Friday, 22 May 2009

Friday 22nd May 09 Transition Network Conference (day one)

Woke quite early as Lisa's family were getting ready for a normal day.

Usual breakfast, then tried to get onto the 'net to do emails, but Lisa didn't have the password for her WiFi connection so I gave up and got ready for quite a long walk. Lisa had told me which trains I could get but I decided to walk, as I like walking in London, and Lisa had printed off a map for me to follow.

So at about 9.30 I set off, crossed the railway line on a footbridge/cycle track and walked past Honor Oak, Camberwell New Cemetery. Cheltenham Road and across Peckham Rye Common. East Dulwich Road and up Dog Kennel Hill, Champion Hill, Denmark Hill and over Ruskin Park. It was very sunny and warm, I was hot with the rucsack, laptop and carrier bag. I decided that as Coldharbour Lane was pointing in the right direction to get me to Clapham Common, that I'd get a bus... and as I'd walked for 90 minutes, I was happy with the £2 bus fare to a stop within 4 minutes walk of the Battersea Arts Centre, a huge and imposing building where the Transition Conference was being held, is actually, as there is a WiFi hotspot (not that hot actually, as connection is erratic and speeds slow. But, it does work! You may be reading this on the day of the conference...)

I had pre booked and pre paid, so there was a badge waiting for me and I had an offer of my bags being put into storage, instead of lugging them around. I put my rucksack in, but kept my hand luggage and laptop with me.

The main conference hall is a lovely place, huge and beautifully lit with ever-changing LED colour spotlights. Apparently the lighting, all low energy, has been installed specially for this event. There was food available and Edward arrived and sat with me and a bunch of people from Cambridge, which is where he is originally from.

At 1pm, there were greetings and intros, which included the excellent news that Ed Miliband MP (Sec. of State for Department of Energy and Climate Change) was here in the capacity of a 'keynote listener', which raised a laugh! After this, there was an interesting 'mapping' exercise... all the tables and chairs were moved to the side, and standing up, we had to organise ourselves into 'elders' down at one end of the hall, and 'youth' at the other. I found myself in the middle, along with other not-old, not young 40-somethings. The roving Mic was used to introduce a couple of oldies, sorry, respect those elders, and some of the younger contingent. Other mapping involved looking at the size of the population of your Transition Initiative, the highest being Hong Kong with 6 million plus, and the smallest being a settlement in North Yorkshire with 400. We did geographical mapping too, which finished with a group of us from the North East and Lincolnshire, Sheffield and Gronningen in the Netherlands all getting together and doing an exercise with a sheet of paper, post-it notes and 'what went well, what is challenging and what are you looking forward to' colour coded.

When I had a look around other regions versions of this workshop, some had been much more creative with paper wind-turbines and annotated spirals and wonderful stuff. Ours was tame by comparison!

After tea and cake it was the first 'Open Space' event, and I had volunteered to do one on, guess what, home composting! I had two lovely conversations. Both very worthwhile.

I had also volunteered to help facilitate the Energy Descent Action Plan thing after tea, so I posted a quick blog, ate some lasagne (again, and not a patch on the one last night!) and just got finished before the EDAP prep meeting.

EDAP is a Transition methodology for 'doing a Transition Initiative' and it has 12 steps, which are:
Set up a steering group ans design its demise from the outset;
Awareness Raising;
Lay the foundations;
Organise a Great Unleashing (aka a launch, or if in Kirkbymoorside, a 'Springboarding';
Develop physical manifestations of the project;
Build bridges with Local Government;
Organise a Great Reskilling;
Honour the Elders;
Let it go where it wants to go;
Create an Energy Descent Plan.

These do not have to follow this order, and some may take place at the same time.

So, this evening's EDAP work was for an imaginary place 'Anytown' and was with 400 or so people and took just two hours!

Some of the things that were contained in this session:
Information from such as graphs and other information;
This little film 'Peak Oil, How will you ride the slide?'

The following subject areas were used as what I know as a brainstorming as part of the 'unleashing 'stage:
Food, Transport, Health, Arts/Play/Learning, Work and Livelihood, Heart and Soul, Water, Waste as Resources (this is the one I helped facilitate), Buildings, Landuse, Local Democracy and Energy. This was really good as everyone got involved and the ideas, aimed at what we envisioned 2029 to be like, or wanted it to be like, were written on big sheets which were to form the pages of a huge book.

The physical manifestations section was presented using a film called Haringey Connections, about some of the recent activities in Tottenham, with the Wards Corner Coalition and the Living Under One Sun allotment group. Well worth a watch.

The local authority stuff was very well described by a local Camden Councillor, Alexis Rowell, who moved from being a BBC correspondent and then a businessman to having a 'green epiphany' and running for election, and becoming the Camden Eco-Councillor. He has done amazing things in Camden, and has been wholly or partly responsible for the council having a policy of installing decentralised energy in all new projects (such as 20% of the predicted energy use to be generated on site), installation of free cavity wall insulation and roof insulation for all properties, whether poor or wealthy, mandatory green roofs and grey water recycling in all new builds, free fruit trees if a sensible place is suggested in which to put them, and a real push for local food growing wherever possible. Have a shufty through the Camden Council website to see if it mentions any of these!

For the reskilling, a ball of string was used to demonstrate that there were loads of skills in the room which could be shared, that people were able to offer and teach these skills, and that there were ample takers or people who were interested in learning them. The string went from person to person, making a huge web of skills offered and wanted...

In 'Honour the Elders', a local gentleman, John Prince, born in 1928, was interviewed and told some of his life story. He was born in St Kitts / Nevis, and grew up in Antigua with his grandmother who grew all her own vegetables plus cash crops. He worked as a teacher, but since retiring has worked on his poetry.
I chatted to him afterwards and he gave me the text of the poem he read out. This was written just a couple of weeks ago.

Reminiscing on the Lea, by John Prince

I sat on the bank of the River Lea,
Pondering the global, human tragedy.
Here, once had been a paradise of earth,
Where flora and fauna balanced the beauty,
In perfect co-existence of a fragile complex ecology.
I sat on the bank of the River Lea,
Thinking of the past, remembering
When across the face of London City
We fished in rivers, which flowed freely,
Enhancing life: developing human communities.
But no more to be seen,
Progress covered the waters clean
And turned them into sewers.
No more the River Fleet;
No more the River Tyburn,
No more the River Westbourne
They are covered and forgotten;
The measure of our progress:
Exchanging rivers for sewers,
Disrupting earth's natural ecology
To inherit a toxic polluted wasteland.

Millenniums created the evolution
Of species and habitats;
But we, in centuries, created the degeneration
Of earth's harmonious ecology;
And we continue its destruction.

We need humility, a new philosophy,
To guide our co-existence on Mother-earth.
The alternative is global catastrophe;
Like the cosmos-created ice ages,
Which nearly eliminated our ancestors.

I sat on the bank of the River Lea
Thinking of the past, remembering
When across the face of London City
We fished in rivers, which flowed freely,
Enhancing life, developing human communities..

(I have reproduced this exactly as it was written on the sheets John gave me)

The big cake which had been made (I'm not sure of it's significance!) was cut up and given out and Edward and I got ready to go. A number 345 bus took us all the way to Peckham and we were soon knocking at Peckham Anna's door, whom I first met through the Carbon Rationing Action Group website and subsequently, when we were both winners of the Oxfam Carbon Footprint Competition, and we (along with Kat from Scotland) spent a day talking to MPs including Hilary Benn at DEFRA. Anna's housmate was away, which meant there was plenty of space for us both, most welcoming and comfortable. It was great to see Anna again, I love her enthusiasm for low carbon stuff.

Spent another hour and a half doing my blog!

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