustainability did not become a priority in everyday life of the inhabitants afterwards.</p> <p>Things began to pick up in 2007, when the local government became a founding member of the Hungarian Climate-friendly Association. Around this time a civilian climate-friendly club also started in the village, which after a few years led to various initiatives to promote local and sustainable consumption and living. A group of around 20 people worked on various projects. A local marketplace was created with weekly market days from local producers and in 2012 a <em>Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) </em>started. We have annual seed swap events and we have organized various informative programs such as movie screenings and talks about sustainability and climate awareness, gardening workshops and lectures, health days, among others.</p> <p>In December 2012 we held a screening of <em>In Transition 2.0 </em>(see photo below). The realization that there was a whole movement out there with the same objectives and ideas that we had was a heart-warming and encouraging experience. By this time we also knew that the real challenge is to keep the great ideas and projects running (the local market and the LETS had both become non-functional), and we wanted to learn how to achieve this.</p> <p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Film screening"><img src="/sites/" alt="Film screening" title="Film screening" width="650" height="488" /></a></p> <p>Eventually, a group of dedicated people participated in a Transition training weekend in October 2013. This training has given us valuable insights into the structures and dynamics of our local&nbsp; community and it has started us on a new way to Transition. We are now in the process of learning how to get the most out of ourselves and our ideas. We are improving communication with the local government, finding ways to reach more people, helping to make the local events sustainable, raising awareness on food self-sufficiency.</p> <p>We have also entered a 2-year project organized by Transition Wekerle, through which we will learn from and teach other transition communities, as well as build our local and national transition network. We believe the next years help us to strengthen our local community, learn new skills and set up new initiatives which help to make our village more resilient.</p> <p><em>By&nbsp;Zsanett Roozental-Pandur and Zoltán Hajdú&nbsp;</em></p> impact Mon, 14 Apr 2014 06:37:52 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35344 at Why I despise self checkouts with a rare and unbridled passion <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="222" title="Smiths" alt="Smiths" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's time for a rant about SACAT. &nbsp;"About what?" you might most reasonably cry. &nbsp;'Semi Attended Customer Activated Terminals', that's what. &nbsp;In plain English, it's those self checkout things that are taking over shops up and down the land. &nbsp;In 2008 there were 92,600 such units in use worldwide, by the end of this year it is expected to top 430,000. &nbsp;In the UK, 32 million shoppers now use them every week, over one third of Tesco's store transactions every week are self checkout. I recently went to WHSmith at St Panchras station in London, the first shop I've been into that is 100% self checkout. &nbsp;No staff. &nbsp;I turned around and walked back out again.<!--break--> &nbsp;</p><p>It's bad enough on the occasions when I visit my local Co-operative store, who have now just two tills with actual human beings. &nbsp;The rest is all self-checkout. &nbsp;According to Geoffrey Barraclough of BT Expedite, who installed the system in the WHSmith store at Kings Cross, such systems are great because because they:</p><blockquote><p>Enabl(e) shoppers to pay for goods quickly by making more till points available is a proven means for retailers to help boost footfall, service and sales levels". &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="self checkout"><img src="/sites/" alt="self checkout" title="self checkout" width="275" height="275" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a></p><p>That may be the case, but surely the main reason is that they need to employ less staff and thereby make more profit? &nbsp;Whenever I go into a shop which has self-checkout, I refuse to use it. &nbsp;I make a point of telling whoever is at the till that I am refusing to use it because I don't want even more staff to lose their jobs. &nbsp;It's a solidarity thing. &nbsp;But when I go to a shop that doesn't even give you the choice, sorry, they just lost a customer. &nbsp;</p><p>A few years ago I did a series of oral history interviews with people, asking for their memories of Totnes in the 1940s and 50s. &nbsp;One woman told me of her experience of doing the week's shopping:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>I used to go to the grocer’s and I could sit down, lovely.&nbsp; They’d go through your list and say yes, yes, we’ve got some new whatever it is, would you like to taste some, you’d have a little snippet of cheese or something, great, yes, we’ll have that.&nbsp; Now we’ve got a tin of broken biscuits, but they’re not too bad, half price you see, would you like them? As soon as you put a biscuit in your mouth its broken isn’t it?! &nbsp;Then they’d say “now Mrs Langford you’re going to the butchers yes yes and going to get some fish?&nbsp; Yes yes, and paraffin?&nbsp; Yes yes, and they used to say to me now bring any parcels in, we’ll put it in the box with your groceries, and bring the lot up for you.&nbsp; And they did you see.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>When I go shopping, I want to interact with people. &nbsp;Even the act of popping in to buy a newspaper involves a few words, a "how you doing?" or even just a "thanks". &nbsp;It's interaction, it's communication, it's the glue that sticks us together. &nbsp;<a href="">A study in the US</a> looking at why people use farmers markets found that 'social interaction' was one of the key reasons, people who shopped there having 10 times more conversations than people shopping in supermarkets. &nbsp;It quoted one shopper as saying:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><span>"You end up talking a lot more to other people than you do in a grocery store. &nbsp;I mean, typically you go to the grocery store and you don’t talk to anyone.&nbsp; Even the checkout people, I mean now you don’t even need to see the checkout person, you can just go through the automated line".</span></p></blockquote><p><img src="/sites/" alt="SACAT" title="SACAT" width="275" height="183" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />And if I'm checking myself out, I am doing the shop's business for them. &nbsp;Not content with assaulting high streets with out-of-town shops, and then moving onto those self same declining high streets to add "vibrancy" to them, they have now, with most of the opposition neutralised (97% of all UK groceries are now sold through just 8,000 supermarket outlets), they are getting us to do the checking out for them! &nbsp;What next? &nbsp;Stacking the shelves? &nbsp;Sweeping the floor on our way out? &nbsp;Perhaps giving the bathrooms a lick of paint?</p><p>We wouldn't expect to do those things unpaid, so why doing the check out? &nbsp;It's not as though they offer you a choice whereby if you check yourself out they give you a few percent off your bill. &nbsp;</p><p>Of course, many people might say "actually Hopkins I rather like going shopping and not having to talk to anyone", but for me that's tragic. &nbsp;Think forward. &nbsp;Imagine if we get to the stage where every business, in order to remain competitive with the staff-less chain stores, installs self checkouts? &nbsp;Imagine the day when you can do all your week's shopping without ever speaking to anyone. &nbsp;Something is lost, something as fundamental to our wellbeing as being able to hear the birdsong on a Spring morning. &nbsp;As hearing the sound of children playing. &nbsp;Civility, community, humanity, all start to unravel. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Closed"><img src="/sites/" alt="Closed" title="Closed" width="300" height="249" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a></p><p>So I say "no more!" &nbsp;Shun the soul-less cash extracting electronic leeches! &nbsp;Refuse to spend any money unless a human being is involved! &nbsp;Turn around, walk out and walk on. &nbsp;The kind of world we want our children to inherit is being shaped by the choices and the decisions we make today every time we go shopping. &nbsp;Choose community and people and conversation over blatant money-grabbing and unemployment generation.</p><p>Or even better, you might use them for a month or so, keep a note of how much time you spend operating their checkout system, and send them a bill for your time, charging them the Living Wage for your time (which is, by the way, £8.80 in London and £7.65 an hour elsewhere). &nbsp;Let's see how they like that.&nbsp;</p><p>I'll leave the final word to the great Jonathan Richman who, in four minutes and forty five seconds puts it far better than I can:</p><p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" width="650" height="488"></iframe></p> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:15:30 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35318 at Jo Hamilton on why monitoring and evaluation matters for Transition <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="198" title="Monitoring" alt="Monitoring" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>What role does measuring and evaluating your impacts have to play for Transition initiatives? &nbsp;How important is it, and how straightforward is it in a group that is already busy "doing stuff"? &nbsp;<strong><a href="">Jo Hamilton</a></strong> is a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute whose research focuses on those very questions. <span>Together with colleagues Ruth Mayne and Kersty Hobson, she is currently developing a project called <em>Monitoring and Evaluation for Sustainable Communities</em> (MESC) to develop and trial a range of tools to enable groups to self monitor and evaluate their work. &nbsp;</span>She's still recruiting groups&nbsp;<a href="">and is running 3 workshops in April and May</a> for groups who'd like more skills and insights on how to do this (more below).&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>The project idea emerged from meetings with the&nbsp;<a href="">Transition Research Network</a>, and is a collaboration between the University, Transition Network, and Low Carbon Communities Network. &nbsp;We started by asking Jo why it matters that Transition initiatives should do monitoring and evalution:</p><p>"Used well, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&amp;E)** can be part of toolkit for helping Transition Initiatives assess and make the changes that they want to achieve.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="When not monitoring and evaluating, Jo (right), plays in Oxford band The Mighty Wurlitzer."><img src="/sites/" alt="When not monitoring and evaluating, Jo (right), plays in Oxford band The Mighty Wurlitzer." title="When not monitoring and evaluating, Jo (right), plays in Oxford band The Mighty Wurlitzer." width="250" height="375" style="float: right;" class="caption" /></a>My prior experience of being involved in, supporting, and more recently research with community groups, has demonstrated the power of reflecting on what has been achieved, learning from what has worked, what hasn’t, and what unexpected outcomes there have been.&nbsp; Whilst analysing comments from feedback forms after community events has sometimes felt like the last thing I’ve wanted to do, it has always been helpful: to guide future activities, to communicate what we’ve achieved in the event, and to help us see what other changes need to take place. Positive comments can give a much needed energy boost, whilst critical or negative comments can be the starting point of another conversation and provide useful feedback.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Why does having an evidence based for your impact matter? </strong></p><p>Let’s face it, we’re not going to get ‘good feedback’ about the impact of local action from the weather or climate, so we need to see what feedback we can get from the people we’re working with, and the local environment we’re working in.</p><p>On a wider scale, having an evidence base is crucial to demonstrate what Transition initiatives have achieved, &nbsp;and to provide weight to argue for investment in local action, or policies that can enable local action to scale up. At present the evidence base is small, but growing. In addition to the evidence generated by groups themselves, in recent years there have been many academic research projects, masters and doctoral dissertations, which demonstrate impact. You can access many of these through the <a href="">Transition Research Network</a>.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>What makes a useful indicator? What is worth measuring and what isn't? </strong></p><p>Indicators are specific pieces of information that you collect, so that you can track the changes you’re aiming for. Whilst it is useful to measure the number of people who are reached by or involved in group activities, the <em>changes,</em> or outcomes, that you contribute to are the key things to measure. These could include whether somebody chooses to eco-renovate their home, switch transport modes to more low carbon forms, or exert political influence. However, alongside indicators you also need to ask questions to understand why and how the changes occur and capture unexpected outcomes.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Is monitoring and evaluation something that groups should be looking to do from Day One, or can it be something they pick up later, and if so when?</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>‘Start where you are’ is the key phrase here, as groups get initiated in different ways and have different motivations. Planning M&amp;E is similar to project planning, so integrating M&amp;E into any form of planning is most helpful at the beginning of a project, although it can also be done at any stage. Simply examining the assumptions that underpin the activities you want to carry out, and the changes that could be expected is really useful.&nbsp; Whatever stage a group is at, M&amp;E can help you learn more about what works, what isn’t working, and what could be done. We’ve compiled a step by step guide which you can download <a href="">here</a>.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>How do you see the balance between getting on and doing stuff and measuring it?&nbsp; Is there a danger that measuring things can take away the energy that gives you anything worth measuring in the first place?&nbsp; There's the balance?</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>It can be a tricky balance to strike, and many groups haven’t done M&amp;E precisely because the focus has been on the doing. However, I liken M&amp;E tools to penknives: they’re multifunctional tools, which fit in your pocket, and you know how to use them. Some penknives are nice and simple, whilst some look like they might be too cumbersome and complicated, thus are unlikely to be carried around and used. M&amp;E is a bit like that. The process of M&amp;E can be multifunctional, the trick is to select the tools you need, carry them round with you and integrate them with what you are doing anyway.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="pen knives"><img src="/sites/" alt="pen knives" title="pen knives" width="650" height="180" /></a></p><p>However, from experience and from research, I know that reflecting on what you have achieved over the past year, or reading positive feedback from an event, can be a real energy boost. Doing this with other groups can help get a wider perspective on the impact of your work, share valuable learning, and identify areas for collaboration on issues which are beyond the capacity of one group alone.&nbsp; It can be a fine tuning mechanism, to help your group set achievable goals.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some groups (for example <a href="">Low Carbon West Oxford</a>) who developed a system for M&amp;E from the beginning, have been able to demonstrate their impact to the local authority and funders, which has led to further collaborations and enabled them to replicate and scale up some of their projects.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>A lot of measuring can be incorporated into other activities that you’d be doing anyhow&nbsp; - when you’re asking for people’s contacts for emails, ask a couple of questions too. At some events, simple feedback can be provided through engaging activities such as writing thoughts and feedback on post-its.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>What are some of the principles that underpin good and worthwhile evaluation?</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Following on from the previous question, it’s good to set some guiding principles for your M&amp;E, and to ensure that you have the resources to do it well. Guiding principles could include making sure that your M&amp;E is focused and feasible, whether it’s useful for, and usable by the group.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Impact chain. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Impact chain" title="Impact chain. " width="650" height="545" /></a></p><p>You might need to generate evidence for potential funders, or to leverage more support for your work from the local authority. &nbsp;In the MESC project we’ve been selecting indicators and devising resources that will hopefully enable groups to compare themselves to others, and which can be aggregated so that there’s a more comprehensive view of what is happening at a national level.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What sorts of things might a Transition initiative want to measure? </strong></p><p>It depends what the focus of the TI is, or where the energy is for M&amp;E. You might want to measure the carbon reduction achieved from participants in your activities, how your events are helping local residents in fuel poverty access grants and other services, or how your farmers market is influencing residents’ shopping patterns and food sourcing. <span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Thermal imaging: engagement, energy monitoring, and action planning in one."><img src="/sites/" alt="Thermal imaging: engagement, energy monitoring, and action planning in one." title="Thermal imaging: engagement, energy monitoring, and action planning in one." width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></a></span></p><p><strong>Who are they doing this for? Themselves? Local government? Academics? </strong></p><p>M&amp;E can provide useful information for the group and wider movement itself, in helping you to answer the question ‘so, what has your group actually achieved?’. This can help the group feel proud of what they’ve achieved, and help plan future activities. Local and national government always want figures of what Transition Initiatives and other community energy groups have achieved, and being able to provide some of those figures can help justify funding and provide evidence for policy making (such as the recent <a href="">Community Energy Strategy</a>).<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Can groups do this alone or do they need to do it in partnership with other organisations? </strong></p><p>We’re currently trialling resources and tools to find out what groups can M&amp;E alone, and what support they need to do more. More in depth M&amp;E could involve partnering with other organisations, such as Universities, or through the Transition Research Network.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>How have you developed your resources?</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="cover"><img src="/sites/" alt="cover" title="cover" width="200" height="269" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>The <a href="">step by step guide to M&amp;E</a> and tools are based on the teams’ research knowledge and practical experience, and draw on a range of existing resources and research.</p><p>We got initial feedback on the step by step guide and some of the tools at two workshops that took place in June 2013, and we’ve developed and adapted the tools.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>Lastly, you are running three free workshops for Transition initiatives who want to find out more about this.&nbsp; Can you tell us more about those?</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Thanks, perfect plug to the workshops, which we’ll be running in three locations.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The free workshops will give you an introduction to planning your M&amp;E, and a chance to trial a range of resources. The workshops are part of the MESC project, so participants can receive follow up tailored support to help you monitor and assess impact.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><ul><li>Better understand what works and what doesn’t;</li><li>Generate data that will help you to create better reports for funders and other stakeholders;</li><li>Get a chance&nbsp; to trial a range of resources that will enable your group to self-monitor and evaluate your activities;</li><li>Inform your next steps in whatever project or initiative you are working in;</li><li>Respond to those queries of ‘<em>so what has your group actually achieved?’</em><strong style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</strong></li></ul><p><strong><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="What"><img src="/sites/" alt="what" title="What" width="650" height="450" /></a></strong></p><p><strong>Workshop Dates and Locations, all 10am – 5pm (pick one)</strong><strong style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>Sat April 12<sup>th</sup> – Oxford </strong>at School of Geography and Environment</p><p><strong>Sat April 26<sup>th</sup> – Manchester </strong>at Anthony Burgess Foundation</p><p><strong>Sat May 10<sup>th</sup></strong> – <strong>London, Lumen URC </strong>(nr Euston station)&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Advance booking is essential, and priority will be given to groups who would like to participate in the MESC project to trial the resources.&nbsp; For further information please email <a href="" target="_blank"><strong></strong></a> or <a href="">see the project website</a>.</p><p><em>**&nbsp;<strong>Monitoring</strong>&nbsp;is the collection and analysis of information about a project or programme, undertaken while the project is ongoing. &nbsp;<strong>Evaluation&nbsp;</strong>is the periodic, retrospective assessment of a project or programme.&nbsp;</em></p> impact Thu, 10 Apr 2014 07:47:42 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35256 at The impact we've having: Marie Goodwin of Transition Town Media <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="205" title="Flyer" alt="Flyer" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>“What's the catch?” she asked as she idled up to the table. The yard was filled with blankets and tables, boxes and miscellany scattered over almost every square inch except for the well-marked paths. Our information table was welcoming people at the entrance, and this question was asked over and over again to our organizing team. “What's the catch?”&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>There was no catch. Everything in the entire yard was free. You didn't need to belong to <a href="">Transition Town Media</a>. You didn't have to bring anything to take something and there certainly were no limits on how much you could take. It was all free. Media's <a href="">FreeMarket Day,</a> organized by our TTI to reduce waste, had done something even more radical than just giving away things. It had punctured people's ideas of what was possible. Something for free? What's the catch? Having to rethink the idea that there is <em>no catch</em> makes people stop and wonder, “What other impossibles are possible?”<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Transition Town Media has been a thriving TI since 2009, the first in Pennsylvania. We have many initiatives in all the areas Transition encourages, but some of our most popular are grounded in the concept of the “gift economy” as set out in Charles Eisenstein's book “<a href="">Sacred Economics.</a>” Many of us read that book together in a warm, fire-lit living room a few Januarys ago, enthusiastically discussing how to implement the practical and hopeful assertions within it into our work as Transition activists.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><img src="/sites/" alt="meting" title="meeting" width="600" height="450" /></span></p><p>At the core of our gift economy focus is a timebank. <a href="">Timebank Media</a> was created by our TTI to bring more people into Transition through the use of an alternative currency. Timebanking has done more than just that, however. It supports volunteerism in all the on-going projects in which Transition is engaged. It helps to reduce burn-out among the Steering Committee and other volunteers by providing a way for them to get their needs met in areas outside of Transition.</p><p>For example, when my family suffered a health-care crisis, with winter looming, dozens of timebankers came to my house to stack the eight cords of wood my family needed put away before winter. All of my committee-earned hours helped me and my family in a very tangible, important way. Timebanking also creates a small, stable, but necessary, flow of dollars (through membership fees) to pay for things like fliers and film-rental fees, web-hosting and office supplies. These are real costs with which every TTI has had to contend.</p><p>With two-hundred members, Timebank Media has in its three years helped to create a web of support under our community and a tangible honoring of all the work done by so many, work that is largely invisible in the traditional economy. As one of our members, Donna Cusano, relates: “Little did I know that this simple act of exchanging my time for “Time Dollars” would provide a life-affirming shift.”<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Timebanking necessitates an hour-to-hour exchange that excludes most “things.” Sadly, however, there are lots of people who need things...and lots of people with extra things. Transition Town Media has created several different initiatives to solve those problem in addition to the FreeMarket mentioned above.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The first and most impactful has been our Facebook “Swap” group. It is a hyper-local group devoted to keeping things out of landfills. Do you have something you no longer need? Post it and give it away. You will always have takers in a group with 800+ members (in a town of 5500). If you need something, ask. It will be at your doorstep within the afternoon. Usually this is done for free, although sometimes things are sold as well. What makes this group different from groups like “Craigslist,” is that it is a) local to our town, b) usually everyone is known to each other or you know people in common.</p><p>You can look that up on FB and explore the connections you have with people in advance of meeting them, c) your generosity is visible to everyone, and that counts a great deal when you are establishing a gift economy based on trust, engagement, and generosity. And finally, d) you get 800 people doing the work of Transition without even knowing they are doing it. So subversive!<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><img src="/sites/" alt="meeting" title="meeting" width="650" height="488" /></span></p><p>Our TTI also tries to scale these initiatives. The swap group is community-wide, but we also hold intimate gatherings called “<a href="">gift circles</a>” every so often. Thirty or forty people gather, share a meal, and then sit in a circle and ask of the group for something they need, and offer up something they have. At the end of the evening, everyone makes new friends and sees first-hand the effects of giving and receiving on the people around them.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Our newest gift-based initiative is going to open in June of 2014. Transition Town Media has been offered a very visible, “main street” space to create a “FreeStore.” We envision it as an extension of the Swap group and the FreeMarket. This store will take in all manner of free items, donated to us by the community, and make them available at regular hours to anyone who might be in need. You do not have to give to receive.</p><p>We are hopeful that this space will become an epicenter for our sharing community in Media, with gathering space, free books, comfortable chairs, food to share, and information about community events and larger items (like furniture) that are also available in people's homes. This space will also serve as Transition Town Media's first office space as well. It is being funded by grants (like one we just got from <a href="">Shareable</a>, making us part of their <a href="">Sharing Cities</a> initiative) and private donations from our Transition community and other interested community members. It will be staffed by Timebank Media volunteers.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Transition Town Media sees that some of its mission is to puncture the cynicism that surrounds creating real, lasting social change at the local level. <a href="">There are critics of the effectiveness of localism</a> everywhere, it seems. We feel, however, that if we can joyfully provide, without a catch, for all members of our community and serve their well-being through gift economics, the paralysis of cynicism might give way to the empowerment and agency needed to create this more beautiful world for which we, as Transition initiatives everywhere, are striving. If we give people the experience that the world is a little better than they think it is, a little more giving, a little more just, what else might be possible?<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p> impact Wed, 09 Apr 2014 06:39:22 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35305 at The impact we're having: Nicola Vernon of Transition Town Greyton <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="202" title="Greyton" alt="Greyton" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Greyton Transition Town has been in existence for just over two years and is beginning to have a significant impact on our community.&nbsp; The one way which stands out for all of our community is what a great vehicle it is to bring about social integration. &nbsp;The context of Greyton is worth noting here as background.&nbsp; When the village was founded 150 years ago, it comprised long narrow plots of land where a house could be built at one end and the rest of the land was for livestock and crops.&nbsp; Leiwater channels brought water to every plot and people of all cultures lived sustainably and peacefully side by side.&nbsp; The Group Areas Act of the 1950s declared some of those people, with a darker skin than the others, to be ‘coloured’ and therefore to be removed to the outskirts of the town where they were placed cheek by jowl in mean little houses on a rocky slope with little soil.&nbsp;</p> <p>The division this caused is still tangible and visible today, as in most of South Africa.&nbsp; Greyton has become an affluent&nbsp; English style village of oak tree lined streets and thatched cottages whilst Heuwelkroon, that rocky escarpment, continues to house most of the ‘coloured’ population and many of the social ills that result from poverty and oppression (economic now rather than legislated).&nbsp; Neighbouring Genadendal (3 kms away) fared worse.&nbsp;</p> <p>In its day it was larger than Cape Town was at the time.&nbsp; It was a stopping off point for travellers moving from West to East.&nbsp; It housed cartwrights, wheelwrights, knife makers and other fine craftsmen, the first primary school in South Africa, the first teacher training college, the first printing press.&nbsp; Its mission station is still a place of peace and beauty but the surrounding town suffers from poverty and a lack of resources.</p> <p>Into this situation let’s put the Transition movement.&nbsp; As a driver for social integration it’s the best I’ve encountered in 30 years of working in social welfare.&nbsp;&nbsp; I’m still working out the reasons as to why it is so successful.&nbsp; Part of the reason must be that we are all equal in the face of global challenges like peak oil and climate change.&nbsp; Even if the big picture is scarcely acknowledged there is an awareness that we’re all in the dwang when the shift hits the fan.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/sites/" alt="Gardening" title="Gardening" width="650" height="455" /></p> <p>Secondly, those skills that our poorer community members have had to maintain in order to survive are regarded as desirable and valuable in Transition.&nbsp; Instead of being ashamed of having to make chutney because she can’t afford to buy her own, Auntie Dora proudly presents her organic, locally grown vegetable chutneys at our weekly Wednesday fresh products exchange table where they are swooped up by all and recipes, advice demanded.&nbsp;</p> <p>A local natural building team is always in work now that the benefits of working with clay are becoming treasured once again – for insulation, availability and cost.&nbsp; Gardeners growing their own vegetables because they can’t afford to buy from shops are now having to produce surplus to meet the demands of a village becoming increasingly aware of food miles, toxicity of pesticides/herbicides and the benefits of supporting the local economy.</p> <p>Our mantra is ‘Hands-on, heart engaged’.&nbsp; Whatever we do, it’s interactive or it just doesn’t take.&nbsp; We hold very few meetings, seminars or presentations but we do a lot of events and activities like our upcoming Trash to Treasure festival&nbsp; when all sectors of our community come together for an afternoon of music, workshops, competitions and enjoyment.&nbsp; We parade from the busy Saturday farmers’ market through the village to the rehabilitated part of the town dumpsite where each visitor can engage in activities such as composting, making biochar, building a permaculture swale, stuffing eco-bricks (plastic bottles stuffed with clean dry non-recyclable waste and then used as building materials), building the eco-brick outdoor classroom (first ecobrick building in South Africa), plastering the straw bale stage wall or making clay bricks for the composting toilet block.</p> <p><img src="/sites/" alt="Greyton" title="Greyton" width="650" height="433" /></p> <p>On July 3<sup>rd</sup> we will become the first town in South Africa to be plastic bag free – with the full buy-in of the shopkeepers.&nbsp; There’s nothing like watching a dead sea bird have its stomach cut open and half a kilo of plastic waste removed from its innards to inspire a horrified shop keeper to abandon the bag.</p> <p><img src="/sites/" alt="Magda, owner of Greyton Fish and Chip shop and her assistant Cindy who removed all plastic shopping bags from the shop immediately after the Plastic Bag Free Greyton presentation." title="Magda, owner of Greyton Fish and Chip shop and her assistant Cindy who removed all plastic shopping bags from the shop immediately after the Plastic Bag Free Greyton presentation." width="650" height="432" class="caption" /></p> <p>With the help of two building engineer students from Han University in the Netherlands, an urban designer, architect and structural engineer&nbsp; (all working <em>pro bono</em>), we are drawing up the plans for a fully integrated eco-village comprising a mix of homes – sub economic housing side by side with affordable private homes, (for those able to manage a small mortgage), and with more affluent private homes.&nbsp; Solar panels, biomass digesters, grey water systems, community gardens will relieve the burden on the already overtaxed village infrastructure as well as helping to build a community.&nbsp; The ultimate residents are working with the professional team to help design and build their homes.</p> <p><img src="/sites/" alt="A bottle brick wall under construction. " title="A bottle brick wall under construction. " width="650" height="433" class="caption" /></p> <p>Our eco-crew school programme works both in the classroom and after school with nearly 80 children every week to engage the youngsters in environmental awareness and humane education.&nbsp; It astonishes me how much the children enjoy putting on plastic gloves, picking up a large black bin liner and cleaning up a river bank.&nbsp; They always ask when they are going to do it again!</p> <p><img src="/sites/" alt="River bank clear-up under way. " title="River bank clear-up under way. " width="650" height="432" class="caption" /></p> <p>We have swop shops where people bring clean dry recyclable waste and exchange it on site in a small shop for basic necessities such as fresh organic fruit and vegetables, clothing, school uniforms, stationery and toiletries.&nbsp; This uses up high end waste from the supermarkets as well as giving our local recycling entrepreneur over 700 kgs of recyclable waste from each swop shop.</p> <p>Transition in Greyton has created 18 jobs – four of them through direct employment.&nbsp; We have a project co-ordinator, PA, eco-crew co-ordinator and a trainee.&nbsp; The others have been created through our mentoring scheme.&nbsp; We are currently mentoring four green businesses –</p> <p><strong>Pure Home:&nbsp;</strong>House cleaning/management agency using only environmentally friendly, non-toxic cleaning materials which are also sold through its own retail outlet.</p> <p><strong>Pure Café:&nbsp;</strong>Vegetarian and vegan café serving only locally produced, organic, seasonal fresh food and drinks.</p> <p><strong>Tabularasa Natural Builders:&nbsp;</strong>Natural building company, currently supporting the eco-crew children and adult volunteers to build the eco-brick outdoor classroom.</p> <p><strong>Greyton Green Park:&nbsp;</strong>Chipping, composting, biochar of garden waste on the rehabilitated part of the dumpsite.</p> <p>Future schemes in the planning stages include placing solar panels on the roofs of local schools, building a green economy with job creation and local currency, and establishing a training centre for other communities wishing to adopt the transition model or a version of it.</p> impact Tue, 08 Apr 2014 09:57:00 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35299 at Nic Marks on measuring wellbeing and happiness <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="216" alt="" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Nic Marks&nbsp;founded the Centre for Wellbeing at the London-based think tank New Economics Foundation and also more recently founded <a href="">Happiness Works</a>. Much of his work has focused on measuring wellbeing and happiness, as captured in <a href="">his excellent talk from 2010</a>. &nbsp;When thinking about how a Transition initiative might measure the extent to which it is successfully helping to building wellbeing and happiness, he felt like the best place to start.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><span></span></span><iframe style="font-size: 0.813em;" src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></p><p><strong>Your current area of work is around wellbeing at work. What have you learnt from that and from your previous work that could help measure wellbeing at a community scale?</strong></p><p>The first thing to say about measuring happiness and wellbeing is that we can create measures of them but you’re never going to precisely measure them. You’re asking people to assess their experience of life really when you’re into the realm of wellbeing. What’s the quality of their experience of life? We use structured questionnaires to do that. There are lots of different precise methodologies, but basically you’re asking people their feelings on a daily basis or over the last month, and you’re asking them to assess the quality of their life and use those to create measures of happiness and wellbeing. There are some standard scales that people use and we also create them specially for the workplace.</p><p><strong>So what does wellbeing look like at a community scale? What would a happier, more resilient community look like and how might we be able to measure that?</strong></p><p>At a community level, probably the best measure is something called the <a href="">Warwick Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale</a>. This is used to ask people both their feelings and also how functional they are; whether they’re able to make decisions, whether their relationships are strong and things like that.</p><p>What would it look like? Well, the currency of wellbeing is time and relationships. A community with high levels of wellbeing and happiness is going to be one where there are strong relationships, where people get along well, accept each other’s differences, are able to be themselves, and they have time to nourish those relationships in both ways really. You have to give as well as receive in relationships.</p><p>The heart of happiness and wellbeing is relationships. There are obviously other things, particularly personal things about how much we’re learning, how much we’re able to spend time in nature and how active we are. But the core of it really is relationships.</p><p><strong>For groups who are doing Transition who want to in some way monitor and evaluate the work that they’re doing, what would be the useful places to start? Obviously if you’re a university department and you have a big research budget you can do much more extensive research, and if you’re a community initiative you don’t want to spend all the time you would otherwise spend actually doing things just measuring stuff. What would seem to be a doable place to start in terms of measuring your impact?</strong></p><p>As I said, the Warwick Edinburgh Scale does a short version, I think it’s 8 or 9 questions and the longer one does about 14. It’s free to use, you can download the questionnaire and you just tot up the score.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Nic"><img src="/sites/" alt="Nic" title="Nic" width="300" height="225" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a></p><p>Really you want to be tracking the same people through time to see whether they get happier through the project. Unfortunately there aren’t very strong online tools you can use. I’d like to build them one day. We’re building online tools for businesses at the moment, but it would be nice to be able to give something free away to communities which is an ambition but right now we don’t have that.</p><p>The other thing to frame it with is some work we did at the New Economics Foundation called the <a href="">Five Ways to Wellbeing</a>. This is something we did for the UK government office of science, their Foresight Project, which was basically trying to identify positive actions people could take to promote wellbeing. Like a piece of social marketing in a way, they’re an invitation into a wellbeing space.</p><p>And they are:</p><ul><li><strong>Connect</strong>: because social relationships are the strongest part really of happiness and wellbeing</li><li><strong>Be active</strong></li><li><strong>Take notice</strong>: noticing what’s going on around us and within us</li><li><strong>Keep learning</strong>: learning through your life course</li><li><strong>Give</strong>: volunteering, generosity, altruism are all really good for our own wellbeing as well as other people’s.</li></ul><p>Those five things I think are just enough unpacking of the idea of wellbeing and happiness to not over-confuse but to open up a space. If people are doing projects they might like to think, are they taking the boxes of connect, keep learning and give. Maybe they’re got something focused a bit more on activity or mindfulness and taking notice, or one on learning, one on volunteering, on making relationships. It can help them bring the energy of the others into those projects. So that’s a useful tool but it’s not really a measurement thing. It can guide. A lot of local authorities, local projects use the five ways as just a way to inform their wellbeing work.</p><p><strong>Quite early on in the life of this government they announced they were going to be taking wellbeing and happiness and using indicators around wellbeing and happiness. Is it possible to have an austerity agenda that actually increases happiness? How do the push to save money on such an urgent, profound scale run alongside the need to build happiness? Are the two inherently mutually incompatible or could you have a happy version of austerity?</strong></p><p>[Laughs] It’s unfortunate timing that that’s what the coalition government was doing, as they started to introduce wellbeing. It does feel like "we’re going to fob people off with the idea that we’re going to have austerity but they can be happy". It sound rather a disastrous combination.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Nic Marks"><img src="/sites/" alt="Nic Marks" title="Nic Marks" width="650" height="459" /></a></p><p>What is sure is that once you’ve got past financial insecurity which is probably more due to the level of indebtedness than income. If you’ve got high levels of debt that’s really troublesome for wellbeing. Obviously low income doesn’t help at all. You have to have enough money to enter into the space that you can participate in society and there are lots of people that are excluded, so that is very problematic. But if you can get into the space of thinking about those five ways then money, as in more income, doesn’t become exceptionally important.</p><p>There definitely is a way and there definitely are people who are living on not exceptionally high incomes and are happier than people on much higher incomes. As a general rule of course, having income protects you from particularly bad things. It’s a difficult nuance to strike there without sounding very paternalistic and very cut off from the difficulty of some people’s lives.</p><p><strong>To go back to the question, is it possible to have an economy which is contracting and cutting back on public spending and one that is growing in happiness at the same time?</strong></p><p>Theoretically. To give you an example, Iceland which has gone through a much tougher transition than we have, actually Icelandic people got happier during that, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact they were living in a bit of a stressed out economy. &nbsp;They had 15% unemployment almost immediately. Because everybody was in the same boat together there was a community spirit around unemployment.</p><p>The real problem is if you were made unemployed and had high levels of debt, then you were really suffering. If you didn’t have high levels of debt then people actually got happier, probably because they were spending more time with loved ones and relationships. How long that would last it’s difficult to know. The economy’s obviously picked up again. But there definitely was evidence that people got poorer and happier in Iceland over the last 4 years.</p><p><strong>Do you find that the concepts of happiness and wellbeing cut across the political spectrum? Are they something that appeals as much to the left as to the right?</strong></p><p>The biggest takeup’s been in the centre. But there are interesting ideas from the left and the right that meet the happiness agenda. So from the right, what’s classically called the Right, family, autonomy would be things that are really important for happiness and wellbeing. On the Left fairness, justice, respect, tolerance all are. So in some ways it’s not a left-right agenda.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Nic" title="Nic" width="275" height="183" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />I think in some ways the way that we at the New Economics Foundation and at Happiness Works think about happiness and wellbeing is a mix between individuals and the environment they find them in, the context they find them in. The Right places more emphasis on individuals and the Left places more emphasis on conditions and so how they come together is a new way of thinking about a synthesis between those two things.</p><p>The point really is some people do thrive in difficult circumstances, and people do sink in benign circumstances so there’s two things going on. But it’s also clearly true that more people thrive in good circumstances and more people sink in bad circumstances so you can decide where you put your emphasis. There are things that can appeal on both sides.</p><p><strong>Our theme this month is around the impact of Transition. What’s your sense, from where you’ve sat over the last few years of the impact that Transition has had?</strong></p><p>I see Transition popping up with interesting groups saying things and I’ve been to a couple of Transition meetings and talked to people, but I haven’t been deeply involved with the Transition network. What I’ve seen when I’ve been in Totnes or once when I was in North London groups is a very vibrant community where a lot of people are passionate about it.</p><p>Not always in the mainstream, so I would think the challenge must be – Totnes less so, in Totnes it is fairly mainstream – but in lots places how to get more involved with the mainstream I’m sure is a challenge. That’s a challenge we all face in this agenda of getting people to take climate change seriously and to take social challenges seriously, how do we take them mainstream.</p><p><strong>In the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica had the world’s highest score. What have they got that we haven’t?</strong></p><p>First of all, Latin American cultures generally do pretty well on happiness and wellbeing. They have a similar level of life expectancy and a similar level of GDP per capita as the Eastern European transition countries but they have much much higher levels of happiness and that’s really to do with their attitude, their joie de vivre rather than a more Eastern downtempo sort of thing, but most importantly they have very strong communities, very strong social connections, social participation which simply isn’t present in central Eastern Europe. So they’ve got these very strong relationships which is one really important thing.</p><p>Costa Rica specifically has done some very interesting things. It abolished the army in 1947 and has invested that money in social projects so education and health are really good and that’s shown in their life expectancy, which is higher than the USA and their literacy rates are spectacularly higher than the USA so they’ve actually got really good social and health outcomes there. They also have a geographical strategic advantage in that they have hydro.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Nic and a tree"><img src="/sites/" alt="Nic and a tree" title="Nic and a tree" width="650" height="366" /></a></p><p>From a carbon perspective they can be much more renewable than many other places. Iceland is the same, having geo-thermal energy. Where I live part of the time, Norway, similarly has hydro so their actual use of energy themselves is more sustainable. I call them fossil fuel pimps because they basically live off the earnings of fossil fuels in Norway. So Costa Rica does have a strategic advantage in that way. It all adds up really. If you think of the Happy Planet Index really as saying what’s the environmental efficiency of delivering wellbeing, as they end up delivering higher life expectancy, more happiness on a quarter of the carbon footprint of the USA. That’s interesting.</p><p><strong>Kevin Anderson is often heard to say that staying below 2°C and economic growth are incompatible, but at the same time the push is always for more and more growth. Is there any way you see that we’ll ever choose as a society, as a culture, to leave the growth-based economy behind and if so, what role might a narrative based around happiness play in that?</strong></p><p>In a sense that’s been the thrust of my work over the last 15 years, which is that I started working on alternative measures to GDP in 1992-93. Me and Professor Tim Jackson at Surrey University who wrote <em>Prosperity without Growth, </em>we worked on an early version of something called the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare. Basically we were trying to add up the cost of climate change and the costs of other things and take them off GDP.</p><p>For me, that is the point of wellbeing. It has to change the discourse which is to say that economic indicators of progress are always saying more is always better. Actually I think we need to think about the quality of the experience we have and that’s why I’ve got interested in wellbeing. It was my driver. My driver was a sustainability driver to get into happiness and wellbeing in the first place. Humans are the problem in the system, so how do we think about that.</p><p>It becomes an intractable problem. If you think that GDP growth is a measure of the wellbeing of society, we all know that if you grow GDP you grow the throughput of materials and resources through the economy which is going to inevitably create sink and source problems – where does the carbon go and where do you get it from. &nbsp;That throughput is hugely problematic and I think the only escape out of there is quality of life, and not thinking that quality of life is everybody on the planet having Mercedes and widescreen TVs and all of that.</p><p>How do we actually do that in a way that is sustainable? It’s this tension between good lives now, because everybody wants quality of life now. No politician can go to the poll and say we’re going to make life worse. Perhaps they’d do that in a war scenario, maybe Thatcher managed that a little bit, but you can’t really do that. The tension between quality of life now and quality of life in the future – it’s too easy, particularly with our short-term cycles of government, to avoid issues.</p><p>The governmental equivalent of nimbyism, not in my back yard, is NIMTFO (not in my term of office). Climate change gets pushed off into the future, it’s someone else’s problem. Regrettably, that’s where we remain stuck, and that’s why I’ve certainly been dedicating most of my adult life to thinking of new ways of measuring progress because I think we get it wrong. I think if we got it right we wouldn’t be so frightened of having to not have future gains in consumption. That’s probably the way to think about it, rather than giving up consumption. It’s actually how do we stabilise it first and how do we de-carbonise it.</p><p>There’s relative poverty and there’s absolute poverty, the relative poverty would get less bad if we didn’t have people who were super rich at the top of the income spectrum. The absolute poverty absolutely needs dealing with. For the rest of us, money only buys us a bigger car and a bigger house and a dew holidays, but actually if we had less and we had more time then it probably would be a better life. People hang on to what they’ve got. They hang on to what they know, and it’s quite difficult to move beyond that.</p><p><strong>Lastly do you think there is an evidence base building now that more localised, more resilient economies would be happier economies?</strong></p><p>I don’t know of very specific studies that show that absolutely, but if you take a reading of the literature of it, everything about wellbeing and happiness is proximal, is close to us. So the logic of everything being local is absolutely playing into the logic of happiness and wellbeing. I can’t believe that that is not a good outcome and not a good possibility. There definitely are big differences between communities in terms of happiness and wellbeing. Even independent of things like the Index of Multiple Deprivation and things like that. There are places where things are going great and things that are going less well that are independent of financial matters. There’s lots and lots of potential to do things independently of that, for sure.&nbsp;</p> impact interview Tue, 08 Apr 2014 09:10:10 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35297 at The impact we're having: Stephanie Hofielen of From the Ground Up <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="302" title="The From the Ground Up crew" alt="The From the Ground Up crew" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="">From the Ground Up</a> (FGU) was launched in March 2010 by <a href="">Transition Town Kingston</a> with the mission to bring affordable, local organic fresh food to our communities.&nbsp; Dissatisfied with the limited variety, variable quality and high cost of fresh organic food from our conventional sources, Transition Town Kingston took action.<!--break--></p><p>FGU was built on these principles:</p><ul><li>Supply a&nbsp;<strong>wid</strong><strong>e&nbsp;variety of fresh fruit &amp; veg and more</strong> that are either certified organic, in conversion to organic and/or naturally produced without pesticides</li><li>Offer food&nbsp;<strong>below market prices</strong>, making it affordable to most, not a luxury for the few</li><li>Only sell food that is&nbsp;<strong>seasonal</strong>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<strong>local</strong>&nbsp;when possible with preference given to UK suppliers and nearby European countries only</li><li>Provide a <strong>positive shopping experience</strong> by having an online shop and not requiring a minimum purchase or needing to buy a box. This minimises food wastage by customers only buying what they want, not what is given them</li><li>Customers collect their food rather than FGU delivering it, <strong>minimizing the need to build an expensive infrastructure</strong></li><li><strong>Build a community</strong> of like minded individuals through public engagement, social activities and&nbsp;voluntary working<strong style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</strong></li></ul><p>Four years and over 350 supporters later, FGU has not deviated from its original mandate.&nbsp; Today we work from two venues on alternate weeks with teams of enthusiastic volunteers lovingly packing customer orders.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Packing boxes"><img src="/sites/" alt="Packing boxes" title="Packing boxes" width="650" height="488" /></a></span></p><p>We believe FGU’s main impact on the community is the breaking down of financial barriers to buying organic food.&nbsp; Many of our customers have told us that whilst they agree with the principles underpinning organic food, the prices in the shops make it prohibitive to support organic farming.&nbsp;&nbsp; Our proximity to London makes it very difficult to either find and/or buy from a local organic farm.&nbsp; So, FGU with its main supplier, Choice Organics, bring the farms to Kingston, making quality local organic food available. &nbsp;&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>FGU is also selling items from local producers (e.g. honey, bread) and is a buying group for SUMA, the UK’s largest wholesaler of ethical products.&nbsp; This combined with the fresh food from FGU can offer a person the opportunity to not buying as much from other conventional shops.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><img src="/sites/" alt="FGU recently celebrated their fourth birthday. " title="FGU recently celebrated their fourth birthday. " width="640" height="480" class="caption" /></span></p><p>Overall, FGU’s impact on the community is a positive one.&nbsp; We earned ‘Commended’ from the Time &amp; Leisure Eat &amp; Drink Awards 2013 for SW London &amp; Surrey, and from the Kingston Business Excellence Council for "Best Green Business 2013". &nbsp;Here is a video about us:&nbsp;</p><p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" frameborder="0" width="650" height="366"></iframe></p> impact Fri, 04 Apr 2014 06:40:17 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35253 at Sir David King on climate change as "the biggest diplomatic challenge of all time" <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="180" title="Sir David King" alt="Sir David King" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>We are really honoured to be able to share with you today an interview with Sir David King. &nbsp;Sir David is currently&nbsp;Special Representative to the Foreign Secretary in the UK on climate change. For 7 years, between 2000 and 2007, he was Chief Scientific Advisor. &nbsp;Much of his current role is focused around the&nbsp;negotiations for an international treaty in December 2015 in Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). &nbsp;He calls this "the big moment to achieve a global agreement", adding "I believe this is the world’s biggest diplomatic challenge, I’m even going to say the biggest diplomatic challenge of all time". &nbsp;He spoke to Transition Network's Sarah McAdam.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;<!--break--></span></p><p><strong style="font-size: 0.813em;"><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></strong></p><p><strong>As you engage with governments around the world, where do you see the most positive action being taken to address climate change?</strong></p><p>Britain set in train the process and I think it’s fair to say that we lead the world through our Climate Change Act in 2008. I was one of the players behind the generation of that Act and in that Act, the British government with an all-party agreement agreed to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050 and also agreed that we should have four yearly carbon budgets going out towards that date so that we could make sure that we were on target. The carbon budgets are set out by a Climate Change Committee and a Climate Change Office and we have carbon budgets to date until 2028. They’re currently working on the budget for 2032.</p><p>Britain, I would say, leads the world because we’ve got this very detailed parliamentary process built in. It’s worth saying that for us, it was very heavily pushed on us, the carbon budgets into the future by the private sector, saying that if they invest in low carbon energy they want certainty that that is going to be the process into the future.</p><p>When we look outside Britain, the EU has adopted very close to the British position. The European Commissioners have agreed to recommend to the council, which happens to be meeting today – the council of prime ministers and heads of state, that we should across Europe reduce our emissions by 40% by 2030 and that will be our contribution that we will take forward to the international negotiations. So the 27 nations of Europe are leading the way with that announcement.</p><p>Mexico, you may be surprised to hear, has in effect passed a parliamentary process which is very similar to the British process and also commits their future governments to long-term programmes of reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.</p><p>We are beginning to see actions in many of the developing countries around the world. Countries that include South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil. Many countries are already enforcing low-carbon futures and avoided deforestation actions. That’s not to say there isn’t more to be done but countries are aligning themselves. Russia, for example, president Putin in November last year made the first ever announcement of a presidential decree on climate change, stating that Russia will reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 27% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.</p><p>There is a good deal of action, but as I say, a considerable way to go before we can be confident about an agreement in Paris in 2015 that matches up to the nature of the challenge.</p><p><strong>Do you still believe that it is possible for global warming to stay below 2°?</strong></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Sir David King"><img src="/sites/" alt="Sir David King" title="Sir David King" width="300" height="180" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>Let me answer that by saying what is needed to keep within that target because the scientific panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the several thousand scientists who have recently put in their latest report, have phrased this in very dark terms.</p><p>At the moment, globally greenhouse gases are increasing by 1.8% per annum and have been doing this for the last 10-15 years. If we carry on burning fossil fuels and increasing greenhouse gases at that rate, by 2043 we would have completely consumed our carbon budget and would have to drop to zero immediately by 2044 if we were going to stay within that 2°C limit.</p><p>What this means is this is now a very urgent problem. If we do get good agreement in Paris in 2015, and if that agreement really produces the results in 2020, starting in 2020, then we can reduce emissions starting in 2020 at a rate of 3.2% per annum and stay within our carbon budget. That’s the nature of the challenge. By 2020, we have to switch from increasing emissions across the world at 1.8% per annum to decreasing at 3.2% per annum. That’s a very big challenge, but that is what margin we’re left with in managing this very very important problem.</p><p><strong>Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre argues that it’s impossible adequately to respond to climate change and have economic growth. Where do you stand on this?</strong></p><p>It’s impossible to have economic growth if we allow climate change to continue. I would say this with a great deal of certainty. If we look at the world we’re likely to go into as we move forward, if we don’t manage this problem, we are looking at a world in which, by the end of the century, we may have reached a 4.5°C temperature rise, sea levels rising by 75cm to a metre. We would be seeing major cities around the world, including London, under severe threat of continuation. The loss of farming and hence the ability to produce food and many other parameters, fresh water challenges, all of these challenges mean that it is simply pie in the sky to talk about growing our GDP under those circumstances.</p><p>Let me just paint a picture around the issue of environmental migration. For countries that are low-lying such as the small island states such as Britain and Bangladesh, as the sea level rises the civilisation on those areas of land populations will have to withdraw to higher areas of land. In Bangladesh we’re talking about an area of the world that is very densely populated and it is highly likely therefore that from all these island states and countries like Bangladesh, there will be an environmental migration at a level we have never seen before. This is going to cause all sorts of disturbance to the global economy.</p><p>We see the beginnings of this kind of action in the Arab Spring, where this rapid rise in food prices coupled with the rise in mineral prices and oil prices, all giving a threefold increase in a few years in these prices, caused real concern about people’s ability to buy the food that they need to continue to live. The notion of continued GDP rise in the face of the impact of extreme weather events is very unrealistic.</p><p><strong>You paint a very stark, a very clear picture, but one that is very difficult for governments to take on board or acknowledge. Do you think politicians are recognising the description that you just gave?</strong></p><p>There’s some good news there. The Foreign Secretary certainly recognises that and in making my appointment to this role, he was in a very clear position of saying “I want to underline my commitment to this challenge”. His counterpart in the United States, John Kerry, has been making around the world some quite remarkable speeches about what he considers to be the biggest challenge our civilisation has been faced with.</p><p>He’s describing this just to catch the attention of people as rather like a very large nuclear weapon that we’re sitting on. He feels that this is something that the world needs to act on. As I say, President Putin, and this may be a big surprise, has made a clear statement about climate change. Our own Prime Minister recently underscored the British all party agreement in 2008 with his statement about the floods and the impact of climate change here in Britain. There are good signs.</p><p>Amongst the developing countries I would say there are some extraordinarily good leaders who see the problems very clearly. Ban Ki Moon has called for a meeting of heads of states in September in New York, and this is going to be an opportunity for those voices who are at the helm, those people who are in a leadership position to express their views clearly to the international community.</p><p><strong>In <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/prof-myles-allen-climate-change-flooding-and-carbon-capture-silver-bullet">our recent interview with Myles Allen</a>, he argued that only a huge roll out of carbon capture and storage could keep global warming below 2°. Is he right to put so much faith in a relatively untested and still experimental technology?</strong></p><p>I don’t think he’s right. I think Myles is wrong on this issue because I fear that we should not pursue a technology as a potential solution before we know we can deliver it as a solution. We know that carbon capture and storage from power stations that are run by coal is a do-able process, and in particular we know that we can capture the carbon dioxide, and we can store it in oil fields that are depleted of oil. The oil companies have been using those oil fields to store carbon dioxide, but in particular to extract the remaining oil from them.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Sir David King" title="Sir David King" width="290" height="174" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />That’s doable, but there’s not enough room in those particular underground caverns to contain the amount of carbon dioxide that we are emitting. We therefore have to shift over to saline aquifers.<strong> </strong>We need non-saline aquifers for the fresh water which we’re rapidly running into short supply across the world for. We need to be using saline aquifers for carbon dioxide capture and storage and that’s as yet an untested business. In other words, we don’t really know, once we’ve put the carbon dioxide down there, whether we can securely cap the stores.</p><p>Incidentally, and I think this is another important part of the story, the cost of carbon dioxide capture and storage is so high and the energy used in the process so high, we’re talking about 30% of the output of a coal fired power station going into the capture and storage process. The cost is so high that it would probably mean that coal fired power stations would have to be shut own because other forms of energy are rapidly becoming very competitive.&nbsp; This is the bit that I think Myles Allen is completely missing out on.</p><p>If we look at the cost today of the installation of photovoltaic systems, it is five times cheaper to install PV systems today than it was 10 years ago. What has happened is that the feed-in tariffs first introduced in Germany in 1989 and then rapidly spreading across the European Union has meant that the volume of production of photovoltaics has increased year on year. With every year of production the cost has come down 17% on average.</p><p>Today, in many parts of the world where solar energy is available, in other words in sunny climates, the use of solar photovoltaics is already competitive in producing electricity on the grid. So who would use coal with carbon capture and storage if you could rather use a renewable such as PVs?</p><p>Now there is a problem with PVs, as with wind, that these are intermittent sources. A much more important piece of technology to focus on is the development of large-scale energy storage. That in my view is the Cinderella of research. I would focus heavily on developing large scale energy storage because it would be transformative. If you look at India today, I believe that India would rapidly switch across. They could use deserts in Rajasthan as a source of electricity from PVs, they would rapidly move across to that development rather than continuing the process of coal mining; coal miners still dying every year and at the same time pollution levels in the atmosphere in India and in China are so high that both countries are trying to see how they can avoid coal usage. I think this is a danger that we focus on the wrong expenditure in terms of technologies that can be transformative.</p><p><strong>Given the benefits that you’ve just described that can be derived from storage technology, why is the focus not going in that direction?</strong></p><p>That’s a very good question and I believe the answer is that feed in tariffs were meant to provide the solution that is appearing, which is the lower cost of installation of the energy sources. It’s not been as efficient as wind. With wind, the figure is more like 7 or 8% fall with every doubling of production, but I think that none of the mechanisms we’ve put in place have pulled energy storage technologies through into the marketplace.</p><p>A group of us are very keen to establish a major new programme, a global programme of research, publicly funded and privately, but I stress publicly funded research, aimed at developing the storage capacity we need. This should be an effort from the research and development end through the demonstration part of the process, and into deployment. In other words, &nbsp;I would like to see heavily subsidised deployment of large-scale energy storage as it becomes available in the marketplace so that once again the cost can be brought down as the volume of deployment goes up, and that will then become a worldwide facility.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Sir David King" title="Sir David King" width="290" height="174" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />By the way, and I think this is very important, most villages in Africa and India are off the electricity grid. The people in those villages, hundreds of millions of people without any electricity at all. Getting those villages onto the grid is extremely expensive, which is why the governments of those parts of the world have not yet extended into those villages.</p><p>But the cost of installing PVs with micro grids in those villages is on average about three times lower, even at today’s PV prices. This means there’s another big market for PVs emerging in those two parts of the world. Once again, volume will keep going up and the cost of PV installation will fall well below the cost of installing energy systems based on fossil fuels. There’s a very real future for sun power to become the major form of energy production in the future. Now you couple that with the availability of large-scale energy storage and you’re moving to a position where you can say we can actually crack this problem.</p><p><strong>Where should leadership on climate change be coming from? We’ve talked quite a lot about government but there’s also business and communities. I’m particularly interested in the role you see communities having.</strong></p><p>First of all, let me say there are a number of really outstanding business leaders who get this whole message and who are advocates of action on climate change and who are doing it in their own companies. This is extremely important because it helps politicians enormously to be able to say that the private sector is supportive of their actions. In terms of the public, we talked earlier about individual leaders in the political scene. Leaders of the visionary capability of a Mandela or a Gorbachev are actually in short supply. There’s an almost empty stage for international political leaders to step onto and really show the way forward to the rest of us.</p><p>But what will generate people to move onto that stage, I have no doubt, is public opinion. And so it is critically important that the NGOs and the public voice is heard through the media. I think that one could hardly overemphasise the importance of this.</p><p>In the run-up to Copenhagen, we had a good position across the media in western countries. In many developing parts of the world, it’s still quite good. But the arrival of the lobbies against climate change has seemed to turn the media’s attention away from the enormous challenge of this position. We are talking about something that the planet has never had to face up to before, because it requires joint action by all communities, by all societies, by all countries to manage this problem. We’ve never been in that position before. I think that the challenge therefore for the political system is so large that it needs the push and back-up from the public voice.</p><p><strong>In relation to that, we’ve found that having access to information about climate change doesn’t necessarily engage people in a response. Similarly, being exposed to extreme weather events also doesn’t have that impact. I wondered what you thought was the most effective way of engaging the public with this issue?</strong></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Sir David King" title="Sir David King" width="290" height="174" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />You’re quite right although there are many counter examples. It’s fair to say that many people understand the business of the floods and climate change being related in the UK and just to stress that for a moment, in 2004 I put in a report to government as chief scientific advisor from a very large scale study on flooding risks to the United Kingdom and what we needed to do about it.</p><p>That report was prepared by about 110 scientists, engineers, climate scientists, social scientists, and it took them three years to reach their conclusions. The conclusion was relatively stark. It was that we needed to improve our flood defences, we needed to improve water management because the biggest risk to the British Isles from climate change would be from flooding this side of the end of the century.</p><p>The floods that recently happened were just the kind of event that we were talking about managing risk to. It’s fair to say that many of our proposals were put in place and most of the country’s major assets were actually saved as a result of that. Anyone who studies this ought to know that that is the case. We probably have 10 to 15 billion pounds’ of damage, but it could have been hundreds of billions of pounds’ of damage if we hadn’t stopped the floods from going into our major cities such as London and into our major assets. It is quite important to somehow dig that message out and get it into the public domain.</p><p>But if you take a counter example, the new government in Australia has maintained the commitment to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide by 2020 by 5% but nevertheless are at the moment very slow to take action on climate change and to recognise the relationship the extraordinary hot summer that they’ve just had in South Australia, the highest temperatures ever recorded in South Australia, Melbourne. This follows 10-15 years of drought and high temperatures in that region which is, if you go to the climate science predictions, precisely what they were predicting.</p><p>You’re quite right, extreme weather events don’t always lead to the conclusion that people understand the nature of the challenge. Russia, on the other hand, are swinging around now. The severe summer in Moscow and the melting of the permafrost in Russia has been a wake up call. We may say that the hot summer in Russia was such an extreme event that it can’t all be attributed to climate change – of course that is true.</p><p>But it is nevertheless an indicator to the Russian population that climate change is a severe threat to the Russian people. It’s not just that a warmer climate is going to be nicer for them. It’s going to mean longer growing seasons which is what was said before. Just as in Britain we can’t say that climate science will be better for us because we’ll grow wine that will be competitive with France and Spain, however nice that will be, we’ve seen that the floods are so counter-productive that the impacts are more severe.</p><p>Extreme weather events, which are likely to increase in frequency as we move forward in time, are a wake up call but aren’t always read in that way just as you say.</p><p><strong>You mentioned the importance of getting this issue discussed in a meaningful way in the mainstream media. The BBC’s recent coverage of climate change seems still to be labouring under the assumption that balance means giving a platform to climate sceptics. Is this still appropriate?</strong></p><p>Of course it’s not appropriate. We’re in a situation where 99% of the climate science community believe that climate change is happening and is due to mankind’s influence over the last 50 years. They’re able to say this with 95% certainty. If we said this, say, about a new vaccine arriving to prevent some transmittable disease and the scientific community said they were 95% certain that this would stop the transmission of that disease, I doubt that you would have an outcry against the scientific community of the kind which happened here.</p><p>It is, in my view, quite extraordinary that we can still try to get a so-called “balanced view” between the clear scientific opinion and the people who, mostly, are not even close to the science themselves. I find it quite remarkable.</p><p><strong>As you know, our theme this month has been “living with climate change”. As someone who works with this issue every day, how do you deal with it? How do you cope with the depth and the enormity of the issue and deal with it emotionally?</strong></p><p>I cope by having a very exhausting schedule. I met with delegations from 10 different countries this year and so my waking hours are actually spent in negotiations and working with leaders in other countries, negotiating teams, talking to leaders of NGOs. When I make visits to other countries, so for example, to India, I met with leaders of major NGOs. I spoke to the parliament, the Indian parliament; I met the head of the planning commission in India, met the key ministers. I also met with a whole range of other leaders including people at the Bombay stock exchange where I gave an address. So I don’t confine myself to the political leaders but I try to meet as many of the influencers as I can on these trips.</p><p><strong>And you’re saying that you find emotional support from seeing that breadth of interest in the issue and the commitment to the issue?</strong></p><p>Yes, exactly. And I think because I’m so deeply involved in the actions and I think obviously what is critical is getting positive feedback and I am getting positive feedback wherever I go. But this isn’t a stress-free life I’m describing. I might also add I’m a bit of a stress-free zone. I still sleep well at night.</p> climate interview Thu, 03 Apr 2014 08:23:45 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35245 at On Transition's impact and reimagining the road to Paris 2015 <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="233" title="impact" alt="impact" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="">Monday's IPCC's report</a> presented a stark and focused reminder that business as usual will lead to&nbsp;<span>"severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts", and that the impacts of climate change are already "<span>widespread and consequential". &nbsp;</span></span>Our theme for April is "what is the impact of Transition, and how do we know?" In this piece, I want to explore three questions. &nbsp;What is the impact we hoped Transition would have when we first came up with the idea, what impact are we actually having, and what could we be doing differently to increase that impact? Big questions, especially in the light of the IPCC's report. &nbsp;Although we'll go into them in more depth as the month goes on, let's make a first stab at them here. I also want to run an idea past you.&nbsp;</p><p><!--break--></p><p><strong>What impact should we be seeking to have?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>The draft <a href="/sites/">Strategy for Transition Network</a> captures this quite nicely:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>When we use the term "Transition" we’re talking about the changes we need to make to get to a low-carbon, socially-just, healthier and happier future, which is more enriching and more gentle on the earth than the way most of us live today.</span></p><p><span><span></span><span>In our vision of the future, people work together to find ways to live with a lot less reliance on fossil fuels, much reduced carbon emissions, improved wellbeing for all and stronger local economies. &nbsp;The Transition movement is a social experiment, in which communities learn from each other and are part of a global and historic push towards a better future for us and the planet.</span></span></p></blockquote><p>The idea has always been to serve as a 'detox' for the West, as an approach that makes the process of reducing carbon emissions and oil dependency feel like a move towards something rather than a move away from something. &nbsp;It has sought to be a depoliticised and viral approach. &nbsp;A call to a mass rolling-up of sleeves and getting to work. &nbsp;It has been an exploration of the extent to which it is possible to influence change from the bottom up in a constructive and solutions-focused manner. &nbsp;The intention has been to be one of the ideas "lying around" in Milton Friedman's famous quote:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>“Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”</p></blockquote><p>In <a href="/transition-companion">The Transition Companion</a>, Transition is framed as being a number of things simultaneously,&nbsp;an inner process,&nbsp;leading by practical example,&nbsp;an approach rooted in place and circumstance,&nbsp;a tool for turning problems into solutions, a&nbsp;cultural shift,&nbsp;an economic process and a&nbsp;storyteller. &nbsp;Ambitious? &nbsp;Yes. &nbsp;These are times that demand ambitious responses. &nbsp;As does the IPCC report. &nbsp;But how are we doing?&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="The Mayor of Bristol celebrating the fact Bristol Pounds can now be spent on the city&#039;s buses. " title="The Mayor of Bristol celebrating the fact Bristol Pounds can now be spent on the city&#039;s buses. " width="650" height="384" class="caption" /></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What impact are we actually having?&nbsp;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">This is a big question. &nbsp;We shall be exploring it this month in some depth. &nbsp;We'll be talking to science historian and author of <em>The Merchants of Doubt</em> Naomi Oreskes. &nbsp;We'll talk to Gill Seyfang, the academic who has probably done more Transition-related research than anyone else and to Jo Hamilton, a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, who is currently developing ways to enable Transition groups to measure their impact. &nbsp;We'll ask Michael Shuman for his thoughts on how to evaluate the success or otherwise of any resilience-building/localisation process. &nbsp;We'll discuss resilience/happiness indicators with Nic Marks and Lorenzo Chelleri. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">We'll ask Eamon O'Hara, author of the recent&nbsp;<a href="">Local communities leading the way to a low-carbon society</a> report from AIEDL for his sense of the impact Transition is having in the European context. &nbsp;Various researchers who have done interesting research on Transition/community resilience will share their findings, with the only stipulation being that they do so in as plain English as possible. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">We will also be hearing from Transition initiatives around the world their answers to the question "<span>tell us one way Transition has affected you or your community?" &nbsp;We'll also hear, as we do every month, from Sophy Banks on her thoughts on all this from an inner Transition perspective. And if there's anyone else you think we should be talking to, please let us know.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Let's do a few quick answers to a few impact-related questions. &nbsp;Firstly, is interest in implementing the Transition model gaining pace? &nbsp;This graph from the <a href="">AIEDL study of Transition in Europe</a> suggests so:&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="TIS"><img src="/sites/" alt="TIs" title="TIS" width="650" height="417" /></a></p><p dir="ltr">Do Transition initiatives consider that the work they are doing is going well? &nbsp;According to <a href="">a recent study from the Walker Institute at the University of Reading</a>,&nbsp;75.7% of Transition initiatives considered themselves very or fairly successful.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;"> &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Is their work leading to practical changes at the community level? The evidence of that can be seen in <a href="/news/2014-03-12/march-2014-round-what-s-happening-out-world-transition">the regular Roundups that we do on this website</a>, and from the stories we'll be hearing this month. &nbsp;Also, the benefits people experience from getting involved might not always be what you might expect. &nbsp;<a href="">Research done on the Transition Streets initiative in Totnes</a> found that:</p><blockquote><p>Every person experienced the 'feeling of taking positive action about issues that concern me', and all but three had 'better relationships with my neighbours' as a result".&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>How does Transition contribute to the wider discussions around how to enable behaviour change on the scale demanded by climate change? &nbsp;The AIEDL study concludes:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">These initiatives have been shown to be effective in bringing about behavioural change and in helping to establish new norms in society. &nbsp;The wider application of these approaches must, therefore, be seen as an essential element of any broader strategy on climate change. &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">What are the principal challenges Transition initiatives face? &nbsp;<a href="">Research by Blake Poland</a> (who we'll hear from later this month) looking at Transition in Canada, identified the three biggest challenges groups are facing:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>'People' were the challenge most often reported, including leadership succession, recruiting and retaining volunteers, getting participants out to events and maintaining momentum. Another big challenge was raising awareness, including the&nbsp;ability to reach new audiences, community complacency, lack of perceived credibility, and building partnerships. The third&nbsp;biggest challenge was a lack of available resources such as funding.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><img src="/sites/" alt="Members of Transition Loughborough out picking up litter. " title="Members of Transition Loughborough out picking up litter. " width="650" height="485" class="caption" /></p><p dir="ltr">Can Transition's approach of tackling big political issues in a non-adversarial way ever hope to work? &nbsp;<a href="">Research by Andrea Felicetti</a>&nbsp;(who we'll also hear from) at the University of Canberra suggests that Transition is:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"...characterised by a markedly non-adversarial approach, and that, whilst pursuing radical objectives, refrains from using confrontational means ... although Transition can be understood as a social movement, the above feature represents an&nbsp;interesting difference between Transition and other movements".</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Do we know yet what are the characteristics of a successful Transition initiative? &nbsp;According to the Reading study, they are:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">A large number of founders, a good representation of diversity in the broader community, the presence and size of a steering group, the organization in thematic subgroups, the official TN recognition, the acquisition of a legal statutory form, specific training in transition and permaculture practice, resources (time and external funds), location (rural, rather than urban), a favourable context (i.e. perception of the TI by other actors), and cooperation with other actors (e.g. local authorities, business, media, other TIs).</p></blockquote><p>Can Transition work in the developing world? A <a href="">study looking at Transition in the context of South African townships</a> concluded that "there are also lessons to be learned from the Transition town movement&nbsp;in so-called developed societies".</p><p>Does having Transition, or Transition-like initiatives increase the resilience of a community hit by a natural disaster? &nbsp;<a href="">Some research focusing on Lyttleton in New Zealand</a> concluded:</p><blockquote><p>There is significant evidence in this research that grassroots action can provide a unique perspective on the needs and requirements of the local communities they are based in. If community support networks such as Project Lyttelton were extended throughout other communities the resilience of wider urban areas and countries may be&nbsp;significantly improved.</p></blockquote><p><img src="/sites/" alt="A panel of speakers at the launch of Transition Kitchiner/Waterloo Climate Adaptation Toolkit. " title="A panel of speakers at the launch of Transition Kitchiner/Waterloo Climate Adaptation Toolkit. " width="640" height="480" class="caption" /></p><p>Can the kind of bottom-up response Transition, focusing on getting people together to do stuff together, actually be a key tool in engaging communities in responding to climate change? &nbsp;A <a href="">recent study by Joseph Rowntree Foundation</a> concluded that:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>"Improvements in&nbsp;community social capital, while being one of the hardest outcomes to achieve, may ultimately provide the greatest benefit and lead to local&nbsp;championing of pro-environmental change".</p></blockquote><p>That's just a taster. &nbsp;I plan to gather more from the growing evidence base during this month to reflect upon once we've heard from all our contributors, and they will no doubt throw more light on this question as the month goes by. So let's move on to our last, and possibly most important question.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What could we be doing differently to increase that impact? And an idea.&nbsp;</strong></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Paris" title="Paris" width="301" height="232" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></p><p>So here's where I want to try something out on you. &nbsp;I have <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-01/5-factors-will-enable-transition-scale">written previously here about some of the ways I think Transition could increase it's impact</a>, suggesting that key to that are creating a learning network, supporting and resourcing core groups, bringing forward investment for Transition enterprises, becoming better storytellers and building an evidence base (which is kind of what we're doing this month). So what else might we do?</p><p>In Paris, in December 2015, world leaders will meet for COP21, the latest round in the UN's pursuit of an international agreement on climate change. &nbsp;In the interview with Sir David King which we'll be publishing later this week he makes it very clear that there is a huge amount of diplomacy going on behind the scenes, and that he is hopeful that this time, finally, a sufficiently ambitious agreement is within reach. &nbsp;I'd like to run past you an idea, still evolving, about what the Transition movement might be able to do to help this push.&nbsp;</p><p>Every time these things have happened before, we have seen the standard campaigning response. &nbsp;International campaigns to put pressure on delegates and politicians to "do the right thing". &nbsp;People in polar bear suits marching with banners. &nbsp;Yet none of those approaches, at least so far as I can tell, have made any difference. &nbsp;I am reminded of what Andy Lipkis said <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-01/lipkis-holmgren-our-job-make-viable-alternative-and-have-it-ready">when we spoke to him last month</a>:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>The Bush administration was ready for all Americans to be protesting to try to stop the Iraq war. They expected that, they built that into their design. I was so amazed that they could say they didn't care what the people said, that I&nbsp;had to think through why they did not care about that. How did they make it resilient? &nbsp;Because all they cared about was as long as people kept consuming, especially petroleum, their objective was being met. They were counting on no-one changing lifestyles.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The most radical thing sometimes that you can do is actually vote with your feet and vote with your dollars. I was going – “wow, yeah, they’re counting on people complaining”. Protesting and not changing. I started thinking that even the Obama administration is still using the same metrics as the Bush administration was, saying people won’t change on energy. “It’s going to take 35 years to reduce our energy use by 30%”. Well that’s BS,&nbsp;because we can choose to do that&nbsp;<em>in a week</em>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p></blockquote><div>So how would it be if we, as an international movement, ran an international campaign in the run up to COP21 which, rather than the kind of "you should be doing this" type campaign that never seems to get anywhere, was instead a "look what we're already doing" campaign. &nbsp;It could be called something like "Come on in, the water's lovely" (although with an awareness that with climate change <span>the water is actually becoming more acidic and less lovely, so we couldn't call it that)</span>, showing that people around the world are already choosing a 2 degree approach and thriving as a result.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Transition Loughborough putting up a new fruit cage in their community garden. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Transition Loughborough putting up a new fruit cage in their community garden. " title="Transition Loughborough putting up a new fruit cage in their community garden. " width="650" height="389" class="caption" /></a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It would be a positive narrative about how people are rising to the challenge and loving what they've learned about themselves, their community, about what's possible. &nbsp;We could:</div><div><ul><li>Create a series of short viral videos showing people around the world living in a way consistent to 2 degrees and having a great time as a result</li><li>Create a short manifesto around it, and get a wide range of organisations signed up to it</li><li>We could have one day where every Transition group invites their political representative to "come on in", and spend a day with them, so that one Monday (say) all the representatives go back into Parliament having spent the previous day with their local group.&nbsp;</li><li>An online campaign which gathers all of this together</li><li>All manner of other inspired stuff&nbsp;</li></ul><div>Copenhagen ('Hopenhagen') left everyone so flat when nothing happened that it took the movement for action on climate change years to recover. &nbsp;Part of the reason for that was that all the power, all the permission, was given to the people inside the venue drafting the agreement. &nbsp;How about we flip it around, and take the power back to outside the venue, and start living as though we had already created a world consistent with staying below 2 degrees, and celebrate that? &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In doing so we perhaps do what has never been possible in previous negotiations like COP, we take the fear out of the necessary changes, we show that we aren't waiting for their permission, and that communities are thriving, rediscovering each other again, creating new economies and feeling inspired and driven in a way they never have before. &nbsp;Doing so successfully would require engaging the international network of people, initiatives and hubs that have come together around the Transition approach over the last 8 or 9 years.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>What do you think?</div></div> impact Wed, 02 Apr 2014 06:31:48 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35222 at The impact we're having: Elise Rothman of Transition Manitou Springs <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="200" title="Clock" alt="clock" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Manitou Springs is a small town with a population of 5100, located in Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak. The town is home to 11 mineral spring fountains which many claim have healing powers. For me, it tastes like Vichy and I am happy to walk outside my door, feel the mountain air and fill my bottles. &nbsp;Transition Manitou Springs has been quiet over the years. &nbsp;Brian &amp; Becky have held the “space”&nbsp; for the transition movement; by keeping up with transition training; hosting cool movie screenings for the community with films like Bag it, Dirt and Dive; permaculture workshops are held regularly and permaculture certification is always available through Pikes Peak Permaculture. Transition Manitou was pretty low key, until about 5 months ago. That is when I decided to open a grocery store here – and make the community part of process.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="postcard" title="postcard" width="300" height="412" style="float: left;" class="float-left" />It all started with a series of “community discussions”.&nbsp; The theme was “Let’s reclaim our local food economy”.&nbsp; I started by inviting a base of people that were interested in local food, then canvassed and went door to door to tell people about the meetings, and finally made sure that word got out around the local university about the cutting edge radical food store in the making. The first meeting drew 40, the second 60, by the fourth meeting, there were close to 140 people.</p><p>A Facebook page was created, a Kickstarter campaign launched&nbsp; and we acquired a 501(c)3 partner (registered charity). Yay, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union!.&nbsp; The co-op was then registered, member-investors were secured and here we are, about to open one of the coolest grocery stores that has ever existed on the planet. We are truly in the process of restoring our local food economy.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Rhonda with Charles" title="Rhonda with Charles" width="300" height="225" style="float: right;" class="caption" />So how are we doing it? Well first of all, it is definitely an us. Harry Green, Lily Kempf, Dale Childe, Bill Neaves, Heather Ryan, Rhonda Thompson and Angie Stout are pulling hard along my side. We are creating a point of sale for food, that we as a community control. We chose a central location that locals and tourists can access by foot.</p><p>We are aggressively seeking out local producers and local food processors. People who have backyard gardens and small greenhouses, now have even a more of a reason to grow food. We have 2 girls who make baby food for example. We’ll be getting them into a commercial kitchen with a professional canner, loaning them our branding person to create labeling, and then on the shelves it goes.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Shop"><img src="/sites/" alt="Shop" title="Shop" width="300" height="225" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>Same with Joe Gameson, who has been making Jo Momma’s BBQ sauce for family and friends for more than 10 years. We’ve discovered Charles Hendrix&nbsp; who has a large aquaponics/hydroponics operation. He will be providing the store with lettuces, Nile tilapia and guess what, he is going to start growing Kiwi – Kolorado Kiwi! Then there’s Nye Gallaway who makes these super energy bars.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>We have also discovered Elevation Ketchup. Their motto is “If tomato is a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?”&nbsp; Two young guys making organic ketchup in Colorado. It seriously is cool, really cool.&nbsp; And the community knows it and they feel it.&nbsp; It’s like everyone in town is running around with this smirk on their face.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The Local First Grocer is here.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Local everything, but let’s start with food.</strong><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>By: Elise Rothman, Director of Transition Manitou Springs &amp; GM Local First Grocer Cooperative.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="shop" title="shop" width="650" height="488" /><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Special thanks to Andy Middleton from TYF who is my sustainable dragon hero, my sister Simone who is behind me whenever I turn and Becky Elder who is my radical partner in crime.</em><em style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</em></p><p><a href="">LFG Kickstarter</a>&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">•&nbsp;</span><a href="">LFG FB</a>&nbsp;•&nbsp;<a href="">LFG website •&nbsp;</a><a href="">Transition Manitou</a>&nbsp;</p> impact Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:00:35 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35229 at The Transitioners Digest (March) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="255" title="Digest" alt="Digest" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Here's something new we're going to try. &nbsp;With our monthly theme we put out a lot of great content, and we felt people might like it if at the end of each month we gave an overview of what we've covered, the highlights and some key insights. A digest in fact. &nbsp;Our theme for March was 'Living with Climate Change', which we explored from a variety of angles. &nbsp;The month was framed by <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/blow-wind-and-crack-your-cheeks-introducing-month-living-climate-change">my opening editorial</a> which reflected on how different the storms of 2014 felt from previous extreme weather episodes and reflected on the response to the storms from various quarters. It is fitting that our theme drew to a close on the day <a href="">the latest IPCC report was published</a>.<!--break--></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Sir David King"><img src="/sites/" alt="Sir David King" title="Sir David King" width="260" height="156" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>Perhaps our highest profile interview was with&nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-04/sir-david-king-climate-change-biggest-diplomatic-challenge-all-time"><strong>Sir David King</strong>, the UK's Special Representative to the Foreign Secretary on Climate Change</a>. &nbsp;He spoke about the forthcoming climate negotiations in Paris in December 2015 as being "the biggest diplomatic challenge of all time". &nbsp;He was also very outspoken about the BBC's recent coverage of climate change:</p><blockquote><p><span>"It is, in my view, quite extraordinary that we can still try to get a so-called “balanced view” between the clear scientific opinion and the people who, mostly, are not even close to the science themselves. I find it quite remarkable".</span></p></blockquote><p>He also talked about economic growth, the need for leadership on climate change, and the valuable role communities can play. &nbsp;</p><p><strong><img src="/sites/" alt="Myles Allen" title="Myles Allen" width="260" height="160" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />Prof Myles Allen</strong>&nbsp;proved our most controversial interviewee this month. &nbsp;Allen is&nbsp;a climate scientist who occasionally writes for the Daily Mail and <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/prof-myles-allen-climate-change-flooding-and-carbon-capture-silver-bullet#comments">who thinks Carbon Capture and Storage is the silver bullet that can solve climate change</a>. Various commenters questioned why we had given space to what some people felt was a new form of denialism. &nbsp;My favourite comment though came from Robert Alcock, who wrote:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>"It seems to me that there are already a lot of specialists in Carbon Capture and Storage around who have been doing the job for millions of years, for free, and providing a huge amount of fringe benefits into the bargain. &nbsp;They're called plants".</p></blockquote><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="George Marshall"><img src="/sites/" alt="George Marshall" title="George Marshall" width="260" height="183" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>Our conversation with <strong>George Marshall</strong> of COIN generated a lot of enthusiasm, one commenter writing "This interview is literally the best thing I have read about climate change in several years. You really hit this out of the park". &nbsp;Well thanks, we do try. &nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/george-marshall-communicating-climate-change-following-extreme-weather-eve">He discussed why it is that being exposed to extreme weather doesn't necessarily increase awareness of climate change</a>, and how Transition initiatives should discuss climate change in their communities following the storms. &nbsp;Vital stuff. &nbsp;He concluded:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><span>"The solutions always lie in ways of talking, ways to behave that would involve pulling people together. Drawing people together rather than pulling people apart, which is I think something we need to be very careful with in climate change movements, that we always seek to try and build those movements across boundaries rather than on the basis of it being us versus you".</span></p></blockquote><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Sophy Banks"><img src="/sites/" alt="Sophy Banks" title="Sophy Banks" width="250" height="187" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a><strong>Sophy Banks</strong>, in her monthly Inner Transition column, she argued that <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/sophy-banks-climate-change-if-we-were-rational-wed-have-it-sorted-now">"if we were rational, we'd have climate change sorted by now"</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>She wrote:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><span><span>"Many social and political movements have ended up either burnt out, or split apart by conflict because they didn’t have the inner insights and process skills to deal with their own their unconscious process – which will naturally include unhealthy dynamics around power and privilege which permeate all of us however deep our aspiration to cooperation or equality".</span></span></p></blockquote><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Guy Watson" title="Guy Watson" width="260" height="160" class="float-right" /></p><p><strong>Guy Watson</strong> of Riverford Organic Farm&nbsp;talked&nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/guy-watson-how-riverford-farm-living-climate-change">about the realities of trying to run a farm in the face of extreme weather</a> and the challenges the arise. &nbsp;It was a fascinating look at how farmers are trying to adapt, with Guy's two key recommendations being the need to develop perennial grain crops and a love for kale! &nbsp;He said:</p><blockquote><p>"<span>I’m sure if a fraction of the money that’s gone into developing GM crops had gone into perennialising some of our major crops, we would have perennial crops now".</span></p></blockquote><p><span><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Chris Rowland"><img src="/sites/" alt="Chris Rowland" title="Chris Rowland" width="260" style="float: right;" class="float-right" height="152" /></a><strong>Chris Rowland</strong> of OVESCO (Ouse Valley Energy Services Company) told us <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/chris-rowland-ovesco-living-climate-change">how his concern about climate change had led him to pack in his job and start an energy company</a>, which is now in the running for a prestigious Ashden Award. &nbsp;He talked about how OVESCO were now running a peer mentoring scheme for local communities, and he reflected on the key learnings of the last few years:&nbsp;</span></p><blockquote><p><span><span><span>When we started TTL in 2007 I thought we could do everything ourselves and it was that wonderful feeling of empowerment/excitement that got everyone together in Lewes. Over the years we have learnt that it is a combination of the community (TTL &amp;&nbsp;OVESCO&nbsp;etc), working with their local authority (at Town, District and County levels) and guiding/lobbying Government for grant funding, but also the right incentives/support to scale up.</span></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span><img src="/sites/" alt="Paul Kingsnorth" title="Paul Kingsnorth" width="260" height="160" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />One of the pieces we ran that generated the most discussion was our interview with <strong>Paul Kingsnorth</strong>. &nbsp;Paul is a writer and poet, and one of the founders of the Dark Mountain Project. &nbsp;His take is that <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/paul-kingsnorth-living-climate-change">it is too late to do anything about climate change, that the battle is lost</a>. &nbsp;He told us:</span></p><blockquote><p><span><span><span><span>My conclusion personally is that the useful thing you can do is keep telling the truth, to keep being honest about what’s actually happening to provide information for people who want to act on it, but also just to hunker down really and get on with doing what useful work you can do at your local level without imagining that you can change the way that society is going, because I don’t think at the moment that you can.</span></span></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span><span><span><span>One commenter wrote "I think this interview is one of the best I've read on the Transition Network blogs".</span></span></span></span></p><p><span><span><span><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Katherine Knox"><img src="/sites/" alt="Katherine Knox" title="Katherine Knox" width="260" height="156" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a><strong>Katherine Knox</strong> of Joseph Rowntree Foundation <a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/katherine-knox-what-climate-injustice-means-poorer-communities">introduced us to a new term, 'climate injustice'</a>. &nbsp;She talked about a new report from JRF on the social impacts of the recent floods and who stands to lose the most from climate-related impacts. &nbsp;No surprises that it's those at the bottom of the pile. &nbsp;She told us: </span></span></span></p><blockquote><p><span><span><span><span>"<span>I don’t think at the moment there’s enough communication from centre to communities themselves to actually understand peoples’ views and to try and bring people on a journey of understanding collectively as to what climate change might mean for them and then what the opportunities are for action".&nbsp;</span></span></span></span></span></p></blockquote><p>One of the busiest parts of the site this month was our "what does climate change look like where you live?" box. &nbsp;Here we heard from Transitioners around the world. &nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-joanne-poyourow-los-angeles"><strong>Joanne Poyourow</strong> in Los Angeles</a>&nbsp;shared the full scale and severity of the drought that has been affecting California. "No water.&nbsp; That pretty much sums up living with climate change around here, in Los Angeles", she began. &nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-cathy-verschoor-deventer"><strong>Cathy Verschoor</strong> in Deventer</a>&nbsp;in the Netherlands discussed what climate mitigation looks like in her community. &nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-karen-tracy-joshua-tree"><strong>Karen Tracey</strong> in Joshua Tree</a>&nbsp;(4 inches of rain per year) told us "before climate change we used to see the occasional day above 109F° (43C°) Now we spend most of July and August there".</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Cara Naden" title="Cara Naden" width="260" height="160" class="float-right" /></p><p>We heard from both&nbsp;<strong><a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-cara-naden-flooded-somerset">Cara Naden</a></strong>&nbsp;(see right) and&nbsp;<strong><a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-adrian-tait-somerset-levels-0">Adrian Tait</a></strong>&nbsp;on the Somerset Levels, what Cara referred to as "a&nbsp;West Country version of Venice". &nbsp;As Adrian put it, "as the water is pumped away and the fields begin to dry out, we begin to get wafts from the rotting vegetation ... an obvious parallel with the stink of political and economic business as usual". &nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-jonathan-smith-isles-scilly">Jonathan Smith</a></strong>&nbsp;who lives on the Isles of Scilly where he does Transition and runs an organic farm, wrote of the sheer power of the storms. &nbsp;"I was fairly confident that the weather patterns were changing and that this was directly linked to a warming global climate, but it was hard to pin point one event that solidifies those beliefs. This winter changed all that" he wrote. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-sylvie-spraakman-transition-kitchener-waterloo"><strong><img src="/sites/" alt="KW" title="KW" width="260" height="160" style="float: right;" class="float-right" />Sylvie Spraakman</strong> of Transition Kitchiner-Waterloo</a>&nbsp;wrote about the extreme weather her city has been experiencing and how her group has responded by creating a 'Climate Adaptation Toolkit'. &nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/living-climate-change-lisa-coons-transition-mankato"><strong>Lisa Coons</strong> of Transition Mankato</a>&nbsp;discussed how it is to be on the receiving end of the Polar Vortex, and how her group responded by running courses in DIY renewable energy.&nbsp;</p><p>By far the most popular article of last month was&nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-02/open-letter-bbc-lord-lawsons-today-programme-appearance">our Open Letter to the BBC</a>&nbsp;in response to Nigel Lawson's appearance on Radio 4's Today Programme. &nbsp;Our stats went off the dial. &nbsp;We followed up this month with&nbsp;<a href="/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/getting-back-bbc-about-lord-lawson-s-today-programme-appearance">a response to the BBC's reply</a>&nbsp;to the huge numbers of people who objected. &nbsp;The flood of complaints resulted, finally, in the closest thing to an apology from the programme's producer:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>"I have discussed this point with the team and we do accept there are lessons to be learnt. It is never easy to control a live debate of this kind given the complexities involved, but it would have been preferable had the conversation dealt exclusively with the social, political and economic repercussions of climate change, rather than the scientific underpinning, on which there is agreement among the vast majority of scientists."</p></blockquote><p><span><span><span><span><span><span>So sometimes writing letters and complaining does get noticed. &nbsp;Our very full month's content which has spanned a wide range of perspectives. &nbsp;We hope you've enjoyed it and found it interesting. &nbsp;Our theme for April is "what is the impact of Transition and how do we know?" &nbsp;Again, we'll be exploring that from a range of angles. &nbsp;If you'd like to suggest or submit anything, do get in touch.&nbsp;</span></span></span></span></span></span></p> climate Mon, 31 Mar 2014 09:08:40 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35197 at When Luis talked to his parents about climate change <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="199" title="Storks" alt="Storks" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Today we have a guest post from Luis, an active member of a Transition Initiative in <a href="">Portalegre em Transição</a>&nbsp;in Portugal. &nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>"We are in a semi-rural area, with a quite old population. There are still a lot of people we know who lived all their lives in direct contact with nature and, often, in my group, we tell stories about enlightening conversations each one of us had at a certain point with old people about changes in climate and its effects around them.<!--break--></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span></span><a href="" class="colorbox"><img src="/sites/" alt="Alentejo.jpg" width="624" height="265" style="font-size: 0.813em;" /></a></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Some of these conversations talk about strong changes, strong effects of the lack of respect human beings express towards Earth. We thought at various times that it would be good to capture one of these conversations and I finally did it! I recorded a conversation with my parents: they are in their eighties, still living in a village near Portalegre and they talk about the changes they perceive in nature, throughout all the seasons they lived.</span><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>I will not do a full transcription - I will just share with you some of the highlights of the conversation, I hope it is ok! </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span></span>I introduced the conversation by saying that we all currently hear talking about climate change but the real question I would like them to answer is if, during their lives, they sense a change in the climate and in the nature. My father answered in a very assertive way confirming that there are changes. He thought, seconded by my mother, that the strongest sign of change he sees is the way now weather is extremely unsettled in the various seasons.</p><p dir="ltr"><span><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Portalegre"><img src="/sites/" alt="Portalegre" title="Portalegre" width="650" height="462" /></a></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Seasons are not as well defined as they were before - weather varies extremely one day to the next, now… My parents have the clear impression that changes in weather, as seasons went by, were more smooth and permanent. My mother thought that there is a big difference in the frequency of thunderstorms - in the past, thunderstorms were very common. Not anymore.</span><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>I asked them about animals and plants. Maybe not as clear and the changes my parents identified in the weather, but they still pointed out some interesting effects: my father said that he has the impression birds are afraid to sleep in the fields. In the end of the day, birds all come to spend the night in the villages. Now, if one walks out, in the nature, when the night falls, you do not hear the noises of the animals. They find that very strange. After I questioned about variations in bird species, they said that now there are many many more storks than before. They are not migrating anymore. Most of them stay all year round here.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Concluding the conversation, my mother pointed out how important is the experience and the empirical knowledge of local people, that changes are not clear in every element of rural live but the truth is that they feel, in the weather and in their body, that, yes, climate changed.</span><span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>It might be a good idea to keep capturing these conversations. It can be a rich collection of knowledge. &nbsp;</span></p> climate Fri, 28 Mar 2014 16:13:20 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35206 at Living with Climate Change: Alexandra Wax of Transition Marlborough <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" alt="" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>I live in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England.&nbsp; From 2006, there was an organisation called Marlborough Climate Pledge, which worked to raise people’s awareness around the issues of peak oil and climate change.&nbsp; In 2011, at a Green Drinks, there was a visiting speaker from Romsey, Hampshire, talking about how they had started a Transition Initiative.&nbsp; This led directly to our starting one in Marlborough.&nbsp;This filled me with excitement!&nbsp;&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>I have been interested in living holistically all my life.&nbsp; The way we have always done things is not necessarily the best way of doing them, when viewed from the perspective of all life on this planet and with an understanding of people and psychology.&nbsp; We have this amazing challenge – step up to create a viable, sustainable future for <strong>all </strong>of life on the planet, or be destroyed in one of any number of unappealing ways.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Representatives of Transition Marlborough celebrate International Compost Awareness week with staff at the local recycling centre. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Representatives of Transition Marlborough celebrate International Compost Awareness week with staff at the local recycling centre. " title="Representatives of Transition Marlborough celebrate International Compost Awareness week with staff at the local recycling centre. " width="300" height="201" style="float: right;" class="caption" /></a></p><p>Last year, working with the Environment Agency, the Town Council installed a flood protection scheme on the River Kennet, which winds through the centre of town.&nbsp; This worked beautifully this winter, and the only flooding was due to drainpipes backing up, not due to the river.&nbsp; With all the problems of flooding sewage systems, perhaps we should all build composting toilets, that can then go to be composted, instead of wrecking the water system.&nbsp; However, people living here still find it impossible to get buildings insurance because they live by the river; so from that point of view, it was useless.</p><p>Personally, we live on higher ground, so our main experience has been a massive increase in wind.&nbsp; Fence panels have blown down.&nbsp; Luckily, the roof is sound.&nbsp; For planting, we are thinking&nbsp; more and more in terms of creating a windbreak (trees) for the prevailing south-westerlies.&nbsp; However, the wind has come from all directions recently, too!</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="The Mayor of Marlborough goes shopping at TTM&#039;s regular market. "><img src="/sites/" alt="The Mayor of Marlborough goes shopping at TTM&#039;s regular market. " title="The Mayor of Marlborough goes shopping at TTM&#039;s regular market. " width="300" height="225" style="float: right;" class="caption" /></a></p><p>I wish to create a future with dignity and respect for all, where we may reduce the amount of planet we visit, but we live more deeply and meaningfully on ‘our patch’ in relation to everyone else.</p><p>For me, being a part of Transition is an act of revolution – the structural inequality of our culture needs to be radically changed, the banking industry needs to be radically changed.&nbsp; The goal should be maximum benefit for the many, and not the few. In my day job, I am a benefits &amp; money adviser, as well as being a transpersonal counsellor and psychotherapist, and an astrologer and teacher.&nbsp;</p><p>On an individual basis, I deal with the fallout in financial and mental health issues generated by our current economic climate and culture. &nbsp;I work to change and improve our experience of the world, one person at a time.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Transition Marlborough suggesting a new cycle route for the town. "><img src="/sites/" alt="Transition Marlborough suggesting a new cycle route for the town. " title="Transition Marlborough suggesting a new cycle route for the town. " width="650" height="448" style="font-size: 0.813em;" class="caption" /></a></p> climate Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:39:36 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35205 at Food in Community: keeping community groups fed in Totnes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="A boot full of food" alt="A boot full of food" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the market town of Totnes in Devon, a small group of volunteers are redistributing produce that would have otherwise gone to waste, with inspiring results (<a href="">an article I wrote for the Live Better section on the Guardian's website)</a>. &nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>It's a Thursday afternoon and I'm in a large and gloomy food storage shed at Riverford Organic Vegetables near Totnes in Devon with a small group of volunteers called Food in Community. We're working in the small corner of the shed that has been allocated to us, sorting 'grade-out' produce not quite perfect enough for sale or nearing the end of its shelf life, into boxes for local distribution.<!--break--></p><p>There are avocados, carrots, cauliflowers and apples. Broccoli and bananas, spinach and peppers. There are even some kiwi fruits. And one solitary leek.</p><p>Each box has a card stating who it's for. There's the Totnes Food Bank, the Drop-In Centre, Cool Recover - a local charity working with young adults with mental health issues, a local primary school, Rainbow Nursery, as well as several boxes for individuals and a few other local projects. One box goes to a community radio station offering volunteers and vulnerable adults the chance to make radio programmes. If we weren't doing this, it would all be fed to the farm's extremely fortunate pigs. Amid reversing forklifts and vast crates of organic produce we fill the boxes, and within an hour we're loading volunteers' cars for the trip back to town.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Veg boxes filling up" title="Veg boxes filling up" width="650" height="488" /></p><p>Food in Community started last year and is the brainchild of Laurel Ellis and David Markson. Initially imagined as a food gleaning project, wanting to mobilise volunteers to gather perfectly edible but uneconomic produce from local fields, their current focus sees the distribution of grade-out as "a catalyst for creating more cohesive communities and building community confidence and resilience".</p><p>One recipient of Food in Community's boxes is local primary Grove School, which had until recently outsourced its school dinners, with only 30 out of 200 pupils taking them. When the PTA decided to take over the catering, employing a chef, take-up doubled. When Food in Community showed up and was able to bring weekly deliveries, the PTA no longer needed to buy in prepackaged and frozen produce, and could spend more on better quality local ingredients. Take-up rose to 100.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="David Markson (left) and Laurel Ellis (front) started Food in Community last year. " title="David Markson (left) and Laurel Ellis (front) started Food in Community last year. " width="650" height="700" class="caption" /></p><p>On arrival in town, we deliver boxes to people in recovery from cancer, and to others struggling to make ends meet due to the impacts of the bedroom tax. We drop four to Rainbow Nursery, housed beneath the town's library. I ask Julie Tweed, pre-school co-ordinator, what difference the weekly deliveries make to them. "Although Totnes looks like an affluent area," she tells me, "it's an area of rural deprivation. We feed 50 children here every day. These deliveries mean our menus have become more seasonal, more experimental. We are a charity, so free and quality produce helps us hugely. We work with families that are hungry. Some of my staff team are hungry. We can support them with free bags of fruit and vegetables, which are very deeply appreciated."</p><p>Food in Community's thinking goes beyond just delivering produce. They have started running cookery classes at the local family centre and also in the newly-established community kitchen in the town's Civic Hall, for people with mental health issues and older men living alone. On the drive back from Riverford I asked Laurel, where does she think this could all go?</p><p>"To really make the most of this, we need cold storage", she tells me. "I'd love to be able to do catering for local schools with a strong training and employment element, and perhaps an evening cafe."</p><p>But how replicable is this model? It may work in Totnes, with the input of small amounts of funding, its wider 'transition town' context and a dedicated team of volunteers, but elsewhere? "This could be done in most places", Laurel tells me, "there is surplus everywhere."</p><p>Guy Watson of Riverford Organic Vegetables loves it. "It is always painful to see good produce being wasted. It's great to see it find a home. I especially like the way they've just got on with it."<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Food in Community aren't the only people looking beyond food banks, as Pam Warhurst, founder of Incredible Edible Todmorden, told me. "It doesn't start and end with the food bank. They're a necessity, an immediate response. But they're the first, not the final response. It's about providing opportunities for people to feed their families well."</p><p>If Food in Community are anything to go by, rethinking our relationship to the 15mn tonnes of food the UK discards every year could unlock much more than food, it could also be a source of health, education and community involvement.</p><p>Back at Rainbow Nursery, Julie Tweed is telling me what several other recipients of boxes have told me. "It's like christmas when the boxes arrive, the joy of finding out what's in the box that week." She cradles a celeriac, a root vegetable unknown to most of her young charges but which they are eyeing with fascination. "It's like a character from Doctor Who."</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Julie Tweet of Rainbow Nursery, Totnes. And a celeriac. " title="Julie Tweet of Rainbow Nursery, Totnes. And a celeriac. " width="650" height="488" class="caption" /></p><p><em>Interested in finding out more about how you can&nbsp;<a href="">live better</a>? Take a look at this month's&nbsp;<a href="">Live Better Challenge here</a>.</em></p><p><em>The&nbsp;<a title="More from the Guardian on Live Better" href="">Live Better</a>&nbsp;Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.</em></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 16:36:42 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35199 at Living with Climate Change: Jonathan Smith on the Isles of Scilly <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="209" title="Scilly storm" alt="scilly" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Through Transition I've been active in my community for years, trying to help people understand the importance of climate change and how it could impact on the lives of them and others in the future. I've seen all the hard data, digested all the scary graphs, seen all the heartbreaking photos from the Arctic. I've heard reports from other people across the world what impact climate change is having on their lives and there's nothing that I haven't believed.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span>But up until this winter I hadn't really felt the full effects myself. I was fairly confident that the weather patterns were changing and that this was directly linked to a warming global climate, but it was hard to pin point one event that solidifies those beliefs. This winter changed all that and one event in particular made me sit up and think very carefully about the future.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>I grow organic vegetables on the Isles of Scilly. “That must be a great climate for growing” is usually the response I get from most people. “It can be” I say, “mild in winter, warm but not hot in summer, good light levels. But you wouldn't want to be growing here during a storm.”<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some of my vegetable fields are literally just behind the beach. A great place to be in summer and the best 'view from the office window' you could hope for. But in a winter storm this position is something of a disadvantage! There is a decent sand dune between the fields and the beach in most places, but on one stretch there is not much more than a moderate hardy evergreen <em>Pittosporum</em> hedge between fields and beach.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="beach"><img src="/sites/" alt="beach" title="beach" width="650" height="433" /></a></span></p><p>1st February brought an extraordinarily large and deep low pressure across the UK. The barometer dropped to 965mb on Scilly, the wind reached 80-odd mph and, to make matters worse, it was one of the biggest spring tides of the year. At high water the sea was reaching places you couldn't really imagine it ever getting to. The swell was ferocious, driving walls of water in to the coast.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>As I looked on, the fragile coastline between my fields and the sea was getting eaten away before my eyes. The trees making up the hedge, the only windbreak I have, were just toppling over and ending up on the beach.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="hedge"><img src="/sites/" alt="hedge" title="hedge" width="650" height="432" /></a></span></p><p>Three days later on 4th February another enormous low pressure steamed in from the Atlantic, this time bringing winds of over 90mph (and I think over 100mph in west Wales). The tides weren't quite as high but the coast again took a pounding, and I feared what would happen to my fields.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>After further storms, lasting in to late February, the upshot is that I have thought about the future use of my fields in a very different way up until now. One more storm like 1st February will destroy the hedgerow and some fields will be completely open to the wind - and therefore unsuitable for growing vegetables. This could happen in 20 years or next winter. How do I plan my business around such uncertainties?<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>I could plant hedges inland from the existing hedge line, but these could take easily 10 years to establish, by which time the coast may have eroded back to there anyway. The island I live on is getting smaller by the year and some of its resources are being threatened – farmland, fresh water and potentially even transport links.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><img src="/sites/" alt="Magic Seaweed" title="Magic Seaweed" width="650" height="386" /></span></p><p>You could say that such events were freak weather events, perhaps a 'one in 50 year' storm. That could be right, but all the evidence points to this becoming a more regular occurrence and that the winter we've just had could be a taster of what we have to come regularly. If that's the case then I have to seriously look at what I grow and where, because the most vulnerable fields are simply going to be victims of climate change before long.</p> climate Thu, 27 Mar 2014 11:05:57 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35183 at Katherine Knox on what 'climate injustice' means for poorer communities <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="185" title="Hard Rain" alt="Hard rain" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>While the ecological and infrastructure impacts of climate change are becoming ever more self-evident, what about the social impacts? &nbsp;Do the impacts of climate change show that "we are all in this together", or are its impacts unevenly felt across society? &nbsp;Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) recently published a report called&nbsp;<a href="">Climate Change and Social Justice: an evidence review</a>&nbsp;which looked at this in more depth (as did <a href="">a recent Oxfam report</a>). &nbsp;It coins the term "climate injustice" and offers some very useful insights on community resilience in the face of climate change, and what that means for different communities. &nbsp;We talked to&nbsp;Katherine Knox, Programme Manager at JRF, who co-ordinates the Foundation's work on climate change issues. &nbsp;<!--break--></p><h1><strong style="font-size: 0.813em;"><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></strong></h1><p><strong>From your research and from the recent floods, who can we argue will be most impacted and affected&nbsp; by climate change?</strong></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="jrf"><img src="/sites/" alt="jrf" title="jrf" width="280" height="397" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>There are going to be impacts in many ways across the country.&nbsp; We’re looking at the UK in particular rather than internationally, and obviously there are different issues that might apply internationally from in the UK.&nbsp; What we’ve been thinking about is the multidimensional nature of vulnerability.&nbsp; If we think about flooding specifically, it’s easy just to focus on who lives in the floodplain areas, but not to think about the nature of how peoples’ wellbeing might be affected by the impacts.&nbsp; What JRF research has suggested is that there are particular factors that may make people more vulnerable and affect their wellbeing more.&nbsp;</p><p>There are some personal factors, so if you’re very old or very young you might struggle for particular reasons, ability and dependency on others might be an issue, if you’re in a care situation obviously you’re dependent on the care institution to support you in the context of a problem.&nbsp; But there are other factors.&nbsp; If we think about the environmental factors, it’s not just a case of whether you live in a floodplain, but also the nature of the built environment and natural environment around you.&nbsp;</p><p>If you’re in a basement flat you’re obviously going to be worse off than someone who’s in a highrise flat in terms of the impacts it might have upon you.&nbsp; Then there are questions about whether there are green spaces or “blue spaces” that might absorb water within your environmental surrounds which might make a big difference in terms of flood impacts.&nbsp;</p><p>Then if we think about the social factors which are perhaps the least well thought about at the moment, there are a range of things.&nbsp; We know for instance that people on low incomes are much less likely to take up flood insurance and so they might be particularly affected.&nbsp; Not only because they are affected in terms of the loss of their possessions, but also because they have less ability to then recover from those problems because they don’t have insurance and less of a safety net.&nbsp;</p><p>Other social concerns would be things like peoples’ social networks and if you’re isolated that you might be particularly at risk and more vulnerable, whereas if you’ve got social networks or people who can support you in the context of a crisis and help you recover from the event.&nbsp; We think vulnerability relates peoples’ ability to prepare for flooding and to respond and recover, as well as some of those other things that might be more familiar in terms of thinking about the impacts.</p><p><strong>What does resilience to climate change look like, in particular for poorer communities? </strong></p><p>It’s something that’s not really very well understood at the moment, and actually it’s the focus of work that we’ll be taking forward more in the next phase of our research here, but we do think that there’s a question of understanding how the social context and social fabric works in an area, so social links might be really important in terms of people’s ability to then get support from each other as well as thinking about some of the other provisions in place.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="flood"><img src="/sites/" alt="flood" title="flood" width="300" height="188" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a></p><p>We’ve been <a href="">doing some work in York in an area called New Earswick</a>, initially first developed by Rowntree to provide housing for some of the workers in his factory.&nbsp; Over the years it’s an area that has grown and new housing has come on stream, but it remains a predominantly low income social housing area and we’ve been trying to work with people about some of the issues.&nbsp; What we found was that to awaken peoples’ interest in terms of what might be going on, in an area where there’s not a context of a threat from flooding or anything particular that’s happening at this point in time, people need to be connected through their local interests, rather than wider questions about sustainability and climate change.&nbsp;</p><p>The issue there was about tapping into local interests in nature and the natural environment, so there are lots of fruit trees that have been put in peoples’ gardens in these areas, which were not actually really well used, so one of the activities was done with the community was to support fruit picking and getting people working together in a natural environment.&nbsp;</p><p>There were some big initiatives to support tree planting and other activities in the environment that brought people together who didn’t necessarily know each other previously.&nbsp; The people we worked with were also very actively working in the schools in the area to support schoolchildren to start thinking about these issues.&nbsp; Those things that connected into peoples’ wider activities were really important in terms of getting people to start making links.&nbsp; So we think that might be a really important part of resilience to climate change, but again it’s not something that necessarily might be a focus, and it might need to take different forms in different places in terms of what you can actually do to engage people.</p><p><strong>It sounds like research that very much supports and validates the approach that Transition groups have been taking for the past few years... </strong></p><p>Yes indeed.&nbsp; In a context where there wasn’t a Transition group in that area.&nbsp; We were trying to support similar ideas I think.</p><p><strong>Your recent report talked about the ‘Triple Injustice’, where people on low incomes pay more and benefit less from certain policy responses, especially energy bills, and are those responsible for the least emissions.&nbsp; In the context of that observation, was the government right recently to cut back on what it called ‘green taxes’, claiming that they were socially regressive?</strong></p><p>That raises lots of questions actually.&nbsp; The general position here at JRF is that we recognise that we need to have a transition to deal with the consequences of climate change, and therefore we do need to provide funding to enable that change to happen.&nbsp; What’s happened is that some of the monies that are being raised to make that transition to a low carbon economy are being applied through peoples’ energy bills, rather than perhaps through general taxation.&nbsp; So, as a general principle, it’s more regressive to putting costs onto energy bills than paying things through taxation because lower income households pay a higher proportion of their income towards energy bills than people on higher incomes.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Floods"><img src="/sites/" alt="Floods" title="Floods" width="300" height="169" style="float: left;" class="float-left" /></a>But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to take the steps to make the transition happen, and indeed fund them.&nbsp; There are questions about how you pay for things, and that can be done in different ways.&nbsp; What is also interesting is what are different measures that have been put on peoples’ energy bills, and there are a range of different things that are being applied, and actually some of the levies that are being put through are actually being applied to fund measures that many people will benefit from, and others are being applied and will only benefit a smaller number of people, people on higher incomes.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Is it possible to suggest whether the current austerity programme is helping or hindering communities’ ability to build resilience to climate change? </strong></p><p>I think in general, JRF’s work is indicating lots of problems with the emerging picture on that side.&nbsp; We are concerned about how peoples’ incomes are being reduced in general, in such a way that will also affect their ability to deal with things like their fuel bills.&nbsp; There is a wider problem really.&nbsp; &nbsp;We perhaps haven’t looked at the detail of how those things connect, in terms of austerity and the links to climate change.&nbsp; In general, peoples’ ability to deal with a wide range of challenges they face is being affected, economic and social questions as well as environmental questions.</p><p><strong>What’s your sense of the balance between adaptation and mitigation? </strong></p><p>Clearly there is a question about the need to mitigate as a first priority to reduce emissions.&nbsp; What’s concerning is that the scientists are basically suggesting we need to peak our emissions within the next 10+ years, so there’s not a huge window of opportunity to peak global emissions now.&nbsp; There are really big questions around what international agreements can deliver, and then how those play out down at different national scales and within countries.&nbsp;</p><p>The question then becomes how are we going to adapt as well, because we know already that there are so many emissions in the atmosphere that we are going to have the consequences of those emissions in terms of climate change already happening.&nbsp; We’ve already seen the devastating floods that we’ve had recently here, even though the attribution is difficult in terms of climate change we can expect to see more frequent flooding, so we are going to have to adapt.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Floods" title="Floods" width="570" height="379" /></p><p>There are really big questions about how we are going to protect different communities, who has a voice in decisions that are going to be made, which resourcing is going to be put in, which are getting more focused now than perhaps they have been in the past, but are really important questions nationally.&nbsp; There are real issues there about smaller and more rural communities and how they will be protected in the future.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Our theme this month is ‘living with climate change’.&nbsp; Can you give us a sense of what living with climate change will look like for the poorest communities in the UK?&nbsp; What would it look like if we responded adequately, and what would it look like if we didn’t?</strong></p><p>Some of our work already indicates that the poorest and lowest income households, the most disadvantaged groups, are already likely to be among those worst hit, both from climate impacts themselves but also the consequences of policy responses as indicated in our energy work.&nbsp; There are potentially very negative outcomes unless action is taken.&nbsp;</p><p>The alternative is to try and engage people now and use processes that we have, whether that’s Neighbourhood Planning, or community action through Transition groups and other opportunities to try and galvanise people to understand what the implications might be, and try to engage them in developing responses.&nbsp; However, I think that’s not just an issue for disadvantaged communities, that’s a national issue that really need attention from central government and from different stakeholders and from local government and others too, rather than just being an issue for disadvantaged groups.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>In Transition, one of our conclusions is that local economies are key to building community resilience.&nbsp; That localisation is a powerful part of that.&nbsp; To what extent do you think that appropriate localisation could have a role to play in building community resilience? </strong></p><p>I think it’s a really valid question and I’d be really interested to see how the learning from the Transition movement can help us in that.&nbsp; There is a wider debate at the moment about the need for more sustainable prosperity, the question of how growth creates prosperity, or what the limits are to the current economic model nationally, and so it relates to some of those questions.&nbsp; There are opportunities to have more of an asset-based approach locally, where we think about what skills and opportunities exist within an area and how those can support local economic development.&nbsp; That’s a really interesting area.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>If you had the ear of the current government, what would be two or three things that you would recommend them to do in terms of helping low income communities to build more resilience to climate change? </strong></p><p>There’s something about looking at what the impacts are more effectively.&nbsp; Our work has highlighted where think some of the most disadvantaged communities might be across the UK in relation to both flood and heat, but I’m not aware of this kind of thinking being taken up nationally in terms of thinking about preparedness and how we respond and how we prioritise responses.&nbsp; There’s not enough fine grain thinking about which people and places we need to support most effectively, there’s more of a general approach being taken.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Floods" title="Floods" width="640" height="360" style="font-size: 0.813em;" /></p><p>So I would suggest that first we need to have a better understanding of vulnerability, and how that might inform what we do.&nbsp;&nbsp; That’s the vulnerability to the direct effects of climate change.&nbsp; Secondly we need to look at the current policy position, and try to create a more fair policy approach.&nbsp; What tends to happen is that policies aren’t really considered in terms of their distributional impacts very effectively.&nbsp; So if you look at energy policies, what should be happening when they’re being put in place is that there’s a proper understanding of how those policies will impact on different types of households, and where we know there are going to be negative impacts on particular groups there should be steps take to prevent that, or remediate it in some way or to design policy differently so that those things aren’t so regressive.&nbsp;</p><p>Thirdly I think there’s something about a process of engagement and trying to bring peoples’ voice into this discussion. I don’t think at the moment there’s enough communication from centre to communities themselves to actually understand peoples’ views and to try and bring people on a journey of understanding collectively as to what climate change might mean for them and then what the opportunities are for action.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Some of that action needs to be driven from communities themselves and needs to more of a kind of dialogue really, from central government and down through local government and other organisations, and the voluntary sector to make those links and start saying “what do we do”, “what are we going to where the impacts may be really acute?”</p> climate Wed, 26 Mar 2014 11:57:24 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35186 at Living with Climate Change: Sylvie Spraakman of Transition Kitchener-Waterloo <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="200" title="Transition KW with their Climate Adaptation Toolkit" alt="Transition KW with their Climate Adaptation Toolkit" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>To situate this blog post, we’re in Kitchener-Waterloo, two cities that act as one, but can never quite become one because of decades or maybe even centuries of bickering. We are in southwestern Ontario, or west of Toronto for those who don’t really know Canadian geography. We like to call ourselves KW. &nbsp;What does this new climate look like in KW? More intense rain events, less rain overall, and more hot days. This past year is a pretty good example of what we can expect going forward in this area.&nbsp;&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>All year we’ve been whomped with very wacky weather in Southern Ontario, cold and miserable and snowy. (not that we’ve been the only ones!) Unfortunately this weather killed a bunch of the tree cover across the area, which won’t be nice once the mid-summer heat is upon us.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Source:" title="Source:" width="600" height="337" class="caption" /></p><p>We lost a large number of&nbsp;trees during a huge downpour with heavy winds at the end of June. It rained intensely for a few hours, at one point convincing me that it was the end of the world. All I could see from my apartment window was water and cloud.&nbsp; KW flooded briefly in a few different places.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Source:" title="Source:" width="600" height="450" class="caption" /></p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Rob Ford"><img src="/sites/" alt="Rob Ford" title="Rob Ford" width="300" height="400" style="float: right;" class="float-right" /></a>In those few hours of intense rain, 500 trees were damaged in Waterloo region. &nbsp;Our neighbours in the big city of Toronto fared much worse. They had heavier rains (exceeding the 100-year rainfall amounts at Toronto international airport), and had to cope with old inadequate infrastructure beneath very busy areas. The main transit hub, Union Station, was flooded! Social media had fun with it, though, using the flooding photos to mock the internationally infamous Mayor Rob Ford (see right).</p><p>The next tree-destroying event was a major ice storm a few days before Christmas. The region was pelted with 25 mm of freezing rain and 37,000 people lost power. When this hit us, we were planning on having a Christmas dinner with friends. But our hosts were without power, as were many of the guests who planned on cooking dishes for the dinner. As friends do though, we banded together, and decided to relocate the Christmas dinner to a house that did have power, and have people over earlier so they can help cook. We almost didn’t have our communal Christmas dinner, so many of us were without power. Luckily, power finally came on in some places and we managed to get everything cooked in the end. We were lucky. A lot of suburbanites weren’t, as many across southern Ontario were without power for days or weeks.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>What did TransitionKW learn from this and other experiences while we were creating our Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit? We should make friends with our neighbours.&nbsp; It’s much more fun, and easier, too, if you work on transition projects with your neighbourhood - and besides, they’re the ones you will turn to in an emergency. You can floodproof your basement on your own, but it’s more fun when done with friends. You can make an emergency preparedness kit for your home, but when your power goes out, you should know people in your neighbourhood, because they will be your only source of entertainment, and maybe heat and good food, too. And, thinking about others now,&nbsp; when the power goes out in the dead of winter, who in your community needs your help to get food, water, or to a place where they can keep warm, so why not&nbsp; get to know them and their needs now?&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Speaking of cold - did we ever get blasted with that here this winter. We also experienced the “polar vortex”, as did many parts of the United States that don’t usually get cold winters. We should be accustomed to cold winters in Canada, but southern Ontario has been spared from truly cold winters in the past decade, and it seems like we lost our ability to cope with -20C days for weeks on end, given the whinging that was heard everywhere (weather is a constant topic of conversation among Canadians, good or bad. Especially bad). The polar vortex is an example of the changes we can expect thanks to climate change. The wackiness was due to weather the weather pattern came from, and not the weather itself.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>But those days will soon be behind us (though -10 is pretty cold for a first day of spring), and we’ll be back into the hot, humid days of summer before we know it. That is another impact expected in this region - more hot days than usual, longer periods of extended heat waves, and increased risk of drought. This affects our agricultural industry, so important in our area, as well as our human health. And shows yet another way where neighbours working together can help each other out. For example,&nbsp;a community garden in Kitchener has <a href="">installed large holding tanks which capture rainwater from the roof</a> of an equipment storage building nearby. The community is securing water for itself during drought, conserving water overall, and helping to ensure some food security for that neighbourhood.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>That’s why we created the Climate Change Adaptation toolkit - we wanted to showcase ideas and actions that are relevant to our community when dealing with climate change. We know lots of people in our community are taking action on climate mitigation, and we fully support them in that work (see <a href="">here&nbsp;</a>for more on that!), but we wanted to focus on what wasn’t yet being addressed but is affecting us already.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>It ended up being more than adaptation, because actions that help us adapt to climate change can also help us mitigate it, and help the environment and the community in lots of other ways. &nbsp;Check it out after March 29 here:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The toolkit website will officially launch March 29, and the link won’t work before that. &nbsp;If any Transition initiatives want more more information on the how &amp; why of the toolkit, please get in touch with us:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"></a>.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Paragraph"><em>Written by Sylvie Spraakman, Facilitator at TransitionKW (see <a href=""></a> for more!). &nbsp;We will be hearing more about the Toolkit next month when our theme will be "<span>what is the impact of Transition, and how do we know?".</span></em></p> climate Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:48:42 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35184 at Prof. Myles Allen on climate change, flooding, and carbon capture as a 'silver bullet' <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="169" title="Myles Allen" alt="Myles Allen" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today we talk with Prof. Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics group at the University of Oxford's Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department.&nbsp; He is a prominent and widely published climate scientist.&nbsp; He also wrote a recent article in the Mail on Sunday called <em><a href="">Why I think we're wasting billions on global warming, by top British climate scientist</a></em>.&nbsp; It began “we have campaigned tirelessly against the folly of Britain’s eco-obsessed energy policy. Now comes a game-changing intervention... from an expert respected by the green fanatics themselves”.&nbsp; What’s going on?<!--break--></p><p>We will come on to that interview later in this piece, but the first thing I wanted to discuss with him was the recent floods the UK has experienced.&nbsp; Allen was recently involved in publishing a paper which looked at the extent to which climate change could be responsible for the 2000 floods.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="166"></iframe></p><p>He told me:</p><p>“The 2000 floods were really the first major event that got people talking about the possible role of climate change in these events. But of course it’s always a difficult question to answer because floods have always happened. The UK has always had high rainfall variability and so in some seasons we get more rain than others and as a result we occasionally get floods.</p><p>So the question is whether what we’re seeing now is just the normal run of bad luck in British weather, or whether climate change might be playing a role in it. That was the sort of question we set out to answer in the study we published a couple of years ago.</p><p>The key point is you can’t say, as a lawyer might put it, that but for climate change this event would not have happened. Because these are all events that might have happened anyway in a hypothetical climate in which we hadn’t increased greenhouse gas levels.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="UK flooding" title="UK flooding" width="611" height="404" /></p><p>But what we can say is to “what extent has climate change or human influence on the climate made this event more likely to occur, or probable”, and that was what we looked at in that study. We came to the conclusion that on average human influence on the climate through rising greenhouse gas levels had more or less doubled the risk of an event such as occurred in the autumn of 2000.</p><p>But there was a big range of uncertainty on that. It might have been more than double, it might have been a good deal less than double. But we were fairly confident that the risk had at least gone up and that was the conclusion we drew. As you can see, it’s a fairly complicated message! A lot of people like us to answer the question “was climate change to blame or not?” The bottom line is it doesn’t make sense, for a random event like a flood, to say climate change was entirely to blame or entirely not to blame. We have to look at how the probabilities may have been changed through our changing climate.</p><p><strong>If, with the floods of 2000, climate change doubled the probability of those events happening, and we’re now 14 years further into the warming process, would one therefore be able to infer that the floods we’ve just had were made even more probable by climate change? </strong></p><p>Just because one kind of flood has been made more likely by human influence on the climate, it doesn’t mean all kinds of floods have been made more likely. That said, the circumstances we’ve seen this winter are not dissimilar to what we saw in the autumn of 2000, so perhaps human influence has played a role, but we are actually running experiments at the moment to find out, and I don’t know what the outcome of those experiments will be. It’s reasonable to suspect that human influence might have played a role, but until we’ve got the numbers in we shouldn’t really say either way.</p><p><strong>Do you still think that staying below 2° is possible and/or feasible?</strong></p><p>You’re talking about 2°C, the internationally agreed goal of 2°C above pre-industrial temperature. To remind people that that means really not much more than 1° above today’s climate.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Prof. Allen explaining climate change to"><img src="/sites/" alt="Prof. Allen explaining climate change to" title="Prof. Allen explaining climate change to" width="300" height="180" style="float: right;" class="caption" /></a>First of all, it would be a very good idea, very desirable for us to do that, primarily because as a climate modeller, I don’t really know what a climate 3 or 4 or 5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial would be like. That might not be the thing you would expect from a climate modeller, but as you will appreciate, the further we go from the kind of conditions which we can test our models on, the more concerned we are about trusting what they tell us. I would be very worried about relying on anybody’s projection of what a world 4° warmer than pre-industrial would be like in detail, and for that reason alone I think limiting warming to 2° would be a very good idea.</p><p>So I fully support the goal. You asked whether we think we’ll manage it. I think we could manage it. There’s no question we still could do it. The reality is it’s not too late. But that’s not to say we don’t have a problem or a very substantial challenge in meeting that 2° goal. Just to put it into simple terms for people, global temperatures are largely determined, in the long term, by the total amount of fossil carbon we’ve dumped into the atmosphere.</p><p>Back at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we had around 3-4 trillion tonnes, that’s 3-4 thousand billion tonnes of fossil carbon sitting underground waiting to be dug up and burned to power the Industrial Revolution. Over the past 250 years, we’ve dug up and burned about half a trillion tonnes. Over the next 35 years, at the current rate, the way things are going, we’ll burn the next half trillion tonnes and the next half trillion tonnes after that will take us over 2°.</p><p>That puts the challenge into perspective. We have to somehow work out what we’re going to do with all that fossil carbon underground that would be immensely profitable to dig up and burn if we’re not going to dump it all in the atmosphere very substantially greater than 2°C. That’s the challenge we have to face, we have to bear that in mind when talking about whether we’re going to meet the 2° goal. I think we could do it, but I’m not convinced that the current policy, that the majority of current policies are actually particularly helping towards that goal.</p><p><strong>James Hansen has been arrested for trying to stop coal trucks in the US and Kevin Anderson has been quoted as saying that he feels that civil disobedience is one of the only routes to actually dealing with climate change. What’s your take on the balance, as a climate scientist, between stepping across into doing something about it or just documenting the process and gathering the science?</strong></p><p>I’m pretty conservative on this one. I think it is our job to do the science as you described. I don’t think where we get our funding from or what our political views are really make much difference to the science we do, and we should always take very careful steps to make sure it doesn’t make much difference to the science we do. When I’m doing climate science I’m working in a community which is working together to understand the system as best we can and that’s very different. I don’t think my political views really come into it at that point.</p><p><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="Pollution"><img src="/sites/" alt="Pollution" title="Pollution" width="650" height="434" /></a></p><p><strong>Just going back to Kevin Anderson for a minute, he was published recently about arguing that his sense is that economic growth and adequate response to climate change are incompatible with each other. What’s your sense of that – is it possible that you can still have a growing economy that is capable of staying below 2°C? </strong></p><p>I absolutely do, yes. I respect Kevin’s views on this, but I don’t think there’s any hard evidence that economic growth and climate mitigation are incompatible. I feel as a matter of policy it’s very unhelpful to suggest that there are alternatives, because all of the countries in the world feel that economic growth is their imperative and understandably so, because they have a lot of poor people, a lot of mouths to feed, and if people tell them that doing something about climate change is an alternative to economic growth then many of these countries would, entirely reasonably, say “well let’s concentrate on economic growth first then”. So no, I don’t think there’s any incompatibility between a growing economy and addressing the problem of climate change.</p><p><strong>You wrote a recent piece in the Daily Mail, in which you argued that the only route forward to talking climate change was carbon capture and storage but it’s still an experimental technology. Is there a danger with putting all our eggs in one basket in terms of risks, do you think?</strong></p><p>In a sense we’ve only got one basket to put the eggs in, if you think about the problem from a perspective of the overall carbon in the ground. We started off with three and a half trillion tonnes of fossil carbon under the ground. We’ve burnt half a trillion tonnes, we’ve got three trillion to go, more or less, and we’re cracking through the remainder. If we want to limit warming to 2°C, we have to limit overall carbon emissions in the atmosphere to less than a trillion tonnes, possibly one and a half trillion but not more than that. That still leaves a couple of trillion tonnes of fossil carbon in the ground, available to be converted into useful energy.</p><p>That just really leaves us with three options:</p><ul><li>We burn that carbon, dump the CO2 in the atmosphere and suffer the consequences in terms of climate change</li><li>We introduce a global climate mitigation regime that’s so stringent, so draconian that no-one ever in the world is allowed to dig up that fossil carbon and burn it.</li><li>We sequester the carbon before it enters the atmosphere</li></ul><p>That second option is one which I would actually regard as pretty frightening in itself. &nbsp;I find it very hard to believe that we would set up some kind of global carbon governance regime that is that strict. If we can’t do that, then we just have to accept that some of that carbon which cannot be dumped in the atmosphere is going to be.</p><p>We’re talking about building an industry from scratch in effect today (carbon capture and storage), comparable to the fossil fuel industry itself, and we need to do that over the next two or three decades, which is why we need to be getting on with it. Without it, we will not solve the problem of climate change because we will continue to use these fossil energy sources.</p><p><img src="/sites/" alt="Carbon capture and storage" title="Carbon capture and storage" width="544" height="478" /></p><p>We might use them slower if we are successful in improving our energy efficiency and so forth, but the key point is that it really doesn’t make any difference using carbon slower if you still burn it all in the end. In the end it’s the total amount of carbon you dump into the atmosphere that matters, not the rate you emit in any particular year.</p><p><strong>You’ve been involved in publishing papers on climate change since 1999 and know as much about this as many people, I’m sure. How do you live with it in your daily life? How does knowing what you know about climate change impact on how you live and how you live with that information?</strong></p><p>One thing’s for sure, the bulk of my carbon footprint is spent going to IPCC meetings, which is ironic but also highlights the difficulty of relying on personal behaviour to address the problem. Until the problem is addressed at the source, until we essentially engage the fossil fuel industry in solving its own waste disposal problem rather than asking individuals to tighten their belts and reduce their carbon budgets, we’re not really going to make a serious dent in it. While I think, obviously, there’s an excellent case for people diversifying their energy supplies and reducing their energy consumption, there’s an excellent economic case for doing that, an excellent energy security case and so forth. But we also need to be realistic. We need to recognise that we’re not going to solve the problem of climate change until we solve it at source, until the fossil fuel industry essentially is required to take responsibility for the waste products of the products themselves.</p><p><strong>For the rest of us, what will characterise living with climate change over the next 20 years, do you think?</strong></p><p>The consensus prediction is reasonably clear, that we should be expecting to see a higher frequency of warmer summers and wetter, warmer winters. But there’s obviously a lot of variability around that, and we’re still a long way from seeing, as I said at the beginning, weather events that simply wouldn’t have happened without climate change.</p><p>In the UK at least, because there’s a lot of weather variability in this part of the world, I think detecting the effects of climate change on the UK will take a while. In some respects it’s one of the hardest parts of the world to see the impacts of climate change coming through. I think it will be much more obvious, and already is, the impact of climate change on places with less year to year variability such as Africa and Australia for example”.</p><p><em>[Editor’s note] In the interest of balance, I’d like to close this piece with a link to <a href="">Joe Romm’s fierce response to Allen’s Daily Mail article</a>, and to Allen’s proposal that all other attempts to reduce carbon emissions through demand reduction, renewables and so on are a waste of time, with carbon capture and storage being the only solution.&nbsp; It is an essential companion piece to read alongside this article.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p> climate Tue, 25 Mar 2014 08:06:09 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35104 at Living with Climate Change: Adrian Tait on the Somerset Levels <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-featured-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_featured_image" width="300" height="225" title="Somerset floods" alt="Somerset floods" src="" /> </div> </div> </div> <p>Transition Athelney links five villages on or bordering the Somerset Levels.&nbsp; At the February meeting of our organising group we were asking ourselves what contribution we could possibly make in response to the disruption and suffering caused by the prolonged flooding.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span>An answer presented itself a few days later when a member of T.A. who is a local councillor with a lifetime’s knowledge and experience of land management in Somerset, gave me a draft document to read.&nbsp;<!--break--></p><p>He was gathering local views on his detailed proposals for remedial action.&nbsp; He was also asking for T.A’s endorsement of this document, for submission to the County Council’s consultation process, ahead of its feedback to DEFRA.&nbsp;My friend’s document highlighted the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues affecting us.&nbsp; Weighing their relative importance is a demanding task, even before cost and funding sources, special interest and political factors enter the picture.</p><p>Upstream, midstream and downstream river catchment, land management and intensive farming, protecting homes vs food production, the growth of our County town (Taunton), dredging and drainage, the tidal range of the Bristol Channel, all have to be considered. &nbsp;The roles and perspectives of central and local government, the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Board and environmental or wildlife organisations also feature prominently.&nbsp; One of the report’s aims was to address muddle and conflict between these agencies and the danger of local voices being drowned out by them.&nbsp;</p><p>The document revealed an impressive grasp of all these issues.&nbsp; Its proposed remedies to soil erosion (one source of the silt problem) and rapid run-off into the upper reaches of our County’s rivers include reforestation and hedge renewal. &nbsp;They make good sense and draw on the example of Pontbren, as highlighted by George Monbiot and others.&nbsp; But despite the depth and breadth of this analysis, three linked factors concerned me.&nbsp; One was that I felt too much credence was being given to the scapegoating of the Environment Agency.&nbsp; The second was a dearth of reference to climate change and how it loads the dice towards extreme weather.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 0.813em;"><a href="/sites/" class="colorbox" title="floods"><img src="/sites/" alt="floods" title="floods" width="650" height="488" /></a></span></p><p>I asked him about his fleeting mention of climate change and reference to its impacts as a future prospect, rather than a current and escalating reality.&nbsp; He was agreeable to changing the latter point, but was wary of increasing the overall emphasis on climate change, for fear of putting people off, and not having the document taken seriously!<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The Environment Agency is widely seen as having a confused agenda, with ecological considerations being given undue prominence, at the expense of human needs.&nbsp; I am not qualified to judge how well or badly the E.A. reconciles these criteria, but what I do pick up is a perception (fanned of course by elements in the media) that it’s an either/or matter, rather than a set of perspectives which<em> must be </em>integrated because, as Tony Juniper puts it, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of planetary ecology.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The third thing which troubled me in the document was something which again reflected widely held views and feelings.&nbsp; This was that local people find the prospect of the Levels reverting to marshland “completely unacceptable”.&nbsp; This phrase reminded me of COIN’s illustrated report <em>Moving Stories, </em>which documents the plight of those caught up in climate related migration in places as far flung as the Arctic and Indonesia, China and the Sahel.&nbsp; How “acceptable” is the situation of all these people?&nbsp; Presumably, feelings of fear, anger and helplessness make it harder for people to look at their predicament from a global perspective, even when the data are readily available.&nbsp;</p><p>This may not matter all that much when we are discussing adaptation, but it gives few grounds for optimism to those of us who hope that weather disasters will serve as a wake up call to assist mitigation measures.&nbsp;&nbsp; This was illustrated in a BBC television programme on 4<sup>th</sup> February, when people from one of our flooded hamlets were interviewed, then shown a report explaining climate change, including the fact that several decades of further heating are now locked into the system.&nbsp; The extreme weather implications were spelt out clearly.&nbsp; This section was followed by further interviews, but I saw no evidence that climate change had entered people’s narratives, at least at a conscious level.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>On a more positive note, T.A’s involvement in the report did increase its engagement with climate change in a way that spans mitigation and adaptation. &nbsp;&nbsp;The river Parrett (into which the Tone, which gives its name to Taunton, flows) is tidal, well into the Levels.&nbsp; I had not heard anyone locally talking much about sea level rise as a key factor.&nbsp; Dredging, whilst still an emotive issue, is now widely recognised to be no magic bullet.&nbsp; A sluice in Bridgwater bay has been mooted, but it is currently hard to see where the funding would come from and the benefits beyond Bridgwater itself would be limited.&nbsp; The report now advocates exploring the feasibility of a tidal lagoon (as is now proposed for Swansea bay).&nbsp; This could attract private funding, by virtue of&nbsp; projected revenue from electricity generation. &nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>That BBC cross-referencing was good, even if it did not find immediately fertile ground here.&nbsp; On the same day, Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, spoke in London of the “merciless” process of climate change and the urgent need to remove fossil fuel subsidies and to price carbon emissions effectively.&nbsp; Our Chancellor clearly wasn’t listening, but hopefully others were.&nbsp; We should not wait for those in the merciless firing line to join the dots, but the number of people in the rich world who find themselves directly facing it, along with millions in places less well known to us, is growing.&nbsp; Perhaps it’s not too late for the cries of distress from within (and on) our own shores to coalesce with the warnings from climate science and help to concentrate the minds of our policy makers.<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Somerset’s inland sea can seem beautiful, though not to those whose houses, land and roads have been inundated.&nbsp; As the water is pumped away and the fields begin to dry out, we begin to get wafts from the rotting vegetation, reminders of the stench which hit us after the flood of Summer 2012.&nbsp; There is an obvious parallel with the stink of political and economic business as usual.&nbsp; Somerset County Council’s report, which the T.A. contribution had a hand in shaping, makes frequent reference to “resilience”. &nbsp;Does this signal a promising shift in thinking along lines advocated by Transition, a helplessness in the face of future disasters, or is it merely empty language, a few vain drops of perfume, to mask the signs of social and environmental decay? &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Adrian Tait,&nbsp;20th March 2014<span style="font-size: 0.813em;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Adrian is Chairman of Transition Athelney and a founder member of the <a href="">Climate Psychology Alliance</a>.&nbsp; &nbsp;</em> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> climate Tue, 25 Mar 2014 07:57:19 +0000 Rob Hopkins 35177 at