The 43 local groups who attended represented a wide range of interests, including, to give a flavour, Climate Action Network, Ashbrook Junior School, Long Eaton University of the3rd Age, FoE, Greenpeace, Groundwork, Nottingham Against New Coal and a number of Transition groups.
During the morning we were able to listen to interesting presentations by three invited speakers.
Andrew McCloy explained how SustainableYoulgreave came about as a result of two individuals chatting over a field fence about the need to create a sustainable future, but their lack of faith in politicians to actually do anything. They started by holding a public meeting in the village They followed this up with a questionnaire survey amongst the local community of 1000 people. It was decided to focus initially on energy saving, as this would have wide instant appeal.
Practical actions so far are based on local energy production including
water power as there have traditionally been water mills in the area, and a community anaerobic digester, fuelled by household green waste and slurry from the local dairy farms.
Nick Martin from Hockerton Housing project spoke of Sustainable Hockerton and gave an insightful and informative description of the issues of wind-power. Nick explained that small wind generators were pretty much a waste of money (despite what B&Q claim!) and also described the issue of how output is affected by location, rotor size, the issue of getting enough wind and avoiding areas of turbulence which will reduce efficiency.
His recounting of the problems of getting planning permission for the first wind turbine due to objections based on misinformation were enlightening. It was also very interesting to hear that there were no objections when an application for a second wind generator we submitted a few years after installation of the first. While the first application had take several years and a number of appeals the second went through in a matter of weeks
The third presentation was by Esther Jones of High Peak Community and Voluntary Support. Esther described the support that is available from local authorities for local climate action projects. This includes advise on funding, training, business planning and governance, information, liaison/representation and practical skills such as help with a website.
Esther also explained that there are databases of funders, funders’ fairs and funding surgeries. To find out what is available in Nottingham you can start with http://www.open4community.info/nottingham1/
The afternoon was used as an Open Space session and this worked very successfully. The plan was to run a number of groups in parallel but firstly ‘delegates’ were invited to propose the issues that they wanted to cover, either to share or get ideas. The proposers stayed with their group and reported back at the end but others were able to move between groups to share ideas. This proved a efficient way of ‘networking’ with all the other attendees and it was clear from the feedback at the end that many new contacts had been made and new ideas shared.
The groups were: -
Forming a student transition team
Land roots (owning and using land co-operatively for those with little money)
Preparing for the effects of climate change
Local actions (street level including eco-teams)
Greening a community arts project
How local authorities can support local groups
A funding surgery.
So what did we come away with at the end of the day? In a general sense it was certainly inspiring and motivating to see so many local individuals and groups engaged in practical projects and the genuine concern for creating a sustainable future; it recharges one’s batteries. On a practical level there was a lot of information and advice from other groups and individuals, not only those who gave presentations in the morning but also from those attending as delegates. Perhaps the greatest outcome is the opportunity such events provide to meet face to face with other people to form alliances and support networks.
But, are we just kidding ourselves? Will such activities bring about the scale of change we need if we are to have any realistic chance of halting runaway climate change? Or is it a diversion, which makes us feel we are doing something and diverts our energies and attention from the elephant in the room. A diversion in which the authorities can claim to be taking action. Is a bit of funding for local groups and some local authority initiatives going to stop the expansion of coal fired power stations. How does it fit with the rapid and suicidal opening of new coal mines?
The elephant in the room is the ticking clock which currently reads 97 just months, and counting, to the climate tipping point http://www.onehundredmonths.org/