I’ve just realised that I haven’t made enough of some of the great people I’ve met who are also undergoing this amazing green journey – downshifting or re-moulding their lives to their views of the new reality we face. There are so many of them I won’t attempt to get them all into one post, so here is a teaser for you . . .

Becoming Domestic

Living the dream – a rollercoaster ride into the realities of downshifting with a family. Inspirational and nailbiting, as well as practical and down to earth . . well worth a read – becomingdomestic.co.uk

The ultimate pantry

Green Cottage

From someone who faces the workday reality of trying to tackle climate change through the constraints of local government – and at the end of the day he walks the walk – combining low-cost renovation of a Victorian terrace with high-effort regeneration of a woodland – ourgreencottage.wordpress.com

Away from green cottage – valley wood

La Ferme de Sourrou

La Ferme de Sourrou is where I see myself in another life – without the daily schoolrun or the pressures of catchments and SATs. Amazing tales of self-building and self-sufficiency, wonderful gardens and animals – read more at lafermedesourrou.blogspot.co.uk – and have a look at the gorgeous photos.

It’s all about the chickens

I Saw this video posted over at a great blog I follow – Becoming Domestic – and I think it gives a good 5 minute summary of the difficulties society is currently facing. If you want to know our  motivation for the eco-house, this sums it up nicely:

The book mentioned in the video is the Post Carbon Reader. If you’re still getting to grips with what Peak Oil and Climate Change will mean for you, your family, and society, then this is worth a look. If you’re already on the right track, then don’t read about the problems any more – get digging! What you need is How to Grow More Vegetables!

I’ve had a few questions at talks I give about what books I’d recommend, and I’ve given out a few names depending on the topic. I realised though that I haven’t put anything about our growing library on the blog, so I’ll try and rectify that over the coming year (no promises!)

I thought I’d start with something scene-setting, rather than the slew of practical books that I usually recommend.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive” takes a look at the collapse of historical civilisations, and then sets that in a modern context. Diamond looks at deforestation, overpopulation and pollution, and the inability of civilisations to live within the capacity of the land they actually live in, rather than the one they wish they inhabited. I thought it was quite well written, although it did need a bit of perseverance at the start. It cleverly took me from the position of smug modern human, mocking those foolish primitive islanders, through to foolish modern Australian, being paid to deforest the land.

It was not all doom and gloom though – there are some good examples of societies that have struck a balance and survived whilst neighbouring civilisations fell. Overall, it does a lot to highlight how precarious our “all-powerful” societies really are. Well worth a read.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.

If you like the sound of it, pick it up at your local library or bookshop, but if you have to buy it online please follow this Amazon link – Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

I’ve just done my first bike commute into Manchester of the year – and it happens to be match day at Old Trafford. Had a great seminar at Manchester University on Sustainable Communities and then, at 6.30, I got back on my bike and headed out to . . . gridlock.

This was a striking conclusion to the discussion I’d just been having, where some very sensible, well-read researchers were explaining that we have run out of time for any gradual, democratic, community-led changes, and that major, rapid, centralised changes are the only way we can even come close to a 50-50 chance at keeping temperature rises to below 2.4C (remembering that anything more than 1.5C means the disappearance of many Pacific Island nations).

So then, out into a world solid with cars, our clearest way of demonstrating how little we care for the future of the human race.

70,000 people descending on Old Trafford, by car, coach, taxi, (and many by bus, train and tram), many travelling from far beyond the local area – especially the many thousands of Milan fans. How can we keep such strong community events going without destroying our chance of future happiness? or indeed of any future?

Back to the match report – it seems to be Manchester United 5,  Nature nil – but it’s only half time, and maybe – just maybe – it’s a game of two halves.

 A quick plug for an event I’ll be presenting at this weekend: Concrete Utopia. It’s on Saturday from 10am, and I’ll be tackling the subject of how we’ll be living in the year 2020. I should be good, challenging fun, so get along there!

It’s being organised by the impressively effective, omnipresent, Call to Real Action, and you can get full details over at their blog – http://calltorealaction.wordpress.com/concrete-utopia-sat-feb-20th/

Action for Sustainable Living
Action for Sustainable Living
We’ve just had a great visit from Action for Sustainable Living. They’re a really inspirational local charity working on building a sustainable future in Machester and Trafford – they’ve even been nationally recognised for their work, winning the 2008 National Guardian Charity Awards.

They’re looking out for local people who are passionate about making their communities a better place, so we said we’d help get the word out!

Volunteering with Action for Sustainable Living is a good way to gain amazing work experience with an award winning charity. As a volunteer you’ll make a massive difference in your local community by designing and implementing a sustainable project. They’re looking for Local Project Managers to cover Stretford, Urmston and Sale areas, complementing the volunteers they already have throughout Trafford.

The role is a challenging yet rewarding one; you will develop new skills, meet new people and really feel like you are making a difference. If you are an enthusiastic, self-motivated individual able to offer at least eight hours per week to support AfSL’s activities, why not nominate yourself for this unique opportunity?

‘To me, the 8 hours per week that I contribute to Action for Sustainable Living are more meaningful than a full-time job in any non-sustainable organisation’.

AfSL Local Project Manager Manchester City Centre

You won’t need any previous experience, and there’s a lot you can get out of it personally:

  • Voluntary experience can help you get the career you want
  • You’ll get lots of support, training, resources and mentoring from AfSL
  • You’ll be able to see that you’ve made a real difference in your local area

Local Project Managers attend events, give talks and workshops and set up local action groups and projects (Don’t worry! AfSL will help you get ready for these). Previous Local Project Managers have set up community allotment projects, fair trade societies, energy action teams, composting schemes, local shop campaigns and a whole range of interesting, locally-relevant things. You just need to be able to commit eight hours a week for six months or more.

You do need to apply – the deadline for applications is on Friday 18th September at 12pm, and if you’re interested in finding out more you can contact AfSL (details below) or attend the LPM Introduction evening on Thurs 17th Sept at 5:30pm (contact them to confirm your place).

If you want an application pack or have any questions you can contact Helen at trafford@afsl.org.uk, or by calling o845 634 4510. And you can find out more about AfSL at their website – www.afsl.org.uk

Action for Sustainable Living Volunteers

Blimey, that’s a controversial thought!

Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald was trumpeting “the end of cheap food” with world prices rising, and Biofuel production eating into already failing croplands.

98% of me recoils against this idea, but there’s 2% of me that’s listening to WRAP‘s stats on the waste of food in the UK. You can check out the facts at the Love Food Hate Waste website :

  • A third of food in the UK is wasted – just try it at home – bring three bags of shopping in , then take one straight out to the bin again – it’s a SCANDAL.
  • That wasted food is the CO2 equivalent to taking 20% of the cars off the road – that’s right – 1 in 5 cars.
  •  The figures are just ridiculous – 6.7 million tones of food every year, with an estimated cost of £8 billion per year.

So let’s just think about this. We put taxes on petrol to stop people driving, to save the planet. But the CO2 equivalent of 1-in-5 cars is WASTED by us all throwing food away.

So maybe more expensive food is a good thing – it’ll make us value it more, make more people grow their own, and reduce the waste that’s going on?

Of course, that’s in an ideal world . . . in reality, I’m sure that the most waste comes from the wealthiest households, those least affected by the price rises (and by the petrol taxes) so when is somebo0ody going to come up with a solution that is not weath based? That really is the question.

Anyway, while we’re all pondering the big questions of life . . . here are a couple of great links to help make a small difference on our own waste levels. Abby at the Daily Tiffin talking about planning and storage, and Aidan Brooks (an Apprentice Chef) with a whole heap of useful links.

And don’t forget – fill out your own Food Waste Diary to see if the problem begins at home! I’ll have a go with ours, and see how we go.