News

BCR Energy Group Talks in the New Year

BCR Energy Group will be holding their first two meetings of 2020 on topics to inspire us for the new year:

Making Your Green 2020 Resolutions – 14th January

Changing Our Food To Save Our Planet – 11th February

Both events will be held at The Kensington Arms in Redland. Doors will open at 7pm and the discussion itself will begin at 7.30pm with plenty of time for questions from the audience. These are free events and all are welcome, but please book using the Eventbrite links above.

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Market resumes on January 4th

The Whiteladies Road Farmers Market is taking a Christmas break on Saturday 28th December 2019. The weekly market will resume in the new year on Saturday 4th January 2020.

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Accepting Change

Hooray! The City Council has made a good move banning diesel cars from the city centre. It’s a start and a brave one.  From 2021 none will be allowed to enter during daylight hours and similarly powered taxis, buses and lorries will have to pay a charge on a size dependent scale.

It might inconvenience some of us but is a price worth paying. The Council’s open data website shows that we are all breathing very polluted air in thick clusters around the centre, which spreads like a spider’s web along the main arteries to all points of the city’s outer suburbs. If you doubt the evidence, try cycling up Park Street in rush hour when you can be sure of being joined by plenty of buses, taxis, the occasional lorry and the normal stream of cars. Of course you’ll be puffing a bit at the top, but it won’t be the steepness of the hill that’ll be closing off your airways but the badly polluted air inflaming them.

Of course we all need to use public transport as much as we can if we want travel in our city to be sustainable. Streets choked with cars are no fun for anyone, but that does not give buses, lorries or taxis carte blanche to pollute. They too must run on clean energy, so let’s hope the daily £100 charge will incentivize their owners to get to work and make it happen as soon as possible.

I mentioned banning diesel cars as a start, but I think we need to go a lot further to improve the quality of our lives and the air we breathe. The challenge is overcoming the practical and emotional barriers to giving up car dependency. Unfortunately our default position tends to lock us in to the fear of what we might loose rather than the gains.  Luckily we are good at accepting the need for change. Ten years ago for example, it would have been political suicide to issue a diesel ban, but now that we voters understand more about air pollution and sustainability, the Council has considered it safe to do so.

We are not ready yet to accept a ban on all cars and fossil fuel powered vehicles in the centre, but give us another ten years and who knows what we might agree to. Just imagine if we did allow it. We would be able to hear the birds, cross roads safely, be fitter and healthier and our streets could revert to being the social venues they used to be before being taken over so relentlessly by motor traffic.

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in December 2019.

Posted in Hamish article

Climate Change and Good Leadership

Last week I had to wait for four large black SUVs to pass by one after the other before I could walk my small grandchild across our little street.  It set me wondering again about climate change and leadership.

I noticed a news item the other day that the government has committed us to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Most of us would agree wholeheartedly with that and it is evidence of its commitment to dealing with climate change. But there wasn’t anything about how we were going to get there. For example the International Panel on Climate Change which made that recommendation as a way of keeping to a 1.5C temperature rise and not a disastrous 2C or more, also said that in order to reach it, we must cut our emissions 50% by 2030. How should we do that? Whilst there may be macro plans to generate more carbon free electricity, there’s not a lot of government guidelines and incentives that will make significant differences at the community and individual level. For example 30% of cars in Oslo as has been reported, are electric, so why have similar targets not been set here? Where are the incentives and support to commit us all to making our houses carbon free? Some of that £1.9 billion spent on Brexit would go a long way towards achieving that. Why are diesel vehicles, especially large ones, still allowed to puff their pollution into our air when we know what harm they are doing? Amongst the reporting about obesity, where are the public pronouncements about the importance of locally grown food and incentives to make it affordable?

The list goes on, but the Climate Change Panel says one of the things we must also do is work with greater cooperation internationally, governmentally, corporately and locally. It is the latter that affects us. Whilst we do have opportunities to hold governments and corporations to account, we can also make our lives as sustainable as possible, and share experience. We don’t have to buy large vehicles or fly everywhere, we can support shops selling local food and products and take advantage of the incentives there are to make our houses more energy efficient.

Sometimes burying our heads in the sand feels like a better option when looking at what needs to happen in dealing with climate change. However a thought about the life or death issues our children and grandchildren will be faced with if we take that path should help us to look at the challenges rationally, go for the easier ones first like energy generation or reducing and recycling waste, and build success with them to tackle the difficult ones like car manufacturing and ownership or flying, later.

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in July 2019.

Posted in Hamish article

We Need Good Leadership

I overheard a young couple in a Tesco Express the other day debating whether to buy four or six tins of tuna. I couldn’t resist intervening and suggested whatever they decide to hurry up, because soon there won’t be any left to buy. They were taken aback, but their inquisitive looks made it easy to explain about the unsustainable and exploitative fishing and selling of those fish, and as they returned all the tins, I suggested a few websites for them to check out. Job done.

So if its as simple as that to persuade someone to stop buying tuna, why do most drivers still leave their engines idling at traffic lights, travel around town in gas guzzling SUVs, or buy food with a huge mileage component, when it would be quite simple to stop these by explaining the environmental harm they cause? There’s a whole list of initiatives local or national government could be taking leads on regarding climate change, sustainability and environmental protection, some simple, others complex. Switching off at traffic lights is an easy one, but the vehicles people buy complex, because it involves a national economic system built around profits, taxation and employment, with powerful lobbyists working to keep things as they are. Same with flying. Persuade people to stop doing so much, and a major part of the nation’s industry would need changing.

The problem is, we have no choice. We have been warned now that we are at the beginning of rapid climate change and have about 12 years left to prevent it becoming uncontrollable. That means within that time, our governments, leaders, thinkers and ourselves must act to change the way we do things, small stuff like stopping idling at traffic lights, or big things like buying fewer cars, flying much less and eating locally produced food. I suspect that means revolutionizing economic and taxation values, and certainly initiating easy win  educational campaigns to inform and change. Like the couple in Tesco, people want to live sustainably, and are willing to learn.

As an example of rapid climate change, look at Climate Change in Mongolia. There is a chart showing that Mongolia’s average temperature rise from 1990 to 2010 is 2.1C. In the 1940s it was a bit colder than -1C, so has gone up 3 degrees in 70 years, 2.1C in the last 20.

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in May 2019.

Posted in Hamish article

Heaven and Hell

I had a perfect vision of heaven the other day looking over the River Avon. There was a spring tide on a clear crisp morning and Pill’s colourful houses made faultless reflections on the water. Fishing boats tied up on the dock at Shirehamption lent an air of worthy toil and couples walking along the coastal path below looked absorbed in the stillness of the moment. A touch of mist cemented the sense of peace across the scene.

Then I turned around behind me to the pure unadulterated hell of the six lane motorway thundering its way over the creaky M5 bridge. Biblical authors could have used it to instruct their readers on what might happen to the ungodly. You get to stand between the lanes for eternity dodging smoking lorries, speeding cars and swaying caravans with your ears and nose saturated with the permanent racket and smell of straining diesel motors, horns and sirens.

It set me thinking about the options of what our environment could look like in our climate changed future, and what choices we are making to get there. I heard David Attenborough telling us a while back we could quite easily wreck it and as I looked at the traffic nightmare it was hard not to think that is what we are doing. I wondered how interested we really are in making all those houses with the beautiful reflection so well insulated there was no need for fossil fuel heating,  how dedicated we really are to sustainable transport, to self sufficient communities and food production and to organizing work to be only a bicycle ride away.

Do you remember that famous Pastor Neimoller poem where he doesn’t speak out for the communists, trade unionists and Jews when the Nazis come for them because he wasn’t one, but when they came for him there was nobody left to speak for him? Sometimes I feel it’s a bit like that with climate change. We know its certainty and likely outcome but we don’t really do much about it because in the end we see it as someone else’s problem.

Sure, most of our political and business leaders are not providing the information or leadership that will bring about the behavioural and technical changes we need to be making now, but we elect them and buy their stuff. There are so many things we could choose to do or demand, big and small, which would make a difference. It could be something to do with transport, household energy, purchasing power, waste and recycling, food production or politics. Why not write to Bishopston Voice telling us what you are doing and inspire us to try it as well?

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in March 2019.

Posted in Hamish article

Sustainability

Living sustainably means satisfying the needs of the present without adversely affecting the ability of future generations to satisfy theirs. There’s probably a few unreconstructed freeloaders amongst us who couldn’t care, but my guess is most of us would happily go along with that, in which case, what does it really mean?

To answer that we need to look at different bits of the way we live without fossil fuel dependency, and consider how we could do it, and the effect it might have.

The big ones are transport, energy and food, though population, development including housing, clothing, money and the quality of life should be added as well. Also communities and work, though they will be affected by what happens in the first three, and somewhere there should be a reference to recycling.

Covering these in the remaining 200 words of this article is unrealistic, but it could be done over the next four or five. In which case I’d like to spend the rest of this making a start on transport, by asking what would we do if the water coming out of our taps made us ill? Nothing? Of course not. We would expect an explanation, advice and immediate action from Bristol Water. So why is our action on air pollution so pathetic? We know motor transport, especially diesel powered, is the major air polluter in Bristol, and we know it kills and causes serious illness, yet cars still clog our roads and we would certainly do not demand remedial action from the air authorities as we would if water started killing people.

The trouble is we are all part of the problem, and politically that makes things difficult. Kamikaze like there are still too many of us determined to drive as much as we feel we need, and how many politicians, national or local would get in if they stood on a ticket of less cars? They would more likely promise more roads to deal with more cars.

Happily it is not all a story of gloom and doom. Cultures can be changed, though not overnight. For example, our government accepts the importance of restricting the use of diesel vehicles in our cities, and the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have plans to do that. London’s mayor is planning to pedestrianize Oxford Street.

So that’s two changes that may tip the cultural balance and make it easier to clean up our air – restrict diesel vehicles from city centres and encourage much greater pedestrianization. Doing both will take time, but it is up to all of us to get out of our cars and support the implementation of both.

Or do nothing and accept that air pollution will kill more of us, maybe someone in our family.

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in January 2019.

Posted in Hamish article

Where are the Arts?

How many of us have set about doing something to reduce their fossil fuel consumption in the wake of the devastating weather events that have happened around the world in the last few years? Probably none. Its unsettling reading about them but as they don’t affect us and it’s difficult to see any link between them and our personal behaviour, we carry on. In any case what can we do about people and animals frying in the worst recorded droughts in far away countries or drowning by the thousands in horrendous floods, apart from donating money or clothing?

A bit closer to home in San Francisco, the air has become so polluted with the Californian fires nobody goes outside without a facemask, and the advice is for all babies to be evacuated from the city to escape the toxicity. We know they’re the State’s worst fires ever recorded, they’ve burnt out whole towns and they follow on from one of its worst ever droughts. But how many of us have said this is something so shocking exacerbated by climate change, I’m going to stop doing at least one significant thing that contributes towards it.

I can guess the answer. None of us. Most of us are unsettled by images of starving or dead polar bears unable to feed themselves because there’s scarcely any summer ice left for them in the Arctic, or of vital rainforest essential for absorbing carbon being scythed to make way for palm oil, or of new oil rigs drilling above the Arctic circle, but they are far removed from our daily lives. Although we’re given facts and figures showing how our unsustainable and energy intense life styles drive them, we can’t see them and that makes it difficult to be really interested in changing firmly ingrained habits and expectations and learning to live sustainably.

So what needs to happen? We don’t respond well to fear mongering stories or horrendous statistics, so perhaps it’s time to be thinking about the arts, literature and music. They can tell stories scientists and mathematicians can’t. We know how effective the documentary about plastic in the ocean was, why can we not encourage film makers to make an even bigger one demonstrating the link between our life styles, choices and climate change? Where are the plays, poems and books we are all clamouring to see or read, the songs to listen to or the striking artwork and murals dotted around our city?

If you’re an artist, dancer, musician, writer or poet why not talk to others and see how can you flood us with images that will make us sit up and think?

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in December 2018.

Posted in Hamish article

Bristol Airport Expansion

Last month Keri Beckingham in her article ‘Bristol Airport expansion decision due in September’ put the points forward about our local airport expansion plans clearly, and they were scary. Over 6 years it wants to increase passenger numbers from 8 to 12 million with the option of bumping it up to 20 million after that. Instead of reducing its carbon output like the rest of us, it will double it.  This is to happen in Councils that have declared a climate emergency and aim to be carbon free by 2030. What on earth is going on? Why would anyone think it reasonable to seek permission to drastically increase carbon output?

Perhaps it is because Bristol Airport relies on us being the silent majority. Maybe it knows we are so wedded to the convenience and habit of flying abroad for our holidays we’d rather turn a blind eye to the consequences of what we are doing, and not question what it says and does.  But if we don’t and expect to carry on flying as much as we want, our children and grandchildren will point their fingers and say you carried on destroying our planet when you knew what you were doing just because you enjoyed the convenience and luxury.

The airport aims to have zero carbon output by 2030, which sounds good. If it can achieve that after the expansion, then maybe it hopes it will salve our consciences. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it’s only talking about the buildings. All new buildings should be carbon neutral by then. It’s specifically failing to include the carbon output of the extra aircraft running 24 hours, the extra road traffic and the loss of green space to park them. Keri included the figure of 87% as the numbers who arrive by private transport.

How do we feel knowing that all the carbon our Councils will have saved by becoming carbon free by 2030 will be wasted because of the airport’s expansion? Or that the efforts we will have made as businesses or private citizens will count as nothing?

The airport would argue that it has to expand to meet demand. It would be less willing to say publicly that there’s good money in it especially for its owners, a Canadian investment fund for teachers pensions.

If we have any concerns at all about climate change, the first thing to do is stop meeting demand by flying less and the second is to stop being part of Bristol’s silent majority. To achieve the latter check whether the planning decision was made in September and if not send objections to the 17 North Somerset Councillors responsible. Details can be found at stopbristolairportexpansion.org. To help with the former sign up to the Flight Free UK pledge.

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in October 2019.

Submit a comment about the planning application

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Concern for Leigh Court Farm

Update – 29 April 2019: The National Trust have now met with the tenants and agreed to give them new 5 year tenancies on their current tracts of land. They have admitted that they were wrong in the way that they handled the matter, and have made a commitment to work more cooperatively with thier tenants in future. Thanks to all those who wrote to express their concern.

 

There is a current risk to Leigh Court Farm from a potentially misguided retendering process by the National Trust.

At Sustainable Redland we are very concerned indeed. Leigh Court Farm is an essential part of our Whiteladies Road Farmers and Fairtrading Market every Saturday, and they are an essential part of the Bristol Food Movement providing locally grown organic produce.

We have learnt that retendering by the National Trust of their land in Failand could lead to Leigh Court Farm losing their tenancy. We believe it essential that the 10-acre field in Failand, farmed by Leigh Court Farm, must continue to be farmed by the current tenants in order to maintain the viability of their business.

For full details see the Briefing about Leigh Court Farm – April 2019 prepared by Sustainable Redland.

We are urging the National Trust to meet with the tenants to find a way forward. One possibility has already been proposed that seems to meet all parties needs.

Please write to the National Trust (email addresses shown in the Briefing document) to express your concern and your support for the farm.

Posted in News