First things first


Friday, 26 February 2010

Climate Change and Human Change

February 2010

There have been unambiguous warnings about the consequences of climate change during our lifetime from world climate scientists, the Royal Society, and Government Chief Scientific Advisers. But public opinion in the U.K. remains largely unconcerned about the danger and sceptical whether the problem is even human-caused. Meanwhile the government’s environmental policies have barely altered. Why?

Many of us stop paying attention to climate change when we realize there is no easy solution, and none without worldwide co-operation. The tendency for the self-interest of individual countries to deplete and destroy shared limited resources (atmosphere, oceans and land), despite this being in no-one's long-term interest, requires a globally monitored agreement. This could be based on the amount of energy used / carbon produced per person in the world.

The scale of the change required to deal with climate change means it can only be brought about by governments. They can alter the framework of rewards and constraints to motivate us to change our behaviour, either indirectly such as through individual carbon rationing, or directly such as by taxing cars more heavily and subsidizing energy saving in homes . But politicians in democratic countries risk being voted out if they go against public opinion. There is also political resistance to effective action from the fossil fuel industry and the economic growth lobby.

Climate change directly questions our culture’s dominant belief in perpetual economic growth, and convincing alternative economic models are still little developed. At present we define ourselves around our high-carbon consumption habits, especially loving our cars and flights and material goods. A more services-led economy that promotes personal growth and increases self-identity through closeness to other people and to nature would have health benefits for family and community life.

Dick Beckhard's equation states that any change will only happen when individual dissatisfaction with the status quo, plus the clarity of vision and perceived benefits, plus the availability of practical first steps, add up to a sum greater than the psychological and financial costs of changing. There is a natural tendency for the status quo to persist because that is the easy option, particularly if there are many difficulties to overcome.

We think we can ignore climate change because it will affect us at best in the future and we are too busy with solving the day-to-day family and work problems of the present. The danger is perceived as long term, is invisible and is caused by all of us, whereas our human risk response mechanism (fight or flight) is triggered by visible, immediate and personal threats.

We are not receiving the clear scientific message that we must act now. Repeated and accurate information about the threat and the solutions is essential for a change of public opinion about climate change. As individuals we use a denial strategy of trying to know as little as possible about reality. Few have read even a summary of the pivotal 2007 report. Instead, scepticism has grown because of a media distortion of the real scientific consensus about climate change, due to ‘balanced’ reporting which exaggerates small doubts about the evidence.

Denial of climate change may take the form of unlikely fatalistic optimism, for instance that ‘the government will deal with it’, ‘technology will solve it’, or ‘it is in the hands of God’. Humans have been growing up psychologically for a long time, for most of it feeling like children in relationship to the Earth and Universe, whose sublime nature we experience fully only on rare occasions. At some level we still believe that our ‘parents’ will again be there to look after us, provide for us and love us, whatever we do. The warnings about climate change are based on long-term scientific data comparing rising global temperatures with the levels of gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Human intelligence will have found this out in vain if human wisdom cannot quickly bring about responsible action by spreading accurate information to change public opinion.


Energy / planning subgroup. Meeting with Councillor Alex Grant and planning officers to discuss the regulations which disallow solar panels on front roof slopes in conservation areas. The main outcome is that you are advised to take any such energy saving planning applications directly to the planning meeting of councillors (via your ward councillor) rather applying to the planning officers (and then appealing when refused). We will be looking in more detail at how some councils are more flexible about energy saving measures.

Third Wednesday of the month. Wednesday 17th March. Informal meeting of Transition Westcombe from 6.30 – 8pm at Mycenae House bar

Comments and suggestions to

Monday, 22 February 2010

Cottoning on

Caterina and Cathy have been out and about doing their bit to cut plastic bag use and brighten up the Royal Standard with a bit of home-made chic.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Bee there or be square

Another Deptford Deli event, not too far from Westcombe Park, which might appeal, see below. [Greenwich Community College will also run a course in March and again in June.]

Urban Bee Keeping - 11th February 2009
6pm for 6.15pm start

Deptford Deli - 4 Tanner's Hill, Deptford, SE8

£2.50 including tea / coffee and slice of cake

Numbers are limited so entry is on a first come first served basis.

Julian Kingston - keeps bees on the creek in Deptford that produce wonderful honey. Tonight's talk looks at the practicalities of keeping bees in the urban environment.

The talk will cover the following:

How to start - space needed, equipment needed, what time it takes, approx. costs etc

Things to know - dangers / temperature issues

Benefits - to bees (apparently urban bees are flourishing) to us - health cost & sustainability.

So if you've ever fancied keeping bees but thought you don't have the time, space or experience come along and hear what it really entails.

Monday, 1 February 2010

How green is your avatar?

This talk - see below - on Thursday 4 February is not far outside Westcombe Park, at the lovely Deptford Deli, and may be of interest to the transition-minded.

It sounds like the speaker, Paul Mobbs, is going to touch on the hidden energy costs of our high-tech IT - something that even many transition folk don't give much thought to.

Even we like to imagine a future of ever-greater online connectivity, and can convince ourselves that our laptop habit is reasonably energy-efficient and sustainable.

But the peaking of the rare metals which make up their essential components, and the huge consumption of the giant server farms which keep this system ticking over, might prove us wrong on that score. John Michael Greer, among peak oil writers, has written on this.

Here's the blurb:

Have you ever wondered about an avatar’s carbon footprint or considered just how ‘green’ is e-mail?

Paul Mobbs’s talk draws our attention to the consumption of resources not always
obvious as we tap away on our laptops or do our weekly wash.

Knowledge is power and this weeks TASTY! Talk offers food for thought. Hope to see you there.

'Limits to Technology' -- The Ecological Boundaries of the Information Age"
Paul Mobbs

When: 4th Feb. 2010 6pm for 6 15pm start
Where: Deptford Deli 4 Tanner's Hill SE8
Getting there: DLR - Deptford Bridge, Mainline Deptford Station / Buses: 47, 53 & 177
Cost: £2.50 including coffee / tea and slice of cake

Numbers are limited so entry is on a first come first served basis

"From the latest high-tech. gadget to the latest in ecologically cool energy sources, modern society relies on a whole range of metals and minerals to create the specialised electrical goods that we increasingly rely upon. The difficulty with the modern high-tech. age is that, like the operation of the human system as a whole, it is limited by certain natural limits that must ultimately constrain our utilisation of these resources.

"Just like the more general boundaries that were identified in the “Limits to Growth” study nearly forty years ago, the rapid growth in the ways we use these technologies is is driving consumption of resources at a level that cannot be sustained in the longer-term. That's not to say that we won't have “technology” in the future, but it raises questions about its applications, price, availability, and thus the role that technology will play in our everyday lives."