This afternoon Alan and I went down to Millenium Square to Bristol's International Day of Climate Action. It was a blustery old day and the rain came and went - not ideal event weather. However there was a fair crowd which I hope will have swelled by this evening.
We signed a few cards and petitions, listened to Jonathan Porritt and had our faces painted.
This evening I booked coach tickets to The Wave in London on Saturday 5 December.
Yesterday evening I attended the inaugural meeting of a local food buying co-op. It's the brainchild of a local green shop keeper who has enough space to sort and store the orders when they are delivered. Members will pay an annual fee which will allow them to order from a catalogue and take advantage of the wholesale price plus 10% to cover expenses.
I'm very excited by this project as I'm hoping it will enable me to reduce my dependence on supermarkets. I've been trying to cut down on my visits to Tescos et al, in favour of local shops, markets and a weekly fruit and vegetable box, but I'm invariably forced to return to the supermarkets for store cupboard essentials. If the co-op can plug this gap then I shall be very happy indeed.
This afternoon Alan and I joined Steve and Moira for a walk through Leigh Woods. It being a mellow autumn day was a good enough reason in itself, but we were on a mission. In November we are hosting an Earth Abbey event and this afternoon's stroll was by way of a rekkie.
The event in question is a meditation on trees. As we follow the path through the woods we will occasionally pause to observe a tree. One of us will read a short passage describing its history, or properties or religious links, followed by a poem. We will then move on to the next one. At some point along the route there will be a break for a hot drink, a piece of cake and a chance to discuss our thoughts. We are hoping it will offer us an opportunity to reconnect with nature and reflect on its significance in our urban lives.
The idea was a collective one but we are indebted to Alison Swinfen for the readings from her book 'Through Wood'.
Gordon Brown has agreed to attend the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. Now we need to urge him to use his influence to ensure that other major world leaders attend and that they deliver a fair and safe global climate deal.
Yesterday evening the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed a gathering in Southwark Cathedral organised by Operation Noah. My husband, who was in London for work, stayed on after his meeting and went to hear him. He was very impressed and so this afternoon I logged on to read what he'd said.
"People should use the climate change crisis as an opportunity to become human again, setting aside the addictive and self-destructive behaviour that has damaged their souls."
Rowan Williams is so right. If, instead of regarding the lifestyle changes that have to be made to save our planet, as curtailments of our liberty, we were instead to welcome them as the means of a deeper understanding of ourselves, our neighbours and our God then, not only would we have prevented a catastrophe, but we would have rediscovered our humanity.
The archbishop made reference to CRAGS, carbon reduction action groups, which reminded me that I was once quite keen to initiate one locally. A timely reminder to revisit my plans.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who may belong to such a group and who would like to share their experience.
I spent yesterday morning at the Royate Hill allotments. It was the first of our permaculture course field trips and we were given a guided tour around the site by the extraordinary site manager, Mike Feingold.
After having started life as the source of fruit and milk for the city of Bristol and then as a clay pit, Royate Hill has been given over to private allotments for the last 100 years. There are currently 56 plots and a waiting list of 38. In the centre of the site there is a a community orchard planted with approximately 40 variety of apples, pears, plums, damsons etc. Mike pointed out a few varieties and allowed us to sample fruit positively oozing with juice and flavour. He then walked us round the area he cultivates where we tasted some of the variety of salads and soft fruit that he grows in abundance. After a cup of tea and the opportunity to use the compost loo, we were set to work pressing apples and mulching the apple trees with wood chip waste from a local timber yard.
What surprised me was Mike's apparent lack of interest in exploiting the land for as much as he squeeze from it. In fact, when questioned, he admitted that the tradional cultivation of vegetables was way down at 17 on his list of 'values'. Far higher up that list were education, community projects and working in harmony with the natural environment. Top of his list was his own sanity. The allotment is where he goes to escape to his own Planet Zog.
This got me thinking about our own Grow Zone project which has, on the face of it, been of limited success. Our herb garden at the front of the house has flourished and I even managed to achieve my ambition of growing a few giant sunflowers against our new sky blue wall. We harvested a reasonable crop of potatoes from our old dustbin and from various tomato plants. I was able to eat peas straight from the pod in my own back yard and the chard in our rockery is still producing an abundance of vivid leaves. However our courgettes refused to fruit, the runner beans failed to thrive, the pumpkins were attacked by slugs and I didn't harvest our radishes until they were too woody to be edible. In terms of produce we come out approximately 50/50.
However, when measured by the Feingold scale we have done extremely well.
We have had fun We have recognised the potential of our small space (and I really do mean 'small') We have actually done something with it We have worked with (and for) others We have shared food and drink and friendship We have learnt new facts and practised new skills We have brightened up the street And finally ... we have grown some of our own food!
PS I described Mike as 'extraordinary' in the best sense of that word. Click on the image below to see just what I mean.
I've enrolled for a course in permaculture and attended two classes. At the end of the last session our tutor set us a piece of homework. We are to come to the next class prepared to share with her and the others what it is that is preventing us from living a more sustainable life.
I've given this some thought and I think it boils down to lack of organisation. It's not thinking ahead that:
allows me to leave the house without a carrier bag and have to accept a plastic one to carry my groceries home
prevents me from buying all the ingredients for a meal from the high street shops and not have to dash out to the local Tesco Express for an essential item
prevents me from baking a cake or a batch of biscuits to last the week and not have to buy plastic wrapped alternatives for the girls' lunch boxes
prevents me from doubling up a recipe and freezing half of it to save me to lighting the gas or heating the oven twice
allows perfectly edible food to fester in the fridge because I haven't thought of a way to use it up in time
If only I set aside a few minutes each day/week to make a few notes then I'm sure I could do a lot better.
I wonder what my fellow class mates will come up with?
The image is of The Egg of Life, the classic permaculture symbol.