What exactly does COP23 need to deliver – and who’s in?

At the UN climate talks in Bonn Paul Allen finds the USA to be a surprising source of inspiration.

Published just before COP23, the UN Environment Emissions Gap Report was the subject of a major presentation in the German Pavilion. It shows that the gap between commitments made in Paris 2015 and what’s needed to keep within ‘safe’ levels of global temperature rise ranges from 11 gigatons (for an increase of 20C) and 19 gigatons (for 1.50C) of CO2 equivalent. That’s a huge gap.

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Sharing zero carbon solutions worldwide

CAT’s Paul Allen joined the International Network For Sustainable Energy (INFORSE) in Denmark to share the latest Zero Carbon Britain research on a global platform. The 25th anniversary meeting brings together organisations from across the world to explore the transition to sustainable energy, community power and the development of new initiatives and projects.

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Carbon lock-in – 10 ways to break the cycle

Imagine a world where we have broken our ties with fossil fuels… Our towns and cities are awash with innovative practical projects that are rebuilding our relationship with food, energy, transport and buildings, openly supported by the wider economic and political systems. Such innovation has unleashed all kinds of co-benefits, from cleaner air to better diets, more jobs and income arising across the local area.

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Tools for campaigners: Sustainability for the self

Jenny Smith and Jenni Horsfall are teaching the Sustainability and The Inside Out immersive course at CAT at the end of February. Here they talk about the ideas that have influenced the course.

As more and more people working in sustainability, experience burnout or overwhelm, the need for inner sustainability as well as outer is becoming increasingly clear.

In her Work that Reconnects Joanna Macy identifies three areas that together make long term positive change possible. Firstly, holding actions (including front-line activism) that directly challenges the injustices and flawed systems in our world. This includes people working in organisations that serve marginalised people such a homeless charities, mental health organisation and refugee work as well as direct environmental action at fracking and logging sites. This work is relentless in its effort to hold back the tide of atrocity, greed and injustice and is responsible for the highest levels of burnout in sustainability. The second area Joanna introduces refers to the creation of alternative systems and refers to those engineering and clear seeing visionaries among us who are creating new systems in fields such as energy, economics. law and education that will support sustainable futures for all of life. Thirdly, she calls us to shift our perception by drawing on our inner work to challenging our thinking, our belief systems and ultimately the ways in which we view ourselves and our relationship with the wider world. Historically reserved for a privileged few these spiritual teachings drawn from indigenous people help us to bear the unbearable, sustain the unsustainable and continue in the face of the impossible.

This third area of inner work is what sustains our outer action. It enables us to continue to keep our hearts and minds open, rather than being weighed down with cynicism and despair. Stress and burnout are now the biggest reasons for work absence and have been shown to be directly linked to long term depression and anxiety, so the call for self-care and wellbeing practices has never been louder.

Sustainability from the inside out course
The Sanctuary at CAT

Sustainability From the Inside Out draws from various bodies of work including Joanna Macy and Gestalt therapy. It offers those involved at any level of activism or sustainability, the chance to come together for the necessary process of inner re-sourcing. In our two days together we will spend time reflecting and reconnecting to our original call and motivation for our choice of work; identifying the nature and impact of stresses and blocks that we face, and exploring ways to both re-frame and move through these challenges using experiential exercises and group processes. The weekend is designed to re-source participants by strengthening their capacity to respond healthily and skilfully to the ongoing challenges in the outer world.

Set at the beautiful Centre for Alternative Technology this weekend also offers you a chance to relax and breathe in the beauty of the national Snowdonia park, eat nutritious and delicious hand made food and shed. At a time of year when nature is supporting you to make new choices and shed the old, could a weekend investing in your own psychological and spiritual sustainability be just what you need?

The course facilitators Jenny Smith and Jenni Horsfall are both very experienced group leaders, known for their gentle and affective style of group-work. They have both trained with Joanna Macy and are tutors on Shift Bristol – a practical sustainability year long training course.

Sustainability from the inside out. Residential course at CAT 28th Feb – 1st March 2015.

Taster Open Days at the Graduate School of the Environment

Come along to one of our taster open days to find out more about the environmental masters courses on offer at the Centre for Alternative Technology’s Graduate School of the Environment. You must pre-book, but these open days offer a great chance to get a flavour of the practical, innovative courses we offer and find out if one might be right for you.

Upcoming open day dates

Wednesday 11th February

Wednesday 11th March

Wednesday 15th April

Open Day Programme

11:00 – 4:30 (free and includes lunch),

Wednesday taster days take place during the masters in sustainability and adaptation modules each month and give you the chance to come along to CAT meet some existing students, speak to lecturers and decide which environmental masters degree at CAT is most suitable for you.

  • Have a tour of the Centre, including accommodation and teaching facilities
  • Meet current students
  • Meet tutors on the courses
  • Experience a taster lecture

Students interested in Renewable Energy and the Built Environment can also visit on these open days. You will be able to meet a tutor from your course, see the facilities and get your questions answered.

Optional overnight stay

The open day is free but there is an option to stay overnight until Thursday morning. The overnight stay is offered at the subsidised rate of £25 including accommodation in a shared student room, dinner and breakfast. This is a great chance to have a more relaxed time at the centre and experience a few more lectures or practical sessions, and hear from other students.

Booking

To book a place please email Kit Jones gsmo@cat.org.uk now, or at least one week before the open day.

Starting an MSc is a life-changing decision

By Helen Kennedy, who just got back from CAT’s postgraduate open weekend where she came to find out about our new MSc Sustainability and Adaptation course. 

Helen Kennedy at Treffyn
Helen Kennedy at Treffyn

Having 22 years’ teaching experience, and not liking the way things have been going for some years, I decided to try somehow to make a difference both to my life and possibly the lives of many others by taking more practical skills and thinking back into the classroom. But how to do it? Budgets are tight and present government educational climate wrong to try to do it from the inside, so, having long been interested in the world of renewable energy, sustainable building methods and permaculture design, I have decided to get trained up and qualified, and try to deliver what I feel is crucial stuff back into the world of primary and secondary education from the outside.

And so I began to look into the possibilities. It didn’t take long to realize that the courses available at CAT offer something you cannot get anywhere else, in terms of the wealth of knowledge concentrated there, the immersive environment, the “what you see around you everywhere reflects what you learn” whole ethos of the site itself, the great reputation of CAT and its long-standing history. I visited CAT as an enthusiastic 7 year old, and remember the revolutionary half-flushing toilets and hand-made wind turbine. From tiny acorns, as the saying goes.

I arrived on Saturday morning feeling excited but rather apprehensive about the weekend, and as the funicular carriage heaved me up the steep slope, it was difficult not to feel seven again, with my weekend’s belongings stuffed in a bag and a thousand questions stuffed in my head.

The gathering of people in front of the WISE building reflected the sheer diversity of those interested and driven to make whatever differences they can to tackle the environmental changes happening to the world, and to learn more about it, or to pass on their expertise, and I was immediately made to feel welcome, and taken on an impromptu tour of some of the work undertaken by students during a week of trying out different wall building and rendering techniques, including home-made lime putty, pizza ovens and a potential sauna. CAT students obviously know how to have fun 😉

CAT students making lime putty last week

The weekend formally began with an introduction to CAT from Tim Coleridge, followed by a lecture about climate change and adaptation delivered at lightning speed by Ranyl Rhydwen, who could get his message across to a sack of spuds, so lively is his style and passionate is his conviction. Catching our breath (!) we were whisked off on tours of some of the AEES [course to be replaced by Sustainability and Adaptation in September] students’ projects, and very industrious stuff it is too. From investigations into the properties of different mixes of hemp shives and lime, to exterior render experiments, some even including flour in the mix, and various different building projects underway, it was all very interesting. Brain overload was avoided by discussing also the social side of things; the starlit sauna up the steep slope behind the WISE building, or a, dare I say it, drinking den down the Magical Mole Hole!

Following a well-earned break, an exemplification of course modules and a Q&A session we went off to find our rooms. The first thing to hit me was the aroma of wood oil, and then the sliding door onto the decking area with daisies and a PV array, courtesy of this year’s REBE students. I could have stayed in there for the rest of the evening, except for the promise of pizza baked in a clay oven, a cool cider, some great company and an unexpected stomp up the slope to see the site from the wind turbines and to get eaten alive by midges as the sun sank behind some lenticular clouds.

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Cooking pizza on Saturday night

A peaceful sleep, a renewable shower and a vegetarian CAT-special breakfast later, we were all gathered to listen to Tobi Kellner’s Zero Carbon Britain lecture. This was possibly one of the most powerful 40 minutes I have ever experienced, and one with a hugely positive message. I have since returning home, downloaded the pdf file of this lecture with its brilliantly clear and user-friendly info-graphics.

I had to leave early, to see if my wild-camping partner and dog had made it to Aberdovey in the heat of the weekend (which they had), but my head was left buzzing with all the activities and messages I had seen and heard, and the fabulous folk I met, and hope to meet again, as a student. Fingers crossed.

If you missed the open weekend but are interested in the MSc courses offered at CAT visit the Graduate School of the Environment webpages or contact us.