Zero Carbon Britain Event 9th April: Join us online here!

ZCB FBOn the 9th April, the Zero Carbon Britain team from CAT will be hosting an exciting evening event to present their latest research and practical solutions for a zero carbon future. We’ll be joined by Duncan Clark, Owen Jones and the latest from the IPCC meeting in Berlin that week.

Details and registration here: http://bit.ly/Ov6XIr

The event will take place in London between 6.30 and 8pm (with drinks and informal discussion until 9pm), but will also be broadcast online for all of those who’d like to take part from elsewhere.

How to join the online event

We’ll be broadcasting it live here, so simply make sure you’ve got internet signal and come back here for 6.30pm on 9th April!

Social media

Slides from the event:

Input from twitter will appear in this box below. Use the hashtag #ZCB or tweet @centre_alt_tech to propose questions for the panel and join the discussion.

Hosting a screening

Some people are hosting ‘screenings’ in their area, which is absolutely great! If you’d like to do that too – even if it’s just your friends and family – please go for it!

There are no issues about licensing or anything to worry about – and if you’d like a number of hard copies of the ZCB report to do in a ‘sale or return’ fashion we can sort that out too.

For more information or any questions, please get in touch with Danielle at danielle.paffard@cat.org.uk

Please don’t forget to spread the message to your friends and networks. Thanks!

Carbon Omissions: why we need to start talking about consumption

 

Elena Blackmore, a Project Officer at the Public Interest Research Centre, writes about the Carbon Omissions event in London two weeks ago.

If our carbon emissions are falling, it means we’re on the right track, right? And we’ve done it without needing to drastically change our economics (or even our lifestyles). But what if our accounting systems are wrong?

On Tuesday of last week, the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) launched a brand new animation exposing three lies we are told consistently by our government about our emissions. The animation, produced in collaboration with leading animator Leo Murray and acclaimed journalist George Monbiot, is the culmination of a lengthy project by PIRC to ensure the UK’s emissions are properly tackled by the Government.

We currently account only for territorial emissions: those created within our own borders. This conveniently allows us to ignore the emissions associated with everything we consume that we import from elsewhere in the world. Is this such a big deal? Well, yes. It means that, whilst on paper, the UK’s carbon emissions have fallen by 19% since 1990, when measured on a consumption basis they have risen by 20%. As ex-PIRC Director Guy Shrubsole showed through Freedom of Information requests two years ago, ministers and civil servants have known about this for many years but (in a shocking show of irresponsibility) have chosen to simply ignore it.

On the panel, John Barrett of Leeds University had also crunched the numbers on whether our emissions were going up because of a burgeoning population – a favoured smoke-screen by many who don’t like to address their own consumption patterns. The Optimum Population Trust (now Population Matters) used to have a scheme whereby you could offset the emissions of your flight by paying £5 that would go towards family planning in sub-Saharan Africa. John’s conclusion? Yes, of course the number of people has an impact, but nowhere near the size of the impact of our increased consumption.

But consumption drives growth, and growth keeps us afloat, and that’s the only way we can be happy, right? Well, no. Welcome to another lie. After a certain level, increases in income have no bearing on how happy we are, as Kate Soper of London Metropolitan University discussed. Focusing on consumption and growth is not only misleading, it’s actually damaging to us and the planet. Misleading because the error margins are often bigger than the miniscule increases or decreases fixated upon by rolling news; before even getting to the fact that GDP excludes most of what we hold dear: how happy we are, how much time we have to spend with our friends, how we treat one another. As Robert F. Kennedy once said, such reductionisms “measure neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.”

Damaging, perhaps more worryingly, because a focus on money and consumerism can actually make us less happy, less concerned about the environment, and less compassionate, because of the encouragement of materialistic and self-interested values. Research shows that these values are in direct, psychological opposition to values centred on concern for community, other people and the environment, as Tom Crompton of WWF told us on Tuesday. Encouraging consumerism is not only harming the planet through its directly destructive use of resources, it is undermining society’s concern about this damage and ability to act collectively to work against such damage.

So what can we do about it? First, maintain the pressure on our government to take our outsourced emissions into account – and start tackling consumption. Alice Bows outlined the need to not get locked into more carbon intensive energy systems such as investing in fracking. Ruth Potts and Kate Soper argued for our need to redefine our relationship with material goods: encouraging collaborative production as well as consumption. John Barrett said we should at least stop talking about GDP before finding an alternative (of which there are many existing suggestions). Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavillion, said we must bring the issues of climate and consumption back onto the political agenda. A recently launched campaign, Leave Our Kids Alone, was mentioned, and the panel were in agreement that advertising – a key component of consumer culture – must be curbed to allow our minds to be freer of clutter and anti-social values.

Audio from the event, held at Friends House Euston, will be available online from later this week. The speakers were Guy Shrubsole (Friends of the Earth), Kate Soper (London Met Uni), John Barrett (Leeds Uni), Alice Bows (Tyndall Centre, Sustainable Consumption Institute), Tom Crompton (WWF-UK), Ruth Potts (New Materialism), Caroline Lucas (MP, Green Party).

 

Recommended Weekend Viewing

The web is choc-a-bloc with videos vying for your attention on a cold evening indoors.  There are some great nuggets of green information and environmental news online.

Here’s a selection of CAT’s top videos and our favourites from the rest.

ZCB’s artist in residence, Joanna Wright, shared this inspiring video on zerocarbonarchive. The film by Lucas Oleniuk and Randy Risling documents a windmill builder in Africa:

 

Germany is leading the way with renewable energy and the Energiewende. This great little video from The Heinrich Böll Foundation explains what’s going on over there:

 

This video created by Lightgeist Media and the London College of Communication highlights the positive message of CAT:

 

Bob Shaw teaches on our woodland and greenwood crafts short courses. Here he demonstrates how best to fell a tree sustainably:

 

CAT has some fantastic organic gardens at the visitor centre. Our experienced gardener, Roger, talks briefly about his techniques:

 

Community energy schemes are a great way to cut costs and emissions! This short film by Cornelia Reetz shows how the Scottish town of Fintry is using renewable energy to benefit the community:

 

This short film from Josh Fox, Oscar-nominated director of GASLAND, looks at the techniques used in fracking for shale gas. (Warning: this contains strong language)

 

You can find all our videos on CAT’s youtube channel.

And let’s not forget why being sustainable is so important in the first place. Last year, Sir David Attenborough spoke to the Guardian about climate change from his perspective. Watch it here.

Interested in learning about sustainable woodland management?

 

At CAT, our biology and natural resources team manage 20 acres of woodland – at the CAT site and at Coed Gwern, nearby. We also run a range of courses designed to teach you the skills you need to sustainably manage a woodland, or to develop traditional skills such as willow weaving and blacksmithing.

This video gives a taste of what it’s like to learn skills in woodland management at CAT. Book now for our first course in sustainable woodland management of the year, beginning on the 25th of February.

 

 

Here’s what’s on offer in CAT’s woodland in 2013:

Greenwood crafts

Willow Basket Making

Charcoal and Biochar

Introduction to Rustic Chairs

Sustainable Woodland Management

Introduction to Horse Logging

Tools for Greenwood Crafts

Willow Sculptures

Traditional Blacksmith Skills

Coracle Making

Hedgerow Herbalism

Earth Ovens

 

ZCBlog: Communicating a positive future

 

As research progresses towards the release of a new report, the Zero Carbon Britain team are fully committed to communicating our findings.

Not only have we been communicating with our supporters, we have also appointed an artist in residence. The team are working with interested parties that are keen to promote the ZCB scenario, which will launch in the summer.

The London College of Communication visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales last year to learn about the ZCB project and in December 2012, Lightgeist Media was asked to document the visit. The video was made by the University of the Arts London to plan how to communicate Zero Carbon Britain to a wider audience. You can view the video below:

If you would like to work with ZCB or CAT to communicate our message of a positive future please get in touch here.

 

 

CAT’s Graduate School for the Environment on Al Jazeera

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales is a living laboratory for environmental technologies. It is unique in combining hands-on experience with top-grade academic teaching.

CAT’s training and education programmes are helping bridge the substantial skill gap that currently exist in the green technology sector; creating experts with the knowledge, understanding and ability that  the world needs to speed the transition to a low carbon economy.

CAT pioneers sustainable transport options with new electric vehicle charging points

 

Visitors to the Centre for Alternative Technology will have a new sustainable transport option from this week. Anyone driving an electric vehicle will be able to refuel free of charge using a mix of renewable electricity generated on site and bought through the grid. The two electric vehicle charging points are part of a network of public charge points around the UK operated by Zero Carbon World.

The Centre for Alternative Technology tries to encourage visitors to travel to the site sustainably. People who travel to the site by train get in for half price and there is also a discount for cyclists. These new electric charge points will be available free of charge for students, conference visitors and the general public.

CAT Engineer, Jaise Kuriakose, said “We can’t continue to burn polluting fossil fuels to transport ourselves around. Electric vehicles can be run using renewable electricity and are an important part of our vision for a Zero Carbon Britain. It is fantastic to be able to offer visitors to CAT this new service. This cutting edge technology means there is one more way for people to travel to CAT sustainably and it puts this part of Mid Wales on the electric vehicle map for the first time.”

The transport sector currently accounts for almost a third of UK greenhouse gas emissions; cars are the biggest source of these emissions. Electric vehicles produce about half the carbon dioxide per mile compared to petrol or diesel vehicles under the current grid mix. This could decrease to near zero as renewable sources replace coal and gas in the electricity mix. At CAT 100% of the electricity comes from renewable sources either generated on site by the hydro turbines, windmills and the large array of solar panels or bought from green electricity supplier Good Energy.

 

Solar powered irrigation for developing country growers. Testing and development taking place at CAT.

by Nick Jefferies

In poor rural communities around the world, one of the only ways of earning extra income is by growing vegetables and fruits to sell at the local market. The key to growing these crops is irrigation. Most current irrigation methods use either labour intensive manual pumps or expensive, carbon-emitting diesel engines. While undertaking my Masters at CAT in Renewable Energy, I came across a small-scale solar thermal technology being developed that offers an alternative method for irrigation pumping.

The system uses a parabolic dish to focus the sun’s heat onto a boiler to produce steam power that drives a simple type of reciprocating engine pump. Having contacted the inventor, I travelled to Holland to see the pump in operation and determine whether I could contribute to further development. This led me to travel to Ethiopia last September where I spent two months monitoring the engineering performance and socioeconomic issues related to pumps installed on ten farms around the town of Ziway.

Data indicated that the system could produce 2,500-5,000 litres/day from a depth of 5-13m, allowing for a cultivated area of 500-800 sq m. If good growing practices are followed, this means the cost of the pump could be paid back in less than one year. Monitoring also showed that the equipment was simple enough to allow farmers to operate the system independently. One key finding was that the overall efficiency of the system, calculated by comparing incoming solar energy to hydraulic energy output, was about three times less than expected. The main reason for this under-performance was identified as an incorrect sizing of one of the steam engine components.

This issue will be addressed in the next development stage, leading to a large increase in daily pumped volume, and thus directly improving the income potential and marketability of the solar steam pump.