Podcast: What has nature ever done for us?

As more and more rainforests are chopped down, peat lands drained and species wiped out, we ask ourselves: ‘What has nature ever done for us?’ We live in an economically run world, where the immediate returns and profits are the most important outcome, so how can we turn this around?

Tony Junipers Book, 'What has nature ever done for us?'
Tony Junipers Book, ‘What has nature ever done for us?’

Tony Juniper was a guest lecturer last week talking about his new book, What has nature ever done for us? He explains that ‘we need to protect nature from people, not the other way around’, and that we need to convince people to think differently, change, and see that nature has the highest value of all. Instead of believing we must sacrifice ecology in order to grow the economy, which is the current paradigm, we must realise that the economy cannot exist without ecology. Tony is a well-known British environmentalist, writer, campaigner and sustainability advisor. He also ran as a candidate for the Green Party in Cambridge in the 2010 General Campaign. The solution he puts forward is to see nature for what it really is: a controller of disease, a recycler of waste, and a mighty carbon capture and storage system; ‘If we get that message, we might yet save ourselves’.

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CAT pioneers reunite for BBC Radio 4 broadcast as 40th anniversary approaches

 

Five early pioneers of the Centre for Alternative Technology were reunited on Sunday 28th April for BBC Radio 4’s The Reunion. Hosted by Sue MacGregor, The Reunion takes a weekly look at significant events and moments in history by reuniting the people who made them happen. Past programmes include the first years of Doctor Who, the 1948 Olympics, and the founders of Comic Relief.

On April 28th it was the Centre for Alternative Technology’s turn, as Sue brings together CAT’s first Technical Director Bob Todd, and his wife Liz, CAT’s first and second Directors Mark Mathews and Rod James, and Pembrokeshire builder Des Rees, who wanted to have an adventure in the Sahara, and found himself working in a damp slate quarry in mid-Wales instead! There will also be recordings of now-deceased founder Gerard Morgan-Grenville, leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt and long-term staff member Peter Harper, who first coined the term ‘alternative technology’.

In November 1973 CAT founder Gerard Morgan-Grenville signed a lease on a disused quarry owned by Old-Etonian school friend John Beaumont. On it he planned to build ‘The Village of the Future’. The National Centre for Alternative Technology was to be powered by renewable energy, fed with organic produce and run under co-operative principles.

The Centre defied conventional approaches to energy and food production, developed innovative technologies and spawned hundreds of like-minded projects and enterprises across the globe. The first ‘pioneers’ moved on-site in 1974, and CAT will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014.

The Reunion will also use interviews collected via CAT’s Oral History Project, which was funded by GLASU and organised by Allan Shepherd.

“With CAT’s 40th anniversary coming up in 2014 we’ve been preparing an archive of written, oral and photographic stories about the Centre’s history, some of which will now feature in The Reunion,” explains Allan.

“The whole archive will be kept in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and will be launched as part of a series of events and activities we have planned for CAT’s 40th anniversary in 2014. The Centre has played a part in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as making a big impact on environmental thinking. The Reunion recognises this, and the programme is a fitting tribute to CAT’s history.”

The Reunion is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 28th April at 11.15 and May 3rd at 9am, and is also available online.

Contact allan.shepherd@cat.org.uk for more information about the CAT Oral History Project, archive or 40th anniversary celebrations; and kim.bryan@cat.org.uk for CAT media enquiries.

BBC Radio 4 will also be bringing Any Questions to CAT on June 7th. Any Questions is a question and answer broadcast featuring a live studio audience and a panel of politicians from all major parties. It will be broadcast from the WISE building at CAT, and CAT will be looking for a live audience closer to the time. Contact kim.bryan@cat.org.uk for more information.

 

ZCBlog: the Energiewende

As we write up the research for our third ZCB report on how Britain can decarbonise, it’s interesting to look around at what’s being suggested in other decarbonisation strategies. Germany, for instance, stands out for its ambitious Energiewende (‘energy transition’) that combines a phasing out of nuclear and coal power with a huge increase in renewables to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (If you get CAT’s Clean Slate, you’ll have seen the article on Energiewende in our Spring 2013 edition.)

So far this plan has had dramatic results. For instance, in ten years Germany’s renewable electricity jumped from 6% to 25% of its total share, and about 50% of capacity is community owned.

So what lessons does this offer for the UK? Two weeks ago PRASEG, the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group, held a seminar to discuss just that.

“This is the most amazing, in both senses of the word, challenge that they’re engaged in,” said the seminar’s Chair, Tom Heap, a main presenter on Radio 4’s environmental documentary series Costing the Earth. “Whether you think it’s fantastic or somewhat flawed, it’s of great benefit for us in the UK because it’s like a live, pilot experiment. We can see how they’re getting on, and hopefully learn from the strengths and weaknesses of what they’re doing.”

ZCB’s Energy Modeller Tobi Kellner agrees: “The issues brought up in this debate are absolutely spot-on, and very similar to many of the debates we have in the ZCB energy research team. Germany is currently a few years ahead of the UK on the trajectory towards a future powered by 100% renewable energy, and in many ways their Energiewende is similar to the kind of political push that we’d like to see in this country.

From a socio-political perspective, perhaps the most interesting aspect the speakers touch on is how it happened that in Germany support for this transition spans right across the political spectrum, including German industry and conservative parties. From a technical perspective, it’s great that the speakers don’t leave out the significant challenges involved with a transition from fossil fuels to renewables. This includes the question of how variability can be balanced, and on the changing role of coal, gas and nuclear power stations in the energy system.”

PRASEG has shared recordings of this seminar on their website, and we’ve embedded them below for ease of access. Enjoy!

  • An introduction by Tom Heap (3min)

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  • Rainer Baake, Germany’s State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry from 1998 to 2005 and current Director of the think tank Agora Energiewende (20min)

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  • R Andreas Kraemer, Director and CEO of Ecologic Institute in Berlin, Spokesperson of Germany’s ecological research network Ecornet and Coordinator of the British-German Environment Forum (16min)

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  • Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Labour MP for Southampton Test, member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and PRASEG Chair (17min)

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  • A Q&A session (1hr)

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Podcast: social perceptions of wind power

On this week’s podcast we learn about the social side of wind power, and particularly the strength of local opposition and NIMBYism (‘not in my backyard’), from a graduate of CAT’s MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course. Ruth Chapman now works in wind power development for renewable energy company Dulas, but for her MSc thesis she investigated social responses in Wales to wind turbines based on attachment to place, a sense of fairness, and other values. She also uses excerpts from interviews to illustrate how her research reveals the complex challenges and tensions that will determine whether we meet governmental renewable energy targets, and whether we go on to achieve a zero carbon future.

 

Previous podcasts

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Podcast: what policies do we need to encourage eco-renovation?

Energy use has been in the news recently, from Ofgem’s warning that Britain will come “dangerously” close to power shortages within two years, to the public outrage in response to Centrica reported that British Gas profits increased 11% after a hike in prices a few months ago.

Following on from our most recent sustainable architecture post, this week’s podcast describes current refurbishment policies in the UK, in particular the Green Deal. Tina Fawcett, Senior Researcher at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, explains why we need policy if we’re going to refurbish Britain’s buildings – and what new policies might be effective and feasible.

 

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Podcast: climate change migration myths

Should the world brace itself for waves of “climate change refugees,” and what does that have to do with islands, cities or natural disasters? This week’s talk to students on our MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course is from Alex Randall, past CAT employee, current communications activist at COIN, and co-creator of the carbon-trading spoof CheatNeutral. Says Alex,

“If anything, climate change is not going to result in huge numbers of people moving to new locations, it’s going to result in the amplification of existing migratory corridors. And… it’s not likely to be across borders.”

 

 

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Podcast: environmental values and visions for the future

How should we value the environment, and how does that effect how we behave? This week’s podcast excerpts from a talk by Media Officer Kim Bryan to students on CAT’s MSC Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course. Kim includes personal anecdotes and global examples to shed light on philosophies from free market environmentalism to deep ecology and eco-socialism.

 

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Podcast: local frameworks for change

Adrian Ramsay, former deputy leader of the green party, talks about how local frameworks can bring about change. Adrian is the module leader on Environmental Politics and Economics for students on our MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course.

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Podcast: what will the next 40 years of the environmental movement bring?

Two weeks ago students on our MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course came to CAT for the annual politics module. This time, the module featured discussions on everything from green economics to behaviour change, and we’ll be presenting some of these lectures as podcasts in the coming weeks.

At the end of the week, students got a chance to put their questions to an expert panel featuring CAT’s media officer Kim Bryan, CAT’s external relations officer and Zero Carbon Britain director Paul Allen and Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper. This podcast is an excerpt from the end of the discussion, as the panel debate the main achievements of the environmental movement’s 40-year history, and consider what the next 40 years will bring. The first speaker is Paul, followed by Kim and then Paul. The adjudicator is Adrian Ramsay.

Previous podcasts

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Podcast: where is society going?

In this talk to students on our MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course, External Relations Officer and Zero Carbon Britain 2030 Director Paul Allen puts our current environmental challenges into an historical context. Paul tells the story of human beings and energy – beginning with the sun, and tracing our industrial history through the discovery of coal, to our learned dependence on oil, and ultimately, to where we are today.

You can stream the podcast here, or

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Previous podcasts

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