Friday, October 23, 2009

Knowle man's Antarctic adventure

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Just had to include a link to this story* 'Plumber lands job in Antarctic' from today's Daily Mirror. Ok the link to things green/climate change is obvious but this time its the personal and local connection that is behind my interest. I went to Merrywood Boys' School in Knowle with Mark (pictured) and we hung around a lot together for yrs. We currently go climbing together and Mark's son Jake and my daughter are boyfriend/girlfriend!

*Mark Green is on top of theworld at landing his dream job - at the very bottom of the globe. The 47-year-old plumber was chosen from 2,000 applia cants to join the British Antarctic Survey on the Bunt Ice Shelf and maintain their heating, water and loos 800 miles from the South Pole.

Now he'll leave wife Anna, 42, and son Jake, 18, out in the cold back in Bristol when he flies to the remote Halley research station for 15 months on November 10.

But he has his family's full support for his "opportunity of a lifetime" and, despite expecting -50C temperatures, Mark said yesterday: "I just can't wait.

"The farthest I've been before is Spain. But when I heard of this job on the radio I knew I'd always regret it if I didn't have a go."

Apart from 10 scientists and 42 other support staff - picked from record number of credit crunch work-seekers - his closest neighbours will emperor penguins as he works on pipes in shafts up to 65ft below the two-metre snow.

But after learning survival techniques for the harsh conditions, the prospect holds no fears at all.

Well, he's even packing his saxophone. Really cool, Mark.

Cold facts of life

For more than 60 years the British Antarctic Survey has been researching the icy continent. With 400 staff and three stations there, as well as two on South Georgia, strengthened ships and an adapted aircraft are the £47.1million operation's lifeline.

Objection to Tesco on Ashton Gate

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Sent in the following objection to plans for a Tesco superstore on Ashton Gate today: I ask you to reject this application (09/03208/P). A Tesco store is not needed and would impact negatively on existing businesses, the environment and local community life. Sustainable access ie on foot, by bicycle or bus is poor. Little or no evidence is offered for appropriate economic, social or environmental regeneration. Bristol is supposed to be signed up to sustainable development – and this is not it!!

Those financing and running BCFC claim that a superstore on Ashton Gate is essential to plans for building a new stadium. If, as they say, a new stadium is vital they must have alternative plans for funding it or for redeveloping Ashton Gate – they cannot be considered competent otherwise. Don’t buy the BCFC spin.

Those who would benefit significantly from a new BCFC stadium are a very small number of private business people. Those who stand to lose significantly are a large number local people, whose small businesses, community and environment will be badly impacted. It would be unjust to decide in favour of a small number of already very wealthy people.

The site for the proposed new BCFC stadium is in the green belt. Along with the stadium would go houses, a hotel and fast food outlets – and of course a further stimulus to all kinds of possible developments to take up yet more of our green belt.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What if…we could see our climate changing emissions??

What would be a good way of visualising exactly how much climate changing carbon dioxide we all produce*? Its easy to see all the waste that goes into our bins (and recycling boxes…) but carbon dioxide is a colourless and odourless gas presently emitted when we heat and light our homes, obtain and cook food, travel for work and leisure…We may read in the papers and hear on the news or see on the DEFRA website that on average each UK person emits a massive 12.5 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide equivalent – it sounds a lot but what does it mean? What would it look like if we could see it? (See picture of our daily production, per person, of 73 large black bin bags full).
If we could see and/or smell it would there be even more participants in today’s blog action day on climate change? Would there be more impetus take action on a scale that would reduce or avoid the worst effects of climate change, given that increasingly frequent news reports of rapidly melting arctic ice (from today) or news of how the world’s poorest are suffering most from the consequences of climate change don’t seem to be stimulating it??
*We can easily convert the 12.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to a volume. When this is done (see the calculation below +) we find that the average UK person emits enough carbon dioxide equivalent each day to fill 145 black bags (of the 120 litre type we all put our plastic rubbish in) – or 73 if you use the larger 240 litre black bags. That’s about 17,400 litres every day – not far off a whole streets worth of rubbish bins !!
Something like 23 black bin bags (120 litre size) per day (equivalent to around 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year) is an emissions level which would avoid the worst climate change.

+A mole of carbon dioxide (its relative molecular mass in grams) is 44 grams (12+16+16). One mole of gas at standard temperature and pressure occupies 22.4 litres.

12.5 tonnes x1000 = 12,500kg x1000 = 12,500,000g which divided by the mass of one mole, 44g, gives us the number of lots of 22.4 litres we produce in a year = 284,090.9 lots.

284,090.9 x 22.4 = 6,363,636.364 litres per year, which divided by 365 gives 17, 434 litres per day. Divide by 120 litres (black bag – or small rubbish bin – volume) and you get 145 bags full per day!! [Divide by the larger 240 litre bags and you get 73 bags full per day].

Climate change is not only about melting ice caps and polar bears. Climate change is about people.

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Guest blog post (for Blog Action Day: Climate Change) from CARE International's, Simon Owens:
Swinging weather patterns are creating disasters on a scale that human civilization has never before witnessed. For the world’s poorest people – the ones least equipped to deal with its effects – climate change is devastating their crops, livelihoods and communities.

"Climate change is worsening the plight of those hundreds of millions of men, women and children who already live in extreme poverty – and it threatens to push hundreds of millions more people into similar destitution," says CARE International’s Secretary General Robert Glasser. "A concerted international response to this unprecedented challenge is required if we are to avoid catastrophic human suffering."

CARE is working toward a world where poor people can create opportunity out of crises like climate change. But the current reality is that climate change makes poor people even more vulnerable.

For instance, agricultural production will likely decline in the poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Less reliable rainfall will likely affect planting seasons, crop growth and livestock health – and lead to increased malnutrition. In other parts of the developing world, flooding will likely further diminish the quality of already-marginal soil and could cause outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Climate change also is hurling many poor families into "Catch-22" situations. For example, they may select crops that are less sensitive to rainfall variation, but also less profitable. As incomes decline and people are not able to eke out a living, children are forced to leave school, assets are sold off to afford essentials, malnutrition rates increase and large-scale migration ensues. The end result? Deepening poverty for tens of millions of people around the world.

What Must Be Done?

At the international level, negotiations to develop a new treaty to guide global efforts to address climate change will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark in just a couple weeks. The United States must help lead those efforts, and forge a strong agreement that caps emissions, stops global warming and responds to the effects already in motion. We must do this for the sake of all of humanity.

What can I do to help?

First, you can make a tax-deductible donation to CARE to help poor families access the tools and education they need to adapt to the effects of climate change, make efficient use of their existing resources and overcome poverty for good.

Second, if you live in the Unites States, you can write your senators and urge them to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a critical step toward U.S. leadership in tackling climate change. U.S. leadership is critical to making the Copenhagen negotiations a success.

Third, you can join the CARE mailing list to be kept up to date on CARE’s activities and other ways you can take action in the days counting down to Copenhagen.

To donate, take action and join our e-mail list, please visit

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Planet Knowle?

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At the first meeting of the Knowle West Team on 29 Sept, which I attended both as a local resident and to represent Knowle’s Transition group Sustainable Knowle, I was concerned that the term sustainability was pretty freely used eg featuring prominently in consultants Urban Initiatives own draft vision statement, but that no sustainability benchmarks, indicators, measures, assessment processes...were discussed. I made a note to raise the issue at the meeting but did not get the chance, thus this note.

It strikes me that sustainability is at the heart of the vision and objectives drawn up by Knowle West’s residents*, who have a broad-based and inclusive definition of land and development value, compared with the narrow, purely financial, view on the value of land and development expressed by someone else at the meeting on the 29th. [*See this Bristol City Council page on Knowle West Regeneration].

I brought this issue up at the Knowle West Residents Planning Group meeting on 6 Oct and said I would circulate some thoughts on sustainability benchmarks. I think the following principles are excellent as a sustainability guide to residents, campaigners, designers, architects, planners, developers – and there are some very good practical projects that are based upon them…

One Planet Living is a ‘global initiative based on 10 principles of sustainability developed by BioRegional and WWF’.

‘The ten principles of one planet living are a framework to help us enjoy a high quality of life within a fair share of the earth's resources:
Zero Carbon
Making buildings more energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technologies.
Zero Waste
Reducing waste arisings, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill.
Sustainable Transport
Encouraging low carbon modes of transport to reduce emissions, reducing the need to travel.
Sustainable Materials
Using sustainable products that have a low embodied energy.
Local and Sustainable Food
Choosing low impact, local, seasonal and organic diets and reducing food waste.
Sustainable Water
Using water more efficiently in buildings and in the products we buy; tackling local flooding and water course pollution.
Natural Habitats and Wildlife
Protecting and expanding old habitats and creating new space for wildlife.
Culture and Heritage
Reviving local identity and wisdom; support for, and participation in, the arts.
Equity, Fair Trade and Local Economy
Inclusive, empowering workplaces with equitable pay; support for local communities and fair trade.
Health and Happiness
Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and well being.’
More details on the above, including an expansion on what the 10 principles are all about here. Several practical examples of projects, at various levels, such as: BedZed UK; One Brighton; One Gallions, Thames Gateway; One Planet Sutton; RuralZED, can be found here.

The building products supplier Kingspan sponsored ‘Lighthouse’ demonstration zero carbon project at the Building Research Establishment (pictured), the work of Mount Pleasant Ecological Park and the principles developed at the Eden Project may or may not be fully realisable in practice, as yet, but they can certainly be used to inform our sustainable decision making, design and construction.

See for more examples of zero carbon home designs and here for debate/discussion on green homes.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Oppose this unsustainable, ungreen biofuel power station plan for Avonmouth

Just joined the Facebook group Stop Bristol's Biofuel Power Station because I'm very strongly opposed to power stations that plan to burn non-recycled and imported biofuels produced with massive social and environmental impacts. I've sent the group's suggested email of objection to the planning application (Ref 09/03235/F) to: and urge others to send similar messages.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: W4B Renewable Energy application for a biofuel power station at Avonmouth Docks, Ref 09/03235/F

I wish to object to W4B’s planning application to build a 50 MW biofuel power station at Avonmouth Docks, which would burn 90,000 tonnes of vegetable oil every year. I am deeply concerned about the impact of biofuels such as palm oil on the climate, on rainforests and other ecosystems and on communities in the global South. In Italy and Germany, a large number of biofuel power stations are already operating and virtually all of them run on palm oil which is by far the cheapest vegetable oil. Jatropha oil, also mentioned in the application, is not available commercially so far, yet already many thousands of people in Tanzania, Ghana and India are losing their land, livelihoods and in some cases their forests to jatropha plantations.

If the power station were run on palm oil only, it would require over 22,000 hectares of plantations – and even more for any other feedstock. According to the UN, palm oil is the main cause of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is responsible for billions of tonnes of carbon emissions, as forests are destroyed and peatlands converted to plantations. In countries like Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Colombia, growing numbers of indigenous peoples, small farmers and other rural communities are being forced off their land, often through violence.

Bristol City Council must consider the climate and wider sustainability impacts of planning decisions and I believe that this means that the development should be rejected.

I am also concerned about the impacts of the proposed biofuel power station on air quality and thus on the health of the local population, particularly in Avonmouth but potentially also in Hallen Village and Severn Beach Village. Avonmouth is already designated as an Air Quality Management Area, with concerns over PM10 levels. The power station will worsen PM10 levels, as well as those of NOx and PM 2.5, and will add to the pollution from two large biomass power stations in the area for which plans are currently being considered.
Local news reports on the issue:
There is also an e-petition opposing the power plant - please sign it!!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Free film show at The Thunderbolt: The Power of Community

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On Tuesday 13 October, 7.30pm you can come and see the excellent film 'The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil'* for free.

Its being put on at The Thunderbolt, 124 Bath Rd, Totterdown, BS4 3ED, just along the road from the Three Lamps junction, by the South Bristol Greens.

Get along there and meet up with people for change in Bristol!
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. It is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call "The Special Period." The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels – is an example of options and hope.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hard facts to show the net benefits of [possibly] having a bit of World Cup football in Bristol: where are they??

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Just spent a bit of time trying to spot some credible hard facts that demonstrate that [possibly] having a bit of World Cup football in Bristol for a short period many years hence (along with a new BCFC stadium and associated development in Ashton Vale and a huge Tesco on Ashton Gate...) would give significant net social, economic and environmental benefits. They are very, very hard to come by, though hype, trivia and illusion are very easy to find!!

For me its a case of concrete and long term disbenefits from loss of green belt (plus a big stimulus to further loss of green belt) and impacts on local shopping and environment, compared with benefits that are merely possibilities under certain circumstances - and they are pretty uncertain and transient in nature. Of course little or nothing of what is planned matches the sustainable development all politicians say they are signed up to!!

At the end of yet another story which, completely irrationally, recognises no downsides at all ('Hosting event 'can only be a good thing' ', Post, Oct 6) promoting Bristols bid to be a host city for the World Cup in 2018 was a reference to a You Tube video by Bristol City Council Leader Barbara Janke, so I took a look (see below).

The material on this site is equally flimsy hype and trivia, which leaves me thinking what it is we are actually supposed to be strongly supporting, apart form the illusion whipped up! I've been told that there are even people around who think the whole World Cup could be staged here!!

Is your MP signed up to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010??

Campaign group 38 Degrees are working to get more MPs signed up to cut their climate changing emissions by 10% in 2010 (I sent a message to my MP on this, at 38 Degrees request, and then realised she had already signed up - should have searched her website more thoroughly!! Well done Kerry McCarthy!). There are many MPs yet to support the 10:10 campaign though - why not make a few enquiries and then send them a message if needed

Monday, October 05, 2009

Voters are entitled to their MPs views on local issues

On Parliament’s own website it says this, amongst other things, about the role of those elected ‘MPs can help their constituents by advising on problems…, representing the concerns of their constituents…and acting as a figurehead for the local area.’

Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo has ‘refused to be drawn’ on whether she is for or against plans to build a huge Tesco on BCFCs Ashton Gate ground (‘City faces ‘tough choices’ for housing’, Post October 3). She is not in this instance doing the job for which she is paid a great deal. What is her advice? Where is her leadership? Where is her conviction? Aren't voters entitled to their MPs views on local issues?

No matter which side she came down on I for one would have more time and respect for her as an MP if she took a clear stance. She has steadfastly avoided this, concentrating instead on minimising the impact of the contention on her prospects for re-election – another instance of an MP putting self-interest first.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Today is National Carbon Footprint Day

Take a look at the National Carbon Footprint Day site.

Launched in 2008, with Marcus Brigstock and former London Deputy Mayor Jenny Jones, GLAM as patrons, National Carbon Footprint Day takes place every year on October 2nd, which is Gandhi's birthday. The aim is to make it easy for everyone to remember to calculate their annual carbon and environmental footprints.

This site has two purposes.

To enable people to register for free their annual carbon footprint.

To provide an annual free recording and reminder service on October 2nd every year,for your key carbon footprint measurements

For a full explanation of how it works please go to our “FAQ” page.National Carbon Footprint Day Patron Jenny Jones GLAM says “With the Arctic summer ice now melting over six times faster than predicted only 4 years ago and with the permafrost predicted to melt three times faster than expected barely a year ago, climate change is now truly a climate crisis. It is essential that we all take action urgently”.

Measuring your carbon footprint is the essential first step to taking responsibility to reducing your contribution to the crisis.

Donnachadh McCarthy who founded National Carbon Footprint Day and whose Victorian house in Camberwell became London’s first carbon negative home in 2007, says that actually measuring his annual water and energy carbon footprints, were his biggest motivators to continuously improve his home’s eco-performance.

He launched the world’s first National Carbon Footprint Day to help you monitor and cut your carbon footprint.. The key thing is to start reducing your carbon and environmental footprints now!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

No to non-recycled, imported biofuel power station for Avonmouth

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Recommended read: Stockwood Pete on the connection between plans for an imported biofuel power station at Avonmouth, the survival of rainforests and seriously threatened species like the Orangutan

Windmill Hill City Farm: Save Our Farm Appeal

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From the appeal organisers: The much-loved Windmill Hill City Farm provides a wide range of valuable services and facilities for the local community. Unfortunately it is facing a financial crisis and is threatened with

An Appeals Group has been set up to raise at least £50,000 before the end of the year, and since the recent launch of the Save Our Farm campaign, we have raised around £14,000. We have a variety of exciting schemes and events planned to generate funds over the coming months.

We need your help to see us through into next year, to enable us to put in place the long term strategies that will secure the future of the Farm. If you value Windmill Hill City Farm, and are in a position to do so, would you be willing to
pledge £25 to the Save Our Farm Appeal (and complete a gift aid form), if 500 other people will do the same?

You only donate the £25 once the pledge has been successful and 500 other people have signed up. There is a deadline for the pledge to be successful - 31st October 2009, and we hope to have 500 people by then, otherwise all those who have signed up will not need to fulfill their pledge and donate the money.

If we ARE successful, then this fundraising scheme alone will generate £12,500 - a quarter of our appeal target!

So what do you think? Are you in a position to make this pledge? If not, do you know someone else who is?

So how do you do it? It's set up on the Pledge Bank website - the link is:

Just sign up with your name and email address (only used to tell you when the pledge iscompleted and for us to contact you about the pledge). You can keep track of whether the pledge looks likely to make its target by viewing the signup rate graph.

Even if you can't afford to make the pledge yourself, please support it by circulating this information by email/ word of mouth/ text/ Facebook/around your workplace etc to everyone you know who might be able to help, and please ask them to circulate it to everyone they know too.

I hope you can join me in making the pledge and/or spreading the word...

Many thanks,
Carolyn Hecker
Save Our Farm Fundraising Team