Southend in Transition Interview on BBC Essex

This morning, Kamil Pachalko from Southend in Transition was interviewed by Dave Monk at BBC Essex about the Southend community fruit map.

Here is the transcript.  You can also listen to Dave’s show on BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days (Kamil’s interview is c. 38 minutes into the show)

Dave Monk:  I was speaking earlier this week about my favourite blackberry bush, we went blackberrying earlier this week and it was really good, I think we got around 6lbs of blackberries all off virtually the same bush.  Now am I going to tell you where you can get them?  No I’m not. 

Luckily not everybody is as nasty as me, because now there is a Southend fruit map.  So how do you get hold of this, what’s it all about? 

Kamil Pachalko is from Southend in Transition. Kamil good morning!

Kamil Pachalko:  Good morning

 

DM:  What is this then?  What is Southend in Transition to start with?

KP:  It is an organisation (there are over 300 around the world) which look at local solutions to issues such as energy dependence and climate change, and just really encouraging people to be positive and look for solutions around local food, local energy, local buildings, creating local jobs etc.  So instead of ‘doom and gloom’ we think about solutions, and the fruit map is one of them really.

 

DM:  And what does it show?

KP:  It shows where people who know of fruit trees on public land, and where garden owners who have a fruit tree are saying ‘this is overwhelming me its producing countless kilograms of apples can someone do something with this’.  People can get in touch and tell us about their fruit trees so we can get together some volunteers can go out and help them pick them, donate them to a good cause, a nursery or care home or even just keep them for themselves enjoy the taste of local apples and have them for free.

 

DM:  That’s absolutely wonderful, what a great idea!  So can you yourself get hold of the map and go to someone’s back garden and say ‘hello I see your on the map can I have some apples please?’

KP:  We aren’t doing anything new really, people have been doing this for years – they see their neighbours who have loads of apple trees and ask their neighbour for some, or the neighbour would offer them over the fence. What we are doing is simply publicising this idea that you should talk to their neighbours. Obviously people want their privacy, so if you see an apple tree in someone’s garden you could maybe leave a leaflet, or maybe chat to them.  Really up to the landowner what they want – if they are fed up with all their rotting apples they will give them to you for free. Otherwise if you want to join a working party to go out and pick apples or pears or other edibles in the locality get in contact with us and we’ll put you on the list and if we go somewhere we’ll inform you.  

 

DM:  Is it actually a map or is this the name of a project?

KP:  There is a map.  If you go to the website (http://www.southendintransition.org.uk/) there is a post about the fruit map, with a link to the map.  The map is searchable, and if you look at the map you can see more or less where the trees are.  You will find that the public trees are easily accessible, but with the private ones we don’t give the exact address – just the general area that there are apple trees because we want to preserve people’s privacy.  Really it is to inspire people.  We were inspired a year ago to start this map when we learnt in London that a similar project, that had run for two years, got so overwhelmed (they had tons and tons of fruit, in one place fruit up to the ceiling), that they started producing their own juices and selling them at farmers markets, making jams and preserves, and running festivals and workshops around using local fruit and preserving it. And we thought Southend is the just the same – people here are enthusiastic about food, this area was a big orchard once so we thought we can easily do this here.

 

DM:  I just think this is the most wonderful idea.  How are you going to take it forward?  Have you got many people involved in it yet? 

KP:  Basically there is a core of people who are interested in collecting the information and putting it on the web and there are also those people who have said ‘I have got this apple tree or pear tree come around next year or we’ll get in contact with you’, so we are in contact with these people.  We also want to hear from people who are interested in joining our working parties, so if someone calls us and says “I’m really overwhelmed can you help me?”, then we can get in contact with that person and go out and help them gather the fruit. It is all on a voluntary basis, and really the idea is to publicise this so we can get more fruit shared.

And if we really see this working, and we get loads of produce, we might be looking at a more professional project.  We have access to a pulping machines and presses for example so we could start thinking about selling local food and donating money to charity or helping a local charity out. 

 

DM:  Give us that website address again because this is going to create a lot of interest

KP:  http://www.southendintransition.org.uk/ But even if you Google ‘Southend in Transition’ it should come up easily, and on the site just type ‘fruit map’ in the search field and it will be there.

 

DM:  How many blackberry and apple pies have you had so far this year?

KP:  There were about 3 or 4 blackberry pies involved…but I just came back this weekend from an amazing apple tree with around 30 or 40 kilograms of apples in my backpack, so I’m still working through them!  I think this might have been one of the old fruit trees left over from the old orchard times – so it’s a part of Southend’s history and Essex’s history when you pick the fruit!

 

DM:  I bet you are ever so healthy as well aren’t you?

KP:  I’m getting there with the fruit!

 

DM:  Kamil thank you very much indeed.  Kamil there from Southend in Transition.  What a great idea – we should have this all over Essex shouldn’t we?  

Click here to view the Southend Fruit map

Dave Monk’s show is on BBC Essex at 9.00am weekdays, and show are available on the iplayer up to 7 days after broadcast.  Click here to visit the site.

Transition Town Brixton, 2nd October 2008 – “The Great Unleashing”

Last Thursday evening saw a truly historic event, the ‘Great Unleashing’ of Transition Town Brixton in South London. Having done some work with TT Brixton on their ABUNDANCE food growing project, I thought I’d join the celebrations and went along with my camera. This was an amazing and inspiring event, as I’m sure the photos below and at the Transition Westcliff Flickr site show.

TT Brixton was initiated by climate change activist Duncan Law after being inspired by a talk given by Transition Town Totness founder Rob Hopkins 2 years ago. After some 18 months of awareness raising and hard slog networking and creating partnerships, the project has grown into a positive and inclusive movement, reaching a critical mass of energy that tonight needed to be “unleashed before it tows us away!” The unleashing marked the official beginning of work on drawing up an ‘Energy Descent Action Plan’ for Brixton. This is a document that will be put together by all sections of the community, visioning a sustainable, abundant and resilient post-cheap oil future for Brixton that focuses on areas such as food production, transport, energy, health, building, economics and culture.

For a more detailed write up check out Amelia’s Blog entry

Open Source Software for the Upcoming Transition

On the 14th I’ve meet Derek Shaw from SOSLUG at their headquarters in the Mediashed at Grainger Road.

The abbreviation stands for Southend on Sea Linux User Group which is “a group of enthusiastic and committed Linux enthusiasts, we are prepared to share our knowledge to everyone by running workshops and other non-formal training methods“.

Linux just like M$ Window$ is a computer operating system but it is free to use and allows the users and community to modify it according to its needs. It allows people to learn, innovate and contribute and hey – I have to say it again – it doesn’t cost a penny.

You might wonder what are the Transition Westcliff people doing there?:)

Transition Initiatives are aiming at engaging the whole of the local community and enabling them to participate in the work of building up their localities resilience. We want to be open, transparent and inclusive but…

…there are some unanswered questions. How to conduct meetings so they are not only talking shops? How to organize our group so everyone gets heard and the work done? How to make our work and information about it accessible to everyone?  How to reach out to people and give them opportunities and tools to realise their potential? Are we using methods which unintentionally exclude some groups or individuals?

As one of the moves towards more inclusivity we would like to make our internet presence more open to the public so everyone can add their comments, suggestions and create content on our website for their own projects without the need of expert programming. This kind of approach is already happening with Transition Networks – which support the different Transition Initiatives – who are using wiki technology and Drupal for their websites. This enables amateurs – like me  – to share information and good practice with the wider public.

Here is a little video on what is a wiki and its usefulness.

And exactly here is where SOSLUG comes in with their expertise and enthusiasm for supporting other projects in using open source software. They are experienced in this kind of work as they supported and are working on digital arts projects. They are very good at design too so try them out:)

They are willing to help by keeping their meetings open to everyone who needs their support. So if you want to learn more about open source software give them a visit every Thursday at the Mediashed Unit 38, Grainger Road Industrial Estate, Southend on Sea, SS2 5DD.

In the meantime Transition Westcliff will be working with SOSLUG on our website and other related activites where we are going to use internet and software. Thanks for the meeting to Derek and the Soslugs for the emails you gave me. If anyone else of you want to be kept up to date with the work of Transition Westcliff drop me an email at kamilpac[at]googlemail[dot]com and I’ll add you to our newsletter email list.

Wood Fuel for a low energy future

On the evening of Thursday 19th July Transition Town Westcliff supporter and wood burner installer Jay Scarlett gave an excellent presentation regarding the potential of wood as a fuel for a low carbon, post-cheap oil future;

Current energy and environmental issues are on all our minds. With gas and oil prices rising and stocks depleting the mention of renewable energy is no longer just the concern of the green ones among us. One answer lies in the sustainable management (coppicing) and replanting of our local indigenous woodlands in harmony with urban and rural society.

Coppice is an ancient woodland industry, mastered in the Tudor era. Sustainable sections of forest were harvested to produce a variety of products, from firewood to battleships. The coppice was regulated by a statute of Henry VIII, which required woods to be enclosed after cutting (to prevent browsing by animals) and 12 standards (mature uncut trees) to be left in each acre and be grown as structural timber.

Traditionally the coppice takes place on a 10-20 year rotation depending on the product needed. Young tree stems are cut down to the stump (stool), which re-grow producing multiple stems called poles. This process is especially beneficial for plant and wildlife as a wide variety of habitats unfold. The sunlight (previously blocked by dominant trees) reaches the woodland floor to release dormant flora such as bluebells and orchids. Trees that are well managed live longer, support local biodiversity and consume more carbon dioxide.

As a tree grows it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, when the tree is burnt or left to rot, the same amount of carbon is released again. This is known as a carbon neutral cycle. The heat produced by burning wood can be seen as the warmth of the sun, stored in the trees through the process of photosynthesis. When the sun abandons us during the cold dark days of winter, we liberate the suns heat through reverse photosynthesis, like every other cycle in nature, every process has its opposite.

Our concept is to make woodlands self sufficient. We show daily that wood burning can be eased into modern lifestyles through the education of ours and our children’s generation to use sustainable wood as a real and necessary carbon neutral alternative to fossil fuels. Heating your home with logs can mean that your energy bill incurs no standing charge and is paid directly to the local forest industry that manage our woodland, street and garden trees. In turn, local councils, farmers and land owners see tree planting more favourably.

Having put wood burning and coppicing into a historical context, Jay then went on to explain its relevance as a potential low carbon fuel source for a future Westcliff, a large urban area. There have been some questions from sections of the Transition Movement about the viability of wood burning as a long term energy descent strategy, however Jay was clear that wood fuel is only part of the picture, stressing that in order to be a carbon neutral solution it needs to be;

* Chopped by hand or using minimal machinery
* Left to dry (season) in the woodland or local compound
* Delivered to the end user locally from where it was processed in measured quantities
* Graded for specific wood performance (calorific value) and stacked
correctly
* Burned in a well fitted, high efficiency stove, by a consumer educated in good user practice

Wood that is processed by large, oil-dependant industrial machinery and delivered around the country in diesel lorries is not carbon-neutral.

Furthermore, wood burning can be combined with other renewable technologies such as using solar heated hot water and increased energy efficiency measures such as double glazing, draught proofing and insulation in order to meet our heating needs through the year. Jay is currently working on developing a prototype solar heated wood store in order to efficiently kiln-dry stacked fresh cut timber, what he describes as ‘permaculture in action!’

On the question of fuel availability, in the longer term we will need to implement massive tree planting and re-afforestation programs, but Jay also pointed out the vast amounts of wood generated by the pollarding of street and garden trees, most of which is currently chipped. Eddie, a local demolition contractor, commented that he sees vast amounts of scrap wood wasted in the course of his work alone that could be a potential fuel source.

Re-instigating local deliveries from the woodlands to the doorstep by horse drawn cart as was the practice of our forefathers is another possibility for exploration, much of the infrastructure in terms of old stable buildings are still in existance, even though most have of course now been converted to other uses.

After a lively and informative question and answer session we enjoyed a summer social evening in the shop, well lubricated by plenty of glasses of Pimms and food cooked on the log fueled Rayburn courtesy of Jay’s wife Mel.

Many thanks to Mel and Jay for their hospitality and an inspiring and informative night, the first of many more to come we hope!

For more information see www.designafireplace.com

‘Grow Your Own’ film night at Springfield Drive Allotments, 19th June 2008

Transition Town Westcliff celebrated (nearly) the Solstice by showing the wonderful film ‘Grow Your Own’ in the Springfield Drive Allotments canteen on the evening of June 19th. Based on true experiences, this homegrown British comedy drama tells the story of what happens when a group of refugees are given allotment plots as therapy for the traumatic events they have witnessed, and the reaction of the established plot holders. A truly entertaining film, it also carries an underlying message about the mutual support and value of the sort of resilient communities to be found on our allotments. Amazingly however such communities are becoming an endangered species as short sighted councils and developers continue to sell off prime growing land rather than getting serious about responding locally to the threat of global food insecurity, or indeed heeding the current demand for allotments from would-be ‘Good Lifers’ in search a chance to grow fresh organic fruit and vegetables (Springfield Drive currently has a waiting list of some 25 people as I write, and many Londoners I have met speak of 10 to 15 year waiting lists!!)

After the film, which I have to say was very positively received, Kamil facilitated a lively discussion around climate change, peak oil and local food security for Westcliff, and introduced the ‘Post It Note Tool’, whereby participants were given four different- coloured post-it notes. They were asked to write on them accordingly: Pink – One thing I can do Yellow – One thing Westcliff can do, Orange – One thing the Government can do, Green – One other thought.

These were then stuck up on the wall for everybody to read – or would have been if they didn’t keep falling off! Kamil has the notes and has promised to write them up when he returns from his family visit to Poland, but some ideas that stick in my mind include; “setting up a local garden share scheme to link up people who have gardens they can’t or don’t want to look after with people who can’t get allotments but want to grow food” and “More films in the allotment canteen!”

———————————————————————————————————

Kamil here: The write up from the Post It Note Tool. People at first said they don’t have ideas, they don’t know what to write, maybe the problems are to complex, maybe we don’t know enough and then they wrote…

One thing I can do : grow own food, compost, organic, invite you to our open day in August – where you can have a stall and talk to the many people who visit the show, start growing my own food and spread the word, buy locally grown produce, grow your own, grow fruit and veg in garden (non GM), I can grow more food, support Transition Town etc. , encourage schools to get children involved in growing veg., I’m doing it www.savepriorypark.org, talk to people, use farm shops,

One thing Westcliff can do: share food surplus, exchange food/skills, people need to come out of denial, support local growers, local production, involve local radio BBC Essex, provide more cycle paths, don’t allow allotment to close, involve local schoolchildren – re-educate, all ‘green groups’ should provide leaflets and local talks to community in Westcliff advising people regarding issues on growing their own food, sharing journeys by car, spread the message via the schools, talks, engagement, buy only local grown produce where possible, get council and housing associations to encourage and support tenants in growing and sharing, replace the urban trees with nut trees, do not buy food not grown in england, more bike only lanes, excess produce to be shared out, protect gardens from planning,

One thing the Government can do: listen, empower local councils to provide more land to enable people without gardens to grow their own, the government will not change – they are the problem, the gov should educate us with more information about how to conserve energy, subsidizing local growers, educational programs, literature etc., all new developments should meet sustainable criteria – not just buildings, not tax fuels made at home eg. diesel substitute made from cooking oil, promote organic, return us to self sufficiency – currently less then 30%, encourage the return to traditional farming, stop the gov building on farm, change attitudes to quality of life, stop building on green land, reward people who cycle, share car journeys, grow their own, incentives will work

One other thought:more meetings like tonight aimed at general public, continue talking to everyone and setting an example, turn over unused/unwanted land to food production – share among local people, thank you, cooking oil to help the fuel situation MORE FILM NIGHTS,

Looks like plenty of ideas to me:)

As this write up shows people of Westcliff can be creative in finding ways to overcome peak oil and climate change. We will look into the above mentioned ideas and they will inspire our work and hopefully we can together grow some projects out of them.

Transition Town Westcliff talk for the Chalkwell Ward Residents Association

We gave an interactive talk to the Chalkwell Ward Residents Association on Wednesday 11th of June. We introduced the concept of Peak Oil and Climate Change and what is the Transition Town Westcliff approach to it. This resulted in a heated discussion and great feedback as people enjoyed the interaction and activity so different to standard talks. We will continue to work with CWRA and will support the residents of Chalkwell in the upcoming Transition.

Self-teaching peak oil talk


More on the talk

We had a good audience of around 25 people including two councillors and had a very good, short introduction by the chairman Keith Osbourne. Well the introduction was a bit longer:) as my surname can be tongue breaking at times and I consider to change it to Kamil Transition over time. Sorry for that Mr Osbourne:)

We asked the people to talk in pairs and each person had two minutes to talk how the rising fuel prices are affecting them and how would the definite end of cheap oil change their lives.

This helped to focus people and me and Stephen mingled with th crowd and discussed heating, food, fuel prices… People had a good awareness of the current situation as they easily see the higher prices of their favorite food items going up and they spend more money at the petrol station.

The question how would the definite end of cheap oil change their lives cause people to ponder for a moment longer as I don’t think many consider the current high prices might stay high and probably grow. The people didn’t have a simple, ready made answer and we didn’t have it either…

http://www.peakoil.com/sample/

From the beginning we made it clear that we are not experts and the Transition Town Westcliff is an group searching for answers in the community, from the community so we can collectively put them into action.

To engage people in this kind of discussion which we need to progress in Transition we used the self – teaching peak oil talk. We gave out slides with a picture on one side and short explanation on the other one and asked people to share with each other the piece of information they’ve got and feel free to add whatever they know.

People were talking and sharing and we also got into the crowd to listen, talk and learn. We had some heated discussions and we exchanged seats between the participants to further energize the discussion.


Discussions

In the end we went through the slides to make sure everyone gets the big picture and we had some time for questions.

It wasn’t easy I must admit:) standing in front of people trying to get everyone to talk about issues which I don’t feel I fully comprehend, with my stress exacerbated by the famous ‘post petrolium stress disorder’ which had its own peak around the time I had to hand in my course work last month.

While answering questions was difficult what I found helpful was having a mind set where you take every doubt, every concern and idea as an added value to the discussion which makes it deeper and shows complexities and contradictions of the forthcoming changes in our lifestyles and communities.

We went over the time which shows that people have the need to talk about the current situation, that they are concerned and would like to know how to approach the future.

Here the concept of Transition comes in as it informs our creativity while we are trying new ideas to get a more resilient and local economy and hopefully if well implemented will guard us from making new and old mistakes.

Big thanks to the Chalkwell Ward Residents Association for their invitation, active participation and the offer of future cooperation. And thank you Stephen for your back up and some good photos:)

The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins reviewed by Graham Burnett

This review was written for ‘Growing Green’, the magazine of the Vegan Organic Network and has also appeared in Permaculture Activist

The Transition Handbook

THE TRANSITION HANDBOOK – FROM OIL DEPENDENCY TO LOCAL RESILIENCE by Rob Hopkins

  • Paperback: 224 pages

  • Publisher: Green Books; 1st edition (6 Mar 2008)

  • ISBN-10: 1900322188

  • ISBN-13: 978-1900322188

  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 22.6 x 2.2 cm

Concepts like ‘climate change’ and ‘peak oil’ can cause us to feel confronted by something overwhelmingly huge that we cannot do anything about. The central message of the this book is that “this state of mind is not the place to start from if we want to achieve something, do something or create something.” Indeed, by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design our future low energy societies to be thriving, resilient and abundant – somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth.

The Transition concept emerged from work permaculture designer Rob Hopkins had done with the students of Kinsale Further Education College in writing an ‘Energy Descent Action Plan’. This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture (plenty of scope for vegan organics when petro-chemical based farming and high consumption of animal products are things of the past!) as a ‘road map’ to a sustainable future for the town, and was unanimously adopted by Kinsale Council.

The idea of ‘Transition Towns’ was subsequently rolled out to Totness in Devon before becoming an almost viral movement across the country as communities from Lewes to Brixton began to consider how they might become more resilient by, for example, localising food production (food feet, not food miles!), developing renewable energy sources, building with sustainable natural materials, enhancing regional economies (LETS, local currencies, etc) and promoting distinctive ‘cultures of place’.

Emerging from this context, The Transition Handbook is pretty much a permaculture manual for redesigning human communities. The book is split into three highly readable sections; ‘The Head’ – why peak oil and climate change mean that small is inevitable; ‘The Heart’ – why having a positive vision is crucial and ‘The Hands’ – exploring the Transition Model and how to make it work. It’s not a one-size-fits-all prescriptive blueprint, rather it provides a range of tools, activities, case studies and techniques that can be adapted to all kinds of situations, including a suggested ’12 step program to Transition’, how to overcome the ‘Buts…’ that can stop us being proactive, and a very interesting section applying the psychology of addiction to our current oil-dependency. It’s not without a sense of humour either – cuttings from newspapers of the future inform us that the top TV shows of 2012 include ‘Celebrity Love Allotment’ and ‘Pimp My Patio’ and that Posh and Becks will one day enjoy nothing better than snuggling up on their cob bench after a hard days mulching!

The Transition Model isn’t about waiting for our ‘leaders’ to come up with the solutions that will save us, but instead encourages us to take responsibility and ‘get up and do it’ ourselves. Indeed, here in Westcliff on Sea our local transition initiative was born out of a pub chat and has been steadily growing ever since. We try not to stop and think too often about the enormity of what we might have taken on, but certainly this wonderful book will make our journey far, far easier. And lots of fun too.

Graham Burnett is the author of ‘Permaculture – a Beginners Guide’ and ‘Earth Writings’ (www.spiralseed.co.uk) and is currently involved in setting up Transition Town Westcliff (www.transitionwestcliff.org.uk)

You can obtain copies of the Transition Handbook here