Welcome to the April Voice for Arran. As always we have a mix of news and views on matters cultural, artistic, political, sustainable and green, all with relevance to life here on Arran.
As I write this it is the Easter weekend and the island is coming out of its winter hibernation. Holiday makers and weekend visitors are walking on the beach outside the house and filling the bar along the road where local musicians are having a session. Those of us who live here all year round are reminded, if we need to be, of the wild beauty of our island by the comments of visitors. It feels good to be on Arran. But elsewhere in Europe the people of Brussels are mourning their dead and maimed, and tens of thousands of refugees are making whatever life they can in degrading and insanitary camps, while further afield war continues to rage in Syria and suicide bombs go off in a children’s play area in Lahore. Arran may be an island, but it is also a part of this wider world and some of our articles remind us of this.
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On Saturday 27th February the Arran Music Society featured the Atéa Wind Quintet, a brilliant group of young players who delighted the audience. The classic combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn lends itself to a wide range of music, and Brodick Hall was filled with attentive listeners. The Music Society's new policy of informal seating, with listeners grouped round tables with a drink of their choice, is proving to be very popular and results in a convivial, attentive audience, full of appreciation. A further immense benefit is the invaluable support of the Tunnell Trust, through whose generosity this concert was made possible.
The Atéa five provided much to appreciate. Every one of these young players demonstrated easy mastery and a vast range of emotional expression. Alena Lugovkina on flute acted as lead violin in a string group, and her technical brilliance and dept of feeling exemplified all that is so great about the best of Russian players. Anna Hashimoto on clarinet, Ashley Myall, bassoon, Chris Beagles, horn and Philip Haworth, oboe, were constantly in close, empathetic touch, sensitive to every nuance of pace and feeling. The rare chance to hear the fantastic quintet by Karl Jenkins was thrilling. This long, technically demanding composition ranges widely through every shade of emotion, and was presented with intelligence, sensitivity and a great dash of sheer panache. Nobody present will forget it – sometimes a musical experience is so dramatic and compelling that one feels in the presence of something very special, and this concert was absolutely in that category. The audience went out into the night moved and elated, and you can't say better than that.
On Saturday, March 19th, a good-sized audience was spell-bound by the artistry of the Da Vinci Trio. Scott Mitchell, piano, Anthony Moffat, violin and Robert Irvine, cello, electrified the audience from the opening bars of the Beethoven Op 1 trio in E flat. Their almost uncanny bond delivered a sound that was hair-trigger precise and charged with feeling. The sheer beauty of what they were doing held the listeners as if in an astonishing dream, though instrumentalists among them were marvelling at the virtuosity that was being unrolled.
Particularly in the haunting Schubert Adagio Notturno in E flat major, the measured, thoughtful phrases wove an intricate pattern that brought a sense of familiarity even though the piece was a long way from the lyricism of much of Schubert's chamber work. A new piece by an Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, had a bell-like quality coupled with the purity of old music sung in monasteries and cloisters.
The evening culminated in the magnificent Brahms piano trio in C major, Op 87. Throughout, the sense that the performers shared the single mind of the composer brought a sense of privilege to the audience. The passion of the music put a finger on the innermost emotions of listeners and left people feeling moved and exalted. This was an evening when we heard something very special, and it will stay long in the minds of all those present.
Once again, we must be grateful to Colin Guthrie, whose generosity in gifting the Kawai grand piano to Arran made concerts such as this a possibility.
I was born in Hamilton and studied Fine Art at Bath Academy of Art and Cyprus School of Art. Professionally, from the mid 80s to late 90s, I was involved in animation production and latterly in film and digital arts education. In the past decade I have gradually concentrated more on painting.
Coinciding with this issue of the Voice, I have a small exhibition of six paintings in Brodick Library showing examples of work from ‘themes’ developed and explored over the past five years. I use the term ‘themes’ loosely and one is not distinct from another, rather part of an evolving development. All the paintings are in watercolour, although I don’t consider them to be ‘watercolours’ in the traditional sense as the paint is applied in various ways, sometimes more akin to oil painting.
I feel closely imbedded in the human imprint on this Island and the West coast of Scotland more generally. As others have said, an island can contain the limits of the imagination where the world itself probably cannot. Yet from living on the Atlantic edge the sea has become an integral part of what I do and the sea links everywhere.
Painting for me is the exploration of what I think of as a visual vocabulary and the process of making work is an attempt to express and expand it. For me painting is about trying to communicate something that can’t otherwise be expressed, a dialogue mostly with myself, but also with the potential viewer.
Recent paintings have emerged from the visual impression from rediscovering a box of old letters - letters received before emails and texts, expressing the sender’s individuality and recording moments and choices made beyond the words themselves. I call the theme ‘Correspondence’. Having worked for some time on other themes using a tonal, limited palette, in exploring this archive I am now using I wider palette of colours.
Ed has an exhibition of paintings in Brodick Library opening on April 5th 2016. Ed’s website is www.edodonnelly.co.uk.
Tim Pomeroy has just released a second CD of his singing and playing. It is called The Poetry Place and was called this because of the photo on the front cover, taken as the sleeve notes testify, outside the Poetry Place in London, (The Poetry Society’s coffee and book shop and performance venue) prior to that night’s gig at which the Arran Poets, Cicely Gill, David Underdown and Tim were the headline act. Tim was also the musical interlude. The photo was taken by his daughter, Saskia.
The CD consists of 13 songs by some of Tim’s favourite songwriters and performers, and three of his own poems. He says:
“I don’t know about proper musicians, but these songs represent the ones I feel most for at the time of recording. Some of them are very new to me like the wonderful Kate Rusby song Falling, while others like Don McLean’s Oh My What a Shame I’ve known since about 1976. Some songs stay with me for years and I seem constantly to be learning new ones. Which is inspiring and invigorating and as a process, almost accidental.”
Tim’s CD is available at Fiddlers Bar in Brodick, Brodick Post Office or on Ebay or directly from him on his ebay page.
This year Tim is doing the opening 40 minute set at the Arran Folk Festival, ably accompanied by Andy McCallum and Robin Fisher. More details on the AFF website.
Gillian Frame, who also hails from Arran and, Tim insists, is a much bigger fish in folk circles, is also playing at the festival and will be launching her own new album then.
On April 10th the Corrie Film Club will be showing Pride (120 mins, UK 2014).
Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners' strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. The National Union of Mineworkers was reluctant to accept the group's support due to the union's public relations' worries about being openly associated with a gay group, so the activists instead decided to take their donations directly to Onllwyn, a small mining village in Wales, resulting in an alliance between the two communities. The alliance was unlike any seen before and was ultimately successful.
Pride has been met with critical acclaim. Peter Bradshaw, reviewing for The Guardian, described the film as "impassioned and lovable". Bradshaw praised performances of the cast, including Bill Nighy's "taciturn shyness" in his portrayal as Cliff and the "dignified and intelligent performance" from Paddy Considine as Dai, as well as Imelda Staunton's performance as Hefina Headon.
Everyone is welcome to come along to Corrie and Sannox Village Hall at 8pm to see Pride.
The Saltire Society for Arran finished its season of events in Corrie hall recently. The Saltire Society is a non-politically affiliated organisation which celebrates Scottish cultural life in its widest remit. From poetry to architecture, drama to engineering, literature to town planning and more besides. Events can be performances or talks, discussions, slide shows, whatever best suits the activity.
This final evening of the first syllabus, singer and voice teacher Peter (Alexander) Wilson who has a house in Corrie, was the guest of the Society, ably led on Arran by Scottish cultural enthusiast Hazel Gardiner.
As befits an evening reflecting Scottish identity, Peter Wilson chose to take the audience of 20 on a musical tour of Scotland. The evening got off to a skip in its step with Peter’s version of Dancing in Kyle. And Peter talked briefly about the different kinds of love to be found in Scottish love songs. The Eriskay Love Lilt and Tiree love Song backed up his gentle proposition. He talked fondly of his father’s association with the famous Glasgow Orpheus Choir and told the audience that both his father and grandfather were singers of distinction. Must be something in the genes.
On the 4th March the Guardian reported “Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, has been murdered, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project.
Her death prompted international outrage at the murderous treatment of campaigners in Honduras, as well as a flood of tributes to a prominent and courageous defender of the natural world.”
We are devastated and deeply saddened at the cruel assassination of Berta Caceres. Howard Wood said "In the brief time we spent with her in April 2015, we developed the highest respect and admiration for this courageous and lovely lady. Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family, friends and colleagues". Howard, chairman and co-founder of COAST was awarded the highly prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his work with COAST promoting sustainable management of Arran's seas. Berta Caceres was another recipient of the prize for her work with the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.
by Rory Cowan
The Engineering Challenge for school kids took place at Kildonan Village Hall on Saturday 19th March. The competition was open to all school children under 17 on Arran and with a cash prize of £500. There were three entries, two from the High School and one /from Whiting Bay primary school. The entries were all different and each with considerable merit. Unfortunately two entries were let down by their chosen adhesive which failed at the critical moment.
The task was to build a cantilever of 1 metre to carry a weight of 3kg out of given materials. Those materials were limited to softwood, paper, fishing line and glue. Components could be pre assembled, however preassembly was limited to a certain size and final assembly was to be completed over a period of two hours at the venue.
First to arrive was Sam Hershfield who had an "I" beam approach supported by fishing line threaded over stump masts.
Next to arrive were Daisy McNamara and Alice Lockhart who had a simple beam approach supported by a tall mast located at the cantilever origin.
Third to arrive was Rachel van Rensburg who had a fish-plated beam approach supported by an A frame at the beam origin.
Entries were carefully assembled and rigged before being submitted for scrutiny and testing.
All contestants showed a good understanding of their solution and the standard of presentation was very pleasing - even to the extent that some had chosen ink over paint as a finish for reasons of weight reduction.
The best part of the day was the weight testing and all were eager to see the results. First to be tested was Daisy and Alice's entry. Weight was added incrementally up to the required 3kgs and the flexure was most impressive as the weight was progressively supported as the rigging took up the strain. You can see from the pictures the level of confidence displayed by the competitors!!!
Next to the test was Sam's entry but unfortunately his cantilever suffered a glue failure very early on in the test.
Last to come to the test was Rachel's entry which was doing very well until the final addition of 500gms when it too suffered a glue failure.
So the result was a win for Daisy and Alice - well done to them and well done to all competitors for taking part, for thinking about how to solve the problem, turning that into a solution, and turning up on the day.
Thanks to Donald McNicol and Willie McNish for judging.
Until next year then……
As some of you may be aware, the Hear to Help service which runs on Arran, was due to close on 31st March as no continuation funds have been made available from NHS Ayrshire and Arran or the local authorities. This means that no hearing aid support will be available on the island and service users will have to travel to Crosshouse Hospital to access this.
Arran is already much disadvantaged in its medical provision - Lamlash hospital is equipped to do many of the procedures we have to go to Crosshouse for, such as endoscopies, but the trained staff are not here, as allocation has been cut to the bone.
As such, a protest was held on Wednesday 9th March at Brodick Ferry Terminal and many people turned out to say “Save Hear to Help!” The service is extremely important for hearing aid wearers who live on the island, and this service currently supports in excess of 150 Arran residents.
It was with mounting concern that we in the SNP benches witnessed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, deliver a budget which brought tax cuts for the better off in society and yet more bruising cuts for the disabled.
We continue to hear about how the UK must “live within its means” but it seems that this mantra only applies when punishing cuts are being inflicted on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Austerity is a political choice and one the Tories continue to show themselves ideologically wedded to. By every economic measure this Chancellor has failed his own economic tests with debt, deficit and borrowing levels even worse than he promised only last November.
Chillingly, the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts that the scale of the cuts to departmental budgets and local government would reduce the role of the state to a point where it would have “changed beyond recognition” with a further £3,500 million of new cuts which will again hit unprotected departments.
The SNP was the only party to say it during the general election and we continue to say it now; an SNP budget would increase spending on public services by 0.5% a year in real terms between 2016/17 and 2019/20 releasing over £150billion for investment in public services whilst ensuring that public sector debt and borrowing fall over this parliamentary term. The UK’s deficit and debt can be brought down without the need for huge spending cuts and our plan for investment has international support and credibility. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Economic Outlook endorsed this very plan, arguing that a commitment to raising public investment collectively would boost demand while remaining on a fiscally sustainable path.
So what of Scotland? Scotland faces a further £1,500 million cut in its funding for public services over the next four years. Cuts made to Scotland’s budget between 2009/10 and 2019/20 means Scotland’s resource budget will be £3,900 million less in 2019/20 than a decade earlier; some 12.5%, whilst capital spending is already 26% lower. This comes hard on the heels of this Tory Government attempting to slash Scotland’s budget by and ADDITIONAL £7,000 million over ten years, which the SNP managed to defeat, during the recent fiscal framework negotiations.
More than anything else, this is a budget which bolsters inequality across the UK. An eye-watering £4,400 million of cuts will be taken from the benefits of disabled people over the course of the parliament. And for what? To fund tax cuts for the better off!
The Chancellor’s biggest single revenue-raising measure over the next five years is to cut Personal Independence Payments for people who need aids to help them dress and use the toilet. Disability rights groups have warned that these changes will be a devastating blow to disabled people who rely on this benefit to help them live independently on their own. Yet £167,000 million can be found over the next 25 years for the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons, and billions have been made available for A4e to run the Secretary of State for Work and Pension’s doomed Work Programme, which was described even by the Telegraph as “worse than doing nothing.”
Prior to his shock resignation last week, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, described cuts to the most vulnerable as “not defensible” following a “Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers.” Whilst he is absolutely correct, one fears his resignation is more about the internal Tory civil war over Europe than about standing up for those who will suffer hugely from these cuts. Whatever, the case, we in the SNP will fight these cruel cuts every step of the way.
by Lucy Cartledge
I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated money, musical instruments and craft materials to “Planting for Hope Uganda”. My brother Lionel and I set off in early February with three heavily laden suitcases of donations. The cases were in fact so heavy we could hardly lift them and the donations were all very gratefully received. Some donations are to be used in the school, while others are being kept at the project base for use with the village ladies.
We arrived in Entebbe very early in the morning and we were taken to rest for a couple of hours at a hotel overlooking Lake Victoria, where we were able to freshen up and have a good breakfast. Then with our Ugandan project leader, called Apollo, a 6 hour journey started, going via the bank and shops for some basic supplies, along with getting some essential bottled water. We broke the journey on the equator where we could watch a fascinating water experiment, with two sinks a couple of feet apart. They had water flowing in opposite directions and in a third sink placed on the line the water just gurgled down the plug hole.
On arrival in Kititi we were introduced to the other volunteers and ladies of the village, who then introduced us to African drumming and dancing and showed us our accommodation. Basic though it was, it was amazing to see just how much had been achieved in just three years. Kate Oakley the lady who started the project had done wonders. She was widowed a few years ago, at which point she decided to put her energy into starting the “Planting for Hope Uganda” project, with Apollo, with whom she had worked previously for the Pearl of Africa Charity. At the time she arrived in Kititi there was nothing. She purchased land and started to build the project, initially camping, whilst a couple of basic building were erected for dwellings and land ploughed to start a farm. A recent grant from the Rotary Club has enabled a water pump to be constructed on the school premises, which is about a mile from the project accommodation and this now means, that instead of getting water from the swamps, villagers and volunteers alike can fetch reasonably safe water. Ours was brought to the house every day by truck. A large water butt would be filled every night, so that we could wash, do laundry and washing up. The house itself was comfortable. We had a shared living room where we spent the evening with other volunteers and our sleeping quarters were double rooms with basic bunks and shared toilets and cold showers. Cooking was done elsewhere. Bread and meat were baked in a brick oven in the yard and fried and boiled food was made over a calor gas ring. Our chef was excellent and supplied us with a nice mixture of African and European meals.
I found the Ugandans very friendly and the kids were generally very excited by the sight of a camera and all wanted their photos taken! We visited many families in the evening, assessing their situations and taking them medical supplies, food and clothes. There had been a huge effort to replace the traditional mud houses, which tended to wash away in the monsoon, so kilns to make bricks had been constructed and many families now are living in better buildings that will remain water tight throughout the year. Kitchens and toilets, were still in separate buildings and still made of mud, so some families would have three buildings. The house, the toilet and the kitchen. Others just cooked outside. There was extreme poverty, disease and malaria, and many children were without shoes and clothes. Many families were looking for sponsorship, so that they could send their children to school. Sponsoring also meant that a child would get a uniform given to them and a bowl of porridge everyday. It was a privilege for children to be able to go to school. Classes were huge, but unlike our system, children were desperate to get an education and discipline therefore wasn’t a problem. Whilst there, I sponsored a child called Mike. The smile on his face when I told him, was that of immense delight and gratitude. He came to see me the next day all dressed up in his school uniform. He was absolutely over the moon and so proud of what he had been given.
“Planting for Hope Uganda” are still looking for more sponsors and anyone interested can find a donation form on their website at http://www.plantingforhopeuganda.com/. To sponsor a child only costs £5 a month which provides food, clothing and education for a child.
Our first day was spent at the school, which had been bought by the charity last year, after the owner became unable to keep it going. We were getting it ready for inspection by the government as it now has nearly 400 children attending and a handful of teachers, and it needed to be registered. At present there are four classrooms and a dormitory is in the process of being built for the older children doing exams, to save them getting exhausted walking long distances home, which are presently as much as 15 to 20 kilometers.
I was introduced to the school music master, Ronald and during my time there, I taught him to play the recorder, penny whistle, fife and flute. It felt like an extremely quick crash course, but he was very quick to learn and now I’m told that he is teaching the school children the whistle and he can be heard in the fields every day playing ‘Amazing Grace’, a tune he had dearly loved. Ronald who had a post as music and sports teacher was also interested in learning some Scottish dancing. So, we had a great exchange. I taught him some Scottish dancing and he taught me African dance and drumming. The school children all loved it.
On the arts side I worked mainly with the ladies, who had formed a co-operative and met together twice a week to learn crafts and work on the farm, where there were now pigs, hens, maize, broccoli, salad, bitter fruit, bread fruit, bananas, tomatoes and much more. I taught them many crafts, including simple weaving, braiding, sewing, card making, paper flowers and papier mache. I had taken with me a couple of small basic looms, one tapestry loom and one peg loom. I showed them to the local carpenter, a disabled man with club feet and I asked him to copy them, making bigger ones that could be used to weave some large mats. I then went to the local market where there were lots of colourful fabric for sale, dried fish, gourds and baskets and I looked for and found; raffia, nylon string and dyes to take back to weave with. Within a couple of days the first large loom appeared and we got started. We dyed the grasses and started to make two mats. One richly coloured and one in natural colours with blue nylon stripes. The ladies really enjoyed themselves and all helped each other weave the mats.
Braiding also proved very popular and although I initially only started about 30 ladies braiding, within a couple of days there were about 150 of them all wanting to learn and some were showing their children how to do it too. With sewing we were donated two treadle sewing machines, which I set up and showed them how to use. The locals, both male and female were keen to learn to sew, so we helped the teenage girls make sanitary pads, which they otherwise wouldn’t have and we helped others to make simple bags and clothes. One boy in particular, a lad of 13, was very talented and within a few days had learnt to sew very neatly indeed and started to make school uniforms and to draft patterns. He is now hoping to have a future as a tailor and a sponsor is planning to get him his own machine.
Our trip finished with an excursion to Lake Victoria where we watched the fisherman going out in rough waters towards Tanzania fishing for Nile perch. The fish were huge and that village although again very poor and sordid was bustling with activity and a very interesting place for our last day.
Sue Weaver and Alan Bellamy of Kildonan would like to thank everyone on Arran who so generously donated clothes and sleeping bags for the refugee camp at Calais. A van load was taken to the central collection point in Glasgow and will by now be at the camp, where many volunteers are trying to make life more bearable for the thousands of refugees.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. £7.99
Kate Atkinson, one of our most inventive and emotionally poised novelists, writes with humour and sometimes near-unbearable poignancy about Teddy Todd, a young pilot in World War 2, flying Lancaster bombers over Germany. As always in her work, Kate ranges freely across time, building up a picture of the irresistibly adorable Teddy in all his courage and innocence. Though the author was not born until after the war, her research is impeccable, and from the last surviving bombers preserved carefully in museums or in hangers on a few British airfields, she builds a hands-on experience that is impossible to duck. The writing is laconic and packs an extraordinary punch. There is, to start with, the individual character of each aeroplane, and when the men crew up for a night sortie across Germany, the heart is already in the mouth for them as Teddy, the skipper, does his final check. 'OK, rear gunner? OK navigator? OK co-pilot?' Never at any point can the reader be sure these men are coming back.
For those of us who lived in the south of England in the war years and saw the bomber squadrons fly out in the last of the evening light, nostalgia grips the heart. Nobody can forget the Lancasters returning at dawn, assembled again in their nine-plane squadrons but this time with gaps, some aircraft flying with a dipped wing and stuttering engines, one or more feathered and useless. Nobody wants war, but nobody who was in it can ever forget. All honour to Kate Atkinson for a wonderful, heart-rending book.
HOW (NOT) TO GET YOUR POETRY PUBLISHED by Helena Nelson
For anyone who secretly (or even overtly) writes poetry and dreams of getting it published, here is the hands-on, practical guide to the way to do it, including how not to. Helena Nelson is well known to Arran poets, having been on the island for last year's McLellan Festival, and as she publishes poetry as well as being a nifty poet herself, she knows what she is talking about.
A brief initial questionnaire asks what you have been doing about getting published, and lists some basic questions. Can you name ten poetry collections you've read in the last two years, and say why you liked them, or didn't? Do you know the names of editors at the major poetry presses? If not, why not?
The book splits the sheep from the goats – and firmly discards the sheep. Poets have to be self-made, because nobody out there gives a damn whether you write or not. The question of why some people keep doing it is a penetrating one. For the compulsive poet, it's like asking why they keep breathing. . Helena's book is marvellously helpful, though. She provides start-points, tackles the question of on-line publication and provides Case Studies of poets who have managed to cut their way through the Sleeping Beauty hedge of prickles and rejection slips. A good read, funny, shrewd, waspish and utterly clued-up. If you want the low-down, buy it, either on-line or by post to Nell at Happenstance Press. Google it. Come on. Wake up!
Selected by David Underdown, who also writes the commentary.
by Greta Stoddart
All this wind and rain could so easily go
without saying (and it does, we know it does
as could, as ever, birds – no, swifts! fluid,
workmanlike, fixing rips in the sky.
Here we go again, saying stuff,
coming up against this great easy other.
To what good isn’t clear but who’s to stop us tonight
as we make our beery diesel public transport way home
calling up a bird (never mind the name),
a small bursting thing – I have him
in a clearing, the world at his feet,
his chest giving in and out like a pedal.
Greta Stoddart trained and worked as an actor before settling in Devon to work as a writer and poetry tutor. Her first collection ‘At Home in the Dark’ won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. ‘Instrument’ is taken from her second collection ‘Salvation Jane’ published by Anvil (2008).
Many folk on Arran regularly fly to holiday destinations abroad, and some fly to and from other parts of the UK for business or to visit family. The SNP government wants to halve Air Passenger Duty and encourage more flying to, from, and within, Scotland. And yet this same government says it wants to cut Scotland’s carbon emissions! Most of these journeys could be done by train or ferry, but of course it would take longer and be considerably more expensive, because of the subsidies already enjoyed by the aviation industry. This is the great elephant in the corner of the room for many people who otherwise make some effort to reduce their carbon footprints in order to mitigate the effects of climate change, and for governments which try to do likewise.
Dr. Peter Kalmus wrote this article for Life After Oil, the Spring 2016 issue of YES! Magazine. Peter is an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and we reprint it with permission.
I’m a climate scientist who doesn’t fly. I try to avoid burning fossil fuels, because it’s clear that doing so causes real harm to humans and to nonhumans, today and far into the future. I don’t like harming others, so I don’t fly. Back in 2010, though, I was awash in cognitive dissonance. My awareness of global warming had risen to a fever pitch, but I hadn’t yet made real changes to my daily life. This disconnect made me feel panicked and disempowered.
Then one evening in 2011, I gathered my utility bills and did some Internet research. I looked up the amounts of carbon dioxide emitted by burning a gallon of gasoline and a therm (about 100 cubic feet) of natural gas, I found an estimate for emissions from producing the food for a typical American diet and an estimate for generating a kilowatt-hour of electricity in California, and I averaged the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Environmental Protection Agency estimates for CO2 emissions per mile from flying. With these data, I made a basic pie chart of my personal greenhouse gas emissions for 2010.
This picture came as a surprise. I’d assumed that electricity and driving were my largest sources of emissions. Instead, it turned out that the 50,000 miles I’d flown that year (two international and half a dozen domestic flights, typical for postdocs in the sciences who are expected to attend conferences and meetings) utterly dominated my emissions.
Hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane. If you fly from Los Angeles to Paris and back, you’ve just emitted 3 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, 10 times what an average Kenyan emits in an entire year.
However, the total climate impact of planes is likely two to three times greater than the impact from the CO2 emissions alone. This is because planes emit mono-nitrogen oxides into the upper troposphere, form contrails, and seed cirrus clouds with aerosols from fuel combustion. These three effects enhance warming in the short term. (Note that the charts in this article exclude these effects.)
Given the high climate impact, why is it that so many environmentalists still choose to fly so much? I know climate activists who fly a hundred thousand miles per year. I know scientists who fly about as much but “just don’t think about it.” I even have a friend who blogged on the importance of bringing reusable water bottles on flights in order to pre-empt the miniature disposable bottles of water the attendants hand out. Although she saved around 0.04 kilograms of CO2 by refusing the disposable bottle, her flight to Asia emitted more than 4,000 kilograms, equivalent to some 100,000 bottles. I suspect that most people simply don’t know the huge impact of their flying—but I also suspect that many of us are addicted to it. We’ve come to see flying as an inalienable right, a benefit of 21st-century living that we take for granted.
The quantitative estimates of my emissions guided me as I set about resolving the dissonance between my principles and my actions. I began to change my daily life. I began to change myself.
My first change was to start bicycling. I began by biking the 6 miles to work, which turned out to be much more fun than driving (and about as fast). It felt like flying. Those extra few pounds melted off. Statistically speaking, I can expect biking to add a year to my life through reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Other moves away from fossil fuels turned out to be satisfying as well. I began growing food, first in the backyard and then in the front, and I discovered that homegrown food tastes far better than anything you can buy. I began composting, an honest and philosophical practice. I tried vegetarianism and found that I prefer it to eating meat; I have more energy, and food somehow tastes better. I began keeping bees and chickens, planting fruit trees, rescuing discarded food, reusing greywater, and helping others in my community do the same.
I stopped taking food, water, air, fuel, electricity, clothing, community, and biodiversity for granted. I became grateful for every moment and more aware of how my thoughts and actions in this moment connect to other moments and to other beings. I began to experience that everyday things are miracles: an avocado, a frame of honeycomb crowded with bees, a conversation with my son. Now, I feel more connected to the world around me, and I see that fossil fuels actually stood in the way of realizing those connections. If you take one idea from this article, let it be this: Life without fossil fuels is fun and satisfying, and this is the best reason to change.
But none of these changes had the quantitative impact of quitting flying. By 2013, my annual emissions had fallen well below the global mean.
I experienced a lot of social pressure to fly, so it took me three years to quit. Not flying for vacations was relatively easy. I live in California, and my wife and I love backpacking. We drive on waste vegetable oil, but even normal cars are better than flying. Four people on a plane have 10 to 20 times the climate impact as those same people driving a 25 to 50 mpg car the same distance.
My wife and I drive 2,000 veggie oil miles to Illinois each year to visit our parents. Along the way, we sleep under the stars in the Utah wilderness. This is adventure travel, the opposite of fast travel, and it has deepened my relationship with my parents. After such a journey, I more easily see how precious my time with them is.
Not flying is an ongoing challenge as I progress in my scientific career, but I’m finding that I can thrive by doing good work and making the most of regional conferences and teleconferencing. Not flying does hold back my career to some extent, but I accept this, and I expect the social climate to change as more scientists stop flying.
In today’s world, we’re still socially rewarded for burning fossil fuels. We equate frequent flying with success; we rack up our “miles.” This is backward: Burning fossil fuels does real harm to the biosphere, to our children, and to countless generations—and it should, therefore, be regarded as socially unacceptable.
In the post-carbon future, it’s unlikely that there will be commercial plane travel on today’s scale. Biofuel is currently the only petroleum substitute suitable for commercial flight. In practice, this means waste vegetable oil, but there isn’t enough to go around. In 2010, the world produced 216 million gallons of jet fuel per day but only about half as much vegetable oil, much of which is eaten; leftover oil from fryers is already in high demand. This suggests that even if we were to squander our limited biofuel on planes, only the ultra-rich would be able to afford them.
Instead, chances are that we’ll live nearer to our friends and loved ones, and we won’t be expected to travel so far for work. Those both seem like good things to me.
With the world population approaching 8 billion, my reduction obviously can’t solve global warming. But by changing ourselves in more than merely incremental ways, I believe we contribute to opening social and political space for large-scale change. We tell a new story by changing how we live.
Extreme weather caused by global warming could lead to more violent and more frequent storms devastating beaches on exposed Atlantic coastlines in Europe.
The Atlantic seas could be getting rougher, with winter storms capable of causing dramatic changes to the beaches of Western Europe, and new research that is particularly relevant to us here on Arran shows that the pounding delivered to the shorelines of the UK and France in the winter of 2013-2014 was the most violent since 1948.
Gerd Masselink, professor of coastal geomorphology at Plymouth University School of Marine Science and Engineering, UK, and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they decided to switch focus from sea level rise resulting from global warming, and instead, they concentrated on the energy delivered by the rising waves as they crashed onto the beaches, dunes, shingle beds and rocky coasts, and on the consequent erosion of sediment.
The study examined open-coast sites across Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The researchers found that, along exposed coastlines in France and England, the beaches had taken a hammering. For every one metre strip of beach, there had been sand and shingle losses of up to 200 cubic metres.
Beaches change according to tide, season and weather. But, overall, while the waves take sediment away, they also shift in new material from further along the coast. It’s the natural pattern of erosion. But the logic of the latest study is that the extreme violence of individual storms, and the seeming increase in storm frequency, could result in dramatic changes.
“We have previously conducted research showing the devastating effects caused to the UK by the stormy winter of 2013/14. But the damage caused to coastal communities there was replicated – and in some cases exceeded – across western France,” Professor Masselink says. “All but one of the sites assessed for this study reached their most depleted state at the end of the 2014 winter, and it will take many years for them to fully recover.”
During the winter storms of 2013-2014, extreme wave conditions were five times more frequent than normal, and wave heights were 40% higher than average. “The extreme winter of 2013/14 is in line with historical trends in wave conditions and is also predicted to increasingly occur due to climate change, according to some of the climate models, with the winter of 2015/16 also set to be among the stormiest of the past 70 years,” says Tim Scott, a lecturer in ocean exploration at Plymouth University, and a co-author of the study.
The Falkirk Wheel is set for a mini revolution as a £1million programme to revamp and develop new visitor experiences at the world’s only rotating boat lift gets underway.
The project will see the 13-year-old Wheel, which links the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal 35m (115ft) above, refurbished inside and out, with the existing visitor centre, trip boats, conference rooms and activity hub refreshed with new branding, signage and interpretation celebrating the engineering behind the iconic structure.
The Falkirk Wheel will remain open throughout the works, which are due to be completed this summer. The project forms part of a phased investment plan which will see further improvements and exciting new visitor experiences developed over the coming years to keep the attraction fresh and encourage people to come back time and again.
The revitalisation of the Wheel, the construction of which formed a key part of the £84.5 million Millennium Link project, comes on the back of its busiest year ever, with more than 600,000 people enjoying a visit to the working sculpture in 2015. It’s hoped the project will encourage even more people to take a turn on The Falkirk Wheel in the years to come, with the profits generated by the attraction reinvested in safeguarding the rich heritage of Scotland’s 250-year-old canals.
With plaudits like “radical”, “transformative”, and “new dawn for land reform” being thrown about by the Scottish government, the land reform (Scotland) bill had its final passage through Holyrood during March.
But for many underwhelmed land reform campaigners, this new act represents unfinished business.
Voted through Holyrood by 102 votes to 14, the legislation includes new protections for tenant farmers and an end to tax relief for sporting estates and is accompanied by a new Scottish Land Fund opening on 1 April with £10m available to help community buy-outs.
But amendments that would have restricted the amount of land that one individual can own, and prevented land ownership via offshore tax havens, were voted down by SNP and Conservative backbenchers following a lengthy debate, to the huge disappointment of the wider land reform movement.
As the Guardian reported, Andy Wightman, land reform spokesman for the Scottish Greens and MSP candidate for Lothian, said:
“The limited nature of this legislation demonstrates that we need a bolder Holyrood with more Green voices. With a government majority it’s simply baffling that the SNP - whose own membership has been agitating for radical measures - have passed up the opportunity to deliver real reforms.
The Green bid to clamp down on the use of tax havens goes to the heart of understanding who owns Scotland. As we have seen this week with the uncovering of the complex corporate affairs of the Buccleuch Estates, there is an urgent need to ensure transparency in who profits from Scottish land.”
Many of us on Arran are already very careful not to waste food and us folk at Eco Savvy are as keen as the next person to get our full value out of every penny spent in the Co-op, or every hour sowing, weeding and picking in the garden.
And yet, and yet - can you imagine that 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries comes from producing food that is never eaten? And across the world, irrigation water (OK, not a local problem) sufficient for the needs of billions of people is wasted in producing food that is dumped uneaten. Deforestation and climate change are exacerbated by the obscene waste of food we have come to accept in the rich countries. One third of food grown around the world is left to rot, much of it never leaving the farm where it is produced.
Obviously much of this happens out of sight of the average consumer, apparently beyond our control. Yet supermarket policies on regularly shaped and sized foods are set because they claim we shoppers will not buy the funny, misshapen normal fruits and vegetables that they refuse to accept from the farmer. We end up paying for all this of course anyway, those £250 million worth of potatoes, or poultry and bread worth more than £500 million that are dumped annually in Britain. There is now an international movement to force supermarkets to take more responsibility for their waste of so much food which we hope will see some changes in policies soon.
Bringing all this back to our homes and shopping choices, where we do have control, was the purpose of a recent Eco Savvy event, where Eco Savvy joined forces with North Ayrshire Council to host a LOVE FOOD hate waste day in the main Brodick Co-op. Leaflets and food measuring freebies were handed out, and several platefuls of banana bread made from bananas kindly donated by the Co-op and Bay Stores in Whiting Bay, demonstrating in a tasteful way how over-ripe bananas can be put to great use.
We also asked as many shoppers as we could to help us with a brief survey on how people deal with food waste at home. It was gratifying to find that many of Arran’s shoppers are extremely careful about buying thoughtfully, using up all the fresh food they buy; many choose to ignore the ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates on fresh foods, which are set by supermarkets more to help their staff manage stock, not necessarily as a realistic guide for people with common sense. Many Arran folk use their eyes and noses to help them tell if vegetables and fruit are past it. Others passed on tips like keeping sliced bread in the freezer so that only the amount needed can be removed; it takes minutes to defrost. Or keeping a lettuce upright in a jar of water, like cut flowers, will keep it fresh and edible for way longer than if kept in a plastic bag in a fridge. My personal favourite is to do this with celery, which starts sprouting leaves and growing for weeks.
When food really does have to be ‘thrown away’, we asked where it gets thrown. Sadly Arran does not yet have a food waste collection service such as those operated on the mainland. As a result, much too much food gets thrown into our black bins, is then dumped in landfill and becomes a source of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Eco Savvy is looking at a pilot project for some food waste composting on Arran. But there are no plans for island-wide food waste composting so we have to do everything we can to avoid wasting food.
Meanwhile it was good to hear of the people out there who are composting their veggie and fruit waste. Some have bins, some have heaps, one or two have the latest in thing, a ‘hot bin’, which will take absolutely anything and transform it inside a sealed, insulated container into safe compost; (see Alys Fowler waxing lyrical in the Guardian at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/22/alys-fowler-hotbin) ; some use bokashi buckets, and I have my pride and joy, a ten year old wormery, which has moved with me up from Wales, is full of happy healthy worms (they love Arran), takes all vegetable and fruit waste including cooked vegetarian food, all within a vermin proof bin - and produces rich compost, as well as very nourishing ‘worm tea’, an excellent fertiliser.
South to make three spades against any lead.
A. If West leads a diamond, East does best to return a low trumpto North's nine. North leads a heart and the following two tricks are a diamond ruffed high and the second heart, the order depending on whetther or not East covers the first heart. Three rounds of trumps now put East on play. He is allowed to win two heart tricks, but the third, ruffed by North, squeezes West. A heart return at trick two leads to the same ending.
B. If West leads a club, East discards a heart, South wins and loses a diamond to East who returns a low trump. Rather than accept the free finesse, South must win this in his own hand and ruff a club with North's ♠9. Esat over-ruffs and returns a trump to South's ♠A, but the contract is made on a cross-ruff, at some time during which North will lead a heart to make sure of two heart tricks.
Against a heart opening lead either of the above can be employed.
1 Lo, I tune purification (7)
5 Salute 1000 crazy otter (7)
9 Lovelace's coding? (3)
10 Submarine fork? (7)
11 Express no tree (5)
12 Colour in bat anomaly (3)
13 Cheat the French confused novice (7)
14 Emergency! Transport atmosphere up (7)
15 Squeal rodent (3)
16 Relays Certes I upset (7)
20 Point cleric to builder (7)
24 Loud festival glutton (7)
28 I enter tapestry file (7)
31 Soul Bridge player game (3)
32 Drills headless stargazers (7)
33 Parvenu in cups tar the road (7)
35 Fish from lopped carina (3)
36 Sykes for example with a heath (5)
37 Lift broken 35 and tax energy (7)
38 Sea bream tail docked (3)
39 Runners break shards with energy (7)
40 Rappels i.e. slabs adjusted (7)
1 Silent ice rink traps Delilah for example (7)
2 Tune I compose for fuse (5)
3 Roughly mixing ten, ten and American spies (7)
4 10 rats create rabbits (7)
5 Miss West eats flyer for mogul (7)
6 Billow overtakes company plague (7)
7 Creative tiles? It makes gentry (7)
8 Assistant bet in rate change (7)
17 Scrape the kettle contents (3)
18 Carps offers headlessly (3)
19 Drug. I object uncle! (3)
21 Right hand object starts foreign letter (3)
22 Lettuce function? (3)
23 Central model poem (3)
24 Avert pro Parry (7)
25 Wattles locate artificial intelligence century comeback in a broken sac (7)
26 Cheat mixture with alien returned in a sheath (7)
27 Transmitted again to snake grudges (7)
28 Lesser angels rewrite lead I.O.U. (7)
29 Sixes stir two sets with only one sugar (7)
30 Four right for knight. Jack Russels perhaps (7)
34 Calculators in taxi cab alert returned (5)
Answers for the March puzzle:
1 Desmene, 5 Sierras, 9 Sunrise, 10 Oversee, 11 Arson, 12 Talkative, 13 Fabricate, 15 Sheds, 16 Alert, 18 Restraint,
21 Riskiness, 24 Frets, 25 Anastase, 26 Agitat, 27 Element, 28 Earless.
1 Distaff, 2 Minisub, 3 Scientist, 4 Exert, 5 Shoulders, 6 Edema, 7 Respire, 8 Skewers, 14 Agreement, 15 Scruffier,
16 Acreage, 17 Ensnare, 19 Iterate, 20 Tuskers, 22 Inane, 23 Scare.
Work on the new Brodick ferry terminal is progressing and we bring you an update here: