We have gone to press and other timely matters

Years-of-Living-Dangerously-350x230This week our Autumn issue went to press and the TFP editorial team are breathing a  collective sigh of relief. It can be tense on a deadline, particularly when you are working on-line in different locations (instead of in a shared office). But hey, time is what Transition is all about: knowing it’s time to change tracks, not getting stuck in the past, looking forward to the future, as well making time to focus on community projects,  living seasonally and pausing to reflect on our actions and the bigger picture.

While we wait for the bundles of our bright new edition number 6 to come back from the printers and be distributed to Initiatives and enterprises around the UK, thanks to our stirling distribution system (aka Mark Watson), here is a great piece about Sustainable Time from our last issue. It’s by Michelle Bastian who co-ordinates the Transition Research Network, a team of academics who support research that is beneficial to the Transition movement,”making research more accessible, developing best practice guidelines, running events and developing new research projects”.

transition cambridge

Sustaining Time Michelle Bastian

The pressure to do everything faster, to produce, consume and discard with greater frequency and with less thought for the future, has become central to affluent Western lifestyles. Whereas the clock once represented all that was wrong with early capitalism, its current incarnation is represented by speed.

The Sustaining Time research project has been looking into this connection between economies and time and particularly what it might mean for developing sustainable economic systems. Would a shift towards more sustainable ways of life bring a shift in how we experience and understand time? If so what would a ‘sustainable time’ look like?

Working with the REconomy project, the new economics foundation, Co-operatives UK and Permaculture UK, the research team visited ten sustainable businesses and four archive collections in the UK and Australia to see how past and current attempts to develop alternatives to capitalism come up against the question of time. Enterprises ranged from Lammas Eco Village of nine smal holdings in Wales, IT co-operative Webarchitects in Sheffield to Open Shed’s ‘collaborative consumption’ start-up in Sydney.

There were already a few candidates for what a sustainable time might be. The most obvious is the Slow Movement, which has expanded beyond its original protest against fast food, to embrace Slow Cities, Slow Technology and Slow Science. Other possibilities include moving from linear time to a more cyclical time, developing a longer sense of time (looking forward seven generations), or simply more focus on a better work/life balance.

Real life is always more complex however, and we found that the ways people were negotiating their time didn’t fit neatly into these possibilities. Most continued to feel pressured and overworked. Others had strong criticisms of cyclical models of time because of the way they been co-opted by big business. Why worry about upgrading to a new phone when you can recycle your old one? The long-term was important, but we didn’t see any seven-generation business plans.

Instead what we did find pushed us to dig deeper into what each of these sustainable times might be standing in for. So while people weren’t slowing down, they were developing a wider sense of what the ‘right time’ for a task might be. For example, the continuous time of industrially produced food (where everything is available 24/7) became the intermittent time of seasonal food. The well-planned out time of the ‘good worker’ made room for the unpredictable time of community-building, and ‘wasted time’ became the time of learning.

Importantly each of these kinds of time are thought to have little value within mainstream economic models. However, just as the idea of a sustainable economy challenges a narrow focus on profit and the limited way in which ‘economy’ is understood, our research suggests that perhaps a sustainable approach to time would throw open the ways we value time and allow it too to become a site of experimentation and creativity.

Find out more about the project at www.sustainingtime.org.

Michelle Bastian is a researcher at the University of Edinburgh and a co-ordinator of the Transition Research Network. She previously led an Honouring the Elders project called Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden, as part of her work with Transition Liverpool

Images: Times of Living Dangerously, US documenatry series 2014; keeping in the seasons, Cambridge CropShare (also features in our Summer issue).

 

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Putting down local food roots in Louth

If you are in any doubt as to the benefits of sourcing locally produced food (and have exhausted the brilliant Food pages in Transition Free Press of course!), look no further than ‘Local Food Roots’,  a short film celebrating the wide-ranging benefits of the UK’s local food movement.

We were delighted to hear from Steve Mansfield from Transition Town Louth not long ago, whose Transition Initiative recently put on a film showing of ‘Local Food Roots’ at the Louth community centre one Saturday night, before serving up a three-course vegan meal using as much local produce as possible.

Steve writes:

Why not try this in your town or city? Combining the film with a meal is a way of putting theory into practice, getting people to talk about the issues, making new friends in the community, and eating delicious food.

For those without easy access to local food, such as through a market, local buying group or Transition food project, why not check out FarmDrop and The Food Assembly, two excellent organisations helping connect customers directly with local producers, cutting out the middlemen and ensuring farmers get paid a fair price for their produce while customers access fresh, delicious food – wonky veg and all!

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Fight to save Grow Heathrow

grow heathrowTransition Heathrow, which in 2010 set up the Grow Heathrow community garden on the site of a proposed third runway for the major airport, has been served an eviction notice for Friday, 15th August at 8.00am.

The group is calling for supporters to help resist the eviction and try and save the site. Events begin on Thursday, 14th August from 12.00pm with workshops, talks and training, followed by dinner and music in the evening.

Grow Heathrow is a squatted community space, open for people to visit and learn new practical skills such as organic gardening, permaculture design, bicycle maintenance and wood and metal work. It also hosts gatherings for groups which in the past have included Climate Camp, Reclaim the Fields, The Transition Network and People & Planet.

Grow Heathrow’s beginnings were in 2010 when Transition Heathrow members took over an abandoned market garden site in Sipson, one of the villages threatened by the Heathrow third runway expansion.

The derelict site was transformed: 30 tonnes of rubbish was cleared and it became a thriving community, demonstrating sustainable ways of living. Grow Heathrow produces its own food and uses solar and wind power, operating ‘off grid’.

Although Grow Heathrow have not been able to win their legal battle, their case has set a positive precedent in housing law. The appeal was the first case of its kind to have Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to respect of private and family life, deemed relevant by the judge.

Plans for the Heathrow third runway were announced in 2009 but, after a massive campaign, the expansion was cancelled in 2010. Now the runway is back on the cards and the government’s Airport Commission is expected to make recommendations on this and other potentially UK airport growth in 2015.

Eviction resistance: Friday 15th August, 8am. Grow Heathrow, Vineries Close, Sipson, West Drayton, UB7 0JH. Find out more and keep updated on Grow Heathrow at the Transition Heathrow website. 

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Our watershed moment

A storm in PorthcawlWater is a big part of our Spring/Summer edition after the winter’s storms brought the reality of climate change nearer home, but it also showed us the power of this natural resource. This article by Alexis Rowell is the front page story from that issue: amidst the chaos of extreme weather we can remind ourselves of the inherent wonder of water.

“Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink.” Coleridge’s words have a prophetic ring to them. We humans need water for life, we love it for leisure, we make art out of it; yet we also waste it, dirty it, privatise it, use it as a weapon and, most dangerously, stir it up brutally in the form of manmade climate change.

The recent Climate Impacts Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is dripping with references to water. Shrinking glaciers, struggling marine species, reduced crop yields, increased flooding, melting Arctic sea ice, drought – the list of water-related climate issues is long.

There was no new science in the report, but the language was different – it was more dramatic, especially in terms of consequences for humans. “Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and expo- sure of some ecosystems and many human systems,” it warned. Or, in the words of Dr Patricia Romero Lankao, one of the report’s authors, “The polar bear is us.”

Some chose to decry the report’s “alarmist” language, but most climate experts see the IPCC as ultra- cautious. “It has to be,” says Rob Hopkins, a founder of the Transition movement. “It’s a synthesis of research papers and its output has to be agreed by governments. It is, by definition, the lowest common denominator in climate science. That’s why, time and time again, the reality has been worse than the IPCC predictions.”

Britain has just experienced its wettest winter since records began. Adrian Tait, a psychotherapist and member of Transition Athelney, which is situated in the catastrophically flooded Somerset Levels, says: “People aren’t talking much about climate change explicitly, but they’re palpably fearful of future events. My interpretation is that they’ve taken something on board about changing weather patterns and the threats these pose to the Somerset Levels.”

There’s no shortage of solutions for the Somerset Levels in the recent Blueprint for Water Coalition report: “Restoring wetlands, planting wet woodlands, encouraging rivers to meander over the floodplain and creating ‘upstream’ holding areas and buffer strips are just some of the ‘slow water’ techniques which allow time for underground reserves to fill and prevent flash flood peaks racing downstream,” it says.

Cities are just as much at risk of flooding as was shown in London this winter. Germany is a leader in urban flood management. German councils have the right to introduce charges for hard surfaces or even to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach. Thomas Kirchmayer of Transition Ingolstadt in Bavaria says: “When we built our house we had to prove that all rainwater would drain away within our grounds. Not even a litre could go into the sewers!”

On other parts of the planet the problem is lack of water. California has been enduring its worst drought for 500 years. Its largest city, Los Angeles, imports 89% of its water. Pumping it to end users costs around $1bn a year which, crazily, is roughly the same amount the city spends on flood management.

Andy Lipkis of the environmental group, Tree People, is trying to persuade Los Angeles to capture the rain rather than push it down the sewers. “The water that does fall here is estimated at today’s usage to provide potentially 30%– 33% of the water we need in Los Angeles,” he says. “But if we were to capture it and use it really efficiently – let’s say we were to double our efficiency – that would be 60% of the water we need.”

At the edges of these debates about too little or too much water is perhaps the beginning of a new narrative. Tim Palmer, author of landscape book Rivers of California, says: “Water’s long-term availability raises questions about the sustainability of growth itself.”

The UK government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, believes “GDP rise in the face of the impact of extreme weather events is very unrealistic.” Joanne Poyourow of Californian Transition group, Environmental Change-Makers, notes: “Local organisations which weren’t founded for environmental or climate-based issues are now folding these topics into their descriptions of why they do what they do.”

Amid the manmade chaos, says British water artist, Amy Sharrocks, we need to remind ourselves of the inherent wonder of water: “It fulfils our most basic need and offers us some of our greatest joys,” she enthuses. “A cool glass of water, the comfort of a cup of tea, the conso- lation of a hot bath, a water fight in a summer garden, the soothing rhythm of a mountain waterfall, the power of a wave crashing on the shore.

“Next time it rains, instead of defending against it with an umbrella, stick your tongue out and invite it in,” she playfully suggests. “Beautiful, extraordinary water, without which the performance of everyday life would be utterly impossible – celebrate it, respect it and never underestimate it.”

Alexis Rowell is Managing Editor of Transition Free Press.

Subscribe to the digital edition of Transition Free Press here at Exact Editions, or sign up to get the paper version through your door.

Photo: A storm brews in Porthcawl, South Wales. By Ben Salter, under a Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).

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Test run for Poole Harbour heat project

Poole HarbourThis article, by Gareth Simkins, was published on the Energy page of the Spring/Summer issue of Transition Free Press. This regular page focuses on sustainable energy for the future, including local initiatives such as Poole Tidal Energy Partnership. Other subjects covered in the past include, big biomass, community hydro and energy saving.

Wind turbines, micro-hydro schemes and solar panels are not the only way for community groups to generate their own energy. One scheme in Dorset has rather different plans – to produce heat and power from Poole Harbour.

The 36 square kilometre bay acts like a “massive solar heater,” says John Gillingham, a carpenter and one of the leaders of the Poole Tidal Energy Partnership (PTEP).

As the name suggests, PTEP’s original plan was to build the UK’s first ever community-owned tidal power project. The community interest company emerged three years ago, as a collaboration between Transition Town Poole, Bournemouth University and the borough of Poole.

But the tidal power proposal has proved too ambitious, at least at present. The harbour’s average depth is only 48 centimetres and there would be many competing interests to satisfy.

“It’s not viable to put a fairly large turbine there,” Gillingham explains, though harnessing the power of the bay’s tides is still on the cards.

For the moment, PTEP is undertaking a more modest project: extracting heat from a pond to warm a café and art gallery at Upton Country Park, just to the north of the harbour. This is intended to be a proof-of-concept scheme, a public demonstration of heat pump technology prior to the bigger plan – using the bay itself as a heat source for council buildings and local businesses.

The tea rooms in the park are notoriously poorly heated and have even had to be shut in the winter because of the cold. They’re a listed building, so demolition or major refurbishment is not an option. To solve this, PTEP is installing an underfloor heating system, connected to a heat pump, fed by water flowing through pipes in the pond.

Heat pumps are an old and established heat-exchange technology, most commonly used to keep fridges and freezers cold. However, they are increasingly being used, effectively in reverse, as heaters. Unlike normal electric heaters, they can produce far more heat energy than the electricity they consume.

If all goes to plan, the system, entirely funded by the council, should be operational next winter.

The scheme could increase public use of the park and will certainly cut electricity bills, probably by some £5,000 a year. It will also educate the public, and save 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide being tipped into the atmosphere – all of which will help the council meet its objective of a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

Gillingham said the advantages are clear: “It will save quite a lot of money, cut carbon… and the public can see a working system.”

He admits heat pumps have a downside; although they are a low carbon source of heat, “we could be accused of using dirty energy” from the grid to power them. “It’s not all sweetness and light. Sometimes you have to walk before you can run – but we’re not disheartened.”

Gareth Simkins is an environmental journalist who edits the Energy page of Transition Free Press. He is also a member of Croydon Transition Town.

Subscribe to the digital edition of Transition Free Press here at Exact Editions or sign up to get the paper version through your door.

Photo: Poole Harbour from a plane, by Petr Kratochvil in the public domain.

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Getting It Out There! Deadline for Autumn Issue Bundle Orders Extended to 15th August

George Monbiot &TFP 640x480Don’t miss out! Bundles to go for the Autumn issue 2014 of Transition Free Press.

There is only one newspaper in print dedicated to reporting on all things happening on the ground in transition, and that’s the Transition Free Press. We’re bringing you the latest news and reviews from the culture that’s shifting the way it looks at and engages in the world.

Would you, your group or initiative like to sign up for a bundle of the 6th issue of this unique grassroots publication produced by experienced journalists and seasoned transitioners alike, who have taken up the challenge of ‘becoming the media’?

If so, we are now taking orders for the autumn 2014 issue.

From the Scilly Isles to the Shetlands, people and organisations from both within and beyond the transition movement have been signing up throughout the UK. There have even been orders from Canada and the US.

Image3020 detailPrepaid UK bundle prices, including P&P direct from the printer, start at £50 for 125 copies (40p per copy). 250 copies cost £85 (34p per copy). In order to keep fuel use and costs down, we keep a very limited supply of copies available after publication. And these are also more expensive.

Many people are sharing their bundles with transition and related groups in neighbouring towns. Apart from saving on costs, sharing bundles is a great way of connecting with people doing stuff on the ground in your region. Walthamstow, Cheltenham & Gloucester and Hythe are home to just three of the hubs for Transition Free Press.

To secure your bundle, whether big (250 copies and increments of 125) or small (125 copies), for distributing yourself, through your initiative or with other groups, contact Mark by 5pm on Friday 15th August at mark@transitionfreepress.org.uk

PLEASE NOTE: Our distribution page has the current list of all TFP distributors – plus drop-down post with some hints and tips on how to get those TFPs out there!

And for INDIVIDUAL SUBSCRIPTIONS please click here.

Image: George Monbiot with TFP Summer issue at the Ways With Words Festival, Dartington,  July 2014 by Rob Hopkins

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Putting people back into finance

Fran Boait  of Positive Money

Can we fix the money system? This is the question that the Positive Money campaign believes it can begin to answer. In the Spring/Summer issue of Transition Free Press, Amy Hall looks at their increasing popularity,  as well as other perspectives on making money more people friendly.

Tapping into the deep discontent about the financial system, which erupted on to the streets in movements like Occupy and UK Uncut, the Positive Money campaign has put forward radical proposals for monetary reform. Director Ben Dyson says these changes would “democratise money and banking so that it works for society and not against it.”

The creation of money is their biggest focus: they want the state to have more power and the private banks, who currently create 97% of the money supply in the form of loans, to have less. Building on work by economists like Irving Fisher in the 1930s, Positive Money argues that full reserve banking where banks aren’t able to lend more money than they actually have, would help to stabilise the economy.

“Since almost all of our money is ‘on loan’ from banks, someone must pay interest on nearly every pound in the UK,” says Dyson. “This interest redistributes money from the bottom 90% of the population to the top 10%. The money which banks create also pushes up house prices, and inflates bubbles in financial markets – making the very rich even richer.”

Other more conventional voices, such as the former Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King and Martin Wolf of the Financial Times , have also started to ask questions about how money works. In February, the former chair of the Financial Services Authority, Lord Adair Turner, said: “Over several decades prior to 2008, private credit grew faster than GDP in most advanced economies and… that was a major cause of the crisis.”

In March 204, Positive Money claimed a victory when the Bank of England released two papers which said that modern money was indeed created by private banks creating debt, “It’s a massive step forward,” says Dyson. “We no longer have to debate how the system works and can move on to talking about how we can change it.”

But there are some within progressive politics who are not convinced by Positive Money’s ideas. Tim Jones of the Jubilee Debt Foundation thinks full reserve banking would make the financial system inflexible. “It could be really problematic in reducing the ability of people and governments to invest in infrastructure and things for the future,” he argues.

Jones thinks that Positive Money’s idea of a ‘Money Creation Committee’ to oversee how money is created is too technocratic. “We don’t need more bureaucrats taking economic decisions away from people,” he says.

Daniel Webb is part of the team at Goodmoney, a new social enterprise aiming to help business to exchange goods and services in the Brighton area. He wants to see more bottom-up reforms, “At the moment, local economies are overly dependent on bank credit,” he says. “Starting with business-to-business transactions, Goodmoney want to match up buyers and sellers to process transactions within a system of local credit.”

What’s clear is that the current system isn’t working and there is a buzz of ideas for improving it. From Positive Money to Goodmoney, from ‘moneyless’ experiments to the local currencies of Lewes, Brixton and Bristol; from credit unions to time banks: these are interesting times. Can money be remade into something more socially useful?

Subscribe to the digital edition of Transition Free Press here at Exact Editions or sign up to get the paper version through your door.

Photo: Fran Boait of Positive Money speaks at the 2014 supporter conference. Still from a Positive Money video.

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