Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sunday 9th October 11

Yay!  A lie in til after 10am, which was a real treat!  I watched most of Country Tracks and did assorted stuff on the computer, and in the afternoon did a lot of compost clearance, as stuff has been piling up, and I've been too busy to deal with it.

At 5.30 I got myself sorted to go and work for David, arriving at 5.50 and than taking him to City Screen.  We had a jolly time, very social.

Saturday 8th October 11

I went to Manchester today, for the regular cafe gathering, and to take David's port and Champagne to the auctioneer who will sell the 15 bottles in December.  The bottles were picked up from outside Night and Day, I got a receipt.

In the evening I had been invited to Milladio's and Pebbles' party, but there was a message on the invite page saying that if it was raining, it would be cancelled.  So as it was raining when I got back to York, I decided to go straight home.

Friday 7th October 11

I did loads of work in the front today.  Chainsawing and stacking, got a whole stack done outside the front door, which should keep us going for quite a while.

I went to get bread before lunch and did loads of apples in the evening, loading up all the available racks to dry the James Grieve crop.  They don't keep very well, so drying them is a good way to preserve them.  If the dried fruit is put in airtight jars, they last for ever.... well, as long as the lid stays on and they don't get eaten!

Thursday 6th October 11

Well I was supposed to have a lie in but Gill woke me up and asked me if I would cycle to the Steiner School as our youngest had forgotten his water bottle.

But whilst I was eating my breakfast, she said that actually, he had some melon in a plastic pot, and water was available at school so I didn't have to.

So I stayed in and dealt with fruit and washing up. A quiet and nothingy day.

I went to work for David at 6 and we went to City Screen... but there was no-one to chat to so we came back after about 40 minutes and I left his at 7.25, having warmed up his tea and got him his fruit juice drink.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wednesday 5th October 11 My Cafe Scientifique presentation

Spent bits of the day tweaking my presentation.

At midday I arrived at my dentist's and had a clean, didn't take long.

Home via Richard's and then spent most of the afternoon indoors, and dealt with several phone calls, including one from a place near Easingwold which is hoping to put on events, and I spent quite a while talking through my show so the enquirer understood what I offered.

I got a message from my contact at City Screen suggesting I should get there at 6.30pm, to be ready for doors open at 7pm, to start the talk by 7.30.  I took my laptop down and got there on the dot of 6.30pm.  My laptop and their data-projector worked perfectly together, which was pleasing... and I got hooked up to their wireless internet to show WorldClock, which I knew would be of interest for illustrating part of my presentation.

Carolyn arrived, and shortly after, David plus Pauline, one of his PAs, and a few other Cafe Scientifique regulars.  I chatted with Stephen, from the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, who are now sponsoring Cafe Scientifique.  I told him I thought I could get my talk done in 20 to 30 minutes, and then we'd have a break and a discussion.  About 20 people turned up, and I started by zeroing Worldclocks, and then using my slides, started my presentation which I'd called 'Climate Change, Peak Oil, Sex and Death'.

My first topic was climate change, and I explained that climate had changed naturally over geological time, and was driven by a variety of factors but mainly by the composition of the atmosphere.  I introduced the greenhouse effect, and explained that water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane were the main gases which trapped heat. I explained that over many millions of years, plants had absorbed carbon dioxide, changing it into solid lignin and cellulose, and some of this had become coal and other fossil fuels... and that we humans were extremely rapidly putting huge quantities of this carbon back into the atmosphere by burning oil, gas and coal.  I touched on some interesting feedback effects such as a warmer Arctic region allowing permafrost to melt, so releasing lots of trapped methane, which would warm the region still further, a 'positive feedback'.  A less easy to understand feedback mechanism would be that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour, and more clouds are likely to form, and clouds can both trap heat in the atmosphere and also reflect the sun's energy back into space, having a cooling effect.

I then showed a video which shows really well how CO2 absorbs heat,and then a video of a graph showing how CO2 levels have changed over time.  So these set the scene for a bit about what is likely to happen on a warming planet: climate in chaos, with various feedback mechanisms (two of which I explained), more floods, droughts and more energetic storms, seasonal changes and shifting habitat zones, and sea level rise due mainly to the thermal expansion of water, but probably to be exacerbated by terrestrial ice melting.  Not easy things to talk about without getting emotional, but I think I held it together. I mentioned changes in forest cover, as it is possible the Amazon rainforest could become grassy savannah, that patterns of disease would change, that crops and food availability would become an issue, and that the biggest centres of population were close to current sea-level.  I think I mentioned the end of civilisation.  I don't think I was over-dramatic, though.

My next slide was about peak oil, so I gave a brief overview of King Hubbert's prediction about oil extraction in the US, and that being uncannily accurate, and his prediction for peak production globally being 2005-2015, and the fact that over the past 6 years production hadn't actually increased, despite consumption continuing to go up.  Basically my suggestion was that we are at the peak of oil production now, and that it can really only go down from here on in.

The next slide was a graph of oil consumption, going inexorably up, and then one of those two graphs sort-of superimposed, with the line of oil availability falling off, and the consumption still rising.... showing what I sometimes call 'the scary gap', as it indicates rising commodity prices, shortages, rationing, and worse.

However, this 'energy gap' might have some positive consequences, including making renewable energy more competitive, and a re-localisation of how our communities run. Travel and imports would become too expensive, and might be possible for people to develop healthier lifestyles, with more exercise, stronger communities, local food, growing their own food!  Well, I'm an optimist, and try to find positivity even in the face of somewhat potentially difficult circumstances.

So, we'd done climate change and peak oil, so now the sex and death.  Well the 'sex' bit was simply the fact that the global population is still rising, and to demonstrate this, I had found a graph of this and put it on my presentation.  I also clicked back to Worldclock, to show how much the global population had increased in the 30 minutes since the start of the talk. I firmly believe that population pressure is the other side of the resource-use and pollution emissions coin.  If the world had fewer people, we wouldn't be using so much oil, or emitting so much CO2.  I suggested that if everyone in the world had a carbon footprint of the average Indian, we might be OK, or if we had only a couple of billion people, we might all be able to have the footprint of the average American.  But with close to 7 billion people on the planet, it just wasn't sustainable to have so many people with two and three planet lifestyles. 

And so to death, our final footprint. As both cremation and burial have considerable pollution impacts, there is a new technology being worked on, which I feel very positive about: the freeze-drying and composting funeral, Promession. This has a much lower carbon footprint, as the liquid nitrogen used is a waste product from the oxygen industry, and the remains are recycled into soil in an aerobic process.  Although this isn't yet available, it should be soon and I'm already excited about it.... not sure why, but we can't help what we're interested and moved by.

After the talk, there was a short break and then some questions.  There was only one anthropogenic climate change denier there, but most people seemed pretty au fait with the science and asked how I got my carbon footprint so low, and there were some other interesting queries and observations.

I went for a drink afterwards and had some more good conversations, but I didn't stay long.  I was happy with how it had gone and so were the organisers.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tuesday 4th October 11

Spent most of the day trying to master the LibreOffice presentation programme, had some help from Ian and the partner of one of my facebook friends Julie, a lovely guy called Mike who explained that I'd have to download the YouTube videos I wanted in MP4 format, not 'flv', and he suggested a 'plug in' to download which might do the trick.  It worked.... eventually!

In the evening I attended the Hull Road Ward Committee, with my Hull Road Ward Planning Panel hat on.  The most interesting thing to happen here was that I had a chat with the old chap who is very much part of the furniture of this ward, John Horsley, and he told me he had terminal cancer and would be dead soon.  But he was laughing about it, saying he'd had a good life and was (I think) 80 years old and that was plenty.  I had a quiet word with one of the Councillors to see if there was anything we could do to acknowledge his contribution to York life, and it may be we can do something before his time is up.  I think it would be better to do this before he dies, to thank him.  It would mean less to him if he wasn't there to see/hear the thank you!

Monday 3rd October 11

Quite a frustrating day as I spent a LOT of time trying to master the Linux equivalent of Powerpoint, a thing called LibreOffice Impress. I managed to make a set of 5 slides with some writing on, and an image from my desktop, but I was just playing with it with no real help or idea what I should be doing to create a working presentation to help my talk on Wednesday evening.

I got very frustrated by my inability to take a YouTube video and put it onto my desktop so I could put this into the presentation.  I got some online help from my friend Ian with one problem, but I still couldn't get it sorted very well.

I had a phone call from a TV production company about an aspect of my lifestyle that they're making a documentary on, but again, I'm not going to feature in the programme.

In the evening there was a LETS meeting which is always nice.

Sunday 2nd October 11 Beverley Food Festival

Woken by my phone at 8am and went down to the breakfast room.  Sharon, I think her name was, wasn't expecting me, as somehow the message had come through that I didn't want breakfast.  I NEVER don't want breakfast.... it is the most important meal of the day for me!

Anyway, I had a bowl of cereal and some toast, beans, tomato and an egg fried hard, and three cups of coffee, and an orange juice.  I then went to my room, got changed, and went to the Market Square to find Helen, my handler today, to find out where she wanted me to be.  She had disappeared but her colleague Helena suggested working in front of a building which I've done my show in front of each time I've done the Beverley Food Festival.  However, it was no longer an empty cinema, but a Browns department store, and it looked like it was going to open later that day.  So I couldn't stay there.

I went and devilsticked outside the main marquee whilst the event was being opened, and then one of the Beverley Town council people suggested I work outside a Building Society which wouldn't be opening today, so I got set up there, and got a Council van moved as it was part blocking the view.

I was busy from then on in, continuous workshops and interaction and all sorts, 100% full-on.  At about midday I took a short break to go and buy a pie for lunch, and I also got two 750ml bottles of 'Gold from the Wold' Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil for £10.  But this only took 10 minutes, and another 5 minutes to eat the pie, with various children hanging around and watching for my last mouthful, to then home in and ask if they could have a go with the 4 wheel unicycle, or Deborah the Diabolo (Derek's blind sister) or juggling...... but I wanted a change so I did an hour and a half of balloon modelling, finishing at 1.55 to go and sit in the Market Cross building to do a composting workshop.  Only 4 people turned up to this.... but it was still worth doing.

So from 2.20 through til after 4pm I was busy with more circus and balloons, without a break, full-on again.  That's how I like it as the day goes really quickly!

I waited ages for the bus home.... including walking down to the railway station to see if it would be quicker to go that way, but it wasn't.  Beverley really needs a direct rail link with York, in my opinion!  Anyway, the bus came and I dozed on it all the way to York and collapsed when I got in.  A busy weekend.

Saturday 1st October 11

A busy busy day: cycled up to Haxby in the morning to help with the York Rotters compost bin sale.  I took the jars of different sorts of compost from yesterday with me, and showed lots of people what they might expect to get from the bottom of their bin in a year or two.  I took the leafmould jars and the jar with lots of worms and other beasties.  I stopped at 11 and cycled back, collecting some sticks on the way, and got back at 11.40.

Then at 1pm I set off, in Fiddlesticks costume, to the Central Library, 'Explore' to do the final show for the Summer Reading Challenge 'Circus Stars'. I called into the Anti Gravity Shop to buy a new 'two wheel unicycle' as my old one has got too old to support my weight.  I did my show from 2.10 til 3, and had a lovely response. I'm now in a position to submit an invoice for all my summer's library gigs. 

Came back home via the cobblers to re-stick my Fiddlesticks boot sole, and via another place to get new shoelaces.  Then came home via Richard, and collapsed as I was really hot and tired.

Later I got all my kit together and jumped on a bus to Beverley, and dozed on the bus, got myself booked into the Cross Keys and had a quiet night before the Beverley Food Festival.

Friday 30th September 11

Up early to cycle out to Tollerton to work at The Pizza Farm.  They grow wheat (and make flour and pizza dough), tomatoes and onions (and make pizza sauce) and pigs (to make Parma ham, apparently) and cook pizzas in a wood-fired oven... and have school trip visitors to learn about food production.  Normally they have about 40 kids, and split them into 2 groups, but today they were due to have 58 kids, so needed to split them into 3 groups, and felt my composting talk would complement the food growing and food preparation sessions.

So I took a range of food packaging plus some food 'on the turn' and various sorts of compost, and a selection of compost beasties.

I set out early in order to get there for 9.30; it was an hour's cycle, and the children were due at 10am.  I was given a place near a hedge, with a table for my materials, which I placed in 3 areas: assorted food packaging, some of which was recyclable, and some which generally isn't; a load of lovely biodegradable things... including things starting to biodegrade, and a collection of jars of assorted composting things... some still just recognisable, from the top layers of a heap, and another of more mature compost.  I had one jar of year-old leafmould, another of mature riddled leafmould.  I had quite a few different animals, beetles and beetle larvae, centipedes, millipedes, woodlice, slugs, worms... and finally, a jar of well composted 'humanure' and sawdust, as I know children love anything to do with that sort of thing.

With each group I started by inviting a child to pick a packaging object and to tell me what it was made of and how it could be recycled.  With a few different sorts of packaging chosen, we covered glass, metals, cardboard, paper and plastic, and got quite a bit of information over.  We covered landfill and incineration, and how different sorts of materials can be recycled and why.  With the mouldy food, we covered bacteria and fungi, and how food is normally preserved. Then with the compost I was able to talk about the carbon cycle and methane from landfill, and the benefits of home composting, helping to make soil fertile for food growing, wildlife value, etc etc.

One of the other two groups was learning about food growing and processing, and the others were making pizzas and having them cooked in the wood-fired oven.  Part of the deal today for me was that I got pizza for lunch... it was really delicious!  The other part of the deal was that I'd get partly paid in logs; Mike's son runs a fuel-wood business, so once I'd done the third group, after lunch, I was shown the logging area. I was really interested in the machine that the logs are fed into which cuts and splits them.  There was a builders' dumpy bag full of bits and bobs which weren't the right shape or size to go in the 'onion-net' bags which is how the logs are packed and sold, and Mike said I could fill my trailer with some of these.  He also promised a delivery of a couple of sacks of other oddments when he was next passing our house.

So I cycled home having had a very satisfying day teaching about sustainability, paid a fairly small fee, but fed and given logs in lieu of a more substantial payment.

In the evening I went to John Brierley's leaving party.  He's been the St Nicks Centre Manager for 8 years, I think, and done really good work, but he's decided it was time for a change and so he's resigned and tonight was his main leaving do.  I found Kennedy's, just off Stonegate, and spent a couple of very happy hours there chatting to friends old and new.