Beyond Green New Zealand offers support to shaken Christchurch

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Beyond Green was saddened to hear of the tragic earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. This earthquake was far more serious in terms of loss of life and devastation to the city than the September 2010 event.

Viv Heslop, our Director in New Zealand, has family in Christchurch and is pleased to report they are okay, but this is not true for many families. The quake struck at the worse possible time, when people were out and about in the city, at school, at work, visiting landmarks. To see the devastation play out on our television screens is difficult to watch, but Beyond Green, both in New Zealand and the UK, is committed to finding ways of helping Christchurch rebuild. For a start we will be donating some money through the Red Cross and we ask that if others would like to help to please do the same - www.redcross.org.nz.

Last year we said Christchurch was shaken but not stirred, but unfortunately this time the place and its people have been put through the blender.


Village Green application on Pincents Hill rejected

Beyond Green is delighted with West Berkshire Council’s decision to dismiss the Save Calcot Action Group’s application to register the Pincents Hill site as a Village Green. Its decision followed a seven-day public inquiry in June 2010 and was in line with the recommendations of Inspector Alun Aylesbury who examined evidence relating to claims that the land had been used as of right by significant number of inhabitants of the area for lawful sports and pastimes, for 20 years. Beyond Green’s evidence contested this claim, setting out in some detail the history of the site over the relevant period. This included the ongoing use for parts of the site for private grazing and agriculture, ongoing use of part of the site as a private garden and the use of much of the site as a pay-to-play golf course for most of the 1990s. Having considered both sets of evidence, the Inspector recommended rejection of the application and noted in his report that:

“It is because I markedly preferred and found more convincing the evidence of the Objector’s witnesses about the state of affairs during the active golf course years of the 1990s, to the evidence to a different effect which was called for the Applicant.”

Executive Chairman of Beyond Green Developments, Jonathan Smales, welcomed the decision, saying:

“Our proposals for high quality homes and community facilities at Pincents Hill have been attacked by some with great gusto; but the determination to oppose us and our ideas for much needed local housing, public open space and community facilities overtook the facts of the matter.

“Local people have been misled by SCAG and by others who have overly politicised the planning process, getting in the way of the evidence. It is now clear that this has been the case with regard to the Village Green application and it surely is the case with regard to the suitability of this site for development, with all the relevant authorities having agreed that the impacts on transport, ecology and local public services can be fully mitigated or even improved.

“It is time the propaganda and carefree scaremongering around this site and this project ceased and a fair and measured debate began.”

Pincents Hill Village Green press release 22nd Feb 2011
Village Green Inspector’s report January 2011


Joanna Yarrow at Wilderness Wood: an opportunity to branch out

JY sunday times

In the latest article linking Joanna, Wilderness Wood and the big forest debate she appeared in the Sunday Times Home section.

Click the link below to read the story.

Joanna Yarrow in Sunday Times Magazine Home Section


Broadland workshop “Improving lives, growing community, environmental sustainability: what are places for?”

Broadland workshop Jan 2011

On Wednesday 16th February 2011 Beyond Green hosted the first in a series of workshops on planning and designing for sustainable development and community with reference to our project in Broadland on the northern edge of Norwich.

The workshop entitled “Improving lives, growing community, environmental sustainability: what are places for?” was attended by a range of stakeholders from the local area. It explored how we live now, how we want and need to live in the future and how addressing this challenge might affect the way we design.

Joanna Yarrow, Founder Director of Beyond Green, spoke on the question of ‘How shall we live?’, looking at the scale of the challenge ahead, the role of lifestyles in meeting this challenge, and how new places might help to bring this about.

Joanna’s presentation – which can be viewed on the video below – was followed by a lively and valuable debate fostered by a Panel Discussion.


Agroecology embraced as a fundamental, cross-party issue

agroecology

Food, and all that goes with it (agriculture, ecology, environmental sustainability, community interaction, economics, politics, employment – the list is endless) are all issues fundamentally connected to Beyond Green’s overarching concern of ‘how shall we live?’  It was with huge interest then that we attended the launch meeting of the All Party Parlimentary Group on Agroecology this week in Westminster.

The inaugural meeting, entitled ‘Farming in the age of ecology’, was attended by around 80 representatives from farming groups, NGO’s, business, MP’s including Caroline Lucas, and guest speakers, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Colin Tudge.

Though the connection between sailing and farming may not be immediately obvious, Ellen MacArthur delivered both an inspirational and relevant opening speech about her dream, to sail around the world singlehandedly, and how she made it a reality. Essentially, she shared with the attendees the story of a journey of a discovery that she made all alone, in the middle of the ocean; that the survival of human beings on this earth was in jeopardy.  She likened this ‘sense of enlightenment’ to turning over a stone and not being able to or wishing to put it back down again.

From that (turning) point onwards, she ceased to sail competitively, and instead focused all her time and energies into educating herself about sustainable development, and founding both the Ellen MacArthur Trust and the Ellen MacCarthur Foundation - the latter of which exists to educate and inspire the next generation to rethink, redesign and rebuild a positive future. Her passion is waste, and the challenge of transforming this linear economy, (within which the concept of waste is exists) into a circular,  cradle to cradle system where waste is a resource to be welcomed, rather than a problem to be stuck with. Her key message set the tone for the group; that the sustainability challenge we face now is perhaps the greatest of our time, but this by nature also makes it one of the greatest opportunities.

Colin Tudge spoke more directly to the topic of discussion, agroecology, stating that being able to produce good food to the highest standards (by what he calls ‘enlightened agriculture’) is a precursor to making everything else happen; peace, equity, justice…. And, he suggested, “it’s not even that hard to do.” The problem is that the government is asking a series of irrelevant questions, and missing the fundamental solution; the creation of a system that imitates nature such that it can achieve both maximum diversity and integration whilst requiring minimum input.

“Can organic farming and small farms feed the world?” Yes, Tudge says, “they’ve had done so for hundreds of thousands of years before now, and they continue to feed the majority of the population today”. If we are to achieve this system of ‘enlightened agriculture’, what the  APPG needs to do is to create the correct policy and economic infrastructure to enable this, such as abolishing laws around patenting and banning the feeding of pig swill, for example. Agriculture needs to be rescued from the neoliberal paradigm that requires it to exist for profit’s sake, rather than with the express desire to provide the world with food of the highest possible standards.  

Caroline Lucas responded to the two speakers, stating her agreement and enthusiasm for the points raised and the approach championed by MacArthur – good, rather than less bad. In other words, rather than talking about the need for us to do less of one thing (eating meat, driving cars, flying in planes, etc), we need to be talking positively about the sustainable- and attractive- solutions to these problems. Apart from anything else, just doing less, and being more efficient, isn’t a good enough goal. Only via an approach that rewards and reinforces positive actions will we inspire the creativity required to rethink and redesign the current system.

Based on Tuesday’s turn out and the lively and intelligent debate which accompanied it, we’re quite excited about the potential of this group to influence parliament toward the creation of a more sustainable food system. However, as the number of APPG’s currently in existence increases, this is not accompanied by an increase in MPs time, nor a promise that their existence alone will be enough. What will be required, as the group is fully aware, are consistent and targeted efforts to redress the balance between commercial and agroecological agriculture. We’re already looking forward to the next monthly meeting.


Tristram Stuart to speak at Wilderness Wood

Tristram c Alice Albinia 03


In March international food waste expert and campaigner, Tristram Stuart, will speak the next in a series of delightful  Candlelit Dinners at the award winning Wilderness Wood in East Sussex.

In Tristram’s talk, ‘Uncovering the Global Food Waste Scandal’, taking place on Friday 4th March at 7.30pm, he will tackle one of the biggest problems of our time, as well as sharing with guests some ideas on how to creatively avoid food waste. He can also answer any questions you might have about his most recent book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, and how he pulled off his latest stunt, feeding the 5000 in Trafalgar Square in 2009 using three tonnes of fresh groceries – all of which would have been thrown away!

The menu for the evening includes some of Sussex finest Slow food. Click here to take a look, and you can email or call Wilderness Wood on 01825 830509 for more information.   


a valentine gift from Beyond Green Living

valentine

Show your sweetheart how much you care – for them and the planet – with our top tips for helpless ‘environmentics’: 

 1.    Choose locally grown flowers: 55 million roses are sold worldwide on Valentine’s day, but only c.10% of those are grown in the UK. Avoid unnecessary flower miles and minimise pollution by buying locally grown blooms. Wiggly Wigglers sell beautiful British-grown seasonal bouquets from £25 and Scilly Flowers  sell flowers from the Isles of Scilly. If you want fancy flowers from further afield make sure the farmers growing them get a fair deal by choosing Fairtrade bouquets. Waitrose has a good selection. Or for something even simpler pick your own bouquet of spring catkins and pussy willow.

 2.   Indulge in chocolates with a clean conscience: We eat a hefty 600 000 tonnes of chocolate each Valentine’s day. Low wages, poor working conditions and heavy pesticide use can make chocolate tough on more than your waistline. For delicious guilt-free treats try yummy Fairtrade Divine chocolate, organic Green & Blacks, or for something really exotic the Organic Seed and Bean company’s Chilli or Mandarin and Ginger chocolate.

 3.   Enjoy a romantic ramble: After all that chocolate a walk in the fresh air is the perfect way to top up on endorphins and stimulate your appetite(s!). Now the days are getting longer there’s time to explore the miles of trails at Wilderness Wood (a sister company to Beyond Green Living), with plenty of romantic spots to enjoy en route.  

4.   Beguile your lover with natural scents: 95% of the chemicals used in perfume manufacture are derived from petroleum, and only about 20% of the synthetic ingredients have been tested for their toxicity. There are safer alternatives; start by checking perfume labels, and look for alternatives from certified organic perfumes carrying the Ecocert mark.

 5.    Don’t stop there… Whether you say it with a card (25% of seasonal cards are sent over Valentines), with a ring (10% of people get engaged on February 14th) or with a romantic meal (we waste over 5 million tonnes of food every year), there’s always a greener alternative. Recycled cards (or make your own), fairly traded jewellery and restaurants with the Sustainable Restaurant Association certification are great places to start showing how much you care. 

Enjoy your special day! 


Climate Change Drama

Greenland National Theater

The global climate change debate confuses me. There I said it. I admitted it. I am not a scientist, an activist, an economist, a policy wonk, or an expert on climate change. I’m just a concerned person feeling guilty about how much I fly on airplanes, and frankly all the “climate change denial/ the earth is flat” business just gets a bit tiring sometimes.

So when I saw that the National Theatre is putting on the Greenland Events platform, of course I bought tickets because with so much drama surrounding the debate, there has to be a decent stageplay in there somewhere. (Strangely, that must be true since, the Royal Court is also getting in on the action with their staging of The Heretic, which according to The Telegraph, and The Guardian was slightly more entertaining than Greenland.)

So next Tuesday, a couple of us from Beyond Green are going to the National Theater to see Greenland and to hear a talk by ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist,’ economist Bjorn Lomborg beforehand. Following the event, I hope I will be less confused, but I won’t hold my breath. (You can also catch Lomborg the following evening, Weds. 16 at the LSE.)

Reviews of the play by the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent, varied in their enthusiasm for the piece but agreed it was largely issues-driven, lacked focus and was a little boring. Literary criticism aside, the play seems to highlight our collective confusion about how to manage the problem, that we feel almost religious in our views about it, and that no matter where we stand we’ll probably walk away with our views unchanged. Ahhh…human nature.

We’ll keep you posted…


And the key to happiness is…..

Attention.

It’s all about attention, and the allocation of this scarce resource both voluntarily and involutarily.

That’s it. Or at least that was the conclusion that Professor Paul Dolan came to at Tuesday’s lecture at the LSE.

We really enjoyed his talk; he gave a humerous, thorough, and cleaver insight into happiness science and sociology at the same time as bringing the conversation back to the one big question on our minds; how do you go about measuring the happiness of the population.

You can listen to his lecture here.


The Happiness of Pursuit

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We’ve been thinking a lot about happiness here at Beyond Green since the UK government announced its plan to measure national wellbeing.

Here’s a quick round-up of some of the things we’ve read/listened to/attended lately.

An interesting radio program by the BBC’s Claudia Hammond featuring interviews with Martin Seligman (of Positive Psychology fame), Dr. Anthony Seldon, head of the Wellington College who developed a curriculum devoted to Wellbeing education, author Julian Baggini, and Felicia Huppert from the Wellbeing Institute at Cambridge University. It seems there are a few important things that make us happy: perspective, resilience and purpose. As Dr. Huppert said, “It’s not about the pursuit of happiness, but the happiness of pursuit.”

Last week’s debate at the LSE chaired by the BBC’s Mark Easton (who published this story in 2006 on happiness,) highlighted several arguments to consider as the UK government gets on with measuring happiness.

Here’s a couple thoughts we came up with during the debate:

  • Happiness or wellbeing is tough to measure, and anything we do will undoubtedly be flawed, but that doesn’t mean we won’t give it a good try
  • GDP is hopelessly flawed too, but at the moment it’s the best thing we’ve got going and it allows us to measure and compare economic growth over time and around the world which we all agree is helpful
  • Happiness is important and by measuring it we legitimize it and make it something we can work toward without having to apologize for being softheaded
  • The flip side of happiness is misery and that’s pretty easy to measure – bad things like psychological morbidity (suicide), crime and unemployment all have real measures and real impact. Measuring changes in these could also be an indicator in changes in levels of happiness.

Laura Stoll from the New Economics Foundation wrote this informative article that gives a really great background of the issue and the ongoing initiative by the UK government.

Also, don’t miss the launch of the new film The Economics of Happiness on Tuesday Feb 8.

Have a very happy weekend!