Keep it in the ground


Make Wealth History blog explores why Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian until later this year, has put the paper’s weight behind ‘Keep it in the Ground’

Originally posted on Make Wealth History:

Earlier this year the Guardian announced that it was going to be putting climate change ‘front and center‘ in its news  coverage. Editor Alan Rusbridger explained that the media, his own paper included, has struggled to do justice to climate change. “We prefer to deal with what has happened, not what lies ahead” he wrote. “We favour what is exceptional and in full view over what is ordinary and hidden.”

I can understand Rusbridger’s frustration. As this week’s column inches about Jeremy Clarkson attest, what matters and what constitutes news don’t necessarily overlap.

As a slow motion, long term problem, climate change doesn’t make headlines, despite being one of the most serious issues journalists will cover in their careers. So the paper has been trying to remedy that problem, for its own readers at least, and taken on a much more campaigning edge in its coverage this…

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The Green Kitchen


St Albans’ new Vegetarian restaurant reviewed

Originally posted on thelocalfoodie:

The Green Kitchen

Brighton and Bristol are full of cafes and restaurants that serve good vegetarian and vegan food but until recently we have been quite far behind in this trend. With the best-selling cookbook at the moment, Deliciously Ella, focussing on cooking with plant-based wholefoods, this shows how interested people are in eating well. Some of the independent cafes sell good veggie options but a place specialising in veggie food has been long overdue.

Heather Foster opened The Green Kitchen on Hatfield Road (near Oaklands college) in October and has now settled in and has many regular customers. The spacious, light cafe has plenty to offer anyone, whether you are looking for veggie food or not. I had a good flat white (Heather is barrista-trained) one morning, and if you want a decent cup of tea, home-made cake or soup, at very good prices, then I think you…

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Thermal imaging camera available for Harpenden residents:

Harpenden Residents:How energy efficient is your home? Would you like to borrow a thermal imaging camera to find out?

The Harpenden Thermal Imaging Camera is available free for Harpenden residents to borrow once they have attended a free training session.

Harpenden Thermal Imaging Camera Information and Training Session
Park Hall, Leyton Road, Harpenden
Thursday 5th March 2015

Places are free however please email info AT to let us know you are coming.

For more information click herethermalimaging.jpg_large

Over a barrel? Falling oil prices and the environment – New Scientist

Over a barrel? Falling oil prices and the environment – New Scientist.

IS THE recent oil price crash good or bad for the environment? For years, environmentalists have been seeking carbon taxes and other measures to ratchet up oil prices to encourage us on to a clean-energy path. But some are now hailing the recent price crash as good for the environment, because it could fatally weaken big oil and its hold on the world’s energy system. You could be forgiven for being confused.

Click on link above to read more

<i>(Image: Andrzej Krauze)</i>

Is burning wood for fuel carbon neutral and sustainable – or dirty energy?

Forests for Fuel?  Wed 21st Jan 7.15pm Fleetville Community Centre

Is burning wood for fuel carbon neutral and sustainable – or is this a modern myth and dirty energy? Join Transition St Albans for a lively event – with two expert speakers on Wed 21st Jan 7.15pm Fleetville Community Centre – free


Dr Ian Shield – Rothamsted Research Institute, and Duncan Law Biofuelwatch present different perspectives on this active debate.

Our meeting in January explores Biomass and Bio-crops with two fascinating expert speakers, who will present different perspectives on the debate.

Wood burning (biomass) stoves are considered to be a cheap and low carbon energy source for households – see Energy Saving Trust click here.

Biomass is also a key pillar of the government’s renewable energy strategy which proposes to use biomass to provide up to 11% of the UK’s total primary energy demand by 2020 – see DECC click here

But there is an active debate about whether we should be encouraging the burning of wood or other crops to produce energy. Is it really a sustainable and carbon negative strategy?

Duncan Law from Biofuelwatch presents the case against the use of wood for energy:

‘As fossil energy becomes more expensive biomass burning is set to grow exponentially and it is simply not possible for global forests to supply this increasing demand. 80-90% of UK demand will have to be imported currently from the US and Canada but increasingly from S America and Africa.’

Dr Ian Shields from Rothamsted Research Institute will talk about the carbon cropping theme of their scientific strategy to optimise carbon capture by grasslands and perennial energy crops, such as Willow, to help underpin the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

The aim of their research is to provide renewable and sustainable alternatives for fossil fuel-based products and to translate these into robust technologies and practices that can be used by policymakers, agribusinesses and energy companies to help energy security and mitigation of global climate change.   The research focuses on optimising the sustainable yield and biomass composition of perennial non-food crops (especially willows) for bioenergy, biofuels and other industrial products, within the constraints of low-input cropping systems and land-use scenarios that minimise conflicts with food production, ecological and environmental impacts.


At the start of the meeting on 21st January at 7.15pm there will be a short Emergency General Meeting to amend the TSA constitution regarding the timing of AGMs. This is so that we can hold the AGM a bit later than usual this year.

The theory of everything: addicted to plastic and the joy of the Oxfam bookshop.

Well, I have survived the Christmas break for another year! It’s not that I want to sound mean spirited – I love the opportunity to be with friends and family, take time to eat and drink with others, dress up and celebrate, and share a few gifts. I especially love the card thing with loads of brilliant images to look at; the home-made ones have a special place, and there’s always one or two very beautiful pictures, but I love them all; the santas, the snow, the trees and the reindeer! And we always like to celebrate New Year with a few friends, a drink or two and a loud out of tune rendition of Auld Lang Syne – ‘we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet’…

But I keep forgetting that I mean to tell family members months before the season arrives, that I don’t want any presents this year, thank-you. No more soaps, special shampoos or bath oils (I don’t even have a bath!). Please don’t buy another set of gloves and scarves, nor biscuits or chocolates wrapped in foil and plastic (that I don’t eat). Please don’t waste your money on things that I neither want nor do I want to encourage the making of them in the first place.


Two men walk through smoke from burning plastic waste in Beijing on January 11, 2012. Photograph: Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

Plastic. Oh, my giddy aunt the amount of plastic that is thrown out, spat out, chewed up and shoved in the bins…only to start its long journey on huge container ships over to the recycling mountains in China…to become what?!

At the weekend I lingered at the supermarket, slightly drowsy from the New Year celebrations, and I hovered by the foil, parchment and cling film aisle. Like a magnet I found myself drawn to the cling film, and heard a voice, much like the devil sitting on my shoulder, saying…You could really use some cling-film for the kitchen. Think of all the left-over food that needs wrapping up carefully for a few extra days life…oh, look! Bio-degradable cling film – that would do the trick!

The difference between Baco BioWrap and normal Clingfilm is that Baco BioWrap is made from a controlled-life, oxo-biodegradable polyethylene and a natural prodegradant is added to the product which means that micro-organisms can consume the low molecular mass products as a food source’

But one quick search on the internet tells me that even if I can believe this story, the challenges of sorting this type of plastic within our waste collections, is so complex that it’s just not worth it. There remains a debate within the EU about whether these kinds of biodegradable plastics are the way forwards or not - see this article here

 Plastic Oceans tells us that ‘The facts are that we are changing our environment as we subject our planet to a tidal wave of plastic waste. We have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than we did in the whole of the last century and this plastic production is having a huge impact. It is using vast amounts of precious oil reserves; approximately 8% which equates to the amount used by the whole of Africa. Almost half of the plastic we use is used just once and is then thrown away – the problem is that there is no “away”. The impact on wildlife, the environment and the potential harm to human health are only now becoming clear. The facts are that we have to do something and do it now.’

Fighting the evil imp on my shoulder I am pleased to say that in the supermarket I bought myself a pack of parchment paper (hoping this was ok) and vowed never to buy cling-film again, bio-degradable or not. After all, if the next step in the Plastic War is to persuade us that some plastic is ok, it’s like saying that Silk Cut cigarettes are less harmful for you – the smoker would never give up! Plastic is just like an addiction for most of us; whether we persuade ourselves that just this one plastic bottle of water is ok – we need it for the long walk we are doing…or that we only forgot to pack our re-usable shopping bags this once, so we’ll just succumb only today to taking one or two of those free ‘disposable’ (sic) thin plastic bags from the supermarket till, just for now…  Or when we have to buy ourselves some new items of clothes, wrapped in plastic so proficiently by those low-paid women in the factories in Bangladesh… or ….when does it stop?

A BBC article in 2013 sums up some of the marine pollution associated with our ‘throw-away’ plastic culture.  ‘Last summer, when filming for a series to be broadcast next year, a team from the BBC’s Natural History Unit saw first-hand how discarded plastic can end up thousands of miles away from where people live when they visited French Frigate Shoals, an island north west of Hawaii. 

There they found turtles nesting amongst plastic bottles, cigarette lighters and toys. And they discovered dead and dying albatross chicks, unwittingly killed when their parents fed them plastic carried in as they foraged for food in the sea. ‘

On Christmas Eve clearing up the house to try and make it fit for the purpose of a Christmas Day meal, I finally took the two boxes of books which had been sitting by the front door for months along to be recyled/re-used to the Oxfam book shop in St Albans.

oxfam bookshopWhat a joy! I took my books in, and delivered them to the table in the back-room, and walked slowly back through the newly painted second-hand bookshop. It was my first visit to the shop since they had redecorated and made the area clean and inviting. I lingered over a few shelves, and was drawn to the children’s book area. Stunned, I pulled out three books for children on astronomy – perfect as my niece was being given a telescope from her mum and I hadn’t been able to find a decent book on the subject anywhere! Here it was: an introduction to astronomy – looked like new with a price-tag of £2. Encouraged, I looked further, and found an autobiography from Stephen Hawking – perfect gift for my partner who was keen to see the new film about the cosmologist ‘The Theory of Everything’.

In all I bought five books from the Oxfam Bookshop costing me a total of £11.50. And I remembered what Christmas used to feel like, when I bought presents that were useful, that didn’t contribute to the poisonous consumeritis of our age, and presents that suited my ever-decreasing pocket! It was a pleasure to shop! And, I fitted them all straight into my large shoulder-bag, walking out with a smug grin on my face. For once, I had done the right thing!


Biodomes, Community and coffee beans


Big Lunch Extras is Cornwall’s  Eden Project opening it’s doors, all expenses paid, to hundreds of community movers and shakers up and down the country, with several events taking place over 2014/5.

This weekend I have joined the event for four days -meeting people from Northern Ireland, Scotland and across England to hear inspiring speakers, explore the amazing Eden Project landscape and share conversations with a range of extraordinary people involved in local community action.

Memorable was the community artist, Sue Hill, who has spent a lifetime transforming the way people express their love for the places they live in. She had worked with the residents of Port Talbot helping them to put on a Passion Play engaging memories and histories to express the power of the dispossessed community.

In war savaged Kosovo, her positive energy and thirst for learning from the people she worked with had led to a remarkable project with young refugees returning to their country to build a peace garden in their home town. To find out more about her work go to

Later, on a tour around the sweltering Eden Project tropical rainforest biodomes we learnt that each coffee bean fruit produced just two beans, and that your morning cup of coffee required over sixty of these beans! As the coffee beans on the plant ripen at different times it requires intensive labour to pick the beans at the optimal stage. If any of us needed persuading this was a strong argument to ensure we buy only Fairtrade coffee where pickers are paid decent money for their labour. How much effort would you put into picking fruit for your morning cuppa coffee?

Despite anticipating chilly December weather with everyone geared up with woolly hats and scarves we seem to have arrived on a sunny June day with the skies blue and the air still. It was warm enough to have a long lunch outside on the balcony overlooking the glistening white caps of the eerie biodomes.

Back for a good night’s sleep in the brand new cosy Snooze-boxes – courtesy of YHA – and waiting to see what surprises Sunday brings!

see more at Big Lunch Extras website click here and Big Lunch Extras  twitter #BLENovimage