On Tuesday evening a new amazing space at CAT was revealed on Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.
We are extremely proud of our biodiversity here at CAT and are very lucky to be surrounded by such rich habitats every day. We caught up with Alex Chadwick, a Conservation Development Assistant and part of the woodland team here at CAT, to learn a little bit more about how the site is managed for nature and to find out what wildlife to look out for at this time of year.
After 18 months of intensive study and hard work CAT’s 5th year Architecture Professional Diploma students laid out their final projects for us all to see.
Transforming their classrooms the students created sleek exhibition spaces to show off their detailed plans and intricate models. Continue reading “Congratulations to CAT’s Architecture prof dips!”
CAT’s Architecture Professional Diploma students celebrate the end of their studies with a private view of their work and a party at CAT on 20th January.
This unique event invites industry VIPs, students, local people and friends of CAT to view the final projects of these up-and-coming architects after 18 months of intensive study. Transforming study rooms into exhibition spaces their inspirational designs and models will be available to view with the students themselves on-hand to talk guests through their visions. This will be a unique insight into the ideas of the architects of our future. Continue reading “Celebrate with CAT’s architects of the future”
Earlier this year WRAP, world leaders in supporting organisations to be more recycling efficient, launched a nationwide competition called Ready, Set, Recycle. The project worked in collaboration with The Scout Association to challenge Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorer Scouts to recycle as much packaging over 4 months as possible. The individual troops documented their process and shared it with other scout groups through the Scout Association website.
WRAP has announced local troop the 3rd Aberystwyth Scouts as the winners. The prize was a goodie bag from Recycle Now and a group trip to CAT.
CAT’s dedicated teaching staff Christine McLennan and Ann MacGarry took the winners on a fun filled tour of CAT’s recycling and waste displays followed by a hands-on recycling workshop to further inspire their recycling efforts.
WRAP Director Marcus Gover said about the project,
“The ‘Ready, Set, Recycle’ challenge is a positve way to engage the whole family and get them recycling more at home. The Scout Association is well-known for the work it does to encourage young people to help their local communities, so we are extremely pleased to also be supporting the Environmental Conservation Activity Badge.”
In a one-day collaborative workshop CAT’s own education officer Ann MacGarry worked alongside an educator from OXFAM to deliver a workshop for teachers in Cardiff entitled Exploring the refugee crisis and the movement of people. This was the latest part of the Changemakers project that CAT’s education team have been running with other organisations in Wales over the last few years, funded by the Welsh government.
The CAT contribution this year, in terms of content, was looking at the impact of climate change on migration, this turned out to be a very interesting area of research as it is not at all simple. The pattern is if crops fail or land and homes are flooded, people move to somewhere safe as close to home as possible, hoping to move back. However there are populations on the Pacific islands and in areas where the water sources have dried up permanently or become salty that cannot ever return home. It is also emerging that many of the most vulnerable people simply do not have the resources to move.
There is evidence for a link between a prolonged drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 (the worst on record) and pressures that led to the uprising but there are many other factors as well, so it certainly does not seem to be the key cause.
Ann explained that she feels that there are three main points that need to be remembered when discussing this subject.
“Firstly, all the evidence suggests the impacts will get worse, secondly the impacts are going to fall mainly on areas without the resources to adapt and thirdly that it is the rich who produce the vast majority of the greenhouse gases, not the poor.”
ChangeMakers is a global citizenship project which gives both students and educators the opportunity to learn and think critically about issues surrounding our global refugee crisis before planning and taking appropriate action to create positive change.
Through her involvement in the project Ann said that she has learnt a lot but that it is worrying that so many of us are ignorant of who is really supporting refugees globally and the huge difficulties faced by the small number of support givers that do make it to these vulnerable communities.
She said that the teachers that were involved in the workshop in Cardiff were aware that they did not know enough but were very receptive and gave enthusiastic feedback on how they would use the resources available. The teachers also really valued the fact that the course was held in Oasis, the Cardiff centre for asylum seekers and refugees. Ann said that,
“It was encouraging that there are teachers out there who are keen to teach about these issues and schools who will enable them to go out for a day to educate themselves on this difficult and complex subject”.
Having recently attended the TEESNet Annual Conference 2016 at Liverpool Hope University, one of CAT’s dedicated Education Officers Deirdre Raffan summed up her experiences from the day…
The TEESNet (Teacher Education for Equity and Sustainability) event at Liverpool Hope University, Measuring What’s Valuable or Valuing What’s Measurable? Monitoring and Evaluation in ESDGC, was well attended with a range of interesting speakers and workshops.
Of particular interest was the opening speaker Annette Scheunpflug from the University of Bamberg discussing the meaning of measurement. Some things can be measured objectively but others, such as what is chosen to be measured, will always be subjective. She linked this to the intention of PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), which has previously tested 15 year old students across the world in Maths, Literacy and Science but is now looking at devising a “Global competencies” test. Annette discussed a concern about how valuable this test would be across the world’s huge cultural and economic differences and a concern about how results may be interpreted.
Another speaker, Michael Stevenson, a PISA advisor, highlighted that what PISA were looking at would particularly focus on intercultural sensitivity. His piechart showed 20% would be about the environment and sustainability, 20% about conflicts and human rights, 20% socioeconomics and interdependence and 40% about culture and intercultural relations. After questions he suggested that the “global competencies” title may change. There was discussion around the difficulty of making sure this was a valid test, measuring what was wanted, as well as deciding what was wanted.
A session called “How do we know it’s working?” focused on a toolkit pack of the same name, using interactive activities from it that got us all discussing aspects of Global Citizenship. I look forward to finding more time to study the pack we were given, which had over 40 activities. Flicking through I found one based on using CAT’s resource Where’s the Impact to think about the impact of a bottle of water.
A session right at the end by Ann Finlayson encouraged the range of organisations at the conference to not just collect the metrics required for funding bodies but to consider the stories they have about impact and transformational change. She encouraged input to UNESCO around sustainable development goal 4-Quality education.
The day was stimulating, thought-provoking and went too fast, so I emailed the organisers to consider a residential TEESNet next time, at CAT of course!
CAT’s education team will be attending the Careers Wales STEM careers fair “Codi STEM” on Tuesday 21st June at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor’s CaMDA site in Dolgellau. The event is aimed at pupils who will be beginning year 9 (Form 3) at local schools in September.
The focus of the event is to raise awareness of local employment opportunities in the energy sector, especially those opportunities that link in with STEM subjects. CAT will be focussing on our Zero Carbon Britain project and presenting the opportunities the renewable sector offers.
The event gives local employers and stakeholders the opportunity to present what employment opportunities there are locally that focus on the core STEM subjects. This is an excellent opportunity for our education team to make sure that alternative energy alternatives are presented at this key career fair for school age pupils.
The day will be comprised of interactive workshops and talks that will highlight the kind of skills that employers in the STEM sector will be looking for in the future and clarify how pupils can make sure that they are ready to take on the exciting opportunities that will be on offer.
The event is open to the general public from 14.00-16.00.
Holly Owen, environmental artist, came to live at the Centre for Alternative Technology seven months ago as our artist in residence. Holly’s time here has been inspiring, not just for her artistic practise, but for all the staff that have been a part of her continuing journey into low impact art.
“Playing with materials bound to the earth lifts us out of the commonplace and into a world re-imagined. Art has the ability to re-enchant our consciousness with the world when the facts and figures of climate change leave us numb.”
Holly Owen, 2016
Holly’s art and climate change journey started eight years ago, when she began to explore natural, low impact materials and processes in her artistic practice.
Experimenting with golden-yellow Dartmoor beeswax, Holly began to unravel the ecological mysteries surrounding the decline of the honeybee during her residency at Buckfast Abbey. This was the first step in an ongoing journey, exploring local and global environmental issues that affect humanity in both subtle and devastating ways.
“In the first week of my residency at the Centre for Alternative Technology, I realised how surface level my knowledge was about global climate change. This was going to be a sharp learning curve from the ground up.
Thankfully my residency was connected with CAT’s education department, so alongside many groups of school kids I spent my first few months eagerly absorbing the wealth of knowledge that this enthusiastic team have to share,” said Holly.
Holly joined CAT in the summer of 2015, in months before COP21 in Paris. It was then that she realised the significance of the timing of her residency.
“Two years prior to my CAT journey I began working with digital artist Kristina Pulejkova on a multi-media project entitled Switching Heads-sound mapping the Arctic.
The project took us to a community deep within the Arctic Circle where we worked alongside local people to collect the sights, sounds and stories from one of the most endangered environments on earth.
We were invited to take the resulting film to the art and culture festival ArtCOP21 that ran in conjunction with COP21 in Paris.
As our anticipation of this important global event grew, so did the atmosphere at CAT. Embracing the opportunity to delve into the political world that CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain programme resides in, and encouraged by the active work of groups such as Reclaim the Power, Kristina and I hurtled towards COP21 fully fuelled with knowledge and a sense of people power.
I feel proud and humbled to have had the opportunity to play an active role in the events surrounding COP21, made even more poignant by the timing of my connection to CAT.”
Inspired by this life changing foray into international climate talks and activism, Holly’s piece Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate) looks out through the withered leaves of the sparse winter beds of CAT’s central polytunnel. A life-sized head, formed from slither-thin shards of CAT quarry slate, blends organically into its surroundings.
In April, Holly will be making a welcome return to CAT, with fellow artist Kristina to record a second film for their on-going series Switching Heads – sound mapping the […] – exploring climate change through the voices of people who live and work in places of environmental significance.
Their current films – and the adventures they had making them – can be seen here.
Holly’s piece Allotment uses the Fibonacci sequence to showcase seeds collected from CAT head gardener Roger McLennan’s historic seed bank. Using a pattern that appears regularly in natural forms – think sunflower seed heads, trees branches, an artichoke flower, an unfurling fern – this piece shows the seeds oscillating out from the center of a disc painted in Llwyngwern slate pigment.
Allotment spans a UK food-growing year challenging food production, food miles and waste and encouraging locally grown, organic, seasonal produce that can give extra enjoyment to the food we eat and share.
explores CAT through the infinite colours, tones and textures under our feet. Thirty two different postcard sized swatches were painted with mud pigments map the site, each accompanied by an individual story of discovery. It is a snapshot of Holly’s seven months at CAT, her journey and the re-enchantment of finding beauty in the mundane and overlooked.
Accompanying this work, stories from CAT’s passionate, skilled and creative community are shared, demonstrating why CAT is so important to them. These stories create a colourful, unique and positive patchwork of individual journeys that collectively form a community like no other.
As this phase of Holly’s work comes to a close, and she is set to embark on another adventure curating art for a festival in the Severn valley, Holly reflects.
“The months that I have spent living and working in this reclaimed Welsh slate quarry amongst the ancient history, the realised dreams and the shared futures has focused my creativity in ways unimagined. As my art and climate change journey continues, it has been enriched with a deeper focus for an alternative way of life, imagined through the arts and made possible by all of us.”
Thank you for helping us here at CAT appreciate what we have under our feet, Holly. We are looking forward to sharing a Welsh Spring with you when you return.
Andy Stevenson from University of Worcester shares his experiences in bringing students to CAT.
For some years now I’ve been developing the teaching in ‘Green’ or (possibly better described as) ‘sustainable’ graphic design techniques as part of the Graphic Design and Multimedia degree course at the University of Worcester. In order to broaden the experiences and learning of students in this area further, I’ve also been developing both links and lecture visits with other specialist organisations outside of the University.
One of these organisations is the Worcester Resource Exchange – a ‘scrap store’ of post industrial materials allied to the Duckworth Trust and based in the city. We’ve also developed links with the larger Centre for Alternative Technology (or ‘CAT’ as it’s often known as in shorthand) based in Machynlleth, mid Wales. I firmly believe as a lecturer that not all learning takes place within the classroom and that facilitating students to both engage with and see other experiences on site at such places can be hugely beneficial to them too. This comment doesn’t just relate to the students’ learning experiences, but rather it also relates to the galvanising effect on a cohort that an occasional trip or visit outside of the University can also achieve.
Green Graphic Design
The Green Design module’s link with CAT has been evolving year on year now for nearly a decade. Students have benefited from a range of new perspectives that the staff and facilities on site there have provided. In particular I want to highlight their ground-breaking latest research into how we might practically start to ‘decarbonize’ the British economy – which is called ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ (again known in shorthand as ‘ZCB’). This body of findings is the output of many years of painstaking research and analysis by specialists at CAT. It compares where we are now with resource and power use and where we could potentially be – albeit if we started to make small, practical changes to the ways in which we live. Now this might immediately worry readers of this article, who are probably imagining us at this point going back to the horse and cart – but CAT’s vision is anything but this. They see a modern-day society that is less oil and gas reliant and instead is more efficient with it’s use of fuels and one that has also invested more in diversifying heat and power generation utilising more renewables and other related technology.
Closed loop cycles
Linking with such external organisations brings various additional benefits to students and we’ve now adopted a core set of considerations that focus around working towards the core idea of a ‘closed loop’ of product development & usage. Closed loop cycles are also a key theme within CAT’s own ZCB research too if we’re to effectively lower our resource uses. In practical terms, this asks students to look at a lowered, ‘cleverer’ and more sustainable use of resources in their packaging solutions for their ‘live’ clients. Crucially, it also means that students are introduced to the idea of a ‘second use’ for their packaging concepts too.
Their latest project for regional sustainable brewer Oldfields Orchard Cider (Hobsons) actively encourages them to seek a follow-up use for their packaging once it has safely delivered the goods/bottles to the intended user. This could take one of many forms and in previous projects students have designed their packaging so it easily dismantles as traditional pub games, into small recipe books, and in one case rice paper spice tabs to be put directly into cooking. While there’s often no ‘ideal’ second use solutions, the idea is that students experiment and suggest additional ‘value added’ features for their packaging concepts that either delay or even stop the pack going into the waste systems by ultimately transforming it into another appropriate and useful artefact. While this idea isn’t brand new, the industry appears to be slowly changing and there are more and more sustainable design and packaging precedents appearing now that students are actively bearing in mind for their own concepts.
CAT Educational Lectures
Green Design students were fascinated by CAT’s ZCB research at a recent lecture and workshop on site in the unique Sheppard Lecture Theatre – one of the largest ‘rammed-earth’ structures in Europe. CAT Educational lecturer Ann MacGarry discussed many of the research’s salient findings within their ZCB proposals.. The debates to be had in this area clearly impacted on many of the students – who had only seen overviews to date but nothing in this in depth. Reactions were broad and when audio-interviewed en route back to Worcester, student comments included:
With (the concept of) ‘Zero Carbon Britain’, I really do think it’s achievable – but I think it’s only going to be possible by getting politicians to ‘pull their fingers out’ – it won’t happen without new legislation.. There’s only so much individuals can do really.
I found the visit and lecture really interesting, a lot of people talk about sustainability and low impact living but CAT seems to actually ‘do it’. I thought their ethics were really interesting too – not taking funding from big business or being biased or in anyone’s pockets.
Despite the broad-ranging nature of the day’s lecture, students could clearly see how these additional layers of information and context could widen their thinking with their own sustainable packaging projects ongoing. Third year graphic design student Jimi O’Doherty adds:
It (the lecture) was broad in nature – but I think much of the information was transferable and I’ll be bearing some of it in mind when I’m thinking about my further packaging idea.
Project focus & themes
We are looking forward to visiting CAT in Autumn 2015 and are planning for the group to develop a set of e-resources for other students (.pdf e-book) around the best usage, simple recipes for and top tips for maintainance of an earth oven.. Students will also be required to develop a multi-use working prototype ‘assistive 3D artifact’ out of suitable materials that supports this design brief (we were initially thinking a re-usable pizza plate with simple recipe/instructions on it or possibly flour measuring device with a similar multi-use)..