Transition Malvern Hills (TMHills) continues to promote and support sustainable projects and initiatives in Malvern and the surrounding area. We are organising regular meet ups, (under the title of TMHills Eco-Chat, Thoughts and Action), for individuals and groups to discuss how Malvern is making the positive changes needed to reduce our environmental impact. There will be monthly meetings at Greenlink for all that wish to participate in these friendly discussions.
The main talk will be by Jon Halle, who is the co-founder of Sharenergy Co-operative, which has helped over 100 community energy groups across the UK to get up and running – from solar in Somerset to wind on Shetland. The talk is Sustaining the Energy, How to keep building community renewable energy in turbulent times.
In February the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) launched their third Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) Research based publication called Making it Happen. More about this below but let us first see how the story has unfolded.
The first CAT ZCB publication in 2013 Rethinking the Future, demonstrated that we could achieve a Zero Carbon Britain with minimum changes to modern living standards. We could do this using current proven technology for renewable energy generation, energy efficiency measures, rethinking our transport and changes to our diet and land use. They showed it was possible to this by 2030. It was a very comprehensive and well evidenced report full of helpful explanatory graphics. Transition Malvern Hills gave presentations in Malvern.
The main criticism levelled at the report was that their research did not take into account how intermittent renewable energy was, in the UK the wind doesn’t always blow and sun shine.
This prompted CAT to do an extraordinary research project, they modelled the weather records in hourly slots over a 10 year period and the power demand figures for all forms of energy use in the UK for the same period. This resulted in the publication of second report giving both the levels of intermittence and the energy storage that would be necessary to meet demand in the periods of low or almost no generation as well as the most effective ways to create the storage. Again this was well received and there has been a considerable increase in storage solutions since then with large schemes being built and domestic scale products now being sold.
CAT soon realised that demonstrating the solutions that would enable us to get to ZCB wasn’t enough. The reports and presentations were helpful but the change wasn’t happening fast enough or in an integrated way. They then started a multi-disciplined research project on the barriers that were stopping what needed to happen. This brings us to the third report just published, Zero Carbon Britain – Making it Happen.
Once again very well researched with great examples of how the barriers can be reduced or dissolved they go into detail on Politics and Governance, Economics and Finance, Psychology and Behaviour, Overcoming Carbon Lock-in, Changing Worldviews and Values and Communications.
The comprehensiveness of the interlocking issues explored demonstrates very effectively how we are so often trapped in a world view with its supporting structures and social norms that get us to believe the very opposite of what is in both our and societies best interest and often carry on doing things that we know in our hearts are not sustainable.
There are excellent summaries of psychological research, here is a helpful paragraph on our values and how we perceive others, there is more on how those negative perceptions are reinforced.
“Perceptions and misperceptions are fundamental to believing in the possibility of change. As described elsewhere in this report, research by the Common Cause foundation revealed how, regardless of age, geography, wealth and voting behaviour – 74% of people attach more importance to compassionate values – embracing justice, tolerance and responsibility – than to wealth, image and ambition – so called selfish values. But 77% of us think others hold dominantly selfish values. The contradiction might partly explain the lack of political enthusiasm for more shared, common, collective solutions to our problems. A shift in attitude and faith in each other matters far more than any post-facto, obsessively detailed platform of minutely priced policies.
This links to an excellent section on the underlying assumptions (about human nature) embedded in the Neo-Liberalism worldview that is currently so dominant and has led to so many of our current problems both environmental and social.
A very simple example linking politics and carbon lock-in is we are told that renewable energy subsidies are the problem leading to us having higher energy bills. We are not told about the massive tax breaks given to Fossil Fuel companies which are subsidies by another name but paid for by us indirectly. An IMF quote used in ZCB Making it happen illustrates this.
“Low carbon alternative technologies, infrastructure, services and behaviours are often more expensive than fossil fuel-based alternatives. This is because there is not a level playing field: there is a greater level of government subsidy given to the fossil fuel industry, and the societal or ‘external’ costs of the industry (for example, the health costs of air pollution) are not currently accounted for in their pricing (IMF, 2015).”
A recent example:
“Theresa May gives a £10,000-plus bribe if you live near a frack site. If you live near a wind farm, nothing …The asymmetry is amazing.” Barry Gardiner, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary (Mason, 2016)
There is so much informative reading in this report and you can download a short summary or the full report at no cost from www.cat.org.uk we hope it stimulates you think and act with us on this major challenge of our times.
We leave you with a thought provoking quote
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs (29:18)
Malvern Hills Repair Cafe have been told by the BBC that the video they produced following their visit to the repair cafe a couple of sessions ago has now been viewed on their website ONE MILLION TIMES !!!
Just in case you haven’t seen the video, and want to increase the viewer numbers even further, here is a link to it …
Professor Whitelegg has worked with community groups worldwide, saving pedal rickshaws in Calcutta, working with groups in Britain, saving the Settle -Carlisle Railway. He believes that railways should be accountable with a public service remit.
He is questioning why Deutsche Bahn’s excellent service and use of renewable energy has not be transferred to its subsidiary Arriva Wales. He is hoping his letter will be published in the German newspapers.
Freiburg – a German city similar to Hereford – has totally turned its transport system around in the last forty years. Only a quarter of journeys are by car. The transport system is integrated, with high quality bus, train and bike routes. When a large housing estate was planned, it was designed to be car-free, and the tramline to the city was put in first. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have similar systems. There is not one in Britain.
In Switzerland hourly buses connect Basle railway station to small towns and villages.
Tourists staying in the Black Forest are given a free transport pass. It gives a psychological boost to using public transport. The area has similarities to Shrewsbury to Hereford, and is booming.
Why is transport so bad in the UK?
The problem lies deeper than the integration of buses and trains
Decision makers on transport do not relate the problems to bigger issues.
Our transport system is regressive – it seems designed to take from the poor and give to the rich.
Highspeed rail, airports and roads do not address the problems faced by old people, those on limited incomes or children.
The funds allocated for an M4 relief road round Cardiff, supposedly to ease congestion and boost economic growth, could be used to create a South Wales Metro on the German model.
The connection between transport and social exclusion was examined in a Cabinet Office report in 2003. But the political system rejects evidence. The Implications for health and climate change are ignored.
Good public transport maximises economic activity.
If you want a city to be cheaper to run – have good public transport. High car use is very expensive. The International Organisation for Public Transport shows that a public transport system can be cheaper.
Opinion surveys are generally ignored by politicians. When asked if they would prefer more road and no buses, most people would say no.
The possibility that the social costs of looking after old people and children could be lower, and the population could be healthier are ignored.
Climate change is worsening. According to the Stockholm Environment Institute, homes and manufacturing are becoming more efficient, but transport is out of control.
Public Health officials do not understand the impact of transport on health – contributing to obesity, cancer and lung disease.
There is no mention of an air quality action plan on the Herefordshire county website – even though it is a legal requirement. Particle emissions are not monitored.
The air quality in Hereford falls below acceptable levels. Councillors know this, but the leaders decided to build more roads – making the problem worse.
Road congestion near Hereford Cathedral is bad for road safety, and health – but so far no-one has been killed, so no attention is paid.
What do we do?
If there is a consultation or survey, or at the school gate, talk, argue, lobby to show that the situation can be improved.
The idea of change is thought ridiculous but ridiculous debates have happened before. Providing access to clean water and sewers for all was once considered too expensive. The society for the Protection of Slavery made a case for slavery being necessary to the economy.
We are really backward. 100,000 vehicle in London contribute to 9000 deaths a year.
Need to argue convincingly that this is wrong
Public health implications are appalling
Fiscal accountability would provide a different way of assessing transport costs
Cities become cheaper to run.
Helps to mitigate climate change
Transport needs to be seen in a wider context.
Can we raise the level of discussion?
Convince government to ensure fiscal policy aids investment in better transport systems.
This would help the environment
And mitigate climate change
Join forces, eg groups campaigning for speed reduction join groups trying to improve bus services, railways, provision for cyclists and walkers. As in Sweden’s’ Living Streets and Vision Zero (no more road deaths).
Use facts and figures – see CAT’s (Centre for Alternative Technology) Zero Carbon Britain and the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Vision Zero.
There are numerous examples of chipping away at negativity such as Energiewende in Germany. Deutsche Bahn has joined in – all its trains will run on renewable energy (except Arriva).
There are many groups in Europe arguing for the transformation of transport.
The New York transport commissioner has made several squares car-free.
Local groups with an interest in transport are working hard – campaigns for buses, railway groups, those interested in roads, cycling and accessibility of services.
Assessment of alternative approaches (bottom of p6)
Summary of assessment findings – South Worcestershire (starts p11)
Climate change (p11-12)
Population and Communities- effect on households without a car (p13-14)
Health and Well Being (p14)
Next steps (p18)
Priorities and objectives for LTP4 (p21)
Climate change (p25)
Assessment questions (Table 1.4 on p28) include communities (p29,30) health and wellbeing (p30) especially access to the countryside for recreation
Statutory consultation (p23, para 1.5.1) is required with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Historic England.
In my opinion, this seems to mean that consultation with user groups is left until the final stage, when the main decisions have effectively been made. Accessibility to services by public transport, walking or cycling is particularly important for people whose health or budget precludes car ownership. But including walking or cycling links requires forward planning to integrate them with new housing developments or road upgrades.
I hope this encourages you to take part in the survey, as alternative views take time and repetition to be accepted.
Members of Transition Worcester are planning to build a wind turbine. They will be using a tried and tested design produced by Mr Hugh Piggott who has designed homemade wind turbines for people in many countries.
They would welcome anyone who would like to join them in making this turbine.
There can be no doubt that 2016 will be remembered as a year of seismic political shifts. We now live in a world where the President of the United States has espoused climate change denial and has installed a climate sceptic to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, whilst the former CEO of ExxonMobil is the Secretary of State! Meanwhile here in the UK, most established environmental policies are up for grabs in the Brexit negotiations and Government action on renewable energy is sadly lacking, although the cost of onshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy. It would be hard not to feel despair in the face of our new reality.
We can’t deny having those feelings but there is also a great deal of hope. For the first time, we (and the majority of nations) have ratified the international Paris agreement that begins to address the key issues of climate change. Investment and operating costs of renewables are outperforming fossil fuels across the world, and global businesses and finances are coming on board and disinvesting from fossil fuels – the momentum appears irreversible. Alongside this (whilst it might not always feel like it), public opinion supports tackling climate change and renewable energy, that makes us really hopeful.
Another hope indicator was the Marrakesh Climate Change meeting in December. Where despite Trumps pronouncement’s about not ratifying the Paris agreement, there was overwhelming support to redouble efforts to tackle it. China, now by far the biggest investor in renewables, is leading the way and India now realises, it is a cheaper option than coal and allows them to help their massive rural population without having the expensive and long lead times of building a grid. There are also a number of States in the USA who have told Trump they will take him to court if he renegades on the Paris agreement.
The other big shift is all the new thinking and investment on energy storage. We are now seeing the possibilities of household batteries, use of parked electric cars batteries at peak times and major battery installations, like those of Google all happening. Other large scale storage solutions are either being installed or seriously being considered like compressed air, electricity conversion to hydrogen and chemicals. All this together with local grids with smart systems that can shed load and charge differential prices for peak time electricity and manage supply and demand in new ways. These approaches can make the intermittence of renewables a benefit rather than a problem.
We citizens need to keep talking to others about all this to realise that a consensus is building and take every opportunity to put pressure on the Government to get back into renewables, rather than the Fracking dead end and the unbankable nuclear option. The UK needs to return to leading on these issues, most of the good work that has been done to date was as a result of the pre 2008 government, the frameworks they put in place that allowed on and off shore wind as well as PV have now been dismantled.
Phasing out fossil fuels gives us a chance to reverse a number of serious problems. The obvious ones are environmental climate change, devastating pollution in many poorer countries around the mines and oil fields, acid rain from the power stations. There are also political problems, oil rich states are very often totalitarian as they can “bribe” the people to keep the status quo, in democratic oil rich states the lobbying has distorted democracy (see USA). The plight of indigenous peoples has often been extreme as their lands have been plundered and destroyed.
It is to be hoped that this move from fossil fuels will allow more people to wake up to the need for humanity to deepen its awareness and change its relationship with the whole of creation. This consciousness shift has been growing (it is what our Inner Transition Group is all about). More people are aware of the devastating impact of believing humankind are separate from the natural world and can use it as we please as if it is inexhaustible thereby creating waste, destruction, pollution and actual progressively harming ourselves by losing the clean air, water, fertile soil, heathy animals, wilderness and climate that supports us and all life.
It would take a long article to outline the many influences that have lead us into this dead end of separateness from most of creation. It is important to see it as a progressive blindness that has come over the developed world.
Although this process started before the Enlightenment, its influence and subsequent educational emphasise placed an over reliance on so called “rational thinking” and the idea that the material world is the whole world. This has led to us subordinating or discounting our imagination, intuition, embodied experiences (feelings, emotions and things we know but can’t yet put into words), sense of mystery, wonder and the sacred.
So, the hope for 2017 is that the technical solutions to our/the earth’s problems happen in parallel to humankind’s consciousness shift to understanding and being part of all creation, if we care for all creation we will be caring for ourselves.
If you are reading this then you are looking at our website on our new host. This has now completed. Our address remains transitionmalvernhills.org.uk.
Since the start of Transition Malvern Hills, John Howes has been hosting our website as part of his own hosting. John has now rationalised the web hosting and we have moved to a commercial hosting solution. We thank John for the hosting he provided.
As part of the move we have taken the opportunity to updated the structure of the site. The main change is that we have removed working groups as Transition Malvern Hills no longer has active working groups.
This is the report given by our chair, Ginny Lee to our Annual Network Meeting 28th, September 2016.
This year has been a reflective 12 months. The core Transition Malvern Hills group, (Myself, Robin, Ian and Dinah) has been investing the time in looking at ‘where next’ for TMH. We started this process by organising 6 weekly workshops, to discuss potential new projects, these were led by Richard Priestley, who has a wider vision and knowledge of low energy projects that are happening on a global as well as a local scale. The idea of the workshops was to reconcile the work of TMH within the Malvern area with the initiatives that have happened in the area. The conclusion was that many of us are now working on existing successful initiatives not leaving the manpower to begin new projects.
Our next step was to take an overarching view of our work since the grassroots Transition movement was brought to life in Malvern in 2007. Some of us remember those early days when we had a blank slate to work with – The question being ‘What was to be our first low carbon initiative?’ Much of it was about creating a medium to highlight the issues we will be facing with Global Warming being very much a reality that would affect us all. Hence the creation of the TMH calendar, this was distributed throughout Malvern advertising films, talks and projects led by founder volunteers. In 2009 our calendar had the following events:
Pudding Club – Bring your favourite pudding to share & swap recipes
Breakfast on the Beacon
Colwall Car Club meeting,
Malvern Community Forest: Nest boxes for Spring
Gardener’s Question Time
Malvern Community Forest: Nature Trails and Footpaths
Alternative Energy Talk
Transition Tavern – Open Mic – Food & Drink to Share
An illustrated talk on the problems caused by light spillage from poorly designed street lighting, floodlighting and security lighting,
Fun activities for the young people at Malvern Youth Centre.
This stirs up a dose of nostalgia.
Ok, so where are we now?
Within Malvern we have, a Car share club, Electric bike hire scheme, Gas Lamp project to upgrade and reduce their gas use, a community centre (Malvern Cube), Raised Vegetable Bed project, Community Energy Company, Energy Tracers, Garden Share, Inner Transition, Repair Cafe, Malvern Food Alliance, Malvern Community Forest, Abundance, could there be more…
Next door in Colwall we have, Colwall Orchard Group
The work and energy that has gone into these sustainable projects is something we should all celebrate. Transition Malvern Hills is proud to have initiated some of these ideas and have supported the others that have grown from the need to recognise that a low carbon life style will benefit us all as well as protect our environment.
TMH would like to continue as a mouthpiece to promote and inspire others to continue to develop and grow new low energy projects, also to sign post existing and new initiatives.
How will we do this in the coming year? By continuing with our newsletter. We need help with this… Please let us know if this idea is something you would like to offer some of your time to help with and support.