27 Nov 2007
What I Did Last Week.
Last week was very busy. On Wednesday night I was in Exeter to give a talk for Low Carbon Exeter, as part of their season of talks. I was met at the station by Andi Tobe and we were ferried in a Cycles Maximus pedal powered rickshaw to the venue. It was an amazing way to travel, although I did feel rather guilty just sitting there while we were pedalled along. The talk went well, over 100 people in a big church, and some excellent questions. The next day I was up at 5am. and off to London for the Be The Change conference at the Westminster Hall.
It was a shame I could only go to one day, as the event is a three day event and I only made the first day. I arrived in time for the last part of George Monbiot’s talk, which was about the potential for using DC cables to enable the transmitting of electricity over long distances. Monbiot seems to have moved a fair bit since his skepticism about the widespread potential of renewables in ‘Heat’, influenced in large part by the CAT Zero Carbon Britain. The potential for the DC cable is that it enables the linking up of renewables so that advantage can be taken of the dispersed nature of energy generation.
Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Foundation gave a passionate presentation about what a new economics that actually addressed energy depletion, climate change and social equity might look like, and how we need to identify new ways of measuring progress. Herbert Girardet gave an overview of solar cities, illustrated with examples from around the world, and Prof. C.S. Kiang gave a sobering take on what is happening in China, and the sustainability challenges its development presents, both to China itself and to the wider world.
After lunch I spoke, giving an overview of peak oil and of the Transition process. There will be a DVD of all the conference’s talks soon, I’ll let you know when it comes out. I missed the following talk, but the last one of the day was Nicky Gavron, the Deputy Mayor of London, who talked about all the amazing things that are being planned as part of cutting London’s carbon footprint. Quite stunning to hear what can happen when a local authority decides to actually act.
Of course, when peak oil is also weaved in it isn’t quite so impressive, as it doesn’t address issues of food and so on, the other aspects of the relocalisation process. Indeed it can be argued, as David Strahan does in Last Oil Shock, that shifting London to reliance on gas fired CHP merely makes it more dependent on natural gas, but what came through in the presentation was the determination and commitment to act.
The final thing was a panel discussion with myself, Nicky Gavron, Stewart Wallis and Bianca Jagger taking questions from the audience. Leaving to get the train home was very difficult, the line of people wanting to talk and ask questions, but eventually I got away and finally got home at some horribly late hour of the night.
Up again on Friday and off to Cornwall for a day organised by **Environment Kernow** (Cornwall in Cornish), at Duchy Agricultural College on the theme of peak oil, climate change, food production and land use. Due to the limitations of public transport, I missed Colin Campbell’s talk (unfortunately), but was able to hear David Strahan and Patrick Holden before the first tea break. Nothing particularly new for **Transition Culture** readers there, but very thought provoking for those assembled, who came from a range of NGOs, local authorities, and so on.
After the break was a World Cafe style discussion on what peak oil might mean for land use in Cornwall. The discussion was far reaching and went into some very interesting areas. The group I was in consisted of people from CPRE, local colleges and the County Council, and they all appeared to take peak oil as read, and to be keen to discuss what could actually be done.
After this, the delegates gathered back in the hall, where the findings from the Cafe sessions which had been gathered in and analysed were discussed, both by the speakers and by the audience. The final session was my talk, which looked at the Transition model and also at what the land use of the future might look like, a combination of walnuts, fish, cob blocks and hemp (I’m joking, but they were some elements of it). It was a conference that had successfully gathered together many of the leading doers and thinkers in the sustainability field in Cornwall, although is was those from organisations rather than those from communities, but with Colin Campbell and David Strahan they had the best introduction to the subject of peak oil that they could possibly have.
Then I was off again, in an electric car to the station! Although it is too much if every week is like this, sometimes it is great to have a week where there is lots going on and one gets to see what is happening in different places. By the time the weekend came about though, I was more than ready for it!
This week? There was the wonderful Transition Bristol BIG Event was on Sunday, which I’ll write about soon, and I am giving a talk in Oxford on Thursday evening…