More locally-grown goodness

This year has been a bumper year for apples and pears apparently. Ijust made this tart with pears picked from a neighbour’s garden last weekend. Amazing what you can grow in n4…


Small is… In praise of the reluctant enthusiast

This weekend saw the Small is… festival take place in the grounds of Practical Action‘s Warwickshire base. The Small is… festival is inspired by the thinking of Pratical Action’s founder E.F.Schumacher and is described on the website as:

A space to share skills, learn about technologies, create networks, develop ideas and be inspired about international development and the planet.

I had read about the festival but Eiffelover and I were unable to attend as we had we had a prior engagement at the very beautiful and inspiring wedding of two lovely friends.

But fortunately I have a hotline to a Practical Action insider (uh, my sister) who sent me the following extract from Andrew Simms’s keynote address. Andrew’s talk apparently focused on the impossibility of maintaining growth in our unique and fragile planet and that transitioning to a more equitable zero growth economy is possible and necessary “…we can do this…and the money is there if you just reorient production and government priorities”.

He gave a lot of emphasis to the ‘well being’ that can be achieved in this transition process and ended with a quote from a speech by the American environmentalist Edward Abbey:

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

(From a speech to environmentalists in Missoula, Montana, and in Colorado, which was published in High Country News, (24 September 1976), under the title “Joy, Shipmates, Joy!”, as quoted in Saving Nature’s Legacy : Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity (1994) by Reed F. Noss, Allen Y. Cooperrider, and Rodger Schlickeisen, p. 338 ISBN 1559632488)

I love this quote. On a day-to-day basis it reminds me why how even when I head for my desk each morning I remember to do simple things like enjoy the pleasure of cycling through Highbury Fields and take in my own lunch rather than join the ranks of the desk-bound in the supermarket queues. And more fundamentally it recognises our humanity and our need to cut ourselves a bit of slack – however noble the cause – in order to remember just what it is that we’re fighting to preserve in the first place. Keep body and soul together – active, breathing, blood-pumping, conscious – and whatever you do you can only win.

Rambling out yonder in the Peak District - June 2007



Ottolenghi tomato galette (home-grown tomatoes and chilli) and green salad (with office-grown green beans).



I grew these!


Something good is happening (slowly): my 10:10 story so far

I wrote this post when on holiday a couple of weeks ago. Am just getting round to posting it thanks to the fantastic innovation of my new flexi-time half-day which I am dedicating to time-banking and Transition stuff. Best decision I’ve made in ages.

Nearly eight months ago Oliver and I travelled by train from London to Copenhagen. On the return journey, inspired by the conversations we had had and the people we had met, I made ten pledges for 10:10 which I posted on this blog. Since the spring I have been very quiet on this site. There are two main reasons for this. One is that I increasingly find that away from my job I derive more and more pleasure from activities that do not tie me to screen: working outside, making and repairing things, cycling, meeting and talking to people. The second is that when I am at my computer I tend to have a long list of other tasks to do, many arising from the pledges, and the blog rarely receives my attention.

But now I am on another train, this time cutting right across the south of France, and with five hours to kill and no access to Internet this seems like a good time to take stock.

Continue reading ‘Something good is happening (slowly): my 10:10 story so far’


Urban container gardening

I repotted the this houseplant in some of our compost. There seems to be a pumpkin making a bid for freedom!


Jonathon Porritt @ Brighter Future

Jontahn Porritt inspires the crowds at The George pub

On Monday night I went to an event hosted by the Brighter Future crew. The highlight was the keynote speaker, Jonathon  Porritt, one of the leading environmental campaigners of the last thirty years. It was fantastic to get to hear him in such an informal setting and he also seemed pleased to be addressing an audience that was not just the ‘usual suspects’. Indeed, this is the whole genius of Brighter Future  – it’s ability to tap into a particular demographic (young, professional) without necessarily previous experience of activism.

Unsuprisingly, Jonathon Porritt’s speech was very political, touching on the Labour government’s record on the environment, the Greens chances with Caroline Lucas in Brighton and making the case very powerfully for any future government to prioritise retrofitting the existing housing stock. There are huge potential benefits here – environmentally and socially – and for me it was a good reminder of some of the reasons that led me to end up working where I do.  And an interesting perspective on how far we’ve come, a point he illustrated by discussing how Amory Lovins’ once far-out concept of the negawatt is today (in different language, admittedly) the stuff of mainstream energy company advertising.

More broadly, Jonathon made some thoughtful points about the role of campaigning in the present climate and what strategies we should adopt. First there is a huge energy around climate change campaigning at the moment. This is hugely exciting but it also entails responsibilities. Put simply, we cannot, must not squander the present opportunities. On the strategy point, this means finding the right voice to connect with people and starting from where they are (and not where we think they should be, or where we are).  There is a compelling case that greener lives are better lives for all and this is the case we need to be making to convince people that this is their story and their responsibility too. 10:10 has been fantastic at this – and hearing Dan from 10:10 talk about how they’d managed to get the campaign in all sorts of unlikely places (including teen mags and on the boards at White Hart Lane) really brought this home. He also made a plug for the ‘Lighter Later’ campaign, which I think is just brilliant

Meanwhile, Brighter Future has three campaign areas coming up this year to coincide with the seasons: transport (to encourage people to book sustainable summer holidays and get on their bikes), insulation (preparing homes for winter over the summer) and sustainable consumption. Some of this ties in with stuff I’m doing – for example our cycle trip to Scotland in May and plans to organise something for bike week in June at work so it will be good to know that there is the support of a wider network out there.

Pete, who’s co-running the transport bit of the campaign began by singing the joys of spring cycling. In the words of a mate of his, “it’s that bit where your face stops feeling like it’s being bashed by a hammer.” Not today it wasn’t. Roll on spring…




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10:tentacles on flickr


Header credit

Header adapted from tentacles.13 by Mark Knol on Flickr